This week's pieces of the week feature our senior tutors, some of whom represent our very first HWC tutors. We wish them the best of luck in all that they do, and especially in their writing!
Mrs. Ferguson always walked her cat down the street at 8:00 in the morning. This was a commonly known fact that was not debated by the residents of Ponsly Square. The little silver bell around her tabby’s neck would softly ring as the lady and her cat ambled down the street. Often Mrs. Ferguson would stop to admire the different flowers that grew around her neighbor’s house’s white picket fences while her black cat would pull on the leash that connected the two. Any neighbors that happened to be outside would stop and say hi, though wishing the strange old lady would continue walking. None of the neighbors knew where Mrs. Ferguson walked to or why her cat needed to be taken outside every day. Though all were curious, not one person asked the lady. And so, each day, Mrs. Ferguson and her black tabby wandered from their creaky house at the end of the block, past all the cookie cutter suburban houses, into the vast forest behind the neighborhood.
Melanie Marcus looked around her new room after falling onto her unmade bed. The white wall stared at her as she tried to imagine the new colors that would soon be painted on them. “I miss my old room,” she muttered as she closed her eyes remembering her room in St. Louis with the dark blue walls and glow in the dark stars that covered her ceiling. Her family had just moved into boring suburban Ponsly Square, where each house looked like the other and not a flower was out of place. “If only dad had not gotten that new job walking distance from here, I would still be in St. Louis.”
“Honey, come down stairs and meet our new neighbors!” her father’s voice echoed upstairs. With a groan, Melanie stood up and wandered downstairs. A perfectly ordinary couple was standing next to her father in the den. Their pastel colored matching outfits tore into her soul. With a quick mutter of disgust, Melanie waved once and ran outside, trying to get away from the creepy pastel colored people. She had enough of pastel clothing as her father had once decided that he would only wear those colors. She would never regain those horrible six months back. As the door slammed shut behind her, Melanie thought she heard her dad say, “Please don’t mind Melanie. She’s still upset about moving to North Carolina.”
Melanie meandered down the street trying to avoid the cookie cutter houses, white picket fences, and strange gardener cutting the hedge. She swiftly passed a creaky old woman walking a cat and then stopped with a jolt. “Did I just see a cat? Wait, no. It can’t be!” Melanie glanced behind her and to her shock there was still a cat being walked on a leash. She had never seen a cat being walked like a dog. By the time her mind had accepted the image of the lady and her cat, the two were already at the end of the block and about to walk into the forest. Melanie shook herself awake and decided to walk back home. The sun was slowly setting behind the array of houses and her father had probably prepared dinner. On the way home, Melanie decided to ask around about the cat lady. Maybe a neighbor knew who she was.
The next day, Melanie discovered that not one neighbor knew why the lady, Mrs. Ferguson, walked her cat. The strange gardener only shook his head and muttered, “Why would I ask?” while the pastel dressed couple shut the door in her face with a eerie symmetrical smile. She was getting nowhere in her investigation.
“Maybe I should ask this Mrs. Ferguson?” Melanie asked the sun. The yellow ball merely glowed brighter and burned her nose. Suddenly, she heard a clicking nose behind her. Mrs. Ferguson was again walking her cat. Melanie noticed that the families that happened to be outside would say hi to her as she walked past but none would stop her and inquire about her health or day. The lady slowly walked past her; the cat did not even try to sniff or meow at Melanie. It was like she was invisible to the woman. In the moment, Melanie knew she had to do some intensive investigation. However, her stomach reminded her rudely that breakfast had been hours ago and it was time to feed the beast.
As she was spreading peanut butter on her bread, Melanie suddenly had the urge to lie in bed. Unable to resist, Melanie ran up the stairs and fell on the bed. She had only been there for a moment when her father called down the stairs, “Honey, come down stairs and say hi to our neighbors!” With a groan, Melanie stood up and wandered downstairs once again. The couple was again standing next to her father in the den. Their pastel colored matching outfit tore into her soul. With a quick mutter of disgust, Melanie waved once and ran outside, trying to get away from the creepy pastel colored people. As the door slammed shut behind her, Melanie thought she heard her dad say, “Again. Well, hopefully that girl will someday actually say hi.”
Melanie did not stop walking until she was halfway down the block. With a jolt, she realized that she had behaved exactly the same way as yesterday when the couple had showed up. What was wrong with her? She even stopped walking at the same exact spot as yesterday. She remembered that the white fence in front of her had bird poop on the side. “Why did I act the same way? Wait, is that the same gardener cutting the same bush? But, why? It is already pruned? Am I mad? Is this normal?” None of her questions were answered. Melanie shook herself out of the thoughts. Again, she had stood in the same spot until nightfall. Her father probably had dinner ready. As Melanie was walking home, she failed to notice Mrs. Ferguson walking with her cat.
The pattern repeated and continued. Melanie woke up, investigated, found out nothing, went home, fell in bed, met the pastel couple, ran outside, and became lost in her memories until dinner. She was slowly going crazy. Nothing Melanie did could break her pattern. She tried sleeping late or waking up early, but to no avail. To her horror, she noticed that her father and neighbors were repeating the same events and patterns. “It’s like the whole neighborhood is in some kind of time loop,” she informed her father one night at dinner after she had taken her walk down the street. “I do not know why we repeat the same actions, but we do, and I am fed up with it!”
“How will you break this ‘time loop’?” her father replied calmly.
“I don’t know. But I will. I swear,” Melanie banged her hand on the table to acknowledge her statement.
As Melanie lay in bed that night, she thought of all the events that repeated each day. She went through her days slowly in her head and tried to pinpoint the cause of the time loop. To her shock, she realized Mrs. Ferguson walked in to the forest in the morning and out at night. She had never figured out who the woman was or why she walked her cat. To Melanie, Mrs. Ferguson seemed like the epicenter of the time loop. As Melanie’s eyes drooped shut, she whispered, ‘I will break the time loop.’
Melanie rose the next morning filled with resolve. She would break the time loop, and she had the perfect plan. As she took her daily stroll around the neighborhood, Melanie kept her eyes peeled for Mrs. Ferguson. There, walking in to the forest. Melanie, without realizing it, started running after her. Her determination broke her own time loop.
Melanie did not catch up the crazy cat lady until she had stopped in a circular clearing. As she only wanted to observe, Melanie hid behind a tree. The green grass seemed to sparkle with dew in the clearing as it brightened up the unusual scene Melanie was witnessing. To her shock, Mrs. Ferguson had picked her cat up and set the feline on a large stone that was situated in the center of the area. This stone was worn down by use. The dull granite did not fit in with the rest of the surrounding area. The cat did not immediately jump down nor resist when Mrs. Ferguson lifted a large knife. Melanie stared in shock. Where had she gotten a knife? Unable to help herself, Melanie jumped out from behind the tree and exclaimed, “Mrs. Ferguson! What are you doing?”
With a wiz, the knife flew past her head and with a thud, implanted in the tree. Eyes wide, Melanie jumped back. “Please, don’t hurt me. I just want to know what you are doing and why there is a time loop!”
The lady sighed. “I knew it would not last forever. Someday, someone would discover me. I’m sorry, my dear, but no one can know.” With a flash, the old lady had grabbed Melanie, tied her up with rope that happened to be on the ground, and replaced the cat with her In the same moment, she had reclaimed her knife. Melanie could only stare.
“Wha-what are you doing?”
“Your blood will be more potent. The time stone requires a…a…a sacrifice.”
“Time stone? So you are controlling the time loop!” Melanie was quite pleased with her discover until she remembered where she was. Thinking quickly about how to live, Melanie remembered all the science fiction books she had read. The villain always wanted to talk. Maybe that would work on Mrs. Ferguson. “So what is this time loop? How does it work and why do you need it?”
“Well, since you asked so nicely,” Mrs. Ferguson seemed to take the bait, “I will tell you. I created this time stone after my son fell into a coma. I knew I needed more time to cure him before I died, and the loop gives me that time. However, to my horror, I discovered that the stone requires blood to activate the looping cycle each morning and evening. My horde of cats does quite nicely. But you, my dear, will be even sweeter. Your blood will keep the stone running all day and night. And then, I can stay home with my son and finally cure him!”
Melanie worked swiftly trying to undo the knots of the rope that held her in place. Mrs. Ferguson had tied the ropes tightly. There was no wiggle room to even move her hands. Realizing this, Melanie knew she had to ask more questions and keep this crazy woman occupied. “What does your son have? Why is he in a coma?”
“Ah, a horrible story! My dear, darling, beloved son was the jewel of my eye. He was the most caring, sincerest, and handsomest man around. All the girls loved him and the gentlemen envied him. It was that envy that ruined my Leonard. One night, those,” she paused as if to wipe tears away, “those brutes broke into my house and hit my poor Leonard in the temple with a rock. He instantly fell in to a coma. I am sure of it! And now, I need to find a cure that will wake him up. He cannot be gone. He cannot. I will not allow it!” Mrs. Ferguson was in full tears by the time she finished her speech. The lady walked around Melanie muttering, “My son. I do this for you. My son.”
Melanie was ready. She did not truly know if Leonard could be saved, but she believed he was already dead. There was no point holding onto the past. She had to make Mrs. Ferguson release her; Melanie knew her next words would break the woman. “Mrs. Ferguson. Your son is dead. He is not in a coma. No, do not shake your head at me. A blow to the temple is near impossible to survive from. You must accept the truth that he is dead. There is no cure and no solution. You must let go. The stone is making you mad.”
“No! I will not listen to you. I should not have told you my story in the first place. Now, silence girl, and prepare yourself to help my son live. It is by your sacrifice that he will rise and greet the day.”
“Mrs. Ferguson!” Melanie’s voice shrilled, “he is dead. And besides Leonard won’t be get better because he is also stuck in time. You can only heal him once time moves forward. Otherwise, he is as stuck as Ponsly Square.” Mrs. Ferguson was shaking. The knife clattered to the ground as the lady raised her hands over her face. She collapsed. Deep sobs seemed to echo around the clearing.
“Oh, my dear. My poor dear. What have I done? What have I done to this town and my life? I have deluded myself to the point of torture and murder. Help me, my dear. Save me.”
The ropes collapsed. Melanie wondered if they were held together by Mrs. Ferguson’s will; however, she decided it was not the right time to ask. Melanie jumped down from the stone while shaking her limbs out. All the feeling was gone. Then, she picked the knife up from the grass and thrust it into the time stone. A glow filled the clearing. Melanie shut her eyes trying to block the white light that enveloped the trees, Mrs. Ferguson and the time stone. The glow slowly receded into the rock. As Melanie opened her eyes she noticed the knife was gone, and she could not see Mrs. Ferguson. “Mrs. Ferguson, are you okay?” There was no answer. Melanie glanced around the clearing. She jumped back with her hand over her mouth when she saw the skeleton where Mrs. Ferguson had been sitting. The lady was dead.
“The time loop. It must be. When the loop broke, time caught up to her. Oh my, Ponsly Square! I wonder…” With a quick look at the skeleton, Melanie ran back to the neighborhood. As she arrived, silence reigned. Not even a cricket could be heard. The cookie cutter houses with their picket white fences had aged. Shutters were missing paint. The fences had lost their shine and even the grass was dead. As Melanie walked along the street, she noticed skeletons of her neighbors scattered around their yards. The pastel couple’s skeletons were eerily laid next to each other. “I never did figure out what was wrong with them.” Melanie quickly arrived at her house and discovered her father loading the car.
“Honey, I don’t know what happened, but Ponsly Square just suddenly aged about eighty years. Our house fell down! I barely grabbed some of our things before the roof collapsed. And all the people are dead! Let’s get out of here! We can go stay at a hotel for the time being.” He jumped in the car and gestured for her to hurry up. With a final glance around her, Melanie sat in the passenger’s seat.
“Dad, have I got a story for you.” As they drove out of Ponsly Square, Melanie detailed her adventures to her shocked father.