Carrying the Whale by Peri L. Fletcher

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Carrying the Whale by Peri L. Fletcher
Illustration by Sue Babcock

A shroud of fog concealed the fort and the surrounding forest. Only the onion dome of the chapel was visible, soaring out of the fog like a wood-shingled rocket ship. I stopped on the path to wait for Francisco, already having second thoughts about my impulsive invitation.

“You’re not even out of breath,” Francisco said when he appeared below me on the path, stopping to wipe his face with his sleeve.

“I grew up here. Come on, this isn’t so steep.”

We crossed Highway 1 and continued up the hill towards the white clapboard house where I lived with my father, who was the Park Superintendent, and his girlfriend, Marta.

“After your house can we check out the cemetery?”

“Sure. I don’t really need to go home. I just needed to get away for a bit.”

“Yeah,” he said. His face was glum, and even though I’d only known him for a few hours I could tell he was upset. “So Jenna, I take it you don’t like shepherding a bunch of kids from a fancy private school around your fort.”

“It isn’t my fort,” I said. But he was right. I resented these rich kids clambering over the cannons and taking a million pictures with their phones. They’d never really see this place, never see the fort full of people far from home: the Russians with their chandeliers and icons, the Alaskans with their seal-skin boats and slate hunting spears, the Kashaya Pomo, exiled in their own land.

I had grown up next to Fort Ross, the southernmost outpost of the Russian American Company, and in a way it was my fort; its history was woven into my identity. I didn’t want to share it, but my father had decided I spent too much time alone, and now my homeschooling plan included playing tour guide when school groups came to the fort for reenactment events.

Usually I barely paid any attention to the kids, but there was something about Francisco, something about the way he put his head to one side when you talked, like he really wanted to hear you, and when the stupid boys had started to tease him, calling him “Cis”, and everyone else laughed, he had turned away. It was the look on his face that made me want to show those kids that we could leave, do whatever we wanted, even if it meant breaking every rule in the book about leaving the premises with a student.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a wooden carving dangling from a leather cord around his neck.

I made this in woodworking shop,” he said, pulling it over his head and handing me an intricately carved whale. “I copied it from a book on the Aleuts. In eager anticipation of my role as an artisan,” he said, obviously trying his hardest to sound sarcastic.

“Wow,” I said. “It’s amazing.”

“You can keep it.”

“No, it’s okay. You must have worked a long time on it.”

“I can make another one.”

“Well, thanks then,” I said, wrapping the leather cord around my wrist.

“What’s back there?” Francisco asked, pointing down the hill to a toppling rock wall.

“It’s a dig, been going on since before we came here. One of the Kashaya Pomo villages was there.” I avoided the site and the earnest archaeology students who worked so hard to uncover the catastrophic past. I felt it all around me, I didn’t need to see the sad remnants of the Kashaya Pomo, their way of life destroyed when the cove ran red with the blood of thousands of slaughtered sea otters and fur seals, the meadows furrowed under the plow to grow food for the Russians.

“What happened to them?”

“A lot of the Native Americans died from diseases the Russians brought, they had no impunity.”


“Immunity, right. And supposedly some of them just disappeared.”

“Disappeared? Where to?”

“Further north, or inland. No one knows. Hey, do you want to see the Russian Orchard? We can see the cemetery on the way back. There’s a shortcut through the meadow,” I said, pointing to a faint trail. I knew we should be going down, back to the group, not further away, but once I get the impulse to do something I have a hard time turning my mind away from it. Hard to explain, but it has gotten me into trouble more times than I can count. My therapist always reminds me that if I just turn away and start doing something else, the impulse will disappear, but Francisco was already walking up the trail.

“Do you like Sterling-Mann Academy?” I asked when I caught up with him.

“Not really. I don’t fit in. I’m there on a scholarship, some kind of diversity thing.”

“Right. You weren’t smart or anything?”

Francisco laughed. “Well, a bit. So, what are you into?”

“Science, mostly. Art, and sometimes math.” I didn’t tell him the rest, how I’m wired differently than most people. How sometimes I can’t settle down, and on the worst days I kind of overload, just short-circuit and jumble everything up, my brain going faster than my mouth and ears. And when things start to spin in my brain I don’t always make the best decisions. Today being a case in point.

We stepped out of the meadow into the shade of the redwoods. In the green hush of the forest I sometimes sensed the other time, way back, when seals and otters danced in the waves, and the creeks and streams flashed silver with salmon while the Kashaya lived peacefully in their bluff-side villages. I was about to tell Francisco to listen, maybe he’d hear the songs in the sigh of the wind in the trees, smell the smoke of long-cold fires in the air, but he stopped so suddenly I stepped on his heel.

“Hey, what’s that?” he said, pointing down the path to a sheet of light shimmering over the path. A sudden gust of wind showered us with tiny redwood pinecones, and a guy with long hair tied back in a ponytail stepped through the light. He wore pants and a top made out of something like chamois cloth, and carried a bow and arrow in one hand, a big knife in the other. A large dog trotted around to stand in front of him, ears forward and alert, his tail twitching.

“Oh, my god,” I whispered. My dad was always telling me not to wander off into the hills alone, warning me about booby-trapped meth labs hidden in the redwoods.

“Should we run?” Francisco asked in a whisper.

“I think it’ll rile the dog up. Let’s try talking.”

“Hi,” I said, taking a step forward, trying to look pleasant. “Nice dog.”

He wasn’t a nice dog at all. He had dirty, matted fur and his lips curled back, exposing sharp teeth.

“Hayu!” the man said, and the dog switched from barking to a steady growl. The man said something else I didn’t understand, pointing at me.

“What does he want, do you understand?” Francisco asked me, his voice loud.

“I don’t know.”

The guy shouted at us, talking fast, and I heard the word Rossiya, the old name for the Fort.

“He’s speaking Russian now,” I said. Francisco gave me a surprised look. People tend to underestimate me, because I stutter and mix up words when my brain is going too fast. But I grew up with Spanish, because of Marta, and I’d been studying Russian for four years.

“What are you carrying?’ the man asked, switching to weirdly-accented Spanish.

“Carrying? Nothing.” I thought he meant weapons. I said it in English. I understand Spanish perfectly, but I don’t speak it as well.

“Around your wrist. Let me see it,” he said, pointing at me.

“This?” I asked, unwrapping the carving and leather cord.

He took it from me by the cord, holding it out like a poisonous snake.

“It’s just a carving I made,” said Francisco.

“Who are you? You shouldn’t be here.” He turned to Francisco. “Your people? Not Russian?”

“No, my people are from Mexico.

The man said something harsh, like an expletive, and looked even more agitated. “We don’t want you here. No Spanish. No Mexicans. Understand?”

Francisco glared at him.

“You’re from one of the land grants, right? You came with Peralta?” he asked, still talking to Francisco.

“The land grants were divided up more than a hundred years ago, dude,” Francisco said, and I remembered he liked history the best.

“Oh,” the man said, looking confused.

“Maybe he’s off his meds,” whispered Francisco.

I never find this expression particularly funny. “Just play along with him,” I said.

Francisco pointed to the shimmering light hovering on the trail behind him. “What’s with the lights?” he asked. “And who are you?”

“You can call me Kolya.”

“You’re Russian?”

“My father’s Russian.”

“Oh. This is Francisco and I’m Jenna,” I said, relieved he seemed to be calming down.

“Jenna.” He said it like Shenna. “Doesn’t sound Russian. Or Spanish.”

“No, the Russians have been gone a long time. And the Spanish.”

“A long time, huh? We thought the Spanish would end up with the land.”

This whole conversation was weird. Maybe the guy was stoned or something, but his hands were steady as he examined the carving.

“Did this come off a baidarka?” he asked.

“A what?” I said, edging away.

“An iqyax, a hunting boat.”

“You mean a kayak?” Francisco suddenly seemed more interested in talking to this guy than getting away.

“Yes. A qa-yaq,” said Kolya. “The talismans are for good luck. This one’s powerful.”

“I carved it myself,” said Francisco. “It isn’t real. Just something I copied from a book. How could it do anything? It doesn’t have the anima, the magic.”

Kolya laughed. “You Europeans think you understand our beliefs. I just meant the arlluk, the killer whale, has the most power. Jenna shouldn’t have it. It’s for the Alutiiqs.”

I knew about the Alutiiqs, Native Alaskans from the Aleutian Islands, brought to Ft. Ross for their skill hunting otters and seals. Long gone.

“Never mind,” Kolya said. “Now you’ve called me out, you should come back with me, show this to the elders.”

No way we were going anywhere with this guy. “We need to get back. People will be looking for us soon. I wouldn’t want to get you in trouble, with them searching the woods and all….”

“Don’t worry. They’ll never find us. Let’s go.”

“Jenna,” said Francisco, his eyes really wide. He looked scared now, ready to run. The dog watched us, his ears and tail up again. The Kolya guy had returned his wicked knife to the leather scabbard but I figured it would take him about a tenth of a second to have it in his hand again. I was good at seeing the totality of a situation, and despite this situation being really dodgy, I thought we should run for it. I caught Francisco’s eye and flicked my head a bit to the left. Run, I thought. Run.

Before I could turn Kolya grabbed me hard by my arm, and the dog leapt at Francisco, knocking him to the ground. He wasn’t hurting him, not yet.

Kolya pulled me backwards. A bright light flickered around us. I dug my heels into the dirt path, screaming at Francisco to get my father.

“Run,” I yelled to Francisco, but he came towards us, right behind the dog. The light expanded, then seemed to shatter, with shards of light floating in the air.


It all happened in an instant. A silvery light shimmered around us, but we were still in the forest, on the same rocky path. Kolya gripped his knife with one hand, my arm with the other. “Let go of me,” I said, almost overwhelmed by panic. I hate being grabbed. I dug my elbow sharply into his gut and he let go of my arm. “My father’s a ranger. He’ll come with the sheriffs, they have infrared. And guns. Dogs, too. Let us go and we’ll forget about this.” My Spanish and English words jumped all over the place.

“I don’t mean to scare you, Jenna. But you were there on the path in front of me, carrying the whale. There must be a reason.”

“It isn’t mine. Francisco made it.” I shouldn’t have said that, but I was scared.

“Where are we?” Francisco asked. I didn’t know him well enough to be sure, but he didn’t seem scared anymore. More curious-like.

“On the other side,” Kolya said.

“The other side of what?” asked Francisco.

“The Russians call it drugaja storona.

“That doesn’t tell us anything,” I snapped. “You mean, other side, like dead?”

“No. We’re right where we were a minute ago. Just in deep. My people crossed over when they started dying, when all the otters and seals died.”

“Your people are the missing Kashaya?” I asked.

“Kashaya. Also Alutiiqs and other tribes from the Aleutians, some Miwok, some Russians. The ones who saw knew it was wrong to kill the otters and seals, who knew the future held more disease and death.”

“You’re the descendants of the people at the Fort?” I shook my head, confused.

“I was young when we came in, but the elders remember those times well. They were not good times for our people. A lot of disease, and hard work, growing food for the Russians. My father went south with some Miwok and Kashaya men to work in the Spanish missions, where they were treated like dogs. The Spanish never bathed and the soldiers drank liquor that made some of them crazy with a soul sickness. No offense, my friend,” he said, looking at Francisco.

“I’m not Spanish. I’m barely even Mexican.”

“Our men heard the Russians might leave Alta California. They were afraid of Mexico expanding its claims, coming North with guns and priests. At least the Russians never tried to convert us to their god. The Spanish missionaries had already enslaved the Miwoks further south, made them worship their god. So we went in deep.”

“You mean you went deep into the woods?” asked Francisco.

“Yes, we went in deep.”

I had a feeling I wasn’t understanding at all. Francisco listened to the guy in his intense way, head to the side, eyes focused.

“I need to go home,” I said. “We can’t go with you.”

Kolya pointed down the trail with his knife. “Things are different here. Let’s go.”

“Oh, god,” I said, my teeth chattering. I wanted my dad.

“Come on,” said Francisco. “We don’t have much choice. Besides, aren’t you curious?”

“I’ll get you back soon,” said Kolya. “I want you to show my people your talisman.”

“Francisco’s talisman,” I muttered.

We walked uphill, through the shady redwoods and onto a sunny hillside covered with a mixed forest of manzanita and oak. The trees grew closer together, and bushes spilled over the path as we walked along trails, faint as animal trails, then up a steep rocky hillside. By the time we finally stopped at the base of a cliff I was exhausted and thirsty.

Kolya stood facing the rock. “Quiet, someone will come. Better not tell them you’re from Mexico,” he said to Francisco.

The dog sat back on his haunches. His ears perked up, then he jumped up and ran forward as the cliff opened. That’s the only way to describe it. Suddenly a large gap appeared at the base of the cliff. Kolya put his hand on my elbow again, but I was way past running.

A man, who looked like an older, paler, version of Kolya, stood scowling at us. “You brought settlers here? What were you thinking?” Unlike Kolya he spoke fluent Russian.

“The girl is carrying a talisman,” said Kolya.

“I don’t care what she is carrying. Probably stole it from the burial grounds. They do that you know.”

“It is new. Made for her.”

“Take them back,” he said. The old man and I agreed on one thing at least.

“He’s right, Kolya,” I said. “That’s the best thing.”

“Just show him the talisman,” Kolya said. “Otets, just look!”

Otets. Father.

Kolya’s father looked surprised when I held up the carving. “Where did you get this?”

“A boy I know made it. He copied it from a book. I’m sure he’d want you to keep it.”

An old man, wearing skins and some kind of headdress and carrying a large torch, materialized in the doorway and said something in a language I’d never heard.

“This is the Toion,” said Kolya. “The chief.”

“The Toion says you can’t go back,” Kolya translated.

The man in the headdress switched to heavily accented Russian. “After hiding all this time, everything will be undone because this sapling decides to walk out to the edge and bring a pretty girl back?” he said, glowering at Kolya.

He reached for my arm. “Don’t touch me!” I said, my voice bouncing off the rock walls. The dog began to growl again. “You know, we didn’t ask to be brought here. Just let us go home. We’ll never be able to find our way back here even if we wanted to. Which I don’t.” My words were halting and jumbled, but I managed to say it all in Russian.

“You say things happen for a reason, Toion,” Kolya said, suddenly sounding deferential. “This girl carries the whale. Maybe she can help us. She could get a message to Czar Nikolas Pavlovich, a petition to reinstate the Kashaya lands.”

I translated it for Francisco and we exchanged glances. Were all these people experiencing some mass delusion?

“Then they would know we are still here, in deep.”

“Perhaps it‘s time to come out,” said Kolya.

“You are always thinking it is time,” said the Toion. “Your generation is too impatient. Bring the settlers inside.”

“Will we be allowed to go home when we want?” asked Francisco.

When I translated this the Toion gave me an enigmatic look. “Please,” he said, motioning to the darkness inside. “Follow me.”

“What is this place?” I asked.

“We call it New Meteni.”

“Meteni was the name of the Kashaya village next to the fortress,” I whispered to Francisco.

The Toion led the way down a long tunnel, his torch barely piercing the darkness. After a few twists and turns, with me getting more and more terrified, the tunnel opened into a large cavern. And I mean large, like the size of a mall or something, lit by dozens of torches. Groups of people milled around or sat by one of several small fires. The smoke from the fires drifted straight up to the roof of the cave, and the cave felt dry and fairly warm and smelled just like a barbeque.

Kolya led us to a pile of furs by one of the fires. A girl, maybe ten, put a platter heaped with pieces of smoked fish, dried berries and chunks of some kind of meat in front of us, then handed us cups which she filled from a large urn. When I brought the bowl to my mouth she giggled behind her hand. When I set the bowl down she reached over, gently taking my hand and dipping it into the cup.

Four old men joined us at the fire, sitting cross-legged on the furs. A group of young men and women, about Kolya’s age, came and stood behind them. One of them leaned forward and asked Francisco something in Russian.

Francisco shook his head, and Kolya said, “The boy doesn’t speak Russian. You can talk to him in Spanish.” To me he said, “Jenna, you should eat.”

“I’m not hungry, just thirsty.”

“Maybe it’s rude not to eat,” whispered Francisco, as he stuffed his mouth with berries.

“Do you think I care?” I felt the strange, jangly feeling I get when my medicine wears off, like I wanted to jump out of my own skin.

“Some tea, then,” said Kolya. He pulled down a basket from a shelf and handed it to the girl, who he called Cessie. She filled the basket with water and brought it back to the fire. It didn’t leak at all. Using a pair of iron tongs, Kolya plucked a few stones, so hot they glowed, from the fire and dropped them into the basket, which let out a hiss of steam. Cessie added a few pinches of leaves from a leather bag into a wooden cup and filled it with the hot water.

I sipped the tea, fragrant with sage and mint, and after a minute started feeling a sense of calm and clarity, better than any meds. Suddenly, I wanted to stay. I had so many questions, but the Toion kept hushing me, directing his questions to Francisco in Russian, which Kolya translated into Spanish without letting Francisco ask any questions back.

After about half an hour of this one-sided interrogation, the Toion stood and said, “You tell us disturbing things, of great changes. We’ve been safe here in New Meteni, and healthy. However, a disease has recently struck. A terrible cough, with fever and crackling in the lungs. Two of our old people have died. Cessie’s mother is pregnant. We don’t want to chance her getting sick.”

“You want me to bring a doctor here?” I asked.

“No,” the men all said at once.

“We want you to bring us medicine,” said Kolya.

“I don’t know what kind of medicine. Besides, you need a prescription.”

Kolya looked at me blankly.

“I can’t get medicine for someone else.”

Cessie watched me with huge brown eyes. I knew what it was like to grow up without a mother.

“Broad spectrum antibiotics,” said Francisco. “That’s what they need.”

“How can we get antibiotics?”

“There must be a way. You can get anything at my school. We’ll need a little time.”

The men conferred and decided to have Kolya escort us down to the slope above the forest path. Francisco and I would return with antibiotics in twenty days, at noon. We were also entrusted with a message for the czar, just in case we were mistaken about everything.

When we came out of the cavern the sun was high in the sky. Kolya refused to any of our questions as he led us down through the rocks. He stopped, pointed out the trail across the slope, then nodded solemnly to say goodbye.

We made slow progress, repeatedly losing the trail as it wound in and out of thick brush. When we stopped to drink from the leather water bag we’d been given I glanced at my watch. We’d been gone more than four hours. My dad was going to freak. I jumped up and started to run, Francisco on my heels telling me to slow down. I ran until the redwoods closed around us. I could smell the ocean. Home.

“Hey,” said Francisco when I stopped, “There’s the edge, see the shimmer?”

“Suppose we can just walk through it?”

“Kolya said it’s to keep people out. This is a magical place, right? I wish they would have told us more. Just think, they’ve been alive more than two hundred years. It’s incredible. Maybe those people didn’t die from pneumonia, maybe they died because they were like 250 years old.”

“That isn’t it,” I said. I had an idea, but my thoughts were going too fast, colliding and rearranging before I could hold on to them.

“What then? Look, here we are.”

It wasn’t anything dramatic, like before. For a minute the air around us shimmered, like a million dust motes caught in sunlight, then we were still in the forest but everything looked slightly different.

“Which way do we go Jenna?”

I looked around, disoriented, my heart pounding. I forced myself to slow down, take in the surroundings, until I could see and feel everything at once, the sky, the redwoods, the sunlight slanting through the branches.

“Something’s wrong,” I said. “It’s early morning!”

“What? We left Ft. Ross at lunchtime. The sun was overhead when we left the cavern, right?”

“I know, but look, it’s in the southeast now. Oh, god, I’m in so much trouble. What time does your phone say?”

“I don’t know. It’s completely dead, even though I just charged it. It can’t be morning. No way we spent a whole night in there. I’d be starved.”

The thing about people who are smart in the regular way, they know what makes logical sense, and can’t deviate from it. I guess it makes life more predictable, more orderly. But sometimes I can see beyond the facts, to a pattern beneath. It’s like a consolation prize for the other stuff I have to deal with.

A helicopter flew over, barely skimming the trees. Someone shouted and I heard an all-terrain vehicle driving up the path. I turned off the main path, thinking we could get to my house unseen. I felt too jangled to deal with a bunch of people. As we started down the steep hill behind my house I saw two patrol cars in the driveway and my first thought was something had happened to my father. I knew it was the opposite, though, something had happened to us. Two rangers walked over to the sheriff and spread a map out on the hood of the car.

“Oh, god. They’re looking for us. Come on.” I took Francisco’s hand. “I’m sorry I got you into this,” I said.

The front door opened and my dad stepped onto the porch, Marta right behind him. He saw me right away and yelled my name. The sheriff and rangers turned, then started towards us. My dad flew right past them and got to me first, grabbing me in a painful bear hug. Then he stepped back and gave Francisco a hard stare.

“Call the EMTs!” he yelled over his shoulder.

“We aren’t hurt,” I said, although looking down I realized my tights were shredded and my arms scratched. Francisco’s hair was full of pine needles and leaves, and a slash across his upper arm was bleeding.

My father kept looking at me with this strange expression, then told me to wait in my room while he talked to Francisco. Francisco and I had agreed not to say anything about New Meteni, but we hadn’t expected anything like this. We’d been gone overnight, a search party had been looking for us. I sat on my bed, suddenly shivery and starving.

After fifteen minutes my father came in and sat down next to me, patting my knee, his mouth pulled down into a frown. The sheriff, who I’d known for ages, followed him in and sat on the corner of my desk. “Jenna,” she said, “I need you to tell me what happened. Where you were, who you were with.”

“We got lost, Sheriff Caswell.” I turned to my dad. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it would cause this much trouble.”

“Trouble? You go missing for three days and you didn’t think it would cause any trouble?” asked my dad, his voice loud, right in my ears.

“Three days?” I wasn’t hearing him right. Words were jumbling. Didn’t usually happen with my father. “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

I picked up my stuffed tiger and buried my face in the soft plush.

“Jenna,” the sheriff said, pulling my desk chair next to the bed and leaning towards me. “Call me Lauren, okay? We’re just trying to understand. Let’s talk for a minute. When the ambulance gets here we’ll take you to the hospital for a check-up.”

“I’m fine.” I said. “Just a little hungry.”

“Okay. Let’s start there. What did eat while you were gone?”

What could I say? Herb tea? Smoked salmon? “Some berries,” I said. “And water.”

“That’s all you ate? And you missed your meds, they’re in the kitchen,” said my dad.

“Dad, I didn’t realize how long we were gone. We walked up the hill, and it was foggy. We got lost, the trees, the sky, I mean, got sunny and we came home.”

“Jenna, I know how you lose track of time. But how could you lose track of almost three days? Three nights?” I could see the effort he took to speak calmly. “It’s okay, just try to tell us what happened. Did that boy make you go with him?”

“No!” I said, shocked. “Of course not. It was my idea to show Francisco the seminary.”



Marta stepped into my room, holding a bowl of soup.

“Did you give some to Francisco?” I asked. By the look on her face I knew she hadn’t. “This isn’t his fault. He’s just as angry as me.”

“Why are you angry?” asked Marta.

“I said hungry.” This is why I didn’t trust words. I looked out the window, at the sun, now overhead. Three days? The forest hummed with rangers and deputies armed with guns, GPS and infrared. I didn’t know how well Kolya’s people’s protections worked. I needed to say something or my father and the deputies would rip through the forest until they were satisfied.

“It was a dare.” I said. “By the other kids. They were teasing us.”

I had never lied to my father before, and I was stuttering badly. “We got really lost and cold. We found an abandoned cabin. Waited there, thought someone would find us. Then walked more. Got lost again. Now can I be alone? I’ve got a headache.”

All I could think about was getting the medicine to Kolya. How was I going to track down the medicine and convince my father to let me out of his sight? I figured I couldn’t count on Francisco for any help. He was going to have his own set of problems to deal with. I just hoped he didn’t get expelled.

Lauren and my father let me eat my soup in peace, then escorted me outside where two ambulances waited in the driveway. Francisco sat on a gurney, a bandage around his arm. I caught Francisco’s attention while the paramedic took his pulse. I could see the whole story on his face. The deputies had given him a hard time, asked him humiliating questions. He gave me a little shake of his head. He hadn’t talked. I smiled, feeling an ocean of relief.

Just as I got to the ambulance I saw a movement in the trees at the back of the yard. Kolya. Suddenly, just like that, I understood everything. “It’s sixteen to one.” I must have said it out loud because everyone looked at me. “Let me go back inside for a sec, okay?” I said to the paramedic, who waited to help me into the ambulance. “I want my tiger.”

I ran back into the house, to my room, and opened the window. Kolya stood at the edge of the woods, completely still. I raised my hand to let him know I was alright, hoping he’d understand his secret was safe.

“I’ll bring the medicine,” I yelled. It wouldn’t be a problem; I had almost two years. I’d done the math in my head. Sixteen to one. Twenty of Kolya’s days would be almost a years from now. Three hundred and twenty, to be exact.

That was the secret, how they lived undetected. They’d gone in deep to where time slowed to a crawl. Our four hours had turned into three days. Almost two hundred of our years had been just long enough for Kolya to grow up. I had all the time in the world to help them find their future. In eight of their months I could even become a doctor.


AUTHOR BIO:  Peri L. Fletcher is an anthropologist and writer who has worked in Mexico, Dominica, and