Willa blinked. She shook her head. She even pinched herself, but nothing worked. No matter what she did, Willa still ended up staring at the new Los Angeles. The buildings were all exactly the same size and shape. They were metal and had one window each. Willa saw that all the people wore the same outfit; a loose white shirt and black pants. They each had a large metallic band on their left arms. Willa looked at her own watch. They couldn’t be the same, could they? Willa tried to imagine everybody she knew with a time machine. She pushed away the thought and started running toward her own house. As she ran, she noticed that the people all acted the same. Each of their steps was in harmony. No one was talking. Not a single laugh.
“Willa! What in the name of perfection are you doing!?”
Willa turned her head at the sound of her mother’s voice. When she found her, relief flooded through her. At least her mother was the same. She had caramel hair that bounced out behind her as she walked, but always seemed to find its way back on her shoulders. Her large eyes were a striking green that sparkled when she smiled. Her nose was still crooked and her lips were still thin. Willa ran to her mother and threw her arms around her.
“I thought you were gone!” Willa choked. She breathed in her mother’s sent of cinnamon and cheap perfume. Her mother pushed her away and stared at Willa, eyes full of concern.
“Why would you squeeze me like that?” she asked. Willa’s heart sank.
“I-I hugged you. Don’t you know what a hug is?” Willa’s mother suddenly glanced at Willa’s outfit. Her eyes grew wider.
“What are you wearing!?” Willa looked down at her black tank top and ripped jeans. She knew her mom didn’t like her nose piercing, but she never cared about clothes.
“Oh never mind, it’s almost curfew. Your father should be home by now.” Her mother grabbed Willa’s arm and started pulling her into the house. Inside, it was warm and cozy, like always. There was a large couch and chairs that formed a circle around a small radio. On the table, a simple centerpiece of one large red candle sent warmth, light, and the smell of brown sugar throughout the room. Willa heard footsteps coming down the stairs and turned to her father. He still had unkempt black hair and shimmering blue eyes. His ultra-white teeth shined in the candle light as he smiled down at the girls. His smile soon faded.
“What in the name of a baby mongoose are you wearing?” he asked, a light air to his voice. Willa smiled, but her mother frowned.
“I found her running. Worse, out of harmony! It was a good thing I found her before the Reds did.” Willa wanted to ask what the Reds were, but she knew that would result in therapy.
“I’m sure she was just eager to get home,” her father said. Willa could tell her father was trying to cover for her.
“Still,” her mother said. “I think she should go to bed early.” Her mother led Willa up the stairs and into a small room. Inside, there was a bed, window, nightstand, and radio. Nothing else. Willa’s mother led her to the large bed and pulled the covers back. Willa climbed in and let her mother pull the covers back up.
“Now you just rest, dear,” her mother said. As she flipped off the light, she muttered something about a doctor. Willa strained her ears and tried to listen to her mother’s voice.
“…still think she should see the mayor,” mother said. “I mean, no one has gotten ill since the twenties, Mark. Even then, it was very rare.”
“Now, Molly, I understand your concern, but I don’t see any reason to drag her to the Capitol this late after curfew.”
“Fine,” Willa’s mother huffed. “But first thing in the morning.” Willa heard her parents walk into a different room and shut the door. A few seconds later, she heard her mother say goodnight. Willa slowly rose out of bed and tip-toed to the window. She slid it open and climbed out into the night. Willa was going to bring things back, but was going to need some help. She walked up to a man and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to her and smiled.
“How may I be of assistance?”
Willa stared at him. “Hi, I’m looking for someone. Do you know where I could find Dean Marshall?”