When Alice Carroll is in grade three she narrowly escapes losing her life in a school shooting. All she remembers is the woman comforting her in the moments before the gunshot, and that one second she was there, the next she wasn’t.
It’s bad enough coming to terms with surviving while others, including her favourite teacher, didn’t, let alone dealing with the fact that she might wink out of existence at any time.
Alice spends the next few years seeing specialists about her Post Traumatic Stress as a result of VD–Voldemort Day–but it’s not until she has a nightmare about The Day That Shall Not Be Mentioned, disappears from her bed, is found by police, and taken home to meet her four-year-old self that she realizes she’s been time travelling.
Alice is unsure if her getting unstuck in time should be considered an ability or a liability, until she disappears right in front of her high school at dismissal time, the busiest time of day. Worried that someone may find out about her problem before long, Alice enlists her best friend (and maybe boyfriend), Pete, to help her try to control her shifting through time with limited success. She’s just about ready to give up when the shooter is caught. Alice resolves to take control of her time travelling in order to go back to That Day, stop the shooting, and figure out the identity of the stranger who’d shielded Alice’s body with her own.
I Was, Am, Will Be Alice was the winner of the 2015 A Woman’s Write Competition for fiction!
I Was, Am, Will Be Alice Excerpt
“Alice?” a man says when the clacking stops. It’s loud enough to snap me from my trance. “You’re covered in blood! Are you okay?”
I blink at him. “I don’t think it’s mine.”
The man, Principal Cotton, clucks his tongue and says, “For God’s sake, girl, why are you still here?”
I shrug my shoulders. I have no idea.
His shoes click away. When they click back he has a woolen blanket in his hands. I feel the warmth of his body as he nears and the wet warmth of his breath at the back of my neck as he drapes the blanket over me. He’s a smoker. I can tell.
The blanket’s scratchy, like Daddy’s beard on a weekend morning. It starts to slide off me, but I grab as much of it as I can and pull it close.
Mr. Cotton holds his hand out to me. I take it and let him lead me to the office.
It’s weird sitting in the Bad Kid Chairs, and I get A Case of the Nerves waiting for my parents to come. I have to breathe deeply and evenly; the last time I got A Case of the Nerves, I went away, and I don’t want to do that again. Not here. Not now.
By the time my parents come for me, Mr. Cotton has let me get washed up. My clothes are sticky in places where the blood is still wet and hard where it’s dried in others. We sit in his office, the four of us around a small, round table. I try to picture us sitting this way in a coffee shop, waiting for the waitress to take our orders. Mom orders a latte, lactose free and with three sugars. Dad orders something slushy. Mr. Cotton looks like a tea man to me. I order something fruity and icy with lots of whipped cream.
Mr. Cotton says, “She was curled into a ball when I found her,” spoiling the illusion. “She was just glued to the spot, huddled into a ball and holding her breath.”
“Where did the blood come from?” Mom sniffles. I hate it when she cries.
“We don’t know. She seems physically unharmed.” Mr. Cotton shuffles the papers on the table in front of him. “I want to give you this.” He hands her a pamphlet. “Grief councillors will be here for the foreseeable future to talk to the children who need it, but seeing as Alice was so close to…well, to the action, Post Traumatic Stress is a likely possibility.”
Mom gasps. “Oh God!” Dad reaches for her hand. I sit in my chair taking long, deep breaths, willing myself to grow smaller and smaller until I disappear.
“Call this number, Mrs. Carroll. There are councillors there to help you cope, too. Support groups and the like.”
Mom reaches for a tissue from the box on the table. She blows her nose, looks at her lap, and continues to weep.
“Thank you, Mr. Cotton,” Dad says. He stands up and shakes the principal’s hand. He touches Mom’s shoulder and she stands, too. She nods and forces a smile at Mr. Cotton.
“Come, sweetie,” Dad says to me. He takes my hand and pulls me from my chair.
The drive home would be silent, but for Mom’s sniffles and snorts and gasps. When we get there, she announces, “I’m going to lie down for a bit.” She smiles at me and says, “You can lie with me if you like, Alice,” as an afterthought.
I nod. I don’t feel like being comforted by my mother. I feel embarrassed at losing control. Ashamed at being found by Mr. Cotton of all people, just sitting there, crying like a baby. I want to eat chocolate cake till I puke and crawl into a hole somewhere and die.
“Ice cream sundaes, kiddo?” Dad asks.
I nod and smile in spite of myself and follow him into the kitchen.
About Author Elise Abram
Elise Abram is a high school teacher of English and Computer Studies, former archaeologist, editor, publisher, award winning author, avid reader of literary and science fiction, and student of the human condition. Everything she does, watches, reads and hears is fodder for her writing. She is passionate about writing and language, cooking, differentiated instruction, and ABC’s Once Upon A Time. In her spare time she experiments with paleo cookery, knits badly, and writes. She also bakes. Most of the time it doesn’t burn. Her family doesn’t seem to mind.