TRANSCRIPT: Cat McKay specializes in gays and sci-fi, both as an actor and as a writer. (If it’s not broke …) Favorite roles include Diana Barry in Anne and Diana Were Totally Doing It (FemSlash Fest at Otherworld), Bella in Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes, and Alien in Engage! A Choose Your Own Sci-Fight Adventure! Her play Plaid As Hell is the winner of Babes With Blades’ 2019 Joining Sword and Pen competition and the Margaret Martin Award, and will be produced as part of their 2020-2021 season.
And then she was gone. Inside the box was an ordinary watch, gunmetal black, its face almost as big as the back of my wrist. It looked like it was sized for a man. But when I clicked the strap into place, no links needed to be removed – it fit. It was honestly the gayest piece of jewelry I’d even put on my body. I loved it.
She had promised to explain everything, and now all I had was this … really cool watch? I didn’t want to think about it too hard. That had clearly been a this-is-over relationship conversation; the watch was just a weird bonus. But if she’d had this all the months we’d been dating, especially when I’d practically been living over at her place, why had I never seen it before?
Whatever. Cas’s birthday party was in a couple of hours. I had enough time to get cleaned up and find something to wear.
Fuck. My favorite dress was still at her place. I checked my pocket. Still had her key. Why hadn’t she taken her key back? I texted her, ‘Hey, I’m coming over to get my stuff; hope that’s cool.’ Typing bubbles. ‘Who dis.’ Really? She was going to hit me with that five minutes after breaking up with me on Damen in broad daylight? ‘Your ex girlfriend,’ I sent back, ‘You know, Evie. We’ve been fucking for the last six months.’ ‘Don’t know you,’ she texted back. Wow. Ok. I got on the train and planned a scathing retort for when I reached her apartment.
“Blake?” I yelled on the stair. “It’s Evie; I’m coming in. I just want to get my stuff.” I unlocked the door and stood there. The apartment was wiped clean. Nothing in it, no furniture, no sign of human habitation. I’d say move-in ready, except a layer of dust covered everything.
I sat down on the floor. This wasn’t psychotic; this just wasn’t possible. I had woken up in this apartment this morning, and Blake was freakishly neat. Even if she’d had time to clear out, which she didn’t, that didn’t explain the fact that this place looked like it had been abandoned for weeks. And who lets a perfectly good, actually affordable Chicago one-bedroom sit empty like that?
“Blake?” I moved through the apartment, but there was nothing. I caught a glimpse of color behind the bathroom door. My favorite dress hung on the towel hook. There was a note pinned to it in Blake’s handwriting. “Watch your back – B”
Just then I heard voices on the stairs. Loud, several men’s voices, searching through the floors below. I heard them kick a door open. “Shit.” I grabbed my dress and beat it for the back stairs.
I heard them slam into the apartment right behind me and I threw myself down the narrow wooden stairs, hitting the ground and running for the alley. I am not much of a runner but there is nothing like the anger of your girlfriend ditching you in the weirdest of ways combined with the terror of a group of strange men chasing you out of what you thought was her apartment to give you a little extra boost. I felt my wrist vibrate but didn’t slow down. I put on speed as I made it into the street, seeing a car coming around the corner straight towards me.
The car turned to follow me. I sped up, felt my wrist vibrate again and – the street around me was gone. Or rather, it was the same street – I thought – but utterly dead. Plants grew up through cracks in the concrete. that hadn’t been there a second ago. I stumbled over a spot on the sidewalk where a tree root had pushed up the pavement and fell, skinning my knee. As I stood up, the back of my neck prickled.
I turned around, slowly. The plants and the roots weren’t the end of what was wrong with the otherwise-familiar block. There was no one. The men who had been chasing me were gone, as was the car, but … there was no one else. No one walking a dog or strolling along the sidewalk or hanging out in their courtyards. I looked around at the windows. Some were broken, all were dark – although it was still daylight, so that wasn’t that unusual … right?
The hair on the nape of my neck still hadn’t calmed down. Then I saw it, as I completed my circle. A curtain flashed up in the window of the apartment I had just left. Someone was watching me.
I walked around to the front door, looked up at the front window of her place. Nothing.
I went to the front door, but before I could get my key back out, the door swung open. Inside, autumn leaves covered the front-hall floor, unswept. It was May. What the fuck was going on? The inner door, too, was broken, so I crept up the stairs as quietly as I could. When I reached her door, though, it was locked. I tried my key; it worked.
“Evie, you came.” I jumped. It was Blake, but there were wrinkles around her eyes and – was that a white hair in her short crop?
“Yes, it’s me.”
“This is five years in the future, Evie.”
“The watch I gave you sends the wearer through time when you reach a 7:30 mile. No offense, but I wasn’t sure you’d make it.” “Ouch.” “Sit. I’ll make some tea.”
“Wait, wait, wait, you gave me time travelling watch? While breaking up with me? And this is five years in the future and you’re still here, when just a second I was in this apartment and everything was gone? None of this is making any sense, B!”
“I know. I’m sorry. I needed -” I heard a cat meow in the other room. “One sec, Chester’s hungry.”
“You got a cat? You never let me get a cat!”
“Yes, well, you didn’t technically live here, did you?”
“Why do you have a cat?” I said as she carried a lean, rough looking tabby into the room. “You’re allergic.”
“Chester eats all the vermin that keep coming in here. I can’t really do without him.”
“Vermin? Why don’t you call the landlord, or an exterminator?” She laughs. It’s not a nice laugh, not a laugh I’ve ever heard from her before.
“There’s no landlord, Ev. I guess you could say I’m squatting.”
“What happened to your old apartment? Why was it empty when I came?”
“I should probably start from the beginning.” A kettle starts shrieking from the other room. “One second.” She comes back in with two mugs, one with its handle broken off, full of watery tea. I take a sip and spit it out immediately.
“Wh – oh, god, that is awful, what is that?”
“Willowbark. It’s easy to find and makes decent tea in a pinch.”
“Tea is a bit hard to come by these days. Seeing as it doesn’t grow here natively.”
“You need to start telling me what’s going on, now.”
“Evie. I wasn’t completely honest with you when we were dating. I’m not an EMT. Or rather, I’m not just an EMT.”
“I’m part of a group that calls itself the Lavender Menace.” I snort.
“Wait, what, really? Like, from the 70s?”
“It’s an homage, but the important thing is, we’re time travelers.”
“Yes. I recruited you.”
“I’m getting to that part.”
“You’re scaring me.”
“Five years ago, or about a year in your future, there’s going to be a pandemic. I came here to help.”
“I skipped forward about a year, starting helping in overwhelmed hospitals.”
“You didn’t get sick?” She shakes her head.
“Got really lucky, I guess.”
“What was this pandemic like?”
“It was bad, Ev.”
“It was basically the flu.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“Do you know how many people the flu kills in a normal year?”
“Ok, well, it wasn’t the flu, is the point. But unlike SARS or MERS or Ebola, not everyone who had it got horribly ill. Not everyone got ill enough to notice, even. Which meant a lot of people were asymptomatic carriers. And even for people who did eventually get sick, symptoms took days to show up. Days they will wandered around, traveled, went to work …”
“So what happened?”
“It decimated Italy. Germany wasn’t hit so bad. America…”
“America was the worst. The states all took their own approaches.” She breathes out. “It would overwhelm the hospitals in one place, and as it started to calm down, there’d be a new outbreak somewhere else. Just, wave after wave of it. Chicago was hit particularly bad. When the first set of restrictions were lifted, everyone just went crazy –”
“More than six million people died, just in the US. There was never a final count – lots of people died without making it into a hospital, lots of people died without being tested, in a hallway on a stretcher somewhere. Plenty of bodies weren’t claimed. And, like I said, states -”
“- did their own thing -”
“Right, so it was impossible to get an accurate count.”
“So why did you recruit me? What do you want me to do?”
“I’m going to send you back.”
“What? No! Why?”
“Tell people to stay the fuck at home.”
Devon Elizabeth is a Chicagoland area performer and musician. Most recently she performed with Elgin Theatre Company’s radio play “It’s a Wonderful Life” .Other places your might have seen her include performing at the Bristol Renaissance Faire with Pub Crawl, Alma in Vero Voce’s production of Christmas Schooner and sharing her obsession of Disney with Drunkenly Ever After, a live streamed performance found on Facebook. She is thrilled to be a part of this production and hopes you enjoy the show!
Tabitha Burch has been performing since 2003, primarily in outdoor events. She is a makeup artist and character designer whose creations you can follow at operaghostpto1 on instagram. You may also know her as Grace O’Malley at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. All of this is, of course, merely a hobby next to her true calling as a serving maid for her two beautiful cats.