Age: 14, Grade: 9
School Name: New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math High School, New York, NY
Educator: Ellen Sands
Category: Flash Fiction
She walks out of school, laughing with her friends, making corny jokes about the math teacher’s sincere effort to put up Halloween decorations. Emily Dichter, resident queen bee, in her short skirt and two-inch heels, was a little much. Saying goodbye to her friends, she turns onto her block and into a small two-story house, and a front yard with a blown-up tarantula decoration. Totally embarrassing, she scoffs. Halloween was never her cup of tea. Rummaging through her mini-backpack for her keys, she breaks an acrylic nail.
“Yowch!” she screams and hops around, holding her hurt finger.
A boy pops his head out the window. “Emmy? What now?”
“Can you open the door for me? I broke my nail.”
Looking a bit reluctant, the boy opens the door.
“Come in, My Lord” He mockingly bows.
Emily ignores him, walking down the hallway into her room, which is bright and airy, with posters of boy bands covering the mirrored cabinet across the right wall. She flings her backpack next to her bed and reaches for pore-cleaning solvent on her nightstand, absentmindedly rubbing her face as she texts a school group chat asking for homework answers. Kevin, A.K.A. her twelve year old annoying little brother, pops his head in.
“OMG, Kevin!” she exclaims. “Didn’t you read the sign on my door? No twerps allowed!”
“Didn’t care enough to notice. Want to play cards?”
“No, go away! Josh is coming over.”
“Ewww, your boyfriend?” he whines “But it’s a new card game that Aunt Imelda sent us.”
Emily snorts: “The bat crap crazy tarot lady? How funny!”
As Kevin leaves, he drops the cards all over her room.
“Ugh! You’re so annoying! Pick them up!”
Kevin runs down the hallway, shrieking with laughter.
Emily picks up the cards and sighs. She goes downstairs to put them in the family game drawer. Such a loser activity, she thinks.
“Good morning!” shouts an unfamiliar voice, which also, annoyingly, has parted the curtains.
Emily rubs her eyes and squints. “Where am I?”
“Sweetie, you have to get up. Remember, you have a math test today.”
The woman is tall, has a bun of black hair streaked with white, and wise brown eyes.
Emily’s eyes widen. Who is this woman, she wonders?
“Do I look that old to you? Haven’t I told you that sarcasm is unflattering language?”
The woman looks at her strangely. “Sarah, is everything okay? I’ll have Dad make you some bacon.”
“Bacon? But I’m vegetarian. And who are you?”
“I’ll give you some time to get ready.” Looking shaken, the woman leaves the room.
Emily inches slowly toward the mirror. She sees herself and her mouth drops open in a silent scream. “My hair is…black and greasy?! My face has acne?! I’m wearing rainbow emoji pajamas? Where am I? What happened?”
The world seems to speed up like the last round in a video game.
“You know what, Grandma? I’m not feeling well,” she yells down the hallway.
“I have to go to work,” the woman calls back. “Feel better, Sarah! You don’t seem to be yourself today.”
Emily looks around the room and cringes. Bicycle wallpaper? And a hairy yellow rug that looks like it’s seen better days. Who does this girl think she is? She makes a face.
“Sarah, breakfast is ready!” calls a man’s voice.
Curiosity gets the better of her, and Emily goes down to the kitchen. She smells sizzling meat. Maybe, she thinks, since she’s clearly in someone else’s body, just this once she can have something other than those yucky kale smoothies she forces down for breakfast. The man at the stove- she presumed was Sarah’s father, hands her a plate with sunny-side-up eggs and bacon on it.
“Enjoy!” he says.
Emily, remembering she’s supposed to be sick, fakes a cough. She notices a boy about two years older than she is, who has overgrown black bangs–must be the trademark hair color in the family–and is wearing a Metallica t-shirt.
“Psst! You need to help me! Play sick!”
The boy squinted at her. “What?” Then he coughs. “Dad! I think I got a bug.”
“Not you, too! You kids haven’t been dressing properly for the cool Fall weather.”
Emily hides a laugh with a cough.
He puts his hand on the boy’s forehead. “You’ve got no temperature.”
The boy has a coughing fit, giving a highly convincing show.
“Oh, God. You’re staying home. Feel better!” says the man. The the front door closes.
“Yo, Sarah. What’s going?” says the boy.
“I’m not Sarah,” says Emily.
“No, I’m not. I woke up as this random person named Sarah this morning.”
A serious expression crosses the boy’s face for a second. “What’s your favorite movie?”
“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” says Emily. “Of course.”
The boy cracks up. “All right. You’re definitely not my sister. How did this happen? I’m genuinely interested now.”
“I really don’t know. I just woke up this morning and I’m someone else. Are you a demon? Am I getting punished? I did nothing to deserve this.”
The boy laughs again. “You’re something else. Hey, I can’t help you here, but I can help with catching you up on your new life, and keeping Mom and Dad and your friends from being suspicious. The fewer people know, the better. They might think you’re crazy or something.”
“No, I don’t want to be educated about your dumb life.” Emily starts to cry.
“Well, you know, I just might get going to school.”
“No, stay!” she sniffs.
“Fine, fine. Wait a sec. Hold up. What happened to my sister?”
“I have no idea and I don’t care. This is so unfair. I had such a good life. I want my life back.”
Sarah’s brother sighs defeatedly.
Back at the small white two-story house with the tarantula in the yard, Kevin smirks as he unfolds a note from Aunt Imelda that reads: “If your sister is being bratty…”