An Excerpt from Kayla Wayman, Teen Time Traveler: Lost in the Stream
December 26, 2004
The moment she landed, Kayla knew she’d made a horrible mistake.
It was supposed to be simple. It was supposed to be safe. It was supposed to be a nice, calm day on the beach, not an adrenaline-fueled escape from a raging tsunami.
Kayla had settled on Costa Rica as her first destination since she was eight years old, dreaming of the day she’d get to time travel solo. It was, she had decided, a relaxing, benign tropical destination from which to start her first solo adventure.
She felt a good first stop would be in the 1980s, in order to check out the crazy neon beach clothes and fluffy hair. The ’80s were by far her favorite era of pre-Kayla family photos—her mom’s hot pink too-short shorts paired with bright white knee-high socks and lime green wrist bands, super bright and beautiful against her rich, dark brown skin; her dad’s hilarious faux hawk, molded from his untamable curly red hair. The people-watching was sure to be epic!
Besides, Kayla loved the ocean. She’d kick back with a fresh horchata, eat fried plantains, keep an eye out for baby tortoises, tiny little bearded tamarin monkeys and slow-as-molasses grandfather sloths, and take a few notes. Then she’d return home, easy as coconuts, which would prove to her mother that she was ready for “unaccompanied time travel.” It was sure to be a win-win.
With these thoughts in mind, Kayla had pressed the Time Key into her warm palm and thought of Costa Rica, circa 1987.
And that was when Kayla made her first mistake.
She recognized her mistake as soon as she made it. It was such a natural, eensie-weensie-teeny-tiny mistake, anyone could have done it. But by the time she knew what she had done, it was too late.
While dreaming of warm, sandy beaches and hanging out with cute little monkeys, her thoughts had become driftwood and floated out to sea. Despite her best attempts to concentrate, her mother’s “DO NOT ATTEMPT!” warnings had wriggled their way into her brain, switching her focus from calm to chaotic, from gentle waves lapping the shore to a surging hundred-foot surf. And before she could catch her sea-bound thoughts and drag them back toward shore, before she could even so much as say, “Tar pits!” (Kayla’s proudly made-up version of “darn it,” a nod to her L.A. heritage—the La Brea Tar Pits—and a real-life visit to see the dinosaurs, plus a super-fun way to rhyme with her mom’s frequently used turn of phrase) …
Kayla disappeared through time and space. And definitely not in the direction (location or decade) she had intended.
She reappeared with a butt-smacking thwack on top of her messenger bag, hard sand beneath her palms. Pain shot up through her hands as wet heat blasted into her like a sauna door thrown open. Yet, before even opening her eyes, Kayla knew exactly where she was. If her distracted thoughts had taken her to where she was sure they had, then she was smack dab at the end of 2004. On Patong Beach. On the shores of Phuket, Thailand. During what was supposed to have been a peaceful, post-Christmas day in the sun.
Instinctively—involuntarily—Kayla had focused her attention on her mother’s constant instill-great-fear-in-the-heart-of-the-young-and-inexperienced-time-traveler lectures in which her mother warned her over and over not to travel to historical moments until she was ready:
“You can’t change the past. Before you travel to historical events, you need to distance yourself and mentally prepare to let the past be the past.”
But in trying not to concentrate on her mother’s warnings, of course that’s exactly where her mind had taken her, which meant Kayla knew exactly how this particular day on Patong Beach would play out, and “peaceful” was not the word to describe it. More like…
“Catastrophic cataclysmic calamity!” Kayla shouted, her eyes squeezed tightly shut.
If the distant roaring she heard was any indication, the global disaster of the year was just about to begin. What a time-traveling-messer-upper you turned out to be, Kayla Horatia Wayman! she scolded herself. Rule Number One: CONCENTRATE!!
But, once again, it was far too late for that. As if responding to her thoughts, the beach beneath her began to shake violently. Startled cries filled the salty warm air. Kayla shook the pain from her hands and forced her eyes open, taking it all in … peach-colored sand clung to her clothing and hands. Straight ahead stood a sprawling white beach resort. Overhead, birds took flight in great screeching masses, pinwheeling through the cloudless, crystal-blue sky. All around her, dozens—if not hundreds—of beach-goers pointed toward the roaring ocean behind her, their mouths agape. Directly beside her, a man in tan shorts and a green t-shirt gripped the arm of a woman in a polka-dotted sundress, both staring at the sea, their faces frozen in utter shock and bewilderment.
Kayla twisted around to face the ocean.
When she did, an ice cold fear flooded through her. Off in the distance, beyond the swaying palm trees and silhouetted birds, a wall of water the height of a mountain rushed toward them at mind-boggling speed. A surge that massive could only be a…
“Tidal wave,” Kayla breathed, wishing she’d been wrong. The humid air rushed in on her, threatening to squeeze the air from her lungs, and with the heat came a rising panic.
For a moment, the man in tan beside Kayla met her eyes, his face tense and confused, hers tense and all-too-knowing. Then he turned away and tugged at his polka-dotted companion; she resisted initially, but allowed him to pull her away. Together, the couple began to jog away from the beach.
“Hey!” Kayla yelled, but they ignored her.
RUN! her mind screamed at her, breaking her spell. She jumped to her feet and took off after the couple at a dead sprint, her messenger bag slapping behind her. With great effort she forced herself to focus. Okay, mental fact sheet time. Go:
Date: December 26th, 2004. Check.
Time: Mid-day. Check.
Place: Patong Beach, Thailand. Check.
Situation: Problems galore…
Earthquake: magnitude 9.1–9.3. Check.
Waves: up to 500 miles-per-hour. Check.
Casualties: 230,000 in 14 countries. Yikes! Check.
Worst hit: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, then Thailand (well, thank goodness for that last bit). Check.
Few known beach survivors….
Dread pounced on her. Few survivors. She risked a glance behind her. The wall of water raged forward, closing the gap between them. It seemed halfway to shore. How was she supposed to escape? She couldn’t possibly run that fast.
Focus, she told herself again as she sped up, sand giving way to pavement below her feet. She ran past parked cars and tourist shops, past barking dogs and questioning stares. As she did so, her mother’s voice sounded in her ears:
“If you ever get into any trouble while on a jump, recite C.L.A.I.M.E.D.”
“Claimed” was her mother’s acronym for the condensed version of the time traveler’s rulebook. Every time they traveled, Kayla’s mom prepared her for the journey by making her recite them by rote.
Fighting down panic, Kayla focused her eyes straight ahead and listed the rules, even as she ran:
by Catherine Wayman
#1: Concentrate: Focus hard on your destination.
(or bad things will happen!)
#2: Limit: Do not stay in one place for too long.
(or bad things will happen!)
#3: Accept: Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to modify history.
(or bad things will happen!)
#4: Incognito: Work hard to blend in.
(or bad things will happen!)
#5: Maintain: Do Not Lose The Time Key!!!
(or über-de-düber, worst-of-the-worst, terrible, awful, horrible, very bad things will happen!!!)
#6: Endure: Never give up.
(or bad things will happen!)
#7: Document: Be observant; take good notes.
(or you won’t learn anything!)
That last one was a big deal to her mom, but Kayla thought that it paled in comparison to all the rest of them, the “… or bad things will happen” rules, especially in the middle of a tsunami storm. Still, she said it now.
Kayla knew she had already botched Rule Number One by not properly concentrating. If she hadn’t, she’d be lying on a sunny Costa Rican beach right now—warm sand between her toes, smelling tropical flowers and sharing fried plantains with adorable monkeys … instead of literally running for her life! She’d for sure have to try harder next time.
Breaking Rule Number Three was beyond her abilities anyhow. Kayla was sure there was no way she could stop the tidal wave, even if she tried.
Rule Number Four, remain incognito, didn’t matter much since everyone around her feared for their lives. They weren’t exactly interested in staring at the sweat-covered, purple-cloaked, pink-scarfed, thirteen-year-old brunette stranger sprinting for her life.
And Rule Number Seven, beyond seemingly useless at the moment, was near impossible since there was no way she could take notes on the run.
Kayla would have to focus on Rules Number Six, Two and Five: Stay strong, get the heck out of dodge, and don’t lose the Time Key!
First things first. She would have to find a safe place to sit down quietly, concentrate, and tell the Time Key where she wanted to go. Really, really far away from here would be a good start. Kayla thought she’d take just about anywhere else besides a beach with an impending tsunami right about now, but she’d have to wait for a moment of calm to pick something good. Now she had to keep moving.
Sweat poured down her back and arms, and the suffocating heat made her dizzy. It was getting hard to think. Kayla wondered momentarily if should she ditch the jacket, but decided against it. May need it next stop. A good-sized parking structure appeared in front of her, and she felt as if she’d won the safe-escape lottery.
“Tick tock! Time to jet!” She found the outside stairs and charged upward, boots thudding on each step. As she ran, she grabbed for the chain around her neck that held the Time Key, but her sweaty hands were slick as butter—not to mention she’d hurt them when she landed. She couldn’t seem to feel or grip anything. On the third level, Kayla looked down, searching around her neck for the chain…
But the chain … with the Time Key … was not there.
Oh, tar pits!
Oh, tar pits!!
Oh, tar pits!!!
The Time Key was Rule Number Five, but it was the über-de-düber all-important cardinal rule of junior-time-traveler safety. It was only positioned at number five because it fit better with the letter M than the letter C, in her mom’s forced shorthand. And now Kayla realized she may have broken the most important rule of all, in her ridiculously short-sighted attempt to avoid an itchy red neck. Her stomach dropped; her heart rose and plugged up her throat.
All around, the ground lurched as the tidal wave hit the beach with a roar. Building codes in Thailand weren’t made to withstand such massive disasters, Kayla realized as she swayed thirty feet above the ground. She wished she could simply rub the Time Key and escape back to the safety of home.
Think. The key had been with her when she’d traveled. It had to have been. She had held it in her…
It had been in her right hand when she’d traveled. And now? She looked down at her hands, bruised and wet with sweat. The key was gone.
She must have dropped it back on the beach, during her rough landing or in the throes of flight. She whipped around. Behind her, buildings exploded into fragments as the massive wave plowed into them. Debris whizzed by, nearly impaling her as she lunged up the last of the stairs to the roof of the parking structure. Hundreds of terrified screams echoed from below. Structures snapped and crumbled around her. But mostly she heard the deafening roar that only thousands of tons of water could make.
The massive wave raced toward Kayla like a giant rumbling beast. Four stories hadn’t been high enough. She felt its salty spray before it hit, plowing into her like a charging bull, water so cold it stole her breath. It lifted her off the ground, sucking her into its depths. For a single moment, Kayla felt suspended, weightless. Then she pitched backward into a whirling mass of debris and churning black water.
She was powerless—her eyes, her mouth, her arms, her lungs. None of them worked. With sadness, Kayla bid a series of silent farewells.