Bumbles in Time: The Mayan Girl
Felix hated Thursdays because Thursdays were time-travel days. Every Thursday after lunch, the 4th graders at Rina Patel Elementary School walked to the locker rooms of the History Room and changed into their history clothes. The four students in Felix’s group lined up while their teacher, Mr. Summers, handed out the timeslip armbands.
“As I told you in class yesterday,” Mr. Summers said, “we are going to the Mayan city of Ixkun in the year 780 AD. Do you remember the name of the king there at that time?”
“Eight Skull!” the students said in unison. There were giggles. Eight Skull, thought Felix. And he thought his name was bad.
Felix hated time-travel because it always made him a bit stomach sick. Plus, it usually smelled bad and there was no air conditioning unless they were studying recent history. He wished he could skip history and math and just do ballet and rock-climbing and all his other favorites where he could move around as much as he wanted.
“What do they eat there?” Mr. Summers asked. There were murmurs. Mr. Summers grinned. “I didn’t tell you. Watch and see if you can see it. Take video notes of interesting things and we’ll discuss them tomorrow. All ready? What’s the most important rule?”
“No bumbling!” the students recited. Bumbling was Mr. Summers’s word for doing what you were not supposed to when time-traveling. It meant wandering away from the group, touching things or generally causing trouble. Five years ago, a student named Bernard had tripped an Egyptian soldier and almost got fed to the crocodiles. The teachers still called him Bumble B.
The students all held hands, and Felix felt the little sizzle in his stomach that meant they were moving through time. The classroom faded out and jungle faded in. The air felt like the steam above a pot of boiling pasta. Felix started to sweat immediately. Come back, air-conditioning! he thought.
Their armbands held a pop-up map of the area and other information, like the year and location. It also let them understand over 800 languages from all times in history and worked as a decent mosquito repellent too. But it did nothing to cool Felix off.
The class followed Mr. Summers out of the jungle and onto an open field. The city of Ixkun was ahead of them, a collections of wooden buildings surrounded by fields and stands of trees. Mr. Summers took a winding route, following the map in his arm. All the school time-travel trips were planned so they would not cause any problems to history. Which was why it was so important not to bumble.
There was no wall around the city and they entered between two houses. The air was loud with the quacking of ducks with bumpy red heads. Felix made a video note: ducks.
Mr. Summers led them further into the city. An old woman sitting in a doorway gave them a look. Felix looked at his armband. The status light was still green.
Traveling in time always changed history. However, the time-travel classes were designed not to change history in a way it mattered. All of their armbands were connected to a quantum computer that guessed how much impact they would have. Green meant almost no chance of a big change. The light then went to yellow, orange and red. You got a red for killing a king or something. The computer didn’t know how it would change history, but it definitely would in a big way. But the field trips were designed so they would never get a red. Even Bernard had only gotten a yellow for almost being thrown to the crocodiles.
They passed an open doorway leading to a courtyard, and Felix spotted a girl inside. She was a bit older than him and was dancing. Suddenly Felix thought how cool it would be to learn a dance from 1500 years in the past and show people in his ballet class. He looked at the others, but they were still nearby, taking video notes and looking around.
Felix started recording the girl’s dancing. He tried to mimic the movements she was making with her hands. Suddenly, she stopped and looked directly at Felix.
A look of horror came on her face. She ran over and slammed the door in his face, almost whacking him in the nose. Felix was turning away when he heard the door open. The next thing he knew, a hand went over his mouth and he was being dragged through the doorway.
“How much did you see?” the girl asked. Felix heard her speaking Mayan but the implant in his ear immediately translated it for him. “Answer me!” she growled when Felix did not say anything.
The problem was that the translation program did not go the other way since of course they were not supposed to talk to anyone in the past. However, there was a way he could for emergencies. Felix found the translation option on the armband and chose Mayan.
“I’m sorry,” he said into the armband. “I just thought your dancing was pretty.” The armband spoke the same thing translated into Mayan.
“Why are you telling your arm to talk to me?” the girl asked. “Is this magic?”
Where was Mr. Summers? Surely, he must have noticed that Felix was gone by now. The armbands had trackers in them so the teachers could easily find any bumbling student.
The girl was poking at the armband now. He had left the menu open and she kept selecting things. The area map popped up, then highlighted all the turkeys in the area. Felix tried to pull his arm away, but she held it tight. She was a lot stronger than he was. She pulled up the lunch menu in the cafeteria for the next week. Felix hadn’t even known that was on there.
There was a banging on the outer door. “Felix! Are you in there?” It was Mr. Summers at last. The girl looked up. Felix saw her finger rest on the menu, sliding it all the way to the bottom, to a red button labeled Emergency Evacuation.
Suddenly, Felix felt the sizzle in his stomach. Oh no! The girl had pushed the Evacuation button. He was going back to the present and since she was touching him, she would go too! He was going to get in so much trouble for this.
The Mayan scene faded out, and a landscape of grassy hills and stubby trees faded in. There were mountains in the distance. Felix got to his feet. The Mayan girl was next to him, staring around as well. Felix did not know where they were, but it was definitely not his school.