By Jasmine Sellars & Anna Perling
This is the story of Jaz, a young time traveler who found herself lost in the future. She’s on a quest to find the last missing pieces so she can find her parents.
As the sun began to set, Jaz tinkered with the time machine in her parents’ garage, hastily assembling its pieces together. Today was the two-year anniversary of her parents’ disappearance and their accidental time travel. Before they left, Jaz’s parents were secretive, staying wary of the shadowy figures that lingered across the street after dark. Though Jaz knew her parents were travelers, she wasn’t concerned until, two weeks later, they still hadn’t come home.
Jaz, occasionally glancing out her window, rubbed her hands together and buttoned up her coat against the chill in the air. She often reread her parents’ notes in attempts to solve their strange disappearance. They had written about a mysterious book called The Book of Maps and Ciphers, which was a backup guide to finding someone lost in space and time. The book and many of her parents’ notes were written in scrambled code, so Jaz had to learn to decipher them. Since their disappearance, Jaz managed to build her own time machine, learned how to open and close a time portal, and started practicing code breaking to prepare for her first time-travel.
Since tonight was the evening of the anniversary, she felt impatient and kept the portal open a little longer. She was fiddling with some screws when she heard footsteps—she looked up and saw several shadowy figures approaching. In a panic, she stuffed as many of her parents’ notes as she could in her pockets, and grabbed the time machine before stumbling into the portal.
She woke up on her face, looking up from the alleyway at flying cars and tall, sleek skyscrapers. She searched for the time machine which had landed on a few garbage bags nearby. As she checked to make sure it wasn’t broken, she heard several voices around the corner.
“Any update on the mayor’s Project Book Destruction?” said a man.
“Yeah, we got about three hundred books left to track down,” said another. “Even our best tech trackers can’t locate them.”
“Maybe I’ll check the old library located on 42nd and Westberry later.”
They kept walking, and Jaz came out from her hiding spot and began searching the streets for the library. Confused, she stared at the billboards which said, “BOOKS PROHIBITED. WE’VE GONE DIGITAL TO SAVE THE TREES.”
She noticed a colorful map a few feet away and quickly located 42nd and Westberry Street, and headed in that direction. When she approached the library, the city lights faded and the building was desolate, surrounded by trash and stray animals. Jaz assumed that the building was empty and pushed open the creaking doors, ignoring the “NO TRESPASSING” signs. From the darkness, she heard a voice call out to her.
“Who’s there? I have a weapon!” a woman warned.
“I’m not here to hurt you. I just need some help finding a book,” Jaz replied.
“I don’t believe you. I know you’re the book authorities,” the woman said.
“I can prove it! I’m the future and I have a time machine,” Jaz said, as she stepped further into the darkness. She followed the sound of the woman’s breathing and pulled out her time machine.
“I made this by myself. I’m looking for my parents who got lost in time. I just need The Book of Maps and Ciphers so I can find them,” Jaz explained.
The woman turned around and walked towards the back wall of the library. As she pushed on one of the bricks in the wall, a secret door opened and she disappeared into a tunnel of light.
“Come,” the woman’s voice said.
Confused, Jaz followed her into the passageway. As she passed through all the empty bookcases, the narrow hallway opened up into a big, bright room with high ceilings. Jaz was surprised to see young girls organizing and reading through colorful books.
“You have come to the right place. This is GWN, short for Girls Write Now. My name is Anna, and these are my mentees,” Anna said.
“But I thought books were illegal. I heard some officers talking about raiding this place to confiscate all of these books. Why haven’t you gone digital?” Jaz asked.
“These are the last of the books that haven’t been destroyed. Since 2049, the government has been trying to censor our learning. They say we can read these books digitally, but the information is almost never the same.” Anna said.
Anna went over to the stack of books and handed one of them to Jaz.
“I believe this is the book you are looking for. We’ve been saving it for decades, but none of us can read it. Hopefully, this helps you find your parents.” Anna said
“Thank you for your help. I hope it’s okay if I open my portal here.” Jaz said, as she reached inside of her pockets for her time machine and began to press its buttons, opening the time portal.
Holding on to the last piece of the puzzle, Jaz waved goodbye to the girls and stepped into the portal, ready to find her parents.
Jaz accidentally travels forward to 2050 in an attempt to travel back in time to retrieve the ancient Book of Maps and Ciphers so she can find her missing parents. Trapped in a confusing world that has gone completely tech, Jaz is baffled that no one reads or writes books anymore. She had hoped to travel to the past for the ancient book, but ended up here. She overhears two officers talking about a library, and goes there to find the ancient book she’s been seeking. There she finds Anna, who is a member of Girls Write Now, and tells Jaz about the library. She finds a group of mentees and mentors who still read and write books. They help Jaz look for the ancient book, and they find the book in the stacks at the library. In order to open the time travel portal and begin looking for her parents, Jaz must decode the map and the ciphers to find out which time period her parents are trapped in.
Jasmine Sellars is a senior in high school in Brooklyn, NY. She is a seventh year Senior Girl Scout and she enjoys reading, writing and dancing.
Anna Perling is an editor at Forbes Vetted. She is a seasoned service journalist who has worked at Wirecutter, Kinfolk, and Saveur. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.