Not So Perfect

by Dahlia Roe, age 12
Not So Perfect Dahlia is in the sixth grade. Her favorite subject is math. She likes animals, and wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

“She thought her life was like The Truman Show. Ever since that movie was released last year, she had watched it eighty-seven times. It was her favorite movie ever! It was because she related to Truman so much. He was stuck in a boring town that wouldn’t let him leave. Except she was being kicked out.”

Chapter 1

On May 18th, 1999, Julie’s life changed forever. She moved. It was the most horrible, rotten day ever, according to her. But for her parents, it was great! They were finally going to get rid of Julie! The puffy, blonde-haired brat would be out of their lives forever. They had been forced to take care of this horrible girl for twelve years.

“Come on Julie! We are going to miss your train!” her mom, Thelma, shouted.

“That’s the point,” Julie grumbled, scuffling her feet as she dragged her suitcase into the foyer.

“Oh sweetie, you don’t mean that!” her dad perkily said. “We know you want to move just as much as we want you to!”

Her father lugged the suitcase into the car.

At this very moment, she hated her parents more than she thought was humanly possible. She looked up from her bright pink hightops. The corners of her mouth pricked up a little when she saw what her dad was lugging into the trunk of the car.

“Ugh, Julie, what did you put in this bag?! Bricks?”

“Yes,” she said under her breath.

“Well whatever you packed is not our problem anymore,” Thelma chuckled. “Let’s just get in the car.”

“Okay, Mummy.” Julie smirked. She was trying so hard to contain her laughter.  If her parents were going to get rid of her, they would have to deal with extreme pranks all the way to the train station. And when they ate dinner. And when they went to walk their dog Fido. Her parents named him that. Julie hated it. It matched the neighborhood she lived in. Or used to live in.

Boring, happy, and perfect. Everything was the same. The neighbors were always nice. The houses all matched. All the lawns were cut 1½ inches off the ground. Julie had measured them on one of those perfect days.

Julie thought aloud to herself, “Would you be surprised if I told you that half of the dogs there were named Fido? No? Well, to add to that, the other half were called Skipper.”

She thought her life was like The Truman Show. Ever since that movie was released last year, she had watched it eighty-seven times. It was her favorite movie ever! It was because she related to Truman so much. He was stuck in a boring town that wouldn’t let him leave. Except she was being kicked out.

By the time Julie snapped out of her daydream, they were pulling into the train station. She saw all the cars in perfect rows. She was glad to be going.

“Bye mom! Bye dad!” she shouted gleefully. When she got out of the car, she closed the door really slowly. Just as she was boarding the train, which arrived at 10:45 on the dot, she heard it. BOOM!

Yes! The firecrackers had gone off at the perfect time! After the joy rush wore off, she realized the fun was over. She leisurely sauntered onto the train. A few minutes later, right on schedule of course, the train pulled away from the small town she used to live in. The beautiful trees turned to shrubs, the houses became more and more scarce, and the sky lost its baby blue color.

 

Chapter 2

As much as she tried to hide it, she was going to miss her perfect town. She was undeniably sad. She knew why her parents sent her away, but they would never admit it. Julie tried, she really did, but she could never be like them. It was too… well, perfect! Nothing ever went wrong.

A couple hours later, the train slowed to a stop. She stepped on the the rickety platform. She saw a sign that said, WELCOME TO MANIFEST. FOUNDED IN 1804. The “F” in “MANIFEST” had fallen off, and the “T” looked like it was trying really hard to hold on. You could tell that the paint on it was at least twenty years old.

Julie grimaced as she looked around. There were women wearing big hats, men wearing suits and overcoats, little girls with puffy dresses, and little boys wearing sailor outfits. Even the little caps!

She heard footsteps running up from behind her.

“Abilene!” someone shouted. “You’re back!”

Julie looked around. There was no one else on the platform. The same person who was just calling Abilene, whoever that was, ran up to Julie and hugged her. She had auburn hair and bright green eyes. She looked familiar to Julie, she just couldn’t place her. As a matter of fact, the whole village looked familiar!

“I’m so happy you’re home! I missed having my best friend around!”

“What?” Julie said, confused about what this strange girl was saying.

“You were only supposed to go on vacation for one month!” the girl who was apparently her best friend giggled. “You were gone for an entire year!”

“What?!” Julie repeated. She decided she would call this girl Barbie, until she found out her real name. She seemed like the kind of person who would always be happy, and would fit right in with her parents. Julie was tempted to just ask her what her name was, and why she thought that they know each other, but she didn’t want to hurt Barbie’s feelings.

She might be crazy. Julie thought. I better pretend like I know her.

“I’m so sorry!” Julie exclaimed with mock sympathy.

“Let’s go to the river!” Her new friend babbled on about the new benches near the river for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only about five to ten minutes.

They headed away from the train platform and into the town.

 

Chapter 3

As they walked through the town, it seemed as though everybody thought she was Abilene. Julie still didn’t know who that was, but she was determined to find out. Everything in this place looked like it was from the 1800’s! They passed a small shop called Ms. May’s Flower Boutique. Julie caught a glimpse of herself in the window, and she had to try really hard not to scream.

She was wearing exactly what every other girl in this weird town was! A big puffy dress, white gloves(which she probably should have noticed before right?), and black flats.

“Susie Johnson! Is that Abilene I see walking with you?” She heard a faraway voice say. Julie was elated! She finally knew Barbie’s name!

“Yes mama!” Susie called back.

“Well bring her in here so I can give her a proper greeting!”

The two girls walked up the squeaky porch. There was a porch swing, chairs, and even a table. There was a pile of newspapers on the table that looked dangerously close to falling. She loved it. They weren’t in a perfect pile like they would be at home, and no one seemed to care. Just as they were about to go in the screen door flung open with a loud SWOOSH.

“Come here, Abilene!” Susie’s mom cooed. She looked just like Susie. It was kind of eerie. Julie took a step forward and was enveloped in a bear hug. She was having a hard time breathing, but she did enjoy it.

“Did you guys go to the river yet? Did you see the new benches?” Mrs. Johnson squealed.

“Geez,” Julie muttered. “What’s so special about some benches?”

“What sweetie?” Mrs. Johnson said alarmed. “You know that it’s the first thing they added to this town since it was founded 48 years ago!”

There was an awkward pause while Julie did the math. Math was the only subject she was failing in school. Julie snorted. “You’re kidding right? That would make it 1852!”

“It is.” Susie retorted obviously confused. “Just look at the local paper!”

Julie didn’t understand what they  were talking about. Were they playing a prank on her? And why was the whole town wearing clothes that seemed like they would be from the time these strange people were claiming they were in?! Was the whole town in on the joke? She didn’t even know them. What if they were all going to try and kidnap her? Why had she followed Susie, if that was even her name?! She had known something was going on from the start since they were all calling her Abilene, but then again, they had sounded pretty sincere. She stood in silence for a few more seconds. She heard someone say Abilene, which she ignored for another few seconds, until she realized they were talking to her.

“What?” Julie said abruptly.

“I said, do you want to go over to the school and tell everyone that you’re back?” Susie replied. “The class will think that it’s awful that you’re back.”

Julie snickered. This Abilene girl must be really mean. But then, she remembered what they had learned about the 1800’s in school. Words meant different things than they did in modern times. Awful didn’t mean horrible, it meant awe-inspiring! And the word backwards meant shy, not the opposite of forwards! She would have to get used to this. If these people were playing a prank, they were very good actors.

The two girls ran into town, Julie trying to act like everything was normal, and Susie just being normal. They ran past the butcher’s store with pig legs hanging in the windows, they ran past the cemetery, past the bookstore, and then, Julie saw somewhere she wanted to go. The sweet shop. She didn’t go for the candy, although she did buy some; she was more interested in the newspaper. She scanned the the articles for a date. There was a man behind her who was telling her all about the new printing press, and how they could now have updated news everyday.

“Not that anything important is ever going to happen here,” he sourly remarked.

Julie didn’t hear the rest of what he was saying. She felt like she was going to faint. The date at the top of the paper said “May 18th, 1852.”

She didn’t know what to think. If this was a prank, not only were they great actors, they went to great lengths to pull it off. Julie decided that if they were going to prank her, she might as well play along. She would be Abilene, and pretend like she was part of this strange joke. She would wear the itchy clothes, she would try to talk like them, and she would continue this until they gave in and confirmed her suspicions. If that took forever, so be it.

 

Chapter 4

The next day was the same. It was a lot harder for Julie to act like she had lived there than she thought it would be. Everyone was surprised to see her, and she got a tour of the town. Julie felt that she had to act bored and pretend that she already knew where everything was, but she was actually fascinated. There were butchers, fishmongers, grocers, greengrocers, bakers, dressmakers, tailors, shoemakers, jewellers, ironmongers, a stationer’s shop, drapers, and chemists.  Julie didn’t know what a fourth of these things were.

She was amazed at the signs, the people, and basically everything else. She wanted to remember this prank, or whatever it was, forever. She reached into her backpack, which everybody was pretending that they hadn’t seen before, and pulled out her camera. She had a Casio QV-10 Digital Camera that her parents got her for her birthday when they still loved her. She was so proud of it. She took it out of the case and pressed on the power button. She counted to three slowly in her head. One…Two…THREE! The screen lit up and made the starting sound. On the last ping, everyone that was in hearing range heads whipped around.

“Abilene.” Susie whispered. “How did you make that shiny, little box light up!?”

“Whoops.” Julie murmured. She had forgotten that she had to be careful about what she did now, they might think she had powers or something. As it turned out, Julie was right.

Susie pulled her aside. “Abilene,” she said, “tell the truth. Where did you really go? Did you go to witch school? You know that if the town finds out, they’ll put you on trial.”

“No!” Julie retorted, confused. “What are you talking about?!”

“You made that wood slab light up!!! Stop that, Abilene!”

“Stop calling me Abilene! Why is everybody calling me that?! And I have no idea who you are and who the rest of these people are! Why are you pranking me like this?! It’s 1999! Not 1852!”

In the midst of her screaming, she hadn’t noticed that the town psychic had pulled her into the fish mongers.

“Okay,” the town psychic whisper-screamed. “Are you done ranting?! I know that you’re not Abilene, but they don’t!”

Just then, Susie walked into the store, and the lady stopped talking.

“Oh hi, Ms. Romanowski! My mom told me to make sure you would still do her appointment later! I had forgotten, but I must have told Abilene! You’re such a good friend that you remembered! Mama would have been so upset!”

Now it was Susie’s turn to pull Julie away. The further into the fish shop they got, the worse it smelled. There were fish heads sitting in buckets of ice, with the heads chopped off. The beady, little eyes were staring at random points in the room, and it was making her really uncomfortable. Susie said something, but Julie was too lost in thinking about how she was going to escape the murderous fish.

“Abilene!” Susie slapped her.
“Ouch! What was that for?!” Julie screamed.

“What’s going on back there girls?!” Ms. Romanowski yelled from two doors over. “Are you okay!”

“Abilene, we need to get out of here! Some of the townspeople decided to look through your backpack after someone reported the glowing, little box, which you still need to explain. They are all outside chanting!”

“What are they chanting?” Julie asked, puzzled.

“Burn the witch!!! Burn the witch!!!” Susie started running around chanting. “Burn the witch!!! Burn the Witch!!! Burn th –”

“Stop! Just tell me how we are going to get out of this!”

“Okay, so we are going go outside, and start chanting with them, and hope they don’t notice that it’s you.”

“But what if it doesn’t work!?!”

“Then you die.” Susie said.

“Wow, thanks.”

They ran outside and shoved their way through the crowd. Nobody noticed them until the got to the sign.

“Hey! isn’t that the witch!” Some kid screamed.

Julie heard a bombardment of “Get her” and “ We found the witch!!!”

She ran as fast as she could, but the town athlete caught her. Soon, the rest of the town caught up, and they all dragged her to the burning stake. Julie blacked out. When she woke up, she could smell smoke, and there was an intense pain in her legs. She looked down and saw the flames lapping at her feet. She blacked out again. This time, when she woke up, the flames were up to her neck, and a few seconds later, it all went black.

 

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