Once upon a time there was a woman named Martha who had time-traveling sneezes. Every time she sneezed, she had to go check the date. Allergy season was the worst.
The time-traveling started small. She moved to a new town after college, and got into a terrible car accident driving into town. It took a year to heal, and the car was totaled She developed allergies to something in the new environment while in the hospital. The sneezing didn’t always move her in time at first, and when it did, she didn’t go far.
By the time she realized what was happening, she had lost her own time all together. She tried a few times to visit a doctor to see if there was some sort of medical explanation, but they never seemed to believe her. Unless she sneezed in their office, of course. Well, she assumed they believed her after that, but she really didn’t have any proof. She never saw the same doctor twice.
It was lovely to see so much history, but as she didn’t travel in space, just time, then she wasn’t able to keep a job and earn money to travel anywhere else. Even if she could, money seemed more time-specific than you’d think. Sometimes there was a train out of town, sometimes a boat. A few times she watched people fly off in hover cars. But, she couldn’t afford to take any of them.
If it weren’t for the periodic visits to a time where it was easier to hunt and gather, she probably would have starved. As it was, things were growing worse. The sneezes were growing closer together, and every time she visited was in the middle of allergy season.
She wasn’t sure what would happen when she couldn’t stop sneezing all together. She couldn’t get a signal on her cell phone to check. She always visited either before her phone plan started or after it had lapsed.
Once, in a moment of desperation, she called her childhood phone number from a public phone with change scrounged from a fountain, uncertain of what else to do. “Mom? It’s Martha.”
“Your daughter. You have to believe me!”
When her mother hung up, Martha checked the date at a newspaper stand. She was visiting a time where she was still three years old. Of course her mother didn’t believe her.
The sneezes came even quicker. An apple orchard. A village. A spaceport. A large city. Was that dinosaurs?
It was all blurs now. It was getting hard to breathe between sneezes. And then she sneezed one last explosive sneeze.
Something flew from her lungs and burned the whole way up her throat and out of her mouth. A spark flickered in front of her eyes, and then it flared brighter, white and blue. What was it?
Around them, the world spun in tight circles, but in the circle, time stood still for a moment. And then the bright light was gone, taking with it all the light and heat. Martha could breathe again.
She gasped in one breath, then two. And then the world was dark.
Martha blinked. She was driving her little car that she hadn’t seen in decades or years or centuries or however long ago she finished college, and it was dark. Did she have the headlights on?
She almost glanced down to flick them on, when she remembered this moment. She swerved right, onto the shoulder, and slammed on her brakes. A car driving in the wrong lane barreled through the spot where she’d just been. It was followed by two more cars, driving equally fast.
Moments later, a bright light flashed on the other side of the road, white and blue. It blinked three times and vanished. Martha turned her car off and sat in the dark for a long time after that.
A week later, Martha moved away from the town she’d spent so much time in. She found a job on the other side of the country, and carefully studied the history of her new town, just in case. She also got a prescription for antihistamines and was always extra careful about handwashing and taking vitamin c pills.
Waking up in her own bed in her own time every morning never got old. And sneezes never grew any less frightening. Even though she’d neglected to write down any winning lottery numbers from the future, Martha was glad to be stuck in one time. She was finally home, and she lived happily ever after.