We Should Have Never Taken The Shortcut

Jenni James, Guest Author

“We should never have taken the shortcut.” Jess said angrily. They’ve been lost for eight hours.

“’A perfect get away,’ he said. Yeah, right. Far from it. It’s supposed to be nice out, and I’m supposed to have my feet in the sand with the sun shining down on me. Instead I’m stuck in this car,” Ryan said.

They got off the main road and took the shortcut Ryan insisted on and ended up on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. They’re starting to get nervous; their car’s getting low on gas, and they haven’t seen a house for miles. The weather isn’t helping either. With all the rain, it’s making it harder to find any civilization. Suddenly there’s a loud noise coming from the back of the car. Ryan pulls over and Jess gets out to see what it is.

“The tire blew!” Jess yells to Ryan.

“Crap,” Ryan mutters.

They’re both out in the rain now. Ryan realizes it’s bad and know’s they can’t drive any further. The rain lightens up, and they go wandering around, looking for help. Ryan spots a tire swing hanging from a tree in the distance. Approaching the swing, Ryan sits down. Jess notices there’s writing on the side of the tree and reads it aloud, softly, “Push forward and go forward, swing back and back you’ll go.”

Ryan, trying to lighten the mood, asks Jess to come sit with him. She takes a seat next to him and they kick back and start swinging. Jess jumps off after the swing had gone back and forth five times. When she lands, the tree is green and it’s summer time again. She realizes she’s now wearing a flower dress and her hair is in a long ponytail. Astonished at what’s happened Jess starts to panic. Could this really have happened? She thinks to herself. Frustrated, she runs through the woods until she comes upon a small, wood cabin.

“That’s my old house!” She screams, “We moved out five years ago, how is this possible? Could I really have gone back in time?”

Jess can see her mother and sister in the kitchen baking bread. She walks over to the window and watches for a while. She watches herself go over and help her mother. Scared she walks to the door and tries to open it. The door won’t budge. Pounding on the door kicking and screaming, Jess is determined to get in. After a while Jess gives up. Slouched against the door sobbing, Jess realizes Ryan is no where to be found. She thinks to herself for a while when suddenly a hummingbird flies right in front of her face. This little bird sores around her, surrounding her, making her intrigued. Standing up, stumbling after the bird, Jess makes her way into the forest. Weaving through trees, dodging branch after branch, jumping over logs and shrubs Jess comes to a clearing. Theres the tree, but no Ryan. She sees the tire swing, swaying in the wind. She realizes something must have happened when she was on the swing. Nervous she takes a seat. She remembers what she had read on the tree before, push forward and go forward, swing back and back you’ll go… Pushing forward, Jess swings forward and back five times, then she jumps off.

She lands on the ground and it’s raining again. Jess yells for Ryan, but no answer. The tire swing is just hanging there. Mad, Jess kicks it and falls to the ground, crying. Jess does not know that Ryan had jumped off the swing after her two swings later.

“Where am I?” Ryan says, confused. He wanders around the tree. There are no leaves on the tree, so he decides to climb it. “What is that?” He exclaims, “It looks like the lighthouse I had worked at awhile ago with my uncle.”

Curious, Ryan jumps down from the tree and heads for the lighthouse. A few miles later Ryan reached the lighthouse. He sees his uncle’s car in the driveway. As he gets closer he watches his uncle get out of the car and a younger version of him gets out of the passenger seat. Confused, Ryan runs over to them and follows them to the front door. They both enter the lighthouse and Ryan tries to enter as well but is stopped. He yells to them, but they can’t hear him. Frustrated, Ryan tries to open the door again but can’t. “This is not happening. This must be a dream, it’s too crazy to be real.”

Upset, Ryan walks back to the tree and sits down. He starts to fall asleep. Awaken abruptly, Ryan has an idea. He sits on the tire swing and pushes it back and forth. He jumps off but nothing happens. He doesn’t understand why he didn’t go back to the present. He tries it again, but nothing happens. Feeling helpless he thinks of Jess. Then he remembers Jess had said something before they started swinging. He tries to remember and says it out loud, excitedly, “Push back and go back, swing forward and forward you’ll go.”

Ryan swings forward and back a few times and jumps off, but nothing has changed.

“Why is this not working?!”

He tries it again.

“Push forward and go forward, swing back and back you’ll go!” He screams.

He pushes forward and swings back. He jumps off and lands hard. It’s pouring rain, and he sees Jess crying on the ground. He runs over to her, and she looks up.

“Ryan!” Jess yells in excitement.

They are both happy to see each other and tell each other about their experiences. After talking, they both agree to go back to the car and wait out the rain. Walking back to the car they see it’s being towed. They both run after the truck screaming.

“Wait! Stop! Help us!”

The truck stops and picks them up. They thank the man and head to the garage. When they arrive Jess uses the phone and calls her mom. The man fixes the flat tire, and Jess and Ryan thank him tremendously.

They head home. Ryan drops Jess off at her house and kisses her goodbye and says, “I was scared I was going to lose you Jess. I’m glad we both made it back. But you have to promise me we won’t tell anyone about this adventure. They’re just going to think we’re both crazy.”

“Okay… I’m glad we made it back too, I don’t know what I would of done if I was stuck there. Thank you for the ride home.”

Jess closes the car door and walks up the stair to her house, opens the front door and looks back at Ryan. He is already driving away and Jess softly waves to him, knowing he probably doesn’t see her. Her mother greets her in the kitchen and asks, “How was your trip with Ryan, Honey?”

“Interesting.” Jess replies, walking to her room. She shuts the door and sits on her bed, rethinking what she had just gone through. She lays down on her bed and tosses and turns all night, dreaming vividly of her adventure. It’s surely something Ryan and her will never forget.