Alex and Roger have met Alex’s future daughter, Mackenzie, and her boyfriend, Chase. After Alex gets drunk, Mackenzie invites them back to her house so he can recover. When they pull into the driveway, Alex and Roger are impressed at the large size of the house.
4:43 p.m. on October 14th, 2017. The MacDonald McMansion.
Alex and Roger follow Mackenzie and Chase up to the front door. Alex wobbles a bit on the porch steps, but at least his vision is no longer doubling. When Mackenzie opens the door, they are assaulted by an urgent beeping, and a soothing voice says, “Who’s there?”
“Mackenzie MacDonald,” Mackenzie replies. The beeping stops.
“Voice recognized,” the unseen speaker affirms. “Welcome home, Mackenzie.”
Alex steps through the door. Beyond a tiled entryway is a sunken living area, wood-floored but covered with a thick, cream-colored rug. Large, overstuffed couches face a fireplace made of white bricks. Above the fireplace hangs a flat television screen like the one from the marijuana dispensary, only twice the size. The furnishings are in warm shades of tan, sleek and luxurious, but with a welcoming, lived-in feel.
“Okay Google,” Mackenzie says, “Play Twenty-One Pilots.”
“Playing Twenty-One Pilots,” the disembodied voice replies. Music fills the room.
“Where is that voice coming from?” Roger asks.
“Smart house,” Chase replies. “Mackenzie’s mom is into all that high tech stuff.”
An impressed smile spreads across Roger’s face. “Gnarly!”
Chase goes around behind a wet bar in the corner. “I’m gonna get a drink… since someone drank my entire flask.” He shoots a look over his shoulder at Alex.
“Not that one,” Mackenzie cries when she sees which bottle Chase has chosen. “That’s my mom’s single malt. She knows exactly how much is in it, and she’d kill me if she knew we were drinking it. Use the vodka. And top the bottle off with water.”
A click-click-click sound announces the descent of a big Rottweiler down a staircase opposite the entry. The dog stops and growls when it sees Alex and Roger.
“Quiet, Yaz,” Mackenzie commands. “I’ll put him outside.” She wrestles the dog to a sliding door and pushes him into a wide backyard.
Alex notices several pieces of colorful, framed art on the wall – comic book covers. “Your dad must be really into comic books.”
“He drew those,” Mackenzie says. “He’s an artist.”
“Really? Wow.” Alex marvels at his future creations. Sure enough, there’s his signature in the lower corner of each piece. He’s always been good at drawing but never really expected he would do it for a living.
“Her dad’s got mad skills,” Chase says. “He did one about a time traveling assassin that they’re going to make into a movie.”
Alex turns, surprised. “They’re going to make a movie out of a comic book?”
“Duh. Half the movies these days are based on comic books.”
Alex is floored. Comics are cool in 2017. And he’s going to draw them. He knew things would be different after high school!
Roger has come over next to Alex to check out the covers. He leans in and whispers, “This is rad. I want to find out what I’m doing in 2017.” He turns to Mackenzie. “Hey, can you use your phone to find out about a guy named Roger Kruger? He would have gone to Magnolia High thirty years ago.”
Mackenzie taps quickly on her phone. Holds it up. “You mean this guy?” The screen displays a news article with a big headline: “Local Janitor Arrested for Breaking into Marijuana Dispensary.” Below is a mug shot of the bald man who rescued them earlier.
Roger has gone pale. “That’s Roger Kruger? I’m a – I mean, he’s a janitor. A bald janitor. He’s a... a loser.” Roger takes the phone, scrolls through the article.
Alex feels a pang of sympathy for Roger, but he wants to find out more about his awesome future of fame and fortune. “I bet your parents throw bitchin’ parties here, Mackenzie.”
Mackenzie snorts. “My parents? No. My parents don’t throw parties.”
“Oh, sure. Probably too busy going to the raddest new nightclubs.”
“My parents spent the last four Saturday nights doing Sudoku.”
“Is that some kind of cool new drug?” Alex isn’t sure he likes the idea of becoming a drug addict, no matter how cool it is.
“It’s a puzzle. Like crosswords. My parents are boring.”
Alex feels his stomach knotting. “But don’t they travel the world having glamorous adventures?”
“We went to Orlando two years ago. Although my dad got poison ivy and spent half the trip in bed.”
“I thought your dad was rich and famous. You know, because of all the comic book movies?”
“Hollywood buys the stories, dude,” Chase says. “They don’t invite the artists to their parties.”
“And my dad sinks most of what he earns back into his books. Fortunately, my mom gets a lot of money ‘cause of an MP3 player she invented.”
Mackenzie’s words aren’t making any sense to Alex. The alcohol must be messing with his thoughts. “Wait. What kind of player?”
“It’s how people listened to music before Spotify. Look.” Mackenzie points to the fireplace mantle where a small device is displayed under Plexiglas. “That’s the MP3 player my mom invented. She holds a patent so they had to pay her royalties for all the iPods and Zunes and everything.”
Alex goes to the fireplace to study the device. It’s a little bigger than the portable phones the teens carry in 2017, but with a small screen and push-button controls. “This is a music player?”
“It looks primitive, doesn’t it? It could only hold like a thousand songs.”
“A thousand songs?” That would be the equivalent of a hundred cassettes.
“I know, right,” Chase chimes in from the couch. “It must have sucked to live back in the olden days. LOL”
A thousand songs in a device smaller than the Walkman on his hip, Alex thinks. “And Jennifer was getting a C in math. Hard to believe she could make something so revolutionary.”
“Who’s Jennifer?” Mackenzie asks.
“I thought your mom...”
“My mom’s name is Heidi.”
The name hits Alex like a physical blow. His head start to spin again.
“Your mom’s name is Heidi?” Roger says. He looks like he feels as nauseated as Alex, despite not having partaken of the flask. “You don’t mean Heidi Fleek?”
“Well, Heidi Fleek-MacDonald now.”
Alex feels his knees buckle, steadies himself against the mantle. “No... That’s not... I wouldn’t...”
Roger comes over to them. “You’re saying Alex MacDonald married Heidi Fleek. And she invented this music player and got filthy rich?”
“And boring?” Alex adds.
Mackenzie's brow furrows. “Well... yeah.”
Even the mantle doesn’t seem to be providing enough support for Alex. “I don’t feel so good... I think I need to lie down.”
* * *
Mackenzie lets Alex rest in a guest room down the hall from the living room. He recognizes the quilt on the bed as one his grandmother made that had been draped over a daybed in his parents’ house back in 1987. It makes him wonder where his mother is today. Alive, certainly, or her headstone would have been next to his father’s.
Mackenzie goes to get him some water. Alex’s stomach has unclenched, but when he looks up at the ceiling, it seems to spin. To distract himself, he surveys the room. Other than the quilt, there aren’t many personal touches. There is another gigantic flat television on the dresser opposite the foot of the bed. He certainly must be rich in the future to be able to have a TV just for the guest room.
Mackenzie returns and hands him a plastic bottle. “Here, this should help.”
Alex looks at the bottle. “You buy water in bottles? Is something wrong with the tap water?”
Mackenzie looks at him like he’s an idiot. “It’s... tap water.”
“Ah. Gotcha.” He winks. Apparently tap water in the future is toxic. He’ll have to remember that.
“All right,” Mackenzie says, “you can chill here and sober up, but you have to be gone before my dad gets home at six. He would not approve of me having a couple of strange boys in the house.”
“But he’s okay with Chase being here?”
“No, Chase is gonna have to leave soon, too.”
Alex smiles. Good to see that his future self still has some sense.
Mackenzie picks up a remote control from the bedside stand. “You wanna watch TV?”
Mackenzie clicks on the television. “What do you want to watch?”
“Put on MTV.” Alex is curious to see what kind of videos they’re making in 2017.
Mackenzie clicks the remote and some kind of guide comes up on screen. Alex watches as she scrolls through channels. Hundreds of channels. Half the country must be employed making shows for all those channels. She reaches MTV and clicks on it.
On screen, a bunch of kids are putting a firecracker in a mailbox that looks like a house. There is music, but it doesn’t seem to have any lyrics. “Is this one of those long-form videos like Thriller?”
“This isn’t a video, it’s The Butterfly Effect. It’s a movie.”
“MTV shows movies now?”
Mackenzie shrugs. “In the afternoon, yeah. This one is really creepy.”
“What’s it about?” Alex asks.
“A guy who can time travel and tries to change the past but keeps screwing it up.”
“Huh.” Maybe Alex better watch this movie.
“Okay, well, if you’re settled here, I’m going to make sure Chase isn’t drinking all my parent’s booze.”
“You really like that guy?”
“What do you mean? Of course.”
“It’s just… you’re so nice, and he seems like kind of a burnout.”
“He’s an honor student. He just got accepted to Stanford.”
“Really? Okay, so maybe he’s not a burnout, but he is trying to talk you out of doing the play.”
“Because he loves me and wants to spend time with me.”
“And you love acting. I can tell. You shouldn’t have to change who you are for a boy.”
“Chase is super cute and super fun. Everybody likes him. He gets invited to all the coolest parties. I’m lucky to be with him, to be honest. And I’ll do what I have to to make him happy. He’s my boyfriend.”
Mackenzie is glaring at Alex. He realizes he’s just making it worse. He has to get her to understand. “I’m not trying to criticize, I just mean—”
The door opens, cutting him off. It’s Chase. “Babe, I’m bored. I’m gonna go see what Jasmine is up to.”
Mackenzie looks distressed at that idea. She goes to Chase. “No, please. Stay.”
Chase puts his arms around her... lets his hands slip down to her butt. Now it’s Alex’s turn to glare.
“Then let’s go up to your room,” Chase whispers, but not so quietly that Alex can’t hear.
The throbbing in Alex’s head intensifies. He coughs loudly to interrupt the romantic moment. Mackenzie looks at him, clearly torn. “I can’t just leave Alex and Roger down here alone,” Mackenzie says. “It would be rude.”
Chase gives her an exaggerated sigh. “Roger’s just staring at your mom’s old MP3 player. There’s something not right about that guy. And Alex is watching a movie. Alex, you don’t mind, do you? You’re cool.”
“It’s not the widely held opinion,” Alex mutters.
“Well, you can be cool right now, can’t you?”
Alex does not want to be cool right now, at least not in the way Chase means. “You know what would be cool? Have you ever played spoons?”
“No, Chase snaps. “And BTW, you’re looking a little pale. Do you feel sick?”
“I feel fine.”
“Mackenzie, maybe you better get a bucket. We don’t want our friend to puke on your grandma’s quilt.”
“Oh, that would be bad,” Mackenzie says, and rushes out.
As soon as she’s gone, Chase kneels down next to Alex. “I see you trying to cock-block me, buddy. Mackenzie’s my girlfriend.”
“I’m pretty sure she can do better.”
“What, like you?”
“Ew, no! Grody.”
“Well, I’m going upstairs right now and TTA.”
“’Tap that ass’ you hipster freak. I’m going to bang that bitch silly. And you are going to stay here and mind your own business.” Chase stands suddenly, grabs a chair, and is out the door.
Alex leaps from the bed, scrambles to the door. But when he turns the handle, the door won’t open. Something is blocking it from the other side.
* * *
Out in the hall, Chase is positions the chair against the knob to keep Alex trapped inside.
Alex shouts from the other side of the door. “You stay away from her! Or I’m... I’m gonna totally KYGA! That means kick your gnarly ass!”
What a freak. Chase moves down the hallway, intercepts Mackenzie as she comes around the corner with the bucket. “Alex is sleeping. We probably shouldn’t bother him.”
Chase guides Mackenzie toward the stairs… and her bedroom.
Go to Chapter 11