The Eighth Guardian
They’re Annum Guard, too.
    Annum Guard. The words float around in my head. Can it be true? Can there really be a secret government organization that travels back in time? The answer is staring me in the face, screaming at me.
    But how can people time travel? Like, my brain cannot even begin to process this. I need to get back. Back to my time. Then I’ll get some answers.
    I turn away from the couple and stare straight at the dome up on the hill. A man and a woman approach me, he in a suit that looks like something from a really pretentious wedding and she in a light-gray pinstriped dress that’s collected about three inches of dust on the hem. I step out of their way. I’m sure I still look pretty ridiculous in a torn dress with a silk tie wrapped around my waist, and let’s not forget about the shoes; but the couple don’t even blink as they saunter past.
    I close my eyes and take a breath. I know the swan boat drivers said the boats dated back to eighteen something. Same thing with the gilding of the dome. Think think think think think. I take a breath and close my eyes. Please focus. And then I remember that the tour guide said something about how they wanted to gild it earlier on, but then the Civil War broke out and they had to spend the money on that until the war ended.
    The Civil War ended in 1865, thank you very much, every American history class I’ve ever taken. So we’re somewhere between 1865 and 1899.
    Back to the swan boats. Focus. Focus. My mom and I haven’t ridden in the boats since I moved away to go to school. The last time we went, I was in the eighth grade. It wasn’t a huge anniversary for the boats, like the hundredth or two hundredth; but the number ended with a zero, so everyone was acting as if it was the biggest deal in the world, which I remember thinking was pretty lame. What was it?
    And then, like magic, the number floats into my head. I can see the sign hanging behind the ticket counter with fireworks and balloons, proclaiming the anniversary.
    So subtract that from the year, and I get that the swan boats were started in 1877, which means, Hallelujah, praise Jesus, I am a freaking genius! I am sometime between 1865 and 1876.
    Except that now I’m totally stuck.
    I drop my head into my hands and rub my eyes. My nose is all sniffly. That always happens when I’m so tired I can barely keep my head up. I can’t process anything. Just as soon as a thought enters my head, it’s out. Time travel is real. I’m hallucinating. I’m going to wake up from a bad dream in my dorm room at Peel. The thoughts all swirl together. I need to keep moving. Moving will help me stay focused.
    I look both ways to make sure a horse isn’t about to mow me down again and walk into Boston Common. There has to be a trash can around, right? Maybe someone will toss in a newspaper and I’ll find it, like Michael J. Fox did in Back to the Future . Mom and I watched that movie a lot. On her good days.
    I’m halfway across the Common when it hits me. The smell. I was so worked up before that I didn’t pay attention, but the scent is there, sure as day. It’s a musty, sweet smell blown in on the wind. I’ve lived in New England my entire life, so I know that smell. It’s fall.
    One glance up confirms it. It’s dark out, but there’s enough light to notice the yellow and orange leaves looming over me. The dead ones, long tossed from their branches, crunch beneath my feet. So I left during the fall in the present, and now I’m in the fall in the past. Somehow this is comforting.
    I stop. I can’t remember what I was doing. I sniffle again. Oh. Right. Trash cans. I blink. Did I really just center a plan around a plot point in an ’80s movie and think that was a good idea? What is wrong with me? I’ve been trained better than this. I am better than this.
    But still, I glance around to see if I can spot any trash cans, because you never know. I don’t see a single one. I sigh and walk toward the

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