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Jehan's Story


I fired my carbine at the guardsmen and winced as I saw one go down by my hand. I turned to reload, trying not to think about it, shifting my concentration to loading my gun and away from the fact that I was killing men who, perhaps, were not much different from myself. I had almost finished when I felt a gag come around my face and realized I was being dragged out of the barricade. I could not scream or shout because of the gag; I could not fire because I had dropped my carbine when I was seized; I could not fight because my hands had been securely tied behind my back. I could only allow myself to be taken prisoner.

I was dragged before a superior officer.

"Here he is, captain," my captor said, obviously a guardsman.

"Good," the captain said, then turned to me. "Now, you, answer what I ask you and do what you're told, and nothing's going to happen to you, understand? What's your name?"

I didn't say anything.

"Who's the leader of this barricade, then?"

I remained silent.

"How many men do you have?"

Still I said nothing. The captain's face by this time was red with anger.

"Answer me, fool! If you don't cooperate, you know what we'll do to you!"

Several guns were leveled on me in an attempt to scare me into submission. The fools; I had given up all hope of living when the first attack began, what made them think threats of death would loosen my tongue? I looked the captain straight in the eye.

"Oh, I know what'll happen to me. I've known that from the beginning. You can kill me, and I have no doubt that you will, you can kill all of us, but you cannot kill our cause. The people will rise, and they are stronger than you; you cannot kill their spirit. Vive la France! Vive le Republique!"

Gunfire.

I heard the shots fire, felt the bullets rip through my chest. I only felt the pain for a moment before my senses left me. Just before I lost consciousness, a fleeting thought raced through my mind.

"And so I die."

The the blackness overtook me. One moment I felt as if I was falling, the next as if floating upward. Finally even these feelings left me, and all was silence.

* * * * * * *

I opened my eyes, dazed.

All I saw was white for a moment, after all the blackness. Then I saw a smooth surface and noticed I was lying on something firm. I sat up and gaped at the unusual objects I saw. Little people were walking around in a black box. A ball was bouncing around inside a strange white box with a lot of wires coming out the back. The firm surface I was lying on was a low kind of bed. There were books and papers scattered all around the room. Puzzled, I looked down at my own clothing. My shirt was still soaked with blood, ripped by the bullets, but my chest was marked only with a few scratches; there were no wounds there, and no pain came from my chest. I still wore the brown vest, black trousers, and tri-color sash I had worn at the barricades. My first thought was "Where am I?" My second was, "Why am I not dead?"

At that moment a girl walked into the room. I would not have known it to be a girl if it hadn't been for the obvious characteristics; she wore trousers and a shirt like a boy, though the shirt was rather strange, and her hair was cut short. The girl took one look at me lying on the bed, then raised her eyes to the ceiling and said two words.

"Why me?"

I could not even pretend to understand what she had meant by that, so I just stared at her. However, I recognized the words as English, and suddenly I was more than grateful for the English classes I had been forced to take. It seemed they had come in handy after all. The girl, in the meanwhile, got right down to business.

"I can see from the look on your face that you've got a lot of questions you want to ask me, but please, let me ask you some first." She sat down on the bed, her hand lightly brushing the end of the sash that was tied around my waist. She fingered it thoughtfully. "I suppose you're French, so I'll start with a very important one: Do you speak English? Oh, excuse me--umm--parlez-vous Anglais?" she asked, her French leaving something to be desired. I decided it would be more comfortable all around if I stuck to using her native language.

"Yes, mademoiselle, I speak enough English to communicate clearly," I answered. She sighed, obviously relieved.

"Ah, good. As you probably noticed, that phrase I just used is all the French I know, I'm afraid." She surveyed my clothing critically. "Okay then, umm, what--what do you think today's date is?" she asked awkwardly, then added under her breath, "Wow, I've written this kind of stuff before, but I never thought it'd actually happen."

Still confused, I thought a bit before I could answer. "June 5, 1832." She sighed.

"That's what I was afraid of. And where do you think you are? Or, where was the last place you remember being?"

"Paris," I answered, this time without hesitation. "Excuse me, mademoiselle, but why are you asking me such strange questions? Why are you wearing such odd clothes? And who exactly are you?"

The girl laughed pleasantly. "Yes, I knew you had a lot of questions, and you're right, it's time I answered some of them. My name is Jennifer, and what I'm going to tell you is going to be hard to accept at first. It's hard for me to accept as well," she mused, then continued. "Anyway, today is not June 5, 1832, as you believe it to be, and this isn't Paris. Believe it or not, today is March 16, 1999, and you are in the United States of America. My dormitory room, to be exact. And I'm wearing 'such odd clothes,' as you say, because this is the kind of clothes people wear now. Men and women both. Speaking of clothes, we're going to have to get you a new shirt, aren't we?" she asked, fingering the blood-soaked tatters that used to be my best shirt. "By the way, what's your name?" she said as she opened a door and began rummaging in what seemed to be a closet.

"Jean Prouvaire," I answered somewhat warily, still stunned by what the girl--Jennifer--had told me. "But you can just call me Jehan. Everybody does."

Jennifer turned to face me, a friendly smile on her face. "Nice to meet you, Jehan," she said, flinging a white shirt at me.

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