Short As Fictober #9: “Franny Hollis Swings Through Time*”

*Shorter piece for today. I definitely want to write about Franny and her swing set again, but I’m just feeling tapped out tonight. Too much burning the candle at both ends. Perhaps I can take one of the future prompts and find room to write more in this story.

A week after her sixth birthday Franny Hollis learned that time travel was possible through her swing set. And like many of the world’s greatest scientific discoveries, temporal shifts via swing set came to light quite by accident. 

From the moment she received the swing set, Franny had tested the play equipment’s pendulous limitations, swinging higher and higher until she soared over her parents’ heads. She’s going to fall off that thing and break her neck, she heard her mom tell her dad after one of especially daring swinging sessions. Her dad had walked over, slowed her momentum, and talked to her about being safe. She’d nodded and said okay, knowing deep in her heart she wasn’t going to be satisfied until she’d taken the swing past the point of no return, over the bar.

For a few days, Franny kept her swinging perfectly vanilla, just to throw her parents off the scent. And it worked. One afternoon both of her parents left her in the backyard, and she seized on the opportunity. She gripped the swing in one tiny hand, pulling it behind her as she climbed a ladder into the adjacent tower. At the top, she slipped the swing under her bottom, and pushed off the edge. The extra feet in the drop provided instant speed, and Franny swore for a moment she was traveling fast enough to hear the wind whistling a song in her ear. She hit the bottom of the pendulum and started her ascent, squeezing her body as small as it would go, willing the swing to pick up speed even as it slowed. She reached her previous record, and half-expected the chains to go slack, signaling the start of free fall, but that wasn’t the case this time round. The swing kept moving on its designated path, and then Franny was upside down, and then past the bar, and then on her way to greatness.

The light and air seemed to shift and bend as she reached the bottom, and then her parents appeared as if conjured from thin air. Except they were wearing the clothes from yesterday. That’s weird, Franny thought. Why would they go inside to change into dirty clothes? Then she heard her mom deliver the neck breaking line–same tone, same cadence–and when she saw her dad start his walk over to slow her down and giver his safety speech, Franny began to figure it out. She offered the same reply she’d given yesterday, but emphasized how careful she’d be from now on, before asking if they could go inside for a snack. She waited until they were almost to the door, before explaining she’d left something by the swing set, and that she’d be right back.

With her folks inside, Franny knew she had little time to try and get back to her own time. She ran to the swing set and tossed the swing until it had gone back over the bar. She reasoned that if going over the bar facing one way allowed her to travel backward through time, then facing the other way would send her forward. Once again, she dragged the swing up the tower ladder and got herself facing away from the swing set. She took a deep breath and fell backward hoping that somehow she’d return to today.

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