I leapt from sandstone boulder to sandstone boulder, the knitted forest green sweater around my waist slapping against my tanned legs. My family was on vacation in Egypt, and while my parents were at some fancy restaurant celebrating their 16th anniversary, I was exploring the desert behind our hotel. Well, maybe”exploring” was wrong. “Passing the time” was more like it. The bumpy golden desert stretched as far as I could see, and nothing interesting was in sight.
The hot wind threw sand into my gray eyes ans I stood atop a sideways sandstone pillar, with ridges cut into the sides. The pillars, I decided, were the most interesting thing in the desert. I wasn’t sure why they were there, or what they had been part of. But I did know that jumping on them and pretending the ground was lava, like I had done when I was five, was rather amusing.
My foot caught on a deep ridge and I tumbled forward into the blistering sand. The tiny grains stuck to my white T-shirt, jean shorts, and sweater. They attached themselves to my sticky limbs and sweaty light brown hair. I started to push myself to my feet, but paused when I spotted something on the side of the pillar. Faded colors.
I leaned forward and ran my fingers over the colors. The painting seemed to be of a robed man holding a scroll. I spotted similar paintings on the pillars around me.
“What . . .?” I muttered, perplexed, as I spied a painting of a open scroll emitting a purplish light. I touched it, and the ground beneath me suddenly gave way. I was screaming and falling, and a second later I hit the ground. The shifty pile of sand beneath me had broken my fall, but only slightly, and everything still hurt. Moaning, I rose to my feet and looked up. A jagged hole showed me the orange-streaked evening sky.
I bit my lip, looking around. A shadowy hall, crawling with spiderwebs, stretched out before me. Where was I, and how was I going to get out? Or was I going to be stuck down here forever?
I squinted down the hall. Maybe there was a staircase or a ladder somewhere down there. I’d go have a look. I set off down the tunnel, praying that I wouldn’t find scorpions, snakes, or mummies in the bowels of Egypt.
The hall opened up into a huge circular room. The domed ceiling was covered in paintings like the ones on the pillars, only less faded. Shelves lined the walls, and they were filled with hundreds and hundreds of scrolls.
Somewhere inside of me, I knew what this place was. I had learned about it in History class two years ago.
“I thought you had burned down,” I whispered to the lost Library of Alexandria.
It didn’t reply, which I supposed was a good thing.
In awe, I approached the nearest shelf and pulled out a scroll. The stiff yellowed papyrus was wound tightly around a carved wooden rod. Afraid that it would disintegrate before my eyes, I carefully unrolled the scroll. Lines in a foreign language — Ancient Greek, maybe? — covered the papyrus.
The paper felt suddenly hot beneath my fingers. With a yelp, I let go. It fluttered to the ground, where an amethyst light shot out of it and hit me in the face . Blinded and confused, I keeled forward. But instead of smacking against the cold stone floor of the library, a multitude of pointy things pressed against my stomach. I rubbed my eyes and blinked against the sudden soft sunlight.
I was laying face down in a meadow.
I jumped to my feet, panic creeping up my throat like bile. Where was the Library of Alexandria?
I turned in a circle, taking in my surroundings. The rosy glow of sunset blanketed the countryside. Trees lined a grassy dirt path. Strolling down that path was a young woman in a knee-length black dress.
I tightened the sweater around my waist and took off down the path. The cool air dried the sweat on the back of my neck. Soon, I had caught up with the young woman. Her dark chocolate-brown hair was tied into a bun, though curly tendrils framed her face. She kept a stack of book pressed against her chest.
The lady smiled at me kindly, but with concern — she must have registered the lost look on my face. “Hello, can I help you?” she asked. “I’m Abigail.”
“I’m Leslie Lockwood. Can you tell me where I am?”
Abigail frowned. “You’re in Vermont, of course, Leslie. North Hero, in Lake Champlain.”
Vermont? I felt light-headed and dizzy. I swayed, and Abigail grabbed my shoulders to steady me.
“Are you alright?” Abigail pressed. “Are you lost?”
“What year is it?” I was dreading Abigail’s answer.
My stomach started to churn. How did I go from 2016 Egypt to 2000 Vermont? I turned on my heel and ran through the meadow, the long grass slapping against my legs. I heard Abigail shouting behind me, but she sounded muffled and far away. The meadow ended beside another dirt path, and the glossy lake shimmering beyond it. I splashed into the shallows, grateful for the cool relief of the water, not caring that my shoes were now soaked.
“Leslie! Leslie!” Abigail had reached the the shore. “What’s wrong?”
“I shouldn’t be here,” I choked. “How did I get here? How can I get home?” Frustrated tears streamed down my face.
Abigail waded into the water, her boots and books on the bank. She touched my shoulder gently. “I don’t understand. Why didn’t you know the year and where you were?”
Abigail would probably think I was crazy. And she was the only person I knew in 2000 Vermont. I didn’t want to scare her away. But I also needed to tell someone what was going on. With out looking at her, I blurted out, “I was just in Egypt. In 2016. I found — I found the lost Library of Alexandria. And I opened a scroll, but it burned my fingers, so I dropped it . . . Then purple light shot out of it. Next thing I knew, I was here.”
Abigail’s face was pale.
“I’m not crazy!” I promised. “Abigail, please don’t think that. I really need someone to help me sort everything out –“
She surprised me by giving me a tight hug. “I know what it’s like to be in a strange land, and a different time. I think I can help you, Leslie. Why don’t we go to my house? I’ll get you some food, and you can stay as long as you need to. I’ll help you figure this out.”
The sun had set, and stars twinkled on the surface of the lake. “Thank you,” I breathed. Had Abigail been transported back in time, too?
We waded back to shore. Abigail gathered up her shoes and books, and we walked down the moonlit path of North Hero. I now had a friend, and I had a feeling that she would help me find my way back.