Emily C. Skaftun

(skŏf • tŭn) n. A writer of speculative fiction.

Tag: time travel

Those Time Travel Leaves Behind

The following is politically relevant Back to the Future fan fiction that I wrote just after the election. Since it is probably un-sellable as fiction, you can read it as a freebie!


My name is Jennifer Parker, and I’ve lived my whole life in a little California town called Hill Valley.

Yes, that Hill Valley. The one with the massive eyesore casino. The one that gave us President Tannen.

I didn’t vote for him. In point of fact, most of the country didn’t vote for him. But Biff Tannen never cared much for the rules. I know things about him…

Why didn’t I come forward before now? No one would believe my story. I could be committed just for admitting that I believe it—and I wouldn’t be the first person he had committed.

The year was 1985. I worked in his massive eyesore casino, because in the Hill Valley dystopia that’s just what you did. Biff didn’t think I was pretty enough to be in one of his pageants, but I was good enough to serve cocktails on the casino floor. I was seventeen. That didn’t seem to matter to anyone. With some makeup and my tits hiked up to my neck I fit in just fine.

It was a horrible job, as I’m sure you already guessed. Cocktail waitresses work for tips, and there weren’t a lot of big spenders on the floor of Biff’s Pleasure Palace. When their hands came near me it was usually to grope something, not to reward me for my excellent service.

When my shifts were over I liked to go up on the roof and smoke cigarettes and pretend I lived somewhere else. Maybe somewhere with a high school. You could see the stars, sometimes, and at the very least you couldn’t see the casino when you were on top of it.

Suddenly the door burst open and a teenager burst out onto the roof. I knew who he was, of course. You don’t grow up in Hill Valley and not know who Biff’s stepkids are, at least by sight.

Marty was the youngest of them, my age. We’d been in classes together, when he bothered to go to them. He’d flunked out of school long before it burned down, and was shipped off to boarding school. Sometimes he made headlines in the local paper for a drug-fueled episode that got him kicked out of another school—or at least he did before the paper’s editor mysteriously disappeared. Anyway, he was a wreck. I guess I would be too if my dad was murdered when I was five.

At first I thought that was all it was, Marty stumbling around in a drunken misadventure. But a minute later Biff himself came out the door, swaggering and repulsive with a gun in his hand a silk bathrobe barely covering the rest. I put my cigarette out and shrank deeper into the shadows.

That was when I saw how different Marty looked. He wasn’t drunk or drugged at all. He stood up straighter than I’d ever seen. His eyes—even though they were far away I could see something steely in them that hadn’t been there since grade school.

I saw a flash of something else. Marty and me together in a grassy place. A phone number scribbled on the back of a flier. A kiss.

With Marty? The kid who vomited in the king of Saudi Arabia’s private plane? But the guy I was looking at wasn’t that Marty. He stood right up to Biff’s gun (albeit while backing toward the edge of the roof), and that was when I overheard Biff admit to murder.

“The police will match the bullet to that gun,” Marty told him.

And Biff said, “Kid, I own the police. Besides, they couldn’t match up the bullet that killed your old man.”

You see now why I never told anyone?

I closed my eyes. Marty was either going to get shot or jump off the roof, and either way I didn’t want to see it.

But then I heard a really strange sound. Something I’ve never heard before. Like a motor running, but also like a vacuum cleaner or a bunch of kazoos or … I really can’t describe it. As much as I’ve hoped to, I’ve never heard that sound again.

I looked over and I saw … a spaceship!

Or so it looked to me at the time. Later, much later, when I saw a Delorean on the street I recognized it from that night. So I guess it was a car. But it hovered just at the edge of the roof like magic.

The wing door came up and knocked Biff out, and he lay splayed on the roof, the revolver next to his hand. I dared peek out a little further at Marty, who stood proudly and majestically on the roof of that flying car like something from a dream.

Maybe it was a dream. But for just a moment he saw me, and we locked eyes, and there was such a recognition in his eyes, a familiar, reassuring smile that seemed to promise me it would all be okay in time.

And then he hopped into the car and the door shut and I stood up from my hiding place with my mouth open to scream, Take me with you!

But I didn’t say a word. I crept past Biff and went downstairs and went home and the next day I went back to work and lived my pathetic little life.

I never told anyone what I saw, but I’ve thought about that flying car every day of my life. I guessed—hoped?—that it had come from a better future, one with flying cars and who knows what other marvels.

But it’s the future now, and we still don’t have flying cars. It’s 2017 and Biff is president and I don’t know, I guess I always thought Marty would come back in his Delorean and stop it somehow.

Sometimes I have flashes of another life where he and I are together. Sometimes it’s a great life. Sometimes it’s just okay. Sometimes we have kids who do stupid things. Sometimes there are flying cars.

But the Jennifer in those lives isn’t me, and the Marty here isn’t him. This Marty overdosed a few years ago. He was found on the floor of a trashed penthouse suite in Atlantic City. And I still work at Biff’s Pleasure Palace, only now I’m not pretty enough to serve drinks either, so I clean vomit out of gold-accented hotel rooms that haven’t looked classy in 30 years.

I keep thinking there’s a world in which we live happily ever after, but I don’t live in that world. The car flew away and now I’m stuck in this one.

Beyond Lillehammer

On our way from Lillehammer to a medieval farm turned boutique hotel, we stopped at the stave church at Ringbu, which is much more impressive than the Maihaugen specimen. It’s real! Perhaps the theme of the day is Real v. Unreal. Because now I am here at Sygard Grytting, which though much smaller than Maihaugen, is the real thing. I will be sleeping in a small dark unheated room under a giant sheepskin cover. For the full medieval pilgrim experience. More on that later!

Stave church at Ringebu.

I had dinner with a group of Peer Gynt Festival-goers, and it was excellent. I understand between half and 2/3 of the Norwegian spoken around me. Which is enough to get the gist of something but miss crucial details. Enough to be dangerous?

After they left I chatted with Stig, the owner, a bit about the place’s history—it was a waystop on St. Olav’s Way in medieval times, and has been a working farm for centuries, and a boutique hotel for decades, and every building on the property has been moved at some point or another. Norwegians move buildings. It’s a thing I’ve learned.

Sygard Grytting.

I wandered around the area of the hotel for a while. Across the highway (which you cross via a square hobbit tunnel with a creek in it) there’s an art installation of alien heads called “Herd” (Flokk på norsk), which is lovely and surreal in this pastureland.

Flokk, an art installation in Gudbrandsdalen right by Sygard Grytting.

I took a very cold nap before getting up to wait for them to return after the play for “nattmat.” I had thought about just sleeping all the way through, but I’m very glad that I pulled my butt out of bed for it. Stig’s son played the accordion for us, and I feel like I got at least half of what he said about his musical education. The soup was good and we also had Ringnes and Gammel Oppland. All this down in the cellar, where a fire was burning.

The festival-goers reported that it was cold but the show was wonderful. My anticipation is building.

I slept under a giant sheepskin cover, and it was actually quite hot once my body heat got working. In the morning Jacquelin (a French woman living in Trondheim who has been my main companion here) said she was cold, but she also said she couldn’t sleep under the sheepskins because they were too heavy. I will take heavy over freezing any night of the week.

A wood-framed bed piled with sheepskins.

My bed at Sygard Grytting. Cozy–until you need to pee.

In the morning, after another breakfast—this time with no fish!–two Germans picked me up from Sigard Grytting and deposited me at Spidsbergseter, where it is even colder, if possible. It feels like winter to me. The welcome was warm, though, including a taste of Aquavit in the aquavitfjøset here, and lunch. The hotel has many amenities, and some new remodeled rooms. I am not in one of them. It is dim and a bit on the cold side, but at least the heater does seem to work, if slowly.

The aquavit barn at Spidspergseter. The poem says, very roughly, “When potatoes are served this way, even the toothless can eat them.”

Knowing how Norwegians feel about weather, I didn’t even ask if my horseback ride would be cancelled due to the relentless just-above-freezing rain. I just put on a lot of clothes, wishing I had bought rain pants after all. My Norwegian sweater and dorky hiking boots held up pretty well, but my jeans (duh) and gloves did not hold up at all. I kept trying to enjoy the scenery, but really I was just waiting for it to be over so I could get back to the hotel and try out the hot tub… which turned out to be a huge disappointment. It was not remotely hot enough, so I sat in the sauna instead, until my lungs couldn’t stand it anymore and my thighs were almost warmed back up. Then I took a brief nap and a shower, which was almost a catastrophe of coldness. But after waiting seemingly forever the water did finally heat up.

This is what the weather looked like that fine August day.

I went to browse the shop in the hotel. Rain pants? Not for 2000 kroner! I went to dinner… which was outstanding. Don’t get me wrong; the local lamb and especially the berries for dessert at Sigurd Grytting were excellent. But that was to be expected from a place like that that prides itself on farm-to-table deliciousness. I did NOT expect the hotel buffet to be excellent. I ate too much. But what is one to do when they have both karamel pudding AND hjemmelaget karamel pudding? And kaffefromaj, which to my taste buds was the star of the show.

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