The shaking stopped. Kelly opened her eyes, one at a time. She unwrapped her right arm from around her own shoulders, but left the left cradling her belly. It didn't feel so well. Tyler opened the door, and pale light seeped into the cramped chamber.
"Here we are," he announced. "Welcome to Ancient Egypt!"
Kelly stood, hoping her dizziness would subside soon. She'd thought it was a joke when Tyler offered to take her for a ride in his time machine. But something had definitely happened after he spun those dials and lifted the lever. It didn't look like Tyler's garage out there. She stepped through the door.
A pyramid occupied an otherwise empty landscape. "Why is it so . . . green?"
"That's how you know these are Ancient times," Tyler explained. "You know, before the world was even black and white, it was black and green."
Tyler shrugged. "Why not? Let's go check out the pyramid." He took Kelly's hand and led her forward.
As they approached, Kelly could see some markings on the base of the pyramid. "Are those hieroglyphics? Wait--no, they're letters. 'MDCCLXXVI.' What could that mean?"
Tyler glanced at the letters. "They're Roman numerals. Um, 1776." He looked upward again.
"1776? That was a while ago, but I wouldn't call it Ancient."
"Yeah, right." Kelly pulled her hand out of his, and folded her arms. "What is this really?" A shadow fell over her. Kelly looked up. "Giant eagle!" she yelped.
Tyler put his arm around her. "Don't worry. His beak is full." He pointed to the bird as it flew away. Kelly relaxed a bit. "Come on," Tyler urged, "let's climb it." He led her to some smaller steps on the side of the pyramid.
Kelly looked up. "Whoa. The pyramid has a big eye at the top. That's kind of creepy. I don't think we should climb something that's looking at us."
Tyler had already climbed several steps. "It's all right."
"How do you know?"
"Look up there." Words appeared in the sky.
"Okay, Mr. Roman Scholar. What do they say?"
"Annuit cœptis. It means 'He approves.' Come on!"
Kelly took two steps, and looked up again. The eye blinked, but the words didn't change. She followed Tyler to the top.
"Great view, huh?" Tyler spread his arms wide.
Kelly looked. The desert extended around her for a short distance. Beyond a certain circle, she could see a blank space with tall stone blocks upon it. Straining her eyes, she could see that they also formed letters. "O-N-E. One. One what?" She turned to look behind her. The desert seemed to be surrounded by giant webs. The eagle was soaring far above. The strange green landscape seemed familiar somehow.
"Tyler, this isn't Ancient Egypt. This is a one dollar bill."
Tyler shrugged. "Well, you've never been here before, have you?"
"One dollar! This is the cheapest date I've ever been on! You and your 'time machine.'"
"Time is money, right? And we travelled."
"Hmph." Kelly folded her arms again, and turned away.
"We can still have some fun on a dollar," Tyler said, touching her shoulder. "Let's slide down." He sat on the edge and pushed off down the smooth front of the pyramid.
Kelly sighed, then sat down and followed. Air whooshed by as she flew down the side. She landed in the soft sand.
Tyler gave her a concerned look. "Are you okay?"
Kelly tried to look stern, but a giggle betrayed her. "That was fun. Race you to the top?"
They slid until they were laughing too hard to climb. The eagle flew over again, shaking a branch in his claw. Kelly caught some of the berries that fell from it. "Olives! My favorite."
They talked and slid and ate green olives. After a while, Kelly felt a chill. The sky was no darker, but thirteen stars appeared. "Maybe it's time to go," she said, shivering.
Tyler took her hand and walked her over to the edge of the desert. Reaching just outside, he picked up a string of pearls and fastened it around Kelly's neck. Then he wrapped a long ribbon around her like a shawl. She started to feel warmer. There were letters on the ribbon, too.
"E pluribus unum?" she read as they walked back toward the time machine.
"Something like 'and they twain shall be one,' I think." He bent down on one knee. "Shall we make it legal?"
A tear came to Kelly's eye. "Oh, Tyler," she said, blinking, "I feel so tender."
So, did I mention my stories will appear in two anthologies this season? Here's a peek at the cover of Checkin' It Twice & Other Heartwarming Holiday Tales. It will be released soon, but the website is already up and running, full of information and fun.
What kind of fun? How about the Christmas Capers Holiday Photo Contest? The holiday season can be joyful, fun, and a little bit crazy. Have you captured some of these moments in pictures? Enter your favorite holiday photos to win fabulous prizes! Check it out here, then come back and tell me how adorable the sample photos are. Particularly (ahem) the first and third ones in the post. Go, on, do it.