Emily Hunt stared uncomprehendingly at the closing rift; a view of the Chicago sidewalk where she had been waiting for a cab faded to nothingness. ``What the . . . ?'' Emily gasped.
``Welcome to the 31st century,'' said a voice emanating from a computer on the far wall. ``My name is LiLinn. I'm researching the 21st century. To assist my research, I've traded places with you by way of a time-portal. In effect, I'm in your body and you're in mine.''
Emily looked down, suddenly aware of long-fingered hands and lanky torso, quite unlike her own stocky frame.
``Please forgive the inconvenience,'' LiLinn continued. ``The computer will re-initiate the portal in twelve hours. You'll return to the moment you left. Meantime, if you need anything or have any questions, ask the computer. For your own safety, do not leave this lab.''
``Computer, where am I? What is this place?'' Emily demanded. ``What's happened the past thousand years?''
The computer answered that approximately 250 years ago, decimated by disease and climate change, natural resources depleted, people banded for survival in small enclaves. Emily was in one of the enclaves, now a thriving community.
Never one to obey orders, Emily left the lab. Towering buildings, raucous traffic, crowded sidewalks -- all gone. In their place, trees rustled in a clean breeze. Strollers chatted along a sparkling stream. Quiet calm prevailed.
Twelve hours later, Emily re-entered the lab. ``Time portal re-initiated,'' the computer droned. The air shimmered, opened. On the other side of the rift, LiLinn, in Emily's body, stood on a Chicago sidewalk, watching expectantly.
Taking in skyscrapers shrouded in smog, car-clogged streets and frenzied crowds, Emily shook her head -- no wonder LiLinn didn't want me to leave the lab. With only a trace of guilt, Emily intoned, ``Computer, terminate time-portal.''