There was nothing around them for as far as they could see. Just cracked Earth and gray sky and a single tree that looked like it had been dead for a thousand years.
“Wh…where is this?” Gabby stuttered.
“No idea,” Simon replied.
“This is scary,” Chelsea said. “Very scary.”
A heavy breath of wind swirled up, blowing dust all around them.
“So where are we?” Cooper repeated, “And when are we?”
“Nothing about this looks familiar,” Jamal added. “The place, the time…it’s like we’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“And there’s no beauty here,” Maya said. “Everything’s so colorless and lifeless….”
They all looked back to Mr. C at the same time, hoping he could provide some answers. But he had already begun walking away from them. Then he stopped and picked up something lying on the ground. It was a newspaper, crumpled and creased and filthy. He brushed the dirt off it, then read the front page for a moment.
He nodded. “I know exactly when we are,” he said. Then he walked back over and held up the paper so they could see it. “Look at this.”
The headline caused them all to gasp—
WORLD WAR III HAS BEGUN
“Oh no….” Maya whispered, covering her mouth with her hands.
“The most powerful countries of the world were unable to reach a peace agreement,” Mr. C said, scanning the article now. “They began squabbling with each other, then some fighting began between armies, and then a full-scale war broke out. After that they started using nuclear weapons on each other….” Mr. C stopped reading and looked all around. “That’s why this land looks the way it does. This is what’s left after all the bombs fell.”
“There’s nothing,” Jamal said. “Everything’s just gone.”
“The roads, the buildings….” Chelsea added.
“The trees, the animals….” Gabby put in.
“And the towns and cities,” Cooper finished. “It’s all disappeared. Like we’re on the moon or something.”
“But this never actually happened!” Simon insisted, sounding extremely upset. “There never was a World War III!”
“No,” Mr. C replied, “but there’s going to be.”
He held up the paper again and pointed to the year above the headline.
“So we’re not in the past this time,” Chelsea said. “We’re in the future.”
Mr. C nodded. “That’s right. And I think I know where we are, too….”
Now he was pointing to the very top of the newspaper’s front page. It read—
The Daily Targum
“Does that sound familiar?” he asked. “It should.”