Weston Heitkamp

United States

The French Exam that Started it All

November 19, 2019

The dark sky was piercing. There must have been less pollution in 1944. It’s hard to believe, only three months earlier, I was given the French exam that started all this. I had always struggled with learning new things. I took French in hope that my French heritage could help.
Madame Beaumont informed us that we would have our exam on Monday, March 6. It feels like a cursed day now. Madame had requested to see me on Friday the week before our exam.
“Now Owen,” she started loosely while I looked off into space thinking about my name. Owen. One of the most generic names possible. The thirty-first most common name in 2002.
“Owen!” This time not so loosely. I snapped out of my daze.
“Sorry, madame, I...umm..”
“You probably noticed that your grade is dropping,” I hadn’t, “I hope you understand that you will need to do well on the exam coming up to pass.” She continued to speak despite me dozing off. 
Eventually, I stood up, pushed my chair in and began to leave when she barked at me once more.
“Make sure you study.” I do wish I had studied.
Later that night, I had determined that pizza and video games would be far more important. I had waited for the weekend since Monday. I had an entire week to study. Then it was 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. I was having dinner on Sunday, not particularly hungry. Celina, carefully eyeballed me as I picked at my food.
“Something on your mind, Owen.” That’s when I realized. I had completely forgotten to study. I felt heavy all over.
“Umm...I’ve...gotta go.” I picked up my aching body leaving my plate on my table.
My phone was at 16%, I plugged it instantly right next to the framed photo of my great-grandfather who had died back in World-War-Two. He died after his plane was shot down, he survived the initial impact.
I went to my podcasts. My friends joked about “the podcast witch-doctor” who claimed that she could teach you while you slept. I figured it was the best I could do at that point. It was getting pretty late and it was getting hard for me to focus.
After going through all of her podcasts, I found one for French. The description said this in a cryptic font,
This six-hour sleep meditation is for instances French abilities. WARNING: This meditation method is powerful and can result in one of the following insomnia, ringing ears, French-speaking, loss of appetite, and time-travel.
Ha, I thought. Time-travel, that’s pretty funny, and being able to speak French non-stop. This “Witch-Doctor” must be crazy. I grabbed my headphones and started the podcast.
When I woke up, my ears were ringing. I heard gibberish in my ears that I was guessing was French or something. I opened my eyes but my vision was blurry. I was soaking in the summer sun. Wait a second. Isn’t it supposed to be March?
I’m not sure what scared me more. The fact that it was mid-summer or the roaring planes and loud explosions overhead. I stood up slowly and surveyed the area. I was on a beach surrounded by several army men speaking in a language that took a second for me to understand. IT WAS FRENCH! I thought back to the witch-doctor podcast. Time travel. Had I traveled back in time? Through scattered conversation, I heard June 6th, 1944 and Normandy. This is stuff I had heard very recently, or I guess technically in the future. I tried to remember my history class. Between my spurts of sleep, I figured that this was D-Day. I ran through the calculations in my head. I had gone back twenty-seven thousand three hundred one day. That is a lot of time. Then a thought scared me. Could I go back to my current time? I shook the thought aside. The fact is that I had been transported back almost 75 years!
The battle continued as planes flew overhead and were shot down and other planes dropped weaponry. War in every direction. I could hear myself breathing until it was muted out by something overhead. It was a plane. Falling in my direction. The plane collided into the sand where I was standing seconds ago. I couldn’t even hear it over the rest of the blare. Then I saw someone who I recognized. Crawling out of the rubble of the plane, was my great-grandfather. I recognized him from the frame on my bedside table. We locked eyes, and there was something worth fighting for.
I calmed myself to sleep because when I awoke this time, I didn’t open my eyes. The fear of being on a beach surrounded by nine thousand dead men was terrifying. The stress got to me and I opened my eyes. I took a second to enjoy the recognizableness of my room. I rolled over to unplug my phone. There was no photo of my great-grandfather.
I did my morning routine while my mind raced about the eerie dream or experience of whatever it was. My mind was also filled with the photo.
I noticed the first thing while I was walking down the stairs. There was a picture of a wrinkled old man in our family picture on the wall. It had scared me but nothing like what would happen when I walked into the kitchen. The wrinkled old man stood in my kitchen. “Ahh. Owen. We have to wait for you for breakfast. Sit down. You must be hungry.” That’s when I understood what had happened. The wrinkled old man was my great-grandfather, and if he was my great-grandfather, then my ordeal could not have been a dream, could it? I sat on the couch and was about to turn on the T.V. when he called me over. “I would like to thank you for back in 1944.” He gave me a wink, and I smiled back at him.


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