The travel agency is nestled between a dry-cleaner and a TV repair shop.  It’s not exactly what Raya had in mind when she got the job.  Such a big agency, and yet such a little office.  She should have expected as much from her middle-of-nowhere town.

She’s horrified to learn they still do things by phone.  Had they not heard of the internet?  The agency has a website and everything!  But no, she has to land a job in the one office with dinosaurs for coworkers.  At first, she’d wondered how nobody complained.  She quickly realized the reason: it’s mostly old people coming here, going to the same two or three places.

Raya has to buy her own laptop for work.  It makes sense, in a way: the young ones like her already know how to do everything online.  Why would they come to a travel agency?  They’re not hopeless romantics like her.

But maybe she can help them to be.

She takes two website-building courses over the period of two months.  It takes another two to set up the website for her local office; not that there’s much of a hurry, it’s all her own initiative.  Maybe that’s why they hired her.  Maybe this place is doomed and she’s their last hope, and secretly they wanted her to do this.  A girl can dream, right?

At first, Raya wrinkles her nose at the image: a sepia-toned assembly of a camera and photos that clearly did not come from that camera.  Then it occurs to her how brilliantly romantic it is, all about the aesthetic that would attract everyone, young and old.  She chooses it.

It chooses her.

She goes home to find the whole thing on her desk: map, briefcase, camera, photos of Paris and Rome and New York.  Raya quickly checks with her parents, but they’ve been home all day.  Should she take a closer look first?  Call the police first?  Her friends aren’t exactly the pranking kind, and anyway, where’s the punchline?  It’s a very specific kind of harassment.

Finally, after snapping a few photos on her phone, she opts for using a glove.  She has a pair of leather ones that didn’t see a lot of wear.  Donning them, she approaches.  The items are real enough, completely ordinary except for being here on her desk instead of her usual stuff.  She lifts the camera on its side before placing it back carefully.  There’s a serial number; she gets her phone to snap a pic of that and–

The photo’s on her phone.  The one from the website.  The one that’s now her desk.

Can a virus jump from the computer to the phone?

Shaking her head as if to clear it, she opens the camera and gets a shot of the serial number.  This might come in handy.

The briefcase is next.  She opens it carefully, secretly worried something will come out… but it’s actually a treasure trove of items.  Multiple notebooks, pens, a folded hat, a bracelet (hers?), a dictionary.  It’s English-Italian.

Raya lifts her head: her room’s gone.  Her room?  Yes, the hotel room.  There are voices from outside the window.  Italian.

Rome.

What was she worried about again?

–© 2020 Ada Valeyard

About Ada Valeyard

In her spare time, Ada imagines running a happy space colony.

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