He should have known better and opened his locker more slowly. Some sense should have warned him. There were enough strange things going on; he should be more cautious.
But no. No, he had to come bombing down the hallway and work the last number on the combo on the door and jerk it open without thinking.
There was an adult male hanging inside. Dead. Not only that, but it was a medical cadaver, partially cut open with long pins holding things in. And not only that, but it was an old cadaver.
And the stink--Oh, my, he thought, only in different words. Much different words. Oh, my, the stink was positively alive, rolled out in a semigreen cloud, and he could hear flies coming inside from out in the schoolyard, zooming to the odor. Oh, yes, there would be flies. Of course flies. And they would stay around. Last time when he found seven hundred and twenty-one and one-half dead lab rats in his locker, packed in tightly, the flies had stayed for a month even when the rats were gone.
It was a joke. Some joke.
Dorso Clayman held his breath and closed the locker door, looked up and down the hallway to see if anybody was watching. Nobody seemed to be paying special attention but that didn't mean much. Someone might have a small camera on him, getting his reaction on a digit-disk to broadcast later. He decided to play it nonchalant. Cool. As if he always had bodies in his locker.
And it would have worked except that Susan Racher walked down the hall at that moment, right past his locker, and the smell drifting, no, slithering out of the bottom grill on the locker door dropped her cold. Literally. She went down on her knees, grabbing for her inhaler. Susan was one of those who always acted sick but never actually was. But then she keeled over onto her side, one leg jerking feebly. For a second Dorso did nothing. Susan was always faking it.
But this time it seemed real enough--her eyes had rolled back and were showing only white. So he grabbed her by the wrists and dragged her down the hallway past the smell zone. He propped her up against the wall and put her inhaler in her mouth.
Dorso looked up to see his best friend, Frank Tate, looking down at Susan. "She's going to miss her first class if she's dead," Frank said. "They don't like it if you miss homeroom even if you're dead."
Dorso shook his head. "No. She's just out for a little bit. The smell caught her wrong."
"What smell?" Frank sniffed. "Is there something stinking?"
"You're kidding . . . ," Dorso started, then remembered that Frank had a sinus condition that kept him from smelling things. Frank had once run his bicycle over a dead skunk on the highway without noticing it, even though part of the skunk had stuck to a tire and kept flopping around and around as he rode, the stink blowing up in his face with each rotation. Bulletproof, Dorso thought, a bulletproof nose. "I had a body in my locker."
"Again? Man, don't they ever think of anything else to do to you? Last time they put a dead dog in there, and then there were the lab rats, and of course the time they stuck in the six or seven thousand dead frogs . . ."
"This time it was human. Some medical student's job, it must have been. But old. Really old."
Frank nodded. "Yeah. It would have to be old. That's how it works, isn't it? You can't transport anything current and the system won't go into the future, so it has to come from the past." As he talked he went to Dorso's locker and grabbed the handle. "How did it look?" He jerked the door open.
"Don't--" Dorso started, but then he shrugged. It had been more than thirty seconds, and none of the . . . surprises . . . ever seemed to last longer than half a minute.
"It's gone," Frank said. "Too bad. I might have recognized it from when I did all those medical research scans for my anatomy study."
"You were just looking for naked pictures."
"Still. It's research, isn't it? And at first it wasn't a protected zone. If the government didn't want you to see it they would have put the blocks on the way they did with religion and later with naked pictures."
Dorso left Susan and moved back to his locker. The smell was still almost as strong as it had been when he'd first opened the door, but the body was gone, all traces of it, even the stains. Well, that was good, at least. He held his breath and took out his gym bag. He had gym first period, which was a stupid time to have PE, but he was stuck with it if he wanted to take computer science second period, which he had to do because Karen Bemis took computer science then and he thought if he could be around her enough she might begin to notice him. It hadn't happened in two years but he still had hopes.
His gym bag reeked of the dead body. That meant the smell had gotten into his gym shorts and T-shirt as well.
Great. I'll stink like a cadaver. Just great.
He looked down the hallway where Susan was getting to her feet, her eyes dazed as she leaned against the wall, and for about the ten thousandth time that month he thought maybe it had been a bad idea when the scientists had figured out how to crack time.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Time Hackers by Gary Paulsen. Copyright © 2005 by Gary Paulsen. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.