Apologies for the absence, I’ve been traveling for work and a myriad of other things. Stories should be returning this Friday!
He pulled the ripcord and his parachute opened violently. The wind was harder than he’d expected, than any of them had expected. This was supposed to be a routine drop, just a training exercise. The wind caught his chute suddenly and he was jerked through the air by the straps. Glancing down, he cursed. He was still too high up to risk an emergency release and the backup chute would only catch the wind more. With one last glance upwards, Lieutenant Amery hoped he wasn’t about to get whisked off to Oz.
He wasn’t sure when he’d blacked out but soon Amery found himself laying on a comfortable bed looking up at a young woman. He wasn’t sure what was wrong at first, his head was swimming so much. Then it hit him as she smiled brightly.
“Dear Angel, You’re awake!”
I must’ve hit my head pretty hard… He thought
The girl was wearing a neat white dress and her hair was pulled back in a braid. She looked to be around sixteen and had a bit of a blush to her cheeks.
“An-angel? I’m no angel, ma’am.”
He started trying to sit up and felt the world spin around him.
“Do be careful, please. You had a dreadful fall and…” Then her eyes went huge and she took a step back. “You’re not an angel? Then, how did you come from the sky? Are…are you not an angel because you fell from grace?” Another step back. “Please, I…I’m a good girl. I…I won’t be tempted.”
“No! No, it’s alright. I’m human. Just a normal man, I promise. I’m Lieutenant Amery Reynalds and I got blown off course during a training exercise. I need to report back in so they know I’m not lost.”
“A soldier then? But…” She paused again, chewing her lip. “Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?”
With those words, Amery’s blood went cold.
Meredith smoothed her hands over the swell of her stomach and frowned, deep in thought. The closer they got to her due date, the more she was afraid. It had only been a dream, hadn’t it? So many years ago… It had to have been. That blithe childhood promise couldn’t have been real. Dennis put an arm around her shoulders, never knowing that his own thoughts intersected hers so well.
She leaned back into his grip and smiled.
She looked down for a moment and then smiled.
“Of course it is.”
She ignored the lingering fear as she went and opened the window to try and bring the heat down some.
The leaves were falling as they came home together with their son in the backseat of the car. The little boy was fast asleep, tucked in with his little white blanket in his little tiny green onesie.
“He’s so quiet…”
Meredith glanced back and smiled.
“He’s sleeping, Dennis. Let him stay that way.”
When they got home, Meredith carried their son inside in her arms, a huge smile on her face…until she heard the voices arguing.
“Listen, you old hag, I was here first.”
“Old hag! Who are you calling an old hag, swamp thing.”
There were two old women standing together in the living room, glaring daggers at each other and periodically shooting glances at the ‘its a boy!’ banner over the fireplace.
They turned to face the terrified new parents with twin expressions of glee.
“You’re finally home. Time to settle up, dearie.”
Two little boys stood together just outside the gates to the schoolyard. Both wore hooded sweatshirts with the hoods pulled up and plain denim jeans, just slightly faded. The younger of the pair kept his eyes on the ground but the older looked out into the yard at the other children who laughed and played.
“We could join them. Learn. Improve.”
His voice was toneless, his sentences smooth with no imperfections for childish haste. The younger boy shook his head.
“They would know. We are not like them and they would know.”
“Learning would help us to better feed.”
For a long moment, they stood in silence. Then they both turned and walked towards the teacher monitoring the yard.
“Excuse me. Can we play too??”
The teacher looked down at the two children and started to say something, started to back away. Then the little boy looked up at her with his jet black, soulless eyes.
“Please, may we play?”
She was drumming on the wheel of her big old pickup truck while she waited for the light to change to green. Just another block and she’d be home and all of this would be over. She tapped her pistol with one hand, reassuring herself that it was there. Then the light changed and she was off like a shot. Turn the corner here and park in front of the old house, just like always. The old truck lurched as she climbed out of it and put both boots on the sidewalk. By the time she was a few feet away, it had faded from sight. Soon, she and it would be reunited as they always were. The door was so close, so very close. She pounded on the door with her fist, her other hand closing on the pistol and flicking the safety off. The door opened and a shot rang out, leaving the young boy who had opened the door startled and scared. He looked out at the empty stoop and turned around to run back inside.
“Mama! It happened again!”
Thomas turned, a pen in his hand and a splotch of ink on his cheek. Charlie came jogging towards him across the school grounds, waving and laughing.
“I was hoping I’d find you out here. Working on the paper for Markov’s class?” The blond boy dropped dramatically to sit down and opened a notebook. When Thomas nodded, he grinned. “Think you could help me out? I really don’t get this whole…temporal injunctive thing.”
“Temporal injunction,” Thomas said immediately and then blushed. “Sorry.”
“No, no, do go on. This might explain my confusion. And anyway, I betcha I’ll learn way better from you, oh glorious teacher, than I ever have in class.”
“That’s only because you pay more attention to me.”
“I’d pay more attention to Markov if he was a handsome devil like you, Tom, but sad as it is the only professor on this entire campus worth ogling is Fenrirson and I’m not into tails.”
Thomas chucked an apple from his snack at the other boy. Charlie just caught it with a wry thanks and took a bite out of it.
“Anyway…the paper. Temporal Injunction is really simple-“
Thomas flushed, embarrassed.
“I’m sorry, Tommy-boy, but not all of us spent our entire lives studying at the knee of the most powerful mages in two dimensions…”
“No, no, do go on.”
Charlie scooted closer and leaned in to get a good look at Thomas’s notes. Thomas inhaled deeply, trying to get back on track with his explanation and entirely lost his focus. Had Charlie always smelled so…good? That thought stopped him entirely in his tracks. What was he even thinking? He needed to breathe, needed to focus. Temporal injunction. Explain it. Come on, idiot. Mouth in gear and expound on arcane theory. You do it all the time. Thomas looked up at Charlie and his heart nearly stopped. Slamming everything that felt odd down, Thomas started to explain the theory as in-depth as he could. He tried to focus on literally anything other than the pounding of his own heart and other such confusing physical symptoms.
She’d walked the same roads for so long, since before some of them had blacktop asphalt to replace the dirt tracks and wagon ruts that had formed them. Not many road ghosts could claim that kind of age. Most of them moved on when their roads were abandoned. Her? Her roads were never abandoned, never passed over, just paved and widened. She stood on the edge now, the border from state to state where her power waned. She was a Kansas girl and no matter how hard she tried, Missouri and Colorado would never have her. She brushed her skirts, though no dirt ever stuck. No, this was the best way to change them. Her old yellow dress with its apron and layers stuck out. To hitch a ride, she couldn’t be Bess who died on the road in her Papa’s wagon heading west. No, these days she was Betsy or Beth and she was just trying to find somewhere fun.
There was a light coming down the road now and a grin slowly crossed her face. Maybe it would be someone who could take her beyond the corn, beyond the pitch black tar, and out into the light again. She checked over her jeans and t-shirt before holding her arm out with her thumb raised to the sky. The beat-up pick-up truck trundled to a stop beside her and a woman her own age grinned at her from the driver’s seat. Well, her apparent age anyway.
“Need a ride?”
“Sure do, if you don’t mind.”
Bess wasn’t good at history, at trends, at fashion. It took her a good twenty miles down the road before she realized something wasn’t right. At least, not right for the here and the now. The woman behind the wheel seemed normal enough, but her clothes could have fallen out of the turbulent parts of the 60s, tie-dye and flowing with a headband keeping her hair back out of her eyes.
“What’s going on?”
“We’ve been looking for you a long time, Elizabeth Miller. You don’t have to move on or leave the roads if you don’t want to, but I figured maybe you wouldn’t want to be alone.”