Sputnik

Cedric rolled over and woke with a start. He ran his hand along the empty side of the bed. Still warm. He smiled slightly and moved to sit on the edge of the bed, stretching. With one hand, he grabbed the discarded shirt from the floor and pulled it on. He slid his feet into a pair of slippers and padded out into the kitchen in their small apartment.
“Jules?”
“Here.”
Yulia sat at the table with a mug of tea in her hand on the small tv on the counter turned on. She was watching the news with her knees pulled up to her chest. Cedric winced as he heard the now familiar voices of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. They hadn’t been air long, but he and Yulia had both come to associate those voices with bad news.
“We have no comments from the military at this time, but we can confirm that the device does appear to be there.”
“According to the news coming out of Moscow, you should be able to see it with nothing more than binoculars and pick up the signal with a ham radio if you’re tuned in-“
Cedric put a hand on her shoulder.
“What’s going on?”
“They got into space. They’ve got… They’re calling it a satellite.”
She stood, moving to the coffee pot and refilled her mug. Cedric watched her, noting the worry on her face and in the way she was holding herself. He started to open his mouth when there was a knock at the door.
“Dammit. Turn off the tv, Jules. I’ll deal with them this time.”
But when he opened the door, it wasn’t the neighbors with their little anti-communist vigilance committee.
“Good morning, Sir. Are you…”
The suited man with his dark sunglasses glanced down at a clipboard.
“Cedric Kyriakos?”
Cedric looked at that man, at the one standing beside him, and his shoulders slumped. “Yes, I am.”
“We’re here to speak with Yulia Petrovna.”

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Summer, 1984

They’d met on the beach. Lily was there on vacation with her family, laying in the sand and listening to her walkman. Her little brother was splashing in the water and her parents were off somewhere beachcombing. She had better things to do, like listen to her new cassette and try to get a tan. That was when she suddenly got a face full of sand and sat up, spluttering as she pulled her headphones off.

“What the hell are you-…you…”

She trailed off, lowering her shades as she looked at the short haired girl standing sheepishly in front of her. There was a frisbee laying in the sand between them. The brunette was tall and lithe, with a wry little smile on her face as she reached for the errant frisbee.

“Sorry. I missed the catch.”

Lily brushed her hair back out of her face and hoped she wasn’t blushing.

“It’s okay. Really.”

The girl with the frisbee looked Lily over and then held the disc out.

“Want to join us? I’m Charlie.”

Hesitation. Lily was unsure. She wanted to. She wanted to so badly. Then she tucked her walkman into her bag and reached for the frisbee.

“Sure. I’m Lily.”


Despite the darkness, the air hadn’t cooled off at all. It was sticky hot and Lily leaned out the window of the summer cottage, watching the stars and wishing for a breeze. Then she heard something small skip off the roof just in front of her and looked. Charlie stood below, her hand holding another small stone. She grinned, letting it fall back to the ground as she waved. Lily chewed her lower lip. The rest of her family would be asleep downstairs. Only she had the attic. She beckoned and Charlie reached for the low porch roof, pulling herself up. She crawled across the roof with care until Lily reached to help her through the window and they met with a kiss like the crashing waves against the shore.


The photograph was taped up on the mirror in Lily’s new dorm room when the semester began. Two girls side by side on the pier, laughing and smiling. Written across the bottom was the date in stark black marker: summer, 1984,

A Stitch in Time

Emma sat by the fire and did her mending. She was, to the minds of the three British Regulars currently being served ale by her father, quite occupied with all of her mind focused on the task at hand. After all, with her hands full, wouldn’t her mind be as well? And what harm could an unmarried girl of 16 do anyway?

“So, it’s agreed then? We’ll march on this so-called continental army one week hence?”

Emma set her next stitch carefully and paused to change to her other needle, one already threaded with a different color thread.

“Quite agreed. And then we’ll have done with this nonsense.”

A herringbone stitch, held down with two running stitches, and then it was back to the primary color. Soon enough, the seam repair would be done. Perhaps before these men had finished their drink. And she’d be off with her basket to deliver it to the patriot washerwoman who would know what laundry to fly to signal her message. There, it would be picked up by one of the young men of the colony who knew the meaning in the hanging of 2 black aprons side by side. The message would get to General Washington. Emma let a little smile come to her face, glowing with very real pride in her work. Let the Regulars think it was pride in stitchery, only she would know her true worth.

My Angel

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.

Spanner in the Gardens – Part 3

It was the middle of the night and she woke to the sound of something shattering and a scream. She nearly fell out of her bed, the blankets twisted around her in her mad scramble to get to the door of the workshop. She touched the door, laying her palm flat on the wood. It was cool to the touch, despite the smoke coming from around the edges of the door.

“Evandrus?”

She could hear him coughing and drew up her courage, pulling the door open. He was on his hands and knees in front of his burning workbench. There was blood all over his shirt, what was left of it. Quickly, Dorothea moved to help him back and to douse the flames before they could spread. Then she had to turn and see him, see what this explosion had done to him. His chest and arms were burned, but not too badly. He’d thrown his arms over his face before the blast could reach him, but she knew from long experience that the wounds on arms and chest would scar. She hesitated with her fingers mere centimeters from his bare flesh. Then she overcame her uncertainties. He had to be helped and she was the one here to do it. His expression was pained but there was trust in his eyes as he looked at her.

“Evandrus, what were you doing?”

“I…I slipped. The wrong vial.”

He coughed and she brushed his hair back out of his face, quietly soothing him.

“Lay still. I’ll get something for these.” She hesitated again, the adrenaline leaving her system and being replaced with something entirely other. Fear and relief, mirroring each other in their extremes. He would be alright, he would live. But this could have been so very much worse. And she knew something else now. She no longer wished for him to deny the whims of his heart, for she shared the same desires as he. As she reached down the jar of salve, her hands were shaking. She had very nearly lost him tonight, and it was in this moment that Dorothea truly realized just how much she loved Evandrus.

The Ship of Dreams

“I will arrive by week’s end, my love. Wait for me at the White Star Dock and together we will have the someday I have promised you for so long.”
Those had been the words Harry had written Clara in the last letter before he took to sea. Now, she held that letter before her as she stitched shirt sleeves with the other young women chatting around her.
“News from home, Clarrie?”
She smiled up at the older woman. Erin was a kindly grandmother of a woman with curly hair that had once been as red as Clara’s was blonde.
“From my fiancé. Harry’s coming over on a ship this very week.”
There was a chorus of excitement all about the factory, one which was quickly silenced as they heard the door from the offices opening. It wouldn’t do to be seen lazing. Even if they were doing no such thing. Clara’s sewing needle darted in and out of the cloth she was stitching as she imagined seeing Harry again for the first time in nearly a year. They could finally marry, finally start a family and finally have the life they’d been dreaming about for so long.
As Clara tidied up her station, Erin waited patiently. It was a custom of theirs for Clara to walk the older woman to her lodgings before headed home herself.
“So, tell me, Miss Clara. Is he coming on that fine ship of dreams everyone’s been talking about in the papers?”
Clara absolutely beamed, her smile threatening to split her cheeks.
“He is! I’m just so excited, Erin.”
Placing her hat on her head, Clara turned that smile on Erin.
“Any day now.”
Erin offered her young friend a smile of her own, then concern flickered onto her face.
“Will you be leaving us?”
As they walked to the door, Clara waved that concern off.
“Not right away. Someday, certainly, when we’ve a mind to start a family. But we’ll need the money I make until Harry’s all settled in.”

The sound that woke Harry O’Dell was like nothing he’d ever heard before. It was metal shearing metal, like the very walls of the ship were being rent by some giant with a knife. He leapt out of his narrow cot and was in the hallway in naught but trousers in a moment. There were others there as well, women holding crying children, even some of the ship’s crew looking just as lost as the rest of them.
“What’s going on?” He grabbed one of the crewmen as he passed. “What happened?”
The man looked at Harry, taking in his red hair and freckled face before shaking him off.
“Nothing. It was nothing. Go back to bed.”
The man continued on down the corridor, moving briskly and leaving Harry in his dust. Resigned, Harry turned back to his room to help the young mother bunked in with him calm her two young children.
When the water began to enter the compartment, Harry knew they had been lied to. Whatever had happened was far from nothing.

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Titanic sinks! Massive loss of life!”
Clara stopped dead in her tracks, slowly turning to look at the young newsie standing on the side of the road.
“Wh-what did you just say?”
“The ship, Ma’am, it sunk. Hit a big old iceberg, it did.”
She was shaking as she held her hand out.
“How much for the paper?”
“A penny, Ma’am.”
He held out his hand and she gave him one of her precious pennies, taking the paper. Slumped against a nearby building, she began to read. In the dark hours long before dawn. A great loss of life. Mainly women and children among the survivors. Harry, oh Harry.

Hot, silent tears streamed from her eyes and Clara’s grip on the too fragile newsprint tightening until it tore. She stared for a long moment at the shredded yellow paper in her hands. It didn’t matter now. It didn’t matter how much they had both saved and scrimped and scanted. There was no future for Clara and Harry, no future in which she was Mrs. O’Dell. All the happy dreams of a home together and a little crop of children under foot were as sunk as the vessel that had called itself the Ship of Dreams.

The paper fell from Clara’s fingers as she walked towards Pier 54 where the ship would have come in. There was already a crowd when she arrived, but she paid them no attention. She stood nearby, as close as she could get, and stared out at the water. It wasn’t the ocean, not here, not really. But she wondered, as she stared into the water, if God would bring her to Harry if she jumped in anyway. The thought nearly slapped her in the face when she realized why she had come here, what she was contemplating. Then she thought of the life ahead of her, so far from the land of her birth and her family and now without her Harry O’Dell. There were tears in her eyes as she stepped off into the air.

Spirits

The little boy ran down the street, bare feet slapping loudly on the dirt road. He was laughing and smiling, with a wooden toy sword clutched tightly in one hand. There was to be a Triumph today for the returning legionnaires. He was especially excited because the armored man Mama couldn’t see had said that his father had brought home a surprise for them. The armored man was following after him, passing through the crowd without hesitation.
“Cato, slow. You don’t want to run into someone.”
The boy slowed with a sigh and waited for the man to catch up.
“But I want to see. I heard there were elephants and everything.”
“You’ll see soon enough.”
Cato smiled brightly up at the armored man as they walked through the crowd and began to notice. No one else could see the man he spoke to, no one but one of the legionnaires returning home from far Germania. Marcellus smiled when he saw the family Lare standing with his son and his eyes widened when he realized that young Cato could see the spirit as well. If it was coming on him this young, then perhaps, just perhaps, there was a bright future ahead for Cato in the service of the gods. They hadn’t caught it young enough for Marcellus, but they had for Cato, and he would have all the chances he needed to succeed.