Fiction,  Issue 1

Falling Through Time by Kim Michelle Ross

I’ve read stories about characters falling through time, but I’ve never known if anyone had actually experienced it before, at least not until it happened to me.

You may, of course, choose to disbelieve me and even conclude I was hallucinating. Heck, I’m aware of the difficulties one faces just getting from A to B, let alone accepting time travel was possible. I was of the belief that time-hopping would need, at the very least, a time machine, perhaps the proximity of an ancient mystical object, or a standing stone circle, and maybe even a hot-tub. Yet none of these devices were around when I took an unexpected journey to another time.

 I was at home in front of my computer agonizing over the family budget and overdue notices. Half an hour earlier my soon to be ex-husband had dropped the kids off and they were in the lounge room. There was an almighty storm brewing outside, and within minutes it’d become a full-on maelstrom, complete with lighting en masse. The television was also blaring and the phone started ringing.

“Hey,” I yelled out, “can someone please get that?” Sure, I could’ve gotten it if I ran, but I was in another part of the house and the phone was in the same room as the kids. I counted fifteen rings before it stopped, then almost immediately it started up again. 

“Bloody typical,” I huffed, then I shouted. “Oi, am I the only one capable of answering the phones in this house? Hello, are your legs broke? If it stops before I get to it there’ll be —” and somehow I fell through time.  

Come to think of it, the kids were watching the movie The Black Knight. It was an odd coincidence, that the reimagined Mark Twain yarn about an ordinary man from modern-day USA going back in time to the Middle Ages, just happened to be playing when I was also flung into the past. Weird. Though, unlike Mark Twain’s original Yankee, I wasn’t suffering from a head injury. Unlike the case of Martin Lawrence’s character, there was no mysterious glowing amulet in a moat to transport me anywhere. In fact, the whereabouts of my actual location were pretty much mundane. 

If I had to imagine it I suppose my entire body must have been sucked into a tiny wormhole or perhaps hurtled through a vortex, but I saw nothing. No flashing lights, no slip-stream effects or the slightest sensation of being drawn through anything. I really wish I could say I saw the corridors of time and sensed its fabric tearing as I was transported from my nice comfy Australian suburban home and into the vastness of an unknown space. 

Bit of a let-down really. Although, I do remember a split-second flash that I assumed was the lightning outside. So, here’s how it went down: a momentary flash, one moment of total blackness and whoosh, without a by-your-leave — thud, and I landed, none too gently, on my bum in a dark, rank dungeon. The stench was overwhelming — far worse than a bucket-load of pooey nappies.  

My long dark hair was hanging over my face so I dragged my fingers through it before realizing my hands were wet from who knows what and almost jumped out of my skin when I heard a man speak. “My lady?” 

The baritone voice echoed from out of a darkened corner. 

“Who’s there?” I asked, fearful of who it might be

After my sight adjusted I saw a man in dark clothing sitting with his back against the wall. He seemed as dumbstruck as I was. Filthy straw lay scattered about the damp stone floor. Half a dozen or so thick metal rings with lengths of heavy chains with manacles on the ends hung from either side of the tessellated cell walls. Stagnating puddles filled the pocketed crevices between each flagstone — ewh, I was sitting in one. I’d not only raked wet muck over myself but it was also seeping through my jeans and cottontail undies. 

I jumped up and tried to rub my butt dry.

“Lady Gwendolyn … how didst thou come to be spirited within here? … Forgive me.” He stood. Bowed. He moved closer but then I saw his wrists were shackled. “Thou,” he gasped, “seemst to have appeared from nothing … Art thou true, or a demon summoned to torment me …?”

“No, I’m not a demon and I’m also not Gwendolyn, but strangely that happens to be my Granny’s name. I’m sorry, who do you think I am?” 

The man moved cautiously toward me, in so much as the lengths of his chains would allow.

“Milady, without doubt thou bearest an uncanny resemblance to my intended bride, Lady Gwendolyn de Marmot — Prithee, the evil of the wizard knows no bounds — he hath bewitched thee or mayhap, I am once again bewitched. The ring— my lady, didst thou recover it from the wizard?” 

His speech was a muddle of information that I failed to understand till his words sunk in and my eyes were drawn to my Granny’s ring, an emerald oval cut stone set in antique filigree yellow gold. For the last two years I’d been wearing it on the middle finger of my right hand, though I’d inherited it from my mother a few years back. It seemed an odd way of inheriting jewelry. My grandmother was still alive and she’d given it to my mother, Deidre, her daughter-in-law. In that moment something else occurred to me. Since I started wearing the ring my life had become a complete mess. First, I lost both of my parents in a tragic house fire. Soon afterward, my marriage broke down, then I was made redundant from my job as a substitute art teacher, which sucked. Even with my soon-to-be-ex paying most of the bills, without a steady income my finances were in dire straits.  

“My lady, I saw the wizard take the ring from thee and place it on the smallest finger of his left hand.”

“Oh, man, I don’t know how I got into a messed-up Tolkienite world. Evil wizard — seriously? You make it sound as if some Dark Lord Sauron equivalent showed-up and overthrew everything using my Granny’s ring. Puts a whole new spin on one ring ruling the world ploy.” 

The man had taken his time to reach my side, after all he was in chains, and I was babbling, make that talking total rubbish; I was probably adding to his confusion. When he was at last standing before me, I made a quick study, and if my art history served me correctly, from the style of his clothing he was a medieval nobleman. If I was to hazard a guess, maybe anywhere between the late twelfth to early thirteenth century. It was a bit difficult to tell: the richness of his clothing had been ruined from being in a filth-ridden dungeon. He was tall too, and well-built. I could almost imagine it was from wielding a sword, or two, and I estimated he could’ve been anywhere in his mid-thirties to mid-forties. 

He suddenly knelt. I caught a glimpse of his aquiline nose just before he bowed his head, and regardless of his filthy state I think he was quite handsome. Though for some unknown reason I experienced a sense of déjà vu, as if I knew him — or it was from the familiarity of the scene — and it was blowing my mind. Then as if on cue beams of moonlight shone through a window no bigger than a slit and he gazed up at me — wow — not only tall, dark and handsome but he was a smoking-hot-guy. 

He straightened and in the subdued light his quicksilver-blue eyes were like pure pools of molten sex. Yeah, truly. He gave me a smoldering come-hither look, and by all accounts, my first. My insides turned to mush and for the first time in yonks I was blushing from head to toe, but in this light, I was sure he wouldn’t have notice my burnishing cheeks. 

“Aye, indeed sweet lady, he used the ring. Though, pray I do not know this Granny of whom ye speak. Yet, my lady, how didst thou recover the ring from the wizard?”

I tried with all my might to comprehend what had befallen me, then the freakiest thing happened — yeah, as if nothing that’d gone before wasn’t weird enough; a stream of moonlight hit Granny’s ring. It sparked. Tiny bolts of lightning radiated from its center and zapped the metal cuffs. They glowed red and simply disintegrated. 

Whoa,” I cried. “What the feck just happened? Did you get burned?”

“Nay, I am unharmed,” he said, grasping my shoulders and gazing tenderly into my eyes. “I believe the wizard’s power hath by chance transcended unto the ring, or perhaps it is the ring that grants him magical powers? Mon dieu, I can hardly believe thou art not my intended bride for thy face be so like hers …” 

As I stared up into his gorgeous face I realized his arms were enfolding me fast. Though his embrace was quite chaste, it felt good to be held. At that moment I would’ve put my entire wellbeing into this stranger’s safekeeping. But then my senses started reeling, and under normal circumstances I probably might’ve succumbed to the tenderness of his arms, but a putrid stench wafted off his silken brocade tunic. I started to gag.  

“My lady, what ails thee?” 

“It’s not personal,” I gasped, pushing him an arm’s length away. “Could you please take a really huge step back from me?”

“Forgive me,” he added, seeming dejected. “’Twas wrong of me to take liberties without asking thy permission.”

“No-no-no. Forgive me, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, it’s just … well, I’m sorry, but you kinda reek.”

“Prithee, my lady, I am not offended. Indeed, both Sir Geoffrey and I have been locked down here for some time,” — his sights darted to the opposite side of the cell, he gasped — “Geoffrey — Geoffrey… By God’s Bones, he’s vanished …” He was getting worked up. “My lady, I swear, he was chained to the wall where you now stand.”  

My brain was doing back flips. Had he lost the plot? Though, my mind was having a brain-spaz and failed to notice any other presence. 

“I’m sorry I didn’t see your friend,” I began, and right then I had an epiphany. “I wonder … what if your friend has somehow exchanged places with me — to keep some sort of universal balance. Physics 101: for every action there is a reaction. Oh, and there’s something else I forgot, it was rude of me not to ask your name.” 

“I am Alard de la Croix, knight and Baron of Buckstone,” he said, and bowed. “Pray, sweet lady, forgive my mistaking thee for another. I now realize thou art not Gwendolyn de Marmot. Tell me, what be thy name?”

“It be,” I giggled, getting into the anachronistic spirit, “Rachel Cross nee Kingston, and I’m pleased to meet you too, kind sir.” 

I tried to curtsy but I couldn’t quite pull it off in muddy joggers, wet bottomed denim jeans and a clinging long-sleeve tee-shirt trapped beneath a damp woolen cardigan. Instead, I held out my hand. Alard was hesitant and then took my offered hand and bowed over it. His warm lips gently grazed across my knuckles. 

“Aye,” he whispered, “Cross and Kingston, these names be not unknown to me.” At once I had no doubt my surnames, both married and maiden, had somewhat rattled him. “I also see, my lady, thou art dressed and dost speak in uncommonly strange ways that are most foreign unto me.”  

Alard still held onto my right hand when my left hand brushed against the pocket of my jeans I felt my iPhone. Unthinking, I dug it out. It didn’t appear to be damaged from my unexpected splash landing and the screen automatically lit up, maybe because the air felt electrically charged. I saw Alard glaring at the screensaver. 

Mon dieu, ’tis not unlike the wizard’s magic framed slate, but smaller.”

“You’ve seen something like this before?”

“Aye, I first laid eyes to such a magical object the day the wizard appeared from out of thin air. I was meeting my bride-to-be for the first time here in the Great Hall of Buckstone Castle. My Lady Gwendolyn and her brother, Sir Geoffrey, had not long arrived. There came an almighty clash of thunder that was soon followed by a flash of light, and the wizard stood before us holding his conjuring box. Before I could draw my sword, he’d snatched the ring from my lady’s finger and placed it ’pon his own. I summoned the guards but then my lady vanished and Geoffrey and I were magically spirited here and chained to the walls of this cell to reside indefinitely in mine own dungeons.”  

“You’re the lord of this castle. Do you know what’s become of your household? Surely, there’s a garrison or at least a few vassals hanging about?”

“The wizard imprisoned my men-at-arms and dispersed my servants. He has somehow convinced my vassals that he is entitled to take control of my estates. He behaves as though he has a God-given right to my property.”

“And what indeed has become of Gwendolyn and Geoffrey de Marmot?”

“Alas, I know not what has befallen either of them … I pray my lady be safe and as for Geoffrey …?”

“I’m not saying I know what became of them, but,” I cautiously said, “I have a suspicion I might know the de Marmots’ true identities.” I unlocked my phone, not that I was expecting to have any service, but I didn’t need Wi-Fi to view my personal photos. I scanned through the gallery till I found a picture of my Granny. 

“Please, don’t freak out, and just look at this,” I said, as I showed it to the handsome knight. 

He stared at Granny’s picture. Beads of sweat covered his brow. His breathing became irregular — it sounded as if he was about to have an asthma attack. 

“Do you recognize her?”

“Aye, ’tis Gwendolyn only so much older. How can this be? I do not understand…” He was staring at me with puppy-dog eyes welling with unshed tears. It was heartbreaking. 

“I am sorry, Alard, but I need you to look at another picture.” I gently squeezed his hand then my finger rolled through the screen till I found a picture of my Grandad. By another odd coincidence his name also happens to be Geoff.     

“Indeed, Rachel Cross nee Kingston, thy magic be as powerful as the wizard’s. This be a much older likeness of my new comrade, Geoffrey de Marmot, Baron of Kingston Borough.”

Needless to say, I was flabbergasted as I absorbed that snippet of info. It was incredible coming to terms with the fact that my grandparents might have originated from medieval times, or that they were avid time travelers. Come to think of it my Grandad was a retired quantum physicist and Gran a mathematician. Funny, I once harbored an idea that my grandparents might’ve been aliens; I was five at the time. But, whoa, the thought of them being actual Timelords was mind blowing — yet, how cool would it be if they were? 

Then reality set in. Grandad was always pottering about in his shed and Granny often said I was to never go inside while he was working. What could my Grandad have been working on in his oversized air-conditioned man-shed? Could it be that my grandparents truly unraveled the mysteries of time? If so, then how did I come to be here? Worse, what if I was stuck here forever! And though I was safe in the presence of a wonderful caring man, nothing else mattered unless I could get home to my children.

I was beginning to feel quite hot. “Alard, is it hot in here or is it just me?”

“Sweet lady, Rachel, it is indeed a warm summer’s eve.”

“Of course, it’s summer here, like doh, and I’m dressed for a freezing midwinter Aussie afternoon.” 

Scuffling noises, coupled with the sounds of jangling keys, echoed outside the door. I was taken-aback when the wicket gate of the dungeon door opened and a pair of beady eyes peered through the tiny grille. The lock mechanism slowly turned. But it scared the shit out of me when the door swung open. The silhouette of a tall, slightly built man stood commandingly in the doorway wearing a long decorative tunic and a fur trimmed cloak.  

“Well, well, well, what or should I say, who have we got here?” the stranger scoffed, in a toffy-British accent. “Is that little Rachel Kingston all grown up? Yes, indeed I believe it is. I must say you’re the damned spitting image of Gweny. Without doubt I think there’s been some subterfuge afoot here … I wonder how Gweny and dear old Geoff manage to bring you here…? I suspect it’s to keep me occupied while they’re off fixing whatever they think I’ve changed — but, I can’t fathom why they’d drag you into this, not since I — ah, mm …? Perhaps, it wasn’t them,”— he quickly looked at the ring — “Mm, how very interesting.”

He chuckled to himself as he stepped further into the cell and the moonlight revealed his features. He appeared aristocratic in a Nordic kind of way. His face was gaunt, visibly tanned but relatively unlined and he had a head full of thick white shoulder-length hair. He could’ve been anywhere from thirty to fifty. His eyes were of the palest blue and his cold stare was so piercing it seemed to cut me to my very core. I didn’t recognize him, although something about him was twigging in the recesses of my mind, I just didn’t know why. But he was scaring the living daylights out of me! 

“Wizard,” Alard hissed, squaring his shoulders and glaring fiercely into the guy’s face while Alard shielded me and put me behind him. I was wondering how this wizard knew me and my grandparents. I stepped backwards, and my foot faltered. I had no idea how but I lost my balance, and again I landed bum-first in another stinky puddle. Grrr! Then I felt a couple of uneven flagstones directly beneath my left butt-cheek and knew that was the cause; I hoped it was only stagnant rainwater I was sitting in.

The stranger looked down at me, and I saw his hand stretching toward me, and that’s when I noticed the ring on his pinkie finger. It was exactly like my Granny’s. Instinct took over and I quickly turned my ring so the stone was hidden within my clenched palm. My mind sorted through my own confusing thoughts as I wondered if there were two rings or perhaps it was a time paradox, or maybe there was simply two rings; I was going to drive myself crazy if I didn’t stop thinking. But mostly, my thoughts lingered on my wet behind; worst case scenario: it wasn’t rainwater but, to put it nicely, the dregs from a chamber pot. 

As the wizard’s hand came closer, my knight in shining armor, actually make that smelly dirt encrusted garb, cried out. “Get thee back, Wizard!” As Alard pushed the wizard’s hand away, I realized the wizard was most likely offering to help me up. But, then again, he had an eerie glint about his untrustworthy eyes. 

“By God’s Bones, Wizard,” Alard said through his tensed lips, “I swear I shall kill thee. Nary harm her as well. Tell me where have ye taken my bride.”

 I was sure he meant business, and even in the dim dungeon I could see Alard’s tightly clenched fists and whitened knuckles. Meanwhile, the evil-dude’s eyes narrowed and he looked down his nose at both of us. I thought they were on the brink of fighting and I hoped Alard would punch the guy’s lights out. I also hoped it’d be a chance to escape the rank cell. But, instead of rising to the bait, the baddie folded his arms and seemed thoroughly amused.   

“Come now, de la Croix, did you truly believe I’d try to undertake a round of fisticuffs with you? You must take me for a complete dunderhead,” and he laughed. 

Alard grasped my hands and drew me up. Sadly, my jeans were a lost cause.  

“Wizard, I know not the meaning of thy word. Undoubtedly ’tis meant to be an insult ’pon my being.” 

“Oh, bright one this, isn’t he Rachel?” 

“Hey, man, I don’t know you,” I snapped. “And, I don’t like your familiarity either — hang-on, dunderhead, fisticuffs — those words are not part of the medieval vernacular. Where do you really come from?” 

His mouth became a straight line. He glared at me and shifted his cloak, and I saw an inside pocket within the lining and poking out of it I could make out the top of a portable tablet. Something inside me snapped. I lunged for the ring on his little finger but as my right palm glanced across the emerald on his finger all hell broke loose. There was a flash. My hand was tingling as though I’d gotten a slight electric shock and I sensed myself falling forward. The next thing I knew I was standing in the middle of my lounge room. 

My children, Greg, aged ten, and Anna twelve, were gobsmacked. 

“Mom?” Anna said, scrunching up her face. “You really stink – like, have you been rolling about in pond scum?” 

“Nah,” Greg added, holding his nose, “smells like dog poo.” 

“Ewh, gross, Greg. Mom, what happened?”

I must’ve been a sight and depending on how engrossed they’d been in the movie that was still at the beginning, I wondered if they’d even registered I’d simply appeared from nowhere. The phone began to ring again just as I gazed down at my own dishevelment. I had no words of explanation to offer so I started rambling about getting the dog out of the storm, then the ringing stopped.

“Oh,” Anna said, “Sorry, Mom, I couldn’t get the phone ’cuz the second the lightning started Crash got spooked, so I got him inside.” Crash is our overactive Labrador. “I’ve fed him and he’s snuggled up with his squeaky toy in the laundry.”

“Thanks, sweetheart. Right. Good. Umm, now maybe I should shower and change before I start dinner —” and for the umpteenth time the phone started ringing. “Argh, there it goes again,” and as I picked up the receiver my hand was still tingling and I spotted a burn on my palm. But that wasn’t all, I was further shocked to see my wedding rings reappear as if by magic. What The F…? “Hello…?” I almost whimpered into the mouthpiece.

“Hey, darling. I’ve called a couple of times, I was starting to get worried you and the kids might’ve gotten caught in the terrible weather.”

I gasped, recognizing Alard’s voice. “Alard?” — my addled brain just couldn’t comprehend how Alard de la Croix was talking to me on the other end of the phone. 

“What? Rach, it’s Alan, your husband. Who’s this other guy?”

“No-no-no, I meant to say, Alan — never mind, I was miles away.”

Dad,” Anna yelled, “Mum’s covered in mud.”

I reckon it’s dog crap,” Greg called out in a louder voice. 

“Mud, dog crap, yep, sweetie, really looking forward to hearing all about it when I get home,” he laughed. “So, luv, what’s been going on?” 

What’s been going on— I had no bloody idea! And in hindsight when I was in the dungeon I’d felt an odd sense of familiarity yet failed to see any similarities between Alard and my ex or maybe not so ex-husband Alan James Cross, an expat Brit from Buxton, Derbyshire. Right now, I couldn’t tell the difference between either of them.  

But it occurred to me that perhaps my little time trek had altered the space time continuum. In a matter of seconds my brain was flooded with new memories. I saw Alan’s face clearly and it was the same face as Alard de la Croix’s. Alan and I were as happy as we’d always been and there’d never been any bizarre distances and no impending divorce. I also wasn’t plagued with money troubles. However, I could also remember the bad times, the marriage breakdown and our unforeseeable misfortunes. But there was something else, my recollections of the first time I’d met Alan seemed somewhat blurred. The only thing that hadn’t changed was that I still wore Granny’s emerald ring.   

“The rain was getting pretty bad,” I began. “Not exactly sure how to explain what’s been happening.”

“Darling, I just called to say don’t cook dinner, I’ll bring pizzas home and what would you say to a nice bottle of wine?”

“Oh, Alan, right about now, I’d say wine sounds bloody awesome! Alan,” I whispered, and in that instance the love I’d pushed deep-down inside reemerged and overwhelmed me. “I’ve really missed you,” and my tears were welling. 

“What, since this morning? Not that I’m complaining but I’m glad it’s Friday. Hey, when I get home I’ll light the fireplace and after the kids are in bed we can cuddle up in front of it and drink the wine. I’ll also pick up a cheese platter on my way home.”

“Might be something good on Netflix too…”

“Yeah, wine, cheese and chilling with Netflix. How about we get a sitter or ask your Granny to watch the kids tomorrow night and we’ll have a night out?”

“I’d love to.”

“Great! It’s a date. About the wine, you’re gonna flip when you see this bottle I found today — it’s a French Bordeaux called, Kingston de la Cross,” — then it happened again. 

A flash. A slight sense of falling and I again landed with a thud, only this time instead of a nasty old dungeon I was in a beautiful medieval bedchamber. 

“Rachel,” said a familiar female voice. I turned and saw my Granny sitting on a large four-posted canopy bed and wearing a lovely twelfth-century blue silk bliaut. The gown was fitted to her torso by side lacing, with a girdle wrapped twice around her slim body, and it was decorated by exquisite embroidery. Her hair was braided and woven with silk bands. Yet, I was doubly shocked because it was like gazing into a mirror; Granny was about the same age as me. “Sweetheart, I can explain everything that’s been happening between you and Alan, and Alard too.” 

“Alard too…? I’m confused enough already without you bringing some new hot-guy into the frame — I mean, my brain is having trouble distinguishing Alan from Alard — and now you tell me there’s a connection. How? What’s going on, Gran?”

“Sweetie,” Granny said. She got up and was by my side in a few seconds. She took my hand and led me back to the bed. We sat. “Now, deep breath, Rach, ’cuz you’re in for a wild ride.”

“Gran, I’ve already taken three today,” I said, and as I gazed into my grandmother’s steady eyes my jaded nerves began to calm. “Gran, I just need to know what’s happening.”

“Time travel is real. Your Grandad and I discovered how it could be done.”

“I can’t believe I’m about to ask this. How do you gad around in time? Is it in something like a Tardis or is it similar to H.G Wells’s time machine?”

“I suppose it has similar features to a few fictitious ones. It dematerializes matter and transports it through the spaces in between dimensions and can go anywhere and to anytime in the world. When we first constructed our time machine, we utilized Einstein’s time dilation equation and we combined a mechanism that runs on high grade carbon crystals and nuclear fusion. It also doesn’t look anything like a DeLorean.”

“Now I’m just disappointed. I suppose there’s no such thing as a flux capacitor either?”

“No, darling,” Gran giggled. “The first one we made looked a bit like a clunky sixties-space-age two-seater rocket, but over the years we’ve streamlined the design so it’s more like a stylish crystalline capsule.”

“But, that doesn’t explain how I’ve been moving through time?”

“It was due to the ring. The stone is in fact not a mere emerald but it’s been overlaid with a diamond, plus there’s also a homing device embedded at the center of the stone. See, we encased the emerald with diamond for its superlative physical qualities, and its strong covalent bonding between its atoms. It has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material. I suppose Rufus’s time mechanisms must have picked up the signal from the ring and homed in and then ‘zap’ you fall through time without the need of any means and can reappear near his time apparatus.”

“Rufus? So, who is this Rufus?”

“Rufus Devereaux. He’s the man Alard calls ‘The Wizard’. He’s also an ex-colleague of Geoff’s, an undergraduate student who became your Grandad’s assistant when he was temporarily attached to the Australian Academy of Science.”

“The one in Canberra next to the Shine Dome?” Gran nodded. “So, this Rufus also knows the ins and outs of time travel.”

“Yes, but it’s only because Rufus stole your Grandad’s notes and he’s brilliant enough to have figured it out. He also learned he’s a descendant of Alard de la Croix on his mother’s side, the Devereauxs. The Devereaux line was disinherited over some scandal and the family became destitute. But, here’s the clencher, if he disinherits Alard’s line then his side will inherit a large fortune along with this vast country estate and a vineyard in Bordeaux. In fact, this grand old estate was converted into a vineyard in the late nineteenth century.”

“Crikey. That’s why Alan was rapt about finding a wine named Kingston de la Croix, and I’ve just realized de la Croix means ‘of the cross’ and Alard is Baron of Buckstone — Buckstone is Buxton — and that’s where Alan was born.” 

“Don’t underestimate Rufus, he’s devious and a nasty piece of work, Rach. Your Grandad had him arrested the moment he discovered Rufus was pinching industrial science secrets and selling them off to the highest bidder. He was deported from Australia and imprisoned in England for a few years. Then ten years later he turned up on our doorstep. It was just after your grandfather retired. It didn’t take us long to realize he’s prepared to go to any lengths to get whatever he wants. 

“He’s been messing with your timeline so that you and Alan wouldn’t meet or have children. If Alan never marries or has kids then his work is done. Though he didn’t realize your Grandad and I could rectify most of his meddling. You wouldn’t have been aware of how close he came to succeeding. But while we were fixing his changes he created an alternate timeline where you broke up, yet no matter what he did he just couldn’t prevent you two from meeting.” 

“Bastard! Is it odd that I can’t seem to recall how and when I met Alan?”

“No, I’m not surprised at all. Your memories will remain sketchy until we can stabilize the timeline. Yet, in recent times Rufus has adopted more ruthless methods. Five years ago, when your house was being renovated … you stayed with Henry and Diedre, and there was a terrible fire …”

“We lost Mom and Dad,” I whispered, the horrid memories and the fear of getting the kids out of the house before the flames engulfed us still haunts me to this day. 

“Rufus caused the electrical fault. Instead of killing Alan, you and the kids he’s responsible for the deaths of my son Harry and your Mom; Deidre was such a lovely girl. But,” Granny took a deep breath, “you’re Grandad’s gone back to ensure the fire doesn’t happen, as well as making other adjustments, so it could be a while before he can join us.”

“This Rufus is not just a nasty bastard but a murdering asshole — how soon will we know — what the …?” my words trailed off. New memories were filling my head and Granny’s emerald ring simply faded away before my eyes. “The ring’s gone! And yet, I still remember the fire but it’s also as if it never happened either.”

“Gawd, I hope that means the ring is back with Deidre, which is a good thing, but it also leaves us in a bit of a pickle, Rach,” Gran stood. “come on, sweetie, follow me.”

Gran hurried to the bedroom door, opened it and peered along the corridor. “Right, coast is clear. Rach, it’s time we get the ring from Rufus so you can go back to where you’re supposed to be.”

We stepped into the hallway and almost tip-toed down the entire length of the hall then stopped as we reached a spiraling stone stairwell. Gran checked it out before she beckoned me to follow. 

When we were halfway down Gran whispered, “The most pressing problem we have is to deal with Rufus’s current plan. If we fail to stop him then whatever your Grandad and I have done will be for nothing. Since Rufus has the ring it’ll give him the ability to change our lives and we won’t be aware of it. Plus, the ring can help us to locate his machine. We must destroy it so he can’t time travel again.”

“But even if we do he’ll still have the knowledge and start all over again.”

“Not if he’s unable to do so, like we make sure he never finds Geoff’s blueprints or we become as ruthless as him and strand Rufus in a primitive time where he’ll never find the resources to build a new machine. You see, the alternate timeline, the one we’re now in, Alard was to meet his future bride in Kingston Borough, but Geoff and I waylaid him and stood in for the real de Marmots.”

“What about the Kingston connection — does that mean our branch is somehow related to Alard’s too?”

“No. A mere coincidence, as it happens. Our plan was to remove Alard from Rufus’s murderous clutches and send him onto Kingston Borough to be with the real Gwendolyn de Marmot. If we’d been an hour or two earlier we might have succeeded, but Rufus turned up and you know the rest.”

“And, with Alard locked up and left to starve in a dungeon, that means certain death. No marriage and no offspring. But, Gran, what’s that got to do with me and Alan?”

“Everything.”

We’d come to the bottom of the stairwell and were gazing into the castle’s Great Hall. Gran took another look about before she signaled, “This way, Rach.” She pointed toward another arched stairwell that led to another level underneath the hall.

“Gran,” I whispered as we headed through the arch and down the steps, “what do you mean by ‘everything’?’

“Rachel, it’s because Rufus is Alan’s second cousin but the slimly-little-limey is terrified of a Devereaux family scandal. Should it be known he hasn’t a hope in hell of making a claim to Alan’s future inheritance.”  

“I can’t believe my Alan and this Rufus could even be related.”

“In a few months your husband will be named the sole benefactor in his Great-Uncle Donald Cross’s will. Sadly, Rufus is the only other living relative. Rufus’s secret is that he was born six months after his parents were married. I suspect Donald did the math and realized his nephew had only been acquainted with his bride six weeks before they’d eloped.  

“Rufus isn’t a true blood relation but legally he’s still Alan’s distant cousin and if anything happens to Alan, then Rufus gets everything. His plan is to disrupt the time space continuum and dissolve Alard’s line completely, and if he does, Alan won’t be born so you could never meet and have his children.”

“That explains some of what’s happened. But, Gran how is it that you’re young again?”

“Another of Rufus’s mishaps. We pinpointed the origin of his first changes and during our time correcting Rufus ran interference. He intercepted us en route to our present time so upon our return we were thrown back to the very moment we took our first trip some thirty-five years ago. That was also the day you saw Rufus. You were five. You must have seen something ’cuz you asked me if we were aliens or something. I thought it was because you’d been watching ‘Dr Who’ until I suspected you must’ve seen two versions of us: one younger and our older selves.”

“I often wondered why I thought that. It kinda explains why you look about thirty or thirty-five now.”

“Ah, Rufus has made so many adjustments to our lives and numerous alternate timelines that he’s created a parallel line that slingshot our younger selves to exist alongside our older selves.”

“But-but, in most time traveling stories if you come face-to-face with versions of yourself doesn’t that create a paradox and you’d cease to exist? Or what about the chaos theory or the universe exploding, or something?”

“No, not really. And, oddly, we keep each other abreast on Rufus’s movements, which is how we can quickly intercept his changes. If we stop Rufus everything will revert back to normal with the exception of a momentary dreamlike sensation that’d have you questioning what was real or if you’d dreamed it.”  

“Granny, let’s free Alard from the dungeon. Hang on, but Rufus has the ring he took from you.”    

“We’ll figure that out after we get to Alard, find the keys to the dungeon and unchain him from the wall.”

“I don’t know what kind of hocus pocus is in that ring but it sparked and melted the chains from Alard’s wrists. He’s freed from the wall — unless… Bugger! Rufus could have chained him back up again.”

“I wondered why he needed to take the ring when he was already jumping around through time…?” Gran slapped her forehead. “Oh, Rachel, I know how you ended up in the dungeon. My ring in your time must have homed in on the ring Rufus took from my younger self. So that means we’d need to go back to get my ring off Deidre to send you home.” 

“I tried to take the ring off Rufus but both rings clashed and I was catapulted back to the present where Alan and I were back together — no, we’d never been apart.”

“Oh, Rach, I hope it means Rufus was thrown elsewhere to another time, or at least, where he can’t do us any immediate harm.”  

Finally we reached the next level, there were storerooms, and directly under us were more descending steps that had to be the dungeons. I assumed I was right ’cuz of the pungent air that was assaulting my nostrils, and I quickly had to cover my nose. It was easy to find the keys; a set of matching ones had been left hanging on a hook. Along a narrow corridor I counted four individual cells and on the other side stood one massive open cell, that housed fifty or so of Alard’s men-at-arms. Gran handed me a key.

“Rach, let Alard out, if he sees us together it could complicate things.”

I raced down the corridor checking each door till I found Alard’s cell at the end of the thoroughfare. I opened the wicket gate. “Alard,” I hissed, “it’s me, Rachel. I’m getting you out of here.” 

As the door swung wide I saw Alard staring at me. He appeared to be completely stunned.

“Sweet lady, Rachel,” he began, “pray, what just happened? Thou wert here but a moment ago. Thou lungedst at the wizard and ye both disappeared. And now thou reappearest seconds later outside my cell… I-I … am beyond puzzlement.”

“Alard, don’t worry, there’s nothing to fear.” I stopped speaking when I noticed Alard was holding Rufus Devereaux’s fur trimmed cloak and the ring was in his other hand. “Awesome, you’ve got the ring,” and I raced inside the cell. “Quick, look inside the cloak, Alard — can you see the wizard’s conjuring box?” 

As Alard turned the cloak over, I saw the tablet and grabbed it out of the pocket. I sighed, relieved and then my hand tingled again as he placed the ring on my finger. 

“Alard, brace yourself, my Granny is releasing your men from the other dungeon. Now, if you should happen to see her try not to freak out.”

“Freak out,” Alard repeated. “Thou hast spoken those words before, sweet, Rachel, yet I fail to understand. Yet, I feel thou art asking me to stay calm…”

“Yes. That’s what I mean, Alard.”

I led Alard out of the cell and spotted my grandmother herding Alard’s soldiers in an orderly fashion. 

“Stay here, please, I’ll back in a moment,” I said, smiling at Alard. I had a weird bubbling feeling soaring within me, and I realized it was because I could see how much Alard reminded me of my Alan. 

“Gran,” I called, beckoning her to come to my side. “Look, the ring and Rufus’s tablet. Alard said when I tried to take the ring both rings clashed and we both disappeared and all that was left of Rufus was the ring and the tablet. Could this be something that’ll lead us to his time machine?”

Gran nodded as she took hold of the tablet. “Damn, it’s password coded. But, I think I may know what it is…” she tried to open the tablet a few times and on the fourth try it worked. “Arrogant prick,” Gran mumbled, “and getting so predictable.”  

Gran searched through the menu until she found what she was searching for. “Eureka, Rachel, I’ve found everything he stole from Geoff. But I’ll need a few more minutes to locate where he’s hidden his machine. Then I’ll delete the files and smash the tablet, to be on the safe side. I’m expecting your Grandad any time now. We’ll have things sorted soon and you’ll be home before you know it.” 

“Gran,” I whispered, “what about Alard? Do you still intend to deliver him to the real Gwendolyn?” 

“Yes, and we’d better make sure they meet before Rufus does any more harm.”

“Are you going to take him in your time machine? … I mean, it’ll be hard to explain that. It’s all very well about wizards, conjuring boxes and magic rings — but a real time machine is something else.”

“Don’t concern yourself, Rach. Sweetie, it’ll be as if Alard dreamt he’d traveled inside a strange apparatus. Trust me, when he truly meets Gwendolyn the experiences will fade ’cuz the timeline continuum will be rebalanced as though nothing happened. Truly, Alard won’t recall any of this.”

A continuous bleep sounded and the tablet’s screen lit up. Gran followed the beeps till she came across a large stone column that didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the castle’s structure. 

“Bingo,” she said. “I’ll fix you, Rufus Deveraux, so you’ll never cross any of our paths again.” There came a sudden flash, and I felt a vibrating wave under my feet. “Geoff,” Gran cried, “I was beginning to think you’d forgotten about us.”

“Never,” Grandad said, and I saw him emerging from a large sophisticated double-glazed sphere. He ran to my Gran and they hugged. Then before my eyes they aged and were again a couple in their seventies.

“Gran, Grandad” I gasped, “You’re both old again…?”

“All fixed, then,” Granny said, and Grandad nodded. “You’re not just a darling man but such a clever one. And I found Rufus’s machine and all the files he stole are on this tablet.”

“Right then,” Grandad said, “I’ll just rip the guts out of this thing then we can delete the files and destroy the table.”

“Hang on,” I added, “but he could still have copies on another hard drive or a memory stick.”

“He could, Rach,” Grandad said, “but they’ll do him no good if he’s stuck in twelfth century England with no means to open them. I know him well enough to say he’s got everything inside his machine. So, sweet pea,” he said to Gran, “hand me my tools and we’ll get to work.” 

I gazed over at Alard and I wondered if he’d sighted my Granny and Grandad’s sudden appearance. If he did it wasn’t any wonder that he cut such a lonely figure. Within a couple of minutes, he sprang to life and started shouting orders to his men.

“Sergeant-at-arms, I want ye to take twenty men and search the grounds for the wizard. Captain, take the rest of the men and search the castle in case The Wizard be in hiding.” Then he turned and saw me and walked slowly to my side. “Sweet Rachel, it seems thy Granny and Grandad have been pretending to be the de Marmots.”

“I’m sorry, that’s true, but it was for a good reason. They intended to take you to the real Lady Gwendolyn before Rufus, that’s the wizard, could harm you. I’m guessing that when I tried to take the ring from the wizard, mine clashed with his and I think it created a paradox. I hope he’s lost somewhere in the corridors of time.” 

“Paradox, again I do not understand, Rachel. But, if thou meanst that the wizard be gone evermore, then I shall expect him to never darken my doors again.”

“You’ve got it,” I said. “Alard, there’s something else. My grandparents are going to escort you to Kingston Borough. And now that I am again in the possession of the ring I will be going home soon. I just want to say that it’s been an honor to meet you, Alard de la Croix, Baron of Buckstone. I wish you and your bride well in your future life together —” and it happened again.

I was home. I was standing in the lounge room and the television was blaring, but another movie was playing. I looked down at my clothes to see I was dressed up in a black cocktail dress and heels. I also held a matching clutch bag and overcoat. The phone started ringing yet again as I heard the front door opening. The kids jumped up from the sofa.

“Dad’s home with the pizzas,” Greg called. “And Granny and Grandad are both here too — awesome! I hope they’ve brought dessert.” 

“Hi, Mom,” Anna said, “you look nice,” and she hugged me.

Tears were streaming down my cheeks. “Oh, thank you sweetie. I hope you’ll be good for your grandparents tonight.”

“We will, Mom. I hope you and Dad have a nice dinner out too. Wasn’t it funny about that bottle he brought home last night?”

“I suppose so…” I mumbled. “But you know what — I wish the phone would stop ringing.” I rushed to it and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”

“Ah, yes, good evening, madam, is this the residence of Alan James Cross?”

“It is. I’m Rachel Cross, Alan’s wife.”

“Mrs. Cross, I’m Gerald Newcombe of Leonard and Horn Solicitors.” 

“What is this about Mr. Newcombe?”

“Is your husband available to speak with me?”

“Just a moment…” I called to Alan to come to the phone. He walked in and my heart skipped a beat.

“You look beautiful, darling,” Alan whispered against my ear. He gently kissed my lips. “I’ll try not to be too long.”

Alan spoke for several minutes and I made my way into the dining room where the kids, Granny and Grandad were hoeing into a meat-lovers pizza. I caught Gran’s eye and she winked at me.

“How’s it going, Rach? Had any adventures lately?” she cheekily asked. 

“I’m fine, Gran,” I said, “although, I’m pretty certain I’ve lost a day — I could’ve sworn it was Friday and now it’s Saturday night. Anna, what was on the label on the bottle Dad brought home last night?”

“It was ‘Kingston de la Croix’,” Anna said.

 Alan appeared. He seemed both shocked and happy. 

“Who was that, Alan?” I asked.

“It was my Great-Uncle Donald’s solicitor. He had some bad and good news for me. The sad news is my uncle has passed away. The good news, I’m the sole benefactor in his will. I’ve inherited two vineyards and two castle estates, one in Derbyshire and the other’s in France. I’m completely shocked. I hardly knew Uncle Donald… I can’t believe it.”

I couldn’t believe it either. So, I was left with a feeling of déjà vu and questioning if I had ever truly traveled in time. My mind was flooded with the memory of the day I met Alan. I was nineteen and sitting inside a marquee at the Newcastle races having lunch with my parents when I noticed a guy staring at me from across the room. He smiled. I smiled back. The next I knew the well-dressed twenty-something man walked over to me. He knelt and presented me with a long stem yellow rose and asked me if I’d go on a date with him. The image of him kneeling merged with another memory of a smoking-hot-guy with sexy molten-pool eyes and yet all I saw was Alan.

As I said before, you can choose to believe that I’d actually visited the Middle Ages, but then again, I’m not even sure it happened. Maybe I did dream it. Perhaps, my grandparents are aliens after all, and I’m the granddaughter of real live Timelords. But my Gran’s cheeky wink was enough to convince me that it really did happen and I had taken an unexpected trip through time. I just hope it never happens again. So, just in case, I took off the ring and hid it where, fingers crossed, no one will ever find it.

____________________________________________________________

Kim Michelle Ross is a Speculative-Fiction author published in twelve anthologies throughout Aus, UK and US as, K.M. Ross, Kim Ross & Kim Michelle Ross. But mostly she answers to, Mum. She’s recently published the first book of her Netherrealm trilogy Heed the Darkness. And even won NaNoWriMo 2013 with a paranormal-romp-com. She lives in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, with her husband, three (sorta) grownup boys, and Benny, the family’s golden retriever.

2 Comments

  • Kim Michelle Ross

    Thank you, Twist in Time Editors, Renee, Adrienne, & Tianna, I love the pictures used and you’ve made my story look amazing.

    Cheers,
    Kim

    • Twist in Time

      Thank you so much for trusting us with your work! We’re so happy you love the pictures and our presentation of your work! We hope to see more of your work in the future!

      Best,
      All of us at TwistiT

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