They say that when the dead leave us, they aren’t really gone, they just go on to the next place. They say that time is like a river, a loop, and when you leave it at one point, you can jump back in again at another place. They say that everything that ever happens, or ever will happen, has already happened before. It’s all part of a cycle. When your life-thread is cut, you get hooked on to another one and keep going. That’s how fortune telling works; it’s not the unseen mysteries of spirits and gods, some people just understand what’s happened in the past, and so they know what’s coming in the future. We call them historians.
I knew that Dan was being brave, and I tried to be brave too. I try not to mourn and to remember that he isn’t dead, he isn’t gone. He’s just elsewhere in the time-stream. We promised to send each other messages, and so I look for them. I look in books and old buildings, and poke around at old sites, looking for traces of him somewhere in the past. And in case he’s gone ahead, I leave marks for him to find. I write him letters in a journal. I’ve made plans to rent out a safe deposit box for one hundred years, in his name. It was costly, but well worth it for him to know that I am still here.
I befriend historians, archaeologists, those who can tell time both ways. There’s too much history for me to scour on my own, so I ask them to look for things, for markers that I think he might have left. We should have outlined a more concrete plan, but it all happened rather quickly. It seemed there wasn’t time. The call came for volunteers for the first manned time expedition. He’d been trained; we, the families, had all been given a sort of training. Just basic information, really, about how the device would work, and the risks.
I’ve left messages for us, too, for next time, when the river bends, when the cycle starts again, so we’ll know better, we’ll plan better, how to find each other, how to keep in touch.
There are things, bits of things, that I think may be him. Of course, if he’s been in the past he may have cycled through several times over by my time, and he may even be in the future still. Time is a loop like that. So I send messages and look for them, so we can stay connected, even through all this difficulty.
The program says the experiment was a success. Man has traversed time, outside of the ordinary way. They got the message they were looking for, an agreed upon code that all the volunteers were given. We haven’t been told more than that, or who it came from. The return trip, of course, is more complicated. They’re confident though.
I’ve seen things that I think must be him. So I know he’s coming back. We’ll be together again. It’s just a matter of time.
Kiyomi Appleton Gaines is a writer of fairy tales and other fantastical things. She is a Contributing Editor at Enchanted Conversation. She lives in New Orleans with her husband, a one-eyed cat, and a snake