adventure, assignment, chuck wendig, female protagonist, flash fiction, read, scifi, short story, story, terrible minds, time travel
Last Week’s FFF: Beach Bridge
The Time Keeper Part 1
The Time Keeper Part 2
I ran out into the rain, desperately trying to escape to the image of my father’s affair, and the hurt in my mother’s voice as she found them.
I’d rather be anywhere but here! I screamed inside my head. I squeezed my eyes tight.
The sound of the rain stopped. I opened my eyes and found that I was back in the pawn shop. The lights were off, and the place appeared closed.
I heard the door jingle as a key slid into the lock. Confused by all that had happened, I decided it was best to hid. I ducked behind a shelf of old books.
The shop owner staggered in with his cigarette on his lips. He shuffled to the glass counter in the center. I was about to leap at him, yell, and ask what had just happened to me and why. But the echoing sound of the bell at the door stopped me. I could just see the counter from the space between the books.
My heart nearly stopped as I saw myself standing at the counter, offering the owner coffee. I could barely hear their words, but then, I didn’t need to. I had just had this conversation. I, she, pulled out her watch and showed it to him. He pulled out his own. The strange words were spoken. She was standing there, faced with the choice of money or adventure. I wanted to shove over the bookshelf and tell her to take the money and leave that cursed watch behind. But I couldn’t. I opened my mouth to yell, but no sound came out. She reached for the watch, and disappeared.
The shop owner laughed and put the money back into the register.
“It’s always strange the first time,” he said out loud.
I stayed put, unsure of who he was talking to.
“It’s alright,” he said. “I know you’re there. You can move now one-seven-two.”
He was right. I found that my body was no longer stuck in place. I marched over to the counter. He hardly paid me attention and continued his morning prep to open the store.
“What was that?” I asked.
“I should think it have been quiet obvious. You traveled through time.”
“Yeah, I get that. But why did I travel through time? And why did I have to go there?”
He stopped messing with his register and looked at me.
“The first journey is a very personal, and typically, very powerful one. I’m not sure where the watch took you. But whatever it showed you was something that you needed to see.”
“Why would I have needed to discover that my dead father was cheating on my mother?”
“That answer lies in you. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say it’s because the watch likes to remind us that all people are people. No matter how infallible or one-dimensional they seem to us. They have lives outside of our perception. It’s important to keep that in mind when taking an assignment.”
“Assignment? If you think I’m going to-” he cut me off.
“I know that you are going to. Soon you will understand that time is not linear. You have no idea how many times we’ve met. We may even be friends.”
Somehow, I doubted that.
“Also,” he continued, “I happen to know that you’re strapped for cash. It’s why you came in here to sell the watch in the first place. Am I right?”
I looked down, confirming with my silence.
“I thought so,” he said. “Having a destiny can actually be quite profitable.”
“Of course. How do you think you came to possess that watch? Where do you think those numbers inscribed on it came from? How did you know what to speak in response to me?”
I didn’t know the answers to any of it. I thought that I had happened upon the watch. But the memory was fuzzy. In retrospect, it seemed like something that had always been with me. I had never thought to question its origins.
“So you’re telling me that someone is going to pay me, to what, time travel?”
“It’s more that they provide for you. And while time traveling will be involved, there is far more to it than just that. On this first trip, you were merely meant to observe. But what happened when you came back?”
I recalled the motionless sensation of seeing myself.
“I could move or talk.”
“Paradoxes have their place. But you can break through that. You can alter things. And believe me, there are many things that need to be altered. Another challenge you’ll face is keeping your grip on reality. You see, a traveler’s mind is uniquely gifted. You will recall the way things were, and the way they are now. Both sets of memories will exist in your mind and seem equally valid. At first, it isn’t difficult. But in time, there are a lot of realities to shift through.”
I didn’t like the sound of that.
“But,” he said, “it isn’t all bad. You’ll go places you never dreamed. See things that you’ve never imagined. And best of all, you’ll save lives. You will have purpose. No more pawning your possessions just to get through another week.”
Lately my life had been lacking in purpose. Since I lost my mother, my last bit of family, I’d lost my place in the world. I’d been drifting from temp job to temp job, about to lose the apartment I hated. Worse, I had begun to hate myself. Maybe I needed a little adventure.
“And you’re going to train me?” I asked.
“I will offer you some techniques. But most of the training is done on the job. What do you say? Are you ready for your first assignment?”
I swallowed hard, summoned my courage, and nodded.
“Take out your watch,” he said.
I dug in my pocket and removed the silver time peace. The hands began to spin, and suddenly, I wasn’t in the shop any longer.
Mark Gardner said:
Excellent! All we need is a conclusion for the final part.
Wow, you really gave me a challenge. How to end this in 1,000 words. Yikes. I think we have a “serial” story on our hands. But I’ll give it my best.
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