Writing in Public: Story #2, Scene 4
The house is suddenly too hot. I have to go outside, though it isn’t much better. Time travel, the town dying. It’s too much for me.
The rain has stopped. The sidewalk is already drying out. As if it had never rained in the first place. A man and woman walk past on the cracked sidewalk, arms linked. He is in a brown three piece suit with a gold watch fob and a bowler hat. She is wearing a plaid camp dress and petticoats, a parasol resting on her shoulder. A jogger with an bud stuck in his ear runs past, calling out “On your right” to the couple, who move out of the way.
Tam comes out behind me, closing the door with a click.
“How come no one else seems to notice?” I ask.
“It’s an effect of the blending of the time lines,” he says. A sigh. “Elias didn’t understand what he was getting into. He just thought he’d take a peek. See what was up ahead. But time is a vindictive mistress.”
“You talk as if time is alive.”
“It is, in a manner of speaking.” Tam sits down on the top step, stretching out his legs. They are quite long compared to mine.
I sit next to him. My brain is trying to make sense of this. I don’t tell Tam, but there’s something in his words that calls to me, like I’ve been missing something all my life. It makes me tremble. Excitement?
“You’ve seen time come alive,” he says.
“Me? No. I don’t have any special…anything.” My head droops with my voice.
“It’s what everyone experience. Time speeding when you have fun. Or slows down and drags when you want something to end.”
“That’s not vindictive,” I blurt. “That’s just perception.”
“Is it? Tam grins in a way that makes his face light up. “If you have trouble judging how long something takes, how do you know that time herself isn’t messing with you?”
“You’re just making fun of me,” I say.
His face turns serious. “No, I’m not. All the notes were with the house, everything that Elias researched about his experiments with time. I think it must have frightened someone and the notes were destroyed.” He shrugs, gazing out at the street. “I only know what was passed down to me. When Elias touched the time line, it formed a bubble around this town. People can come in and leave, but everything is—”
He breaks off, his tone faltering. He doesn’t have the right word.
I do. “Stuck?”
It’s the only thing that fits.
He stares down at his legs, his voice low. “Yeah.”
“What does the house have to do with it?”
“Elias tried to fix it, but the time line tore. I—I think Elias didn’t know what to do. He used the house as an anchor. All the mathematical calculations of the structure. The house hold the time line together.”
I’m trembling now. I’m not sure from what, fear or excitement. “And the energy I feel pulling at me?”
“It’s a leak from the time line.” Tam leans back to gaze up at the house. “It was patchwork at best. Probably’s always leaked, but it’s gotten worse.”
“How do we fix it?” I ask.
“You have to talk to it.”
“Talk to what? The house?”
Talk to time? It’s about the craziest thing I’ve heard of. Well, almost. I watch horses pull another wagon up my street, following behind a minivan with a bunch of kids inside. The kids are screaming up a storm at the sight of the ‘pretty horses.’ I finger the envelope, still stuck inside the notepad. Elias must have seen me in the time line. How? My head is spinning.
The worst that can happen is nothing, that I feel stupid…right.
“Can’t you talk to it?” I ask.
But Tam is already shaking his head. “No.” Glances away. “I already tried. It doesn’t like me.”
“Then what makes you think I can do any better? No one here pays any attention to me.” My voice rises, anger riding it. The anger has been simmering long and I hadn’t noticed it before.
Tam lowers his head, staring at his feet. I catch something in his voice…longing, regret, guilt.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “It has to be you, Michelle. You’re the only one who can fix it.”
I shiver. It’s the words in the letter.