Stumbling from the mouth of the cave, he shaded his eyes from the blinding blast of the harsh sun. It wasn’t enough. Sitting, he closed his eyes, letting the light filter through the lids, slowing seeping in until he could open them a crack and see where he was.
The mountain above was jagged, hard, rocky. Below, down a slope strewn with miniatures of the peak above, was a flat plain.
On the flat plain was a dwelling.
Between him and the dwelling, a small figure sat, doing something on the ground.
He stood, eager to go down. Not because he was curious about what the small figure was doing, but because that figure would see him, speak to him.
The heavy boots he wore were perfect for the terrain, as were the dungarees and light shirt. More than a few sleeps ago he’d stopped wondering about the clothing. It simply was, like everything else in his confusing existence.
A young girl, more than half his height, but young. Seven, perhaps eight, if he had to put a number to it, but then, how would he know?
There was another curiosity. Had language never changed? The few people he spoke to understood him, in fact, spoke so exactly like him that he’d begun to assume he was being adapted, somehow, to each successive encounter.
“Are you a stranger? I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
He crouched down, to be on her level.
“I don’t think I’m a stranger, but of course, you should always mind your parents.”
The young girl stood from her play, pushing figurines of animals around in a dusty menagerie.
“Do you want some lemonade?”
“I think I might like that. But still, you should ask your mother—”
“That’s what I’m going to do, silly. I’ll tell her you’re here to play with me, and that we need some lemonade because it’s hot.”
He smiled. “You make sense, young lady. I will wait.”
Shortly, she returned with two glass bottles filled with lemonade. A woman stood in the doorway, drying a plate and smiling.
Yet another unusual thing. Strangers trusted him, as if he wore a special sign from God that he was no danger to them. She simply smiled and went back inside to her cleaning.
He and the little girl moved the animal figurines around in what struck him as outlandish situations and circumstances. Her inexhaustible imagination would have worn him out when he was younger. He wondered at his own immaturity, selfishness. Was it part of the point of his situation, part of the cause, perhaps a remedy?
The lemonade was gone. The animals were, apparently, tired, and needed to be stabled for the night. The sun was, in fact, sinking behind an even bigger mountain across the valley.
He knew, but he asked anyway.
“Do you know what year this is?”
“Course I do.” Her answer sounded like she was saying two different numbers, twenty, and ten.
One-hundred and ten years. A new millennium.
“Will you come play with me again tomorrow?”
He wanted to touch her, to ruffle her hair, but he didn’t.
“I’ll see. If I’m still around tomorrow, I’d like that.”
He would not see her again. He knew that. He did not know where he would wake up next. He only knew when.
Then, some child, it was always a child, would answer with another unusual pair of numbers, or rather, the same number twice, twenty-one twenty-one, each sleep a year longer than the previous.
His climb back up to the cave to sleep was the same stillness it always was.
My newsletter people got the news a couple weeks ago, so Rafe Keyn and the Temporal Lisle already has a couple 5-star reviews; I love this one:
I stayed up to finish reading it in one sitting.
What more could one ask of a book?
On July 1st we’re going wide and wild with the news, at which time the price goes up from 99¢ to $2.99 so if you’re thinking about a fun time-travel fantasy, now’s the, erm, time.
So, there’s this time-travel fantasy I’ve been working on . . .
Round 1: Too Conservative
Years ago I wrote a book titled (at that point) Anodyne. It was going to be the first in a series of connected stories each with a different protagonist, each telling their story under the pseudonym Jake Calcutta.
Long before the book was finished an author friend pointed out that the artsy intellectual guy in the book was nothing like the name would suggest. Jake Calcutta, he said, is a modern day Indiana Jones.
He was right.
I changed the protagonist’s name to Jesse Donovan and the book’s title to That She Is Made of Truth. It may become a series, but not in the way originally intended.
Round 2: Too Cerebral
I’ve stayed up past midnight 3 nights in a row to finish Stephen King’s 11.22.63. Yes, it’s that good (and that long; nearly 900 pages.)
Not a fan of horror, but this one is fantasy/scifi rather than his usual genre. It has time travel. It’s a historical novel. It has romance. In the end notes it has a nod to Time and Again which I agree with King is the best time travel book written.
One small but vital character interested me because of a parallel to Rafe Keyn and the Temporal Lisle. It seems guardians of time travel are a common idea. I’m giving a little away here, but you can’t read the first few chapters of King’s book and not realize that the yellow card man is going to be more than a bit player, no matter how few lines he speaks.
So there you have it: Stephen King is starting to write like me because we like the same time travel book.
(Speaking of fantasy . . . )
It was too easy.
The intense moment of exhilaration passed, leading to saner thoughts. Reason, not emotion.
Perhaps I had only delayed their meeting, not prevented it altogether. Return to 2019 and see what family history said? Certainly, but if you’re already at the store you don’t go home to see if there’s something else on your shopping list.
He had seen me. She had not.
Rushing through the crowd as rudely as I’d pretended to be to my grandfather, I saw her. May as well follow her to be sure.
Up East Lane toward Main she moved in and out of sight, the crowds from the train station being thicker here. The crowds dispersed at Main Street, walking east or west or climbing into carriages or sparkling automobiles. Once we crossed Main Street she and I were virtually alone. She turned left on Oak Lane, as I’d assumed she would.
Before we got to the grand Victorian at the corner of Oak and Third, she stopped, whirled, and came back my direction. Since she had no reason to know who I was, I simply continued walking, and made as if to pass her, tipping my grubby cap as she approached.
“Why are you following me?” Her voice was loud in the empty street.
I tried to step past, tried to remain calm. This was not what I’d expected.
“Why should I follow you, madame? I’m simply enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, and we happened to be going the same direction. I apologize if I startled you.”
I took another step. She blocked my way.
“You were at the station. I saw you accost that man. Now you’re following me. I ask again, why?”
Time for action, not words. I tried to step around her but she grabbed my arm. I put my hand on her wrist, trying to gently pull it from my own, but her grip was stronger than I’d expected.
“Take your hands off her, you thug.”
Surprised, I let go and turned to face the speaker, whose voice I recognized, of course. My grandmother covered her mouth with her free hand. A tiny squeal escaped past her fingers.
My grandfather, for the second time that day, punched me square in the face. This time it was hard enough to knock me down, bloodying my face. By the time I got up and cleared my vision, they were gone.
So that’s how you want to play it, eh, Time? I accept the challenge.
I set out to prevent my grandparents’ marriage, even if it killed me.
It was reckless, but I had nothing left to lose, and if I was right, everything to gain.
As he stepped off the train, I accosted him, rudely.
“You’ve trodden on my shoe, sir.”
He stepped back, knowing well he’d done no such thing.
“I’m most sorry sir.”
As he made to pass by, I stepped in front of him.
“It was freshly polished.”
I’d moved from inconvenience to annoyance, meaning, he took notice of me as a person, not only a noise in his way. Looking down, he could tell my shoes hadn’t been polished in a very long time.
“That is difficult to believe, sir. Let me pass.”
“You’ll pay the tuppence to have them shined again.”
“Tuppence? If you paid a ha’penny for that shine you were diddled. I, on the other hand, will not be.”
“Pay, sir. Or shall I call a constable?”
“Step aside. Let me pass. I have business to attend to, fool.”
Of course, I didn’t step aside, and of course, he drew back his fist and hit me, hard, in the face.
I knew my grandfather’s temper. I knew my grandmother’s eventual abhorrence of it. I knew that if she saw it, from just over there where she awaited her prospective (but not anymore) husband, she would leave the station and never look back, as she’d always told me after his unmourned death.
What I didn’t know, when I shifted painfully through the ether of time from early 2019 to the date of their meeting in 1937, was whether preventing their meeting would, in fact, alter my physical existence as one of their progeny.
As I said, nothing to lose.
But now, knowing what I know, everything to gain.
Idea — blend action/adventure with scifi
Concept — a genetic mutation allows a man to travel through time without the equipment other time-travelers need
Premise — what if a group of researchers discovered that the universal timeline had been corrupted and the only way to restore it was to send a mercenary back to pivotal points of ancient history to fix them — if he wasn’t killed first?