Day 29. Are we there yet?

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I think I’m ready for June! I gave today’s prompt a shot, but I’m tired and feeling out of ideas. Several stories want more attention. They want to be finished! This evening I’m going to work on replenishing my brain.

In the meantime, I scribbled a few words so that I can feel as if accomplished something other than staring at my computer screen.

Millie Ann Hartigan stayed up too late once again reading nonsense on the Internet. The night before, she’d spent hours learning about secret lives of rabbits, taking time to read every comment on a page arguing rabbits in England were actually magical creatures. Tonight she followed a thread about the existence of time travelers.

She’d started the evening by reading a reputable essay on a reputable site about the physics of traveling into the past versus the future, but she was now reading an interview with a woman in west Texas who claimed to have served a time traveler breakfast in bed. Millie checked the clock. It was 3 a.m.

Millie leaned back against the headboard and sipped her wine. As a teenager, she’d read hundreds of sci-fi novels, her favorite always being about people visiting another time. How amazing it would be to step out of her own time and into another? She’d often debated with herself about whether to go to future or to the past.

The past would probably kill her. Plagues and witch hunts and other dangers. If she were a healthy white man or invisible, she’d go to the past. Maybe to the Victorian era when the dresses were so pretty. Or Japan when it was still closed to the world. What would it take to survive back then? Most likely she’d be like a squirrel running into traffic. No, she’d stick to museums and PBS documentaries.

She clicked over to see if her friends were up to anything at 3 am, but no one had posted anything. She scrolled through headlines of doom and hyperbole. The future might not be any safer, she reasoned.

Yawning, Millie determined to turn off her infernal laptop and go to bed, but then the next headline caught hold of her common sense and kicked it aside. Hack Time Travel! These easy steps will leave you stunned. She clicked.

And that’s how a short while later, she had her laptop on her kitchen counter and was searching through her cabinets. She couldn’t believe her luck. She had all the ingredients listed in the article as well as the right kind of batteries, random bits of wire, and mirror big enough to walk through. She poured herself another glass of wine and went to work. By 4 a.m. almost everything was in order.

The instructions had final pieces of advice. You’re visiting another universe in time, dress carefully. First impressions count in every timeline! Looking at her tee-shirt and boxer shorts, she sighed, questioned her sanity, and went to put on a pair of jeans and tennis shoes. She the long mirror into the kitchen and propped it against the counter. Muttering to herself, she dropped the wire connected to the batteries into the gray mixture simmering in the Pyrex bowl and put the other end of the wire to the mirror. “If this doesn’t work,” she said, looking at her reflection, “I’ll drink another bottle of wine to forget how stupid I am.”

Then her image wavered. A second later, it blinked out. She saw nothing of herself or her kitchen. She picked up her laptop and read the instructions again. At the bottom she noticed for the first time very small print. Portal destination may vary. Results guaranteed for one trip only. “Whatever.” She set the laptop top down and reached out her hand, which disappeared into the mirror.

Millie stared. Half believing she was dreaming, she stepped into the mirror and vanished.

Thanks for reading!

Day 27! Almost to the end!

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Today’s Story-a-Day prompt was to write a non-traditional love story. This probably doesn’t qualify, but it is what I wrote.

For Time Travelers, Witches, and Saints: A Compendium of Lesser Known Time Travelers and Other Terrors.

Agatha Omerez wants company to travel with through time. A time traveler, She has access to all the technology ever created and she takes the best from various points in history. Building another life takes patience, but after several failures, her robot says hello and looks into Agatha’s eyes.

“Hello, Lou,” Agatha replies, proud of her work. Lou doesn’t look perfectly human and isn’t meant to. Anyone would recognize Lou for a machine. But Lou is definitely human-like, able to tilt its head to show it is listening and to run for its life to show it cares.

The robot blinks. Of all the things Lou can do, one thing it can not is talk. So, it nods at Agatha and blinks again.

“Welcome to the world,” Agatha says. “I hope you find it suitable for your needs.” It isn’t that she wasn’t able to give the robot a voice. She understands the technology. She wasn’t able to decide what she wanted. Lou has no gender. Maybe from a certain angle, some people might conclude Lou a female robot, but that requires a certain way of seeing.

A voice needs tone and rhythm. What should Lou sound like? What voice does Agatha want following her on adventures? A voice would make Lou too human. Agatha reaches over and tightens a screw in the robot’s shoulder. Lou looks down and watches. “When I find the right voice, I’ll give it to you,” Agatha says.

Lou’s shiny eyes blinked.

“Now,” Agatha begins, knowing she doesn’t need to tell Lou what she is about to say but feeling compelled to explain herself to those big shining eyes. “You and I are going to travel together through time, even to times before most of your body parts existed. But I’ve planned for that, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Lou nods and looks down at itself.

“Your job is to help me whenever I need help.”

Lou nods again, and light on Lou’s chest flickers.

“It gets lonely out here,” Agatha says, “and I need someone to talk to. I’m just not sure yet if I need someone who will talk back.”

The lights come on again in the sequence Agatha programed. It means yes, I understand. More lights. What’s next, Lou asks through the light display. I’m hungry, the lights signal.

“Hungry?” Agatha ask. That makes no sense. One reason for a robot companion is to not worry about food supplies. One of them going hungry somewhere in time is problem enough.

I’m hungry. To see. The stars. Lou seems to consider. More life. Lou taps the panel of lights. Hungry for more.

This time it is Agatha who blinks. What had she programmed into the machine? “Okay,” she replies, promising herself to check Lou’s programming. This is her first robot, after all. There are bound to be mistakes.

Hungry.

But more immediately, this seems like a problem that can be fixed. Or at least tested. With a click, the doors to the room open and outside is a city park. Not that far away, children scream playing tag while parents watch and other park visitors stroll by. No one takes any note of the open doors. Agatha excels at invisibility design.

Lou peers out into the world. The flickering lights speed up. Lou’s wide shiny eyes look in every direction, pausing on the children and then on a dog running off leash into a flock of pigeons.

Agatha waits until the flickering lights slow down and shut off save one. “How are you now?” she asks.

Almost full, Lou’s lights answer.

Agatha takes Lou’s mechanical hand in hers, and Lou continues to watch until the sky darkens and the people begin heading home.

*

Thanks for reading!

Day 25 is for poetry.

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I wrote a bad poem earlier this month when a story I was working on just wouldn’t come together. This time I wrote a poem because I decided to go along with today’s Story-a-Day prompt, which was to write a sonnet.

Some people love prompts and other people hate them. Sometimes they work for me and sometimes they don’t. My first novel started as a prompt (the prompt was marbles, and if you’ve read the novel, you’ll know where that prompt took me). So, obviously I find value in giving prompts a try.

Last year for Story-a-Day, I didn’t use any of the prompts. I also didn’t finish the monthlong challenge. In any event, I had to fit today’s writing in around a project for work and a bunch of distractions. But here it is. Thanks for reading!

When the Time Traveler Comes to Call

The time traveler risks life and stars
whether or not they are her property.
She leaps from centuries to moons to Mars.
Control is her prosperity.

She waltzes to your room, your day, your plan,
and scoops up the lines of your life.
She tells you, run! She knew before you began,
your portion of joy, your well of strife.

You can’t keep up with her in time.
She is the speed of planets and of hearts.
You may one day hear the death bell chime.
Perhaps by then, you understand what she imparts.

The time traveler comes and offers you her hand.
Do you take her invitation to the fear and the grand?

Day 12! A time traveler, a magician, a queen.

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I managed to get something on the page today. I started yesterday’s attempt over.

There’s a time machine, but I haven’t decided what this time machine looks like. The TARDIS is already taken. Oh well. Something will come to mind.

Thanks for reading.

Time Travelers, Witches, and Saints: A Compendium of Lesser Known Time Travelers and Other Terrors

Tessa and Shireen argued over whether or not to save the Queen.

“Let her hang like my sisters,” Shireen declared.

“She’s a prisoner of the King,” Tessa argued.

Shireen rolled her eyes. “Many are his prisoners. Let’s save them.”

“We can save everyone,” Tessa said. “We have a time machine.”

“It’s not a miracle maker though, is it?”

Tessa was already working the controls. “No. That’s you.”

“I really should put a stick in your spokes.” Shireen stared up at the wall of lights and buttons and levels and dials.

Tessa laughed and the time machine came to a stop. “Let’s just see how she is.”

Shireen put on her jacket. It was her magicians jacket, black velvet and high collared. The hidden pockets held many odd things that only she understood and could find. “Popping in on the Queen. Won’t she be pleased.”

The door opened to what seemed to be a lounge of some kind. A grand piano stood near the crystal balcony doors. Gem-colored roses bloomed in great gold drums in every corner and aside from the two gold high-backed chairs against a far wall, there was nowhere to sit.

“Should I plop myself down on a throne?” She grinned and winked at Tessa. Striding over to the chairs, she took a closer look at them. “Ugly things.”

“This isn’t a throne room. They’re just chairs.”

“Oh, Tess. You’re so clueless sometimes. They may not be the thrones, but they’re obviously meant to be thrones. C’mon.”

Tessa was looking around the room, turning her wheelchair around several times. “You sit if you want,” she said distractedly. “I’m fine right here.” She patted the armrests.

Shireen snorted, but she didn’t sit down. She didn’t care about the likely punishment if caught, but the less touched the better.

“But look,” Tessa said. “Look at that wall. The shelves.”

“Shelves? They have books?” But she looked, and the King and the Queen did not have books. They had shelves of lamps, silver, copper, and brass. “What in the seven hells…?”

Tessa wheeled herself over to them. “They’ve captured at least a hundred jin.”

“I heard rumors the jin were going missing, but…are you sure? Maybe they’re just trinkets for show.” Shireen approached the wall and held out a hand. Almost immediately she pulled her hand back. “I can feel them.”

Tessa looked at her questioningly.

Shireen stepped as close as she dared to the wall. “I’m not a magician for nothing. I can feel their hearts beat.” She carefully put up both hands this time as if feeling for something invisible. “There’s a spell here, protecting them.”

“Imprisoning them,” Tessa replied.

“They are jin, Tess. Can you imprison a prison?”

Tessa’s eyes narrowed. “Jin aren’t meant to be at the command of one man.”

The voice behind them made them both jump. “Or woman?” The Queen had drifted into the room unheard, in her thin gold gown and diamond crown. “I don’t believe you’ve been properly announced.”

Shireen smoothly stepped closer to Tess.

“Nor do I recall sending out invitations.”

“We came to rescue you, Your Majesty,” Tessa said. “We—”

“You can’t go around collecting jin like ornaments,” Shireen cut in. “They don’t exist for you.”

The Queen nodded and glided over to the piano on top of which rested a gold-plated bowl filled to the brim with almond-sized diamonds. “Rescue?” she plucked a diamond from the bowl.

“We know you haven’t left the tower in years. Is that not true?” Tessa asked, tossing Shireen a warning look.

“I’m the Queen. Why would I leave?”

Shireen took a moment to steady her breath and at her thick brown hair, its wild curls bouncing back into place as she let them fall from her finger. “Why do you the jin? You don’t need them.”

The Queen rolled the diamond between her fine pale fingers. “They give me everything.”

“What? You have everything. You have this Kingdom and soon you’ll have a dozen more. The King—”

“Please don’t talk politics to me.” The Queen looked very bored and placed a diamond on her tongue. She swallowed.

“You just…” Shireen stared and pointed at the Queen. “You just swallowed a diamond.”

Tessa moved closer to Shireen. “Ree,” she whispered.

The Queen brightened. “Why yes. I can eat whatever I please now.”

“But…” Shireen glanced down at her time traveling companion.

“We should go,” Tessa whispered.

“The jin give me what I wish without fail,” the Queen said. “And I think…” She sauntered ever so slowly over to the wall of lamps. “It’s time for me to make another wish. For my guests.”

Shireen understood what she needed to do. She released a cloud of smoke and grabbed Tessa’s hand. In a flash they vanished from the Queen’s sight and reappeared in the time machine. They set to work and sent the machine whirring and spinning back in time.

The machine rocked to a stop in the past. “If she wishes for a jin to find us,” Tessa said, “we will be in trouble.”

“The jin will have to know where to look,” Shireen said. “The machine’s untraceable, right? Even for a jin?”

They looked around the small space as if something might set it to tumbling. “She probably only wanted to scare us,” Tessa replied. She worked the controls again. The more they moved, the harder they’d be to find.

“I told you she didn’t want rescuing.”

Tessa focused on the buttons and dials. “No. But with my heart as a witness, we’ll save the jin.”

“And kill the Queen?” Shireen asked. She was looking down at her beautiful magicians coat. Not a bit of lint marred its midnight velvet.

“No, Ree. Absolutely not.”

Shireen nodded and slipped her hands into her pockets. At least a dozen spells brushed up against her fingers. “Of course,” she said quietly.

And the time machine began another flight through time and space.

Story 9…

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Lots of gaps, but it is just the first draft. Story-a-Day May continues.

Time Travelers, Witches, and Saints: A Compendium of Lesser Known Time Travelers and Other Terrors

The time traveler and the magician argued. The sky above had been gray for a hundred years and the ground beneath their feet cracked and crumbled. The smell of bombs and fire drifted around them. Still they argued.

The time traveler spoke again of fixed points in time and of paradoxes. The magician demanded to know why such things mattered anymore and tossed light into the air with her fingertips.

“Why do you keep making light?” the time traveler asked. “What is the use of your magic?”

“It would kill me to keep it inside,” the magician replied. “Why do you keep going back in time if you can do nothing to save us?”

The time traveler looked down and considered rolling herself backwards until she could safely turn her back on the magician. She had the best wheelchair of anyone left alive, but she was tired and jagged holes pocked the pavement. “It would kill me,” she said.

“We’re all dead already.” The magician pulled at her tie, the only pretty thing she still owned. Its blue silk shimmered in the light she created.

“Then hold in your light,” the time traveler said.

“That’s different,” the magician replied. “You could save the world. I can pull a rabbit out of hat.”

“You could feed a family with a rabbit.” The time traveler looked away to make sure no one listened. It wouldn’t do to be found out now.

The magician laughed. Her laugh was deep and rich in spite of her hunger and her cough. “My rabbits are too thin these days. But you could find me more. You could bring back the fat and soft rabbits of the old days. They were white like a full moon.”

“If I bring you rabbits, would that be enough?”

This time the magician’s laugh was bitter. “No. You know it wouldn’t. You know what you have to do.”

“You could be wrong. You don’t really know what would save us.”

The magician bent forward and placed her hands on the armrests of the wheelchair. Her many braids fell forward and she leaned in as close as she dared. “I’ve read the cards and the tea leaves. I’ve consulted the witch in the northern most cave. I’ve thrown the bones of hens and traded the coin I could always find behind someone’s ear for a magic mirror. Everything says the same.”

“Please move back,” the time traveler requested.

The magician did as she was asked. She crossed her arms across her chest.

“But this isn’t like going back and hiding the gun so it can’t be fired or waiting on the side of the road to push someone out of the way. We can’t know when the end began. It’s not that simple.”

“It can be done. If you find him in time, you can stop him.”

“Fixed points in time!” the time traveler shouted.

“Broken points in time!” The magician stood a little straighter. “Go. Or you’ll never leave this place, this time.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked. “The rest of us are trapped here because you believe time can be fixed. Where do you learn that nonsense anyway?”

The time traveler inched her wheel chair back. It rolled into a shallow puddle. “I could leave now and go to another time and stop you.”

“You could.” The magician pulled at her own hair almost setting it on
fire. “Kill me or save him. Why is this a hard choice?”

The time traveler took a deep breath. “I’ve never tried to save the world before. Not really. What if I fail?”

The magician gestured at the wasted city around them. “Maybe you already have.”

The time travel nodded. “Wait here,” she said.

“If you succeed, that won’t be necessary.”

The time traveler reached her destination, but that was the easy part. Now she had to find the singer. The city was beautiful though. The sky was blue and the breeze clear. She could stay there, of course. She never had to return to that terrible future. The magician would have to give up. The magician would lose.

Some people, the time traveler knew, couldn’t be saved.

The magician waited. The gray sky blackened as night rolled in. She found an old bench deciding there was no need to go back to her shelter. This night would be the end of this life one way or another. She sat down to wait for whatever the time traveler decided.

The magician woke with a start. Her thoughts were muddled for a moment, but then she realized she’d fallen asleep waiting for the bus. She blinked in the sunlight and clear blue sky. People were rushing by this way and that, ignoring the woman cat napping on the city bench. Where had she’d been going? Oh, yes. A party.

The bus pulled up to the stop and the magician boarded, branding her bus pass. It had been a while since she’d entertained at a celebrity’s house. Sometimes, she mused, she felt as if she were living a fairy tale.

The bus was crowded and the row of chairs near the front were folded up to allow for a wheelchair. The magician sat across from a woman in a wheelchair.

Story 8! The second week of this madness begins!

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I have got to work on some things for my classes tomorrow. So, this is it for today, people! A little bit more about Minerva. Thanks for reading.

The teacher wrote a poem for every student. For some students the words came easily, images tripping over themselves to vie for attention, hoping to win a place on the page. For some students the words struggled, but she managed to drag a few free. And on rare occasion the words waited to decide how they felt.

The teacher had a gift she told no one about. She’d learned not to. But when she met a person for the first time, she saw the persons gifts following them around like starlight. Jimmy Jefferson carried the light of a fallen leader and Beatrice Smallwood sparkled with scientific discovery. Victoria Lane was trailed by the lights of hearth and home and George Evan Bash was followed by travel and sea.

Minerva Baines had a rarer light. A time traveler came through her classroom, and she’d have to be careful with this one. It was far too easy to mislay the message to a traveler who hadn’t yet found her fate.

But it was a Saturday afternoon, and the teacher wasn’t thinking about former students or anything else important. She was wandering through the marketplace looking at crates of apples and of daffodils.

“Hello, ma’am.” It was Minerva, smiling hesitantly and glancing back over her shoulder. “Do you remember me? I used to be in your class.”

“Of course, Miss. Baines. I’d never forget you. Are you still in school? I hope so.”

“Absolutely, ma’am. Father says studies are important. Even for girls.” She looked back behind her again.

The teacher casually let her gaze follow Minerva’s nervous glances, but she saw nothing out of the ordinary, not even the girl’s father. “I’m delighted to see you.” She held out her arm. “Walk with me, dear?”

Minerva took her former teacher’s arm and let the teacher choose the way. The teacher unhooked her closed up parasol from her arm and used it as she’d used her long ruler in class. She pointed at a poster pinned to a nearby tent pole. “Have you seen this, Miss. Baines?”

Minerva bent forward to get a better look. “Oh yes, ma’am!” The Time Travel Fair.

“What do you think of it? Have you been?”

“No, ma’am. I can’t afford tickets. And Father would never allow it.”
The teacher let her parasol swing back down beside her skirt. “A fascinating way to travel, through time.”

Minerva didn’t wish to think too long about things she couldn’t do. “Ma’am, I still remember the poem you wrote for me. You write so many, I’m sure you don’t remember, but…” Minerva reddened. “Travel worlds. Travel skies.

The teacher tightened her grip on Minerva’s arm. “Travel souls. Travel wise. I never forget a poem.”

“What does it mean, ma’am? I mean, I know it is about travel but you said you wrote each poem special for each of us. No one had the same poem. So, why did you give that particular poem to me?”

“You’ll understand when you need to, Miss. Baines.” The teacher pulled a few coins from her purse. “Take these, Miss. Baines. I’m no longer your teacher, so there’s nothing wrong with my giving you a little something.”

Minerva took the coins but stared at them in the palm of her hand. “But ma’am. This isn’t a small token. This could pay the rent for months.”

The teacher wagged at finger at her former student. “Don’t you dare. This is for you. And your tickets for the fair. You add them to the few coins you have hidden away in your room. And then you spend them on the fair.”

“But Father…how did you know I had coins hidden in my room?”

“Please, Miss. Baines. A smart young woman like you who wants to see beyond where she’s kept? Of course you have money hidden away.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll find a way to thank you properly one day.”

“Hush, now. You’ll thank me by making sure your father doesn’t get his hands on these coins. Understood. I’ll know if he does. I promise you.”

“I swear I’ll keep them hidden as well as I hide my wishes.”

“Good,” the teacher replied. “I know you will.”

Minerva hesitated and pulled herself free from her teacher’s hold. “I beg your pardon, ma’am, but I must be going. Father’s expecting me.” She tucked the coins away in a pocket she’d stitched on the inside of her dress, at the collar. She’d begun sewing secret pockets after the day her father burnt the poem.

“Is he?” the teacher asked. “Well, as needs must. I’m sure I’ll see you again. In time.”

The crowd in the market quickly came between them, and within a few steps, Minerva lost sight of her former teacher. What had she come into the market for? Oh, her father would not be pleased if she came home empty-handed. Think, Minerva. Clear your silly head. What did you come here for?

Her father had been very clear. She sighed and looked around, hoping to see something to spark her memory. There it was, that poster. The Time Travel Fair. The coins warmed in their satin hiding place against her breast bone. Soon she’d be able to buy tickets! It was worth the scolding she was bound to receive for her forgetfulness.

Minerva wasn’t even sure yet how to buy a ticket or what it actually meant to time travel or travel time. But she wanted to find out with all her heart. How had her teacher known? The question picked at her a little, but she brushed it away. What did it matter? She was just grateful for her stroke of good fortune.

Day 6! Minerva Arrives

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I’ve had a long day and need to wake up at four in the morning, so I alms skipped today all together. But I did jot this down. So at least I’ve written!

Time Travelers, Witches, and Saints: A Compendium of Lesser Known Time Travelers and Other Horrors.

Minerva Baines didn’t immediately understand what she was seeing. She blinked and steadied herself against the open cabinet door.

“Don’t worry, dear,” Mrs. Fellinghast said. “We knew you were coming.”

A young girl poked her head around from Mrs. Feillinghast’s skirts. “April Mae,” Minerva whispered.

“That’s right, miss.”

“But…” Minerva looked back over her shoulder into the darkness of the cabinet. “You were just there.”

“200 years ago, miss. Like you.”

They stood outside and the sun burn bright directly overhead. Minerva raised her hand to shade her eyes. “I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t, dear,” Mrs. Fellinghast replied. “But you didn’t think we’d dump you just anywhere, did you? I run the best time travel anywhere. And even a silver ticket deserves quality.”

Minerva was finally taking in her surroundings. “Yes, ma’am. I could never afford a gold ticket…” she said, her voice trailing off. Everything was strange and inexplicable.

“Quite all right, dear. Don’t fret. I’ve not lost a traveler yet. Not even one with just a silver ticket.”

*

Thanks for reading!