The prompt for Carry on Tuesday this week is taken from Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabel Lee –
We loved with a love that was more than love
Here is my story.
I knew Finn a little before Hedra sent us to find her son. He was in my time-travelling class and got an A+ for his essay on how matter is distributed through the ever-expanding space of the cosmos. That essay elevated his position among his peers. After it he was constantly signing his name on shaky sketches of the time space continuum or adjusting the hydrogen atoms on the class model of the history of the universe.
Girls gazed at him from behind their classroom textbooks. Some of them bothered me all day with their silly questions. Do you think he likes me, Merry?
Some of them left notes in the pages of his favourite book The Cloak Of Time. He laughed when he read them, but I could see that he was pleased. I liked him too but was too shy to say anything.
We knew the morning that it happened that it had happened. There was a shift in the air and a slight rippling of solid objects as if they had been displaced and were having trouble returning to their original form.
The scream made us gasp. I have only heard such a scream once and that was when Phinnaeus Lovelace left the right side of his body 200 years behind him. He stood on one leg, sliced in two like the gingerbread men Cook gives to us if we are good. All of the scholars in all of the towns came to fix him. But the other half of him could not be found. He died two days later.
The scream this time came from our Queen. They took him. The Dark Ones. Far away from his home. They took the Queen’s five year old son. All that remained of him was his shoe. Soft green leather with a red sole. There he was being pulled through the darkest reaches of time with only one shoe.
The Queen summoned Professor Smoot, asked him who his best and brightest students were. Finn and I as well as Audra and Bryn were pushed forward. We were ordered to join the quest – along with five other well-seasoned time travellers – to find the little prince.
We were all nervous, but we couldn’t deny it was an honour. We gathered in the great hall with our travelling gear. Bryn was poring over a treatise on the velocity of stars. I could see he was going to test his theory that time travellers could travel more quickly if they hopped aboard a star. But there was a problem with bursting into flames.
Audra went white. Her own mother had died somewhere out there in time. It was thought she had gone back too far to the place where the universe becomes transparent. The normal rules of time travel don’t apply back there.
As we readied to leave Finn pulled me aside. I have a problem, Merry, he said. I cheated on that essay. I paid Felix Blackwell to write it for me. I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t even know how to travel five minutes into the future. I am a complete fraud.
Felix Blackwell was a well known rogue. Brilliant in his day but his brain had been addled by playing too often with unstable moondust particles. He was known for his unscrupulous goings on with regard to selling information to students.
I could see the fear on Finn’s face but what could I do? The Queen had made her decision. I’ll help you, I said. Don’t worry, everything will be fine.
The Dark Ones had been tracked to 600 years in the future. We set the coordinates on our time orbs and prayed we would all end up in the same place. As we bowed our heads to counteract the inevitable rush of wind that came with travelling through time I saw it. The rip. One side of the room didn’t join up with the other. The Dark Ones had sent a wrinkle to destroy us on our journey.
Stop, I cried. Don’t leave, it’s too dangerous.
But it was too late. My warning cry spilled through the horror of 600 years. Through space and time we collided and blended; cosmic seeds buffeted around in a galactic wind.
I felt like I was going to die. I knew I was going to die. My very bones felt like they were going to fragment, my blood was juddering in my head.
Then suddenly it stopped. We were somewhere else. We became aware of trees. Thousands of them. And grasses. And plants. And hundreds of thousands of birds. The sky was thick with them.
In a unified, involuntary movement, Bryn, Audra, Finn and I had linked hands. It may have been what pulled us through time together, for the rest of our team were gone.
Where are we? Audra asked. Are we in the future?
Our time orbs were smashed. Liquified. We had no way of knowing where we were or how far we had come. And we had no way of going back home.
For months we tried to build new orbs. To use our beginner’s magic to break through time. We had no luck. There was plenty of food from the trees. We had eggs and grains to make bread. We built ourselves a hut, fashioned knives and spears, searched the skies every day for a sign we had been found. But there was nothing.
A year passed. We did not come across another human soul. Bryn began to believe we had ended up in the future but much further than 600 years. He quoted the work of the famous seer Steven Stillwater, who predicted that when homo sapiens ended up destroying themselves the next species – the avians – would come to prominence.
I think we have come forward 6000 years instead of 600, he said.
We panicked at that, but there was nothing to be done but get on with things. We lived our lives as best as we could.We became a family. We were close. We were all we had.
When we were searching for ore in the hills one morning Audra admitted to me that she was in love with Bryn and he with her. And that she was happy here where she was. She didn’t want to go back. I could see it – the love between them. They loved with a love that was more than love. It had to be. It was survival.
Finn, on the other hand, was disinterested in love. He had mapped out the entire area for thousands of miles and searched painstakingly every day from morning till night for another human being.
How can it be that there are no people left? he asked every night. There has to be someone, somewhere.
Maybe Audra and I need to repopulate the world, Bryn said with a smirk.
Finn plunged his head into his hands. I felt sick.
In the morning I watched Finn wearily traipse over ground he had covered the day before. I stared into the distance long after he was out of sight. I was numb. Deflated. What was the good of being such a good student if I could not come up with a way to return home?
I walked to the river. I meant to pan for metal. Anything metal. I needed it to build another orb. I heard a song not unlike bird song as well as a swishing of the water. It was a song not unlike bird song except for one thing – there were words.
It was a child. A boy by the looks of things, although his hair was very long. He had on an outfit made entirely of feathers. It looked like he had strung them together with straw. I knew in my heart it was the little prince. He had his feet in the water, splashing. Beside him on the riverbank lay a green shoe with a red sole and a single golden orb.
He looked up, caught my eye. What took you so long? he asked.