Inspired by writing prompt six from Creative Writing Ink – https://creativewritingink.co.uk/writing-prompts
The last leafy sunset of the season had faded, its fiery oranges and golds mellowed by the recent rains so that now the leaves were countless shades of cider and rust. A breeze chilled the air, and suddenly the heat of August felt like a very convincing daydream.
It was a restful afternoon by the lake. Couples strolled by in comfortable silence; others sat gazing out at the water. A young girl and her mother crouched quietly on the other side of the lake, searching for fish. Nobody noticed the two friends sat together, both preoccupied, neither one savouring their last minutes in twenty nineteen. Instead, the pain was making Calix impatient.
“Is it almost ready?”
No reply from Morena usually meant no. She had taken over the bench next to Calix and was tinkering with the Psychron. It had been two months since they last jumped, which warranted a thorough check of all the circuits and sliding panels contained in the cylindrical device. Just like any other vehicle, it underwent repairs and modifications, but instead of loud clattering and sparks, there was a faint low-pitched buzzing and the occasional lit cigarette fizz. Morena swore under her breath. The toolkit was somewhere in ancient Greece.
The duo had picked iron benches in an unfamiliar section of the city park, and Calix read the strange plaque inserted in the concrete as he leaned down to untie his laces. It seemed that the area was a favourite of Frank and Hilda Williams. The inscription still gleamed, ‘Lovers of the lake since 1967’. How odd, Calix thought. How odd to be tethered to one spot. How odd to have even your name endure the long years stuck in a single place. He shuddered at the horror of it.
The prickling now unbearable, Calix pulled both his feet out of his black boots. He bent his lower legs back in a swinging position, slipped his hands under his socks and started scratching. It was as if ants were crawling across his soles, a thousand mosquito bites underneath them. At home, they had called it ‘Time’s Tickle’, but it was a painful, stinging itch that no scratching, clawing, or scraping could relieve. It went deeper than the skin. Calix’s very flesh tingled, and perhaps his bones too were infected. But this was only an initial symptom, an early warning that it was time to jump again.
Morena keyed them in as Calix distractedly listed each number and symbol off by heart, as had become their routine. He wondered if Morena’s feet were as itchy as his. She never gave very much away, and most of the time, it was impossible to tell what she was thinking behind her stolid expression. He remembered the incident in 1654, though. Morena had trembled as the flames licked the stake, tears staining her cheeks. She had screamed that she didn’t want to go as Calix struggled with the Psychron; she didn’t want to die an aimless wanderer. He wondered if Morena still thought about it, if she imagined herself settling in, setting up, staying for longer and putting down roots. Would it make any difference if they could? Everybody in every era was just passing through.
“Okay, time to go,” said Morena.
She had turned towards Calix and held the other end of the Psychron out towards him. Dead skin was caked under his fingernails.
He pulled his hands out from his socks, clasped the Psychron and pulled against Morena’s resistance, opening the machine like a Christmas cracker.
Morena looked down at the black, empty boots and her face contorted with confusion, disbelief, and then anger in rapid succession. But it was too late. The boots, the plaque, the benches, the lake, the leaves, all of it, blinked out of existence. Calix and Morena were gone.
Half an hour later, little Viv and her mother travelled around the lake and came across the abandoned boots. Viv, filled with seasonal, spooky sweets and ghost stories, quickly came to her own conclusion as to who the shoes belonged to.
“Mr Williams?” she whispered to the air.