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Fantasy

Only a Dream

There it was standing in the middle of the meadow. Nobody knew what it was, or where it came from, only that it had been there for forever. Kids used to play around it until weird things started to happen. Now it just stands there all alone.

It was 1850, in New Hope, Ohio. Folks were just getting by, farming their lands and basically trying to survive. The cholera outbreak of 1849, took most of the population of New Hope, but there were still a few survivors left. The dead weren’t forgotten, but life had to go on.

“Aggie?” Jo was tall and slender, and half lying down in the grassy meadow “What would you have done if Jake had died in the outbreak?”

“I don’t know, sis. Probably what you have done…grieve a lot and go on with my life.”

Gazing out over the meadow, Jo’s long, blonde hair was blowing gently in the cool breeze. “Ever wonder where that big man came from?”

Looking much like her sister, Aggie responded. “No, Jo. Don’t really care.”

“How can you not care, Aggie? It’s been here longer than we have. Don’t you want to know who made it or left it here or…”

“No, Jo” Aggie cut in. “It’s part of the earth. I don’t need to know more than that.”

“Still, why would someone leave it here, and why is it so big?” Jo trailed off chewing on a blade of grass and staring at the big, metal man standing in the middle of the meadow. “You know” said Jo after a long silence, “some people say strange things have happened around that thing.” Jo leaned back with her hand under her head, still chewing on the blade of grass.

“Like what?” smirked Aggie as she laid there picking at the dirt that had gotten under her finger nails.

“Like, some people have heard noises coming from him. And someone said they saw him move…”

“You believe that old wives tale?”

“I don’t know…maybe…I don’t know, but it does give you something to think about, doesn’t it?” asked Jo, raising up on her elbow.

“Well, I have better things to think about. I have to get going or my husband will be wondering where his dinner is.”

“Jake knows where you are when you’re with me.” She chuckled.

Getting up and brushing the grass from their long skirts and blouses, Jo took one more look at the big, metal man and turned to follow Aggie out of the meadow and toward home, a small farm just down the road.

Life went on as normally as possible. Aggie spent most of her time in the kitchen baking bread and cooking meals of stew, beans or whatever was on hand to cook. Jo spent time helping her father and brother-in-law in the field, mostly taking them water or lemonade, but sometimes helping to pick vegetables or fruit. Then she would spend her evenings sewing. She made all their clothes by hand, as it was usually done. Then it was off to bed after the sun had set and the moon was high.

“Aggie” she knocked softly, not wanting to wake up the entire house. “Aggie” she called again.

Sleepy-eyed, Aggie opened the door and yawned.

“Aggie, did you hear something?”

“No, I was asleep,” she yawned again and started to close the door.

Pushing against the door, Jo said, “I heard something moving in the meadow. It sounds like a grinding or…” Jo didn’t go on. Instead Aggie’s eyes got bigger as she, too, heard the noise. “Get dressed and let’s go see what it is?”

“I’ll wake up Jake.”

“No!”

But Jake, a big man with longish, dark hair and a crooked nose, was already awake. He had heard the noise also. “You two have no business going out there alone. I’ll go with you.” And they dressed and hurried out the door, running as silently as they could. There at the edge of the meadow they stood watching the big, metal man moving around in the meadow, seemingly under his own power.

“Did he wake you?” a strange man wearing strange clothing asked. He was nearly five feet tall and plump, with a mostly bald head. What little hair there was stood straight up like a crown. He wore a suit of grey, metallic fabric and a light tan overcoat.

“Who are you?” Jake stood with arms out stretched, sheltering the women.

“I am the keeper of this robot.” The strange man motioned towards the big, metal man standing in the meadow. He seemed to have a window with something akin to a typewriter keyboard underneath it on one hip.

“Robot?” Jake asked looking down his once broken nose at the strange man. “What is this ‘Robot’ you speak of?”

“It is a man made of metal, a machine.”

“Where did he come from?” spouted Jo, looking up at the twelve-foot-tall machine.

“We are from the future…or the past.”

“What do you mean by that?” Jo was curious.

“He is my companion. We travel together through time.”

“That’s impossible, he has been here since time began,” Aggie spat, clutching the sides of her long dress.

“It only seems that way. We have made this meadow our home base…for now. And we leave regularly for other times. Sometimes he does not stop in exactly the same place. That’s why it looks like he has moved.” All three looked on in amazed disbelief as the man talked. He had a strange dialect and an accent of sorts, but they had no trouble understanding him.

“Can anyone travel in time?” Jo inquired.

“Yes…and no” he responded. “In your time, you would be missed…so no! However, you could travel in time, but when you arrive you are disoriented…a bit…so yes! If you don’t mind feeling ‘woozy’. Oh…and you won’t remember a thing.”

“This is confusing me” Aggie held her head in her hand. “Why won’t I remember anything?”

“Because it’s only a dream…” and the strange man was gone. However, the big, metal man was right where he had always been.

“Why are we standing here in the meadow, in the middle of the night?” Jake wanted to know.

“I don’t know!” came the reply as the women clutched their arms to stave off the cool night air.

“Well, we’d better get to bed, it’s late!” The big, metal man just stared off into space as they left.

Morning came early…as usual. They didn't even remember being up in the middle of the night…except Jo. She had a feeling that something had happened. So she went out night after night, watching and waiting for something to happen. Each night was a little more familiar, and she was remembering the strange man that she talked to every night. Finally, came the day she felt ‘woozy’…and wasn’t sure why. The strange man explained that she had been travelling with him and ‘woozy’ was what you felt when you stopped travelling. But her ‘woozy’ feeling didn’t go away. And eventually, she learned why. She was pregnant. “But how…with who?” she wondered.

 The strange man would only say… “you’ll know soon enough.”

The day came. It was finally spring when she went into labor.

She arrived kicking and screaming…the babe was the spitting image of Jo's first, stillborn daughter. “So, it was my husbands child, but how?” wondered Jo.

She went to see the strange man, who smiled and told her of her visit to the past, when her husband was alive. She, apparently, had visited him many times, and wondered why she couldn’t remember. Jo wanted to know if the babe could travel with her, and he said “Yes!”

The family wanted to know how she could have been pregnant with her husbands baby…and all she would say was, “…you’ll know soon enough!” They didn’t understand, but welcomed the newborn into their hearts.

Jo and baby, Mary, went to visit William many times. And each time she remembered more of her visit.

“I want to take you somewhere” said the strange man.

“Where?” replied Jo.

“To the future! There is something I want to show you.” And they went on their way. It didn’t take long…it never took long. “Here we are!”

Jo didn’t know what to think. Everything was shiny and bright…mostly metal…she realized. There were robots and these things called cars, which seemed to be a conveyance of some kind. As they walked along down the street, the strange man turned into a marketplace. There he purchased something and put it into his pocket for safekeeping.

“What was that?” asked Jo.

“…you’ll know soon enough!” was all he said, and then they returned to the big, metal man.

This time they went to the past, where her husband, William, skinnier than she remembered him being, was working in the field with her father and brother-in-law. It was 1849 and the epidemic was just beginning, and William was just beginning to show signs of the disease.

“Here, take this and swallow it!” she said, and he took the pill from her and swallowed it. Within days he was looking and feeling better, but he never asked what it was. The truth was, Jo didn’t know. They took a trip to town and she passed out little pills to all who were sick. It didn’t work on everyone. I guess it depended on how sick they were. But it worked on most of the towns population and soon the epidemic was over.

Jo decided that she and Mary would stay in the past. It was where her husband was and she didn’t want to lose another minute of time with him.

“But why must you leave?” she asked the strange man.

“I have done what I came here to do. You are happy now and I must go on to another place and time. You see, that's what I do. I help people in need.”

“I'll miss you!” said Jo with tears running down her cheeks.

“No, you won’t…because it's only a dream!" And with that the strange man left, taking the big, metal man with him and they were never to be seen again…in this place or time.

Jo was back in time…or was she? She didn’t really understand it, but she was there with her family, on the farm. The place where she and her sister, Aggie, would lay in the grassy edge of the meadow and talk about things.

“Jo,” Aggie asked, “what would you have done if William had died of cholera?”

“I don't know, sis!” But she did know. “Probably grieve a lot…then go on with my life.”

“Jo,” Aggie spoke as if in a daze, “why does this feel so familiar?”

 “I don’t know,” said Jo, smiling.  “Maybe because it’s only a dream.”

July 14, 2022 22:07

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2 comments

14:51 Jul 20, 2022

I really loved this story! I liked the ambiguity of it as well as your vibrant narration.

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Luwana Ransier
20:59 Jul 20, 2022

Thank you so much!

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