Fantasy Fiction Suspense

Some Time and Somewhere, something agreed that tonight was important. Eleanor was grateful, at least, for that sliver of Knowing. It was the only thing driving her from wall to wall as she shuffled hastily, gathering a bottle from here, a jar from there, preparing. 

The mice scampered along with Eleanor from corner to corner, their tattling a rhythmic hum that made the cobwebs dance. The single pane windows on the front of the house rattled their response to the thunderclaps outside, each louder and more vibrative than the last. Beneath her feet, the floorboards squeaked in competition with the pop and crackle of Eleanor’s worn bones. Only twelve candlesticks lit the withered cabin, but they were enough to cast flickering shadows across the walls.

As Eleanor rushed, something like a dream overtook her, stopping her in her tracks. In a single breath, her walls were replaced with vibrant pink and yellow chrysanthemums, and her roof was now the vast blue sky, almost white with the sun’s beam. In the distance, a bird chased another, willing its song to be heard. And further, hooves peddling and carriages following. Even further, laughter, children playing. In her unwrinkled hand, a steel watering can, like a weight. And although she wore boots, she felt the gentle give of the dirt below. Eleanor tilted her head back, filled her lungs, and smiled. Peace. At last.

“Eleanor!” A voice echoed through the memory.

No! Her knuckles grew white around the watering can.


Not yet! She begged, inhaling the ethereal spice of flowers. Her ears reached for laughter, a neighing horse.


The voice grew louder, and like a sheet being pulled from a canvas, Eleanor’s dark cabin was restored.

The sudden return was as startling as the sound of her name being whispered. Eleanor jumped. Her pupils dilated. The items in her hands clinked to the floor. Mice scattered like guilt-riddled puppies.

Just as quickly as she’d dropped them, Eleanor was squatting down to pick up the bottles. “Sorry!” Eleanor's apprentice, Maeve, squeaked, lowering down to help her.

“Devil’s tongue! You frightened the life out of me, Maeve! When did you get here?” Eleanor spouted, then winced at the volume of her voice.

“I just walked in. You were just standing there, staring right through me. How long were you out?” Maeve asked.

“Not but a moment.” Eleanor waved her off, but in a corner of her mind, she heard a lingering laugh, an invitation to go back.

“It’s happening more often,” Maeve said.

“It only means we are getting closer,” Eleanor dismissed. “Do you have it?”

Maeve, spright as she was, sprung to her feet. “Yes!” she gleamed, working her hands into her cloak. When Maeve withdrew them, they were glowing, as if clasped between her hands was a pair of caged fireflies.

A gasp escaped Eleanor. “Oh, terrific job, Maeve! Let’s have a looksee. Over here, over here!” She flicked her head gesturing towards the table against the far wall. After putting her bottles down, she retrieved a thick cloth from within her own cloak and laid it flat on the wood top. “Here, put it here, darling.”

Maeve obliged quickly, eagerly. Holding her hands not even an inch above the cloth, Maeve parted pinky from pinky before lifting her arms to reveal a lustrous stone not much bigger than a cube of sugar.

“Wow,” breathed the two women in unison. Eleanor hummed her agreement, and for a moment, the two were speechless, mesmerized. It was as if Maeve had plucked a star from the sky and placed it before them. The gem-like treasure produced its own light, a bright glow that ebbed and flowed into itself and out, a visual inhale and exhale. As Maeve and Eleanor leaned forward to admire its beauty, a welcoming warmth radiated towards them and a crescendo of sound emanated from it. It was a ringing, like the sound of water sliding across the rim of a glass cup; a hypnotic resonance.

Eleanor had forgotten just how beautiful a Memory could be. She’d almost surrendered to the idea that she – or anyone – would never get to see one again. Until she’d found Maeve, a beacon that had called out to her in the hollowed-out meadow of a forgotten forest, all those years ago. And, now, here it was: here was the soft and familiar hum that had embraced her for years, taking her, like a train, to every time and place imaginable. Here was the most valuable tool an Alterer could have, the only tool that mattered. Flour to a baker. Thread to a tailor.

The vibration of sound beckoned to Eleanor, growing louder and louder. For a moment, Eleanor wanted to yield to it. She could feel the edges of her vision tunneling, the sheet of her surroundings wavering and rippling against her temptation.

Yessssss, it encouraged.

It had been nothing but a split-second consideration, a reflexive nod, and in a flash, a new scene was before her: the same cabin, but darker. Maeve screamed, and a rough hand pressed around Eleanor’s mouth, pulling her in abruptly, harshly, something sharp poking at her side…

“Eleanor!” Maeve broke her out of her reverie quickly, this time patting her hands against Eleanor’s cheeks. “Come back, Eleanor!”

Eleanor shook, shuttering as if to remove the hands she’d felt on her. Meeting her apprentice’s gaze, she nodded a thank you. “Were you followed here?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Maeve answered.

“Good,” Eleanor quivered, still settling back into the present. “The last thing we need are Timekeepers finding us.” Eleanor inched closer to the shining Memory, gesturing Maeve to do the same. “Come, come! We don’t have much time. You must learn this now. You’ve already done part of it – Extraction is tedious business – but taking apart a Memory is much trickier. Altering it, well, that takes practice. And unfortunately, we don’t have the time for that.”

A focused determination filled Maeve’s eyes as she watched Eleanor explain Dismantlement. Though not the first time the two had discussed the process, it was the first time Maeve had had a visual. She listened closely, fear and excitement tingling across her skin. Eleanor noticed the goosebumps.

“That’s the Knowing, dear,” she explained.

Maeve’s eyes gleamed at the thought of the powerful force actually touching her. She brushed her fingertips across her raised hairs.

“I remember that feeling. Breathtaking, isn’t it?” Eleanor reminisced. “I’d thought the day I decided to Transfer would look a little different,” she took in the withered and dim room around her and sighed. Pressing a palm into Maeve’s smooth and freckled face, she lamented, “You deserve a celebration, to be with your family when you Receive. Not this, hiding away in the dark, alone with a wrinkled old woman, rushing your first Alteration.”

Maeve reached out and squeezed Eleanor’s free hand. “It’s OK. This is perfect.”

“It’s not,” Eleanor disagreed warmly. “But it’ll do. It’ll have to. And if it’s any consolation, I hope you realize just how crucial this Alteration is. You are going to change everything. For the better. Us Alterers can only hope to make such an impact at least once in our lives – most of the time it’s just little stuff: lovers forgotten, grievances removed, grief softened – and yet here you are, starting with an Alter that will restore peace! Ha-ha! Alterers past and present will know your name, Maeve, and they will be so grateful.”

Maeve’s cheeks bloomed a rosy pink. “It’s an honor. To be apart of it, and to learn from you, Eleanor. I just hope I can do it.”

“You can.” Eleanor squeezed Maeve’s arm. “Are you ready?”

The two hovered over the Memory again, but neither moved. “You have to be the one to do it. To complete your Receiving, you must do the Dismantlement and the Alteration. I won’t leave you, but I cannot help you. Once the Alteration is done, the shift will happen automatically.”

Maeve acknowledged with a nod, but her eyes glazed over.

Eleanor recognized the look, the pull to somewhere else. The Transference was beginning. She grabbed her shoulders. “Maeve, focus. The first time can be a little discombobulating. The Knowing will guide you, but you have to listen. Trust it. When you come out of it, it might take a minute to get your bearings.”

Maeve now had her hands at Eleanor’s elbows. “Ok, I’m ready,” she breathed.

At the edge of the table, Maeve took a deep breath and closed her eyes. The pounding of water into concrete came forward in her mind as she zeroed in on her surroundings, just as Eleanor had instructed. When she opened her eyes, she exhaled and began talking herself through the steps.

“First, a sip of Protection.” With two fingers, she lifted the small glass bottle Eleanor had prepared to her lips and drank. Her face twisted and she let out a sharp pant. “Spicy!”

“It’s the Fire’s tail,” Eleanor explained.

“Yuck. OK, next: a single drop of Chrysanthemum Extract onto the Memory.” She lifted another small glass bottle and carefully tilted it above the glowing stone until it produced a single drop of clear liquid. It sizzled at the contact, releasing a bit of smoke.

Eleanor scrunched up her nose. “It’s not always a pleasant smell. Depends on the Memory.”

“And now, the Severance.” Maeve lifted a metal pointed rod, something like a nail with a loop at its end. She slipped its pointed tip into the nearest candle’s flame, and the fire transferred to the rod as if it were a wick of a candle.

“This has to be precise,” Eleanor directed. “Finding each connection between the moment before this Memory and the moment after, and severing them.”

Maeve’s eyes didn’t leave the rod as she pressed it into the Memory. The surface of the stone became like flakes of wax at the rod’s touch. Simultaneously, a scream of agony exploded from the gem; as if the stone were alive, it shrieked at the pain of Maeve’s work. Maeve winced but continued, etching a zigzagging pattern across the stone like a maze. When the gem popped open, the screaming stopped, and the whole room turned white with its emanating glow.

Maeve startled backwards, as if the gem had shoved her away. She gasped and sheltered her eyes from the blinding light. When she’d turned to look for Eleanor’s guidance, any sense of reassurance was denied by the empty space where Eleanor should have been.

Then, Maeve heard it: the thundering sound of the rain now much louder, as if it were inside. A cool rush of air pressed into her back. A muffled whimper. And then…

“Put your hands up, witch!” A deep, booming voice commanded from behind her.

Maeve spun around and found Eleanor in the clutches of a uniformed guard who held one hand over Eleanor’s mouth and a spear at her waist. His cheek was pressed against Eleanor’s head, purposefully avoiding the illuminating burst of light behind Maeve. She dropped the fiery rod.

“Let her go!” she cried.

Eleanor writhed in his arms. The Timekeeper tensed her still. “If you think I won’t kill her…” he threatened. “Put your hands up! Now!”

Horror welled up like a waterfall in Maeve’s eyes. She stared helplessly at her mentor. She wanted so desperately to free the woman who’d saved her, who’d spun fairy tales into reality and introduced her to hope. But all she could manage through her terror was: “No!” She sprung forward, reaching out to Eleanor.

In one swift sweep, the Timekeeper removed the spear from Eleanor’s side and pointed it towards Maeve. “HANDS UP!” he roared.

Eleanor took the chance and bit the man’s finger. He cursed and freed her lips, but kept his hold across her chest.

“Do it, now, Maeve! Finish it!” Eleanor shouted. She did not squint against the vibrant white behind Maeve, but stared at her wide-eyed and pleading. Now with the Timekeeper’s spear at her throat, digging deeper into her skin, she used each breath with purpose: “It’s the only way. You have to do it, Maeve. Now!”

Without breaking her gaze, Maeve collected herself. Nodding at Eleanor’s command as tears flowed down her cheeks, she looked from Eleanor to the Timekeeper. And then slowly, she began stepping backwards, hands shaking. “Step four: Enter the Memory,” her voice trembled.

“Stop! Stay where you are—,” the Timekeeper warned.

“Step five:,” She took another step back…

The Timekeeper took a step forward, Eleanor still clutched in his arms. “Hey!”

“Alter,” she whispered.

“Stop —”

The Timekeeper was yelling, but Maeve had already turned her back on him. Eleanor watched her sprint towards the far wall that was now only a white abyss. The last thing Eleanor saw was Maeve soaring through the air before being engulfed by the light, which then closed in on itself. As quickly as the light had burst into existence, it vanished, leaving behind Eleanor’s plain cabin wall and her table, atop it an empty thick cloth lain flat. The darkness enveloped them.

“What the – Where did she go?” The Timekeeper asked, bewildered and angry. When he didn’t get an immediate response, he demanded again, this time jabbing the spear deeper.

But Eleanor couldn’t hear him. His voice had become a muddled whisper in the wind, fading away with the clouds. She marveled at the pink and yellow splotches blooming around her, pressing her toes into the soles of her shoes and relishing at the ease in which they meshed with the ground beneath her. Above her, a bird made circles in a sheet of blue, screeching. Her skin was warm, and somewhere – not far – laughter. Eleanor tilted her head back and took in the air.

Peace. At last.

September 21, 2023 13:14

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Rebecca Miles
15:59 Sep 22, 2023

Am I the only one, sister scribbler, who thinks you should write a long narrative poem,/poetic narrative for your next piece? Honestly, this is seventh heaven for me: The mice scampered along with Eleanor from corner to corner, their tattling a rhythmic hum that made the cobwebs dance. Tattling mice! Cobwebs dancing. Please develop this in time for a lovely halloween poem/story. You will make this reader very happy!


AnneMarie Miles
00:49 Sep 23, 2023

I might consider developing a poem with that kind of praise! This story put me through the ringer so perhaps I need a bit of space from it first 😅 I don't know why I struggle so much with fantasy, when you can literally make anything happen! I'm behind on my readings this week (per writing this little dingy) but I'm coming for your story soon dear sister miles!


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Amanda Lieser
15:40 Oct 20, 2023

Hi AnneMrie! It’s a fascinating concept that you have here because you address the power of memory but you also address the ability to change it. Every single idea and memory is different for each individual and I know that it’s so stark for me in my childhood because my sister and I grew up in the same house with the same parents, but we both have very different perceptions of good moments a bad moments. I also want to touch base on the fact that this story is primarily about two women and one is a mentor and one is a mentee. I think it’s a...


AnneMarie Miles
15:54 Oct 20, 2023

Thanks again Amanda! 🙏 This was such a strange and new direction for me so I wasnt quite sure how to navigate it. I have the same situation with my three siblings! They always tell me I'm remembering wrong 😅 perception is powerful!!


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Helen Sanders
09:13 Sep 26, 2023

Interesting story. Was a tad difficult for me to make connections from part A to Part B for now. I wonder if providing the reader with more information on 'what world we are in,' might assist in accepting the world we are thrust into. Also, terminology introduced that the reader, unfamiliar with, might make the storyline difficult to follow.


AnneMarie Miles
15:05 Sep 26, 2023

Helen, thank you for such insightful feedback. This was an experimental piece for me and fantasy is not my wheelhouse by any means. It seems I stretched the "show, don't tell" theme too far. Thank you for helping me understand the shortcomings here so I can improve next time. Thanks again!


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Michał Przywara
20:47 Sep 25, 2023

That's a cool fantasy story :) We get to witness some event of critical importance, but it's clear there's a lot more happening behind the scenes. This feels like some sort of post-cataclysmic world, where memories themselves have been damaged. The oppressive Timekeepers try to preserve the status quo, though it's not clear if they are evil or simply misguided, and people like Eleanor seem to know what's going on. Far as I can tell, they can not only experience the memories of others, but also alter them - and thereby, alter time itself. S...


AnneMarie Miles
21:27 Sep 25, 2023

Thanks for this comment, Michal. I'm glad you were able to pull so much from this, because even as I was writing it, it felt like Eleanor was revealing something to me that I barely understood myself (she kept saying: "taking apart a memory is not as easy as it seems"), so it was fun to explore what that meant. Fantasy is such a tough genre for me, I really agonized over this and was hoping it made sense in the end. But you definitely got the important parts: at one point Alterations were allowed and used commonly, and now they are not. El...


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Delbert Griffith
10:05 Sep 22, 2023

Whoa! Quite a fantasy, AnneMarie. Talk about taking a reader into another place, not only within the tale but upon reading it. This is a fine piece of fantasy, and the immersive aspects were incredible. You really hit the prompt well, my friend. You have a gift for exposition, one that I can only try to learn from. Nicely done, AnneMarie. Nicely done indeed. Cheers!


AnneMarie Miles
00:51 Sep 23, 2023

Fantasy is such a hard one for me to grapple with so your words mean a lot, friend! This was a bit agonizing to write so I'm glad any of it made any sense, ha! I'm a bit behind on my readings this week but I can't wait to dive into another Delbert Griffith tale soon! Thanks and happy Friday!


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Mary Bendickson
19:16 Sep 21, 2023

" The timekeeper could a step closer"? Bewitching stor


AnneMarie Miles
19:40 Sep 21, 2023

Thanks for catching that! And thanks for reading!


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Marty B
23:26 Dec 18, 2023

I love the urgency of this story, the need for Maeve to go back an Alter a Memory. You put a lot of importance into it, so when the Timekeeper came to stop them, it felt scary for them! I wonder what it means to Alter a Memory: to change history? Even if is just to learn from history, and bring that wisdom into the present seems a worthwhile goal, and one sorely lacking in this fantasy world, and our own. Thank!


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Lei King
22:47 Sep 25, 2023

We have the privilege of observing an event of utmost significance, yet it becomes evident that there exists a multitude of undisclosed occurrences concealed from our view. This setting evokes a sense of a world that has endured a catastrophic event, wherein even the very fabric of memories has suffered impairment. The authoritative Timekeepers, who exert their control to maintain the existing order, leave us uncertain as to whether their intentions are malevolent or merely misguided. Meanwhile, individuals such as Eleanor appear to possess ...


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