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American Adventure Fiction

The Vanguard Of Truth—George Davis

“Well, John it is a mystery, but when your molecules separate and reassemble in another generation one may have no recollection of having been transported. Example: Henry Sampson. You know Henry, don’t you?” I knew Sampson very well. He ran the local hardware store in the Falls. “Well, Henry is from the, believe it or not, 15th century.” That would explain Henry praying in the Old King James; thee, thou, and the eth on some of his words. 

I left the professor’s home more confused than I’ve ever been. How could it be I am a time-traveler? I have no recollection of having lived in another time. It doesn’t make sense. Besides, the professor obviously has dementia. What he told me is crazy, completely insane. A person cannot transport themselves to another time period. It would be impossible to rearrange one's molecules. However, it would explain that eerie photo. 

I dream of other lands where the mountains touch the sky, and the rivers flow to the sea. Where wildflowers bloom in rich, lush forests, and where one can see unobstructed views to the distant horizon. Maybe it was where I had been born, and where I had ceased to exist. Maybe someday I will find a way to return to that beautiful place I have so longed for in my dreams. Until then. I shall make the best of my life here in the year 2022. 

  Rummaging through an old sea chest in my attic, I came across a roll of film. It was exposed but not developed. Taking the roll, I drove down to Thompson’s Drugstore to be sent to the lab that would develop the negatives. I asked Stan Thompson how long it would be until my film came back? “The usual turnaround time is four days.” 

  Like undiscovered mysteries, I left the enigma in the hands of those exposing my reel. And, I went on with my daily routine, which consisted of breakfast at the Wayfarer Diner, a stop at the drugstore for the morning newspaper, and then off to work. I own and operate John Haseltine’s Book Store on Main Street, in Bickford, Maine where I have resided for the past sixty-eight years. 

  I promote good reading at my store. I encourage poets and authors to read from their material on Friday nights. The meeting has grown from two people, Judd Graffam and myself to over a dozen readers and listeners. I serve coffee and the group alternately provides the pastries for our gathering. 

  Sunday morning you will find me sitting in the back row at Bickford Community Church. I am what one calls, a Back Row Baptist. It is easier for me to escape the ‘Did you have to mention sin again this week pastor, or ‘you should have said more about…’ speeches of the congregation. I get enough of that kind of euphoria. Forgive me for being facetious, but I think, as my mother used to say, ‘if you can’t say anything good about a person. Don’t say anything at all.’

  Monday I picked up my roll of film. I could hardly wait to see the pictures. I’ll open the envelope when I get to work. In the meantime, I conjured up not a few images in my mind. One was a picture of my great grandfather to whom I believe took the photos, probably in the late forties.

  The first thing I did at work was what I always do first. I made coffee and opened the mail. Before I had a chance to look at the film, my first customer came in. His request was simple to fill. He wanted a copy of Mere Christianity by C S Lewis. This one book I keep well-stocked. The demand necessitates supply. 

  Open the customer’s departure. I opened the envelope. To my utter amazement, there were only two useable photos. The rest did not develop and was unusable. The top pic was an image of my great grandfather, Josiah Haseltine, a farmer from West Cumberland, Maine. The picture was so natural. My grandfather, in his denim overalls stood erect behind his plow horse, Susie Belle. 

  The next photo was a picture of me in the uniform of a WWI soldier. That can’t be. It was definitely me. There could be no doubt; thin face chiseled chin, deep-set, hazel eyes, and aquiline nose. Aunt Jenny says I’d make a good Sherlock Holmes. I couldn’t play Sherlock. I don’t smoke, and I don’t play the violin, and I don’t know any Doctor Watsons. 

  I placed the Sherlockian photo face-up on my desk. I studied it carefully. The person, whoever he was, he was a perfect doppelgänger, right down to the wart on the right side of my nose, the cleft in his chin, the size and shape of the Grand Canyon was unmistakably yours truly. 

  I believed someone must have photo-shopped the picture. Yes, that’s the answer, someone did some cropping. They joined, somehow, the two images together. It is the only reason that makes sense. It is certainly impossible for me to have been time-traveled back to WWI. Or was it? 

There weren’t many customers in early, most came in around ten to four, my busiest time. I took this time to call the only photo processing company in a radius of fifty miles. Jonah Kingman had been developing films for over fifty years. Before that, his father operated the store.  

  “Hello, Jonah,” I said. “Will you take a look at this picture and tell me if it has been photo-shopped?” I slid the picture across the counter. After a few ummms and a couple of oohs. He said, “Nope, this is a real photo. Nothing has been done to it, John.” He looked up. “Isn’t that you in the forefront? It sure looks like you. How’d you get into an 1800s photograph?” 

  “That’s what I’m trying to find out, Jonah.” I left his shop with no answers, only Jonah’s questions. There has to be an answer somewhere. I drove over to the library. Miss Crane, the head librarian was stamping library cards. 

  “Good afternoon, Jonathan.” She is the only person to call me Jonathan. My name is John, Period.  

 “Good afternoon, Miss Crane. I wonder if you can help me.” I passed her the photo. 

 “What are you looking for, Jonathan?” 

  “Do you see anything familiar in the picture, Miss Crane?” 

Hand to chin, “yes, that person right there looks an awful lot like you, Jonathan. Is it you?” 

  “That’s what I’m trying to find out, Miss Crane. Jonah Kingman says it is not photo-shopped, and Jonah would know.” 

  “If it isn’t altered in any way. How’d your picture get in there?” 

  “I haven’t a clue, Miss Crane. I wish I knew.” I left the library, my mind foggier than when I entered. Where to now? I knew Abel Holston, a retired professor at the university’s History Department lived over in Cumberland Falls just over the Sagamore River bridge. His house was easy enough to find. It is the small Cape where all sorts of flowers made up the front lawn separated by a flagstone walk to the front door. I nearly decapitated his daisies that hung over the colored stones. I rang the bell and heard the chimes from inside the house. 

  “Well, hello, John. Come on in.” He opened the door and waved me inside his crowded home. In his living room where we entered held more books than the local library. Three walls donned floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with every genre you could imagine; from Gone With The Wind to Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  

  He puffed on an old corn cob pipe as he asked, “How can I be of assistance, John?” The smoke circled his head like a winner’s wreath. The odor of stale tobacco filled the air. 

Showing him the photo, he stared at it then as if he was going to ask a question. He said, “my that fellow looks like you, John.” 

  “Yes, Professor, that’s why I am here. How did my picture get in an old photo taken before I was born?” 

  “Have you got a couple of hours to spare, John? If you do I will explain the science of time travel.” He smiled, “You see; I am from the year 2040. I came here forty-five years ago. I cannot return to my century. I did not make it to my place of departure at the time specified for return. 

  You see. I developed a time machine many years ago, actually, it was 2025. I live, or I should say, lived decades from this time. I was curious about time travel since reading H G Wells The Time Machine. It fascinated me. Can man travel through time? A question I often asked myself. Then one day I started on a project to build a time machine. It took me two years to put the finishing touches on the machine before it was ready for trial. I worked out every detail, spending many sleepless nights. Finally one night I had it ready for a trial run. I dialed it to 1999, the year of global curiosity. A time when one thought, all computers might fail to turn over to the new century. As a scientist, I believed there would be no problems, and there were none.” 

  “Professor, do you think I am from the 19th century? I mean this photo is obviously from that time.” 

  “I would say, you did time travel, son. That is definitely you in that picture. Don’t you remember anything about your past?”

  “No, I was born in 1954 across the river in Bickford, Maine. My mother was Ginger and my dad, Joseph Hazeltine the third from Bremen.”

  “Sometimes, not very often, one’s mind can confuse the facts. Probably you remember your parents from the past. You gave them a new identity. They were now 21st-century humans.”

  “I don’t understand, Professor.”

  “Well, John it is a mystery, but when your molecules separate and reassemble in another generation one may have no recollection of having been transported. Example: Henry Sampson. You know Henry, don’t you?” I knew Sampson very well. He ran the local hardware store in the Falls. “Well, Henry is from the, believe it or not, 15th century.” That would explain Henry praying in the Old King James; thee, thou, and the eth on some of his words. 

  I left the professor’s home more confused than I’ve ever been. How could it be I am a time-traveler? I have no recollection of having lived in another time. It doesn’t make sense. Besides, the professor obviously has dementia. What he told me is crazy, completely insane. A person cannot transport themselves to another time period. It would be impossible to rearrange one's molecules. However, it would explain that eerie photo. 

  I dream of other lands where the mountains touch the sky, and the rivers flow to the sea. Where wildflowers bloom in rich, lush forests, and where one can see unobstructed views to the distant horizon. Maybe it was where I had been born, and where I had ceased to exist. Maybe someday I will find a way to return to that beautiful place I have so longed for in my dreams. Until then. I shall make the best of my life here in the year 2022. 

May 06, 2022 12:00

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