The Time Traveler and The Immortal

Submitted into Contest #154 in response to: Write a story featuring an element of time-travel or anachronism.... view prompt

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Science Fiction Fiction Romance

"Something’s happening to me." I groaned. My body began to vibrate.

It’s been 8 months since I jumped to 16th century Germany, the longest I’ve ever stayed in the past.

Cassandra awoke and lifted her head from my bare chest. She sensed my panic and jumped out of bed. Candlelight glistened on her olive skin as she pulled on a nightdress. "I’ll get my equipment" she said as she left the room.

My arms shook as I tried to leave the bed. Waves of weakness flowed over my body.

Cassandra retuned with her medical supplies. She began her examination and applied a cooling salve. "I don't see signs of an infection."

I gazed up at Cassandra. Her dark hair fell over her shoulder in long loose curls. My heart fluttered at her touch, so soft and gentle, yet full of experience.

"That's because I'm not sick, Cass" I said. I cupped her hands into mine. She paused "It's time, isn't it?" I nodded.

My body vibrated again sending a powerful shockwave down my spine. Cassandra helped me stand and change into my clothes. I slid on my wristband. It beeped on, already programmed for the return jump.

"Will you be strong enough?" Cassandra asked.

"We'll see"

"How long will it be this time? "

"For you or for me?" I chuckled. "I'm pretty sure I'll see you first."

"Please tell me that we are close." She said.

I smiled at her, unable to answer. I leaned in, she met me halfway and kissed me deeply. I took in her scent. The smell of fresh herbs and healing salve. Another pang shook my body.

She broke away from the kiss and straightened my coat. She was so strong willed, but tears welled in her eyes. "Ted, I need to tell you..."

Instantly, my body flared with heat. The wristband let out a high-pitched alarm. I always entered the command for reentry by myself, but the wristband monitored my extreme vitals and overrode the return command. I turned to Cassandra desperately before the flash.

----

The light dissipated and the teleporter pad whooshed open revealing a room of cheering colleges greeting me with a round of applause.

"Welcome back Ted!" my boss, Rebecca, reached out a hand and led me from the pad toward my chair. I slumped down and gulped the water I laid out for my return. I left the water 8 month ago, but it only sat in this room for 30 minutes, the ice never melted. I finished and exhaled sharply. The familiar exhaustion hit. Time travel felt like running a marathon in the span of a few seconds.

My heart ached. I didn't want to come back. Seeing the control room again filled me with dread, but I knew I was pushing my luck staying in the past for so long. I put on a brave face and kept the façade of a good time agent.

"1589, beat that!" I laughed in broken breath as the scientists cheered. "Bring on the next one!"

Rebecca rolled her eyes. "Off to the medic. Then get plenty of rest. I'll see you in my office tomorrow. The higher ups will want to congratulate you." I nodded at my boss and smiled politely.

I was thrilled I didn't pass out, as so many new agents do during return trips. I still accepted the wheelchair to med bay. The vibrations stopped the second I returned. My body was happy to be back in 2045, but my thoughts lingered on the past. I didn't dare tell my superiors about Cassandra. She broke about every rule of time travel.

  • Avoid being seen. Yeah, but being seen is normal, as long as I don't make an impression. Which I did...on her.
  • Avoid confrontation. Well, she likes to avoid confrontation too.
  • Do not make friends or form close relations with the locals. Ok yes, I broke that one.

But Cassandra was different. She almost counted as a time agent herself, except she took the long way.

After dozens of missions, I started hoping, and planning, to run into Cassandra. We had an uncanny ability to find each other. It may be since I told her notable times in history where I assumed, or knew, I would be sent.

  • Do not reveal the future. Ah yes, definitely broke that one too.

The doctors patched me up and sent me on my way.

I grabbed a 21st century burger then proceeded to my apartment. I spent so long sharing a cottage in 16th century Germany that I almost forgot what door mine was.

I collapsed on my couch. The empty room burned a hole in my heart. I wondered where Cassandra was now. The future was a topic I avoided when she asked when I was from. If she knew where and when I was born, she might intervene before I became a time agent. But by not telling her, I could doom myself to never see her again. These paradoxes were what made the job of a time agent so tricky.

I pulled out my journal. I recorded every meeting with Cassandra in the order I perceived. It helped organize the nature of our relationship if I encountered her in the next jump.

Meeting 1: London 1940 - The Blitz: I met a peculiar woman named Catherine, later discovering I knew her best as Cassandra. Her first intimate greeting towards me soon turned professional when she discovered it was my first time meeting her. She claimed we have met before, insisting she was long-lived. I remained skeptical until she disclosed details of my life and work that I wouldn't reveal to anyone outside the organization.

Meeting 2: Rome 1503 - Italian Renaissance: Cassandra recognized me right away from our time in Prague together 150 years ago. I assume it’s another future event for me. Still seeing her again in the distant past confirms her statement from London. She is in fact Immortal. Her skills and cunning have brought her up to a high-class lady. We spent many nights conversing and bonding over history, art, architecture and language.

Meeting 3: London 1830 - British Industrial Revolution: Cassandra's excitement at our reunion shifted when she discovered this was only my third encounter with her. She remained unforthcoming with our shared past. I only assume because a future version of myself elaborated the risks of knowing too much about one’s future. Still, I was ecstatic and enamored with her. Her mannerisms and accent changed over the centuries, but her core caring nature, incredible intellect and fierce personality always persisted.

Meeting 4: Prague 1350 - The Black Death: Cassandra was working as a nurse as she was immune to the plague. Her mastery at healing was incredibly impressive. We grew even closer over the months I spent assisting her. I told her more about my life and the future. She was especially impressed with airplanes. I crudely drew her one on parchment.

Meeting 5: Alexandria, Egypt 415 AD - I found Cassandra teaching at the university she once told me about. Although she didn't recognize me, I wanted to tell her all about our life and future together. Her initial reaction of shock and fear prevented me from doing so. Over the following weeks I learned more about the younger Cassandra. She wasn't all that young. Born in Greece in 219 AD, she was just shy of 200 years old.

I scribbled a short summary of my latest jump.

Meeting 6: Trier, Germany 1589-Witch trials: I found Cassandra at the center of a pyre sentenced for witchcraft. I arrived just moments before the burning and was powerless to stop it. I remained in the square until it was empty and retrieved Cassandra, who emerged from the ashes unscathed. It turned out she took the place of one of her students who was accused as a witch. Cass and I decided to lay low on a farm. We spent 8 months together before I was forced back.

I wiped away a tear reliving the memory. I knew Cassandra was immortal, but the thought of her in pain still shook me to the core.

I finished my entry and succumbed to sleep.

---

The next day, I reported to Rebecca's office. Her expression was sourer than I expected after a successful mission. I looked and admired her office adorned with wooden accents and historical artifacts.

"I thought your boss was coming." I asked as I sat down.

Rebecca sighed "I thought so too, it would have been nice to finally meet him."

"You haven't met him? How does he know what's going on?"

"Oh, he knows. The higher ups get plenty of reports, after all, they call the shots and give out the assignments."

I sat up eagerly listening.

She wasted no time getting to business. "When were your parents born?”

“1985 and 1987” I answered worriedly.

“Perfect, you'll be New York City 1980."

"What!?" I burst. "But I'm on the European mission! I speak seven languages, all suited for ancient and modern Europe. Modern American history is for amateurs!"

"Well, we were originally going to send you back to Germany to observe the start of the Thirty Years' War. We even prepped the machine."

My heart pounded. It was so close to Cassandra. The Thirty Years' War started in Germany in 1618, only 29 years since I left her, and in the same country.

"Sounds good to me." I said.

"Hold on. The machine malfunctioned. The furthest back it allowed without error was 1642. The Thirty Years' War is out."

"You can't send me back only 60 years, I'm the best agent here! I broke the 1000-year barrier."

"Which is why I'm concerned. Your wristband reported a forced reentry yesterday. You've been going back too far for too long. You need to return to basics."

"Let’s make a compromise Rebecca, please. Keep me in Europe, 17th century?!"

She raised an eyebrow. Hopefully my desperate display was coming off as a way to preserve my dignity and reputation.

She studied her documents. "Fine. A compromise. We've needed an agent for the French Revolution. Prepare yourself for Paris, 1789."

I suppose that was as close as I would get.

---

After a few weeks of prep, I was finally sent back in time with the familiar whoosh and flash. When I arrived, I was alone at the outskirts of Paris. I jogged to the city center where a crowd gathered around the distinguishable guillotine.

I shuffled through the civilians gathered to watch an execution. I exhaled in relief when Cassandra wasn't on the chopping block, but I still kept a sharp eye, holding on hope she would be here.

I roamed the bustling streets of Paris, until stopping dead in my tracks. The sign above a cheese shop caught my eye. The locals would consider the logo to be a poorly drawn bird. I recognized it as an airplane.

I entered the shop greeted by a young dark-haired woman. My heart skipped, but it wasn't Cassandra.

"Bonjour, I was hoping to speak to a woman, dark hair, hazel eyes."

"Who exactly?" The woman asked.

"The owner of this shop, perhaps?"

The young woman studied me before strolling to the back "Charlotte!" She called "You have a visitor."

"I don’t take visitors, Marie you know that" a woman walked out, and my heart nearly burst out of my chest.

I saw her only a month ago, but for her, it was 200 years.

She froze.

"Hi Cass" I spoke quietly.

She didn't say a word, just bolted into my arms. I embraced her tight. She squeezed harder.

She finally let go, grabbed my hand, led me into a back room and closed the door leaving the woman out to tend to the shop.

"What number?" She asked.

"This is seven for me, what about you?

"Five. And you were number six the last time I saw you. It’s been so long."

"I’m sorry Cass. I begged them for a return closer to home, but the machine wouldn’t let me travel back that far. The earliest it would send me was the somewhere in the 1640s, but my superiors sent me to the French Revolution instead."

"What did you say?" She froze glaring at me intensely.

"Oh, the French Revolution. Sorry, bit of a spoiler."

"Not the revolution! That year! It wouldn't be 1642, would it?"

"Yes...how did you know?"

She sat me down. "That was the year our son died."

I felt a surge of adrenaline pang in my heart, followed by a sharp wave of remorse.

"Our....son?" I choked. She nodded.

I murmured on, “But I thought you couldn't."

"I thought so too, but it happened. And he looked just like you! I know you would have been a great father."

A tear rolled down my face. "Cass, I’m so sorry."

"Don't be." She tightened her grip on my hand. "For the last two hundred years, I have been with our family. My first real family in a long time. After Theodore died, our grandchildren began to introduce me as their sister, then their niece. We relocated to France. I left for a while and returned to find the family has grown. Marie out there is our great-great-grandchild; however, she thinks I'm her distant cousin."

I looked back at the door; I couldn't hold back the tears anymore. "I missed so much."

She pressed her forehead to mine and whispered. "Please tell me we are getting close."

"Cass, I told you, I can’t reveal my future, it’s too risky."

There was a knock at the door, and Marie entered "Charlotte, the crowd is moving in. We should close." I stared at Marie with awe. My own descendant standing in front of me.

"Ok" Cassandra stood. She never let go of my hand. "Marie, this is Theodore."

"Nice to meet you." Marie said politely. I nodded but couldn’t speak. My voice was stuck in the back of my throat.

"We should leave." Cassandra ordered. We started out of the shop when my wristband began to beep.

"What is it?" Cassandra asked in a worried voice.

The wristband was glowing red.

"Oh no, I’m being recalled! No... this is too soon. They can’t do this to me!"

"You mean you’re leaving? Now? When will I find you?"

My heart raced when a timer appeared on the wristband. I had less than a minute left with my family.

"Cass, I love you. You will see me again, but I can’t tell you more than that..."

Cass looked betrayed.

The wristband blared, counting down 30 seconds. I scanned the shop for my last look of 18th century Paris, then back at the love of my life. I knew this was my last trip to the past. Screw it. I grabbed Cass close and whispered in her ear.

---

The flash of light struck, and I was back in the transport room. The door whooshed open.

I collapsed, "Why did you pull me out? There were civilians around!"

Rebecca loomed; arms crossed. "We gave you enough warning. And you have a lot of nerve."

"What do you mean?" I gasped.

"We investigated why your DNA lock to the early 17th century wasn't working."

My face flushed.

"Your DNA lock was corrupted due to another match. You fathered a child? Of all the irresponsible, dangerous things to do in the past, fathering a child breaks all the rules! Do you know the repercussions of this?"

"I assume I'm fired?"

She didn't answer. I could tell she was fuming. She couldn't monitor me in the past, but she was responsible for my assignments, my training and my actions.

She exhaled and let me gather myself into my chair where I gulped down my ice water. "I'm sorry” I said, “I should have told you."

"Told me what? That you couldn't keep it in your pants?"

"No, it’s more than that..."

Before I could explain, two guards handcuffed me.

Rebecca turned away. "You knew there would be consequences."

"Where are they taking me?" I asked.

Rebecca looked back. "Sorry, Ted. I needed to report this. It was nice while it lasted. You were my best agent."

I was escorted towards the opposite side of the building through a labyrinth of escalators and hallways until stopping in front of a massive office.

"Wait here." One guard disappeared behind the door. I lowered my head and stared at my 18th century shoes. My face flushed. The realization that I was forcibly pulled away from my family hit. I knew they would never let me jump again.

If I could break into a time pad, I could meet Cass and stay in 1642 with her and our grandchildren. No, that was dumb. Stranding myself would be impossible. They could recall me, or I would die of old age, just like everyone in Cassandra’s life did.

I only remained a constant to her through time travel. I have known her for just a few years. But I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her again. I wanted desperately to be there for her. To protect and love her even for a fraction of her life.

I felt tears welling up again. I tried to shake them off, knowing that the boss would think I only pitied myself for getting caught.

The guard re-entered and gestured me inside. I remained motionless.

"Come in, stranger" A cool voice beckoned.

I perked up and entered the office. A stunning woman in a blazer was sitting cross-legged. She had olive skin and dark hair which glimmered in the sunlight that trickled into her office.

"Surprised to see me?" She smirked.

"Cass...” I gasped.

She unshackled my handcuffs and I pulled her into my arms.

"Number eight" She whispered in my ear.

I pulled away and cupped her face in my hand. "Number eight" I said, voice breaking.

She smiled "We finally made it."

July 15, 2022 00:41

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5 comments

Graham Kinross
04:10 Aug 16, 2022

Inspired by Outlander? “cheering colleges greeting me,” colleagues? Of all the ways a person could move away from home, time travel seems the weirdest, also, would you willingly want to go to the past? Even as a straight white man I wouldn’t want to go to the past, more crime, more disease, less technology, no epilepsy medicine for me. Witch trials, religious wars (no wait, we still have those). Of all of the times there have been to live in, despite climate change, I would still pick now. As a woman I would say the past is even worse. Onl...

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Kendra Lindholm
14:04 Aug 16, 2022

Yup definitely should have been colleagues not colleges lol. Its funny. I never watched or read Outlander until a friend recommended it after I wrote this story. I certainly see a lot of similarities. I wish I had more words to explain the world and rules of this type of time travel, but I get what I get with 3000 words. Maybe I'll revisit and expand this to a novella. Thanks for reading!

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Graham Kinross
14:12 Aug 16, 2022

My wife really likes Outlander until it leaves Scotland but that’s a few books or seasons in. I quite liked it until then as well as I’m from Scotland and it’s cool seeing actors I know from other things.

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Betty Gilgoff
15:37 Jul 18, 2022

This is a very enjoyable read and a great use of the prompt. I like what you've done with time travel, how you describe it, create your characters and build the dilemma, though perhaps a tad predictable. I was a little confused with the dates with the last jump to the French Rev but the mention of 1642 and the history of the family, etc. towards the end but overall really well done.

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Kendra Lindholm
17:10 Jul 18, 2022

Thanks so much for reading! I had to cut quite a bit to keep it under 3000 words, but I was overall happy with how my first submission on this site turned out. Thanks again for the read and comment!

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