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Mystery Science Fiction Funny

 Miranda almost threw the old key in the recycling bin. If it weren't for the small filigree detail on the bow of it, she would have. She stopped and studied it carefully instead. 

It almost looked like a cursive G was embedded in the center of the design.


Looks like something out of one of my novels, she thought. She put it in her pocket and continued to clear out the last few boxes left in the attic. 

She'd inherited the old house from her aunt, who had recently passed away. With her gone, Miranda was the last living branch of her withering family tree. 

She'd decided to completely gut and update the old house. Family lore was that her great-great-grandfather had designed and built it himself. But first, she had to clear out four generations of junk.


Weeks later, Miranda was tackling the library. She removed and packed the books from the floor to ceiling bookcases that filled every wall of the large room. It was exhausting work. She considered hiring someone for the millionth time, when her thoughts were interrupted by a loud click as she dusted a recently cleared shelf. 

She looked more closely for the source of the noise. She saw what appeared to be a little handle hanging from underneath the empty shelf. She grabbed it, then stumbled backwards as the huge bookcase and the wall behind it swung towards her. 

Hesitantly, she peered around the wall jutting out at an angle. Behind it, another wall was exposed, as well as a door. A few small spiderwebs littered the corners of the exposed wall. 

Miranda stood there, staring at the secret door in stunned amazement. Finally, she roused herself to action and tried the doorknob. It was locked, as a good secret door should be. 


That's when she remembered the odd key. She hustled to the kitchen and grabbed it from the 'only for decor' dish where she’d put it weeks ago. 

Following her hunch, she tried it on the secret door and felt a satisfying click when the ancient lock released. Slowly, she turned the handle and pushed the door open. 

A blast of cool air hit her in the face. She pulled out her cell phone and turned on the flashlight. She ran the light around the room, which looked like a tiny office. On the left side, she saw an old desk and high back leather chair. On the right, she saw a bookcase full of books. 

Miranda took a tentative step into the tiny room. It was a little like walking into a refrigerator. 

She shined the flashlight on the books in the bookcase, hoping to find some rare first editions. What she found instead was dozens of leather journals with nothing but a year embossed in gold along the spine. She found the earliest year - 1898. Carefully, she removed it from the bookcase and took it out of the small, dark room for a better look. 

She opened the book to the first page and read: This is the journal of John Willis Greene, AKA, Jack Greene.


These were her great-great-grandfather's journals. She was a bit taken aback by the messiness of the handwriting. She had the notion that everyone wrote with near perfect penmanship during his time.

Miranda suddenly felt great affection for this man she'd never known. He was a writer, like her, and had obviously gone through great pains to record and store his life story. That alone was enough to make it a story worth reading.


Three days later, she’d made her way through the first five journals. Jack's penmanship was improving, thank goodness. 

The story was written as a journal, but it was obviously a work of fiction. And to her surprise, it was really good. She wanted to keep reading, but some real life tasks, such as showering and returning phone calls, were becoming more urgent. 

Reluctantly, she closed up the secret room and rejoined society. She ran errands and did chores, but she couldn't stop thinking about Jack's story. He wrote about the future, or rather, her present with surprising accuracy. 

His journal had started out by saying that he was born on December 29th, 1990. At first, she'd assumed it was just his bad penmanship - that the nines were actually meant to be eights. But then his story progressed with him attending college and earning a degree in computer science. Then meeting his future wife, Oriana, and getting married before heading off on a camping trip at Rifle Falls State Park for their honeymoon. 

While on their honeymoon, they'd hiked to the waterfalls. Jack and Oriana sat behind one of the waterfalls, enjoying the roar of the water, the cool mist on their skin and the dank cave air. It was a treat after sweating in the sun. 

Jack had gotten up to explore the cave behind the waterfall, leaving his new wife to watch the waterfall alone for about thirty seconds. That's how long it took to realize there was no depth to the cave. It was an optical illusion of some sort.  

When he turned back, she was gone. Frantic, he'd searched for her. After assuring himself she wasn't anywhere near the waterfall, he'd made his way back to where they'd been camping, but it was like they'd never been there. He tried his cell phone, but it was completely dead, though he was sure his battery had been nearly full less than an hour earlier. Finally, he went back to find his car. Not only was his car not there, but there was no parking lot there. 

That's when he started to realize that something was supernaturally wrong. As Jack stared numbly at the place that should have been a parking lot, a man on a horse with a shotgun started to chase him, yelling about private property. To his (character's) credit, he didn't waste time trying to convince himself that time travel wasn't real. He just followed that time-honored advice when searching for all lost things - retrace your steps. 


He’d walked in and out of that shallow cave under the waterfall hundreds of times by the time Miranda had to stop reading. Even as Jack reluctantly built a life for himself in 1898, he continued to search for a way back to his time and his love. 

Miranda thought about the heartbreaking scene when he went to the cave the night of New Year's Eve, 1899 and nearly froze to death. 

She wondered (only sort of seriously) if it would be plagiarism to publish his work. Of course, she would make a note in the prologue that she'd found these journals in a secret room of her house and that she absolutely wasn't the author. And then leave her readers to draw their own conclusions, she thought slyly. 


Miranda returned to the old house, exhausted from a busy day of catching up with her life. She went straight to the secret room, ready to learn what Jack did next. This time, she brought a lamp and extension cord so she could read at the desk in the little room, rather than dragging the journals out.  

When she finally had the little room illuminated, she ran a dust cloth over the chair and desk, surprised by how little dust she found. This room must have a state-of-the-art air filtration system built into it or something. 

She pulled out the chair and sat down at the desk. She ran her hands over the old worn wood of the desk and tried to picture Jack sitting at it, writing his epic in secret. 

For the first time, she thought to open the drawers of the desk. In the top drawer, she found an impressive array of heavy fountain pens and a few early models of the ballpoint, along with ink. In the bottom right drawer, she found a handful of blank leather journals. She went to open the bottom left drawer and found it locked.  

She pulled back to get a better look and saw the same filigree design from the key carved into the face of the drawer. She grabbed the key from the desk, where she’d laid it upon entering, and used it to unlock the drawer. A large wood box took up nearly the entire drawer. She fumbled around for a handhold and found a finger sized ring on each side of the box. She looped her index fingers through them and pulled. The box slid out easily, but it was a little heavy when lifted only by the fingers. Once it had cleared the drawer, she slid her hands under the box and moved it to the desk for further examination. 

More filigree design and another lock. She was all for mystery, but this was a little overkill. There should at least be different keys for all these locks. Shrugging, she unlocked the box and opened the lid. It was full of rags and a strange woodsy odor. She pulled out a ball of rags at random and jumped when something heavy fell from it and landed in her lap. 

She picked it up and laughed at herself for being so jumpy. It was just an old set of keys. An old tarnished key ring, along with a discolored key that looked exactly like her front door key’s unwashed cousin. Then she noticed the modern electronic key fob to a car. The exterior of the black blob had dried out and cracked, but she could still make out the faded lock and unlock symbols. She reached in her pocket and took out the fob to her 2018 GMC Terrain. It was exactly the same, except the one from the box had obviously been through some things.  

She set it aside and pulled out another ball of rags, being more careful not to drop what was wrapped inside. She recognized the shape immediately. It was a cell phone. On the back, she could still make out the faded text: Samsung at the top, Galaxy S9 at the bottom. The exterior was worn and scratched up with cloudy spots on the touch screen side and discolored spots on the back casing. Something about it looked wrong and made her nervous - a bit like it was swelling from the inside, causing a tiny gap along the edges. She set it on the other side of the desk.

She took the last bundle of rags out and found a small, old photo album inside. She opened the album cover, which cracked loudly in the small room. The first item was a Colorado driver’s license belonging to John Willis Green, born December 29th, 1990. The coloring was slightly off, but it was in good shape otherwise. The second was a Health Insurance Card, which had not held up as well as the driver’s license. Then there were a few disintegrating bills, obviously the new kind. 

She closed the album and sat back in the chair. After a moment, she burst out laughing. Her aunt had always scoffed at Miranda’s science fiction novels, but the old bird got the last laugh. She must have set this up for her to find. Hell, maybe she even wrote the journals herself!

She thought about her aunt, who had filled up half of the library with legal dramas by the likes of John Grisham and Michael Connelly. Doubt began to creep in. Her aunt was the only one who had the access to pull this off, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't picture it.


That left the unthinkable. Well, there was one way to know for sure. She asked the internet about John Willis Greene. 


Unfortunately, John Greene was a very common name. Miranda sighed, about to leave it be, when she remembered that Jack's wife in the story had a unique name - Oriana. She searched for John Greene and Oriana, and to her surprise, found several promising leads. The best match was one of those wedding websites, with everything from engagement pictures to a gift registry - and it was for Jack Greene and Oriana Primm. 

She studied the pictures closely. It was definitely the man in the driver’s license, and she could maybe see a slight resemblance to her grandfather in his features. She clicked on the wedding details and saw they'd gotten married today - just about an hour ago.

Did that mean they would be leaving for their honeymoon tomorrow? Or possibly even tonight? She couldn’t believe she was actually considering that this not-even-thirty-yet boy was her great-great-grandfather. 

The tiny room was starting to make her feel claustrophobic. She went to the kitchen, and poured herself a glass of wine. Then, on a whim, she opened the freezer where she found a few packs of cigarettes, conveniently stashed by her late aunt. She normally didn’t smoke, but she felt like this situation called for it.  


She took her wine and cigarettes to the back deck and watched the day without seeing it. She drank until she could ask herself a ridiculous question and answer it honestly. Say this was real - what, if anything, should she do? Should she somehow prevent them from going on their honeymoon? Wouldn’t that essentially erase her existence, along with the last three generations of her family? That would be bad. Wouldn’t it?

But then again, Jack didn’t belong in the time that resulted in her existence. Didn’t she have an obligation to at least try to set it right? She knew the pain and loss Jack had suffered from reading his journals, after all. She started to sob as she thought of him freezing in that cave, waiting for a miracle as the year 1900 began. Her sobs turned to hysterical laughter as she remembered that she was most likely crying for a fictional character.


Then a thought occurred to her - could this exact situation maybe even be why Jack had written the journals? Some vague hope that someone a century later could prevent it from happening? If it was real, that was.


After the first bottle was gone she’d grabbed another. She continued to drink and smoke and think well into the night. By midnight, her drunkenness has turned melancholic. She was basically retired as an author, she hadn’t published anything in years. She had no children, no partner, no pet. Her life was basically over. 

In contrast, Jack and Oriana were just beginning their new lives. They were young. And hopeful. And outdoorsy! Of course they deserved a chance at happiness. She had to warn Jack, correct the timeline and thus erase herself. She’d had a good run. 


She got out her phone and pulled up their wedding site. There was a 'Contact Us' page. No phone numbers, of course, but one could send a message through the site. 


Dear Jack and Oriana,

You don’t know me, but I heard you were going to Rifle Falls for your honeymoon (from a friend), and wanted to pass along a VERY SERIOUS WARNING having recently gone there myself. DO NOT GO NEAR THE FALLS OR THE CAVES! There’s an awful waterborne parasite there and TRUST ME, you don’t want to be anywhere near it. It will ruin your life! This is NOT a joke!

I’d recommend going literally anywhere else. Ever been to the Alpine Slide in Breckenridge? So fun, you'd love it. Oh, and Congratulations! You are a lovely looking couple.

Best wishes,

Miranda


Miranda pressed send, smiling smugly to herself. She thought that was a convincing story. Good thing for Jack that his great-great-granddaughter is such a talented writer. She finished off the second bottle of wine, as she said goodbye to the world and congratulated herself on being a hero. 


Over the next couple of weeks, she continued to read Jack's journals as she waited to disappear. She wasn't very worried. She doubted she'd feel a thing. 

By the third week, she had just one journal left and had mostly convinced herself that she had too much imagination for her own good. That's when she saw her name in his journal.


I'm an old man now, and I can't exactly say why I'm still writing these journals. I keep thinking about the funny message Oriana read to me from our wedding site on our way to the falls. Sometimes I think I must be writing to the person who wrote that message - Miranda. 

I'll never forget that name.

If only I'd paid more attention to the message and less to the name, everything would be different. Instead, I ignored the strange warning and recited my favorite poem to Oriana. I had to, anytime I heard that name - Miranda. What a stupid, silly boy I was.


Tarantella 

by Hilaire Belloc


Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?

Do you remember an Inn?

And the tedding and the spreading of the straw for a bedding,

And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,

And the wine that tasted of tar,

And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers

Under the vine of the dark veranda?

Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?

Do you remember an Inn?

And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers

Who hadn't got a penny,

And who weren't paying any,

And the hammer at the doors and the din;

And the Hip! Hop! Hap!

Of the clap

Of the hands to the twirl and the swirl

Of the girl gone chancing,

Glancing,

Dancing,

Backing and advancing,

Snapping of the clapper to the spin,

Out and in

And the Ting! Tong! Tang! of the guitar?

Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?

Do you remember an Inn?

  Never more;

  Miranda,

  Never more.

  Only the high peaks hoar:

  And Aragon a torrent at the door.

  No sound

  In the walls of the Halls where falls

  The tread

  Of the feet of the dead to the ground

  No sound:

  But the boom

  Of the far Waterfall like Doom.




Copyright © 2020 Katina Foster


August 17, 2020 21:04

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4 comments

Mary Lydick
02:35 Aug 31, 2020

Of your submissions, I like this one the best. Didn't want it to end. A unique twist on time travel.

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Katina Foster
03:24 Aug 31, 2020

I can't believe you read all these! You are the best!

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Jeremy Fagan
01:41 Aug 24, 2020

This was an amazing story. I love time travel as much as the next guy, but this spin was wonderful to read. Clever and exciting.

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Katina Foster
02:47 Aug 24, 2020

Thanks!

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