“Welcome, Vic to your time travel experience. You have been time traveling for a while now and we want to thank you for using S Services. Your chosen destination is Surrey, England. The occasion is a writers’ summit. The local time is noon. The year is 1983”
The sing-song voice says from the sky. The voice addresses Vic again by name, but this time Vic’s heart flutters, as the policy of S Services is revealed with a grim cadence.
“Remember, Vic. You have unlimited travel through time with your time card by S Services. You will thrive at this summit, as you will thrive in so many summits across the globe, and what follows will be a long successful career in novel writing, but…”
Here comes the punch line which feels like an invisible claw-like hand piercing Vic again and again in the gut.
“Vic, you have no talent. If you have any talent, you acquired it by default. However, you will become famous, and everyone will love you. We at S Services do not know why. You are a horrible shell of a person. You have hurt a lot of people in the past through your privileges as the attorney to the Home Secretary. Success is in the cards but dangers lie ahead, and they are well deserved. So, enjoy this summit, and thank you once again for using our services”
The voice is back to sing-song as it switches off and Vic realizes that a long shadow has been cast over the sun.
Stood behind big, iron gates are the dark bricks of Ames Hall.
Vic walks in and hears laughter and the clink of glasses and silverware. The drawing room is to the left of the stairs; a decorative, high-ceiling area with one wall painted red, with an angry fire burning in the end of the room. The guests stop their chatting and turn together to look at Vic. Their eyes are a mix of amusement and something else.
Marjorie is seventy today, and when the sing-song voice comes on, she quivers with anticipation. A smile forms on her thin lips as she steadies her reading glasses on her nose.
“Welcome Marjorie to your time travel experience and we at S Services wish you a happy birthday. What better way to celebrate than with a journey on a cruise heading to Kyoto? The year is 2056. Most of our clients choose the past so we want to express our admiration for your bold choice. Remember, Marjorie at S Services we have a timeless memory, and from our records, we know that you were a night shift nurse at the Belhaven Nursing Home in Chicago, and in your care 8 seniors died”.
The voice switches off, and Marjorie looks to the sea, acting like it never happened. The past has gone. She clamps her eyes shut. When she reopens them, passengers are moving around her, laughing, and talking; some are going below deck, and others are filling for the restaurant on the above deck. She breathes a sigh of relief.
“Hello, are you Marjorie?”
Marjorie looks at the young woman standing beside her, stealth as a cat, with her brown curls that look so much like Eleanor’s. The thought of Eleanor leaves Marjorie prickly.
“Who are you?” She narrows her eyes.
The young woman continues to smile, unfazed.
“I am Sheila. I will be your travel companion on your journey”.
Marjorie rolls her eyes and turns her eyes to the distant harbor which is a small dot by now.
“I can make do just fine on my own. I am not a relic, you know”.
Sheila is still smiling, and for one crazy moment, Marjorie wants to slap her across the cheek. She has a certain kind of know-it-all smirk that reminds Marjorie of Eleanor.
“You cannot refuse. I was sent from S Services. It’s a courtesy we provide for all our birthday girls”.
There is a sharpness and menace to her voice now, and even though Sheila is still smiling, Marjorie feels a chill climb up her throat. Like an icy claw. Marjorie starts coughing, hacking loudly actually. Several of the passengers turn to stare, and Sheila snakes her elbow around Marjorie’s elbow.
“Be careful, Marjorie. We should get you inside. The weather is starting to show its teeth, my mother always used to say. She’s dead now”
“I am sorry” But Marjorie cannot keep the insincerity out of her voice, and she hopes Sheila will not notice. Sheila’s grip tightens while Marjorie goes limp.
“No you’re not, Marjorie. But you will be”.
Something is wrong. The time travel card that he was given, should digitally read Barcelona 1933, but this long strip of red desert and the dog, a giant wolf-like creature on his tail, doesn’t look like a good sign. He hears the familiar switch from the sky.
“Hello, Tom. Welcome to your time travel experience. We would like to inform you that your chosen destination to Barcelona, 1933 was not accepted”.
“What the hell” Tom balls his fists. “Why?”
“We thought for you this would be more fitting. Madame even thought of a friend for your journey”
“I fucking hate dogs”.
“They’re wolves, Tom”.
Tom looks behind him. There was one wolf. Now there are three. Tom turns back to the sky, sweat starts to pool under his arms. Fear is not something he has felt before. He prefers it when others were afraid of him. The fear in their eyes was a drug. But now he can feel fear with its vice-like grip, behind his neck.
“Oh, Tom” The voice is taunting. “You feel scared. Fear is a useful feeling. Fear was something you liked when employed as an agent of The Code. But it had to be someone else feeling the fear; according to you, someone of lesser birth and that is why you chose Spain in 1933. Hate is your home”
A hotel materializes far off in front of him. It shimmers like an oasis.
“Madame wants you to run now, Tom. Run to the hotel, and if you make it, Madame says you can keep your sorry life”.
Tom looks back again, the wolves have become ten, and they do not look friendly. Two of them are already advancing in a near sprint. Tom lets out a guttural yell and starts to run, but his legs are heavy, so heavy.
The voice is still switched on, and as he runs, it chuckles.
“How are those steroids working out for you now, Tom?”
He stupidly reaches out to the hotel, which seems to go further away. He cries out in panic as the leading giant wolf, which was behind him from the beginning, takes a leap and its claws dig into Tom’s back. Tom screams; his knees buckle under him and then everything happens in slow motion. The hotel disappears and in its place is a figure in black. Even though the blood is starting to drip down his eyes, Tom knows the figure is a young woman, and she is smiling. She is pleased.
“Goodbye, Tom, and thank you for using our services”
I took it too far. But Tom deserved it. He was the worst, and I have so much left to do. See, before I became Madame S, CEO and inventor of S Services “welcome to your greatest time traveling experience, perfected for your journey to other worlds”, I was just Ezri Donahue, flighty, lazy, and carefree Ezri. I was scared of my own shadow; content in my discontent.
But the day they came from the sea, with their big metallic ships and blimps painted in war colors, I realized something: fear is something that is instigated at home. It is nourished in the one place we are supposed to feel safe. So, I wasn’t afraid anymore.
The waves crash against the rocks outside my balcony now. The familiar feeling of fear threatens to deaden my legs as I think about the flames rising higher and their screams. A tear falls down my eyes. The first one in 10 years and I let it slide, but that is it. No more tears. Madame S doesn’t cry.
Tom, Marjorie, and Vic, short for Victoria, my aunt, all had to go. They were all connected with hate. The shame that came with having Victoria as my aunt didn’t do, so I had to get rid of her. She was hateful from the beginning, with her vulgar remarks, especially to me. But I never fathomed just how hateful she was. Luckily, Sheila was able to obtain the files on her “work”. Vic was involved with Tom; a steroid-buzzed, racist Tom. When The Code took down everything back home, Tom was a warm, very warm supporter.
Marjorie was Tom’s mother. Eleanor was her daughter, is her daughter. She is in a coma now. Marjorie put her there when 25-year-old Eleanor didn’t listen to the “because I said so”
My heart pounds and I bite down on my growl as the intercom comes on (even after so many years that noise still threatens my sanity). But then I remember where I am, and I lie back on my plush sofa and I let the words that come out wash over me like a lullaby, and I think of The Swan: The Carnival of the Animals. I raise my fingers to an invisible composition, and the lullaby continues.
“Time travels 1-3 are complete. Systems updated, recharged, and ready to accept new passengers with your express command, Madame”.
I open my eyes.
“Do it” But I haven’t forgotten my manners. “Thank you”.
“Very good, Madame, we have you also scheduled tomorrow to visit Eleanor at the hospital”.