I had this sense of déjà vu. A frisson. A knock came at the door. I don’t have what you’d call a door, so I knew that the knock was out of time.
I pressed on the panel and heard the environmental controls filter the acrid air that rushed in. A tall, blonde woman stood there, glass of wine in one hand, knife dripping blood in the other. I recognised that expression, wild eyes, scared; round.
“Help me,” she said.
“Come in.” I turned my back to her and that knife. “Sit.”
She sat and shakily placed her glass on the table.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Good. Falmai, you’re with a friend. You’re safe. Where are you from?”
“I mean what year?”
“Twenty – o-nine…I don’t remember…”
I couldn’t remember ever being in that year. “Can you tell me why you’re distressed?”
“What’s this place?”
“Just a term. Home to me. It’s twenty-two fifty nine, Falmai.”
“Sorry to call so late.”
“That’s the date, dearest – not the time. How did you come forward to find me?”
I could see from her expression she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and she was scared. I punched the access code into my wrist unit. What did she need? “Lilac to lavender above, green below, variable, lavender scent,” I said, and the room changed from plain white to mottled shades of soft light like blossom.
“There’s wonderful,” she said breathing deeply. “How did you…”
“Environmental controls. Now, how come you’re here?”
“I think…I think I’ve killed somebody.” She looked at the knife.
“I don’t,” I said.
“No. You’re holding that knife as if you were cutting, not stabbing, your clothes aren’t splattered with blood.”
Her eyes pleaded.
“And there’s the wine? You were cooking dinner, right? Cutting meat?”
She seemed to relax just a little as if she remembered.
“Here, let me take the knife.”
“No!” She held it to her.
“Okay. That’s okay. Want some water?”
“Mind if I finish the wine?”
Her voice was flat and dazed.
I remembered the taste as I sipped. I remembered times when we’d been together and the wine flowed between us, celebrating some great deed or private occasion and I remembered times when tears had flowed too. “Don’t you know me at all?” I said. “You were Val-din Ghazal, my gaoler at Aleppo but you gave me water and comforted me. We survived the hurricane in 1509 together. We formed the colony at Pensacola. And in 1759 you were my sister, Mary. You used to sleep outside our bedroom door to protect us from our father’s drunken rages. Don’t you remember? You became very famous — Mary – don’t you remember?”
I’d searched here in my time but to no avail. I’d been expecting this meeting but not like this – not out of time. We met every 250 years or so. We had for millennia past, for millennia to come, I’d hoped. Perhaps this was really the end of our binary soul’s journey, in which case, she’d just died in her own time and I was about to die in mine. I wondered about the knife.
“Everything will be all right,” I assured her — and myself, “as long as we’re together. I need you to trust me, Falmai. I know it’s not easy – that you don’t remember me but I always know you.”
She looked at me with confused eyes but the truth dawned – that if I knew even part of what was going on, then I was her only hope.
“I need to take your hands. We have to try and take you back in time – to find out what’s happened.”
I reached forward and was allowed to clasp her hands in mine – knife and all. I could feel her trembling and she was icy cold. “I need you to remember as much as you can about where you were before you got here. Wales. A kitchen.”
“Harry?” She nodded and a sob broke free at last and tears dripped onto my wrists. The emotion seemed to act as a catalyst. Slowly my room disappeared and another asserted itself.
It was a bright room with a tiled floor, sunlight streaming in like I’d never seen sunlight in that future time – like I remembered sunlight of the past. Everything was strangely angled. At first I thought the skewed perspective must be an artefact of time travel. It was as if we were at the bottom of a room that reached up. Then I realised that we were on the floor and that someone was standing over us – a shadowy figure.
“Falmai?” said a voice. “Falmai, what’s wrong?”
The knife lay discarded on the tiles beside, a board and some half chopped liver.
“Falmai? Falmai! Oh, my God!”
I could see she’d stopped breathing so I began respiratory first aid and I shouted at the man, “Call for help. Harry!”
He looked dumbfounded for a moment. I must have looked shadowy to him as he did to me. Here was this ghost giving the kiss of life to…his wife. But evidently he heard me and then I felt Falmai’s breath on my cheek and sirens whined people rushed straight through me.
That was when I found myself once again in my Bio-pod. Things were different. The sunlight that played against the walls was real. Someone was there — singing.
“Daylan?” said a voice at once strange and familiar, “where have you been? I was worried, you were gone so long. You didn’t wander off and get lost again did you?”
“No,” I said. I was looking for you.
She gave me a look of exasperation. “What’ll I do with you? I’m cooking steak cutlets tonight. Might we open a bottle of wine?”
It was her – not Falmai – not exactly Falmai – not exactly anyone I knew, but I knew we were together again, so everything would be all right.
“Let’s,” I said.
Oonah V Joslin is Managing Editor at Every Day Poets. Credits include 3 Micro Horror prizes, an honorable mention in The binnacles Shorts Poetry comp 2009, Inclusion in several anthologies, A Man of Few Words, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and 2009 and Toe Tags. Read her at Static Movement, The Shine Journal, A View From Here, The Ranfurly Review 10FLASH Quarterly and many other places. Oonah reads some of her poetry here. Other work, including her novella, A Genie in a Jam, can be found at Bewildering Stories. The list is updated in The Vaults at Parallel Oonahverse and on her Facebook. Oonah’s ambition is to have a book published.