The 3rd Collaboration Challenge
For 10 long weeks you have to wait to learn about Gnat's story. Thank you to everyone who visited each of our author's blogs along the way. For now, here is the story in it's entirety.
Edit: Don't have time to read it all? No problem, you can still link from piece to piece. Keep coming back to this post and only go to the portions you have time for. :) We hope you love the story as much as we loved writing it.
Part One: Two Doors -/- Part Two: Shall I Turn On The Lights -/- Part Three: The Estate -/- Part Four: You'll Know It When You See It -/- Part Five: Message, Hold The Bottle -/- Part Six: Secret Letter -/- Part Seven: The Truth -/- Part Eight: The Secret of Time Travel -/- Part Nine: Broken Threads -/- Part Ten: Just Trust Me, Please
Part One: Two Doors
By Carrie K Sorensen @ Chasing Revery
The sound was sharp as she clenched the soft paper. Light filtered in through gossamer drapes of a perfect hotel room. She hadn’t known places this nice existed outside of a little girl’s imagination. Her lip twitched up, though there wasn’t much humor in it. If my friends could see me now came to mind, but she hadn’t had any of those in a long time.
There was a soft warning knock before the door opened to admit Freddy. When she had seen him for the first time last week, she’d thought he was a cop chasing her out of her roost on Second Street. It was just an architectural detail with enough crunchy leaves to make something of a pillow. After five years on the streets, she wasn’t picky.
The best part of her Second Street spot was no one else seemed to know about it. She wasn’t sure how, but she’d never had to fight for it. The only drawback was Second Street was a pretty classy neighborhood so she could only use it if she was damn sure she wouldn’t be seen. When Freddy had poked his big, gray-haired head in, it had appeared as if a black and white had finally caught her.
“How are you, Miss Naomi?” he asked her now as he had then. A week ago the question had shocked her cold. Today she was so used to the question she almost answered.
“Where did you get this?” she demanded, showing him the bow-tie-shaped piece of crumpled paper. He stood tall and composed in a crisp black suit. His ties were the only exciting thing about him. Today he wore a laser blue stripe tucked neatly under his buttoned jacket.
“I told you. Mister Tyler asked me to give it to you once I found you. That was not an easy task. It took me three days to connect Naomi with Gnat,” he muttered, his tone letting her know he did not approve of the nickname.
Gnat ignored him. She had already asked how he’d made the connection when no one alive knew her as anything other than Gnat – small and black from head to eyes to skin. He’d answered her question by stating he was resourceful before returning the conversation to Tyler.
She held the piece of paper a little tighter. It was a note a fourteen year old girl had written to the first boy she’d ever loved after he had told her he was leaving. It was a letter of forevers. “I’ll love you forever.” “I’ll think of you always.” They were things that seemed possible before her house burned down, killing her brother with flame, then her parents later in the hospital.
It was a sad story, one she had survived. She’d survived the foster system she ran away from, her first knife fight, her years on the street with all its unexpected darkness. Her existence might not be much, but she’d survived.
Then this old guy finds her and somehow gets her to this hotel by telling her an old 8th grade crush was trying to find her. She kept looking for the catch when the hot meals came along with gifts of clothes. What was behind the trip to the hair dresser where they sheered off all her dreads, smoothing what was left into a short bob? The only answer was crumpled in her hand.
“Alright, Freddy, why hasn’t Tyler come to see me himself?”
“He wanted to, Naomi, believe me. He simply could not.”'
“The trip Tyler made can only be made once.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
Freddy’s voice was soft. “I recognize you have had a hard life since you last knew Tyler. He has had many difficulties, too, though of a greatly different variety. He thought ... he was hoping you could help him with them.”
“What, like as in a job?”
“Of a sort,” Freddy confirmed. Gnat felt her recent meal threaten to make a return trip.
“So that is what this has been about?” she asked, gesturing around the lush room. "Getting me ready for some job interview with an old friend?"
“No,” Freddy countered firmly. “This is because you needed it. I could have taken you to Tyler last week much easier than it will be today. As it is, we are out of time. I will be going home today. Will you be accompanying me?”
Did he know what he was asking? She only had rosy memories of Tyler, few of them probably accurate. She'd since learned of a darker world under all that pretty glamor and wasn't willing to take anything at face value.
Still, it was a choice. Wherever Freddy was going, he was going today. Did she want to take her chance with him, or go back to the streets?
“Where exactly are you going?” Freddy studied her for a moment, then seemed to make a decision of his own. He walked to the door between this room and the next, opening it to reveal the other closed door leading to the adjacent room.
“Why not let Tyler explain?” He stepped toward the closed door and simply disappeared.
Gnat blinked. The life she’d lived this past week had been worlds away from what she was used to. What she had just seen was …
She was jaded, basic, beaten down. She’d lost everything.
The soft paper made sharp sounds in her hand. Her choices were not what she wanted, but were something she probably would have seen as romantic before the streets, before the fire, back to when she’d told a brown-eyed boy she would love him forever.
“Well, if I’m going to disappear,” she muttered, walking toward the door, leaving her world of nothing behind, moving toward something–
Part Two: Shall I Turn On The Lights
By Nicole Pyles @ The World of My Imagination
Gnat stepped through the door and when she came out to the other side she exhaled. She hadn't realized she held her breath that long. She looked around the room. It was dark inside. Hazy and filled with shadows. From what she could make out, it was another room, but this one seemed even more elaborate than the last. She decided not to move until someone spoke to her. She can't imagine that Freddy would have led her here without waiting on the other side.
"Naomi..." The voice made her jump.
Her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and a tall shadowed man walked towards her. She was certain it wasn't Freddy. His voice didn't sound so...rich. The man stepped even closer and reached a hand to her face. Gnat pulled away.
"I go by Gnat now."
She heard him grumble with disapproval.
"An unfitting name for someone so beautiful."
Gnat didn't want to hear the compliments any longer. Too often they got her into trouble.
"Why am I here?" She hoped he kept the lights down. As long as she didn't have to meet his eyes, she would keep her distrust and strength. She needed that now. The second she met his gaze she would melt. She knew it.
"I loved you so much then..." He whispered.
Gnat felt frustration filling her. "A lot has changed since then. I've changed since then." Memories of the past few years flashed threw her brain. "I'm not the girl you used to know."
"And that's why I think you can help me."
Gnat heard the sounds of feet shuffling in the distance. She squinted into the dark room and found the shape of a man that may be Freddy.
"Mister Tyler, shall I put on the lights?"
"Yes, yes I think it's time she saw me."
As if he planned a magical display, Freddy struck a match and dropped into a fireplace near him. It roared to life and engulfed the room with a warm glow. Gnat squinted to adjust to the light and looked to her right where Tyler stood. She gasped at the sight of him.
Instead of seeing the young man she remembered from her days as a young girl, she saw a man aged 70 years. Creases spilled over his face. He stood with his back straight and his head up. Underneath the physical appearance, she could see the young boy she once loved.
"What happened? Tyler?"
He turned away from Gnat. It was then she noticed the cane he gripped and used as walked. He went towards the fire and took a seat by the flame. For a moment, he stared into the fire without saying a word.
"Freddy, would you mind bringing some coffee for us? And a spot of brandy, if you will."
Freddy nodded. He glanced at Gnat before he left, a sadness tugging at the end of his lips. When he left, Tyler looked to Gnat. She noticed there was desperation in his eyes.
"Will you join me?"
Gnat looked behind her to consider, for a brief second, going back to her previous life. But instead of seeing the hotel room door, she saw a bookshelf that extended to the ceiling and stretched out for what seemed like miles. She had never seen so many books.
"Where am I? What happened to me?"
Tyler motioned to the seat in front of him. "Please, sit. I will explain."
Gnat took a careful step forward. She almost expected something to come out from the dark shadows that still danced along the walls and grab her. She shuffled to the seat in front of him and sat down. At that moment, Freddy came in and set down the tray on a small table set between the two chairs.
Tyler waved him away and waited a moment before speaking again. When Freddy was gone from the area, Tyler cleared his throat to note the start of the conversation.
"The most important question for you to ask right now is not where you are...but when."
Gnat watched as Tyler reached for the bottle of brandy and poured them each a small amount into a glass. He handed the glass to her and she just held it as he sipped his own portion.
"Yes. You are approximately 68 years into the future."
"...Future?" Gnat couldn't believe this. This had to be a con, except where could she go? The hotel room just disappeared.
"When I was a young man, I became obsessed with finding you and returning to you. I became obsessed to return to a time when our lives made sense. Instead, I became this."
"How?" Gnat wasn't sure if she wanted to know how he discovered time travel or how he managed to become an 80 year old man. Either way she wouldn't believe the answer.
"It's a story I have little time for. I went back and forth over the years of my life trying to find you. At some point, I managed to make a mistake in the process and returned to this time as an old man. I've stopped my time travel in fear that my final journey may be my demise."
Gnat opened her mouth to ask another one of the million questions running through her head. He held up his hand to stop her.
"Please let me continue. Aside from Freddy, you are the only one I can trust. Someone has found my secret. Everything stolen. They key to time travel is in someone else's hands. I need your help to find them."
Gnat finally found the energy to speak again. "Why me?"
Tyler smiled and Gnat noticed it was genuine. "Gnat in a few years time, in your real time, you will find true enjoyment in math and science in a way you've never learned before. You will be one of the smartest women in the world."
This time Gnat really thought he lost it. "Tyler, I hated math in school."
Tyler waved his hand. "You'll see. We never understand our future until it is upon us. For that much I have learned."
Freddy came into the room. "Mister Tyler, I hate to interrupt. Someone is at the door to see you. They claim to have information you might be interested in."
Part Three: The Estate
By Yolanda Lane @ Landa Loo, Where Are You?
Tyler’s face turned serious just then.
He slowly turned to face Freddy “Who is it?”
“It’s a Miss Chan from the estate agency in the city,” said Freddy, uncertainty in his voice. It was clear to Gnat they weren’t expecting any visitors.
“Freddy, please take Naomi into the kitchen, she is not to leave until our visitor has left the premises.”
Gnat’s face hardened. He had just confirmed her deeper suspicions that all this was one big lie, said with gentle face and a voice that was just a little too easy to believe. She should have known better. Tyler said he trusted only her and Freddy. But then if he trusted her so much why would he want her tucked away out of earshot? What is really going on here? She opened her mouth to speak, to demand, but Tyler interrupted her before a sound emerged.
“It’s for your own safety Naomi, please, no one is to know you are here. Your life would be in danger if anyone found out. I can’t let anything happen to you, you are too valuable.”
In a voice that was firm but with a hint of desperation he said to Gnat while looking deep into her eyes “Please just follow Freddy into the kitchen.” The creases on his aged face had changed from serious to pleading as he spoke.
One thing Gnat had learned from her years on the streets was when someone was being genuinely honest, telling a half truth, or outright lying. Tyler definitely had some explaining to do, but she knew from the look in his eyes at that moment he meant every word that he said.
She stood up to follow Freddy. “Freddy, can you please take Naomi’s cup, we wouldn’t want anyone questioning things now would we.”
Freddy quickly walked over and snatched up the cup before Gnat had the opportunity to pick it up herself. “This way please Miss Naomi, ” and he pointed the way towards the kitchen. She followed Freddy around the corner, and down a dark corridor lined with closed doors. The kitchen was the door at the very end.
Once inside, the warm kitchen was softly lit and felt more like a sitting room than a typical kitchen. “Have a seat Miss Naomi, hopefully this won’t take too long,” said Freddy with a reassuring face. He then turned and walked out of the kitchen and shut the door behind him.
The kitchen was not so large, but other than a small sink, a counter top, a few cupboards below, and a small round table in the center, not much else in the room implied it was a kitchen at all. There was no stove, oven, or refrigerator, and no pots or pans hung from the ceiling. A distant shuffling noise and the voice of a woman caused her to stop exploring the room with her eyes and perk up her ears while focusing on the door. She barely made out the words “Hello Mister Ross, my name is Elisabeth Chan, from the estate agency.”
Gnat had learned from living in her little spot on Second Street that not only could she not ever be seen, but she could also never be heard for fear of losing the one thing she had. If she wanted to know what was really going on, she needed to hear that conversation. With Freddy’s footsteps now still, she walked silently and steadily to the wooden kitchen door. She had already decided she was going to sneak out, and hide in a dark crevice closer to Tyler so that she could hear the conversation better. She slowly turned the knob while putting the slightest pressure on the door. It opened without a squeak. She tiptoed down the hall, quieter than a cat, slipped into a darkened crevice, and became one with the blackness.
She wasn’t there long before she heard Tyler’s voice sounding old and tired, “Thank you for coming to see me about this in person, I do appreciate it. In my condition it’s very hard to get around as you can see. Freddy, can you please go into the kitchen and bring Miss Chan and I some refreshments?”
“Certainly Mister Tyler.”
Gnat ran on tip toe back to the kitchen, quietly shutting the door behind her, and sat down on a chair at the table for fear of being caught listening in. She sunk back into her chair and turned her attention towards the sink just as Freddy walked in and shut the door firmly behind him.
“Freddy, who is that lady?” whispered Gnat, her words coming out more of a hiss. Freddy put a finger to his lips, smiled, and whispered “shhh, we’ll tell you later.” He was still wearing the laser blue stripe tie and Gnat wondered if he actually lived here. He started humming a little tune, a song she recognized, but couldn’t quite remember where from.
Freddy opened a box near the sink and took out 3 pastries and placed them on little plates that he pulled out of the cupboard. He was careful not to get any sugar on his tie or black jacket. He moved through the kitchen swiftly yet gracefully as he carried the three small plates balancing them gently between his hands. He pulled on a small handle attached to the wall near the sink and a cube like contraption emerged from the wall. Freddy lifted the top and placed the 3 plates carefully inside and placed the top back on. Freddy’s voice then rang out clear which made Gnat jump in her seat “3 Pastries, hot.” As soon as he had finished saying the words, he lifted the top open, took out the three plates, placed them on the counter, put the top back down and pushed the cube contraption back into the wall.
He put two plates on a square black tray he had brought in with him, and then put the third plate down in front of Gnat. She noticed her pastry was steaming hot. He walked over to a square gap in the wall. Pressed a button and said “3 Cups of tea. Earl grey. 2 cream, 1 sugar.” In the time it took to blink, three steaming mugs of tea had materialized in the gap in the wall. Gnat’s jaw dropped slightly in surprise. Freddy placed one steaming mug in front of Gnat, and the other two on the tray with the pastries. It all smelled delicious. Gnats tummy grumbled slightly in agreement. How long had it been since she’d last eaten back at the hotel? He gave Gnat a big smile and carried the tray out of the room and shut the door behind him once again.
The food wasn’t about to be snatched away on her here, this she knew, so once Freddy’s footsteps had faded, Gnat tiptoed back to the door, opened it and slipped back into her dark hiding place where she could resume her listening into the conversation
“As you know she died 20 years ago…” came the woman’s voice.
“Oh yes, I am aware of that.” Tyler said calmly.
“Some tea and pastries” Cut in Freddy.
“Thank you Freddy.” Said Tyler warmly.
Miss Chan continued, “The estate has been owned these past twenty years by a Dr Emily Robertson. It seems she was a friend and colleague of Dr. Johnsons, and the estate was left to her when Dr. Johnston passed away. Dr. Robertson is now retired from the University and has agreed to your generous offer and has already vacated the premises. It seems the house was becoming a bit too much for her to take care of anyway.
“That’s wonderful news Miss Chan,” said Tyler, in a relieved tone.
“Mister Ross if you could please allow me to confirm a DNA sample, I will hand over the keys, and security details to you.” Miss Chan said in her professional voice.
“Certainly Miss Chan. Freddy, can you please assist me? I’m getting too old to do these things myself.”
A minute later Miss Chan’s voice rang out in delight. “A perfect match Mister Ross. Congratulations the ownership of the estate has now been transferred to you. While the transfer of the security details of the estate is being arranged by my office, I’ll give you the set of keys for the estate. It seems Dr. Johnson and Dr. Robertson were very careful women. Security was of the upmost priority for them, and you will find the house is impossible to penetrate. You shall feel very safe there.”
“Yes, I heard Dr. Johnson was the type of woman who trusted only a few.” Said Tyler a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“I’ll say” said Miss Chan, “I mean, who uses old fashioned keys and security cards these days? The woman used practically every means of security invented save from building a moat and hiring an army. She was a very gifted woman, the extra precaution probably aided her success don’t you think?”
“Most certainly, after all, some of the things that we discover can be very dangerous when it falls in the hands of others. We have seen this time and again in recent history haven’t we Miss Chan.” said Tyler.
“Yes indeed” agreed Miss Chan “The world is not a safe place at the moment for anyone. Oh, I just received word, the transfer of the security details has been complete. You now have full access to the estate."
“Wonderful news. Thank you again for coming here. I do appreciate it Miss Chan. As it is getting late I shall get Freddy to see you out.” said Tyler, his voice suddenly sounding even older than he was, a hint of impatience crept out as he spoke the last few words. Gnat wondered what time it actually was, for she hadn’t seen any clocks since she arrived. The house was dark, and blackness crept in from the cracks around the thick curtain covered windows.
As the conversation seemed to have come to an end, Gnat quickly tiptoed back to her chair in the kitchen. She shoved down the now luke warm pastry barely tasting it before drinking back all the tea. She had just finished wiping all the crumbs from her mouth with the back of her hand when she heard Freddy’s feet approach the kitchen door.
Freddy entered with a sweet smile on his face. “She has gone now Miss Naomi, and it’s time to go. But we must go quickly, there is no time. “ Freddy turned and started to walk out of the kitchen. Gnat leapt out of her seat and followed closely behind. She needed to know more. Who was Dr. Johnson and Dr. Robertson, and why did Tyler buy an estate? Tyler seemed to hold all the answers and since he was the reason she was here, she needed those answers if she was ever going to get back to her old life.
She was small, quiet and seemingly fragile, but underneath she was incredibly strong willed.
She would get those answers. She was clever enough, she’d find a way to wiggle them out of Tyler someway or another.
When Freddy and Gnat entered the main room with the fireplace and the large bookshelf. Tyler was buttoning up his coat. Freddy opened a nearby closet door and pulled out a hat which he passed to Tyler, and a long black shall, scarf and thick framed glasses which he passed to Gnat. “Please put this on Miss Naomi. It is not safe for anyone to see who you are, or know that you are here. Cover your face and hair with it.”
Tyler bent down, picked up a large ring of different shaped keys, with several cards attached and put it in his coat pocket. Once she was wrapped up and covered Tyler looped his free arm around hers protectively, but also for support. “Where are we going Tyler?”
With a hint of impatience in his tone Tyler said “There is no time Naomi, I’ll explain more when we get there. There is something very important I need you to find, you are the only person who knows where it is. I believe it is the only thing that can help us locate whoever stole my secret.”
Freddy, now adorned in a navy blue button up jacket walked towards the dark corridor, opened a door on the right and walked inside. Tyler held onto Gnat and they followed him into the room. Other than a few buttons on a wall, and candles for light, it was completely bare.
“What is it that I’m supposed to find, and how am I supposed to know where it is? We are in the future Tyler,” Gnat said with certainty in her voice after having witnessed Freddy in the kitchen “and, I’ve never been here before! I don’t think you understand what little I actually know.”
The look on Tyler’s face softened slightly, “You know so much more than you think you do Naomi, that I know for certain.”
“Miss Naomi, this is a transporter. Technology has changed significantly over the years, and the methods of transport which you are used to are rarely used. ” said Freddy. ” We will be there in a moment.”
Before Gnat could say anything more she suddenly felt the sensation that she was in a fast moving elevator, she felt the whole room move, but she was not sure which direction they were going in. Her stomach lurched upwards unsettling it’s contents. Thirty seconds later the movement stopped. There was a small beep and the door to the room opened. A draft of cold air filled the room. Freddy walked out into the cold night air. Tyler with his arm still linked around Gnat’s, strengthened his grip as they slowly stepped outside. The sky was littered with tiny dazzling specs of stars, ahead of them loomed the dark outline of a large building.
Part Four: You'll Know It When You See It
By Tena Carr @ Jottings and Writings of Tena Carr
Gnat’s mind was still swirling from the “ride” in the transporter, and now she found herself staring up at a large building that seemed strangely familiar. She found herself gripping Tyler’s arm tightly. He rested his free hand on hers steadying her. Faded memories filled the recesses of her mind, but try as she might Gnat just couldn’t seem to get any of them to stick long enough to make sense of them. She only knew that there was something dark and sinister about the building that loomed before her.
Tyler gently tugged on Gnat’s arm. “We must hurry!” he exclaimed, urging her forward. Gnat tried to dig her heels into the ground in protest, but she couldn’t get a foothold and her attempts ended up being futile. “I can’t do this.” she cried, “I can’t go in there”
Years on the streets had taught Gnat not to be afraid of much. She had survived numerous fights, including several knife fights, and even a rape/beating. But she was afraid now – a deeply embedded, unexplainable fear that she still couldn’t put her finger on and that disturbed her further. Gnat wasn’t use to being afraid, being afraid on the streets could get you killed. Fear was something to be staunched, but now at it ate at her nearly paralyzing her with panic making it difficult to breath.
Every muscle in her body screamed for her to run, but Tyler’s hand had tightened around her arm preventing her from doing so. For a man who appeared to be in his 80′s his grip was surprisingly strong. He bent his head to her ear whispering softly, soothingly, ” You can do this!” He assured her, “You must do it. You're the only one who can.”
“But I have no idea what I’m even looking for” Gnat protested. “You’ll know” Tyler replied, “You’ll know when you see it.”
Gnat looked again at the large building before her The fear was still there, but not as overwhelming as before. Tyler was right she could do this. Again Tyler’s voice whispered in her ear, “I won’t let anything happen to you.” he said it as a promise. “Don’t let the physical appearance of my age fool you.”
Tyler meant what he had said with every fiber of his being. He would not let anything happen to her. Many years ago when he had been little more than a child himself, Gnat’s home had burned and she had lost her whole family overnight. He had begged his parents to take her in, worrying about what would happen to her if she were put in foster care. But they had refused to listen, the ongoing family feud between his family and hers being the biggest reason. They stubbornly refused to listen to reason, refused to help a young girl who now had nothing. No home. No family.
Tyler waited as patiently as he could, but he knew time was running short. He needed Gnat to find the item that would help locate the person who had stolen his key to time travel. He needed to get that key back so he could continue his research, continue to find away to make time travel work properly. Only then could he return to his proper time .
Taking a deep breath, Gnat gathered together her courage, courage that had served her well over the years, and followed Tyler and Freddy (who had been standing silently nearby) towards the building.
Inside, the building appeared even larger that it had appeared from the outside and more daunting. Gnat had no idea where to even begin looking and she still had no idea what she was looking for. And there was still the question of why Tyler had gone through the trouble of buying this estate – Gnat could only assume that “this” was the estate that he and Mrs. Chan had been talking about earlier in the conversation she had overheard.
Tyler spoke just two words, “Lights on” Instantly the front hallway (or atleast that’s where Gnat assumed they were) lit up. The space inside the large building seemed endless. To her left was a staircase that seemed to go nowhere in particular. Directly ahead of her and slightly to the right Gnat saw what appeared to be an elevator.
Gnat walked over to the elevator and stared at the wall looking for a way to “call” the elevator, but she saw nothing. While she was staring at it Tyler simply said “elevator”. Instantly the doors opened and he ushered her inside. Like the outside, there were no buttons in which to indicate what floor she wanted. Tyler looked to Gnat, waiting for her to say where she wanted to go. “Top floor” she said a bit nervously. Suddenly the doors closed and she felt the same rush she had in the transporter earlier, her stomach feeling as if it was going to drop out as the elevator lurched upward.
A second later the doors opened again and they were on the top floor. Gnat stepped out of the elevator with Tyler (and of course Freddy) directly behind her. Gnat made her way towards the door she saw at one end of the long hallway, figuring it was as good as place as any to start.
She had no idea how many rooms she had searched through trying to find whatever it was that Tyler had said she needed to find. Still having no idea what she was looking for. Neither Tyler nor Freddy seemed to be able to give her any clues except that she would “know when she found it”. Gnat searched the room she was in carefully, but didn’t find anything. She was just about to abandon the room to search another when something caught her eye.
Part Five: Message, Hold The Bottle
By Leonard Suskin @ Confessions of a Pixel and Ink-stained Wretch
She was in a study or an office, dominated by an ornate desk of some kind of dark wood surrounded by stacks of notebooks and papers hapharzardly strewn about. There it was, carelessly thrown under the desk; a cheap, tiny notebook of the sort grade-school kids buy in Septembers and discard in June if their houses aren't burned down under mysterious circumstances. The pages were yellow with age, the binding crumbling, and the cover marred by an uneven crease - the same crease across the cover of the powder-blue notebook tucked into Gnat's pocket. A torn-off corner revealed a pen-and-ink drawing on the page below.
A wave of heat flowed through Gnat's chest and into her throat, Tyler's voice encouraging her to keep looking came from very far away, past ringing ears and a rush of vertigo as the floor seemed to twist under Gnat's feet. She sat heavily on the floor under the desk, and remembered. Not the flame, but the time after in faux-homey offices with a fatherly looking bearded man with a notebook and a leather chair and questions and a notebook and not the flame but its memory and a notebook.
Gnat's first set of foster parents had believed in therapy, believed in her needing a sympathetic ear after what happened. At least for the first few weeks, until the trauma faded into the past and the forty-dollar-a-week co-pays started to add up. Dr. Blintain was a nice man, a gentle man, a bit like young Gnat's idea of what a college professor would look like. Or, for that matter, how a headshrinker should look. He listened a lot, asked a lot of questions about what her foster parents were like and what she thought about them and how she felt when she thought about her family and how she felt now. It was the last session - the last forty-dollars that her foster-mother would pay for Naomi's sanity - when Doctor Blintain finally helped her find the words for what was wrong in her life.
"My parents, my room, our house, my brother, they were all mine. They were me. And now, I'm, like, sharing. It's like I'm snatching bits and pieces of other people's lives and they aren't me."
Dr. Blintain handed her a little pocket composition notebook. He didn't slide it across the table, didn't toss it to her. He really handed it to her. His fingers might have even brushed against hers. "Make some space for yourself. Write poems. Draw pictures. However you want to express yourself, just do it. Consider it your therapy homework."
Gnat shook her head. "But I'm no good at any of those things."
"Not the point. Even if nobody else sees it, this can be your private space. Something yours."
That was her last session, and she was rarely without a notebook since. The little memo pad Dr. Blintain had given her, spiral books, marble composition books. Even on the streets she'd buy one with rare saved-up pennies or, in desperation, shoplift them. The first thing she drew in that first notebook was the flame-imp; a malevolent little sprite that set fire to houses and killed families. It was short and twisted and hateful, with little lightning bolts in its eyes and crooked limbs. Drawing it made her feel less awful about the fire, helped her forget the truth that there was no imp, but...
That didn't matter now. Now, in the present, she saw this impossible notebook with the half-torn cover. And underneath, in the visible page, was the imp.
As her head cleared, Gnat heard Freddy speaking to Tyler outside the room. "I knew this wouldn't work. It's desperate and crazy. Look at her."
Gnat carefully, surreptitiously palmed the little notebook as she stood up, tucked it into her pants alongside its twin. "I'm OK guys... just a little lightheaded. This is a lot for me."
She slowly made her way room to room, her mind racing. What could she point to them that would satisfy them, at least long enough for her to read through that notebook herself. Because once she saw the imp's leering face, she knew she'd not share it. At least not right away.
She made sure to visit four more rooms, carefully looking under furniture and behind curtains for something she knew wasn't there. Finally, she came to a bedroom. Half-hidden under a bed was a snow globe. Hrm.. complicated enough to hold a message, delicate enough that they might not crack it open right away... yes, this would give her some time to think.
"I found it", she said weakly. "This is it."
Freddy fixed her with a hard stare. "That? What do you think that is?"
Gnat swallowed. She knew he'd see through him; she just knew it. Still, she thought she knew the right answer. "It just feels right. It feels like it's a ... a message."
Freddy gingerly took the snow globe from her hands, turned and gave it to Tyler.
His fingers did not brush against hers.
Part Six: The Secret Letter
By Yolanda Lane @ Landa Loo, Where Are You?
Gnat looked up at Tyler’s face. His skin was sagging, and his eyes drooped downwards like his shoulders. Tyler looked so exhausted Gnat wondered if he’d fall asleep standing if he didn’t get any rest soon. She wondered how long it had been since he had had a proper nights sleep.
Looking at Tyler’s worn features Gnat felt tiredness creep into her arms, her legs, and she rubbed her face with her hands. She had no idea how much time had passed and her stomach was rumbling again. She could ignore the hunger pains, but sleep was a different story. Tiredness slowed her down and dumbed her senses. Perhaps it was the stress of everything, the years of having to always watch her back, it all made her feel very tired.
“Tyler, you look exhausted, I am tired too. I think we should rest. Can we figure out what to do next in the morning?” A perfectly timed yawn stretched her mouth open to prove her point.
“Yes, let’s talk more in the morning.” Tyler turned as he spoke and started to shuffle down the hall after passing the snowglobe back to Freddy. He didn’t turn back as he continued to speak “Freddy, please bring Naomi something to eat and then let her get some rest.” I’ll see you both in the morning. He shuffled into a room and shut the door behind him.
Naomi thought perhaps she should stay in the bedroom where she found the snow globe, perhaps it might help make Freddy believe her more, at least long enough so she could have some time alone with the notebook. “Ill take that last room, if that’s ok with you Freddy. Who knows, I might find something more in there.”
“Certainly Miss Naomi, I’ll bring you some tea and dinner. I’ll be back soon.”
Naomi walked into the room and shut the door behind her. She pulled back the covers of the bed and crawled in without taking off her clothes. Freddy’s footsteps had already faded down the corridor.
Under the covers she pulled out the notebook with the torn cover that she had found. She started flipping through the pages. She knew she was in the future, but she couldn’t quite figure out how this exact copy of the notebook in her pocket was in her possession. As she carefully flipped the yellowed pages she was surprised to find the contents of the pages all matched up perfectly. The last page she had entered in the notebook she carried ended at the exact same page this yellowed version did.
The sound of Freddy’s footsteps approaching was her cue to hide it again which she did quickly and carefully. Freddy knocked two quick knocks and then started to turn the knob.
“Come in Freddy” she said with a weathered tone. Freddy entered with a steaming tray which he sat down on the table next to the bed.
“Good night Miss Naomi.” was all he said as he turned and walked out of the room shutting the door behind him. Naomi didn’t move until she heard his footsteps slowly fade, then stop. She heard the squeaking sound of a door opening and then closing firmly. Freddy was staying upstairs too, and thankfully chose a room with a noisy door. Naomi finally had some time alone to gather her thoughts.
She pulled out the notebook and began to eat the vegetables and grains piled neatly on her plate while flipping through the pages again looking for a clue as to why this notebook was here after all these years. Why did it end where her notebook ended, and why was it left with unfinished pages? Naomi began to flip through the blank pages when she noticed two pages felt stuck together. She held the pages up to the light and saw the faintest tracing of letters between the pages. Her heart started to beat in anticipation. She carefully tried to pry apart the two pages without ripping them and realized they were glued shut. Thinking quickly she grabbed the steaming mug of tea and pulled it closer. Using the steam from the tea she ran the glued pages back and forth across the top of the mug until she could feel the glue loosen.
After 5 minutes she was finally able to pry the two pages open where she immediately recognized her own hand writing, except that she didn’t remember ever writing this. She was surprised to find it was a letter to herself. She instantly recognized her own scratchy barely legible hand writing.
When Gnat received her first notebook, so afraid was she of having her private thoughts read by snooping foster parents, or snotty nosed kids she so often had to share a bedroom with that she had invented a code of messy symbols in place of letters of the alphabet. It was like her own language that she and only she could understand thus further making the notebook and all it contained hers and hers alone.
She lay the book down on the pillow, took hold of the mug of tea and began to read and translate the tiny faint hand writing.
I write this from approximately 38 years after the dreadful fire that changed our life at 14. I have placed this notebook here in this house knowing you would come to this place with Freddy and Tyler and find it. I knew that something was going to go wrong with Tyler, and that he would seek you out and bring you to this place. I know this because all of this has happened before.
I expect that by now Tyler has had the chance to tell you that I am the one who found the key to time travel. I found it because I wanted answers, and to go back, even if for a moment, to the way it all was before the fire, because the pain was too great. I needed someone to share my secret with, and Tyler was the man I loved and trusted more than anyone in this world. But I never should have given it to him. I should have destroyed it instead. Humans are not strong enough to resist the temptation to change what has come to pass. Time and history is fractured each time someone travels away from their present moment, and this causes so much damage.
Tyler left with my gift, and it was only after he had disappeared into time did I find the flaw which would eventually get him stuck. I searched for him, and he for I but we couldn’t quite find each other in the same moment of time.
After I discovered the flaw in time travel, I found a way to fix it, and I hid the information in our secret place. You must go there alone and retrieve it. It is the only way to save Tyler.
I have made a terrible mistake and Tyler has paid the price for it. I have placed this notebook here to warn you so that you will not make the same mistakes that I did, and Tyler will live.
One last word of advice: DO NOT TRUST FREDDY!
Good luck Gnat. Don’t ever lose your street sense.
Gnat had so many questions running through her mind, but her eyes grew heavy, so she did her best to stick the pages back together and tucked the notebook into her pocket and finally closed her eyes. Sleep met her quickly.
She felt like she had only just fallen asleep when a few sharp knocks on the door bolted her awake.
“Miss Naomi, please come, Mister Tyler has news.”
Gnat lay there for a moment while she tried to will her brain awake. She slowly pushed back the blanket crawled out of bed, and followed Freddy who was now walking down the corridor.
She followed Freddy into the room that Tyler had gone into what felt like only a few hours ago. The room was brightly lit but Tyler was still lying in bed. She walked over and sat down on the edge. Freddy left the room but did not shut the door behind him and she could hear his footsteps move down the corridor, stop and then continue.
Tyler looked as if he hadn’t slept at all. His skin was ashen and the bags under his eyes had grown darker. Sitting this close Gnat could see how thin his hair was, and the dark liver spots that freckled his skin, little dark blobs where there was once creamy white skin. Tyler tried to reach for Gnat but his shaking hand stopped and fell back onto the blanket. Gnat reached out and softly held his hand. Tyler clearly was not well.
“Tyler, are you ok?” said Gnat in a worried tone.
“Naomi, I’m running out of time. This body is too old, it doesn’t have much strength left.” said Tyler in a faint voice, a cough escaping half way through his words. “But I just got word. Whoever stole the secret to time travel just got sloppy. She has been spotted. You and Freddy need to go and get it from her”
“She?” said Gnat, her eyebrow rising up. Tyler never mentioned before that it was a she.
“Yes, I have just learned it was a woman. You are strong, you are clever, you know…” Tyler coughed again, this time a little harder. Gnat reached over and handed him the glass of water on the table next to the bed. Tyler took it with shaking hands, taking a small sip before continuing.
“Go with Freddy, please, before it’s too late. Find her. I will wait here. I have given Freddy the exact time and location she was spotted.”
Gnat said nothing. She was getting a bit tired of all this running around without fully knowing all the reasons. She really wanted to know more, but she wasn’t sure after reading her message to herself if going to yet another unknown place and time with Freddy was the best idea. Plus she really wanted to return to her own time so she could go back to her secret place and find what her future self had left there. But how could she do that without Freddy tagging along, or becoming suspicious?
Tyler seemed to sense her reluctance and opened his mouth to speak again, this time his words came out a little slower. “Naomi, please, will you do this for me? I promise, I will tell you more when you come back. Be fast, I don’t know how much time I have left.”
Gnat didn’t move. She sat there holding Tyler’s hand. Tyler slid his hand away and slowly pointed towards the door. “Please GO!” he said in a loud pleading whisper before sinking further into the pillow. Naomi turned towards the door. Freddy was now standing in the room next to the doorway. She noticed Freddy had already put on his jacket, and was holding the black shawl and glasses she had worn the night before. A bag was hanging down from Freddy’s shoulder, which was not completely buckled up. The top flap hung slightly to the side, it’s clasps dangling lazily. Naomi spotted the snow globe through the open crack.
Her eyes moved past Freddy to the doorway where instead of seeing the corridor, she saw what appeared to be a dark narrow alley way, lit from above only by the light of day that managed to stream in from the small open space above. Gnat reached for Tyler’s hand and gave it a light squeeze. “I’ll be back soon Tyler.”
If her future self loved Tyler, and wanted her to save him, she decided she would do whatever it took. Seeing Tyler in this state melted a hard black corner of her heart, and she didn’t want him to die. She realized he still meant something to her, even if that part of her was scarred forever by a fire, and her years on the street.
She got up from the bed and Freddy handed her the black shawl and sunglasses she had been wearing the night before and she wrapped herself in them. Freddy then turned and stepped through the doorway. Gnat took one last look back at Tyler. Just as she was about to turn back to walk through the door Tyler opened his mouth and whispered so quietly Gnat barely made out the words “I love you Naomi, everything I have done, I did it for you.” A small tear ran out of the corner of his eye and dove into the pillow, as if to escape from the grief.
She turned and with determination in her step she walked into the alleyway.
Part Seven: The Truth
By Tena Carr @ Jottings and Writings of Tena Carr
Tyler watched with sadness as Naomi (or rather Gnat) disappeared, with Freddy, out into the alleyway. He hated that he hadn’t yet been able to tell her the truth; That it wasn’t he who had discovered the key to time travel but rather Gnat – no Naomi (she would always be Naomi to him) – herself who had first discovered it. He had hoped to be able to find the right time to tell her the truth, but that moment never came and he didn’t dare take any risks. Not with his life and certainly not with hers.
Just sending Freddy back in time alone to bring Naomi to his current time period had been risky enough, but he had been unable to make the journey himself and it had been the only way he could think of to make sure she came across the notebook that she had apparently hidden at some point along the way. He had no idea what was hidden on the glued together pages, only that it was important somehow and that only Naomi would be able to understand any of it. It was apparent that she did not remember having traveled through time before. He could only hope that the contents of the notebook made sense to her.
The thought that he was sending Naomi out alone with Freddy, the man he had (at one time) trusted so much, made his stomach knot up, but he had little choice not if he didn’t want to raise suspicion. As long as Freddy believed that it was Tyler who had discover the key to time travel, and as long as he didn’t suspect that Tyler no longer trusted him, Naomi should be safe. He could only hope that Naomi somehow, figured out the truth for herself before it was too late.
Feeling even weaker, Tyler sank back into the pillows and closed his eyes. He knew he needed to reserve his strength for when Naomi returned… And he had every confidence that she would return. She was both intelligent and resourceful. Besides, he had complete and absolute faith in her. He just hoped that it wasn’t already too late and that he could hold on until she returned. He could already feel himself growing weaker and weaker.
As Gnat followed Freddy into the alley, she thought back to the letter that she had apparently written to herself. According to the letter her future self had written, she would have had to have been in her early 50′s. at the time. Except that now that she was nearly 70 years in the future that would be her past self wouldn’t it? The whole thing was incredibly confusing. To her knowledge, Gnat had only been in her mid to late twenties when Freddy had found her living on the streets and she was pretty sure she had never time traveled before, except that she had. But then if she had why didn’t she remember doing so? Surely something has momentous as time travel would be a memorable experience, especially if she had been the one to discover the secret to it.
Struggling to keep up with Freddy, who was now hurrying along the alley-way, Gnat continued to wonder about the things she had written in the letter to herself what had been meant by the comment in the letter about “Humans not being able to resist temptation….” Why would she write such a statement when she was so obviously human herself – wasn’t she? Gnat chose not to dwell on that question for the time being. There was another more pressing question – Why would Tyler act as if it were he that had found the key to time travel? Why hadn’t he told her the truth? What was he hiding and why? And most importantly just exactly who was Freddy and why had she warned herself not to trust him.
As she mulled these things over in her mind, her fingers played with the inside pocket of the black shawl she was wearing, finding a small hole their. To her surprise the hole was big enough to slip her fingers through. Hidden in the hole was a small piece of paper folded into a small tight wad stuffed into the lining. When Freddy stopped for a moment, Gnat slipped the piece of paper out of the pocket, and carefully unfolded it
“My Dearest Naomi” It began. “I write this for your eyes only.”
Gnat looked around to be sure no one was nearby then went back to reading. This letter was written in a hand she didn’t recognize.
“I am taking a great risk in hiding this note here like this. I can only hope that Freddy does not realizes it is in here. If you are reading this note, then it means you have come across the piece of paper I hid and that (hopefully) Freddy has not found it. I purposely folded it in a complicated pattern that can not easily be reproduced. If, when you open this letter, it is not folded along it’s original lines it means that somehow someone has accessed the letter and attempted to refold it and you must be DOUBLY CAREFUL!!“
Gnat looked carefully at the paper to see if she could determine any attempts at a refold, but every line was right where it should be. She read on..
“If you found the notebook that matches the one you carry in your pocket then it is possible that you already know the truth – that it was not I who discovered they key to time travel, but you. I know of the notebook only because I came across it once during one of my travels through time trying to locate you, but I do not know of the contents in the notebook. I put the notebook back knowing that if you found it you would be able to figure out what it meant and what to do. I can only hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me for acting as if was I who discovered the key and for taking all the credit, but I did this for you. You see, as long as Freddy believes I am the one who discovered the key to time travel you will be safe.
If, when you read this note, Freddy is anywhere nearby you must make absolutely sure that he does not see this. Whatever you do, Naomi, DO NOT say anything to Freddy about this or let on that you are aware of the truth. Your life depends on your acting as if you know nothing more than what you have learned since Freddy found you on the streets and brought you to me this last time.”
“I will be waiting for you my dear Naomi. Whatever happens no one thing. I love with you everything that I am. You are my heart and my soul my very reason for breathing.”
Gnat folded the piece of paper back up and carefully slipped it back into the hole in the pocket of the shawl she wore. If anything she was even more confused. Why would Tyler insist that she go alone with Freddy if he suspected him? Tyler had told her to go with Freddy to find the women who had stolen the secret to time travel and get it back. Was Tyler in cahoots with Freddy somehow? Was she mistaken in her love and trust for him? Gnat’s instincts told her that she was not wrong in her trust of Tyler and she had learned over the years that her instincts were always correct. Besides, apparently her future, or past (or whatever it was) self trusted him. There had to be something more going on. Some reason that Tyler had sent her with Freddy like this, knowing that he wasn’t to be trusted. There, also had to be a reason that she had no recollection of anything to do with time travel in the past."
“Miss Naomi, We will be heading to the coordinates that Tyler gave me very shortly. It should only take us a moment to arrive” This time, when they entered through another doorway, Naomi knew what to expect and was ready for it. She was careful to keep her every sense open and aware for any sign of danger making sure to keep a careful, and yet seemingly unassuming, eye on Freddy. They walked a short distance, coming to another doorway. This time, Freddy rapped on the door three time and waited.
“Who is it?” a voice rang out.
“Gobbledy goop and snippity snip” Freddy replied.
A moment later the door opened and they were led down another long dark passage to a darkened room. Every hair on Gnats body stood up. She didn’t like this, not one single bit. She had to find a way out of here without raisins suspicion and somehow find the portal that would lead back to her own time.
Living up to her name, Gnat kept herself small and quiet waiting silently to see what happened next, waiting for an opportunity to get away.
Part Eight: The Secret of Time Travel
By Leonard Suskin @ Confessions of a Pixel and Ink-stained Wretch
There was another figure in the darkness, but Gnat couldn't make him out; years on the street had honed her senses, attuned her to danger, and danger was here. Their voices sounded reasonable, calm, but there was something sharp, angry, tightly coiled within them. Beneath reasonable voices asking how much longer until they found the key was anger, barely held in check. Gnat closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had to find someplace safe.
Something shifted. Gnat opened her eyes to the most empty room she'd ever seen; blank white walls, an off-white carpet and no doors or windows. The lack of means if ingress or egress, the confusion about where she was and how she got here would have been the most deeply shocking elements of the experience were it not for the room's other occupant. An small, iron-haired woman, some indeterminate age between fifty and a hundred sat half-lotus on the off-white carpet. The face was older, yes, but unmistakable.
It was her.
Decades older, yes, but the eyes which met Gnat's were her own. What more had those eyes seen? What did they think of her younger self?
Younger Gnat closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "It's true. I do learn the secret of time travel."
Her older self nodded. "Soon. You'll learn it soon."
The younger woman felt the muscles in her jaw tighten. She realized that ever since Freddy found her in the hotel room she'd been lead by people with agendas, people with secrets, people who knew more than she did. Even herself. She took a deep breath, looking for calm that wasn't there. "Then why the fuck didn't you go back to the fire? Why didn't you save them?"
The older woman shook her head. "That's part of the secret. Accepting what is and what was. Had it not happened that way, I'd not be here today. You'd not be here today."
Gnat was trembling with rage. "Look, I don't know when I learned to talk in riddles, but I don't like it. If you haven't gone back, take me to the damn time machine and send me back so I can fix it. Now."
The older woman - Gnat started to think of her as Naomi - sat silent for a moment. The faintest hint of a smile touched her lip but didn't quite reach her eyes. "That's part of the secret. There is no 'time machine'. Just this." She tapped her temple with two fingers. "Once you understand, you'll understand. And can, sometimes, make the trip."
That was rather a lot for Gnat to process. With so many questions, she keyed on the one most striking word. "Sometimes?"
Naomi nodded. "It's complicated. I was able to get you because, well, you're me. And there are some times and places I can go myself. And some, sometimes... well, it can be dangerous. You'll be using your mind in ways it wasn't meant to. I think that's part of what happened to poor Freddy."
There were still so many questions, but Gnat was afraid to let her older self off the hook. "The fire. I need to."
Naomi's eyes met hers. It might have been Gnat's imagination, but there seemed to be a hint of a tear - remembering? Or guilty about having not gone herself? Without another word, she reached forward and touched Gnat on the brow. The room faded...
...and opened to choking smoke, orange-hot flame, and the screams of dozens of women. "Fire on the eighth floor! Fire" screaming and vague sinister shapes barely seen through the smoke, engines and machines and broken glass and yelling and burning in her lungs and yelling and the shattering of glass and sickening thud of a body on pavement and
Gnat's childhood bedroom and Gnat's own voice - her much younger voice - screaming and still the smell of smoke. Someone yelling for Mr. Blank. And, in the bedroom, from nowhere, flames. The young Gnat sat bolt upright, hair matted with sweat yelling "save them... fire on the eighth floor.. save them" and the flames rose and they spread and young Gnat (still Naomi) got up from the bed and ran and the flames rose and there was nothing but smoke
...and she was back with her older self, in the empty, featureless room. There were certainly tears on Naomi's face now. "So now you know."
"Know what? You were supposed to take me before the damn fire started. You were too late."
Naomi shook her head. "I'd had a lesson at school that week about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a century before. It gave me nghtmares."
"I hadn't remembered that. I thought the nightmares were from my fire."
Naomi shook her head sadly. "You have it backwards. The fire is from our nightmares. The stress on the world caused by time travel, the power of your mind... That's another part of the secret."
Gnat felt the sane numbness she had right after the fire. It seemed too much to be real, too big for her even to build feelings around. She sat heavily to the floor. "So.. what now? Freddy will miss me soon, won't he?"
Now Naomi chuckled with real warmth. "This is time travel. Freddy last saw you years ago. Or seconds ago. There's no difference. We have time."
"Time for what?"
Now the older woman's smile was broad, revealing deep laugh-lines around her eyes. "For me to teach you the secret of time travel, of course. How do you think I learned it?"
"But.. if I learned it from you, and you know because you're me.. where did it come from?"
All part of the secret, darling. And Naomi taught herself, for a long time hidden between ticks of the clock.
All the while, part of Gnat wondered if there was another secret hidden behind this one, one that she was hiding from herself. She was, after all, good at reading when people were hiding something.
Part Nine: Broken Threads
By Carrie K Sorensen @ Chasing Revery
That's it, isn't it?
Gnat had always been good at reading people, at knowing when she could escape and where she could hide. She'd learned quickness along the way, following her instincts.
Except, perhaps it was more than instincts that led her. Perhaps it had more to do with knowing than with paying attention.
The world began to click into place.
Naomi the traveler, learning so much in her travels, going back to her time to self-fulfill her scientific discoveries, gaining acclaim, money and confidence. Naomi using her knowledge to try and fix the fire, trying to fix the damage caused by her interference time and time again, shredding the fabric of time more and more.
Tyler coming back in time, regaining a young body to meet the woman he loved while she was just a child, trying to see who she might become before the scars.
Her cubby on Second Street. So many lines coming together, beginning, ending. Freddy finding her and leaving her, missing her when he wanted her, and finally catching her.
A dream that wasn't a dream, but a trip back to a fire she'd learned about in school. Horrified, she'd struggled the wake up, struggled to send herself back, somehow taking the fire with her.
Tyler, seeking her through the years, both her present self and her traveling self. Both versions always knew just when to slip away, just what path to take to avoid him.
Freddy, traveling with and without Tyler, his mind snapping, a desperation greater than Tyler's growing in the hopes that Naomi would know how to fix him.
Naomi planting a notebook, moments and years later returning to plant the globe that held confetti falling down on a broken new year's clock. Would she figure it out? Or would she make the same mistakes she always did?
The world had begun to click into place, but it was broken. There were too many lines cut short, too many lines left too long. The weaving was incomplete and messy.
And all of it started with this moment, when Naomi taught Gnat what she had already always known.
"You see, don't you?" Naomi asked, tears in her eyes. "The trouble isn't in seeing, though, it's in doing. We've made ourselves quite a mess, Gnat. It may finally be broken enough to fix."
The white room faded away to shadow. Freddy stood beside her, unaware she'd gone and come back. The shadow moved slightly, flipping a switch to add yellowed light to the room.
"You have her then." The Freddy beside her was speaking to the Freddy who had just turned on the light. This is how it was really done, then. Too many selves in one place finally breaking time enough so it might be fixed.
Do I want to fix it? she asked herself in the darkness of her mind. This future left her well-known, rich, desired. She was no longer the broken, base being she had made herself after the fire. She could fix time now, then use it again, knowing she would fix it later.
"Of course I have her." Freddy two opened a closet door. A heavy laden chair scraped painfully across the floor. There the older Naomi sat, her head hanging down, dry blood matting her hair to one side of her face.
Gnat looked between the two Freddy's, knowing they were not the same that had found her in her cubby, knowing it was her choices that had lead to breaking this man. Knowing her discovery had been what was killing Tyler.
Before, there had been a set path. Now she could make her own.
"Freddy, can I have the snow globe now?"
Part Ten: Just Trust Me, Please.
By Nicole Pyles @ The World of My Imagination
Freddy handed her the snow globe without another word. Gnat held it in her hands for only a few seconds, before she held her breath and smashed it to the ground.
An explosion of light blinded her.
Freddy's face twisted with rage and pain. The older Naomi, the one she may become, cried in agony. Gnat couldn't feel any pain at all.
The light surrounded her. Warmed her. Whispered voices hushed her. Calmed her. The chops around her, just background. It wasn't reality. Just noise. Reality was quiet. Silence.
"...hush, hush, Naomi. It's a bad dream. Just a bad dream."
Naomi blinked open her eyes. Slowly. It couldn't be real.
The soft brown eyes of her mother looked concerned. She sat on the edge of Naomi's bed with her old house coat on, the one Naomi insisted she replace. She smelled of baby powder and coffee. Naomi stifled a sob. She threw her arms over her mother.
"It's okay, it's okay. It was just a dream."
"You're here..." Naomi whispered, barely able to hold back the tears.
"Of course, I am. Where else would I be?"
The fire. Naomi realized this was the day of the fire. A flood of memories rushed forward - the time travel. The smashed snow globe. And Tyler, both young and old.
Naomi thought of a quick lie. One to get her parents out of the house. "Could we go to the park today? All of us?"
Naomi's mother brushed back her hair. "Maybe, sweetie. I have some things to get done."
"No! You can't. Please." Naomi heard herself begging. She hated to, but it was the only way.
"What's so important that we must go to the park today?" Her mother searched her eyes. Naomi knew the answers. But couldn't reveal them.
"Just trust me, please."
The park was beautiful. The sun was bright in contrast to the blue sky. Children screeched and played on the elaborate park structures. Game of chase, tag, and invented games played out before Naomi. She sat with her parents on the park bench. She chewed the last bit of sandwich her mother had packed.
"Noami, look! There's your friend, Tyler!"
Naomi gasped. She stood from the bench. She peered past the children that raced in front of her. Between the swing sets, there he was. The Tyler she knew all along.
She walked towards him. He smiled. When she got closer, it seemed like the world stopped. He was beautiful. She couldn't believe her eyes.
"It worked." She said.
"It worked." He repeated, a laugh in his voice.
"So you really can change the past."
He shrugged. "For now anyway."
The sound of a siren interrupted their peace. A fire engine screamed down the street. It was then that Naomi noticed the smokey air. It got worse by the second as the smell of soot and fire burned Naomi's nose.
"What happens now?" Naomi asked. She heard her parents call for her. An emergency they said. The house was on fire.
"I don't know. We'll have to see. What can I call you, by the way?"
"Naomi. You can call me Naomi." She turned to look for her parents. As she walked away, she looked back on last time. "Hey! Want to do math homework with me later?"
Naomi could hear Tyler laughing all the way across the park.