Gideon watched Trevan from the corner of the room with growing impatience. “Does it really take this long?” he muttered.
Trevan turned away from the fireplace and faced the window with its bones of ropes cutting the view into various shapes. He mumbled words and twirled his hands and then threw them down with an annoyed grunt. “You’re putting me off! You made me lose my concentration! Now I have to start all over again!”
Gideon threw his hands up and stormed out of the room. “That irritating Ms Buttersby beat us the last time due to your dillydallying!”
“Dilly dallying?” Out of habit Trevan reached for the knife that hung at his hip but a look from Gideon froze his hand on the hilt. It was a look that said he would mess him up a lot worse than whatever Trevan could do to him with that knife.
Gideon’s long black coat swirled behind him as he strode from the room, leaving Trevan to start the process from the beginning. He took a deep breath and positioned himself facing away from the fire that was now just embers.
He was so shaken up almost thirty minutes had passed before he felt the familiar shuddering of the ship beneath his feet and the strange purple-white flashing of the sky that signalled they had skipped over time. The one thing he was never sure about was how far in the future or the past they had moved. Sometimes it was just hours, sometimes days, or weeks. Years happened, but rarely. It took more out of him the further from their original time the ship went.
He wished he’d asked the Captain a few more questions at the time, before he had escaped over the side of the ship and the time for questions had passed. Like, did he grow older if they went into the future, and younger if they went into the past? Did his crew feel any adverse effects? They didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.
When Trevan came out to the main deck he found Gideon looking out across the sky, into a crisp strong breeze.
“Can you tell when we are?” Trevan asked, almost timidly.
“Not until you get us down through this cloud cover and land. I need to go check on a relative.”
“A relative?” Trevan was surprised. “You have a relative that lives in London?”
“Not London. New London.”
Gideon handed the airlock guard a piece
of paper. A permission slip that allowed him access to the underground city. It
said that he was the ambassador of the United American Empire. It was signed by
the Emperor himself. Gideon almost laughed in the man’s face at how readily he
accepted the note without question. Stupid Brits couldn’t even think to confirm
a signature, and just took it at face value that it was genuine. He hid his
smile and the laughter escaped him only once he had reached the bottom of the
As his foot hit the top rung of the ladder, memories flooded back with such force he needed to grasp the metal tightly. He had been here before, just once, when he was not much older than a boy. It smelled the same as he remembered – the dank, musty smell of somewhere that was perpetually dark, where sunlight never reached. And it felt the same, a coolness, a damp that went straight to your bones. He shuddered at the memory, of climbing down these same ladders with his mother all those years ago, to visit his aunt here. He remembered the sickly green glow of the fireflies floating aimlessly around the ceiling, the ones that had escaped from their light tubes when they were replenished. His boots rang hollowly on the rungs that were slick and rusted. He was halfway down when he realized there was something wrong. There was a strange silence. When he was here last, he remembered hearing voices and noise floating down the tunnels that converged at each of the airlock entrances. But this time there was nothing, only a heavy silence that weighed on him and made the hairs on the back of his neck and his arms stand up.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he chastised himself. “You’re a grown man, not a young boy forced to come here to visit relatives with his mother!” He shimmied down the rest of the ladder as fast as he could.
He followed the signs above the tunnels with help from his lantern until he found his cousins house. He hadn’t seen his father’s sister in…well, ever. When he knocked on the door he plastered on his most charming smile.
He expected the door to be opened by his cousin, but no such face greeted him. Instead he had to look down, his six foot two towering over the small girl that had answered the door. She must have been about thirteen or so.
“Are you Abigail?”
“Yes sir, I am.”
“Can I ask how old you are?”
“My mother said I shouldn’t talk to strangers.”
“Oh I’m not a stranger my dear,” he said with another smile, dialled down a bit for the child. “I’m your mother’s cousin, your uncle Gideon.”
“Oh!” the girl brightened. “I’m thirteen, just turned last week.”
“Shit!” Gideon cursed under his breath and spun away. There was no need to say any more or stay any longer. He had arrived too early.
Trevan was pacing the deck of his ship, nervous, awaiting Gideon’s return.
He was a tough man, years on the ship, now his ship, had hardened him. But he wasn’t as hard as to not be scared of Gideon. Gideon had an aura about him that chilled you right to your bones.
When he saw Gideon coming along the platform, almost at a run, he knew it wasn’t good news. Instinctively his hand went to his knife once more, his security blanket.
Gideon pounded up the walkway onto the ship. “We were too early! By three years!”
Trevan bobbed his head like a toy marionette. “Okay, I will try again.” He disappeared below deck, and returned twenty minutes later. His face was flushed and he was panting. “Try again Mr Hendry.”
Gideon’s eyes narrowed but he spun away without a word and disappeared back off the ship. He used the same piece of paper to get underground. He climbed down the ladder. When he got to the bottom he sensed a definitely change in the atmosphere from a few minutes ago. Something had happened. Something bad. He had a sixth sense about these kinds of things – mostly because he was the cause of them.
His footsteps rang hollowly. There was an eerie silence. He entered Zone 5, which a few moments ago, however long ago in the past, was bustling with people was now deserted. His foot hit something on the ground. Out of habit he moved his foot forward slightly to step over whatever it was and his foot hit something else. He looked down. The things his foot hit was not two, but a single large thing – a body. He raised his lantern higher, stretching the length it’s light enveloped and the light highlighted more shapes strewn on the ground. More bodies. Or parts of bodies. Gideon tensed. He hadn’t been around as long as he had without copious amounts of common sense. He could see from across the square that his cousin’s house was empty. He turned and fled before the sound that made even his hairs stand on end disturbed the permanent silence – a horrible grating noise, followed by a scrabbling, like nails down a piece of slate. He turned and ran. His foot hit the rung of the ladder at a run and he slammed his knee painfully into the wall. He pulled himself up without stopping to look behind him. He could hear the horrible grating noise which was getting closer impossibly fast. He reached the top of the ladder when the wolf came into view at the bottom snarling and howling, with a gnashing of metal teeth.