Shift

I recently wrote this longish short story.

Crazy part? I wrote the entire thing on paper before copying it to the computer.

 

Shift

 

I awoke on the morning of April 9th and looked on my bedside table. A note was stuck there, simply saying: “Peach”. I wondered what it could mean, as I always did about the notes. I knew, however, that all would be made clear sometime during the day. I got off my bed, too quickly though, and I fell back, my head buzzing. I got up again, slower this time, and headed downstairs. I didn’t get dressed, as I usually didn’t in the mornings. I only dressed if I had to go somewhere. I went downstairs and was welcomed by my mother, who was cooking an omelet.

“Hi sweetie.” She blew a kiss to me, then went over to the cupboard, took out a plate and put the omelet on it.

“Tomato and feta. You like that, don’t you?” She offered the plate to me.

“Yes, very much.” I took the plate, got a fork, and sat down. I then dove into my plate, eating ravenously. Sometimes I would forget how hungry I was. The dish was empty in a few minutes. I put it in the sink before doing my chores. I won’t bother boring you with details of these.

After completing the chores, I went upstairs to “do school”. Well, I did some. A few minutes. Then I settled down with a book and read. When I next looked up at the clock, it was an hour and a half later. I sprung out of bed and fell back again.

Gotta remember to stop doing that…. I reprimanded myself. I looked at my calendar and saw that I had to go out to town while my mom had a group over that she was meeting with.

I got dressed and packed a bag of things to bring with me. I almost forgot to bring money, but then I stuffed ten dollars into my pocket. You never know what you might find when you are out in town. When I went downstairs, already two ladies were there, drinking tea and talking with my mom.

She saw me as I headed out.

“Just to let you know, one of the poles that hold up the rail outside is broken. Be careful.”

I went outside. One of the poles had shattered in the middle.

Wood doesn’t do that, right? I thought. I walked down our drive and turned left to head into town before remembering something I had left in my room.

Crumbs fell out of my mom’s mouth when she saw me and spoke; a moment earlier she had been eating some shortbread.

“Rail out there looks pretty bad, doesn’t it?” She asked as I ran up the stairs. It was a rhetorical question and I didn’t bother answering. When I made my way to my room, I located two rusted iron screws. But I was still missing one. I frantically picked up everything on the bureau, looking for the last one.

“Where….is it?” A thought crossed my mind. “Riax…….” I grabbed the two screws and shoved them in my pocket. Partway in my run downstairs, I got dizzy. I shook it off then continued down. I went outside again, but stopped when I noticed something different about the rail. Two of the poles were broken, not one. I went back inside again, caught my mom’s attention, and asked her a question.

“Mum? How many of the poles are broken?”

“Two. Funniest thing. Don’t know how it happened.”

Thought so. I thanked her and went back outside, walked down the drive, turned left and went into town. I had to find Riax now. Who knew what he would do with even just one of these. Or worse, he would sell it and someone else would get it. I made my way to his apartment room, located on the third floor of a dingy-looking building. He opened the door with a much-too-happy grin on his face.

“Hey! Come on in!”

I coughed at the intensity of the alcohol on his breath.

“Where is it?” I demanded.

“What?” His voice was forced to be happy.

“You know perfectly well what.” I stepped in and closed the door behind me.

“I’m sure whatever it is you are after,” he audibly gluped, “can be discussed. Just don’t start assuming things.”

I grabbed him by the lapels of his shirt and pushed him into the wall.

“Blast it, Riax!” I pronounced his name reeks. “The rusted screw. Where is the third one? Remember that the police don’t know where you are. I do. That can be changed.”

I wasn’t usually like this, but in interacting with this person about this specific problem, I knew it would be for the best.

“Oh! That screw! I thought you wanted me to take if off your hands. Being as troublesome as it has been so far.”

I shook him once more before letting him go. He stumbled back a bit before turning towards a cabinet desk littered with  papers. After rummaging around in a drawer for a while he held up a rusted, bent screw triumphantly.

“Here it is.” Before placing it in my hand he pulled back a bit.

“You sure you want it back?”

I shot him a look that told him I did, along with a few other nastier things. The instant before it touched my hand my head started ringing.

“…and there’s both of them.” Riax said.

I looked down in my hand to see two, not one, of the screws. I plunged my hand into my pocket and pulled out the other screw.

“Ah.” Other than that, I turned and walked out of the room wordlessly.

I muttered to myself, “Two in one hour….not going to be a good day. At least I have these.” I grinned as I felt the three screws in my pocket.

I headed to the shop further in town. I would be hungry by the time I got there. As I walked I whistled a tune that I couldn’t place. I was lost in the song until I ran into a man. Or perhaps he ran into me. As we made our respective apologies, I noticed a strange scar on his cheek. Two cuts, perfectly parallel to each other. I couldn’t see any more of his face, as he had a hat on that primarily covered his eyes.

A moment longer and I was on my way again. I must have been lost in the music for longer than I thought, because I walked for barely five minutes longer before I came to the store, Grenham Town Shop. And I was hungry. It must have been past noon already. I went in and gathered into my arms a loaf of freshly baked bread, some cheese, and some water. I wanted some yogurt as well, but couldn’t make up my mind as to which kind. Strawberry or peach? The memory of the note popped into my head. Peach. It was peach. I grabbed two and made my way to the checkout. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat both of the yogurts by myself, but I wasn’t by myself. I had someone to meet. The cashier gave me the paper bag. I handed her ten dollars, and she handed four of them back to me, saying, “Have a good day!”

“You too.” I said absentmindedly. I didn’t care if she had a good day or not.

I carried the bag till I was under our tree. I started unpacking the food, and, sure enough, she came over and sat down next to me, cross legged.

“Hello Ria.” I said.

She responded, “Hello Elm.”

A smile came onto my face. Eldam was my name, but she always called me Elm. Perhaps it was because we always met under an elm tree. Whatever the reason, I loved the nickname. I leaned over and kissed her cheek, then leaned back and continued unpacking the bag and arranging it on my jacket that I had spread out on the ground. She blushed, hesitated, then kissed me full on the lips, something I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t quite sure how to react, so I changed the subject.

“Look at what I bought!” I said as I pulled the yogurt out of the bag. Her face brightened more, if that was possible.

“Peach! I love peach! How did you know?”

“Well,” my face grew serious, “you know.”

“Ah. That.” Her face fell as well. I didn’t like that so I tried to lighten the mood.

“Enough of that. How have you been today?”

“Good. I went to the library.” She continued talking as I looked at her. Her voice was beautiful background music while I looked at her, like the sound a nearby waterfall makes while you look at its never-ending beauty and majesty. She had strawberry blonde hair, was around an inch shorter than me, slim, and had graceful hands. She wore a short skirt and a light flowery blouse. After realizing that I had spaced out, I focused back on what she was saying.

“…a great book called The Two Claws. Come to think of it, the main character was a lot like you. You should read it.” I nodded absentmindedly and took another bite of bread.

 

***

 

So things went for several hours more, us talking and enjoying the company of the other. We had originally met last summer in the park, and had since been meeting each other about every other week. We met during the times that my mom had her gatherings. The sun was hot, and eventually she nodded off to sleep, resting her head on my shoulder. I cherished the moment before I, too became drowsy. I leaned my head on hers, and fell asleep.

 

***

 

We both awoke with a start. Ria turned to me.

“Did we…?” she started to ask.

“Yes.” I preemptively answered.

“Can you explain it to me again?”

“Well,” I sat up straighter, “in the world here are several ‘phases’. They are somewhat like dimensions, but there are no big differences between them. Everybody exists in all of them, and everyone looks the same in all of them. A person in one phase can’t make a different decision then they make in this one. Another big point: while there may be any number of phases, and therefore any number of versions of you, there is only one consciousness shared between them all. At fairly random times you will switch between phases. You and I are the only people that can sense when we have switched. But not all switching is in the same timeline. Sometimes you will go a day or so into the future or the past. But you don’t notice because your body, and therefore your mind, is in the future. It knows things that the you in another phase doesn’t.”

Ria looked puzzled. “You have told me a few times before, but I still don’t quite get it.”

“It is hard to grasp, indeed. A few other people know that we switch phases, but they can’t sense it.  Any amount of time can elapse in-between phases. But people don’t notice it because their consciousness isn’t in a body that can sense this. I can. And I still know things from the future, if that is the phase I am returning from. Because in the space in-between I, as well, am a consciousness, I have certain psychic powers. I can use these to send messages to a note by the side of my bed. That’s how I knew I should buy peach yogurt.”

“Well, I thank your future self.” She looked towards town hall and saw the clock that was on the tower. “Oh, I have to go.” We both stood up. She outstretched her arms and we hugged.

“Till next time, my love.” I said with a flourish.

“Speaking of which, will two weeks from today around this time work?”

“Absolutely. Until then!” I said, and she walked back off towards the library again.

I sat back down again, back resting on the tree, reveling in memories of the times he and I had had. I then got up and decided it was about time for me to be leaving as well. I decided to take my “shortcut” though the woods. I suppose the actual distance was less, but it took longer. I enjoyed it though. I have always felt a peace in nature. Even though it had been over an hour since she did it, I could still feel her lips on mine.  I wandered through the woods aimlessly, though still heading in a general direction towards my house. The singing of the birds and the sound of the wind through the trees lulled me even further into a dream-like state. I suddenly came out of my reverie when I noticed everything was silent, the type of silence that follows after a hunter has discharged his gun and all the fowl flown away. The absence of natures singing. Then I noticed something odd in the tree in front of me; two gouges in the bark like a bear’s claws make. However, instead of there being four or five marks, there was only two.

“So it isn’t a bear…” I thought out loud.

I turned around reflexively, just to make sure nothing was there. The tree behind me was scarred with the claw marks as well, if that’s what they were. As I looked back around, I noticed that all the trees surrounding me had the same marks in them.

“What…is it then…?” I asked no one in particular.

I suddenly got dizzy, a sign I had just switched phases. Below the marks on the first tree I saw there was now another pair of gouges. I heard snapping twigs and rustling leaves behind me and bolted. I was close enough to my house that I made it the rest of the way there without stopping. I arrived breathless and put my hand on the rail to brace myself while I caught my breath. I bent my head down and noticed that neither of the poles were broken. I went into the house once I recovered. Inside, my mom was busy making supper.

“Did you see Ria?”

“Yeah. I had a good time.”

I went upstairs into my room and rummaged around until I found a small box with a lock. I opened it and put the three screws from my pocket into it. I locked it then put it back. I sat on my bed and did a bit more school. Math, science, and a bit of reading. I enjoyed most o fit and it went quickly. After smelling something scrumptious simmering on the stove I headed downstairs. My mom had served up two bowls of stew and had set them on the table to cool. We sat down and ate. I was hungry, having walked close to six miles that day.

We didn’t talk much at dinner. I told her briefly of my time with Ria, and she told me that she was going to be going into work tomorrow.

“So be sure to study a lot while I am gone!” She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye. She knew also that I was good at school. Unnaturally good.

I got another bowl of stew and headed upstairs to work. I did school for another forty-five minutes before finishing it and reading more of my book. I liked reading, so long as it was fiction, or interesting enough that it could have been fiction. Right now I was reading Dark Way by Flavius Langer. I had decided that that must have been a fake name. The book was quite good.

 

…Denav walked down the short path until he met back up with the rest of the group.

“This is all I could find,” he said as he offered Xan the thing he held in his hands. “a small broken clay tablet. What do you make of it, Terash?” 

Xan handed the piece to Terash. She looked at it carefully, mouthing out words as she translated the inscription. Finally she spoke.

“It being broken and all, I don’t know what it all means. The most I can figure out is this: ‘They must ca-something the place thr-something something-ark way’. As I said, far from complete.”

Bir broke in. “-ark way? Dark way? I think so. What else could it be?”

Xan, ever the joker, decided to play his part. “Shark. Ark. Bark. Hark. Park. Ma-“

Bir had had enough. “I get it. But still. The Bark Way? I don’t think the tablet is talking about a river in D’kan.”

Xan blushed slightly when the others laughed…

 

I kept reading until my eyes closed and I slept.

When I awoke, I was surprised I had fallen asleep so early. I never fell asleep before ten. I looked at the clock and it said nine-thirty. In the morning? I looked out my window and it was dark. Nope. I dawned on me that I had only slept for about two hours. I suddenly got that groggy feeling one gets when something strange like that happens. I collapsed back onto my bed and stared straight up.

Scraped into the ceiling were two parallel claw marks. I jumped out of bed and got the small box out of my bureau. I quickly grabbed some twine, tied it around the three screws, and hung it around my neck. This makeshift necklace worked as a grounding point for my consciousness; it wouldn’t go to any more phases while I wore it. That isn’t to say that it gets rid of the phases – they build up behind the barrier that the anchor makes. When you took it off, you would quickly flash through all of them. I wasn’t quite sure what was making these marks, or what they meant. But I thought this might be a good idea in any case. I tried to take it off my mind to go to sleep. It was difficult, but eventually I fell into a dreamless slumber.

 

***

 

I awoke, and automatically looked down at my bedside table for a note.

None. Of course. I thought when I remembered that the screws were still hanging around my neck. I looked up and the claw marks were still there on the ceiling.  Last night when I put on the necklace I wasn’t trying to stay in one phase; I was trying to build up enough phases that I might be able to throw whatever it was off my trail. I got comfortable and removed the necklace. Phase one, a dull ache started in my head. Phase two, it got worse. Three, sharper. Four, five, six, the ache turned into a roar. I landed in the seventh with a bang, and blacked out.

When I awoke, my mom was daubing my head with a cool wet cloth.

“You’re awake! I was really worried about you, you know. I heard a noise and when I came up, you were unconscious.”

I looked on my table and saw a note sitting there. I waited until my mom left, saying as she went, “If you need anything, just call out!” before reaching over and snatching it off the table. All it said was “16:34:57 duck”. I figured that the numbers were a specific time. I set an alarm for that time on my watch. The “duck” part had me confused, though. Was I going to see a duck? Or should I duck? I wasn’t sure. It would make sense then, I decided. When I tried to sit up, my head pounded and reeled.

Maybe I should have let Riax pawn it, I thought. I shook my head and regretted it a moment later when the pressure got worse.

No, no. That’s crazy talk. If Riax sold it somewhere or to someone, bad things would happen. I wasn’t sure what kind of bad things, as I wasn’t quite sure how you could hurt someone with it.

Other than the obvious, my throbbing head reminded me.

I just hoped that it wouldn’t be able to find me. Anything powerful enough to chase someone through phases was frightening. I looked at the clock and saw that it was a bit early to get up. So I stayed in bed. At first I was planning to read some more of Dark Way, but then remembered that my mom was going to work today. I figured that I could finish most of my school before I got up. I then viciously dug through the “small things” of school, then started on math. I had gotten about two-thirds of the way done with it before I looked at the clock again and realized it was quite a bit after the time I should get up by now. I sprung out of bed and dressed. I headed downstairs to find a note from my mom on the counter. I read it and it said, “Have a good time. I should be back around five. Help yourself to food.” I excitedly went into the living room, flicked on the television, and watched it for a while. After doing so, I went back upstairs and finished school. By the time I completed that, I was hungry. I toasted, buttered, and ate a bagel. Then I headed outside and into my backyard. While passing through a shed, I grabbed a rugged stick that I used as a staff. I wandered aimlessly in the woods behind my house for a while. I really liked doing so, as it helped clear my mind. I currently needed to do so.

So it can change phases. I thought. On purpose. What could do such a thing? And, even more, how did it know which phase I went to? A thought struck my head. It can remember things even when it goes in-between time frames. That means…it can’t be…that means that it exists outside the phases!

I had speculated before about the possibility of there existing things or beings that could move around between phases at will. Speculated. This was the first I had ever heard of seen of anything that might even possibly be such a thing.

But what did I have to do with all this? If it was, indeed, after me, why? What had I done?

I sighed and gave the matter up. Hopefully it was all over now. I walked down a short path that led to the river. Once I got there, I sat down and watched the rushing water for a while before I realized I was rather hungry. The bagel hadn’t lasted very long. I stood up and walked home. I got there and looked at the clock to see how long I had been out. It was after lunchtime. I made a few sandwiches and watched another show. Then I went upstairs, read, and daydreamed. By the time I finished all that, it was around three o’clock. I looked at my book. Twenty pages to go. I decided to finish it. The ending was quite good, and you could tell that it led into a sequel. But I resolved to read the book Ria told me about next. I grabbed my library card, put on shoes and a jacket, and started out the driveway. I turned left, then walked for about a half of an hour before arriving at the library. I asked the librarian where the book was, and, armed with that knowledge, headed in that direction. When I got to the right aisle, I found Ria there reading another book. She looked up and her face broke into a smile.

“Hello Elm!” She said.

“Hello Ria. I just finished Dark Way and chose to read the book you told me about next.”

“Oh! I just finished it.” She pulled a book out of the shelf and handed it to me. I opened it and plopped down beside her. We read, side by side, for close to an hour. The book was really good. I had just stood up and was hugging Ria goodbye when my alarm went off. I dropped to the ground, pulling Ria with me. Just in time, too. Books went flying as something smashed into the other side of the bookcase. I helped crawl out with me. I quickly kissed her and told her to run.

“This thing is after me. No need for you to be in danger as well.”

By the time I had said these words, the creature had emerged from the knocked-over bookshelves.

You know how after you look at a bright light or something of the like, then blink, you can see the shape of the light? Looking at this beast, you could only see it for a fraction of a second when you blinked. That said, I got a mediocre view of it. It was around eight feet tall and hunched over. Its two massive hands each sported a pair of razor sharp claws. I looked to Ria and saw her blinking furiously at it.

“It looks like a thing from The Two Claws.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

It was then that everything fit together in my head. The two clawed beast. The Two Claws. The dual-claw marks. That all was easy. Then I realized something harder to grasp –  because the beast was inter-phasal, it could also travel through time, to an extent. The Two Claws wasn’t fiction, it was true. There was someone else like me, in the past. I continued blinking rapidly and turned back to the beast.

“What do you want?” I demanded.

The beast stood up a bit straighter and looked directly at me. A terrifying voice came from it as it answered.

“You and the girl. Both. You are abnormalities and must be dealt with.”

I turned to Ria. “In the book, how did he kill or get rid of it?” I whispered.

She looked at me, terrified. “He didn’t. It ate him, or something like that.” Her brow furrowed as she spoke to herself. “Was that what it was? It ate him? Or maybe it burnt him to a crisp with its breath.”

“Neither is very comforting.”

The monster spoke again. “Originally I thought it was just you, but then I saw the girl too and knew I would have to deal with her also.”

I looked around frantically and picked up a metal book-end. I threw it at the beast, but nothing happened. The metal landed on the floor with a crash.

“Attempts to resist are futile.” It took a step forward. Then I noticed something strange that I should have noticed right away. There was no one in the library. Not even any clerks. The beast noticed me looking around and spoke yet again.

“We are in an abandoned phase. I can control it.”

Whenever it spoke, the voice sounded slightly far away, as if muffled through a thin wall. The final piece of the puzzle fit together and I knew what I had to do. I remembered that I had left the necklace in my pocket. I took it out quickly, rand towards the beast, and flung it around its neck. I flickered into view as it was now unable to keep shifting phases.

It growled menacingly and started lumbering towards us. I took a few quick steps backwards before turning, grabbing Ria’s arm, and running out of the library doors. It followed after us. I hoped that there was some way I could stop it out there. It was the that I spied a large buss barreling down the road. It was still quite a bit of aways off, so Ria and I crossed the road. The beast followed us. It didn’t see the bus coming towards it. the bus was about to smash into the beast when the monster held a hand out and the bus froze. It didn’t brake, it just stopped.

“My own creation can’t kill me, you know.”

I was dismayed, but kept a confident face. “Yes, I know. And I also know that you can’t touch the necklace or you will die. One inter-phasal object can kill another. And even if it didn’t kill you immediately, the shock from switching through that many phases at once would.”

“but you can’t run forever.”

“Oh, I know we can’t. We just have to run until we switch phases. You will be trapped in your little own phase forever.” I spoke the words without thinking them; but after I heard them I knew it was true. And the only way to escape from this thing.

If it was possible for fear to come on the face of that monster, it did so now.

And we ran. We ran until our legs were jelly and our lungs were bursting before we switched phases. After doing so, we stopped and looked at each other. We held each other in a long moment of embrace. We shed tears of joy and laughs of relief. We collapsed onto the ground in one another’s arms.

“So it can’t get out?” Ria asked once we were heading back to our homes.

“If it tries, its dead. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that would work. I’m just glad it did.” I looked over to her lovingly. We hugged once more before parting ways. When I stepped in the door, my mom looked at me expectantly.

“Ria again?”

I nodded and she spoke again.

“You look terrible. Clean up and then come down for dinner. Pizza tonight.”

At the time, I thought that last sentence was made up of the best two words in the world.

 

You can download it here:

http://www.mediafire.com/view/?vxn9sabnro9k7m4