It’s the second half of the Ray Bradbury Challenge of writing a short story each week for a year. Also, I’ve misnumbered somewhere. I can’t do math. I can only prove it works.
An antique collector
A sliver quill
The Silver Quill
The SUV stopped in front of a watch repair shop nestled between a deli and a payday loan store. The driver got out and went to the parking meter.
Reginald had been on this street many times over the past thirty years. He had never noticed the shop before.
The man on the back seat next to Reginald got out and came around the car. With his hands cuffed and the seatbelt threaded through his arms, Reginald was at their mercy. The driver opened the door and reached over Reginald to unsnap the seat belt.
“Watch your head,” the man said, helping Reginald from the car.
“Where are we?” Reginald asked. He looked at the shop again. He had a collection of forty antique watches and clocks. Surely if there were a repair shop in town, he would have known about it.
“Told ya, we are taking you to the HQ.” The driver had his hand firmly on Reginald’s elbow. “Hey, Ted, can you get the door?”
“I’m trying, it’s stuck.” Ted pulled on the door handle.
“Well, looks like it’s closed. Now uncuff me and let me go.” Reginald tried to jerk away from the man who held his arm.
“Wally, did you put the new code in the meter?” Ted asked.
“Damn, forgot they changed it.” Wally pushed Reginald toward Ted. “I’ll fix it.”
While Ted took Reginald by the arm, Wally loped over to the parking meter again. He took a small gadget out of his pocket and waved it over the meter. The red violation flag turned green. “There we go.”
Ted pulled on the door, and it opened. He ducked under some cobwebs. “Watch your head.”
Reginald followed him in. This had to be some kind of joke, right? His birthday was in two weeks. Did Megan plan an early surprise party for him? No, she would never even walk into a place as dusty and dead as this. “This is your HQ?”
Wally had followed them in, “We are getting there, hold your horses.” He went to a set of shelves on the side of the shop and waved his gadget around again. The shelves slid back to reveal a shiny white tiled hallway.
Ted prodded Reginald to follow Wally through the passage. “We are still traveling.
Reginald pulled his arm out of Ted’s hand. “I demand my rights. I get a phone call. I need to talk to my attorney.” This is America, right?
Wally laughed. “An attorney isn’t going to help you. We don’t have them in Kairos.”
“Cairo? Where the hell are you taking me?” Reginald stopped and tried to stay put, but Ted and Wally got on each side and pulled him along.
“The Magistrate will explain everything.” Ted said.
The hall ended in a large, white-tiled room. There wasn’t any furniture, just a couple of stainless steel tables with weird-looking assortments of gears and wires, and in the corner, a large platform with stainless steel rails around it.
“Up we go,” Ted said.
“You can’t even tell me what laws I broke,” Reginald said. “I am going to sue you to the next millennium.”
“Ooh, that’s funny,” Wally said. He punched a couple of buttons on a panel,
The platform gave a shimmy, then nothing. This had to be some kind of a joke. Nothing changed.
“We’re here!” Ted announced, leading Reginald off the platform.
“We are the same place we were,” Reginald said. He followed Wally back down the hallway, shiny white tiles reflecting the same fluorescent light they did before.
Reginald couldn’t check his watch, but he knew he was late for the meeting he had with the Antiques Road Show crew. He finally had made the big time. The pre-shoot meeting. The show was going to have a tour of his home and his collection. He specialized in antique clocks and watches, and the producers had gushed over the opportunity to shine a spotlight on his collection.
“My lawyer will have all of your credentials when this is over,” Reginald said.
“Right.” Wally pushed open the shelves.
But they weren’t shelves anymore. It was simply a door. They walked out and were standing on a dusty road, straight out of some old west movie. A horse was drinking from a wooden trough outside First City Bank. A saloon with swinging doors.
Yes, this had to be Megan’s doing. She knew he liked old oaters.
Ted tugged on Reginald’s arm. “Let’s go. This magistrate fancies himself an old west hero. Sheriff, judge, and jury.”
Wally nodded. “Well, he was a judge in the 1840’s.”
Reginald stopped. These men were insane.
“Come on, let’s go in.” Ted opened the door to the Sheriff’s Office. “I’d say I hope he’s in a good mood, but honestly, he’s pretty pissed at you.”
“Who? Who is pissed at me? I’ve never been here in my life. Take off these handcuffs and let me go. My lawyer, I need to call my lawyer.” Reginald’s heart started to race.
A man dressed in judge’s robes sat at a large desk. Reginald didn’t recognize him, but he did recognize the object on the desk in front of him. A large quill made of silver. He had only recently acquired it. “That’s mine; where did you get it?”
The man in the robes stood up. “I ask the questions here, Mr. Long. And I am more interested in where did you get it?”
“Like any antique, I purchased it.” Reginald tried to step back, but Ted and Wally were right behind him.
“A random sliver quill? Is there a department at Walmart I missed?”
The word Walmart coming out of this man’s mouth was a bit unnerving. “Where am I? What crime am I accused of? Where is my lawyer?”
“You, Mr. Long, are in the Kairos. We are currently outside of normal time, what you know as Chronos. You are here because we have found unusual time compaction around you and your acquaintances.” The magistrate walked around the desk. “Unauthorized time travel is strictly forbidden.”
“Time travel? Are you out of your mind?” Reginald tried to take slow breaths, like his therapist in the stress reduction class taught him. It wasn’t working.
The magistrate picked up the quill. “This was made in 2152. Can you tell me how it traveled back to your collection in 2019?”
“I, uh, what? 2052?”
“Who sold it to you?”
“I, uh, just a supplier. A kid.”
Wally pulled out a cell phone and held it up to Reginald’s face. “This kid?”
Reginald nodded. His mouth was dry, but these guys didn’t seem to be the hospitable types.
Wally showed the phone to the magistrate. “It’s him. Turk.”