Admit it. Of course you’ve fantasized about travelling through time. What? Is that a “no”? Can’t hear you honey, so I’m going to assume all of you, dear people, are nodding. Okay, so most of you smile somewhat at all this time travelling stuff, being quite content to remain exactly where you are – well, maybe not exactly, because you wouldn’t mind a couple of weeks in the Caribbean, would you? But some of you may have a pen holder in the shape of a Tardis on your desk. (And here I would argue we’re talking as many men as women. In fact, I’ve met more men who have a Tardis replica than women) Others may approach stone circles with a mixture of hope and fear, one little part wishing that they too be dragged back through time like Claire in Outlander, a larger part quailing at the thought. But let’s face it; the concept of travelling through time is fascinating, a mind-boggling exercise that can, at times, make your head ache. Unless you’re a new Einstein. Very few of us are…
Should it happen to any of us, we’re probably in for a nasty surprise. Modern man has grown soft, people. Plus we like being clean. And we are quite addicted to our toothbrushes. Our men are crap with a sword or a bow, us women don’t do much darning these days, and most of us would be quite stumped when faced with the warm carcass of a recently killed pig. Seriously, gut it? Ugh! (And yes, the stink is absolutely revolting, plus all those intestines slither all over the place). Plus imagine living in a world where the plague runs riot at regular intervals. Or where what dental care there is is often supplied by the village smith.
And yet… There is obviously something seriously wrong with me, because I would love to go back, take a peek at the people whose lives we read about today. Okay, so I want a return ticket as well – which, I must admit, I did not give Alex Lind, my female alter ego, time traveller extraordinare whom I plunged rather brutally into the seventeenth century. Nor did I give her much chance of reading up on her new environment – I found it more interesting to see how she would cope if she knew only the rudimentary facts about her new world.
“Thanks a lot,” Alex mutters, but seeing as she is still alive, she’s obviously done quite a good job. But undoubtedly it was difficult at times – and not only from a practical perspective, but also from a mental perspective. What would it be like for a modern woman to land in a time in which she is essentially a chattel? How does one cope when all the rights one takes for granted are torn away from you? Well, we will never know, will we – but this is where that very powerful tool imagination comes into play. So, do I believe time travel is possible? In the flesh, no – but in my mind, most definitely yes! My brain rips the veils of time to shreds, and suddenly I am there, back in a time not at all my own. And you know what? I love it, every time!
Anyway, Alex gets to live through some of the more difficult aspects of transitioning to a new time. In the below excerpt, she has just met Matthew – a very strange man, in her opinion. (Needless to say, ex-convict Matthew is as confused by her) Alex is just beginning to realise something very odd has happened to her. Odd? Beg your pardon, impossible – at least for a person as rational as Alex is. But, as she is about to discover, sometimes impossible things do happen!
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Matthew,” he replied after a while, rolling over in her direction. “Matthew Graham.”
“I’m Alex Lind.” She eased herself up to sit. She licked her lips, and he fumbled in the dark for his water skin, extending it in her direction.
“Alex?” he sat up. “That’s a lad’s name.”
She snorted and drank some more. “No it isn’t, last time I looked I was definitely female and it’s still my name. Short for Alexandra.” She twisted her head in the direction of the opening, exposing her nape, a bare patch of skin highlighted by the severe haircut. She had right pretty ears, tight to her skull and ending in a slight, pink point. Fairy ears…
“What are you?” he whispered, making her turn to face him.
“Just plain Alex; you know, an ordinary woman.”
“No you’re not; in my world women don’t walk around baring their bodies like you do, their hair cut short.”
“I’m not baring my body! I’m fully dressed, for God’s sake!”
He winced at her careless blasphemy. “Aye, there’s cloth all over you, but it reveals more than it conceals.”
“Tough, okay? You’d better learn to live with the times, mister. Just because you’ve chosen to live in some kind of archaic religious context, it doesn’t give you the right to judge the rest of us.”
“Religious context?” he echoed. “Archaic?”
“Well, look at you! You dress like a cross between a Hare Krishna monk and an Amish person, you stare at me as if you’ve never seen a bra before. You must’ve been living in some kind of secluded all male community.”
His mouth twisted into a wry smile. Aye, that was very true. He leaned towards her, trying to see her eyes in the dark.
“What’s a Harray krissna monk? And I haven’t seen a … bra, is it? before. I would definitely have remembered.”
She was staring at him, hands clenched tight around each other. Matthew gave her a wary look; the lass was gaping as if she’d seen a ghost.
“But you know what a car is, right?”
Matthew shook his head.
“A TV? Radio? A phone?”
He frowned; was this some sort of game? “Nay, I’ve never heard of any such things.”
She gulped and scooted away from him, eyes flying to his bundle, the flint and steel he’d left discarded on the floor. She moaned, hid her face in her arms.
“No,” she whispered. “No way. Stuff like that doesn’t happen, not in real life.”
“What?” He came after her, but she reared back, and the expression on her face made him raise his hands, palms towards her. “I’m not about to hurt you.”
“It’s not you, it’s just…” She broke off to stare yet again at him and his possessions. “Bloody hell, no, no, no.” She crawled towards the opening. “The car. My car, it’ll be right there, where I left it. This is just a bad dream, an effect of hitting my head too hard.”
“What’s a car?” he said. She laughed, and then she began to cry instead. He followed her outside, made a grab for her when she slipped.
“My BMW,” she said, “it has to be here!”
He had no idea what she was looking for as she limped up and down the slope, but whatever it was, it wasn’t where she’d expected it to be.
“A dream, it’s just a dream, isn’t it?” She looked at him beseechingly, and he had no idea what to say. This was no dream, not unless they were both sleeping and dreaming the same thing.
“It can’t be true.” To his surprise she placed a hand on his arm. “Too solid,” she moaned, “you’re too damn solid, you hear?” She hit him, repeatedly.
“So are you, lass, but I don’t take to hitting you, do I?” He wrapped his arms around her, pinned down her hands.
“Sorry,” she hiccupped before breaking down completely, a warm weight against his chest. Dearest Lord, but it felt good to hold a woman this close, her hair tickling his nose. It was a near on perfect match, her body a collection of curves that fitted comfortably into his larger and broader frame, her head resting against his shoulder. With an effort he released her. She was still weeping, albeit silently, and he coaxed her back inside, unnerved by her dejection.
“What is the matter, lass?”
She just shook her head, mumbled something he made out as ‘impossible’, and sank down to sit before the little fire. She quieted, drew in a few shaking breaths, and wiped at her face.
Poor Alex, hey? Or maybe not so poor, because after all, if she hadn’t dropped through that hole in time, she’d never have met Matthew! This is where it is such a delight to be an author: first, I can play around with such constants as time, then I can indulge in my fondness for love. Awwww….
A Rip in the Veil is the first in The Graham Saga and has recently been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion. And like Julie Andrews once warbled, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…” – well, assuming you’re into time travel and love and fast-paced adventure, and religious strife, and nefarious younger brothers, and… Phew!