Zeit The Time Walker
“Where the heck did you come from?” The blond woman from behind the counter says as I emerge from my portal. I’ve arrived in a meager antique bookstore, rows of weathered first editions line my path. How fitting that such books, little snippets of their time, should welcome the arrival of one such as myself.
“The proper question to ask would be ’when,’” I say with a dip of my top hat. “But then that would depend on what timeline you’re perceiving me from, and that is another matter entirely.”
She gives me a puzzled look, one I’ve grown quite accustomed to over the centuries. “Suffice it to say, I am from… I believe you call it England, just a different time period than yourself. My name is Zeit, and I am a Time Walker.”
I remove my hat and bow as I announce my title. She stares at me a moment longer, then sticks out her hand.
“ Kylie. Nice to meet you,” she says.
I take her hand in mine and place on it the gentlest kiss.
“A pleasure,” I say. “Now, do you have a spot of tea?”
“Tea?” Kylie asks with a hint of humor and sarcasm. She motions with her hand toward the area of the store once occupied by my time portal. “Do you realize when you… whatever it is you do to get around… you’ve landed yourself in Seattle, the coffee capital of the country. No, I don’t have any tea.”
I stare at her, momentarily struck speechless. “Wait a minute. I reveal I can travel through time, and your most pressing concern is that the only refreshment you can offer me is coffee? Hmm… I think we’re going to get along just swimmingly. Now then, where were we?”
“How about I close up early and put a pot on, while you tell me how and why you’re standing in the middle of my shop?”
“That would be agreeable.”
She stares at me a moment longer before turning to lock the front door and switch the sign to ‘Closed‘. It makes me wonder what thoughts had her so captivated in that moment. I gaze at her, watching her glide down the aisle, every movement a testament to the love and care she pours into this place every single day.
“What?” She asks. “You were staring.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. Lead the way, my dear.”
She leads me through a heavy maroon curtain at the back of the shop and into what I assume to be the break room. Although, I can’t image she has many employees to take advantage of such a space.
“Does anyone work here with you?” I ask nonchalantly.
“Just one, but he’s part-time, not due to show up until tomorrow’s evening shift.”
I nod, and she motions toward the round table and chairs set up in the middle of the room. I set my top hat on the table, lift my coat tails and take a seat while she starts preparing the coffee.
“Can I help?” I offer, starting to rise.
“Are you kidding?” Tea drinkers should not be in charge of making the coffee.”
She snickers softly, and I do the same. She is quite amusing, this one.
She is gone but a few minutes, and returns with two steaming mugs.
“So, Zut,” she says, sitting down.
“Zeit,” I correct her. “Unusual name, I know. It’s German, means Time.”
“German? I thought you said you were from England?”
“I say England because it is easier for humans to identify with me if I am from a place they are familiar with. Although, I do greatly enjoy it; it is a place I return to often, and I speak as if I was from there. But as I exist outside of space-time, I do not have any one origin point, nor do I have a past or future. I simply am.”
Kylie nods, and I wonder if she is actually understanding my explanation.
“Can I come with you?” She says after pondering silently for a moment.
“You want to join me on a Time Walk?”
No one has ever requested that of me before. Most humans fear my kind, keeping their distance as best they can.
“You are sure?” I say. “What about your store?”
“You can travel through time right?” She pauses, and I nod in affirmation. “So… can’t you just bring me back to this same moment when we’re done? Then no time will have passed and the store will be fine.”
I have, without a doubt, never met anyone such as her, easily grasping the concepts of time travel and so willing to step into the unknown.
“Alright, we have an agreement.”
Pounding from outside the shop interrupts our conversation.
“Is that coming from the front door?” Kylie says.
“No, please!” A voice yells from outside before the pounding resumes.
The voice sounds eerily familiar, sending a chill up my spine. We must leave. Now.
“If you are adamant about accompanying me, the time has come. We must hurry.” I say. “Are you ready?”
She casts a concerned look in the direction of the commotion, then back at me and nods.
I retrieve my pocket watch from my inner coat pocket, return my hat to my head, and hold out my hand for hers.
“Is that how you get around?” She indicates the watch.
“You shall see. Please take my hand and close your eyes. This next part can be quite a rush.”
I feel the familiar tug in my gut, the very fabric of my being wrenched from the moment and space I once occupied. I am not surprised by the sensation, but rather welcome it, like returning home. But even after centuries of Time Walking, it still sends a thrill through me. Surrounded by black, lights sweep past my field of vision, like shooting starts in the dead of night, and for a brief moment, I feel as though we are flying.
And as immediate as the Walk started, we jolt to a halt. I look over at Kylie, who stumbles to the ground from the sheer force of the abrupt stop.
“Are you alright?” I ask, though I know she probably is not.
“Excuse me while I hurl,” she says.
And she does.
Though I can hardly hold it against her. I can only imagine what an experience like that must feel like to a human.
When she finally composes herself, she stands and straightens her clothes. “I think ‘quite a rush’ doesn’t cut it. Time Walking should come with a disclaimer.”
“That is why humans do not typically attempt it. I must applaud your bravery.”
“Umm… thanks. So where, or when, are we?”
“This is my favorite place. Victorian England.”
Kylie looks around at the people bustling by on the cobblestone street, then looks back at me.
“Wow, you really do fit in here. You’ve got the top hat, waistcoat, long coattails… You even have the scarf thing.”
“ I believe the term you’re looking for is cravat.”
“Oh, pardon me.” She smirks and turns to walk away.
“Hold up a moment. You cannot go galavanting around by yourself. We need to lay low and blend in.”
“You mean everyone can see me?”
“You could see me when I came, could you not?”
“I guess you’ve got a point.”
“Hey!” A voice yells from across the street. A man in his mid thirties starts running toward us.
“What’s his problem?” Kylie whispers to me.
My stomach drops. Now I know when we are. “If I am not mistaken, it is about to start drizzling.”
Raindrops splatter our clothes and Kylie looks bewildered at me.
“How did you know that?”
“I must apologize, I believe I forgot to mention something. Traumatic and/or historical events tend to pull those of my kind toward them when we travel. Sometimes we cannot help it.”
“I did not realize until this moment when exactly we landed.”
“What happened here, Zeit?”
“This was one of those traumatic events for me. I made a mistake many years ago and involved myself a little too deeply into the affairs of the humans in that time. They found out what I am, and let’s just say they did not take kindly to someone messing with their lives and futures. They tried to kill me.”
“Is that possible? Never mind. Tell me later. But that’s where we are now?”
I nod and pull out my pocket watch.
“Oh no, not again.” Kylie shakes her head. I’m not ready for another one of those whoosh feelings in my stomach yet.”
“It is either that or this man will try to kill us both.”
“If I die while I’m with you…”
I nod, not letting her finish her train of thought. She immediately grabs my arm and squeezes her eyes shut.
“Here goes nothin’,” she mumbles.
“Now where have you taken me?” Kylie gasps. At least she doesn’t vomit this time. “It’s too hot here.”
She looks around at the desert landscape. We are standing in a town square, of sorts, where some children are playing baseball. The square is surrounded by a few tall buildings. Hot air whips at her hair as she tries to keep it out of her face.
“In my many travels, I met a very compelling man named Carlo, an assassin trapped in a world he wished beyond anything he could escape. Something about his story calls to me. It is this very moment that defines the rest of his life. We travelers are not supposed to meddle in the affairs of humans, but as you may have learned, that is not always so easy. I have tried, and failed, many times to change this. For both their sakes.”
“What happened here?”
“Happens, present tense,” I correct her. “Watch, up there.”
I point to the roof several stories above our heads. I see the familiar scene unfold as it always does. Carlo is on the roof, looking through the scope of his rifle.
“He’s going to kill someone?” She asks.
“Her.” I point to a woman on the ground a few feet away from us. Her face is beautiful, framed by brilliant auburn hair. “He loves her more than his own life.”
“Then why kill her?”
“He has no choice. Punishment, for trying to leave his profession.”
The deafening thunder of helicopter blades drowns out further conversation. It hovers just above the rooftop where Carlo is perched. After seeing the helicopter, Carlo runs to the closest storm drain, trying to reach ground level.
“He can’t do it,” Kylie realizes. “He loves her too much.”
“No, but they will.” I point to the men with guns hanging out the door of the chopper.
“We have to do something.”
“I have tried.”
“But I haven’t.”
I doubt Kylie can be successful. I have tried talking the woman into leaving, sheltering her from the bullets, every time she somehow ends up dead.
But Kylie still frantically searches for inspiration. Finding it, she grabs a baseball bat from one of the kids and runs to the woman.
“I’m taking her out of the equation,” she yells to me.
I follow, unsure how this new development will change things, if at all. My nature as a Time Walker allows me to perceive events as if they were happening in slow motion. The scene unfolds around me…
Carlo makes it to the ground and locks eyes with the woman just as we reach her. The helicopter descends, the sound of which distracts Carlo for just long enough. Kylie swings the bat and knocks the woman unconscious, who crumples to the ground. The inevitable shot from the helicopter’s gunman splits the air. I push Kylie down so that both women are out of harm’s way.
Then fire rips through my chest.
Consciousness returns to me, albeit, hazily.
“Zeit!” Kylie screams. Her voice is distant and distorted, like hearing someone try to yell underwater.
I slit my eyes open, letting a little light into my dark world. I see the blurry image of Kylie hovering over me. I’m lying on my back, I gather.
Then the memory of the day’s events return full force.
“Kylie,” I say with a hoarse voice. “Did it work?”
She looks over her shoulder, presumably at the woman we were trying to save.” She’s alive, but still unconscious. The helicopter is gone, and so is Carlo.”
“They bought it then.” It is a statement rather than a question. “They thought she was dead and left. It worked.”
I look down at my chest; my clothes are blood-red, and I probably don’t have long. That was it, I realize. No matter how many times I tried, I never would have been able to do it on my own. Kylie was the missing piece. Or, I should say, she and I together. Kylie had to intervene and I had to take the woman’s place. We were meant to be here now, together.
“Kylie, listen to me.”
“Don’t you dare say what I think you’re about to say.”
She sniffs back tears, and something forms deep in my chest that I have never felt in all of my existence. Could I? Are my kind even capable of it? And why did it take dying for me to experience it?
I know what I have to do.
I slowly, and painfully, reach into my coat pocket and retrieve my pocket watch. Reaching across my body, I motion for Kylie to take it, but she refuses.
“What are you doing?”
“You need this to get you home.”
“No.” Tears are running freely down her face now, her next words come out fast and strung together, “No, you have to come too. You have to take me home. I can’t use that thing by myself. I won’t leave you here.”
Before I can say anything else, her lips are on mine, her hot tears searing my cheeks.
“I love you,” I whisper, with all the strength I can muster.
“I don’t know how I could after such a short time, but I think I love you too.”
Helicopter blades startle us out of our conversation. They have returned. I know the kind of men they are, and I must get Kylie out of here.
“They’re back?” She asks and looks around. “The woman is gone too.”
“Something tells me she will be just fine. But you must go. It is the only way. I cannot let those men get to you.”
She nods, and finally reaches for the watch. I clutch the watch and her hand in mine.
“Live a good life, and remember I will always love you.”
“As will I,” she says and kisses my hand.
I close my eyes, knowing if I look into hers any longer, I will not be able to send her away.
With those parting words, I split time once more, and send her through the void.
“Zeit!” I screamed, but it was too late. He couldn’t hear me; I had already started my walk through time. My stomach lurched and turned as centuries passed before my eyes in streaks of color and ghosted visions. Men and women lived out their lives, oblivious to my tiny, fleeting window into it.
And then with a jolt, the visions coalesced into solid matter, and I was back in my own time. I was in the middle of the sidewalk, just down the street from my bookstore. The sun was past its apex; still a few hours left in the day. Whatever day it was. I teetered as I tried to regain my bearings, put my hands on my knees and squeezed my eyes shut to keep the world from spinning.
Deep breath in. Long exhale. Repeat.
“Now what?” I said out loud. How do you go back to normal life after such an experience? Seeing all of time and space laid out before you, falling in love with the person who brought you that amazing world. Then to have it all ripped away…
A sob broke free from my throat, thick and heavy, no matter how hard I tried to keep it back.
“Excuse me, Miss, are you alright?” A voice said behind me.
I turned around. A man in his fifties stood there, kind eyes looking into me. “Uh, yes I’ll be fine,” I mange to get out, though not very convincingly.
“You look sort of familiar.”
It was only then that I noticed it. He was older, silver hairs speckled the sides of his head and wrinkles creased his forehead and smile lines, but there was no denying his identity.
“How do you know my name? Where do I know you from?”
“I was there. That day in the square. How is she, did you find her again?”
“Julia.” He paused, a faraway smile on his face. “Yes, I remember you. You were standing in the street with that strange looking fellow.”
The reminder of Zeit shot a pang through my chest. I couldn’t speak, but nodded in response.
Carlo continued. “To answer your question, I did find her. It took many years, and I almost gave her up as dead, but we did find each other. Thank you. I don’t know how you did it, or how you haven’t aged a day in all these years, but thank you for the role you played in saving her life.”
“You’re welcome. It… cost a great deal, but words can’t express how happy I am for you both. I own the book shop just up there. Please come visit me sometime.”
“I’d like that.”
Carlo patted my arm and turned to leave.
“One more thing before you go?” I said, and he stopped to look at me. “I know this may sound very strange, but what time is it, and more importantly, what day is it?”
A questioning look twisted his face, but he answered me without protest. “It’s about three in the afternoon, Thursday, the fifth.”
The fifth… That’s the day I left!
I broke into a run toward my shop. If I hurried, I could still make it. I don’t know what I expected to find. Zeit, maybe. If I could stop him before we left, maybe I could keep him from dying. But then I never would have fallen in love with him in the first place.
The endless loop of quantum mechanics was starting to make my head spin. At the very least, if I could just see him one more time…
I made it to the storefront, and pushed the door to enter.
But it didn’t budge.
The memory of my actions that day snapped into place.
After Zeit had introduced himself, I locked the front door so that we could talk without being interrupted.
I was too late. I banged on the door in desperation. “No! Please!” And then in a cry almost to myself, “Please don’t be gone.”
I don’t know how long I stayed there, crying into the locked door.
“Don’t tell me those tears are for me,” an impossible voice said from behind me. The breath escaped my chest and I spun around. “What would the other Time Walkers think of me if I made a human girl cry.”
“How?” I asked as I ran to him. He pulled me into his arms and held me there for an extended moment. It ended far too soon.
“I told you, Love. I exist outside of space/time. I have no past or future. Which, apparently, means I did not die. I was never aware of my inability to die, but none the less, here I am.”
I stood there, speechless and smiling. “So when to now?”
“Anytime you want. Time is at our fingertips.”