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Time, Time, Time

science fiction by Blythe Ayne

Dr. Justin Williams, Psychiatrist it says in tall, square-cut letters on the smoky glass door.

I’ve never been to a psychiatrist. I wonder how he might be able to help me with my problem. Will he have the same prejudices I’ve been encountering since arriving here when people take in my long, tangled hair, my rumpled clothes? I’ve heard them say hippie behind my back.

But I’m not a hippie. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m not. The truth is, I don’t know what a hippie is.

I enter the doctor’s office. A pretty girl sits behind an imposing receptionist’s desk. I sidle up to her.

“What’re you doing?” I ask quietly.

She jumps, her petite frame leaving the chair. “You startled me!” She takes me in from head to foot — my disheveled hair, my torn hem dragging on the floor, my scuffed high top button shoes.

“What can I do for you?” she asks, pulling farther away from me.

“I’m Elvira Green. I have an appointment.”

She peers into her complicated appointment book. “You’re early. Your appointment’s not until three. It’s eleven-fifty.”

“Is it?”

“Don’t you have a watch?”

“Yes.” I show her my delicate gold watch.

“It’s beautiful!” She looks at me as if a camel just came through the door wearing a tutu. “Let me see it.” I hold my wrist closer to her. “It says six o’clock.”

“Yes.”

“It doesn’t work.” She shrugs. “The doctor is out to lunch. He has two patients after lunch, then you.”

“All right,” I move across the waiting room and sit on a luxurious sofa.

“What are you doing?”

She seems a bit slow. “I’m — wait-ing,” I answer as if talking to a small child.

“Until three!? You can’t wait here.”

“Why not?”

“Because — because –” She can’t actually formulate a reason.

I look off into middle distance, knowing she’ll tell me when my appointment is as soon as she can.

Sure enough, a couple of minutes later she’s saying, in a stiff, unpleasant tone, “The doctor will see you now.”

“Thank you.” I follow her into a large office. A beautiful grandfather clock chimes three.

“Hello Miss Greene,” the doctor says. “Wendy tells me you’ve been in the waiting area since before noon.”

“Yes. She told me that, too. May I ask where you got this parasol?” I gesture to it, hung on the wall decoration.

“My wife found it at some antique shop.”

I nod.

“Please be seated and tell me what’s on your mind.”

I relax into a wing-backed chair. “The other day an elderly woman approached me and said you had helped her niece when she ‘was lost.‘ I quote.”

“And what is your problem?”

“I don’t know what a hippie is.”

“Well, that’s not really a problem.”

“But people keep calling me that. And since I’m lost, I thought I ought to know what people here think of me.”

“Hmm,” he says. “What do you think of what they’re calling you?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m here.”

“Tell me more.”

“Just — I’m lost.”

“We all feel lost sometimes –”

“No, I mean truly lost. I woke up one day and found myself here. Everything is so strange. I want to go home.”

“Where’s home?” He seems nearly as simple-minded as his receptionist.

I talk slowly. “I’m lost. If I knew where home is, I’d be there.”

He nods. “What’s it like where you come from?”

“Where I come from, my watch is correct. The parasol on the wall, and these other things you have hanging around, are in my home. They’re not — antiques.”

“Are you saying you’re from a different time?”

“Yes.”

He starts to write fast and furiously on a big yellow tablet.

“Are we through?” I ask, seeing him thus engaged.

“No, continue. You think you’re from a different time –” He keeps writing.

“I don’t think it, I know it. And I’ve not been able to take a bath or change clothes in — I don’t know, I’ve lost track of time. The other day, I went to sleep on a very nice woman’s sofa, and woke up in the street!

He pauses in his writing and gives me a studied look. “What medications or substances have you taken?”

“Nothing! I’m telling you, I’m leaping around through time –”

I begin to feel angry. I know I must control intense emotion — it drives these inexplicable time leaps — but he’s supposed to know about this, isn’t he? Didn’t the sweet lady tell me he’d know how to fix my problem? Hadn’t she pulled out that amazing device from her handbag and talked to his office?

Frustration wells up into rage. I want to shout, which I’ve never done in my life.

But just as I open my mouth, I pop out of his office, finding myself by a rushing river, where half a dozen unimaginably gigantic animals stand drinking.

Terrified, I also feel a thrill of satisfaction. “See?” I say to the doctor, who will not make an appearance on time’s stage for eons.

One of the gargantuan creatures spies me. I slink into the underbrush, my high top shoes sinking in the fecund earth. Giant, humid leaves stick to my dress as I move into the shadows.

I gather my skirts around me, close, to make myself small. I happen to glance at my watch. Five till eight. Somewhere in the faint, undreamed of mists of time, my family is either finishing breakfast, or is sitting before a cozy evening fire, wondering where I am. Or, if I’m here, before the dawn of time, do I even exist there at all?

I sit. I wait. I pray for another time leap that will take me home.

copyright July 2011 by Blythe Ayne

Blythe Ayne, Ph.D. , lives on ten acres of forest in the state of Washington. She  is an author, artist, book doctor, and at-distance writing instructor for the University of Alaska.  Her short stories, poetry, nonfiction, art and photography have appeared in over one-hundred mainstream, literary, and genre publications.

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2 Responses

  1. A very nice (but unsettling) story, Blythe. There’s lost, and then there’s really lost.

  2. Love it! Cool idea and well told 🙂

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