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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Science fiction stories
- Subject: Science Fiction
- Published: 12/18/2013
More than ten years previously Tom Everett disappeared. His daughter takes up the hunt to find him, and save her future....
(Please note that this story follows the author's previous short story titled 'A Tear in Time.')
Have you ever had the feeling you are being watched? This feeling had been with Kate for most of her adult life. She had gone to journalism school where she had achieved above average marks; she had then secured a job at The Herald Echo. As a nervous twenty two year old, she got put on fluff pieces about lost dogs, but soon she rose through the ranks of the paper. Now at thirty two, she had climbed the ladder and had taken a job at national newspaper, where she now sat in front of the editor after a staff meeting, who was outlining the latest piece they wanted her to work on.
The editor, a short, stocky man, seemed very excited as he outlined her latest assignment. Kate, impeccably dressed in a grey skirt and white blouse, was struggling to keep up as she bullet pointed the important details on her writing pad. 'So there is this author,' the editor was saying, 'She's quite big, you may have heard of her, Geraldine Mayerson, she writes sort of romance novels, and she's just released another one, and it has caused a revival of her books. I am a big fan. Well,' he grinned, 'my wife is. Honestly, get her one of those books and she leaves you alone for hours. She reads it from cover to cover. Now,' he was pacing the floor in front of his desk, 'what we want you to do is, get us an exclusive interview with her.'
'Yes, I am sure that is within my power.' Kate said with a sigh. Quite frankly, she thought this work was beneath her, but it would do for now. She looked around the room. The area she was sitting in was open plan. The paper was buzzing, there were people answering calls, trying to get the latest interviews with celebrities for the next day's edition. Across the room, there was a TV set, which was permanently on one of the news channels you got on digital, the kind of news channel that was always on, twenty four hours; the sound was turned down, so as not to distract anyone in the office, but the subtitles were always on, so that reporters could keep a check on what their rivals were doing. The subtitles were meant to be less distracting, but Kate found them more so – so much so that her eyes were drawn to the television set. They had just finished interviewing Andy Murray about the publication of his new book, but now her mouth gaped open. Wasn't that, yes, it was. She closed her mouth quickly, so that the editor wouldn't see. She snapped her head back to find the editor now looking at the TV. 'That's the woman we want to interview!' He said in surprise. And a bit too much enthusiasm, Kate thought, it clearly wasn't just his wife who liked her books. On the television they appeared to be discussing Miss Mayerson's latest book; they showed the book cover, it was entitled Love In High Places: A love story on the Moor. The sound had been turned up now, Kate was not even aware there was a remote! They were using phrases like 'thoroughly entertaining', and 'brilliant use of language, like an artist painting with words!' Kate had to look away, actually, she felt quite sick. Before she was able to look away though, the picture of the author was back up, and this confirmed what she had seen earlier. It was her mother, as large as life, a woman she had not seen since she had turned eighteen and officially become an adult. She recalled how she had left home as quickly as she could once hitting this milestone. Was this really the woman they wanted her to interview? She must remain professional, and not give anything away, as they may start treating her differently. She had achieved all this on her own, without her mother's help. She looked away from the TV, and buried her head in her letters. The editor was still watching, however, so without a word, she got up from the chair, which rocked slightly at her departure, and walked to her desk. The feeling that she was being watched had returned. She had no idea why, but it made her feel safe. At this big, national newspaper, where she chose to hang her hat, it was nice to have the feeling of personal security as well as job security. She left the office to get some air, in the hope that the sick feeling would pass.
Walking without purpose, she found herself at the publishing house, where her Mum used to work before she had become a writer. Feeling light headed and in a trance-like state, she pushed open the doors in search of a water fountain where she could get a drink from, and then gratefully drank her fill. Straightening up, she noticed the grey door that was directly across from the water fountain, and the memories came flooding back. This was where she had been taken numerous times as a young child when she was dropped off by her child-minder, so her Mum could take her home after she had finished work. She had only glimpsed the interior then; now she wanted to see where her Mum had published all those children's books about camels. She pushed open the door and went inside. It was quite a small office with a round table at its centre, with papers strewn about on its surface. She knew she was trespassing, and this wasn't her Mum's office any more, however she wanted to stay a little while longer in this peace and tranquillity before having to go back to the hustle and bustle of the newspaper office. As she walked around, her eyes began searching, for what she did not know. Kate guessed it was just her investigative journalism skills going into autopilot. She did this now, whenever she came into a new room; she always searched for things of interest. It was during this search, that she heard footsteps approaching the door. It was opened by a clean shaven man dressed in old clothes. Kate thought he must have just come from a fancy dress party, as the clothes he was wearing looked Victorian, even down to the pocket watch, which hung from his jacket pocket. Their eyes met briefly, and she was overwhelmed by a strange feeling of familiarity that she could not place. He was taken aback at seeing her, but then muttered 'Good, you're here.' Kate thought this was a strange reaction, but did not have time to think on it, as he barged past her to head for the inner door, and as he passed her, something dropped from his pocket and fluttered to the floor. She bent down to pick it up and followed the man through the door with the intention of giving it back and apologising for her presence, but when she went through the door the office was empty. She spun around confused, but couldn't see any clue where the man had gone, and she was left facing a door with a crack down the middle. Frowning, she hurried out and headed back to the safety of the newspaper office.
That afternoon she made her excuses to her boss, said she wasn't feeling well, and went home early. What a weird day, she thought as she drove back to her house. She then poured herself a stiff drink, and took out the letter the man had dropped. It was in an off-white envelope, the writing was neat. She gave a start when she saw the letter was addressed for her. She shook her head, she shouldn't over analyse this. Taking the letter from the envelope, she settled down in her favourite chair to read it. She read it about three times before taking it in; there was something oddly familiar about the signature at the bottom. It was her father's! Who was this man, and why did he have a letter for her from her father? Did he mean to drop it? All these questions kept gnawing at her while she was reading the letter. Still in shock, she moved over to the cupboard on the far wall of her apartment. Opening it, she took down a cardboard box. This contained childhood memorabilia; there were old toys, dolls, awards from school; she began rummaging. Finally, she came across what she was looking for, which was a birthday card given to her on her fifth birthday, 'To my darling Kate,' it said inside. It was from her Dad. She quickly compared the handwriting; they were identical. She knew it to be true then. The man in the office must have known her father. She determined to track him down, and learn all that she could about the man who her mother said had walked out on them. The contents of the letter were strange. It said that Kate should stop the publication of her mother's next book, because although it would be published as fiction, the events detailed in the book were true, and should they get out, or become public, Kate, as a time traveller's daughter, would find herself at the centre of a media frenzy...about the cracks, how they worked (A glowing blue crack meant you could time tavel and the absence of glowing blue meaning you could not). The letter also said that he had never stopped loving her, and he had not abandoned them, as he had always watched over her and her sister. She put down the letter, took a deep breath, and then read the last sentence again; he had always watched over her. So, did this mean that the man in the office was her father? No, that was crazy. How could that be? She read the letter once more. While doing so, her journalistic mind was ticking over, pondering its contents. Did this mean that at some point in the future, her mother would write a book about what really happened to her father? The word time traveller was a strange one, but it would explain the strange man and his Victorian clothes, she thought. Her mother had always told her as a child that their father had simply disappeared, and when they pressed her for more details, she had always changed the subject. Kate knew what she must do. She had to go see her mother, and learn the truth, once and for all. Her professional reasons for getting back in touch with her mother would make her true intentions easier, but still, in whatever capacity, she was not happy to go back to that house and face the woman, whom she called mother, that she had not seen in over a decade. She rose from her chair and went upstairs to bed – tomorrow was going to be a long day.
In the morning Kate arose, and cooked herself eggs, as was her breakfast of choice, and went back to the office. She usually would avoid staff meetings, however anything to delay the inevitable confrontation this morning was welcome. The editor finished outlining the jobs for the day, and who was doing what. Even though she was there in body, she was not really listening to what was being said. Her mind was wandering between the strange man in her mother's office, the letter that was mysteriously addressed to her, and the confrontation she had to endure this morning. What would she say? How would she begin? She was snapped back to reality by the hustle and bustle of the staff as they went about their various tasks. Finally, she got up from the chair, and drove to the address her mother's agent had said she would be today. It had been so long since she had been there, but it was still so familiar to her.
Kate took a few deep breaths, and then rang the doorbell of the house that she left over a decade before. She decided in that moment to detach herself from the situation. It was just another interview with another famous author. This person was not her mother. Her mother had lied to her about her father's disappearance, she had always felt, and now with the appearance of the letter, she was almost certain. Her thoughts were interrupted by the door opening. A tall, grey haired lady stood there, of about sixty. 'Miss Mayerson?' Kate asked, 'Yes,' said the woman, before her eyes brimmed with tears, and she threw herself at Kate, sobbing uncontrollably into Kate's beige jacket. After a few minutes of this, during which Kate was left staring down her hallway, her mother coughed and, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand, invited her inside, saying 'You must come in, it's freezing out here, you'll catch your death.' Her mother showed her into the sitting room, where the only noises that could be heard was the ticking of a clock, and the occasional musical chime, as it chimed the hour. While her mother fussed around, plumping up cushions, Kate settled down onto the settee. Her Mum rushed around, bringing in tea and biscuits, and then finally said, 'Kate, where have you been all these years? I have followed your progress on the news. You must tell me everything, it is so good to see you! Would you like a drink? Maybe something to eat? You look skinny! You should eat more. Do you still like pasta? I could make it for dinner, you could stay, and we could catch up!' Then, her mother suddenly realised she might be fussing too much, 'Oh forgive me, it's so good to see you! Is this a social call? Let me pour the tea.' As she did it, trying to fight back the tears, her hands were shaking, betraying her true feelings. When Kate could finally get a word in edgewise, she said 'Mum, I am here on business with the paper. They want me to interview you, get an exclusive interview.' Her mother smiled, 'I had better be more business-like then, what did you want to ask me?' Kate rooted in her bag, and pulled out the black tape recorder, and put it on the table in front of her, which also had the tea things on. She clicked 'record' and went into a list of basic pre-written questions, that the paper asked all the authors they interviewed. When the interview was over, an hour had passed, Kate lent forwards, pressed 'stop' on the recorder, and said, 'Mum, there is something else I wanted to ask you.' 'Yes, what is it? Anything.' 'I wanted to ask you about the night Dad disappeared.' Her mother went quiet, and then said, 'Wouldn't you rather ask me more about my book? I think I can elaborate more.' 'Mum, I am not a child any more, I can handle it. Please.' 'Do you like the curtains? I bought these new curtains. They are a nice colour, aren't they?' 'Mum, I AM NOT A CHILD ANY MORE. I can handle the truth!' 'Why are you asking this? Have you had any contact with your father?' 'In a manner of speaking.' 'What do you mean 'in a manner of speaking'?' Kate reached into her coat, and pulled out the letter, which she had brought along. 'What is this?' Her mother said, snatching it from her. 'Mum, it's Dad. I think I saw him, and I think he wrote me this letter.' 'That's impossible. Your father disappeared. He just disappeared. He could be dead for all I care. For all I know.' While she was saying these words, she was reading the letter. She put it down on the table, 'Lies, all lies. This never happened. And what book? I'm not going to write another...' She trailed off, 'I feel faint, I think I need to sit down.' Sure enough, Kate saw that all the colour had drained from her cheeks, she put her head in hands, started rocking in the chair, and let out a sob. This prompted Kate to go over and put a hand on her mother back. 'It is all true,' she said in a reedy voice. 'What is, mum?' Kate asked her, 'All of it.' Came the distant reply.
She then began to outline the events, sparing no details of that evening, even things that Kate did not know, like the dairies. When she had finished, she leaned in close, 'Would you like a real exclusive for your paper?' Kate had an uneasy feeling but played along, 'What would that be, Mum?' 'I think I may publish what I have told you today, get it off my chest. Try a different genre for once. Writing can be a great healer and it has been over a decade. Then I can move on properly.' Now it was Kate's turn to sit down. She felt sick again - like she'd been punched in the stomach. Her mum continued, 'I will publish everything. Tell the world.' Kate could not believe what she was hearing. By her very presence, she had prompted her mum to write THE book, the very book, that the letter had told her to stop her mum writing. 'You cannot do that, Mum.' Her mum, who was now sitting, looked over at her with a questioning expression, 'And why not? He left me, I should at least make some money out of his departure. Don't worry, it will be published as fiction. No one will know.' 'But Mum, I will be caught up in a media frenzy! I will be revealed as the time traveller's daughter, I could lose my job! He is protecting me!' Her mum suddenly burst out with, 'Protecting? Oh yes, a fine job he's done of that! Where was he most of your life? He gives you a letter, which tells you to stop publishing my book, and you just believe him? You should take the side of the parent who has been there for you and brought you up, not the one who walked out on you when you were little and you haven't seen for most of your life! His reasons were always to look after number one – himself!' Kate couldn't believe what she was hearing. He was looking out for her, she had felt it. And giving her this letter went some way towards proving it. She was not going to stay and listen to any more of this. If her mum couldn't listen to reason, she would find someone who would, and find a way to stop the publication. Without a word, she grabbed her tape recorder from off the table, collected her bags, and stormed out of the house. She knew it was a mistake to come back here. It had all been a big mistake!
She returned to her office, still fuming from the confrontation with her mother. She headed to the staff bathroom with the intention of composing herself, however when she stared at herself in the mirror, she became even more angry, and she realised that some of her anger was directed towards her father for getting her into this situation. She decided she would bury her head in her work, and try to forget about this. So, she splashed some water onto her face, and went back to her desk to type up the interview, just like a professional reporter, and not like a daughter. As she typed, however, her fingers began to take on a life of their own, and she poured a decade's worth of anger into the article. When she had finished, she felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Realising that she could not leave all this additional information in the official article, she decided to print it off, take it home, and try to figure out a way to get her mum to stop writing the book. Later, when she was preparing to go home, she slipped the pages of the article into her bag, and went back to the solitude of her house, where she could think.
Once home, she settled back into the same armchair where two nights earlier, she had read the letter that had changed everything, and taking the printout out of her bag, mulled over what she should do. First the letter, now the printout, she wished she had never gone back to her mum's old office; then this chain of events would have never started. The letter had told her to stop the book being written, as though he had seen the consequences of it being published first hand. Before going back to the house this morning, she had been happy to blindly follow the instructions in the letter, but now, considering what had happened at the house, she wasn't so sure what to do. She wondered whether her mum would have come to the same decision to write the book, had she never received the letter, and instead had gone over purely on newspaper business. She sat up late into the night, turning these questions over in her mind.
By the time morning came, she had had very little sleep, but come to a decision. She had decided that her father, even though he had not been a physical presence in her life, had been trying to do the best he could by her, wherever he was. Her mother on the other hand, she felt, was just going to write this book for two reasons; firstly, to “move on”, as she had put it – Kate had now translated this in her head as “forget about her father”, and secondly, to make money out of a man who had only been doing his best by his family. She had always blamed him for abandoning her with two children, and anything that went wrong in her life was automatically blamed on him. She had put up with her mother for as long as she could, but all feelings of duty and love had disappeared long before. If the diaries had been published in the first place, she would have been discredited, and lost her job at the publishing house, and therefore not be able to be the successful author she was today. And he was only trying to make sure that Kate didn't lose her privacy. She suddenly remembered the article that was on her lap. Maybe she could use this? She looked down at it again, and read it one more time. She decided to write another article of her own, a very different article to the one the newspaper was expecting. This article would expose her mum as the money-grabbing liar she was. Kate called into the office, she was due some leave anyway. After officially taking the day off, she put down the phone, went to her laptop computer, and began writing.
She began by writing a brief outline of the author's rise to fame, the awards she had received, and the critical acclaim she had been given. She then started typing out the shock revelation that the author was not who she claimed, but her estranged mother. She then detailed her childhood. She paused, then began typing again, finally ready to talk about the sister she had lost when she was young. She then outlined her mum's decline into drink as she could not face the loss of her husband and daughter. She told how this led to the estrangement of her other daughter, who was in fact the reporter writing this article. She talked about the adoption of a pseudonym when her mother had started writing, unable to face the shambles that was her life in reality. She ended with a damning paragraph on the subject of her mother's novels; how they were lies designed to shield the truth from the author, and merely the drunken ramblings of a lost woman without the sense to try and come to terms with the loss and estrangement of her only surviving daughter. All of this, she supported with quotes from the interview. Once she had finished, without hesitation, she hit print on the computer. The pages spilled out of the printer. She felt really good for finally having written out her feelings, feelings she had kept bottled up all her life. Something in her brain was telling her that this was wrong, that the paper was not her own personal diary, however this was only a small voice, and she ignored it easily. If there was one thing she had learnt as a reporter, it was to trust her instincts. And tomorrow, she resolved, to go into work, and put old ghosts to rest. For now though, she would spend the rest of the day in recreation. The first thing was to go out for a walk to clear her head.
It was while on this walk that a strange thing occurred. She was following a group of joggers around the local park, when in the distance she saw the man. The same man she had encountered at the office. The same man who had given her the letter. He was now coming towards her, she quickened her pace. The man though, remained walking at a steady pace. When he got close to her, he said, 'Well done. I am so proud of you.' Kate felt a warm feeling overtake her. The man came up to her, hugged her, and whispered 'Thank you,' in her ear, before seeming to disappear into a crack in the wall. It was at that point that she knew for sure that he was her father. She felt an overwhelming feeling of safety. She tried to look for where the man had gone, but he had vanished, just like he must have done all those years ago. Kate walked over and touched the crack her dad had just disappeared through. It just looked like a normal crack to her, the lack of blue telling her that she would never be able to follow her father. She wondered where he was now.
The next day she awoke and went to work, as if nothing had happened, knowing that today would be the day that would change her life forever. She was all smiles when she walked into the building that had been her place of work for the last three years. She even took the time to have an amicable chat with the security guard, something she never normally did. Then she took the lift to the fourth floor, where the editor's office was situated. Stopping in reception, she said to the editor's personal secretary that she would like to book an appointment with the editor, for whatever time was convenient for him, as she needed to talk to him about some problems she was having with the article that she was currently working on. The secretary, a grey haired woman of about her mother's age, looked down at her diary and suggested that three o'clock that afternoon would be convenient. Kate walked back to the lift, numb at the thought of going the whole morning busying herself with tasks, during which time, she knew her mind would be racing, going over the numerous ways that this could go wrong. What if the editor disapproved of the article, and refused to put it to print? Or it was disallowed on the grounds that the paper could get sued for libel? Or even that she would be laughed out of his office for assuming she could write something so damning. These thoughts continued to plague Kate. She tried to bury herself in the other stories she had been given to work on, but nothing seemed to work. When at last three o'clock came, she walked almost in a trance to the editor's office. The secretary informed her that he was running a few minutes late, and so she would have to just take a seat. Kate thanked her, and silently sat down, putting the brown bag that contained the article down by her feet.
Eventually, the door to the office opened, and the editor came out. 'Kate,' he said smiling, 'I hope you've got something good for me.' Oh yes, very good, Kate thought. She nodded and smiled back. He led her into his office. She sat down on a black chair on the other side of his desk, and clamped her legs together to stop them shaking. She took a few deep breaths, composed herself, and then opened with, 'I've uncovered something interesting, you really need to see.' 'Oh yes? What is that?' said the editor, leaning forward in his chair, fingertips pressed together. Kate looked at her hands; she was still shaking, but she continued anyway. To her dismay, the editor noticed, 'Kate, you're shaking! Are you okay?' 'Yes, yes sir. I am just a bit nervous about what I am going to tell you.' She then outlined the whole thing. When she had finished, she handed over the article for him to read. The editor looked shocked as he accepted the article from her, but still seemed interested, which was a good sign. 'And you want me to print this? This could ruin Miss Mayerson.' Kate steadied herself, detached herself from the situation, and said simply, 'The public have a right to know, sir.' There was a long pause and the editor's expression was passive and gave nothing away, during which time Kate felt as if the air in the room was thinning. She felt like she was gasping for air. But then gradually, his expression changed into a smile, and he began to laugh. 'That's what I like about you Kate, you are always surprising me.' Kate breathed a sigh of relief. The editor said, 'It will be in this weekend's edition.' Kate got up, they shook hands, and went their separate ways.
The rest of that week was spent working on the other stories that lined her in-tray. Finally Saturday arrived, it had taken what seemed like an eternity. When she awoke on Saturday morning, Kate decided that there was no point going to see her mum again, as they had left on such bad terms; seeing her again may make her regret her decision, and she did not like second guessing herself, in either her personal or professional lives. So, she went out for a walk. She tried to put off the inevitable for as long as possible, but after the fifth circuit around the park, she took out her mobile, dialled her mum's number with trepidation in her heart. Her mum picked up after the fifth ring, 'Hello?' Kate simply said, 'You're in the paper today, Mum.'