Flash fiction challenge from August 16: Subgenre Frankenstein
The train came to a screeching halt, lurching Cassie’s head into the seatback in front of her.
“Not again!” Cassie’s two-hour commute afforded her plenty of time to sleep, but after missing her stop three days in a row, she was in no mood tonight to doubleback down to her parents’ house.
Cassie stepped out onto the misty, wooden dock. If the bump to the head had not fully woken her up, the lack of a dark train platform certainly did.
“What the?” Cassie turned around to see the train and tracks hazily vanish, as crested waves crashing against the dock took their place. A gull flew somewhere overhead.
“Where am I?”
“Not where, but when,” said a voice. Cassie turned to see a well-dressed middle-aged man at the end of the dock.
“You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to say that. Then again, neither do I.” Cassie stared at the man dumbfounded.
“I’m sure you have loads of questions, but I find that everything goes better with a spot of tea. This way.”
The well-dressed middle aged man led Cassie to a simple cottage at the top of a small wooded hill overlooking the dock. Cassie could see shoreline leading away from the dock in both directions, but no end point.
The cottage was dark, except for a small table and two chairs lit by a candle in the foyer. A steaming pot stood between two cups. The well-dressed middle aged man handed a cup to Cassie. Too dazed to do anything else, she started sipping slowly.
“There was a time when I kept track of how long I had been here. But after 60 years, the exercise seemed pointless.”
“You’ve been here 60 years?”
“No, no. Much longer. If I had to guess, I would have to say it’s been 270 years since I first stepped onto that dock. I began to think they had forgotten about me.”
“Who’s they? I’m so confused.”
“Sorry, sorry. Let me start from the beginning. You are on the island of Avalon, a place that exists outside of the normal flow of time. From here, we can travel to any point in time. Well, in theory. The original inhabitants of this island can, but you and I mere stewards can only travel within our own timelines.”
“I’m sorry, what? Steward? Me?”
“Yes, you. I have been steward for long enough it seems. You, Cassie Girard, are now the steward of Avalon. Good luck.”
With that, the well-dressed middle aged man got up from the table, walked out of the cottage, and shut the door behind him.
Cassie nearly knocked over the table as she ran after him.
“Wait, where are you goin…” Cassie opened the door but the well-dressed middle aged man was nowhere to be found. Cassie fainted.
“Cassie, wake up! You’re going to be late!” Cassie’s dad shouted from downstairs.
Cassie lurched up from her bed, stumbling down to the kitchen to find her parents preparing breakfast.
“You know, you really need to stay awake on the train, sweetie. All that extra travel time is killing you. You fell asleep in your clothes again.” Cassie’s mom placed a plate of pancakes in front of her.
“Sorry, Mom. It was a long day.”
“You know, your dad would be more than happy to pick you up down in the city. I don’t want you to have to do that drive a third day in a row.”
Cassie dropped her fork.
“You mean fifth day in a row.”
“No, third. Today is Wednesday, honey.”
This wasn’t happening, Cassie thought.
“It’s Friday. I have my staff meeting today.” She took out her pocket watch. A 10 greeted her where she expected a 12.
“I have to go.” Cassie ran toward the door.
“But Cassie, you forgot your car keys!”
She hurried down the walkway in front of her house. As she went to put her pocket watch back, Cassie noticed the pocket was already occupied by a small envelope. She pulled it out and turned it over.
“To Cassie, steward of Avalon,” it said in perfect script. She opened the envelope to find a note written in the same handwriting.
I’m sorry to have run off like that. I guess I didn’t want to spend one more second on that island than I had to. You’ll come to understand eventually.
It took a great deal of planning on my part to get you this letter, so it is imperative that you heed my words.
Avalon was once a mighty kingdom, much like Atlantis, Ys, and others. Like those kingdoms, Avalon peaked and then began to fade. Avalon’s neighbors, sensing its vulnerability, invaded and carried off the island’s greatest artifacts.
As a final act of desperation, the ruling elders summoned mists to hide the island from its enemies until Avalon’s power could be reclaimed. That task fell to the stewards – to return to Avalon what Avalon has lost. The elders summoned the first steward to the island, briefly explained the steward’s new predicament, and then vanished. Quite rude of them if you ask me. At the appropriate time, the island would summon the next steward and so it went.
It is now up to you, Cassie Girard, to assume the mantle of the steward and continue my work and those who came before me. The island will take you when you need to go. The rest is up to you.
Until we next meet,
Cassie fainted again.
The sunlight crept in through the window of the cottage, as Cassie awoke to the smell of the misty sea breeze.
She turned over B’s letter, took out the pen from her front pocket and wrote: “Day 1 – July 10, 1985.”
My two subgenres: time travel and low fantasy