Short Story – A World Gone Reverse, Part 2 by J.R. Kruze and S. H. Marpel
Available everywhere at https://calm.li/WorldReverse
Jean persuaded me to go cook something. Comfort food is from the cooking as much as most people think it’s from the eating. And so I thought to make John Earl Stark’s favorite – a farm-cheese folded sort of pan-bread thing. Fast, easy, simple. Little to clean up. But that’s his writer’s cabin. Bachelor living. One burner. No stove.
Of course, I’m playing with his “recipe” as I can, and so I’ve moved his farm-cheese into the center as a filling instead of mixed all together. (Of course, I use cottage cheese, since I don’t always have farm-fresh whole milk, and thin out the buckwheat crust so it will fold easier without breaking – in theory.) So it’s kind of a egg-rich folded pancake sandwich with a cheese filling. But John’s not fancy on names for things, since what he learned about cooking was since he started writing – meaning that he looks up the names for things when he needs them for his writing and pick ups some ideas of how to make them. Then he keeps writing. His preference for so much cinnamon is his own, though.
Anyway, it’s a fast dish to make, and doesn’t take a lot of special ingredients or special handling. But it took my mind off of losing Chaz for a little while.
Then watching Jean’s face as he bit into his half was another treat in itself.
Like these men never before had a woman cook for them. Bachelors were always amusing to watch.
I remembered Chaz eating my cooking that first night we were on the road together with Jean. And he lit up with surprise from seeing what I could cook in the back of that same food truck. Then turned to Jean to ask him what he was supposed to do if I was that good.
That always made me smile. Chaz was so good at his casual, off-hand compliments. But like Jean said, no one is faster than Chaz at flipping burgers and cranking them out for a long line of customers that doesn’t want to stop.
A tear rolled down my cheek again.
Jean looked up from his chewing, and put his big hand over mine on the table. “I didn’t tell you I got someone working on that food truck for you.”
“I thought I’d heard someone out here talking at you.”
About then, the screen door opened, and footsteps brought in a visitor.
She came in wearing a loose off-white blouse, tucked into a tan knee-length skirt, her light brown hair pulled back with a dark brown bandeau to hold it. A modest, confident smile on a face that was plain and simple. Very little make-up, just accents. Her brown moc-toed slip-ons made little sound as she stepped toward us on the tongue-and-groove wood floor.
“OK, Jean, I think I’ve got it all right now. She’s good to test on the road.”
“Hami, meet Meg. She’s agreed to help by testing some of her skills.”
I put down my fork and smiled a welcome to her. “Glad to meet you, Meg. Not someone I’d take for a mechanic.”
“Her smile widened. More of like a hands-off fixer-upper. But really, I just rearrange time continuum’s.”
I stopped everything and just tried to figure out what that had to do with putting a food truck back together from parts laying all over the paved and graveled road out front.
“She means to say is that she pulled another version from somewhere else to replace all those parts out there.”
Meg tilted her head at that. “An easy way of thinking about it is that I copy/pasted it over the top of what we had outside. The all-together version replaced all the various pieces scattered outside.”
“Oh, I get it now. Say, want some coffee? It’s still hot.”
“Sure. But I’ll have to run in a bit. There’s some time-places I’m supposed to be shortly.” She stepped forward and pulled out a bentwood chair for herself. And a mug filled with a dark roast was soon in her hands, sweetened with honey.
Her beaming smile told me how it hit the spot.
“If you want, I can make you breakfast like this – it’d only take a few minutes…”
“Thanks, Hami, but this mug will do me fine. Jean tells me so often to take some time for myself and just relax a bit more. Maybe I can, now that all my trainings are done.”
“Your Dean Rochelle told me about you. Being the first dual-enrolled student in her nursing school and Old Ben’s Academy must have been quite a workload.”
Meg sipped her cup again before answering. “She’s is a wonder. I think I really got the most out of Mysti’s guest lectures, though. That helped me get a good base to stack everything on. And Tess was a complete hoot. She enjoyed having someone around as company and family, even if we’re just remotely related.”
Jean spoke up. “Well thanks for all your work. I’d never known all those parts would take up that amount of space.”
“Well, I’m just glad you got in touch with me when you did. I needed to relax a bit and try out some theories I’d been running up against. Anyway, she’s all back together – and I didn’t even break a nail doing it.”
Jean and I chuckled at that joke.
At that, Meg put down her mug, and eased out to one side of her chair. “Thanks for the great coffee. And I do have to ‘make some time’ to come back and sample that great-smelling breakfast. No wonder Jean keeps so well-fed if he’s checking in on you all the time.”
I had to smile, and patted Jean’s hand. “It’s always good to see friends. And now that we’ve met, I hope you visit more often.”
Meg nodded. “Count on it. I’d like another place I could call home.”
Taking a couple of steps back from the table, she raised her hand to the turquoise-and-gold pendant around her neck, then stopped.
“Oh, one thing: don’t worry about Chaz – he’ll be just fine. Really. Maybe I’m not supposed to tell you even that, but I hope it’s enough.”
Meg smiled wide again, then shimmered out of our view.
Jean smiled over his own coffee.
I shook my head. “It never gets quiet around here. I’ve got people popping in all the time, it seems. Or someone wants ‘take-out’ to feed an army on the moon. Literally. Not that I mind. But it seemed so nice of you to bring that old food truck around and let Chaz and I just go off and do some simple cooking again.”
Jean looked over at me. “Yes, and I hope we’ll get you both back to it soon.”
Both of us looked into our own coffee mugs, thinking our own thoughts down that line.
The note in the plastic bag was in English. “Chaz. Need your help. Please come on over. Explain when you get here. Meg. PS. Hami is fine.”
I had just two questions: who’s this Meg and did I have much of any other choice at this point?
Looking around didn’t give me any answers. Green sand, green water. Only this shimmering circle sitting in the middle of nowhere. And my soaked boat shoes getting a little uncomfortable now.
So I just walked over and stepped through that shimmering blue, heart racing.
– – – –
And came out on the other side, in some forested glade. A little clearing, a few stones in it. Looked like oaks and hickories from where I grew up, that little Midwest village. Except we had a lot more pastures around.
That shimmering circle stood on a little stone platform this time, just a few feet higher than the grassy ground around it. Like those Sci-Fi movies I used to watch.
Out a dozen paces from that stone platform stood a young woman. Dressed in a loose off-white blouse, tucked into a tan knee-length skirt. Smiling face surrounded by light brown hair pulled back with a dark brown elastic band of some sort to hold it. Only wearing some brown moc-toed slip-ons in the short grass. Not exactly dressed for walking in woods and grass.
She walked toward me, a confident step. But not threatening. I walked down the steps onto a dusty patch, one that lay right in front of the stone platform steps.
The woman held out her small hand. “Hi Chaz, I’m Meg. Glad to finally meet you.”
I gave her a tentative smile in return as I shook that hand. “I suppose you can explain all this?”
“Kinda. At least our parts of it, anyway. Oh, this should vouch for me…” She held out a key chain to me – one with no keys on it. Just a green fake rabbit’s foot with a couple of poker chips threaded onto a brassy chain.
“That’s part of the food truck. I suppose you know about the rest of it?”
Meg’s smile widened. “Sure. I just got it all together again. Here.”
And she handed me the key-chain, which I pocketed in my blue jeans.
“Oh, we should get going. We’re being watched out here in the open. It’ll be harder for them to track us under those trees.” And led off down a thin path cut into the grass by other use.
I followed, of course. A dozen questions already forming, but her pace was quick even in her flat-soled shoes. Keeping up in a single file didn’t make for any conversation.
Once we were under the trees and back a bit from the opening, she stopped right next to a massive oak. It had a trunk bigger than both of us standing sideways. Probably the point, if you’re looking to keep away from prying eyes. And we were standing with that trunk between us and the open glade we’d left.
“OK, now for your many questions. I’m a friend of Jean’s, and got enough treatments from Betty that I’m more Lazurai like you than a normal human. On top of that I criss-cross time and space, which is how I was able to fix your food truck again. And yes, I ‘just’ left Hami and told her you were fine. But I can’t bring her here or you there. Because there are some people who know about me – and you, her, and Jean, probably a few others you know.”
I frowned at all this, trying to make sense of it.
Meg looked off into space, as if she was hearing something – or figuring something out. Then looked directly into my eyes with her brown ones. “OK, we do have a few moments for some questions – but only a few.”
“Hami wasn’t hurt?”
Meg shook her head no.
“Jean’s with her?”
Meg nodded yes.
“The truck is fine – I presume it’s with them, too.”
Meg nodded yes.
“These people who are watching us know you can criss-cross time?”
Meg frowned. “Yes. And they want to figure out how I do it. But I can’t explain it much more than that it’s some sort of genetic gift that shows up for one in a billion. So if they catch me, they’ll dissect both of us, right down to our genetic make-up.”
She glanced around. “And that winds up all the time we have for questions. Please follow me. Keep as close as you can, but don’t trip me up as I have to concentrate. Take my hand so I can keep you with me. We’re going to move backward in time while they are moving forward. And if we don’t run across their trail, then we’ll be able to escape them.”
I closed my hand around hers and she led off. The trail was narrow, but we did OK. I was having to concentrate on her walking and staying off her heels. But we made good progress.
Too soon, she stopped short. And I almost stumbled into her, but not quite.
She looked around at me, raising her other hand so I could follow where she was pointing.
Two tall fellows, dressed in long red cloaks were walking in the green woods at an angle to us. One behind the other. The front one was looking into some sort of equipment in his hands.
Meg whispered to me, “How’s your transmutation?”
I shook my head.
“Can you sink into the ground like Jean?”
I just shrugged. “I suppose. Not something I’ve practiced.”
Meg smiled at me. “Well I have, and now you’re going to get some experience in it.”
She turned around with a sudden motion and hugged me close to her, while my arms went right around her waist in reflex, as well to regain my balance.
Then we sank into the ground as it closed around us…
Continued in Part 3…
Can’t wait to see how this turns out?
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