Lynn Miclea: Stepping Out of Time

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Stepping Out of Time

Lynn Miclea

Standing in her den, Carla admired the beautiful water jug which she had picked up at a garage sale a few months earlier. Something had immediately drawn her to it, and it now sat in an alcove in the wall at her home in San Francisco. Looking at it, she smiled. It was one of her favorite finds from a garage sale.

Stepping forward, she reached for the jug, a beautiful artifact from long-ago days. As her fingers grazed across the surface, she felt a vibration, almost a shock. What was that? Pulling her arm back, she stared at it. Then she gingerly reached for it again and rested her palm against it, feeling a low vibration and hearing a humming sound.

Curious, she grabbed it and lifted it up, admiring the hefty weight of it. Looking inside it, she wondered who used it and how it had been used.

She was suddenly in a busy market on a dusty dirt field, and she blinked in the bright light. Many people walked through the market and stopped at various stalls. The voices of sellers calling out their wares permeated the air. Women wearing rags bargained for lower prices for food and items they needed.

“Are you gonna buy that?” a man’s voice addressed her.

“What?” Carla looked up.

“The jug. It’s my best selling item. Do you want it or not?”

Shocked, she put it back down on the table in front of her, along with the other pottery items. “Um, no, sorry, not today.”

As she released the jug and pulled her fingers back, she found herself again in the den of her home in San Francisco, staring at the jug in the alcove.

Her mouth dry, she stared in disbelief. What just happened? It sure seemed like she had been transported to another time and space, but that was impossible … Maybe it was just a daydream or a hallucination.

Her fingers trembling slightly, she slowly reached forward and touched the jug again.

She was immediately back in the busy market, voices calling out, dust swirling around.

The seller stared at her. “Well, make up your mind. Either buy it or not.”

Carla gasped. “I … I’m sorry.” She removed her hand from the jug and was instantly back in her den at home.

She swallowed hard, a knot forming in her belly. It made no sense. Backing up, she stared at the jug. Goosebumps rose on her arms. She shook her head and turned away.

Feeling spooked, she went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea and sat down, trying to relax. By the time she finished the warm, soothing drink, she found herself intrigued. She needed to know what was happening with that artifact.

Walking back into the den, she glanced at the jug. It was beautiful and had clearly been used a lot in its heyday. Feeling herself drawn back to it, she slowly approached it and reached toward it. Her hands shaking, she grasped the handle.

Instantly, she was back in the busy market, facing the man behind the table.

“Well?” He glared at her.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll buy it. How much?”

After she paid the man, she held the jug against her body and left the market, walking along a dirt road. Turning around, she looked back at the hustle and bustle of the people buying and selling food and other items. It looked strange but also somehow felt familiar.

“Bethany, there you are. How are you doing?” A warm female voice interrupted her thoughts, and Carla turned to see a middle-aged woman, her brown hair in a tight bun, smiling at her.

Somehow Carla knew this woman and her name came to her right away. “Tillie, it’s nice to see you here.” How did she remember the name? “Look what I got.” Carla, now Bethany, held up the jug.

Tillie smiled. “You’ve had your eye on that for a while now. I’m glad you finally got it.”

“Yes, it was time. I really wanted it.” She felt nervous trying to keep up a conversation. Who was this Tillie? She knew it was someone she was close to, but she couldn’t quite remember who, and she didn’t want to say anything wrong.

Tillie laughed. “Well, it will come in handy. We can always use another one.” She smiled wider, showing a gap where a tooth was missing. “We need to get back and start fixing something for supper. I thought you could make that stew we love that you make so well.”

“Oh yes, I love that stew,” Bethany answered quickly. “I’ll start making that.”

“Good. Well, I need to pick up more potatoes first. You run on home, and I’ll be there shortly to help.”

“Okay.” Bethany watched Tillie head into the market, her long skirt swishing behind her. She glanced down and saw she was wearing a similar long skirt. Where were they? Who were they? And when was this?

Anxiety churned in her belly. She wanted to be back home. She placed the jug on the ground and let go. Nothing happened. She was still there on the dusty road just outside the market.

Worry gripped her. How was she supposed to get back to her own time and place? What if she couldn’t get back? Tears burned her eyes. She had no idea what to do. Was she stuck here now?

Shaking her head, she looked around, shielding her eyes with her hand against the midday sun.

She was suddenly back in her den in her modern home. Gasping, she quickly pulled her hand back from the jug. Her eyes widened as horror filled her. Vowing never to touch the jug again, she slowly backed out of the room.

Vague memories flitted through her mind. Tillie had been her sister. She remembered her more clearly now. They were close, and she loved Tillie. But that was another lifetime, a past life suddenly in the present. It felt so real — she was right there in it again. The sounds, the sights, the smells — she was there. This jug somehow linked her to that previous lifetime. Was it the same jug? And even if it were, how was any of this possible?

Wanting to have nothing more to do with the jug, she stayed out of the den the rest of the day.

The following day, many questions still churned in her mind. And part of her longed for her sister. She loved and worried about Tillie. She was drawn back to the den, staring at the jug with wide eyes. She was sure it was the same jug.

Without thinking, she found herself walking toward it, her hand outstretched. Before she could stop herself, she grabbed the handle of the jug.

Instantly, she was back on the dusty road. She watched Tillie walk into the market toward the man with the potatoes they liked. She felt herself smile. The stew would be good — it was her favorite meal to make. Turning, she headed off down the dirt path toward home. Maybe she would add peas and carrots and onions to the stew. She hoped they had some pork to add in, but they didn’t always have enough.

Wait! What was she doing? This was not her time. This was the past. She didn’t belong here. She was Carla, not Bethany. She put the jug back on the ground and stood there, hoping to return to San Francisco. Nothing happened. She remained on the dirt path. She was still Bethany, somehow now stuck in a past life.

Standing there for ten minutes, she hoped it would wear off and she would return to her normal time. Nothing changed. As a few people passed by, she waved and smiled at them. Finally, she picked up the jug and headed toward home.

After walking about thirty minutes, she turned down a small path and found herself facing a small hut, and she knew this was her home. She slowly opened the front door and went into the dimly lit interior. A few old, worn, but comfortable sofas were arranged in the middle of the room. Memories of family and celebrations flooded her. Turning to the right, she headed into the kitchen. A large wooden table took up the back part of the room. She smiled as images of happy times at family meals came to her with everyone talking at once.

It was time to start the stew. Bethany gathered the vegetables and brought them to a small counter and started chopping them. She would make the stew she was famous for, and she would make it even better this time. Tillie would love it, and she smiled as she worked.

As she turned to grab another carrot, something fell to the floor. Stooping down, she picked it up. A photograph. At first she did not recognize the futuristic woman in the photo. Someone dressed in different clothes, but still familiar …

Goosebumps suddenly rose on her from head to toe. That woman in the photo … a face she knew. But how was this possible? She stared at the image again — it was her! Her belly quivered. It was her from the future! But how could she even know that …

Her gaze was drawn to the jug that sat on the counter. That was the link. But why would she have a picture from the future?

It suddenly hit her. She was now stuck in the past. She had a different life somewhere. But how could she get back? Was she now stuck here in a past life permanently?

She looked back at the photo. Her familiar, smiling face looked back at her. A face from a life she was supposed to be living now. But … but she now had the stew to make. Tillie was counting on her to make it.

She held the photo to her chest and closed her eyes.

When she opened them, she was back in her den in San Francisco. She was home.

She glanced at the jug. A note was now firmly attached to the front of it, and she leaned closer to read it.

I had to send something to you from this time period — a lifeline — to bring you back. Do not go back there again. You will be stuck there and I will not be able to bring you home again.

Carla stared at it as a sob welled up in her chest. But what would happen with the stew … her heart was torn … She put her hands down to grasp her long skirt, but it was no longer there. She was now wearing jeans.

Confused and overwhelmed, she looked around her modern apartment. No, she didn’t belong back in the past anymore. That was a past life, and she had already lived that. She needed to remain in the present. She was Carla again, not Bethany, and she needed to stay here.

She ran to the hall closet, searched on the shelves, and picked up a hammer. Then she rushed back to the den, and before she could change her mind, she brought it down hard on the jug, smashing it into pieces. She would throw it out later.

A choking sob rose in her chest as her heart ached for Tillie, her sister, who she now deeply missed. She glanced at the shards of pottery now sitting in the alcove.

“I hope you liked the stew, Tillie,” she whispered, as one tear slowly slid down her cheek.


Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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