the latter days of what is now named The Eighteenth Century, the
gentleman whose words you hold in your hands spent his days on a
farm just outside of the city of Portland in the territory of Maine.
His father, the Earl of Timberlake, gave his son the dubious Christian
name of Josiah. With the arrival of Independence for the colonists
populating the eastern shores of this wild continent, this Earl
quickly and happily renounced his title and honors, both of which
holding far less absolute value than one might suspect for a Lord
of England, to become one with the rough and ready cabal of farmers,
bankers and other persons of professional quality that proudly called
is possible that my father, the aforementioned Earl, was more inclined
to see Independence as a boon to these lands allowing that the birth
of his first and only son fell on the precise date of General Washington's
extraordinary victory in the city of Trenton, one day after Christmas
in the year seventeen-hundred-seventy-six. It follows that in the
Winter of seventeen-hundred-ninety-nine, I enjoyed various festivities
in celebration of my twenty-third birthday. A feast of modest proportions
filled the hours of mid-day, and was followed with the waning of
the sun by performances theatric and musical from several well respected
personages from Portland.
father entertained a business partnership with a gentleman named
Eli Hornfly, a boisterous man of advancing years who used his cane
as a weapon oftener than as a cane. Mr. Hornfly's interest in me
was limited to my marriageability to his beautiful young daughter,
Elizabeth. Her corn silk hair and emerald eyes captivated my soul
instantly when I first made her acquaintance ten years earlier,
but as she was only six years old at the time, it became necessary
for me to hold my childlike passion in restraint until a more appropriate
time. Elizabeth had reached, as of my birthday in this year, sixteen
years and was of an age that our courtship could begin. For this
reason, the feast and the festivities garnered only half of my attention.
I waited breathlessly for that night when Elizabeth and I would
meet privately, away from the prying eyes of the house, deep in
the moonlit hills.
wore my black greatcoat buttoned tight to my chin to ward off the
deepening chill as I trudged through the brush. An oil lamp provided
me enough light under the thick pine canopy to make my way to a
deep, still pond with which both Elizabeth and I were familiar.
In the past weeks I had written many letters to her, for she lived
miles away in Massachusetts, and I described the environs of our
family manor to her in great detail. I had become similarly knowledgeable
about her own homestead, which lay on the border between the towns
of Framingham and Natick, some days' journey west of Boston.
surroundings which I knew so well in daylight were now strange and
mysterious in the preternatural darkness and filled me with fear
even as the impending meeting with my lover brought me to the brink
of ecstasy. The mournful hoot of a snowy owl caused me to drop my
lamp, which broke and brought the dry underbrush instantly to flame.
I stamped out the fire, thus destroying the lamp and ruining any
further chance of man-made light. Thus was I forced to make the
rest of the short but treacherous journey by the meager moonlight
that slipped through the branches above me.
pool was unknown to any others of my family. In the heat of Summer,
swimming in the remarkably cool water soothed away the worries and
trials of life on my father's farm. In the cool of Autumn, the pool
was a place of quiet contemplation. In Winter, the place was far
less companionable, however the moon shone bright through this break
in the forest. I imagined my reunion with Elizabeth in that magical
light with her skin glowing and her hot breath steaming in the still
upon the edge of the pool sat a momentous spur of granite, a favorite
spot of mine to warm in the sun after a swim. Elizabeth and I had
agreed in our last exchange of correspondence to meet in this place
at the stroke of midnight. In my zeal to consummate our love, I
was a quarter-hour earlier than scheduled. I was astonished to find
that she had already been and gone. Perched atop the granite boulder
was an envelope, anchored by a small stone. I pulled down the envelope
and tore it open without pause to read the outer assignation.
all my heart I wish that I could say to you in person the words
that I now set down in this cold and insufficient note, but circumstances
deny me that opportunity. Please forgive this inconsideration.
day which started with a letter from you was joyous; each evening
which ended with me writing in response was heavenly. In the story
of my life, the punctuation was my exchanges with you, dearest
love. Now, those exchanges must end.
father has fallen upon hard times, as you are no doubt aware.
He has been unable to maintain his distribution partnership with
your father, and while Mr. Timberlake has been most gracious in
settling accounts, nonetheless our proceeds from this arrangement
an effort to stave off bankruptcy, my father has rededicated his
business acumen to the task of building construction. To solidify
his position in the Boston marketplace, he must make good on a
promise of friendship with a local lumber baron, Theodore Bunsen.
Mr. Bunsen is not the man your father is, but he is well respected
in Massachusetts and charming in his way.
Bunsen is also recently a widower and in need of a wife. O, that
I did not have to write this, darling Josiah! I am to be that
wife, and I cannot but do my father's bidding, as you, a good
son to your own father, so well know.
of me fondly, sweet lover, and do not dwell on the task I have
been given. With God's grace and my father's good favor, my life
will be happy, if not as sweet as it might have been with you.
substance of the letter filled me with a dreadful agony. I could
no more stand as fly to the moon; my legs gave way and I collapsed
to the ground, weeping for the life and love I had lost. Sorrow
upon sorrow wrenched my spirit. As I jumped to my feet to howl angrily
at the moon my left foot slipped off the stone ledge upon which
I stood and for a terrible moment my body hung in space, perfectly
balanced between stability on the shore and the significant drop
to the nearly frozen water below. I waved my arms like some frantic
bird in flight, but to no avail. My frame tipped over and I fell
headfirst into the chilly depths of the pool.
cold smashed into every fiber of my being. I was not fearful for
I am an excellent swimmer. I cared more for the damage to my excellent
coat. I kicked my legs and tried to swim to the surface with no
success. The heaviness of the clothes that I wore pulled me deeper
and deeper into the pool. I tried to unfasten the buttons of my
greatcoat with hands cramped from the cold of the water. I was unable
to control my fingers with any of my usual dexterity.
gripped me finally as I realized that my life was about to end.
I fell to the bottom of the pool, seeing only a glimmer of the moon
through thirty feet of water still roiling from my descent. A strange
warmth and euphoria covered me like a blanket and I closed my eyes
to sleep one last time, thinking of my fair Elizabeth.
* * *
warmth and sense of serene calm remained with me as I awoke some
time later. I opened my eyes to see not the bottom of a frigid pool
of water, but a room of white. Blankets covered me which were thin
but amazingly warm. I discovered to my horror that I was unclothed
beneath these blankets, unclothed but seemingly alive and healthy.
I sat up in my bed.
room was square and better finished than any I had ever seen before.
The wood of the walls was straight and true, without knots or gaps
of any kind. The paint must have been freshly applied, for nowhere
did it peel. I cautiously slid my legs out of the bed, holding the
blanket around me as makeshift apparel. The floor was smooth stone,
but warm to my feet. I could not imagine what place this might be
except the Heavenly Reward.
I called out. There was no response from the Almighty or any of
His Angels. I moved to the only door of the small room and looked
into the hallway to receive the shock of my life. A man walked slowly
towards me. But he was not so much a man as a man and a machine.
His left leg was fashioned out of iron, creaking and clanking as
he walked. Little puffs of steam escaped through minute gaps at
his knee and ankle. The man, whose face betrayed him as an Irishman,
smiled to me.
take getting used to, I can tell you that," he said.
is certain," I blurted and then returned quickly to my room,
breathing heavily. This was not the Heavenly Realm. I had been dropped
into the depths of Hell, waiting only to be fitted with a body of
iron and flame. It was then that a Voice spoke to me.
is alright," said the Voice from somewhere in the room.
is most certainly not alright!" I felt my senses slipping away.
must remain calm. We will send someone to you momentarily."
thought of a Demon of Darkness entering the room did nothing to
calm my excited state. I searched for a weapon, but the only objects
in the room were the bed and my improvised clothing. A knock at
the door caused me to yell in fear.
I come in?" The voice was that of a woman, not frightening
in and of itself, but I knew that Satan could assume a pleasing
I yelled. "Stay away from me! You cannot claim my soul!"
door opened slowly. I backed away, crossing myself and preparing
to meet some hellish creature of the Pit. The woman who peered through
the door frame looked quite normal. She wore a small white hat on
her head of chestnut hair. Her expression was one of concern.
name is Mary. I am not going to hurt you."
soothing tones calmed my tortured spirit. I nodded to her and she
slid through the door, closing it behind her. Her hands were open
and empty, raised to me to ensure I knew she meant me no harm. Her
dress was plain and as white as her cap and the walls of the room.
Her clothing seemed rather modern, though I learned soon enough
that I was far from accurate on that account. She wore her hair
wrapped in a bun under the cap. Fastened to the breast of her dress
was a small tag with her name embossed upon it.
are you?" I asked, my confusion causing me to dispense with
the proprieties of meeting a young woman for the first time.
am a Nurse at this Hospital."
Hospital!" I exclaimed. "Of course I would be in such
a place. Please, tell me, is my father aware that I am here? Can
you send word to him?"
tentative smile that had rested so pleasantly on Mary's face was
transformed into a worried frown.
must return to bed," she said to me. "There is something
I must tell you."
tell me! Do not hold back!"
Father is dead," she said as she lowered her head.
How is that possible? Quick, give me the news!" I began to
lose my strength at the thought of my beloved Father's death. Mary,
with no thought for my nakedness, put her arms about me and guided
me to the bed once again.
fear I have done this the wrong way around," Mary fretted.
"You have been asleep for quite some time."
have? Is it the New Year? Have we passed into a new Century now?"
you have passed into the Twenty-First Century!"
that information, I fainted.
* * *
I next awoke, Mary was waiting by my bed on a stool. She explained,
as if to a child, the amazing turn of events that brought me to
this time and place. The Winter of 1799 did not abate as all previous
Winters in my experience have. The mountain of Aetna in Italy had
exploded some days before my birthday celebration, which of course
we did not know. The resulting cloud of ash circled the globe and
brought the world into a new ice age. The pool into which I had
fallen must have frozen solid mere hours later, encasing me in preservative
ice. As Spring declined to come to the northern reaches of the new
United States of America, snow fell year upon year, covering the
lands north of Portsmouth with unyielding glaciers.
team of scientists attempting to determine the extent of the glacial
damage happened upon my frozen body and, much to their credit, extracted
me from my strange resting place, removing me to Boston for treatment.
The doctors in this time have miraculous skills, and were able to
bring me back to the Land of the Living with no ill effects. Indeed,
I am told that I am not the oldest such "living fossil"
to be revived.
went on to explain the state of the World in this time. The United
States of America now thrives, the original thirteen states now
doubled to twenty-six, extending as far West as the Mississippi
River, which is the border with Canada.
extends so far to the South?" I asked her, incredulous. We
were discussing this topic while I ate my first solid food for the
past two-hundred years.
France consolidated the regions of Louisiana and Canada in 1803.
Canada then fought their own revolution for Independence in 1814.
With the help of our nation, they won and have been free ever since."
remarkable, since France had come to our aid in our own revolution,"
surge of Democracy has been powerful. Every nation is now a free,
isn't possible!" I could not believe such an extraordinary
turn of events. "England no longer has a Monarchy?"
smiled as she shook her head. "There are no Monarchies anywhere.
The colonists of South America and Africa took up arms during the
years of 1850 through 1900. Various kingdoms of the Far East had
their revolutions simultaneously in 1923. The last nation to become
a free people was India in 1967."
are there no more wars, with no Kings to bring them about?"
so. The nations of Canada and Mexico occasionally clash in the Rocky
Mountain region, but those are gentlemanly disputes unlike the old
wars of Europe. The world is, for the most part, at peace."
finished the last of my stew and pushed the tray away. "Call
for a slave to take this away," I said. Mary's eyes grew wide.
"Did I say something amiss?"
no longer engage in that barbaric practice!"
is no more? My heart is gladdened to hear it."
Negroes are as free as you or I, and are paid for their services.
I am sad to say that it was not Christian duty but the Ice Age that
was the reason for this change of heart of the slave owners in this
land. It was that natural catastrophe that brought about the two-pronged
change in our society that has brought us so far from your time."
what are those prongs?"
they are Mechanization and Hybridization! Tomorrow, I will show
* * *
next day I woke early, eager to leave this tiny room and visit the
new world outside the walls of the Hospital. Mary brought me my
original clothing, which had been cleaned and repaired. I was glad
to have it, for the modern fashions left me breathless with concern
than I might trip over a pant cuff or snag my collar on a fence
post. People in this time wound themselves in yards of silk and
lace in strange patterns that I could not understand. In comparison,
Mary's nurse uniform was a precious throwback to an earlier time:
in what I considered appropriate attire, Mary led me through the
halls of the Hospital, where I met other patients with bizarre metal
are the diseased patients? Are they kept elsewhere?"
are no more diseases. We have, through Hybridization, cured every
was staggered by the thought of every pox, every cancer, every bleeding
is this Hybridization?"
have learned to breed plants to provide any sort of cure the body
requires. They have bred trees to grow straight and true, providing
us with this building material." To emphasize her point, Mary
patted one of the walls of the Hospital. "Flowers provide the
base of this paint which does not peel. Reeds give us the material
for our clothes which is both light and warm. We have few needs
that plant life cannot meet."
those needs that plants cannot meet?"
led me out the front door of the Hospital into the City of Boston.
I gasped at the sight. The city, which I had visited in my youth,
was transformed into a modern marvel. Buildings stood ten and fifteen
stories tall, straight and true and without the aid of stone. The
streets teemed with people, each wearing more strange layers of
cloth than the last, in a profusion of colors that would rival the
most cleverly designed garden.
do you think of it?" Mary asked.
hardly know where to begin."
would you like to go?"
want to see the Harbor. I have always fancied sailing ships. I cannot
imagine what they might look like now."
is an excellent idea. Come with me." Mary led me through the
crowd toward the Common which at least looked like I remembered.
many people live in Boston now?" I asked.
hundred-thousand!" she said. It made sense, as I thought on
it, that without the ravages of disease, populations would increase
stopped at a small metal podium which rose out of the street. I
noticed there was a metal trench, very narrow indeed, running through
the stone of the street. She pulled me onto the other side of the
podium with her. There was, on the surface of the podium, a button.
She depressed it. I heard the clink of metal somewhere underneath,
and the whine of machinery at work.
is this?" I asked.
smiled at me, and then pointed over my shoulder. Coming down the
street was a contraption that I had never dreamed possible. It was
the seat of a carriage, but with no carriage and no horses to pull
it. It rested atop a slender pole of brass which rose up out of
the trench I had noticed before. The device slowed and came to a
stop before us.
offered me her arm, and I helped her up into the two-seat device.
We sat on the seat, and in front of us, like a small table, was
a map of the city. Several points of interest were marked with buttons
like the one on the podium we had already seen. Mary pored over
the map and found a button close to the harbor. She pressed it,
and the horseless carriage rattled to life and sped us on our way.
can this be?" I asked.
you never seen a cuckoo clock, with people moving in and out of
doors on the hour?"
have. Are you saying this is a clock?"
principle is the same. Beneath the street runs a chain cable which
pulls this carriage to any point on this map. By pressing this button,
I have given the machine the command it needs to take us where we
want to go."
what provides the motion?"
of course. Steam engines are very powerful now. Some, as you have
seen in your fellow patients, are quite small. Others are quite
large." Mary pointed to the left and I saw a building passing
by which was, as I looked closer, not in actuality a building, but
a huge steam engine, large enough to provide power to any number
of these excellent carriages.
that I knew what to look for, through the throngs of Bostonians,
I saw other carriages making their way through the streets of Boston.
A large carriage holding four people slowed before us. We were forced
to wait as it made its way off the main line to a stop. We sped
up again, continuing our journey at the speed of a healthy horse's
there no more horses?" I asked.
there are, but not within the City Limits. They are used for longer
journeys from city to city. Oh, look. Here we are."
carriage diverged from the main line and we came to a stop next
to another podium. I helped Mary down from the carriage and we walked
to the Harbor. The ship berthed directly before us was quite impressive,
but not nearly so extraordinary as I had hoped. Mary saw the disappointment
in my eyes.
you not recognize this ship?"
is the U. S. S. Constitution, from the War with England,
which is kept here as a piece of history though it does not sail
anymore. Look out there."
pointed past the familiar ship further into the harbor. What I had
taken to be an island some distance off shore was a ship of monstrous
proportions floating in open water. The hull was twice again as
long as that of the Constitution, though just as wide, giving it
a thin, gaunt appearance. The sails reached some two-hundred feet
into the air. I made some comment to Mary about them.
are made from reeds similar to the ones that make our clothing.
Since they are so light and strong, they can withstand practically
that ship is just as useless in a dead calm, I would wager."
you think that is so?" Mary asked, pointing to the rear bridge.
Attached to the deck of the ship was a construction that looked
oddly like a windmill. At the signal of the Captain of the vessel,
the interior of the windmill began to emit steam, and the fans of
the windmill began to turn. I watched as the movement of the fans
created a breeze that began to billow the sails and move the ship
as if there was a slow wind.
smiled and took my hand.
* * *
in the afternoon, Mary helped me find and hire a carriage of horses:
a more familiar method of travel to me. We rode, along a path of
excellent smoothness, out of Boston toward Natick. Along the way,
I saw many farms raising the exotic varieties of hybridized plants
that made this futuristic society so awesome. The stands of trees
that grew as straight as ships' masts were breathtaking.
made the trip in only two hours which after all the wonders I had
seen I still found remarkable. The Hornfly estate remained where
it had always been, on the line between Natick and Framingham, but
the home itself had been remodeled, or my eyes deceived me. We pulled
up in front of the stately manor and handed the reigns to the house
Negroa free man, I reminded myselfbefore going into
the house to meet with the current owner, a man named Frederick
Mr. Hornfly resembled Eli somewhat, but was younger and less ill-tempered.
He greeted Mary and myself warmly and led us into his study where
his eldest daughter Anna waited. When I saw Anna, my whole body
shook. Even though she wore the strange wrappings of this time,
she was an exact duplicate of Elizabeth. She was even the same age
as Elizabeth had been when I last saw her: sixteen.
is a great honor to meet you, Mr. Timberlake," she said to
me, and curtsied. I bowed, unable to speak. "When we heard
of your emergence from the glacier to the North my father and I
reviewed the family records to see if any mention had been made
of your disappearance." Anna held up a cracked and faded journal.
"We found this. It belonged to my ancient Aunt Elizabeth."
began to weep as Anna handed me the book. I trembled as I opened
I begin my new life as the wife of Archibald Bunsen, but I know
now and will know forever that my heart belongs to Josiah Timberlake
completely. I know not where he fled on the night that I broke
his heart and mine together, but I wish him happiness wherever
he finds himself.
read no further, for the remainder of the journal contained details
of her personal life of which I, sadly, did not partake. I took
my solace in the knowledge that she lived a full life and was happy
in her way. All I can hope is to do the same, and make this strange
and wondrous new world my home.