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Daughter of Chronos: 

 

3. Blueprint

  November 13th, 2007

 

  “Pride’s like a knife, it can cut deep inside, words are like weapons, they wound sometimes!” Grace Killibrand was shimmying around the kitchen, singing discordantly to a Cher record that was pumping out of a small radio’s speakers, when a rattle from the side-door handle interrupted the songster mid-chorus.  

  “That you, Finn?” she called, “I was beginning to worry.  You should have been home ten minutes ago.” When she heard no immediate answer, she raised an eyebrow.  Removing the rubber gloves from her hands, she ran her fingers through curls of blonde hair, then walked into the family room, where Finn had plonked himself down on the couch. “So, how was the museum visit then?”

  By answer, Finn sniffed loudly.

  “Finn?” A frown erased the smile from her face.  Dinner preparations would have to wait.  Finn had been excited about this trip since he first brought the parental permission slip home from school for her to sign several weeks previously.  Yet, now she found him sitting in a dejected heap, miserably twisting and knotting the corner of his shirt between his fingers. 

  Finn had been quiet on the bus all the way home, barely speaking to anyone.  The old Town Hall was a short distance further down the road from the museum, and as the bus pulled up at a traffic intersection, his window happened to face right at the entrance door. 

  There, on the wall, was the plaque that William Adams had mentioned.  Light blue, and oval in shape, it was less than a foot across its width.  On it, in white lettering, was an inscription.

  ‘Dedicated to the memory of Verity Proctor.  10/18/1686 - 05/30/1699.  The Witch of Duncan Falls.’

  Beneath the dates was a short quote from the Bible, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me.’  It was the townspeople’s way of saying they understood that she had always been an innocent child, and that her soul was at peace with her creator. 

  As the bus waited for a break in the traffic, Finn studied the small sign, and a single tear finally broke free.

  Is that it? he thought, she’s hung, and can’t ever grow up, and that's all she gets?

  Over and over he read the inscription, the words branding themselves into his psyche.  To the nearly-nine-year-old boy it seemed woefully inadequate as an apology.  The bus pulled forward, but still he couldn’t pull his eyes from the blue and white memorial.  Even as the bus turned the corner, and the plaque began to fade from view, he turned his head, looking back over his shoulder, holding the plaque in his vision till the last possible second.  At that moment, he closed his eyes, and the bus, its passengers and everything around him faded out of his consciousness.  Only the inscription floated before him, held now forever in his memory.   With grim determination, Finn made a silent, solemn promise.

  Don’t worry, Verity, I’ll save you.  I don’t know how, but one day I will save you

  He had held his emotions in check throughout the remainder of the bus journey.  Now, in the comfort of his own home, in the security of his mother’s gaze, the dam broke. 

  “Finn, dear,” Grace knelt down in front of her son, “whatever’s the matter?”  

  The words tumbled from his mouth in a confused, headlong rush. 

  “There was this girl, at the museum, and, and, she died!”

  “Died?” Grace recoiled, hand to mouth, “Oh my God, who died?” The terrible memories flooded back; a moment’s loss of attention, that was all it had taken.

  “She was hung, Mom, they hung her, they said she was a witch, and, and they hung her.” 

  Grace sagged with relief. “Oh, the Witch-Girl.  You’ve seen the Witch-Girl display.” 

  Finn nodded, tears now unchecked. “S-She was only twelve, Mom, only twelve.”

  Grace rose from her knees and sat down beside Finn, reached a comforting arm around him, and pulled him close.

  “S-She was the same age as Avril, just a… a kid.  Why, Mom, why’d they do it?” he sobbed, “It’s not fair, it’s just not fair.”

  “I know, dear, I remember when I first went to the museum.  I got pretty upset myself.  But there’s nothing we can do about it, sweetheart, she died a long, long time ago.”

  “But it’s wrong, Mom, it’s so wrong.  What if it was Avril?  What if someone came and took Avril away an’, an’ said nasty things about her?  She’d be so frightened.”

  “Finn, no one is taking your sister away,” she tried to reassure him, “we know there’s no such thing as witches-”

  “S-So why’d they hang her then?  If there’s no such thing as witches, why’d they go ‘n hang her?”

  “Well, hundreds of years ago they did believe in witches, and demons, and all sorts of other scary stuff.  They weren’t as well educated then as we are now.  Much of their world around them was strange and mysterious.  If bad things happened, things they couldn’t explain, then they blamed it on witches, evil spirits and such.”

  Finn listened, but in his mind it was no excuse.  There were no such things as witches, and someone had decided to hang a girl for being something she wasn’t.  It was wrong, pure and simple. 

  He continued to sniffle just as Avril came into the room.

  “Hey, Mom, have you seen my hair straighteners, I, oh, what’s the matter?” She nodded sympathetically towards her brother. 

  With medium length fair hair, Avril was becoming very particular about her appearance, and the modern punk look was currently favoured

  “He’s just got back from the museum,” Grace explained, “and seen the witch display.  You know how over-emotional he gets if he thinks something is unfair, and he’s gotten himself into a bit of a state.”

  “Aw c’mon, Bro,” Avril said, “you need to man up.” 

  “Actually, sweetheart, the thing that’s upsetting him the most is the idea of someone hanging you.”

  Avril’s face blushed pink. “It... is?  Oh, Bro...” She stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, groping for the words, then stepped over, knelt down, and put her arms around her brother and hugged him. “Thanks, Bro, nice to know you care.” Then she hurried out to the kitchen to get a drink of water to dampen her unexpectedly dry throat. 

  An idea entered Grace’s head. “How about we watch a DVD together?  I just need to finish the vegetables and then they can stew while we watch something.  Would that help cheer you up?”

  “Dunno.  Maybe,” he mumbled.  Still feeling desperately miserable, his thoughts held on to the images of the dress, the chain, the blood spots, and, in the middle of it all, his sister.  Grace gently released Finn from her hold, then followed Avril to the kitchen. 

  Finn lowered himself onto the arm of the sofa and curled up into a ball.  Images of riding a noble white steed danced across his imagination, a shield on his arm, and a battle-axe in hand.   Fighting heroically, he cut his way through hoards of swarthy, ugly men in black cloaks, to reach a pretty girl in a long dress, standing on a wooden box with a rope dangling above her. 

  The axe swung above his head.  The executioner fell back, knocked from his position ready to hang the girl.  Enemy defeated, the hero then valiantly swept the damsel in distress from her feet, sat her in the saddle at his back, and carried her off into the woods, and freedom.   

  Grace then returned, ending his daydream with a wipe of her hands on a towel.

  “Now then, what shall we watch?” She knelt down in front of the DVD rack and started skimming through it. “How about ‘Back to the Future?’”

“S’pose,” he gruffed.  Grace switched on the DVD player and picked up the remote, then settled down next to the still gloomy boy. 

  For a while he could only scowl at the TV, but slowly, something in the movie’s plot began to take root.  A crazy scientist, a young kid... and a time-travelling car.  One corner of his mouth began to rise as a plan formed.  He had promised Verity, at the plaque outside the town hall, that he would save her. 

  Now he knew how he could do it.

---

  November 14th, 2007

 

  As Finn walked along the sidewalk towards the school yard entrance, Gregor jogged over to him.

  “Hey bud, what’s up?”

  “Hey Greg, morning.”

  “So what happened yesterday?  You looked real unhappy on the bus home, and then ran off so fast, I never got a chance to ask you.” 

  Finn shrugged off the question. “Oh that, yeah, I got a bit mad at something, s’all.” He thought back to the yellowed newspaper clipping, and the video. “Y’know the witch?”

  “Yeah?” They both turned through the school gate, and continued along the path lined with wide grass verges that lead to the Junior school entrance.

  “Did y’know she was only twelve years old?”

  “Wha- no way.” Gregor whistled softly as they stopped under a low, wide tree.  He had ignored the display cabinets full of boring looking documents, losing interest after seeing the dress and the chains the witch wore. “Wow.  That’s... that’s messed up.” He shook his head.  Gregor had two sisters himself.  Summer, five, and three-year-old Cameron.

  “Yeah, really nasty.  There’s no such thing as witches, is there.” Finn left out the part where he wept in his mother’s arms. “But I’m gonna make things right.  I’m gonna save her.”

  “Oh?  How?” 

  Finn thrust his hand into his back pocket, and with a flourish, produced a crumpled piece of paper, and handed it to Gregor.

  “With this!”

  Gregor studied the creased blueprint.  It had a child’s scrawl, a rough sketch of what looked like a car, but with squiggly lines coming out of the roof.  Beneath it, the title.  Time masheen.  It was certainly no DeLorean.

  “I’m gonna start building it tonight.” Finn announced proudly. 

  Gregor looked at the scrap of paper as if it held one of the seven wonders of the world inscribed upon it.

  “Outstanding!  Can I help?” 

  “Sure.  You can come round after school.”

  Gregor folded the paper carefully, and made to pass it back, when a large shadow loomed between the two, grabbing the note from Gregor’s grasp.  A rotund boy with a broad, flat, porcine nose, and coal dark eyes elbowed them apart before taking a few steps away.  An amused grunt passed his lips as he studied the blueprint.

  Most mornings the kids in the school yard would see him arrive, stepping out of a battered, smoking '70's Chevy sedan, usually followed by a string of profanities from the driver.  But whatever the weather, even in the warmth of a New Hampshire summer, he would always wear long sleeves.  No-one was ever allowed to see the bruises on his arms.  With all the grace and agility of a hippopotamus on roller skates, Dennis Brighter would roam around the school looking for trouble, and it often found him. 

  “H-Hey, that's m-mine,” Finn said nervously, but Brighter straightened up and snorted, raising his chin in ignorance.

  "Was yours," he corrected, "now it's not."  He was like a small bear, but not in any sense the cuddly kind.  This one had the disposition of a Grizzly awoken early from hibernation. "You want it?  Here!" he offered, waving the scrap tantalisingly in front of him.  

  Finn reached out, trying to retrieve the fruits of his labour, but Brighter took a step backwards and raised his hand above his head, out of Finn’s reach. 

  As Finn debated with himself whether attempting to retrieve his plan was worth the humiliation if he failed, something small and nimble flickered into Finn’s vision.  A girl jumped up, snatching the paper before Brighter had time to react.  She landed gracefully, and trotted to Finn’s side like some proud little dog, leaving a confused Brighter gawking after her.

  “Didn’t Mommy tell you it’s rude to snatch?” A scolding finger was twiddled at him.  She blew a stray strand of long hair from her face, and placed a slender hand on her side, her stormy blue eyes never leaving his hooded dark ones. 

  “Hey, give it back,” he growled.

  “Make me,” she snarled defiantly, “Dennis Dimmer.

  The boy lunged forward, but the bright young girl simply stepped to the side, allowing him to charge past.  Unable to stop in time, he stumbled, tripping over himself, and landed in a heap on the ground a few feet away.

  The girl grinned, laughing triumphantly.  Brighter lurched to his feet, looked around at the growing crowd of witnesses, and decided the best course of action was to run away bravely.

  “That’ll teach him!”

  As Brighter disapeared, she turned to Gregor and Finn at last, the coldness in her eyes replaced with the warmth of a tropical ocean.

  “Hey there, Natasha Splinters, at your service!” She put out a hand, and shook each of theirs theatrically in turn.  Short and slim, a wisp of blonde hair was casually brushed from her bright blue eyes. “Uh-oh,” she glanced around, “where’d Joss get to?”

  From further up the path, another girl loaded with more than the usual supply of books approached them.  Her skin was the colour of liquid honey mixed with a spoonful of chocolate, and her short, black hair was cut to a bob that neatly framed her dusky face. 

  “Nat, why’d you always have to run off like that?” she grumbled, peering over her large, owlish glasses. 

  Natasha gave an awkward shrug. “I was playing hero again.  See?  These boys here, Dimmer was picking on them.” 

  Jocelyn Milligan raised an eyebrow at the two. 

  “What did he do, steal their candy bar?” The two boys curled a lip at each other.

  “Uh no, he had a piece of paper.  And there was something about a time machine-”

  “Time machine?” Her curiosity piqued, she looked at the boys with a little more interest. “Can I have a look?”

  Natasha held the paper by one edge, the scrap fluttering slightly in the breeze. She blinked at Finn, silently asking his permission.  He gave a soft nod and sideways shrug.

  “Yeah, sure.”

  Once more, the paper found itself within new ownership, as Jocelyn unfolded it, carefully ironing out the creases with her thumb.  Her brow furrowed in concentration as she took in every line, every detail of the scrawl. 

  “This is pretty neat stuff.  Cool.”

  Natasha laughed, sidestepping and shuffling on her toes to see the drawing. “I know, right?  I bet you’d need to drive it pretty fast though, to go back in time.” She leaned closer, noticing the rough notes. “ Deh-Lee… Deh-lo… reh-on?”

  “DeLorean,” Finn corrected, “and yeah, you’d need to go real fast.”

  Finn’s father had helped him to memorise the name.  Mitch was a hot-rodder, and had taken a few days off work to pick up his latest project, an old 1959 Chevrolet Impala station wagon.  It would disappear into his ‘Haven’ as he called his workshop, not to reappear until it was transformed from a rusty clunker to a sleek street-machine.

  “Wow.” Jocelyn gave an impressed whistle. “So, why do you want to go back in time anyway?  You forget to do your homework or something?” 

  Natasha chuckled to herself. “If I had a time machine, I’d go back to the age of the dinosaurs.  Rooaar!” She threw her hands up and waved them, then collapsed in a heap against the tree in a fit of giggles upon seeing the unimpressed face of Jocelyn.  It was a warm day, and the tree offered a cool shade, so the others sat down beside Natasha.

  Finn grinned at her. “Nah, I want to go back to rescue the Witch-Girl.” The two girls exchange glances.

  “The who-what?” Jocelyn asked out of the side of her mouth.

  “The Witch-Girl.  Y’know, the Duncan Falls Witch.”

  “Oh… Kay,” Jocelyn asked slowly, “why would you want to save an old witch?” 

  Finn gawped at her. “You mean you haven’t been to the museum?  Seen the stuff ’bout her in there?” The two girls shook their heads in unison. “She wasn’t an old woman,” he explained sadly, “she was just a girl, only twelve years old.”

  Jocelyn gasped as Natasha raised her hand to her mouth.

  “Oh no.  No, that’s, that’s so sad.” Natasha shook her head, raising her knees to her chest, her cheery mood rapidly evaporating. 

  Jocelyn too, shook her head. “I never knew that,” she spoke softly, “you sure?”

  Finn nodded seriously. “There’s a video about it.  And an old piece of newspaper that says so, too.”

  Natasha sat still, chin on knees and close to tears.

  “Wow,” Jocelyn murmured, “that’s really awful.  I’ve never seen the display.  What else is there?”

  “Well, they got her dress.  It’s all old, and dirty. And there’s these spots on it, the guy there told us they were her blood,” Natasha blanched, and the tears finally started. “And another case had these handcuff things.  What’d he say they were called, Greg?”

  “Um, mangles?  Or mancles, or something like that?”

  “Yeah, manacles, that’s it.  And a chain that they used to tie her up with.”

  Natasha wiped her cheek with the back of her hand.

  “That’s... that’s just horrible.  They must have really hurt.

  “I know,” Finn agreed, grateful to find someone else who shared his sense of injustice.

  “There isn’t even any such thing as witches,” Jocelyn pointed out. 

  “Yeah,” Finn replied, “but me ‘n Greg are going to change things.  Tonight we’re gonna build a time machine, and go back and save her.” 

  Natasha pounced on the boy, grabbing hold of him.

  “Please, please can I help?” she begged, “You-you have to let me.  Please?” A fierce determination shone in her blue eyes. 

  “And me!” Jocelyn pleaded, “we’re a team, Nat ‘n me, I’d like to help save her too.” 

  Finn beamed broadly. “You bet!  Come round to my place after school, and we’ll get started.”  

  “What was her name anyway?” Jocelyn asked, “did it say?”

  “Verity.  Verity Proctor.”

---

  That evening, Grace was slightly surprised to be host to a small gaggle of excited schoolchildren.  She didn’t mind in the least, and kept them supplied with soda drinks and chocolate-chip cookies, pleased to see what looked like the foundations of some lasting friendships. 

  The four kids busied themselves with sheets of paper, old cardboard boxes, crayons and felt markers, sticky-tape and glue sticks.  Finn worked out the design, cutting the boxes into the shapes he had in his mind, while Gregor added pieces of scientific-looking wires and string.  Natasha coloured everything in with grand sweeps of the felt markers, and Jocelyn stuck everything together with meticulous care, using carefully placed spots of glue, while making sure the adhesive didn’t go over the edges of the paper, and carefully cut neat snips of sticky-tape to bind it all together. 

  Finn held two pieces for her to tape. “Can I ask you something?”

  “Sure.”

  “You said something earlier, about candy bars.  What did you mean?”

  Jocelyn giggled. “Oh that.  That was Nat!” She winked at the blonde girl. “That’s how we got to be friends.  In Kindergarten, some big kid pushed me over, and hurt me.  I had a candy bar and he took it.  Nat didn’t even know me then, but she ran across and kicked him so hard.” Natasha grinned back. “I hurt myself falling over, but she took that bar away from him, and helped me back up.” She gave a happy shrug. “We’ve been best friends ever since.”

  “You bet!” Natasha happily chimed.

  Jocelyn nodded in agreement. “She’s real nice, is Nat.  And smart too.  But she doesn’t always think.” Natasha received a mock disapproving look. “Dimmer could’ve killed you.”

  “I hate bullies,” Natasha protested, “I couldn’t just let him get away with it.  Anyway, I’m smarter and quicker than he is.” 

  “But he’s stronger,” Jocelyn gave a wry shake of her head. “One day you’ll get into trouble.  I wish you’d use your head more,” She tapped the side of her own head, “and not let your feelings run away with you.” Natasha gave a little sniff. “I mean it, Nat.  You’re my best friend, but sometimes…”

  “Well,” Finn grinned, “we’re all best buddies now, huh?”

  “Best friends forever!” Natasha chirped, and the others smiled in agreement.

  They returned to their sticky-tape and cardboard dreams of heroic rescue.  Once it was finished, Finn called his mother in to admire their handiwork.

  “Oh, that’s lovely, dear,” she said in that patronising way only mothers can get away with. “What is it?” 

  “It’s a time machine.  We all built it.  Together!”

  “I coloured it all in!” Natasha claimed brightly, brushing an errant strand of hair from her eyes with blue-and-green-stained fingers. 

  Grace eyed the collection of bits of old cereal box and brightly coloured paper piled in the middle of the family room floor, wondering how long it would be before she could throw it in the trash without Finn noticing it was gone.

  “I’m gonna use it to save the Witch-Girl!” Finn triumphantly announced. 

  “Ah, of course, now I see.  Well, good luck with that.”

  Finn looked around and surveyed his creation.  He had just built his first time machine.

  It wouldn’t be the last. 

~~~


 

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