The man who steps out of the train is old, easily fifty years, yet underneath all those wrinkles and grey hair is the unmistakable face of the young stable boy I watched die at the hands of The Wizard centuries ago, or yesterday, I’m still not quite clear on how to differentiate that. Again, I find myself stepping backward in fear.
“Rochelle, dear,” Old-Lance says, stepping toward me cautiously. “Gwen.”
“You’re dead,” I gasp. “I watched you die.”
“Unfortunately, my dear, it’s more true the other way around,” his says, his voice catching on the words.
My eyes dart wildly from Griff to Other-Griff to Old-Lance. I feel the world spinning beneath me and finally my legs give out under me. I fall to the ground, instantly surrounded by a couple of Griffs and a man who died long ago.
“Mom,” Other-Griff says softly, kneeling at my side.
“Don’t call me that. I’m only fifteen. I’m no one’s mom, okay?”
“Right, okay, um, Chelle,” Other-Griff corrects himself. “Are you okay?”
“No,” I answer, looking into his eyes to find the truth.
“Chelle, my dearie,” Old-Lance speaks as he helps me to my feet. “I know this is a hard thing to unnerstan’, but I promise you, Griff-y here issa tellin’ tha truth.”
“How is that even possible?” I ask, clarity starting to come to my mind. “I watched you die.”
“Yeah,” Other Griff states, “about that. You see, sending you back in time had its dangers, which we found out pretty quickly when The Wizard came about. Since it was going to be a little difficult to keep a close eye on you, I had inserted a few robotic bodyguards to fill out the city. The Lance Android was one of them.”
“But,” I stammer, “but…I don’t even know how to make sense of any of this. What the hell was the point in sending me back in the first place?”
“That’s a tad hard to explain, dearie,” Lance says.
“Yeah?” I walk to a nearby bench and settle in to avoid falling for any further swoons.
“Yeah. You see, Mo—Chelle,” Griff began. “You were the one who set all this up. So you could meet my wife.”
“What?” I squint my eyes at him. “That’s just—why—I mean, why me? Why not the older version of me? You know, the version who’s old like Lance here?”
“Well,” Other Griff shuffles his feet, “it’s a little—“
“You died, dearie,” Old Lance answers. “Years ago. I can’t tell you any more without muddying up the time stream.”
“But—“ I stop myself. “But why me?”
“Because you’re my mom,” Griff says, a tear holding out in the corner of his eye.
“I get that. I’m just saying, why this version of me? Why not twenty year old me, or thirty year old me, or whatever.”
“That’s hard to answer without giving away a lot about the life ahead of you, but let’s just say it would be a tad more difficult locating where exactly you are within the time stream past this point.”
“I don’t get it,” I frown. “Are you trying to say I get lost in time?”
“I’ve already said too much,” Griff frowns.
“Wait,” I say after a brief silence. “You said I’m supposed to meet your wife. Why the hell were we in medieval England then?”
Griff clears his throat before a smile reappears on his face, “Aggie,” he yells toward the train.
The unmistakably large frame of the innkeeper appears in the train’s doorway. I stand in excitement as the woman, who still looks exactly like the one who served me my first beer, steps down onto the platform. “Agnes!” I scream, running toward her and wrapping my arms around her tightly.
“Youda thunk her husban’ woulda git that sorta response,” I hear Lance say from behind me. I choose to ignore him. I turn to look back at Other Griff, before returning my attention to Agnes and releasing my grip on her.
“Sorry, I suppose we have yet to officially meet,” I say, extending my hand to her. “I’m Chelle.”
“Oi, we hav met, missy,” Agnes responds. “Ewe wus in ma inn, dontcha member?”
“But you died. I mean, I didn’t see you dead, but—“ I turn and look accusingly at Other Griff.
“Well, actually, we did change her out for a robot when we realized how dangerous The Wizard was, but before that happened, you did get to meet the real Agnes here. That was actually not too long after switching myself out for the metallic version as well.”
“So, then, Geoffrey?” I ask, my heart skipping a beat. “He’s not dead either? Is he my other son or something? Maybe a long lost cousin?”
Other Griff looks down at the floor, kicking the non-existent dirt. “Well,” he stalls. “You see, before Geoffrey was killed, we didn’t actually think The Wizard was capable of that type of thing. We thought he was harmless and, well, yeah. When we realized we were wrong, we were a little too late.”
My heart falls to the floor, along with my jaw.
“Geoffrey’s not related or anything. He was just someone who happened to be really nice to you when you showed up.”
“Oh,” is all I can respond with.
“Look,” Other Griff cuts in. “It’s not like this was supposed to be anything more than a simple little excursion into the past, to see Agnes in her element. I didn’t know—“
“I get it,” I say softly, returning to my bench.
“Chelle, dearie,” Old Lance says yet again.
“What?” I scream in response, not quite certain why I’m suddenly so angry.
“Look, dear,” he stammers.
“What?” I spit out again.
“Well, y’see, you were the one who requested all of this. Requested we let you meet your future daughter-in-law. Asked that we do it when you ran from your parents. You set this all up. You knew something the rest of us all didn’t, about The Wizard and everything,” he says, pausing again.
“What do you want from me?” I scream again. “Spit it out already.”
The group looks at me with wide eyes, staring speechless.
I stand confidently and walk down the platform toward the glowing exit sign in the distance.
“Chelle,” Old Lance yells after me. “It’s not what you think.”
“No?” I yell, turning toward him angrily. “Then tell me, just what is it? I’ve spent the last two months learning how to scam from someone who’s now claiming to be my son, a time traveler with a girlfriend from the past. You tell me what that sounds like to you. Because to me it’s certainly starting to seem like an awful lot of hogwash. And I haven’t even gotten to the rocket-blasting robots, yet!”
Old Lance looks at me and frowns, looking like a reprimanded puppy. Other Griff has the same look on his face.
Finally, Agnes steps forward. “It was mai idee, Chelle, mum. If’n youse is to blame anyones, it is to be me. I thought it wud be bess to meetcha in my ‘ome.”
“Fine,” I say, turning away once again. “Then I blame you.”
Go to Chapter Fifty-Eight