I Met My Brother From a Different Timeline (Short Story)

I think I met my brother from a different timeline. I was hanging out at a cafe in Tokyo, near where I live. I like to study or write there sometimes. My brothers, Colin (23) and Ryan (17) have talked for ages about coming but they haven’t got round to it yet. So imagine my surprise when Colin walks into the cafe.

Of course, I was super surprised and yelled for him to come over. He responded when I shouted his name and he came to sit in front of me. I asked what he was doing here and he looked at me, confused, saying he was getting coffee.

“Sorry, but how do I know you?” he asked.

Now my little brother teased me a lot growing up. He calmed down as he got older, but all through our teen years I was the butt of every joke, he pretended he thought I smelled bad, pretty typical dumb sibling stuff. But this Colin was polite and shy, as though I was a total stranger. I asked him again why he was in Japan and why he hadn’t told me, and he just acted like he had no idea who I was.

It was definitely him, from his hair to his long fingers to the mole on his cheek. And Colin was his name.

“I’m your sister, dude! Why are you acting so dumb?” I asked, almost losing my temper. This idiotic joke was getting old and I was upset he hadn’t told me he was coming all this way. He blinked and said he didn’t have a sister. Well, not anymore. His sister died when he was a baby.

His sister had the same name as me.

I felt weird, like nothing was real. For a moment I just sat and stared at him in utter disbelief. It couldn’t be a prank. My brother isn’t that good an actor. He was nervous and twitchy, the kind of behaviour of someone who’s a bit freaked out, and who could blame him? Some random woman was claiming to be his sister.

Even more weirdly, when I was about three or four I ran around with a pen in my mouth. A dumb thing to do, but I was a toddler. I fell over and the pen went into my throat. My mum took me to the hospital at the time and I was put on a drip and everything turned out fine.

According to this version of Colin, his sister hadn’t made it.

I told him everything about himself, where he was born, where he’d grown up, the shows we liked when we were little. I told him our parents had just moved to Corsica, because they did a couple of months ago. He stopped me and said that his parents (our parents?) were still in Scotland. So it looked like that was different, too.

We talked for what felt like hours. I could tell he couldn’t really believe what was going on. I couldn’t either. This man was identical to my little brother, right down to the awkwardly grown hair on his chin and the way his sharp elbows sat on the table. It wasn’t Colin, but it was.

It was even stranger when he told me our stepdad was completely fine. In my timeline, he’s been ill, very ill, which is part of the reason they moved to the sunnier Corsica. According to this Colin, he never fell and hurt his head which had ultimately led to brain damage.

Colin got up to go to the bathroom and never came back. I waited for ages, then went to look for him. The cubicle was empty. He was gone. I guess he went back to his timeline. I imagine him sometimes, coming back to our table in the cafe and finding me gone as well. Sometimes I wonder if his memory of the encounter was wiped, or if he ever thinks about the time he met his sister who, in another timeline, was still alive.

restaurant-691046_1280

The Queen’s Alchemist Part 5: The Forgotten

mountain-690104_1280

Part 5: The Forgotten

From the makeshift shelter, it was difficult to tell if the howling in the mountains was a hungry pack of wolves or just the wind. A dead horse lay half-buried in the snow, its legs twisted at odd angles and its frozen eyes black and lifeless.

Three shivering soldiers sat hunched beneath a hill of snow, which they’d gathered up with calloused, cold fingers. From the Giants’ side, it looked like just another mound of snow on the white landscape. They hoped.

James growled in pain, and tried to conceal it by biting down hard on his leather glove. The soldiers either side of him threw him anxious looks. Despite the howling snowstorm, any human sound could carry and reach the ears of their enemies. Burning pain throbbed in James’ left leg; it had succumbed to frostbite after ice had broken beneath his step, and he was loath to take off his boot and assess the full damage. He imagined raw, blackened skin, perhaps toes missing; it was difficult to tell, for anything below his ankle was completely numb, rendered useless for walking.

“They’re not coming back for us,” the youngest soldier muttered, his teeth chattering so badly he had to push his jaw into his folded arms to stop them.

“They think we’re dead,” James agreed, glad for a chance to speak and ignore the burning agony in his leg. “What’s your name, son?”

“Garred, sir.”

The soldier at James’ right side gave an impatient snort. “Great time for introductions,” he muttered. He was clean shaven and shivered under his helmet.

“A man’s last moments should be comfortable, and with friends,” James shot back, wishing they could at least build a fire.
The ground rumbled, sending flurries of snow tumbling around them from the shelter. The soldiers glanced at each other in alarm, but James sighed, almost glad that it would soon be over.

“Your name, boy!” James hissed through clenched teeth at another young soldier.

“Harry,” the bald-faced boy whispered.

A second rumble.

“Well, Harry, Garred,” James IV reached for his bow, trying to steady his trembling, freezing fingers. The younger men watched as the Giant Slayer pulled an arrow from his back. Another rumble shook the ground beneath them – closer, louder. “Are you ready to fight for Atharron one last time?”

Garred gave a quiet sniffle. “We’re going to die.”

“Aye,” James was unable to stop a wild smile stretching from ear to ear, “fighting for our kingdom. There is no finer way to go, gentlemen.”

A roar rumbled above them, and the soldiers trembled. The shadow turned the white snow a dark grey, and the stench of body hair and skin almost made them choke.

“For Atharron!” James IV roared, and aimed his bow upwards. The surrounding soldiers gave brave war cries and bounded from the shelter, wielding frozen swords. The arrow whistled through the air but the angry bellow of the Giant made James’ heart sink. His arrow had missed its target. His vision was becoming blurred, and he was vaguely aware of Garred and Harry bravely fighting in their last moments. James struggled to his feet, and almost collapsed under his useless foot. No! I will not die sitting on my arse.

Arrows at his back and a lion’s roar in his heart, James glanced back through the mountains, where the tiniest of glows on the horizon showed Atharron, his Lady’s kingdom. “For Queen Cassandra!” he bellowed. He barely heard his own war cry above the overwhelming crashing of battle with what was left of the Giants.

The Queen’s Alchemist Part 4

featured

Part 4: The Queen’s Alchemist

Queen Cassandra watched from her balcony, forcing her trembling hands to steady. It was her first public execution, and the sight of Theo’s thin, convulsing body shudder into death made her feel sick to her stomach. Did it usually take this long for the poor souls’ last breath to escape their bodies? The crowd cheered as the first of rain sploshed onto the streets below.

After several moments where Theodore Bartholomew Ashencroft’s body shuddered to its final silence, his head limp, the crowd dispersed, already bored, their mundane lives continuing after only a moment of entertainment.

Queen Cassandra exhaled, and realised how tightly she’d been clenching her fists. A guard either side of her got to their feet, and she followed, her emerald robes flowing behind her like seaweed in an ocean. The winter air was damp, and the heaviest of the rain came as they reached the pearl balcony doors.

Queen Cassandra maintained her refined, queenly posture as she made for the royal quarters. Guards bowed, their armour clinking steel as she passed, and her slippers tapped on the carpeted corridor. When her guard closed the door behind her, the strong demeanour disappeared. Queen Cassandra buried her face into her silk gloves and wept.

“My lady?”

Queen Cassandra almost jumped out of her skin at the soft voice from the corner of the room. She quickly straightened and dabbed at her eyes, although she knew, with a sinking heart, that the speaker had already seen her weakness.

A young man stepped from the shadows, and her heart slowly calmed back to its usual rhythm.

“I’m sorry if I frightened you,” the Queen’s Alchemist whispered. She responded with a sad smile, and reached for him with trembling hands. There was no one in Atharron she’d rather see right now.

“Are you all right?” The young man lit a floating candle with a wave of his hand, and Queen Cassandra’s large, stained eyes watched, half in fear, half in admiration. “I am now,” she whispered back, as she grasped his fingers in hers.

“There is no need to be scared, my lady. What is it you fear?”

“Nothing, I’m…” Cassandra rubbed her arms, which suddenly stippled with goosebumps. “I just witnessed my first execution.”
“Ah,” the Alchemist gave a sympathetic sigh. “Yes, it can be rather… disturbing the first time.”

He gently pulled his hand from hers. The warmth of the candle flickered close to Cassandra’s face, filling her with a sudden peace. “I know the teachings say that magic is evil, but…” she watched as the Alchemist smiled, lighting more candles around the room with a wave of his fingertips. “I can’t imagine my life without you.”

“We have been best friends for all your life, my Queen. I cannot imagine any kind of life without you, either.”

Cassandra sat with a sigh onto the four-poster bed. Without her guards, her advisors and that beastly Uldrid, the pretence was gone. It was as if an enormous weight of the whole of Atharron had been lifted from her shoulders.

“I am weak,” she uttered eventually, unable to stop her voice from trembling. All the responsibility, all the pressure of ruling was finally flooding from her. Her voice shook as she spoke in a half-whisper. “I’m not fit to rule Atharron. Perhaps my father was wrong. He should have made Anaya queen.”

“My dear Cassandra,” the Alchemist took the queen’s chin in his slender hand and turned her tear-streaked face to look at him. “Your father, the good King before you, made a fine choice choosing your pure heart and marrying your sister to King Roderic. You are a beauty unlike any other, an inspiration to us all, and a fine leader of this great kingdom.”

Queen Cassandra felt her Alchemist’s warm breath on her face, and her eyes half-closed, under his spell. But he drew away, his cool fingers withdrawing, and the crimson cloak he always wore floating behind him, slowly, as if underwater.

“Something happened earlier.” Queen Cassandra sniffed.
The Alchemist didn’t turn round, and the pattering rain on the window drowned out any sound he might have made in response.

“I felt angry. Angrier than I’ve ever been. I broke a vase.” Cassandra shuddered at the memory of her high-pitched, angered shriek when she’d lost her temper at Uldrid. “That has never happened before. I don’t have a temper, yet I frightened my guards. I frightened myself.”

“Pressures can overcome us all, my Lady. Even a Queen,” the Alchemist reassured her. His head was still turned, however, and she didn’t see him smile.