We now find ourselves in an abandoned amusement park. I mean, of course it’s abandoned – in this wreck that civilization had become so many years ago, what location isn’t abandoned – but more to the point, no one else is here. I don’t see any of the other members of the Shark Brigade.
True, it’s early in the evening, and visibility is poor, but it’s not that dark. Besides, why can’t I at least hear them? Are they elsewhere?
It may be that I have been taken to a time long after those events I just witnessed. Wallace’s group may no longer exist. But then, for all I know, this was before that time, before they met. The brain worm has no way for me to ask, so I simply look out through Wallace’s eyes as he walks around.
If he chances to look at a mirror, perhaps I’ll know the answer. Once I see how world weary his expression may have become. Unless that’s another blind spot. Honestly, this technology is not as helpful as I’d hoped it would be. But at least, for the moment, I know that I am still Sophie.
Hopefully this won’t become another loss of identity episode.
Wallace walks past the carousel of what I can now identify as Lakeside Amusement Park (courtesy of a name written on a nearby booth). He seems to be heading towards a structure identifying itself as a “Fortune House”. My uncle really didn’t seem like the type of person to get caught up in the supernatural though. Perhaps he knows that there’s a chess set inside the place, which might help take his mind off of things?
We go inside. There is a table, some chairs, and a crystal ball. Wallace pokes around for a moment before turning and shouting, “All right, I’m here! What’s this all about?”
At first, nothing happens. Then, things get strange. That is, more strange.
There is a shimmering effect, much like what you would see if you were dehydrated, and looking off towards the horizon in the desert. Wallace takes a step back, seemingly by reflex, and then we are no longer alone.
There is a woman standing in the room with me. With him, rather, with Wallace. And then the shimmering effect disappears.
Her features are hard to make out. Along with the dim lighting, she wears a large overcoat, has a fedora pulled down low over her face, and sunglasses. Do I know her? Surely this isn’t my mother.
“Who the hell are you?” Wallace demands.
The woman sighs in relief. “Oh good, you got my message,” she remarks. The voice isn’t immediately familiar.
Wallace raises his arm, the one with the mechanical prosthesis, pointing towards the new arrival. “I asked you a question.”
She raises her index finger towards her chin as if to consider her response, before saying, “For the sake of convenience, let’s call me Ms. Ketchup.”
The woman spoke softly, so I’m not sure if she actually said Ms. Catch-Up, but given the Mr. Mustard issue, the condiment name made more sense to me. Either way, much like me, Wallace was less than impressed.
“Are you the one who left that note? Directing me here at this time? You’re lucky I have a watch. What’s this all about?” he growled.
Ms. Ketchup clasped her arms behind her back, and smiled. “Oh, Gal. If only you knew. It’s actually about Sophie.”
If I could have gasped, I would have. This wasn’t helping with my identity-fusion issue. Of course, all Wallace said was, “I don’t know any Sophie. Whose brigade was she with?”
Ms. Ketchup shook her head. “Sorry. I’m only here to deliver a message. Sophie shouldn’t let Cait cut the cake at the wedding. That is all.”
My hands curl into fists. Wallace’s hands, rather. “What? What wedding? Who the devil are Sophie and Cait?!” he says, becoming increasingly agitated.
“You’ll know in time,” Ms. Ketchup soothed. “Or rather, you’ll forget, but this memory will become relevant to Sophie later in time. Apologies for the confusion. Bye, Gal!”
She turned to leave. It looked like she had blonde hair.
Wallace reached out to stop her, and I nearly spun her around to face me, I was so upset. “Oh, no,” we declared, moving instead to block the doorway. “You don’t get to call me out here, only to pull this enigmatic routine. Not after everything I’ve been through! So what’s the deal? Spill.”
Ms. Ketchup pulled her hat down lower, and I got the impression she was using it to buy time, to think of how to respond. At last, she cleared her throat.
“I suppose if you’ll forget anyway… very well. You see, time travel has some limitations. We cannot go back to change events directly. We invariably end up causing the very thing we’re trying to prevent. Very irritating.”
I was becoming more confused than ever. “Time travel?” I shot back gruffly.
“Mmm,” she said. “We’ve found a loophole though. While I cannot change anything in this time with you, Gal, I can influence the future, which is observing this present. Even though both of those things exist in my past.”
I look up, as if expecting to see a fly, ready to attack. How else could someone be observing us in the here and now? Because, of course, the brain worm hasn’t been invented yet, so there is no way for Wallace to know, the way I do. This woman is trying to change my future.
Seeing nothing above, I look back, narrowing my eyes at Ms. Ketchup. “Time travel exists?”
“And where is your proof?”
She chuckles. “My appearance here isn’t enough for you?”
Wallace’s hands go to my hips. “No, so here is the proof. There’s an event I want you to change in MY past.”
The woman sighs again and wrings her hands. “No. Oh, I was right in the first place. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Well, you did. So, if you want me to pass on your message–”
“Look,” she cut in. “You don’t get it. The message, it’s already sent, and I had to do a lot of calculations to make that work. To ensure that even if the cake incident doesn’t happen at the wedding, I’ll still come back here to prevent it.”
“Meaning you’re using me for your own selfish ends.”
“I suppose it could look like that from your perspective,” Ms. Ketchup yielded. “Sorry. But it’s not my wedding I’m hoping to fix. It’s all for Sophie. Try to understand. Please, are we done here yet?”
I lean in. “No. No! You’re still hiding something, I can tell in the tone of your voice. What haven’t you told me yet?”
She tugs on her hat again. “Oh, I really can’t tell you THAT.”
“Well, I’m not letting you leave here until you do. And if you try any fancy teleporting, I’ll simply grab hold. You can’t get away, so tell me.”
Ms. Ketchup pinched the bridge of her nose, nearly dislodging her sunglasses. “Fine, fine. Here’s the thing.” I barely hear her mutter under her breath, “I only hope I don’t break all of time and space by telling you this.”
I peer at her. She leans in closer. Her voice is barely above a whisper, as she says, “In the future, I’m also the Narrator of your story.”
With that, a rip appears in the air beside us, a tear in reality, and–
The entry you’ve just read is actually part of the Serial Fiction April Fools Day Swap, 2018. This non-canon post was written by Gregory Taylor, who normally writes a serial on time travel called “Virga Mysteries”.
For what concerns Shatterbrain, the normal story will resume soon.
On the other side of the joke, I wrote a piece for Rev. Fitz‘s Existential Terror and Breakfast, an absolutely unique webserial which could pass as the work of Kafka if it wasn’t a bit too depressing.
Thanks for reading, and remember the best way to support your favourite serial novelist is to tell all your friends about them!