I want to start posting flash fiction and other short stories on my blog. I’ll invite other authors to contribute. For the first story, I thought about an old project of mine.
A while ago I had an idea for a time travel novel, tentatively titled Crisscross. It was to be set in the small French village I had created for my mystery novel series, The Outsiders. Everything else about the story was going to be totally different from my other books.
I took the characters and setting and sketched out the idea in a short story format for my blog. I don’t know how to classify this short story. Is it flash fiction? Not sure. I also don’t know if Crisscross will ever develop into a full book. It could be fun to write. I’d love to get your thoughts on the idea, the setting, the characters.
Was the old man, Bertrand, right? Had they really traveled back in time?
Nicholas Brandt and his dog, Wolfie, had trekked up the hillside to the troglodyte cave dwellings the way they’d done every day since they’d arrived in Reynier, France, three weeks ago. But today things had gone awry. Wolfie had heard something in the woods, took off after it, and followed it into one of the caves. Of course, Nicholas had gone in after him. Inside, he found a stranger—a man he’d seen in town. He’d heard whispers about him–a fellow named Romaine–being a pickpocket and a gypsy. The ‘awry’ part was what happened afterwards. They’d all heard a strange sound, followed by rattling. Nicholas, having grown up in California, immediately thought earthquake. The next thing he knew, they were lying on the floor and regaining consciousness along with another man and two women.
He sat now on a boulder outside the peculiar cave he’d just crawled out of, and scratched his head while he waited for the women to emerge. This place looked like Reynier—limestone hills, the Loir River at the base of the hill, and the caves all around—and yet he couldn’t find the house rooftops that were normally visible from here.
A loud clash of thunder drew his attention toward the ominous clouds and setting sun. He shook his head as another thought occurred to him. In his time period—1980—the hill trail was difficult to maneuver in broad daylight and under good weather conditions. If this was the past, the trails would likely be less defined; that meant clouds dumping their burden on them could cause mudslides and put them in grave danger.
He stood up. “We should get down the hill before the storm hits,” he said to the old man Bertrand and the gypsy-man, Romaine. The three men had already picked out time-period-appropriate clothes from the bag Bertrand had brought, and changed into them outside while the women changed inside by torchlight.
Romaine asked, “Should I go back in and prod them?”
Before he could answer Nicholas heard a moan and turned toward the mouth of the cave.
Veronique, a woman of around 50, crawled out, then plopped on her bottom. “The indignity,” she said. “I feel like an old bear coming out of hibernation. I probably smell like one, too, wearing these old rags.”
The lovely Sylvie, Bertrand’s granddaughter, followed. Evidently, from what Nicholas could put together, Bertrand and the two women had traveled through the cave portal at the exact moment as Nicholas, his dog, and Romaine. Bertrand had expected to time travel and had come prepared, but even he was confused because his group had come from the village of Mythe-sur-Vienne and the year 2010.
As of yet, none of them knew what year they’d landed in.
Padding along in silence, they reached the middle tier of the hillside. There, Nicholas recognized buildings that housed the town hall and café of his time, but no streets.
Smoke billowed past, carrying aromas of suppers and making his stomach growl. He groaned. What would they use for money in this time period? He glanced upward and tried to superimpose the Reynier hillside of 1980 onto this earlier version.
He gasped. The difference couldn’t be starker. In the fading light, he could make out chimneys bristling everywhere. The hillside resembled a pincushion. Whereas, in his time, many of the caves were open for spelunking tours or converted into lovely houses; that was not true now. Some of the cave-dwellings had a ledge only a few feet wide before their doors. At the extreme edge of them, he saw real troglodytes, perched like rows of vultures and staring down at them.
Nicholas had visited Reynier’s museum when he’d first arrived after leaving his job in the U.S. The village had originally been established by apathetic cave-dwellers. That description seemed inadequate.
Sylvie bumped his sleeve and he jumped. “Oh, sorry,” she said.
“You know,” Nicholas whispered, “I thought we were being inconspicuous. Now I feel like we’re the main attraction in the theatre. Are you getting ominous vibes?”
“I certainly am.” She pointed to a trio of long-haired men who were approaching from the west. “Do you see the fangs on them?”
“What’s wrong with fangs?”
They turned to face Romaine. He grinned at them.