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Three
The Doorstep


“You know your brother needs to those samples,” she said. “So just…come back alive, okay?”

“I’m on it, Madge. Have some confidence in me,” he answered. She breathed deeply and put her hands in her pockets. Madgelie primarily communicated in sighs when Gilbert and Alfred were involved. Gilbert headed over to Gringolet and patted his side. Around the bael’s neck was a finished voice box. It was a prototype, but it worked.

“So… you think we can do this?” he asked Gringolet. The output was static for a moment.

“It’s not like you to doubt yourself,” Gringolet responded in a crackly monotone. Gilbert grinned every time Gringolet spoke.

“Let’s get going then,” Gilbert said climbing on. He pulled at his helmet straps, put on his facemask and plucked the bowstring. He then carefully lay both arrows across his lap and studied them, looking for defects. The arrows were more like long syringes that were going to extract samples from the monster. The creature itself was made up of incredibly dense dark matter and nothing existed that could hold it until recently. Alfred explained to his brother the more complex points of making a crystal that let off an energy buffer that would be unaffected by the density of dark matter. The ends of the arrows were fashioned with dark matter to pierce the creature’s skin. Attached to the hollow arrow shaft was a crystal globe that was covered with a highly magnetized sheet of metal. Gilbert could draw it back from a distance using a magnetized glove.

Shooting, out maneuvering the creature, and retrieving the arrows was going to be a tough job, but the pair of intrepid fliers had few worries. If they stopped to think about it too long, they would hesitate so they only acted. Taking to the sky, they headed for the creature’s current location. It wasn’t far, only a few miles away, amid the ruins of what was the largest metropolis in the country.

The creature was huge: a lumbering mass with stubbly legs. It would retain that form for only so long, once it believed it was under attack it would change shape. The dark matter the creature was made up of changed form quickly despite its density, which was why it was so imperative that Gilbert obtain a sample. They had to understand what they were up against.

“Target in sight,” Gringolet reported. Gilbert nodded and pulled his scarf closer around his face. He readied his bow and set the arrows in place. If he could get the first shot without being seen, they’d be starting off well. Gilbert readied for the first strike.

“Almost,” he mumbled. He pulled back, the gears in the bow magnifying the potential energy in the string. He saw an opening; he released the arrow and it sailed right for the monster. It roared in pain as the tiny vial made its mark, much to Gilbert’s surprise. How could such a small pinprick harm such a large creature? Hopefully the samples they collect would help ascertain why. The monster transformed into a smaller and more angular being, it would be quicker and harder to hit, not to mention it would also be on the offensive. Long, black arms lashed out just missing the flying pair.

“Careful, Gringolet, or you’ll end up with a mechanical wing like Tema,” Gilbert cautioned. Static came through to the radio, Gringolet’s form of grumbling.

“I’m not some sort of hatchling,” he replied. Gringolet flew higher than the creature could reach and barrel rolled to the side. Gilbert knew he had to get another clear shot, but was unsure of what maneuvers to use to get one. Gringolet thought a little quicker on his wings. He began to fly up again but began to spiral downward, each time making the circle a little wider. Gilbert left the flying to him, and readied his bow for the shot. Gringolet made for a clear shot, and Gilbert took it. Another vial sailed straight through the black skin on the creature’s shoulder.
Gilbert grinned. Now all that was left was the retrieval. He readied his magnetic glove and set the power on high. The one on the back was probably finished drawing. He went for that one first. As Gringolet rounded back again, Gilbert made a reaching movement for it and it was drawn right to his hand, metal base first. Gilbert made sure no part of the sample was lost. It turned out this was an unneeded precaution; the dark matter seemed to have coagulated in the tube. It wasn’t going anywhere. He wrapped it in a bit of padding and placed it in his side bag. The one on the monster’s shoulder was going to be harder to get.

“Just get me in a few hundred yards of it, the glove will do the rest,” he told Gringolet. The bael rushed forward, dodging wild swipes. The monster wasn’t very coordinated, but it certainly was destructive when it landed a hit. Gilbert reached for the second arrow and it sailed to his waiting hand.

“All right, let’s go,” he said. Gringolet didn’t need to be told twice. Together they flew as fast as the wind would carry them back to Alfred and Madgelie.

-

Alfred turned the crystal vials over and over unable to express what he was thinking. Nothing could describe what he held in his hand. Dark matter that was somehow part of an animated being. He was equally speechless and awed by his brother. Who else would have volunteered for this job? Who else would have been successful? He gazed at his brother’s wind burned face with admiration.

“Amazing work! I knew you could do this!” Albert exclaimed.

“It doesn’t mean a thing if we can’t use what we find to kill it. Have you and Madgelie named it yet?” Gilbert replied.

“No,” Madgelie interjected. “We wanted to contact Professor Coolidge to study it with us and then we’d name it.”

Gilbert rolled his eyes, “That woman has been missing for years. Why don’t you ask her daughter and her husband to help you instead? Aren’t they highly respected experts in temporal science and spatial theory?”

“They are. In fact, they are part of the group that studies the destruction zones that the monster has left. They’ve found out more than anyone else about the creature,” Madgelie said.

“Speaking of which, they noted the monster is circling a certain area,” Alfred added. “They’ve established a base in a nearby town.”

“I don’t want any more civilians added to the casualties. The monster may get more hostile. I’m going to ask that civilian scientists go study other areas of interest until we figure out a safer way to gather more information.”

“Why? What is it with you and being so hesitant and timid about letting others put themselves on the line?” Gilbert shouted. “I’m sorry Madgelie, I know you’re the Empress, but you’re being too soft. You can’t lead people into the future if you’re too afraid to go ahead and let them take risks!”

Alfred stood up in alarm, “Gilbert!”

“No she had to hear it! I’m tired if it! You’re always holding Alfred back, you’re holding me back, but I will not let you hold everyone else back. We’re going to forge a new future with or without you!”

Madgelie glared at him, “What would make me different from my uncle if I pushed ahead with no regard for the people?”

“That was different. He didn’t care about people or about this country.”

“How is it different? He wanted to better our country by expanding its borders. I want to better our country by giving them technology that no one else has, that people have only dreamed about. I’ve taken a risk. I almost lost you, Alfred, the lives of many scientists and it’s resulted in the death of thousands. Right now, even though I’m trying to make it right, I’m no different from my uncle.”

Gilbert fell silent and lowered his chin, though his eyes fixed on her.

“I think that by attempting to minimize the amount of civilian deaths, I’m trying to be more considerate than my predecessors,” she added. “Tell them to begin evacuation. We’ll be moving in the Military Science Army to watch over the situation until it is safe for them to return.”

“You’ll compromise their work! You’ll take away their livelihood!”

“If they want stay they can file a form for temporary service in the MSA. I’m not discussing this anymore, least of all with you,” Madgelie said.

“Madge…” Alfred began. She shook her head and left the room. Alfred looked over at his brother and narrowed his eyes.

“What?” Gilbert snapped. “Everything I’ve said is true.”

“You will learn Gil, that there are some things worth more than a great discovery,” he said.

“What? Like what, Alfred?” Gilbert said.

“You know what I’m talking about,” his older brother said.

“I do. But you dare not speak of it. Shows how important it is to you.”

“You’ve never thought of anyone outside of yourself. Madgelie is thinking of an entire nation.”

“I worry about people who matter: you, Madgelie, and Gringolet. Do I need to worry about anyone else?”

“More people exist in this world than just your close circle of friends.”

“And they don’t matter. They’re just taking up space, air and resources. Maybe it was a good thing that this creature came.”

Gilbert turned to leave, but Alfred grabbed his arm and spun him around. The back of his hand connected with the side of Gilbert’s face. Gilbert mouth hung open as he slowly turned to look at his brother. He hadn’t expected that, Alfred had never so much as raised is voice to him before.

“I’ve got to go,” Gilbert said in a daze. He absently walked toward the door, knocking over a chair as he moved.

“Where are you going?” Alfred asked.

“To start informing the scientists of the evacuation plans,” Gilbert said. Alfred collapsed into a chair as his younger brother slammed the door behind him. Had he raised Gilbert right? He doubted it. The boy was sullen, lonely and had no regard for human life if today was any indication. Or maybe he was too caught up in the big picture to care properly for others. Alfred hoped that something, someone would change his brother for good. Maybe a friend, all he needed was one good friend and maybe his outlook would change just a little.

-

The sun tried to shine through the thick gloom, but Molly knew that the sun wouldn’t even touch the tops of the trees that day. The sun hadn’t even cast a haze through the clouds in almost a year. The monster appeared last summer. She had been walking down a pathway in the woods searching for something sublime in the silence of trees. The balmy breezes of summer were always inspiring to her. She had been in a creative rut at the time, she longed for something beautiful amid all the rigid, crass reasonings of the scientific minds she found herself surrounded by. Molly was an artistic soul, theorems and cruel abstractions did not appeal to her in the slightest. In fact, sometimes she hated science. It destroyed the very things it tried to understand.

That warm day in the summer, the sky clouded over and she ran home thinking that it was going to rain. No rain came. Despite the constant cloud cover since that day, there hadn’t been a substantial rain since the monster arrived. The country was in the middle of a drought. One year after the monster appeared Molly was inside a house that had become her parent’s home base the past three months. It was one of the few buildings in the small town that hadn’t been destroyed yet. She rushed around the room looking for her emergency bag full of rations, clothes and sketchbooks. The thirteen year old was once again in a creative slump, but maybe on the evacuation train, she would sketch something that was of interest and spark her to move forward.
The girl sighed and put on her trench coat and steel-toed rain boots. She hefted her large pack on her back before heading down the stairs. Her mother and father whispered to each other and stopped at her arrival in the room. Her mother, Rachel Brenan, presented her daughter with her motorcycle helmet.

“Be careful sweetie,” she said, kissing the girl’s forehead. “Don’t ride too fast and watch for baels.”

“I know, Mom,” Molly answered. Her father, Isaac Brenan handed Molly her riding gloves.

“Listen to everything the conductor tells you,” he added.

“I’m not a kid, I know these things,” she replied.

“We’ll come to you in just a few more days,” Rachel told her. “Mother is coming to the site, so we have to get her set up here—”

“Grandmama is coming here? After she disappeared for years?” Molly cried. “Now I have to stay!”

“She’s here to look at the monster she won’t have time to catch up with you. She’ll probably come to visit another time,” her mother explained.

Molly tried to hide her disappointment by putting on her helmet, “Bye Mom, bye Dad. See you in a few days.”

Molly went outside the door into the thin, grey light of day. In the gravel driveway sat her motorbike that she kept well oiled and finely tuned. She couldn’t wait until her parents let her buy a real motorcycle, but until then her motorbike was fine. The girl sat astride her vehicle as she pulled on her riding goggles. Twisting the key, she started the engine. She started down the street, silently bidding the crumbled remains of the town good bye. For all the forlorn surroundings, she found an odd sort of beauty in their tragedy.

Her home was by a forest, her parents made sure that nature was always near to their artistically inclined daughter. Molly was grateful they considered that much. There were always many interesting things to sketch. Lab coats, specimens and beakers were only so interesting for so long. At least now she was highly advanced in sketching lab based still lifes.

Because they were so close to the forest, it meant that the train station was all the way across town. The streets near her house were quiet but as she got closer and closer to the middle of town the streets got busier. Molly was able to dodge in between traffic; missing a bus here, a car there. The exhaust, fumes and shouting filled the dreary day with an air of frustration. Anything was better than the constant depressing lull or screaming about in fear. Molly arrived at the train station in good time. She stopped to take off her riding goggles when she heard a screech of an animal up ahead.

“Look out!” a crackly voice cried. Molly jumped off her bike and out of the way as a bael crashed into her motorbike.

“You okay, Gringolet?” its rider asked. Molly was afraid to look at what remained of her bike.

“I am fine,” the bael replied. “I am afraid the lady’s vehicle did not survive.”

It turned to her and lowered its head to her level, “I am sorry, are you all right?”

Molly was speechless. Her bike was completely totaled, the rider didn’t seem to care, but the bael was speaking?

“What’s…what’s going on here?” she stammered.

“Please do not be alarmed. I can assure you that you are not losing your mind. My name is Gringolet. I speak with the help of a voice box. I would like to know if you are injured,” the bael replied.

“I-I’m fine,” she managed to say. With a level of dismay she turned her eyes back to her bike. She stood up and ran over to the twisted metal that was her motorbike.

“That was my only way of getting around,” she said, putting her hands on her hips.

“You have two legs, you can walk,” the rider called after her. Molly snorted and tossed her head. Before she could speak Gringolet chided his passenger.

“Must you be so rude to the lady, Gilbert?” he said.

“Must you always be against me?” Gilbert replied.

“I am sorry, my rider is a very rude boy. I would have trained him better, but I was only recently given the gift of human speech,” Gringolet explained. Gilbert muttered about regretting the invention of the voice box.

“I accept your apology. Whenever your friend decides to apologize, just let him know that it’s pre accepted,” Molly said. With that she turned to leave.

“That animal had more manners than he did,” she said to herself. Inside, the train station was packed with people. Molly didn’t force her way in, but stayed a little distance back from the door.

“The train will be here shortly, if you will all wait outside, we’ll be evacuating people with the last names A to B first. We’ll call you by letter afterward,” a voice over the loud speaker said. Molly stepped back and allowed most of the crowd to leave. Her last name was Brenan, so she would be among the first boarded on the train. She quietly wondered why this wasn’t better organized, but kept her thoughts to herself. It was a last minute enterprise; it couldn’t be helped she supposed.

As soon as the exiting crowd thinned, she walked inside. It wasn’t nearly as packed, and she took a seat on a bench. She tried to think of something. Maybe an impromptu sketch would do her good. She ran over some images in her mind, trying to come up with an image to draw, something to occupy the time while she waited. Nothing came, only what seemed like a flat line. She drew that line along the spine edge of every page in her sketchbook. She tapped her foot impatiently on the ground. Something had to happen soon. She had to be inspired, get angry, but she wanted to feel something.

Someone sitting next to her broke her reverie. She breathed in sharply and crossed her arms as she realized it was Gilbert. He took off his helmet and put his goggles on top of his head and breathed loudly. She didn’t acknowledge him and instead she turned up her nose. He didn’t seem keen on looking her in the face exactly; he kept on looking away and drumming his gloved fingers on his helmet. He swallowed and opened his mouth and closed it several times. Molly turned to him, getting a good look at his face for the first time. Red hair, green eyes, a few freckles, fumbling for words. She was a little jealous of his hair and eyes, he looked so snappy compared to her short, dark brown hair and boring brown eyes. He had to be a few years older than her, though his manners were certainly quite a few years behind. She noted the Military Science Army insignia on his jacket sleeve.

What is he doing in the MSA at such a young age? she wondered.

“Is my apology really already accepted?” he asked finally. She was confused at the question at first, but then remembered what she had told him before. She nodded, but kept her arms crossed.

“Then I will be sure to get you a military issue motorbike to replace the one I crushed. I’ll have all the military tags removed,” Gilbert told her. She blinked and then put her hands in her lap and grinned.

“Can you make it a motorcycle instead? I’ve always wanted one,” she told him. He turned to her in surprise.

“Are you serious?” he said. “I’ll get you the bike and you’ll…listen, lady…girl…”

“My name is Molly,” she corrected sweetly.

“Okay, Molly. I’m putting my neck out to try and do something a little nice for you. Can you just accept what I offered?” he asked. Molly breathed deeply and shook her head.

“All right. I’ll accept the bike. But if you crash into this one, you’ll have to make the next one a motorcycle.”

“There won’t be a next time, trust me,” Gilbert told her. “So…why are you here?”

“I’m evacuating like everyone else,” she answered. “Well, not you. I see you’re in the MSA. How’d you manage that? You’ve got to be what, fourteen?”

“I’m…forget it,” he said. Molly got the sense that he wasn’t keen on answering questions.

“Well, if you’re obviously not here to evacuate, what are you doing here?” Molly prodded.

“I’m waiting for someone,” he told her.

“Aren’t we all?” she said. Gilbert snorted and crossed his legs.

“You improve slightly upon acquaintance,” Molly said with a smile. “But the difference is very slight.”

When he didn’t reply she turned to look at him. He gave her a sideways glance and then focused on his boots.

“What’s your whole name?” he asked.

“Why?” she asked.

“Don’t be difficult! I can’t replace your bike if I don’t know who you are.”

She grinned, he really wasn’t so bad; he was trying to do something nice. It seemed like he didn’t know exactly how to talk civilly to her.

“My name is Molly Brenan,” she told him. He turned to face her fully.

“Molly Brenan, as in Isaac and Rachel Brenan’s daughter?” he asked.

“Yeah. I guess my parents are pretty well known. My grandmother too,” the girl added.

“Professor Elizabeth Coolidge is your grandmother? That’s actually who I’m waiting for,” he said. “I admire her work so much. She taught my brother everything he knows.”

“So… your brother is her protégé, Alfred…Alfred Prufrock, right?”

“Yes,” Gilbert answered. “Wow, small world, huh?”

“Yeah. Well now that we know we’re practically related—” Molly said.

“We’re not.”

“Well, we know each other pretty well I think.”

“People we are related to know each other well. I don’t know you at all.”

“Look, can you just please, please, please try to get me a motorcycle. I mean you do owe me.”

“Why you—I don’t owe you anything!”

“Fine, fine. I won’t ask again.”

“You’re an ungrateful person, you know,” Gilbert said. “Most people would be happy I’m offering to replace the motorbike at all.”

“I’m not most people,” Molly replied. Gilbert snorted again. Molly only grinned and sighed thoughtfully.

“When you see my grandmother can you tell her I said hello?” she asked. “I haven’t seen her in ages.”

Gilbert was silent for a while. Then he looked up at the station’s tiled ceiling, “Sure. I’ll tell her.”

“Thank you,” she answered. Molly had no idea what to think of this boy exactly. Gilbert was pretty smart, he had to be if he was an MSA cadet. If he worked closely with her grandmother, he had to be quite knowledgeable about temporal sciences. Molly gazed at him from under the brim of her helmet.

“What?” he asked. She shook her head and stared straight ahead. A train whistle blew in the distance and Molly picked up her pack.

“It was nice talking to you,” she said. He nodded once in response, his eyes focusing anywhere but on her face. The train hissed as it pulled into the station and she walked to a line where people whose name began with ‘B’ were to line up. As others were boarding, one person was getting off the train. Molly couldn’t help but stare: she was stately, dressed in strange foreign robes, her gray hair was short and curled. That woman was certainly her grandmother. In her arms was a small girl with dark brown hair. Molly, against her better judgment, ran out of the line and chased after her.

“Grandmama!” she cried. The woman stopped and turned.

“Molly? Oh, my sweet girl!” the older woman said.

She held out her free arm to give the girl a hug. Elizabeth kissed her granddaughter’s forehead.

“I was hoping I’d find you before you left. Come with me, you can leave with your parents later,” she said.

“Is that safe? I mean the monster…and the Empress said…” Molly protested.

“Madgelie worries too much, come with me,” she said, brushing her concerns aside. “Where’s Gilbert?”

“Junior Cadet Gilbert A. Prufrock at your service Professor,” he said, coming to their side. Elizabeth smiled and pushed him playfully.

“You’ll always be Gil to me,” she said.

“Of course,” Gilbert answered one if his eyelids twitching slightly. “But Professor Coolidge—”

“Call me Eliza,” she said.

“Eliza,” he corrected. “That girl…we are trying to evacuate civilians. I don’t think it’s a good idea to bring her into the danger zone. The dark matter creature is only a few miles from here, it will be very unsafe for her to be––”

“She is going to be just fine, you’ll see,” Elizabeth replied.

“Madgelie doesn’t want anymore civilians in the area, you are the only exception,” he explained. “Only MSA personnel are allowed—”

“Madge is overly concerned with minimizing damage. I understand, she’s the leader of this country. She has an obligation to her people to try and make things right,” she said. “But stopping the monster is far less destructive than she thinks. Before just wasn’t the right timing.”

“What do you mean?” Molly interjected. “So many lives were lost, how can now be the right time?”

“The monster can only be eradicated at the right time. Before was not the right time and now it is,” she said.

“That doesn’t make any sense. All we have to do is kill it right? How can there not be a right time to do that?” Gilbert said.

“Why don’t you fly us back to Molly’s house?” Elizabeth answered. “You two will need to help me.”
Gilbert sighed but didn’t question. Molly recognized that expression, a lot of people got like that when around her grandmother. She noticed that her grandmother was just on a different plane of thinking. She spoke in codes and hints often, and this annoyed others to no end. Molly watched Gilbert as he slipped incredulous glances in her grandmother’s direction even as he hitched up Gringolet.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Professor,” Gringolet crackled. Elizabeth smiled.

“Good to see you too, Gringolet. You’ve grown quite a bit,” she replied.
Gringolet made a slight growling sound. Gilbert glared at him and tugged on his reins.

“What?” Gilbert said.

“Help the ladies onto my back,” Gringolet chided. Gilbert grumbled, but got off and helped all three women get settled.

“Is everybody comfortable,” he asked through clenched teeth.

“We are. Service with an attitude, how refreshing,” Elizabeth replied.

He tugged on Gringolet’s reigns and the beast took to flight. Molly held onto her grandmother.
“What’s the matter Molly? You ride fast and recklessly all the time!” she said. Molly squeezed a little harder.

“I ride fast and recklessly on the ground thank you very much,” Molly replied. Her grandmother turned to their rider.

“What’s the matter Gil? You can’t stand the fact that she’s here?” Elizabeth asked.

“Who’s here?” Molly asked.

“It’s you. He doesn’t like you,” her grandmother explained.

“I-I didn’t say that!” Gilbert said.

“Well, it’s certainly written all over your face,” she said.

“He doesn’t have to like me, he just has to pay me back. After that he never has to see me again,” Molly said.

“Stop talking about me like I’m not here!” he shouted. “Look, she has nothing to do with this. Her parents’ work is at stake here, not hers. She doesn’t belong here.”

“Now you stop talking about me like I’m not here!” Molly shouted.

“Well do you want to be here?”

“Not really, but—”

“So why didn’t you leave?”

“That’s quite enough. I didn’t think you two were going to go at it this much. You’ll wake up the girl,” Elizabeth said.

“Who is she?” Molly asked.

“She’ll tell you herself when she wakes up,” Elizabeth replied stroking the girl’s hair.

“We’re on the other side of town. Where’s your house?” Gilbert interjected.

“Oh um…” Molly paused to look down at the ground below. “It’s right there.”

“Land, Gilbert,” Elizabeth said. Gilbert did as suggested, stopping just in front of her house. Molly slid off and reached in her pack for her keys. Gilbert held the girl as Elizabeth got off Gringolet’s back.

“Where do you think you’re going?” her grandmother asked.

“To tell Mom and Dad you’re here,” Molly replied.

“I’ll come and see them later. We are going for a walk in the woods,” Elizabeth declared taking the girl in her arms. “Gilbert and Gringolet are coming with us.”

“Professor Eliza, I don’t think we have time to be hiking,” Gilbert said lifting up his goggles in surprise.

“A walk sounds delightful,” Gringolet said.

“G-Gringolet! You know that we have a mission to fulfill and you want to go running off into the woods? Why?” Gilbert cried.

“Just come with us,” Elizabeth said. “Who is the hardened professional here?”
He sighed, “I’m coming.”

Molly smiled triumphantly. Even Gilbert knew that it was nearly impossible to debate with Elizabeth. She would talk in circles, rewording until she got you to agree to what she asked. Elizabeth, the girl and Molly all had started for the forest and he grabbed Gringolet’s reigns and followed.

“So… where are we going?” he asked.

“I don’t know, where exactly do you want to go, Grandmama?” Molly inquired. Elizabeth smiled.

“Take us to your favorite sketching spot,” she said. Molly smiled and took the lead.

“I always draw the most amazing sketches out there. You’ll have to let me show them to you sometime, Grandmama,” she said. Gilbert sighed and rolled his eyes. Gringolet lumbered ahead and walked beside Molly.

“You are an artist correct?” he said. “I have always been curious about art. I think it is lovely but I never understood how to go about making any. How do you do so?”

“Well a lot of art starts with imitating life. Eventually you can become more and more creative and draw images in your head,” she said.

“Truly?” he said.

“Yes. Of course, that’s not exactly how it works…it’s kind of a feeling. And I’m only describing drawing. Art can be anything, really.”

“Anything? Elaborate.”

“Well, a good poem can be art. But so can a very touching and well written letter. A doodle is a form of art as well as any painting, though not as respectable. Dancing is also art.”

“Art seems to have many more forms than I thought.”

“Do you want to be an artist?”

“I have never thought about becoming one myself. It seems to have a satisfaction that I have yet to experience.”

“It would be interesting to have a bael artist.”

She fell silent thinking about what kinds of art Gringolet should try, when she stopped dead in her tracks. Something was definitely wrong.

“W-what? What’s all of this!” Molly cried. Gilbert caught up with them and gazed ahead with a rather unimpressed look. In the clearing ahead was a large yet ordinary looking house.

“This house it never…that wasn’t here before!” Molly cried. Gilbert glared to one side and breathed in exasperation.

“Maybe you just never noticed it before,” he said. Molly shook her head.

“No, no. It wasn’t here at all! I come here every single day. Every day! I don’t know when this could have been built!” Molly said. Elizabeth shifted the girl’s weight in her arms.

“Molly has asked the primary question regarding this house: When was it built?” she began.

“Obviously it wasn’t built now. It wasn’t built in the past so that only leaves…”

“By process of elimination: the future,” Gilbert answered. “But Professor, that doesn’t make any sense at all. We can’t transport entire houses through time.”

“You are so focused on one temporal anomaly, you can’t even recognize another? True, this one isn’t causing havoc on the landscape, but it is an anomaly just the same.”

“So this ordinary house is a temporal anomaly. How?” Gilbert pressed. Elizabeth only smiled.

“That my boy is answered upon entering. Come along children. Gringolet, come inside, there’s plenty of room,” she said.

“G-Grandmama! You can’t possibly want us to go inside! Isn’t this someone’s home?” Molly protested.

“It certainly is, now come inside,” Elizabeth said nudging open the double doors. Gilbert turned to look at Molly whose gaze met his. They both sighed and shrugged. Molly marched ahead, and Gilbert walked alongside Gringolet as Elizabeth entered.

“This house is massive. It looks like Gringolet will have no trouble getting through the door,” Gilbert commented.

“Hurry, children,” the older woman called. The three of them entered the house.

“Now do you each have some rations?” Elizabeth asked walking down the halls of the house with purpose.

“This is breaking and entering, we’re going to get in trouble,” Molly said.

“Answer the question, darling.”

“Yes, I have enough for two days.”

“And Gilbert?”

“I have enough for five in Gringolet’s side bags.”

“Good, good,” Elizabeth commented. “Now children, you have a special mission. You have to stay inside this house.”

“Are these orders from Madgelie?” Gilbert asked.

“No, but listen carefully and do not interrupt either of you,” Elizabeth began. “This house and the dark matter creature are the only two temporal anomalies to date. This is no coincidence, they are related. Your job is to find the relation.”

“Shouldn’t that be my job?” Gilbert said. “You and I are the only scientists here.”

“You will need someone with a creative mind to see other possibilities that you cannot,” Elizabeth said. “Someone who doesn’t see the science only the obvious, what could become and what it all means.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand what’s going on,” Molly prodded.

“Ah, here we are, the drawing room,” Elizabeth said, opening a door.

“Grandmama, what is going on?” Molly asked. Her grandmother laid the girl down on a couch and pulled an afghan over her. Gilbert, Molly and Gringolet all stared at her in silence unsure if further questioning would be worth it.

“Gringolet, make sure those two behave. You are their chaperone,” Elizabeth instructed.

“As you wish, madam,” he replied.

“Wait!” Molly interjected.

“You two, look out for the girl. She will help you,” Elizabeth said.

“Grandma why—”

“Eat when you are hungry, not when the clock says so, remember that.”

“What are you saying?”

“Oh, and Molly, here.” The older woman placed a pocket watch in her granddaughter’s hand.

“This was your grandfather’s. He was a talented scientist and the most thoughtful artist I knew. Hold onto this watch, but don’t trust its timing.”

“How can someone use a broken watch?”

“It’s not broken.”

“You just said…”

“What’s going on, Professor?” Gilbert interjected, stepping in front of Molly.

“Good bye. I love you all.”

She made for the door and Gilbert rushed after her, Molly close behind.

“Professor, wait!” he cried. He was just a hair too slow, for she walked out of the door and into the hallway. Molly slowed down, but Gilbert wasn’t deterred, he charged straight for the door only to be stopped by what seemed like a force field.

“What…is…going…on!” Molly shouted.

“How should I know?” Gilbert snapped.

“You’re Mister Science Genius, can’t you tell me what that is?” she cried pointing at the doorway.

“I’ve never even seen it myself! How can I tell you what I don’t even know!”

“You don’t know? You’re supposed to figure out how this house works, and you can’t even get out of this stupid room? What kind of genius are you?”
Gringolet slammed his tail on the wooden floor.

“That’s enough from both of you. Gilbert start a fire. Molly, sit in the window box and calm down,” he instructed. Gilbert growled, but went to his side bags for a lighter. Molly climbed in the window seat and began to cry as she looked up at the grey sky. It seemed so impossibly grey. Just what were they supposed to accomplish in here?

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February 2014

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