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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Time (11/15/12)

TITLE: Eighty-Seven Seconds
By Addie Pleasance


Mary enters my office with her head bowed, clutching a handbag to her chest. “Dr. Malloy?” she says, and I note that her voice is little more than a whisper.

“Just Joan,” I reply. “I don’t care much for doctor.” I show Mary to a comfortable chair, take her jacket, wait for her to speak. When she is silent for three full minutes, I decide to help her out.

“Mary, why have you come here today?”

She looks up at me. “I shouldn’t have come. You won’t believe me, either. You’ll think I’m…”

I wait again.

Mary gulps in air, then pushes out a sentence. “I’ve been traveling through time.”

This is unexpected. I mentally inventory diagnoses that include delusions: schizophrenia, drug use, paraphrenia. “Tell me more about that,” I say.

“Well. Sometimes I just…find myself in another time. It only lasts for a moment. I can see people, but I can’t hear anything. It’s like I’m…just observing for a little bit. And then it’s gone, and I’m…back.”

I study Mary for a moment. Though she’s obviously distressed, she’s articulate and intelligent, and her gray eyes dare me to dismiss her claim. “Tell me about the last time it happened,” I say.

Mary’s lips twitch; it’s almost a smile. “It was just a few minutes ago, in your waiting room. Is this…was this a house once?”

I nod. I’ve set up my office in a neighborhood of pre-war brick houses. This one was built in 1927, and I’ve kept as much of the original atmosphere as possible in the crown moldings, the pounded tin ceilings, the fireplaces.

Mary continues. “I saw a woman walking to the door. She received a telegram, and her hand went to her mouth. She stumbled, then she sat in a chair and wept. But I think…I think she was weeping for joy.”

“And what makes you think you had traveled through time?”

“The woman’s clothes. The telegram. The items in the room. It was all very real. More real than I was, at that moment. I couldn’t have imagined all that detail.” Mary sighs. “Doctor…Joan. The woman’s apron was trimmed with blue rick-rack. There was a coffee stain on the davenport.”

As we continue to talk for the rest of Mary’s fifty minutes, I learn that she is single, a substitute schoolteacher, a voracious reader. She is sharply witty once she has relaxed, and we laugh together when she shares more of her time travels. They are place-specific—she had an episode in the library where she observed a young couple kissing in the Anthropology section, the girl’s poodle skirt knocking a book off the shelf. In a friend’s home, she saw an old man and woman; the man appeared to be reading a novel aloud while the woman crocheted.

When her session is over, Mary agrees to see me again. I have not told her that I don’t believe she’s traveling through time, but neither have I outright dismissed her claim. Over our next several sessions, I decide that she is a lonely woman with a vivid imagination fueled by romance novels.

One sunny afternoon, we walk together to a nearby park and sit on a bench. Mary is telling me about her childhood when she stops talking, closes her eyes. I wait, looking at my watch. This is the first time I have observed one of Mary’s episodes. After eighty-seven seconds, she opens her eyes.

“Mary, what have you seen?” I ask.

For the first time since I’ve been working with Mary, she is wide-eyed, panting a little. “Joan, it was you, I think. Your hair was long, and darker. You were slimmer…” She pauses, smiles. “You were wearing a miniskirt. You were here, in this park, and you got into a cab. There was a man with long hair…he ran toward you, but you didn’t see him. He stood here and watched you go. His shoulders slumped. He sat down…” We both look down at our bench. “He put his head in his hands. Then I was back here.”

Steve. It was Steve that she saw, on the day that I pushed him away. He didn’t fit into my plans: grad school, my own practice. I was heady with rights in those days. We had lunch at the café across the street; I left him there. But as I’d pulled away in the cab, I’d thought if you loved me, you would come back. You would run to me.

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This article has been read 377 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/23/12
I enjoyed this. I thought there might be a few time-travel stories this week but this one is a bit different. It reminded me a bit of the Root Cellar. I really enjoyed it. You did a great job of building the characters and the ending was a perfect example of showing instead of telling.
Danielle King 11/24/12
I find this a thoroughly engaging tale and enjoyed it very much...but it left me with goose bumps. Psychosis and mental illness don't worry me, but time travel and paranormal activity freak me out. I've no idea why. However, this is just me and doesn't detract from your excellent and 'out of the box' story.
lynn gipson 11/24/12
Wonderful story...the long haired guy and mini skirt brought back memories for me. I would love to read this in a whole book....you would rival Danielle Steele.

God Bless, Lynn
Lillian Rhoades 11/24/12
An interesting read. I thought the ending was somewhat abrupt, probably due to word count. Great dialogue.
Bea Edwards 11/25/12
Enjoyable and credible. Well written dialogue between the Doctor and reticent patient.
Noel Mitaxa 11/25/12
Very engaging - even though poor Dr Joan didn't get to be engaged at the end.
Loved the interaction for its credibility and gentle warmth. Well done.
Loren T. Lowery11/26/12
Intriguing and I'm left to wonder if he didn't come back - in his own way. A taunt or a comfort? A good story with many dimensions and avenues to consider.
Myrna Noyes11/26/12
Very intriguing, well-written story. The dialogue was excellent and believable, and I liked the two main characters. I know it was fiction, but the whole issue of time travel was a bit eerie to me. I've often wished I could step back in time and observe scenes from the past, though! :) Great writing!
C D Swanson 11/27/12
Great tale this entry. And the dialogue held an air of authenticity. I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks.
God bless~
Ellen Carr 11/28/12
A great read. Your story seems as if it should be part of a bigger story. Maybe you'll write more(?)Time travel fiction like yours asks us to suspend belief and we can do that for fiction.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/29/12
Congratulations for ranking 12 overall!