Allie finds the light switch and flicks it on. One by one, the fluorescent lights obliterate the darkness and reveal the aisles laid before her. Each metal shelving unit, every one different and looking hand-made, labeled by a cardboard placard hand-written with a paintbrush, probably in the 1940s, guide her to Aisle 41. It looks like no one has been down here since, she assumes, based upon the layer of dust on the floor. She wheels the cart down to Case 5, Shelf 56, and finds Box 21 that which was written on the request form filled out by her professor.
It's a really old box, constructed of thin wood slats, open at the top. Luckily it's not too high she thinks, and grabs it by the rear bottom and places it on to the cart. She immediately notices it must have been many years since it was touched, as the layer of dust covering its contents was far thicker than that on the floor. Once back in her little office space, she pulls out the books and carefully places them on the table. At the very bottom was something that was hard to pick up - a collection of papers bound by string just barely keeping them all together. She makes sure her fingers grab the last sheaf as she lifts it up and sets it on the table, aside from the books, and carefully assesses what it is before her.
It's about one and a half inches thick, comprised by paper that is all different in thickness and in size, but obviously cherished by whoever bound it based upon the care taken to insure the pages all stay together. The cover simply says "Diary" written with some unknown type of writing instrument but is clearly legible. Without hesitation she lifts the cover and turns it over to reveal the first page. "March 24, 1512" it starts off. Instantly Allie is consumed with curiosity.
It's 5:30, well past her allotted time to work since they refuse to pay overtime, so she decides to take it home with her to investigate more thoroughly. That's when the intrigue begins.
"You won't believe what I found just now," Allie shouts into her phone as she drives down the 405. "An actual diary from 1512! God, I can't wait to get home and open it up!"
"Where? How? What?" Janice, her roommate asks.
"I was down in the basement of Building 315, you know, that building built in God knows, BC, getting a box of books for Professor Duely. It was filled with really, and I mean REALLY, old books, and this was at the bottom of the box. A crate actually, like really old. I'll be home in an hour if traffic isn't too bad."
"I'll be home at 7:00. I want to see it!" Janice replies. Janice, Allie's roommate for the past six months shares Allie's love for history and it intrigued by the finding, especially something written so long ago.
Of course by the 16th century writing had been around for a long time, first used by Egyptians and Sumerians over 5,500 years ago, but viewing hand-written words recorded with whatever kind of ink and writing instruments thoroughly enthralled Janice.
"March 24, 1512," it starts. Allie and Janice both don white, cotton gloves they keep around due to their often introduction of old documents, and their binding love of history they discovered while sharing a smoke outside classrooms at UCLA.
"How many pages are there?" Janice quizzes Allie as she reaches for the book.
"GOD, BE CAREFUL! This thing is OLD!" Allie exclaims, pushing Janice's hand away from the Book, as it becomes to be known.
"March 24, 1512. I haven't written in this journal for many years, but I think it's time to continue again, as I think this man, Jim, may possibly change things around here. For the better or worse we will have to see, but for now it is quite unnerving. Last night he killed my husband" it continues.
"Somehow he came into my Kingdom yesterday and convinced Andrew to let him meet Harold. We then all went down to the War room where Jim proceeded to tell us he's taking over the Kingdom."
Allie and Janice are deeply enthralled as Allie keeps reading aloud.
"Amazing! Goddamned, absolutely amazing! It worked!” Jim blurted aloud before realizing he’d better keep quiet. He was strapped between two of four cargo shipping containers with thick leather belts running through large eye bolts about two feet back from the front of the containers. Four containers, in fact, the standard 53 foot long cargo containers found in any rail yard circa 2015, all bolted together with iron tie-rods welded in place.
Jim and the containers were positioned (landed, actually) in a grove of trees about forty or fifty yards from the rear wall of the city. Everything was seated flat on the solid dirt ground – how they managed that Jim didn’t know, but it appeared to be a perfect placement. Well hidden among the trees, their leaves a bright lime green color signifying springtime. Yes, Jim thought, they must have gotten the time correct, too.
Clenchwarton, Norfolk, England, (about 110 miles North of London), population 5050. Springtime. Late March, 1512 A.D., some 500 years in the past.
“Hot, damn!” he thought. “I’m here!”
Clenchwarton, a village and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk is located on the west side of the River Great Ouse, about 2 km from the river and from the town of King's Lynn on the east side of the river.
It all started with the invention of the “Time Machine”, or more accurately, the process of “Time Modification”, a very, very secretive operation as, from a military perspective, this could have drastic affects if fallen into the wrong hands. Because the future is unknown, it can only go backwards in time.
For about the past two years or so they’ve been going back in time – here and there – but just for several seconds at first, than a couple of minutes, max. Taking notes, making observations, ever careful not to upset anything. But this is the first planned, long-term visit. The target time and location carefully chosen after years of discussion and argument. All part of “The Plan.”
Also included among the years of argument and planning was who, exactly, would be the chosen one to go. Due only to the technically complex science of, (or more accurately the art of) designed time travel, only one individual would make it through. Some argued for a military man, others for a doctor, some for an engineering and construction man, and still others for an adept political master. None of those made it. Jim did.
Jim Forsyth. 6’ 1’, 200 lbs, 48 year old white male. Full head of quickly graying hair and glasses (very bad eyesight).. Divorced, father of two. Graduate with a degree in History (10th in his class) of West Point Academy, former USMC (U.S. Marine Corps) and veteran of two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq , Professor of World History, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois. He took The Oath – promising to follow The Plan no matter what, never yielding to temptation, greed, power or control.
That last part was somewhat hypocritical, as seeing that the basic foundation of The Plan was to first take control so as to allow everything else after that to be achieved. But it was understood.
He quickly began the process of unbuckling himself, paying close attention to his wrists and ankles which, for some reason seemed to be very sensitive and sore. Almost like they were chaffed against the leather straps. A lot! And they hurt! He also felt that he had to take a piss. He bit the erect tab of the leather Velcro tie-off and pulled upward, releasing his right hand, then proceeded to unhook his left hand, then his waist buckle and, finally, his ankles.
Aside from the sore wrists and ankles, everything else felt fine, but his head still felt a little fuzzy from the medication they gave him upon the beginning of his journey. And, Oh! What a journey it was! 503 years in the blink of an eye! Or at least so it seemed.
He glanced at his watch. No more than a minute had elapsed since he started. It read Tuesday, April 27th, 2015, 12:34 p.m.. But now, although a little chilly (this should be late March here) it seems to be more like late morning, maybe, say 11:00 am or so. He made the first of many mental notes to set his watch according to “local time” as soon as he could. Then, immediately, he walked to the closest tree and relieved himself, first looking carefully around, as was his habit from years of haunting the bars and alleys in Chicago's Uptown.
“Let’s get started,” he mumbled to himself. As he faced the containers, the first, on his left, held the big ticket items, the fourth on the right, the “soft” items, and the two in the middle, the most important fare – weapons! [See Appendix One for the containers’ contents.] Looking at the palm of his left hand for the combination, hastily written in ink, he found it to be smeared with sweat. Of course, however, he had it memorized, but the last minute it was thought that if the travel caused any sort of mental obfuscation or confusion it would be needed. So glad that wasn’t the case!
Making a habitual turn behind him to make sure no one was there, he swung the doors of container #3 wide open, exposing the wooden crates, all but the first row stacked to the ceiling. This first row, only two crates high, held what was considered “immediate need” items: one fully automatic pistol with holster, a rifle, two hunting knives of differing lengths and their respective ankle holders, a bottle of orange juice and two Snickers bars. And his travelling bottle of pills. What else could a man possibly need? he thought.
On the inside of the left door was a full-length mirror, a GPS system with a ‘Guess’ as to his location (52 degrees, 44 minutes, 24.47 seconds North, and 0 degrees, 20 minutes, 00.39 seconds East), and an extremely accurate count-down clock. 11 months, 29 days, 23 hours, 58 minutes and fifty seconds. (That’s when he needs to report back here for the return trip.) So, it took him a minute and ten seconds to get back to this point!
Still feeling somewhat nervous and exposed, Jim didn’t want to spend too much time in the container, but had to quickly check himself out. No blood, face OK, clothing still worn well. Several days of planning went into his attire for the first day. Designed not to draw attention to him but to blend in, he was outfitted in the closest period togs.
Loose-weaved brown wool pants (with very loose legs to facilitate the reaching for a knife), hidden pockets, leather belt. Cotton socks, steel-toed modern work boots scuffed up sufficiently to mask its age, dirty tan cotton undershirt, buttoned brown flannel shirt, and a bluish wool pullover poncho.
He took one of the several pens (and pencils, just in case) and wrote down the GPS location and time on a business card he had in his pocket when he left.
As a once military man and well trained in the use of said weapons, he checked each one out, carefully attached each to his body, pistol inside breast holster, and finished by concealing the knives as best he could on the outside of each ankle, just underneath his pant legs. Another quick glance around him, he quickly grabbed a candy bar and chewed it as fast as he could, knowing he had to keep sugar in his system, for he had no idea when he would eat next. Although he had a full plate of pasta with chicken and cream sauce just before starting his journey, he still felt a little bit empty. He carefully his bottle of pills, shoved three in his mouth and shoved the rest in his left front pocket.
After the last swallow - he downed about three-quarters of the OJ bottle (still cold, mind you), he waited a couple of seconds, then finished it off.
“OK,” he concluded, “I’m ready.” He closed and locked the container, took one more look back at the scene, then carefully tromped out of the brush. Carefully, though, for a twisted ankle would surely throw things off a bit!
His pre-travel investigative findings told him there would be no one looking out at the fifty yards or so of open field leading up to the wall, and the hole in the wall leading to the back of a stable quickly became visible as he approached. It was a small opening, and he had to squeeze through on his stomach, pushing his rifle through first. Once inside, after righting himself, he carefully stood upright, positioned his rifle and walked around the stable into the open air of the city. Instantly, he felt a wave of terrifying fear enter his realm.
God, I’m exposed! Do I walk fast, slow, look around? Shit, I feel vulnerable! Of course, anyone walking around looking like him would gather interest! Just then a rather large woman, thirtyish with brown fluffed-up dirty hair swooped past him, rather closely, walking the other way. He managed a slightly cocked half smile; she returned one and, after sizing him up briefly, thankfully kept on walking. (Or so he hoped. He didn’t look back.) There were many more like her, walking willy-nilly all over in every direction, across the street, down little stone paths, all seemingly hurrying to some unseen path or doorway or such, kind of like when it rains, but no rain was falling!
Castle sighted! And right where it was supposed to be. WAY across town, though.
How will this be accomplished? The practical, scientific limitations of time travel are pretty open, but, for unknown reasons, at the time, only one human can go at a time. For now. However, the size and amount of equipment can be almost adjustable. For this reason, and for the purpose of containing all objects during the travel, it was decided that cargo containers will be used. What will he bring? This, with the understanding of not only the volume limit of the shipping containers, but also considering the effect on the people, took another couple of months to compile. Here’s what was decided:
First of all, the effect on the citizens was carefully addressed. The story to be disseminated amongst the villagers, developed at the last minute (not even thought of during all the preparation – a last minute design) was banking on their lack of understanding of geography.
Jim will have come from a country not yet understood or widely known – North America. From there came all his technology and knowledge. Time travel was not to be discussed – he simply came from somewhere far away. The desired outcome, the entire goal of this project was, in a nutshell, a broader understanding of human relations, both personally as well as politically. The introduction of true freedom (including the abolition of slavery), the concept of capitalism, and the advancement of peace between all countries and kingdoms became the goal. Quite broad and vague, but none-the-less, the base concept that made this journey morally just, is easily defendable by those in favor of this plan vs. those in disagreement (the naysayers).
If successful, human suffering on earth would be drastically reduced, if not completely eliminated.
Quite a goal. An absolute, history-changing goal. Yes, it shall be.
So, finally, after years of design, testing, extreme discussion and agreement, the day finally came. Shipping containers packed, time travel process begun, all signs go, but Jim wasn’t ready. Way too much cerebral inner conflicts, issues not addressed or concluded, too many fears to even contemplate and identify. Oh, well, too bad. Never before has he ever killed an unarmed man. Shooting an unarmed man in the head, with no forewarning, no explanation, no reason, save for the outward goal of The Plan, was the most controversially detailed argument in his head. It took months to justify this within himself, but he did, only to resurrect the fears all over again just when the time approached.
This city once held well over twelve thousand inhabitants, but that was back in the early 1300’s. Less than one-fourth of that now call this city home. Actually, it lost its “city” classification long ago, now just a lowly “town”, small Kingdom. And it shows. Building upon building, house upon house lay vacant and crumbling. The cathedral, once the ultimate seat of power, lies in disrepair; its Bishop long gone. Its residents, having no real leader the past ten years or so, live life on auto-pilot.
Till, plant, maintain, harvest. Nothing more, nothing less. With the abandonment of the Church, Clenchwarton lost not only the Bishop, and all its accompanying religious rulers and faithful soldiers – so now, no more priests, monks, nuns. No dean, precenter, chancellor, treasurer, no praelector, subdean, vicechancellor, succentor-canonicorum, or subsequent hangers-on. The mass exodus occurred January 1352, after the presiding Bishop Anthony the X11 called them all home, justifying this move due to the quickly diminishing population, a self-fulfilling prophesy thus amplifying and hastening the city’s decline.
No more traveling minstrels or troubadours or otherwise socially entertaining visitors. Merchants quickly learned to pass on by, on the way to more affluent towns, thus cascading the terrible effect of fewer and fewer customers. It was bleak.
The decline of the city began late 1347 with the unannounced arrival of the Plague, or similarly known as the Black Death, in the fur and fleas of rats stowing away in the wagons of the incoming merchants. Within three years the citizenry was halved, and lost another two thousand by the time the disease began relenting around 1352. After that, not only did one not want to venture into town from afar, but much of the remaining residents fled to more stable cities and towns where work and/or business could be found. Those who stayed, maybe 500 or so, did so out of lack of money or resources to travel.
They hunkered down and pulled in all their remaining elements – farming, hunting, baking, crafts, etc. Everyone retreated into their selves, both emotionally, physically, and socially, and stayed within their homes, venturing out only out of necessity – to farm, gather food, and accomplish the tedious but mundane activities that keep life going. Social life became all but nonexistent, the increase of the population due mainly to bearing children so as to have more workers. This is why, after months and months of searching for just the right place and time, Clenchwarton was chosen. It fell right into The Plan.
Although 1512 was during the reign of the newly knighted King Henry VIII, this town was not even accounted for by the royal census-takers, effectively keeping it a ghost town, off the map. This was both a blessing and a curse – a curse because no one came to visit, a blessing because no one came to visit! No news from outside the town, no support from the Kingdom, but also no taxes or other headaches from the Kingdom. They were on their own.
The Baron, or Tennant-in-Chief, Harold of Oxfordshire, appointed himself King in 1469 after he realized no one could challenge his authority, as it was clear no one could disprove his appointment from the famous Tudor family. He called himself Harold I, not wanting to give any respect to his father, a somewhat wealthy man who sold him into the apprenticeship of the carpentry trade at the tender age of nine, paying no attention to Harold’s lack of desire for the craft.
Harold and his wife, Margaret, had four children, two of which survived the often-deadly period of childhood – a daughter named Clarice, and a son (second born son) he renamed Harold II after the first son died at the age of two. Clarice married at 13 and moved with her young husband to London, leaving only Harold II to grow up with his parents in the old castle.
When Harold I died at 66 in 1502 (a year after Clarice died), Harold II took the throne, but not until after many, many years of waiting. Although the townsfolk accepted Harold II, he had lost all desire for political leadership and relied on his wife, Queen Amanda, to handle any and all details of running the town, while retreating into his room under a very deep, deep depression.
Merci pour la lecture!
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