Essie and Jared made their way to the front of the shop, hands deep in their pockets. Just as Jared reached for the door handle of the front door, a booming voice echoed through the cluttered antique store, "STOP RIGHT THERE!"
Jared bolted, turned the knob and dashed away—like an antelope avoiding a lioness on animal planet. The door slammed shut, the bell for the door ringing. Essie froze her heart beating a hundred times a minute. "Shit…" Muttered Essie as she turned to face the music, towards the old store owner. Indeed, the store keep seemed as old as the musty furnishings and old dusty things that lay about the shop—but the old woman was massive. Standing two heads over the youth, at least seven feet tall, held broad shoulders that gave the old woman the appearance of a retired football player. Her tan flesh was spotted with sun freckles, and her mass of white locks that peeked out from a simple floral kerchief were tinged with worn gold. But the old woman's heterochromatic eyes were sharp—her left eye, dark as flint—her right an icy cobalt. On her chest, over the paint spotted smock, was a sticker that read "Hello, I am..!" proceeding in blocky script the letters, M A R N, in bright red.
"Thought you could pull the wool over ol' Marn's eyes, hm? Like that speedy friend of yours?" Said the woman in deep husky tone.
Essie looked down to the dusty walnut flooring and twisted her oversized brown booted foot back and forth, clutching the stolen item tightly in her hand, immediately regretting having given into Jared's pressure.
"I wasn't going to leave without…" Essie glanced up and stopped midsentence as the old woman crossed her arms, giving the most intense stare Essie had ever seen. She gulped instead and held up her clasped hand, opening it, her pink curls bounced as she bowed her head, and shut her eyes tightly.
"Please don't call my parents…They'll kill me for sure…" she begged, her voice cracking. "I know I shouldn't have but…Take it…"
In Essie's upheld hand was an old gold and brass pocket watch—with a thin layering of rust and wear—all in all, somewhat plain. On the back of the pocket watch held an old engraving, in spiraling letters—faded away with time. Yet, the old thing ticked away in the adolescent's hand.
The old woman scooped up the watch, rubbing her thumb over the indent of the spidery lettering, as the gears within the pocket watch slowed, and whirred to a halt.
"Where did you find this…?" Marn huffed in disbelief. Essie opened one of her jade colored eyes, and looked up at Marn warily. "I uh…"
Essie jolted and nodded, stuttering to answer. "I…I found it on a shelf, just inside the broken music box over there." She said pointing towards a card table covered in trinkets, just a few feet away from the two.
"Well, I'll be." Marn said, with a sudden croaking laugh. "HAH!"
"Um. Does this mean you're not going to call my parents…or the cops…?" asked Essie, reaching up to tug at a random rosy curl that had fallen into her face.
Marn tossed the pocket watch up in the air with her right hand and caught it in her calloused left hand.
"Oh no. Ol' Marn has something far more interesting in mind."
Essie stood awkwardly as the old woman turned her back, to scurry behind the counter. Essie eyed the door, and looked back at the broad back turned to her. More…Interesting?
Essie muttered under her breath as she tentatively took steps towards the counter, as the old woman fumbled about in a jumbled stack of envelopes, receipts and papers.
"Blasted, where the hell did I put that…AH! AHAH!" Marn shouted hoarsely.
The store keep tugged the faded corner of an envelope, from the bottom of a leaning tower made up of old papers and parchments—which then proceeded to collapse and fall in a flurry of yellow, brown and white paper, onto the walnut floor. Marn turned sharply and slapped the envelope onto the counter, causing Essie to jump.
"This here, is your salvation." She began, poking at the fat, over stuffed envelope, sealed close with an old fashioned wax seal. "Deliver this, without opening it, and I'll forget about you and your friend liberating my merchandise."
Essie stared at the envelope, then up to old Marn. "But…what if I opened it…or left with it, and didn't…"
Marn leaned over the counter, cutting Essie off midsentence, Marn's right hand grasping the envelope. "Then I have the security camera footage to help the police find you and your friend. Unless, your parents 'kill' you before you're arrested. That is, only if you decided to not follow my directions."
Essie gulped, and outstretched her hands. "Ok. I'll—…"
Marn shoved the envelope into the girl's hands.
"Hop to it sprite. The address is on the envelope."
As Essie stared at the envelope in her hands, Marn scooted out from behind the counter and nudged the youth out of the door. "But, wait where—…"
"Return, once the envelope has been delivered and you're free as a lark."
The door slammed shut behind Essie the moment she placed her feet on the cracked sidewalk. Before she could turn around, she heard a loud clattering against the window of the door—which turned out to be the sign that once read "Open" in red letters, now read "Out for lunch". That old crone was quick. So much for the poor little old lady being a pushover, huh Jared?
Although the old envelope held a coffee stain at nearly all its corners, and the seal was chipped—it was, she admitted—an interesting looking piece of work. And it was really, really old. Maybe even older than that elderly quarterback of a woman. On the front, read, in deep red,
To Robert Wallery of the Wallery Estate
232Wallace Road, Nekoosa Wisconsin
"232…Wallace Road." She muttered out loud. She knew Wallace Road. There was a really creepy house on that street—a house covered in vines, and littered with broken windows. That couldn't possibly be the…Wallery Estate, could it? Essie hoped to god it wasn't.
Twenty three minutes after leaving the antique shop, she finally made it to Wallace Street. Although the numbers on the mailbox were faded—it was clear enough. By god, the Wallery Estate and the very creepy house were one in the same. Essie muttered under her breath, "Ooo Jared I am so going to beat you up later…"
Well. At least today won't end up with me in a police car. Or being grounded for all eternity.
Essie took a deep breath, and marched up the weed infested front yard, and jumped the old picket fence, before clunking up the old green peeled steps of the massive porch, that squeaked and bent beneath her weight. The door to the eerie broken-down house, was the one thing that didn't look completely neglected. The black paint looked fresh, as did the golden inlays that bordered the edges of the massive door—which swirled in the shapes of billowing clouds, and intricate faces with eyes open, and mouths gaping wide. High up, was a knocker made of heavy brass—in the shape of a yawning lion—whose eyes seemed fixated on Essie. The elaborate golden spirals reminded her of the pocket watch that had changed ol' Marn's mind. But, unlike the door, the windows sitting on either side of the front door were broken and covered in vines and dirt. It looked dead inside—like an old forgotten husk. Although it was broad daylight, the insides of the place were very dark—like the inky darkness of deep sea. Essie gulped, and cleared her throat as she looked away from the odd darkness and focused her eyes on the brass knocker. Clutching the packed envelope in one hand, she stood on her tippy toes and grasped the cold metal, and knocked with a heavy thud, thud, thud.
Essie stood back and held her breath—waiting for someone to answer the door. Silence and the sound of the wind was the only reply. Well. That was anticlimactic. She let out the held in breath, in a slow hiss.
Essie blinked and scratched at her cheek. Maybe I didn't knock hard enough. Essie reached towards the brass ring hanging in the lion's mouth once again—but the moment she grasped it with her small fingers, the package in her other hand suddenly began to tick, and shook violently. She let the package drop to the ground, retreating from it. What the hell is..?!
The moment the package began to shake—the eyes of the brass lion, began to glow. The front door began to shiver, and the sound of a myriad of whirring and clicking reverberated from behind it—the package pulsing in time with the door.
Before Essie could run, the door flew open—exposing a well-lit passageway—with tan and gold wallpaper, red velvet carpeting and floating brass lanterns. The package settled down—to a steady tick, tick, tick—no longer violently thrashing. Essie, stared at the open door, and beyond the hallway in disbelief. Unable to move, a disembodied voice called from the far end.
"Do come in already—you're letting in that blasted, foul 20th century air."
Essie grit her teeth and stood, leaning over to nab the ticking envelope, before clutching it to her flat chest. Was I drugged? She crumpled the envelope under her fingers and took in a deep breath, before she stepped into the hallway. The door promptly shut behind her—and before her eyes the door transformed into a wall—with a large painting hanging from it—depicting the old decrepit, Wallery Estate in great detail. Essie held the package tightly and took another breath, slowly walking down the long corridor. The floating lanterns seemed to brighten as she passed by them, as the corridor lead left—into what felt like a spiral—downwards. Through her breastbone, she felt a growing humming throb, as she closed in on the end of the corridor. A doorway, with no door lay before her—and a room of glaring light.
"That's right. You're nearly there. Just a few steps more," The voice coiled out from beyond the light's illumination—sounding more and more human, as she drew into it, her eyes shut tightly to save from being blinded.
As the light began to dim from behind her eyelids, Essie was overcome with a sudden smell of salted pork roasts, and motor oil. Slowly opening her eyes, she gasped. The room…was gigantic. Incredibly colossal. The ceilings seemed to be an eon away where distant lights flickered, lighting the room in a warm glow. Tables made of old walnut stood in the center, covered in a mess of dirty plates, and partially eaten scraps. To the far right, the wall was covered in strange machinery that looked like a cross of stereotypical "steam punk", and 1980's cheesy films—with massive monitors made of a clear shimmering metal that showed within copper wires, whirring clock gears, plastic USB sockets, and strange beeping lights—all attached to a bulky standing module, with clunky looking buttons, keys and switches. Strange pods were seen on the left side of the room, some covered in rust, some plastered with duct-taped wires that ran along the backs of the metal pods, steam and smoke billowing from large ventilators attached to the tops of the pods.
Essie hadn't much time to take it all in when the owner of the voice, the one that had lead her down the spiraling corridor—piped up from behind her. She shot up a few inches off the ground and peeped, spinning around quickly.
There, standing before her was a man—a rather short man. He stood at least a few inches shorter than the already short adolescence, although it was clear that he was wearing tall, brown, leather plat formed shoes. The man's eyes were magnified by large goggles that wrapped snuggly around his skull, hidden by the mound of wild, dark ruddy hair. His over-sized hazel eyes blinked.
"Well, well now that you've made it inside safely…I can't say I know who you are" he inquired in a high, crackling pitch. "Or how you made it past the door's mechanisms. Hmmm."
The short bug eyed man, crossed his arms, and tilted his head, humming as he circled round the pink haired girl for closer inspection.
"From the looks of you, and the smell of that blasted air that came through the front door, you're from the 20th century, yet. How did you…" He trailed off as he spied the lumpy envelope in Essie's hands.
Quick as a rabbit, he pulled the envelope from Essie's grasp and pulled off his goggles to read the lettering. "This is…my own handwriting…and coffee stains..." He placed the envelope under his nose and took a deep inhale, even went to licking the corner of one of the stained edges.
Essie gagged. Eww.
"Are you…Robert Wallery?"
Wallery nodded. "Indeed. Marn sent you, hm? Hmm. Then that means this is…"
Wallery broke the seal, and drew out from the envelope—a pocket watch—the very same pocket watch Essie had nearly snatched. But…how did it get into the package if it was sealed before today…?
Wallery gave a whooping cry. "Zounds, Zounds! You're it. You're the real article!"
"Excuse me…?" Essie stammered. "What exactly am—"
"Catch!" Wallery tossed the pocket watch back at Essie—which to her surprise she caught. In her hand, she saw that the pocket-watch was indeed the same—yet it looked brand new, polished and it even ticked evenly in her grasp.
"Go on, open it!" Wallery urged. "You'll see, you'll see!"
Essie looked up from the watch, to the frantic Wallery and shrugged. With everything that was happening…strange as it all was, the pocket watch felt right in her hand. Carefully, she pried it open. A soft tinkling enveloped the room—casting whatever sounds from the machinery in the room mute. All darkened, and before her, out tumbled a form from the face of the ticking pocket watch. It looked to her like a hologram, as the figure flickered and buzzed in and out—but she recognized right away who stood before her—it was her mother.
"Mom?!"Essie started. "What…how. Why…"
The hologram of Essie's mother, stood and dusted off her blue flickering robes.
"Essie. Dearest. When you get this message, you'll hopefully be old enough to understand the gravity of importance, of what I'm about to say."
"We come from a long line of Time Trekkers, Essie. Time Travelers. Although, your father doesn't know. Robert Wallery, he is a dear friend of mine. Trust him, as he helps you with the responsibilities that will come along with being a Trekker." Said the hologram, as it flickered and static run through the human sized projection, looking straight at Essie.
"I am sorry that I could not tell you in person, and that I cannot guide you myself…as right now, I have to watch over the present, over your brother, and father. But you are not alone, so long as you hold this watch. You are not alone, so long as you trust in Robert Wallery. I promise, we will see each other again, sooner than you think. Time is very relative, Essie. In moments we will see each other again—yet you'll have been gone for years as well."
The hologram of Essie's mother kissed her hand and blew it towards her daughter.
"I love you Essie."
The lights came back, and the sounds within the workshop began to stir anew.
Robert Wallery rubbed his gloves together.
"Are you ready, Time Trekker?"
Essie closed the pocket-watch and stared into open space, before turning her gaze upon Robert. She nodded, and placed the pocket watch in her pants pocket.