Once Upon A Time: The Layers Of Time

Bureau of Missing Persons

Bureau of Missing Persons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a layer. Just like silt and sand drifts to the bottom of a puddle or pond, so does time drift down and settle at the end of a long day. But sometimes rocks or other debris disrupts the layers of sand and silt. So does the life of an extraordinary individual disrupt the layers of time.
Alfonso De Guevara Antonio De Medici was one such individual. Whether or not the history books remember him has more to do with his enemies and jealous competitors. But to the layer of time he was a constant disruption.
It happened first on his fifth birthday. Alfonso was wishing very hard for a new baseball bat as he blew out his candles. Instead, his cake turned into a very large, very confused bat and flew around the living room of their suburban bungalow until his father captured it. But by the time the pest removal man came, the bat had been replaced by a old, used baseball bat. “Very funny,” said the pest removal man as he handed Alfonso’s father a bill for the trip out, “you caught a bat.”
These things happen to everyone from time to time, but for Alfonso things like that happened all the time. As he walked to school he could practically see primordial swamp overlaid onto the houses around. Shadowy great beasts lumbered at the corners of his vision. Cavemen hunkered down around backyard grills and Spanish explorers with swords and fierce expressions wandered the wide boulevards in search of treasure.
Alfonso’s teachers told his parents he had a vivid imagination. Very vivid. In pottery class, Alfonso was getting frustrated by trying to throw a pottery mug, so he looked to his left and took an already finished mug out of the time stream next to him. The pottery teacher thought he had a prodigy, until he realized the thrown mug had already been fired and was at least five hundred years old. Then Alfonso’s parents got a lecture about not letting their child borrow precious antiques for school. Alfonso’s father sold the mug online for three thousand dollars, and then got to deal with government agents asking a lot of questions about ancient burial sites and unlawful digging.
From then on, Alfonso kept his “borrowing” to more recent times. Once in his twenties he borrowed a corvette and rode it around town before returning it to its owner. The man back in 1975 must have wondered where half-a-tank of gas had gone. But generally, Alfonso found that borrowing things from the past led to more problems than it was worth. Sure, you could nick a fresh pie off a counter, but by lunchtime it felt rotten in your stomach. So he just lived quietly with time awash around him.
One job Alfonso was ideally suited for was the missing person’s bureau. He first read about someone still missing after years and years. It was one of those cases the police had no leads and the person in question was someone that history remembers. So Alfonso went on the house tour after begging his parents and saying it was for school. In the bedroom of the person, Alfonso saw two tickets for Acapulco. He called in an anonymous tip and the celebrity was found living on the Mexican coast. So Alfonso got a degree in criminology and spent his days finding lost people.
It was on one of his jobs that Alfonso found her. She’d gone missing as a child, and he had trouble tracking her. Him, 100% Alfonso. If you gave him a missing case, he always found them. Sometimes they had died, but they always got found. But this one wasn’t in a single time stream layer.
In all his years, Alfonso had never gone into a time stream layer. He’d taken things out of one, watched people in different layers, but never immersed himself in a layer. But this girl had shifted layers, and he couldn’t track her from here. So Alfonso found an empty room in the house, took a deep breath, and went into the layer where she’d last been.
It was the day she’d left. Alfonso heard shouting in the next room. Her parents were arguing. He felt a shift in the time layer. When he walked into her room he saw a hole in the time layer and a little arm disappearing into another layer much farther down. He saw with a start that the girl was bringing a suitcase with her. He’d never thought about bringing things back into other time layers. It seemed like a very bad idea.
Quick as she was there, the layer resealed itself. Anyone else would have been stumped. But Alfonso could see her moving through the layers like ripples in water. He dived for the next layer and found himself in Spanish country two hundred years before. The girl was walking into an old western town. But she looked behind her at where she had come and saw him. Alfonso tried to run, but the girl sliced open time with her finger and was through it in a flash.
Alfonso thought he’d have time to reach her, but by the time he got to where she’d opened things up, there were ripples radiating in five different directions. Alfonso followed each of these, and they led to more ripples. The girl must have slashed time all over the place. Alfonso had to give up. He’d been beaten by a little girl.
The next day a woman was sitting in Alfonso’s desk when he arrived at work. He cleared his throat and she swiveled around and smiled. He saw that she was very well dressed, had the look of a world traveler, and looked strangely familiar.
“Remember me?” the woman said with a smile. “I’m sorry,” said Alfonso. “You look familiar, but I can’t place you. When did we meet?” The woman laughed a silvery laugh. “When indeed.” She looked straight at Alfonso. “For you, it was yesterday. For me, twenty years of life, and centuries of traveling.” Alfonso’s skin prickled. “You’re the missing girl?” “Of course,” said the woman. “And I’ve been watching you grow up these last few weeks. Your gift is truly amazing. You can see ahead of yourself. All I can do is open things up and hope I won’t end up in the middle of a gun battle or a stampede.” Alfonso shrugged at the compliment.
“It’s a lonely life, Alfonso. People are so trapped in their own time. No one can see any farther than their noses. But they need us. Can’t you see how much they need us?” As she spoke, Alfonso looked deeper into time than he ever had. He saw not only the layers that had fallen, but also the layers that would fall. The war, the pain, the destruction that could be averted, shifted out of the layer. “Yes,” he nodded, “I can see it now.”
“I’m Lorraine,” said the woman. “We’ll be together in all the times that work. But I had to do so many things on my own before I was ready. Today is the day that you go missing. It’s the only point where you could leave your stream. I’ve been checking back and forth for weeks. Will you come?”
It’s embarrassing for a missing person’s bureau to fill a missing person’s report on one of its employees. Especially one that no security cameras show left the building. Alfonso entered the building, punched in on the time clock and never punched out.
Throughout the world, and throughout time, things have gone missing. Most often they are mislaid, but sometimes, just sometimes, Alfonso and Lorraine may have needed them. Think of it as your contribution to the constant struggle they have to make sure that the times to come are good times, or at least better than they could have been.

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