I laid on my bed and stared at the rare painting of Washington's Inauguration, noticing how everything around me became moving ribbons of light, and how I was drawn closer, into the picture, right next to a kneeling, supplicant Washington, kissing the King James Bible, and almost hearing in my head, "So help me God."
For a split second, fear crept into my mind. The last few hours had been strange. After the vision of my ancestor and the discovery of the mysterious device, I feared for my sanity. But since I was well aware of the times I lived in -- a humanities teacher at a government-nationalized charter school -- my dream of an ancestor, with their alarming message about the children of the future, didn't seem any stranger than the present day. Which American generation had ever seen the Declaration of Independence ridiculed? Even the break up of THESE United States?
My mind traveled….
Some say there’s always one corner of a place -- somewhere and everywhere -- that no eye can see. It’s hidden from view, and beyond the range of most human senses.
I felt like I went there now. It wasn’t dark, nor light. Not even in between. It had no shape, no form. It wasn’t a place, and it didn’t exist at all. It was before time.
That’s where I showed up, and the world that you know, I know, we’ve always known, well, that was dropped around me. Like the backdrop of a stage. The props. Then the stage lifted. I could see the world again. And they could see me.
While you think about that for a second, please follow closely. Because what I saw of the world made even less sense.
I arrived in an alley. It was very narrow. Claustrophobic. I could see the sky above me, gray; and it was cold.
A voice yelled from the sky. I looked up, just in time to see an old woman with her hair in a bonnet. She held a bucket in her hand, that she turned over, causing something to fall out.
She yelled again. At me. And I barely avoided the green dump of...well, I smelled it as quickly as it arrived upon the air, and with a sickening splat it exploded on the cobblestones. The woman croaked, and she slammed the window shutter closed; and I was left to get out of this alley. I exited the alley and left the riverlet of filth for the herd of feral cats that ran at my feet, hissing and fighting and shedding their mangy fur.
That was nothing. It was the street I walked into. It was filled wagons and the clomp-clomp sound of big-hooved horses and their iron shoes on the cobblestones. The men wore stiff collared shirts, the cuffs covering their hands. The styles were full sleeved or tight-doubletted coats, or both. Trunks or hoses were worn on the lower legs, but usually together. Loose or tight, I recognized most as just breeches, held together with buckles and buttons.
It all looked ridiculous, but everyone seemed to carry themselves with varying degrees of pride and pomp.
And that was just the men, to speak nothing of the women, dressed in their gowns, their bodices, and the petticoats. The coiffed hair was incredible, and reminded me of the fashion magazines of the days before the Downturn. The bangs seemed feathered, standing nearly upright. Most had their hair in caps, some wore tall caps that a man might wear outside. Most had their hair tied back in a tight bun, with the sides loose, dangling to their shoulders.
Still my eyes turned to the men…for it was there that, I not only was triggered by their fashions, but also by their activity.
Sure, they looked strange, and ideas had already formed in my head about their use and purpose -- with their pointed beards and mustaches -- but it was the high-style I saw in their dress that I connected to the busy activities on the street.
I walked out, further, now. A larger courtyard lay ahead. The other narrow, horse-choked streets seemed to converge to this place. This commercial center. And I heard their voices now! Dutch! It had to be the Dutch I heard.
I saw a people who were celebratory about their habit to make money. Judging from the commercial activity, this was the highwater mark of their business lives. They demonstrated their wealth as small businessmen by the clothes they wore. The freedom to make money spent money. Oh, if only the people of THESE United States could have come recognize this truth.
I walked for a few minutes, between the vendors and their wares, the baubles they sold and bought. The happy voices of unfettered business. That’s when I spied something that made little sense. And when I tell you now, it will make even less.
For that place, where no one can see someone, where I’d been deposited by the void, and into this dreaming time -- that place opened again. I recognized the shift of nothing. This time it was a wall. It appeared, as it dropped into place, and a man stepped out from the formless.
It was Academic Executive Chandra. The head of the nationalized-government charter that had taken over my school.
I was in shock. He had around his neck, a device that looked like the one I’d found before.
This doesn’t get easier to tell you, but I must.
He walked over to a vendor stall. A young man, a boy really, sat on a wooden stool. He looked familiar. Then, I remembered the pictures I’d once had on my classroom wall, until Chandra asked me to take “denominational images” down.
It was William Bradford. The first governor of the Plymouth Colony.
And just like that Chandra, led him by the arm, with his mouth in his ear, and then...touched the device.