The Anachronists

“They’ll find you,” the chronomancer told me. “They always do. One day you’ll be sitting around sipping tea, playing Mah-Jongg, and BAM!” He slammed his fist on the rickety card table, nearly upsetting his coffee and definitely upsetting Sib. She moaned loudly and ran for the corner, then rocked back and forth and pounded her palms against her head as if the sudden sound had come from within. If he noticed her, he hid it well. People like Sib are easy to overlook.

“Time’s a big place,” I said.

“Not as big as you’d expect. You think you’re the first one to come up with this idea?”

I didn’t respond. The chronomancer exhaled a long, low note and pushed his fingers through his mop of wild white hair before taking off his glasses and polishing them on the edge of his greasy shirt. “All I’m saying,” he continued, “is that you’re not just going to vanish. Wherever you go you’ll stick out like a black cat in a snowstorm. You’ll get myths and legends built up around you. At worst, you’ll show up in history books, and they study that stuff. Anachronists, they call you guys. It would be hard enough if it was just you, but…” the chronomancer’s voice drifted as his eyes focused on the girl in the corner, “you’ll never be able to get away with that.”

His tone lowered at the final syllable, like mentioning Sib was a breach of etiquette. “You have something on your chin,” he might have said. “Your fly is down.” I stood up and stepped over the piles of paper and gears that littered his workshop to gather the small girl into my arms. “She has a name,” I told him.

The chronomancer pushed his glasses back onto his face and squinted at me in the dim light. “They’ll find you,” he repeated.

“We’ll take that risk.”

Sib’s small fingers grabbed at the collar of my shirt and she buried her face into the point where my head met my neck. She smelled like hospital, and she was still wearing the blue robe they’d given her when they tested her for genetic abnormality. The chronomancer watched her squirm into position.

“Do you have kids?” I asked him. He shook his head slowly.

“I applied, once, a long time ago,” he said. “I’m not made of the right stuff.”

“Neither’s she,” I said as I brushed my fingers against the space between her shoulderblades.

Again, he sighed that same note, though this time he slid open a metal filing cabinet under his table. The chronomancer withdrew a manila envelope and flipped through the papers with a grimy thumb. “Do you speak Greek?” he asked.

“I can learn.”

“We’ll find a place for you,” he said slowly, running his fingers over the page. “I’m sure we can find a place.”

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