Author : David Barber
The pale young woman had a tap in her wrist. The time-traveller asked for a glass and we watched her fill it with blood.
“Bring her salt water.”
“Salt.. like sea water?”
“If you have that.”
There were isotonic sports drinks somewhere in the back, but I didn’t turn away quick enough. He raised the glass and I saw his throat throb as he drank.
I’d shut the Chronos Tavern during the riots. My wife said I shouldn’t open today. In fact she’d said it was pig-headed and reckless.
She worked at the Canaveral Timeport before all the trouble. She’s been stuck at home a while now, looking for jobs, and she’s been kind of short-tempered. Lot of anger about time travel these days.
Perhaps you have to be married to understand how I ended up in the Chronos, giving the place a furious mopping, when the time-travellers came in.
“I smell your worry,” The morlock bared brutal teeth. “But you are safe.”
I asked the pale woman if she wanted another drink but she didn’t even lift her eyes.
“Is it your scientists causing this trouble?”
“Scientists?” My foolish grin faded. Predators don’t need to make jokes. “No, nothing like that.”
After time travellers arrived, the notion had escaped that lives were like films you could fast-forward to see how they end. Choices were inevitable. Or irrelevant. The idea just wouldn’t flush away. Emptiness, unrest and dismay hung in the air like carrion crow.
The blood-stained glass still stood empty on the bar when the three men walked in.
“Sorry guys, we’re closed.” The Timeport was always off-limits to the public.
“Those two look like customers to me,” said the tall one.
“Look like travellers,” he insisted.
We all needed to stay calm, to keep talking. He held a Saturday-night special against his leg.
“I want to know who invited their sort here. From the future.”
The morlock was blindingly fast. I heard an arm-bone crack before the gun fired into the floor. The morlock stood frozen over the whimpering man while the other two backed outside.
“They threatened,” he explained. I realised he was giving them a head start. Then with a terrible cry he was gone, and the door banged shut.
The woman still sat at the bar.
“You should get down here with me.”
She made no move, and shamed, I went to see to the man. He was cradling his arm and moaning.
“Never touch the prey,” she warned with the voice of a child. I stalled with indecision.
“They do not share, there would be violence.”
“Are you his wife?”
“His eloi. Hide if you ever see one without an eloi.”
Brief shrieks came from outside. I almost picked up the gun.
“He is considered very enlightened. Other morlocks are more… aggressive in their feeding. I am fortunate.”
My wife would say I was being sensible. I hadn’t realised I was a such a coward.
“He did not treat you like prey,” she called, as I eased the door open. “But if you interfere…”
Under a streetlight, the men lay amongst their own entrails.
“Your age is an Eden,” said the morlock. “Still, best to go now.”
“Yes, send her out.”
I whispered to her that our laws would protect her, but she only asked if I wanted her blood.
“Then what use am I?”
I dialled an ambulance, then threw the glass away. Beginning to tremble, I called home.
My wife answered and I didn’t let her get a word in. I had a lot of things to apologise for.
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