Author : Jay Knioum, Featured Writer

Is this Waterloo? This is Waterloo, isn’t it?

That was the question that sealed it for me. That bright day in Hyde Park, with the pigeons. It wasn’t a great feat to hide the Professor’s keys from him after that. The Apparatus, however, was another matter. Very hard to find good movers, especially in 1924. Bubble-wrap was a long time coming.

He came with me to the station, watched me watch the mules haul the crate aboard a flatcar. I’d catch up with it in Vienna, but not before a side trip.

I poured his tea as we steamed across the Channel, and often again on the train to Zurich. The Professor seemed lucid now and again, but he always came back to Waterloo. It was the horses. In his youth, his horse had been shot out from under him during the thick of the fighting. How he survived to get the Keys to the Apparatus, I still didn’t know. He didn’t like to talk about it.

He wouldn’t talk about it even now, after the centuries he had crisscrossed, the things he’d seen. I would ask him, when he was at peace, clear-minded, usually just before sleep and after a belt of brandy.

He would just smile. He’d touch my face, and ask about the horses.

We made Zurich. It broke my heart to hand him over to the nuns. One of them reminded him of his mother, and he spoke to her as such. God bless her, she took his weathered hand in hers and answered in kind.

Time catches up with us all, he used to say, no matter when it finds us. The first time he said that, we were moving ghostly pieces across a virtual chessboard some miles above the Earth, while a friendly automaton served us synthetic liqueur in crystal printed that very morning. He said it again in the light of a campfire, as the smell of sage filled our noses and the cattle stirred sleepily in the Texas twilight.

He’d always loved Texas. I left his spurs with the Sisters, in case he might remember them.

It breaks my heart that I couldn’t leave him in Orleans, but his great grandnephew would take the wrong side in the war to come.

We all meet our Waterloo.

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