Prose Header

A Locket With a Past

by Charles Clifford Cole

Time travel is a little easier than expected. Every living thing has a distinct vibration that leaves behind a traceable residue on objects, not just a fingerprint but an exact timestamp when the print was made.

The trick is pulling the two apart. When you know the date the object was touched and you’re able to replicate that vibration, you can actually interact with a past event by sonic-blasting the vibrational waves — in theory. The changes you add should not impact your present but just start another pattern — in theory.

I once defied scientific convention and the laws of physics to save the woman of my dreams: my mother. She was no saint, but her husband — my father — was a curse on all who crossed his path.

Since middle school, I’d wanted my parents divorced. A home actively crumbling around me, brick by heavy brick, was a serious threat to my mental well-being. I was lucky to make it to college.

Last night, I was visiting from grad school to do laundry . My parents, who fought like two tomcats being introduced for the first time in a small crate, had the mother of all arguments over overcooked beef. “This London broil tastes like shoe leather,” it began.

Maybe there was a deeper root issue — a bad career choice or a life less than fulfilling — but these were the facts. Somebody got loud. Somebody threw food. Somebody stormed out of a room and was quickly, impulsively, followed. There was a gun and a struggle at the top of the stairs.

Somebody stomped down the stairs, and somebody else lost balance and then both tumbled down in an absurdly comical but gut-wrenching pratfall. Mom was hospitalized, seriously banged up from cushioning Dad’s fall.

I had to take action. I had to stop them from starting a relationship that, based on history, wasn’t meant to bloom.

When they were in high school, Dad gave Mom a sterling silver “friendship” locket, which they immediately fought over, because Brenda Kelleher had received a similar item from him only two weeks before.

Being a romantic, Mom kept it anyway. But, being stubborn, she never wore it again. She stored it in the box it came in, sealed the thing up with tape, and tossed it behind her socks. Obviously, I’d heard about it. It was the key to the past.

Back in the lab, we’d been working on a “genius” grant to replace carbon dating with more precise technology. Everyone was on semester break. Wearing inert plastic gloves of a type not yet on the market, I placed my drinking glass from the night of the argument into the visual field of the chronosonic microscope. I knew my own vibrational signature and was able to separate it from the overlapping timeprint.

I took Mom’s glass from the same night and did the reverse, separating the timeprint to isolate her unique vibrational ID. Lastly, I extracted her matching ID from the locket, leaving the exact vibrational timeprint of the last day she touched it. When I stood to stretch my neck and shoulders, I could see daylight bleaching the black horizon. I’d been working all night.

The last step was a leap of faith. I wrote a note explaining who I was, who she was, and what circumstances had led me to this action. I placed the note in a chamber similar to a microwave and bombarded it with artificial chronowaves with the same timeprint as her locket, and then her vibrational ID. The note was now identifiable as having last been touched by her on the same date and time as the locket; it must have existed at the same time as the locket, because any analysis would show it had.

I drove back to my parents’ place. Dad was still in custody, so the place was quiet. Out of a need for closure, I’d put the note with the locket and resealed it, tucking it back in with Mom’s socks.

I think, because of my exposure to Hollywood movies, I half-expected the photos on the wall to change to some other family or at least the dishes to be washed, but everything appeared very much as I had left it. I threw myself onto my bed. I was cold and trembling from exhaustion but still alive.

Just as I started to nod off, my cell phone rang on the nightstand.


“Mom, I thought they’d have you sedated. Are you resting?”

“I just wanted to thank you, dear. You saved my life.” She was groggy, obviously medicated.

“Calling the police after you’d already fallen down the stairs is not the same thing as saving your life, Mom. I’m just glad you’re alright. You never wanted me in the middle of your fights, like when someone stops two dogs from fighting and ends up getting bit, I guess. You always thought he’d be meaner to me than he was to you, but I’m old enough to handle myself. ”

“You warned me, and you were right.”

“You’re realizing this now?”

“I read your note, right before I put the locket away. I didn’t even know where it came from. It wasn’t there, and then it was there. That’s why I never touched the locket again. In a way, you told me not to.”

“You read my note?”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, dear. I’ve wanted to tell you for years, but it was just so farfetched — until you started graduate school and started talking about chronic waves.”

“Chronowaves, Mom.”

“I’m sure your father meant to shoot me, and he might have, but I took all of the shells out of his gun, because of your note.”

“But you stayed with him, all these years, even knowing what was ahead?”

You were ahead, dear. You’ve been worth everything that’s come before. Go make me proud. ’Night, dear.” And she hung up.

Copyright © 2011 by Charles Clifford Cole

Home Page