Everyone at school wore strange clothes.
Tim didn’t know what to think. Was this how things were at high school? Had he missed how Lex complained about having to go to school dressed like this? He couldn’t even pinpoint what he saw: bright colors, weird hairstyles, … everything so over the top, they must’ve scheduled Halloween a week late and forced everyone to dress according to the same theme of the 80s.
Tim stumbled through the doors Ethan, Lex, River and Jenny also walked through. He saw the missing posters but ignored them. After all, he knew a girl went missing. Except these missing posters displayed the information on Max Houston, not Deb Harrington.
Somehow, things were worse in the hallways. He couldn’t say if anything changed, but even the teachers had been roped into the Halloween dress-up party. The students packed the hallway and Tim wondered how he’d find the principal’s office in this place.
“You look good, Harriet.”
Tim recognized that voice. A little further way stood the girl Tom drove away, with two of her friends. Her name was Jane, wasn’t it? One of the girls said thanks – that was probably Harriet.
Since Tim didn’t know anyone and since he happened to see them, he decided to go to them. It was easier than clinging to the first teenager who passed him. At least Jane might be able to take him to the principal’s office, or give directions. She seemed nice.
He walked towards them. Jane caught him as he stopped, and her friends followed her gaze.
“I know you,” Jane said when Tim looked at her. “Why were you at Tom’s place?”
Tim couldn’t answer. Tom already ridiculed him, he didn’t need these girls’ ridicule, either.
“I’m looking for my mother,” he said truthfully.
Jane and her friend giggled. Harriet didn’t.
“This isn’t kindergarten,” the third friend said and Jane seemed to like this comment. Tim didn’t let this get him down, however.
“My mom’s the principal here.”
“Mr. Hobbs is your mom?” Jane laughed. Now even Harriet couldn’t resist a giggle.
“Do yourself a favor and leave,” the third said.
Tim listened. If this was how they treated him, he wasn’t staying any longer. He didn’t even want to look for his mother anymore. He didn’t want other students to laugh at him when he asked to see the principal and mentioned she was his mother.
But his mom never said a word about any Mr. Hobbs.
Tim ran out of the double doors and off the playground, though students just stood around and talked rather than played. He drew attention, but he didn’t care. So long as he could get out of here.
Mom wasn’t here. So if she wasn’t at school, then maybe his dad was at the police station. Though at this point, Tim hoped more than he knew.
Ewan easily found Carl Raymond’s pasture. It wasn’t hard to miss; a tractor stood by the side of the road and Carl himself waved at Ewan when he saw the police car had finally arrived. Ewan pulled up beside the tractor and stepped out of his car. He walked onto the pasture through the opened gate, as Carl ran up to him.
Even from the short glance, Ewan could see things weren’t right. This piece of land was flat and surrounded on all sides by barbed wire. All sheep in the pasture were lying; not a single sheep was still standing. If Ewan had driven by, he would not have guessed something was wrong; he would’ve thought they were asleep or resting.
“Thanks for coming,” Carl said, amicably shaking Ewan’s hand. Ewan shook it as well.
“Thank you for having faith,” Ewan said. After the disappearance of Max, nobody had faith in the police anymore. They’d rather call the fire services for something the police were authorized to do. “What happened here?”
“I hope you could say that,” he said, as he led the police officer to the middle of the patch, where most sheep lied.
“Were they sick?” Ewan asked, hoping to get some information. If they were sick, maybe it could be at the heart of the strange mass death. If not, something else must have happened. Something that might be more sinister than Carl may suspect.
The farmer shook his head. “No. They were all healthy yesterday.”
That opened up many possibilities. Unfortunately, Ewan wasn’t that familiar with caring for sheep and thus, it seemed his options were limited. The only ones who could say what may have caused these deaths, were Carl or some sort of professors or other farmers. Given the size of Hatchetfield and the size of the professors’ egos, it was highly unlikely they wanted to assist in this case.
So, Ewan had to draw a conclusion he didn’t have enough evidence for until at least an autopsy was performed.
"I don't know, Carl,” Ewan said. “I can only think of bad intent.”
“Bad intent?” Carl said incredulously. “I haven’t got enemies. And who in their right minds would kill thirty-three perfectly fine sheep?”
He didn’t believe anyone had killed the sheep. There was no blood and no sheep were maimed. He left them on the pasture last night and none of them showed signs of being hurt before Carl left.
The question also puzzled Ewan. Who would do this? A vandal, no doubt. Someone who did this for fun. Someone who found a way to kill them in a short span of time – they’d be scattered if they’d been attacked individually – and who took pleasure in seeing animals suffer, possibly for the heck of it.
“I’ll look into it,” Ewan promised. Carl looked at him in relief. “Someone will come to pick them up. I’ll have them undergo an autopsy.”
Without an autopsy, the deaths would never be solved. At the very least, if they couldn’t find anything, the thought of the autopsy had given Carl some comfort. It would take a while or a lot of money before his herd would be this size again.
“Thank you, Ewan,” Carl said. He walked Ewan back to his police car. “If I’d called the station, they’d laugh at me.”
Ewan nodded. If Carl decided to call the police station, he may not have been put through. The poor secretary would have rolled her eyes, told Carl she took it seriously, and then ignored it. More prank calls had come in and this was something the secretary could not take seriously, despite the urgent tone and the older voice. As the respect faltered, more prank calls came in.
“It’s not the most urgent,” Ewan agreed with his friend. “But if it’s important to you, it’s important to me. I’ll let you know when the results come in.”
They came to the car. It was going to take Ewan twenty minutes to drive back to the station – some of that time was spent on the dirt roads leading everywhere and nowhere, and a smaller portion on the concrete roads of the Hatchetfield city center. First bumpy, then smooth. If the chief found out, Ewan would have to clean the car himself. The man cared more for prestige and image than the good work the officers did.
“I’d like to thank you again,” Carl said. “Will I see you at church?”
“I thought you didn’t go to church?”
Ewan wasn’t a man of faith anymore. The community was nice, but after the affair, he’d been cast out. He still kept in touch with some of them, but Carl was not a religious man. Carl liked the community aspect, too, but never expressed the want to go to church.
Even now, Carl shrugged.
“Not really, but there’s this new pastor. He seems nice,” Carl said. There was a short pause. “We could check it out together.”
“Maybe when this mystery is solved, okay?” Ewan said. Even if a pastor was nice, it didn’t mean Ewan went back to church. He didn’t feel comfortable anymore. The pastor would probably have heard about the affair already, with how quickly the citizens’ dirty laundry was hung out to dry to newcomers.
But hey, if Carl asked after Ewan had figured out what exactly happened to the sheep, he wouldn’t say no for a sense of community.
Carl nodded. “Okay.”
He thanked Ewan again for everything he’s done and is about to do. Ewan took it all in, told him no problem, and stepped into his car. He already anticipated the bumpy road before he turned the key and started the car.
Tim ran. Though his legs screamed that he was tired, he did not stop. He needed to get to the police station and see his father, have him hug him, tell him it was okay, it was just a bad dream.
It looked a lot like a nightmare wasn’t going to end, as he thought it would.
At long last, he arrived at the police station. He managed to walk in through the front door and past the receptionist, who was busy taking a call. As his dad had sometimes brought him to the offices, Tim knew exactly where he needed to be. It seemed to be quiet today, as he did not meet anyone on his way.
He pushed the door open to his father’s office. Behind the desk, however, sat an older man who was as surprised as Tim was. He’d never seen this police officer before, and he wore the wrong uniform, too. Though, that might just be a new one.
The officer stood up and looked at the boy.
“Are you okay?”
Tim gulped before he responded. “I’m looking for my father. He works here.”
“Who’s your father?”
The officer’s face was blank for a few seconds. Then, he frowned at the boy.
“Are you serious?” he asked. “Is this some kind of joke?”
Tim shook his head as his hope sunk. “No, sir.”
The officer sighed. If he believed Tim, it didn’t show. He walked from behind the desk and came closer to the boy.
“What’s your name?”
“Tim Houston,” he said. Somehow, this was also a bad answer, because the officer shook his head.
“Tim…” He took a closer look at Tim’s scraped face and focused on that instead. “Did he do this to you? Did Tom hurt you?”
Tim shook his head once. “No.”
Somehow, Tim started to fear teenager Tom, who left Tim’s house and might be the one the officer referred to. Was he that bad? Had Tim been saved by Jane from something worse? Or did this man have a bone to pick with this Tom? Could he be the father? Only the mother had been home, though the officer was likely a grandfather by now.
“You can tell me if he did,” the officer said. “I’ll make sure he’ll never hurt you again.”
“He didn’t do it,” Tim said. The scrapes came from the caves. and when he ran out again, everything had changed. People wore strange clothes, technology had been set back a couple decades and the people in the streets did not look familiar at all. He did not even recognize one, which was odd, because he usually saw them at school, as they walked or biked or hung out in the park or Witchwood Forest.
Something had changed. Something the newspaper already told him this morning, which he fiercely hadn’t wanted to believe when he read it.
“What’s the date?” Tim asked cautiously.
“It’s November 6,” the officer said.
“And the year?”
The ground shook under his feet. Tim tried to catch his breath. The shock rendered him taciturn, unable to speak or even register anything that went on around him for a few seconds.
It really happened. He time traveled. He was no longer in 2019. Many questions popped up; questions he had no answers for. All these questions were a variation of ‘how did this happen?’. His mind wandered to the supernatural, to aliens, to magic, to hidden technology, to nuclear fallout. Nothing seemed too outlandish anymore; he wasted his time performing stupid magic tricks – tricks! – when all this time, real magic could’ve been out there. Magic that brought Tim to an entirely different time period in familiar Hatchetfield.
The officer noticed the shock of the boy and realized this wasn’t part of the ‘prank’. He kneeled beside the kid, for as far as his aging body allowed it, and looked in the boy’s eyes.
“I’m going to call the hospital,” he said in a calm comforting tone. “A nurse will come to pick you up so she can clean those wounds. We can continue this at a later date. Is that okay?”
Tim barely remembered to nod. He watched the officer stand up and sitting behind the desk. The older officer called the hospital and Tim learned his name. Ewan Monroe. He didn’t know anyone named Ewan, but he did know River. Was Ewan his grandfather, or an even older relative? Tim couldn’t tell, and even then he barely had the motivation to think about it. His mind was consumed by two things, completely co-dependent, one just as scary as the other.
One: he had no idea how he traveled through time.
Two: he had no idea how to go home.