The Withered Spoon

Rebecca sat on the cot in the tiny room she had been given. It must be a servant's quarters because there was nothing but a cot, a small stand with a ceramic bowl and pitcher, and a chamber pot under the bed. There were 3 wooden pegs on the wall, presumably for clothing.

Surely no self respecting traveller would pay for such dismal lodgings. There was another reason she  thought it was a servant's quarters. There was a bell hanging on a hook on the far wall. It must be attached to a bell cord that led somewhere else, because it kept ringing incessantly.

The bell was high on the wall, almost up to the nine foot ceiling. There was nothing tall enough in the room to stand on except the bed, and it was bolted to the floor. Apparently the servants didn't even have the option of rearranging their own rooms. Being a servant in Victorian England must have been bleak indeed.

The metal frame bed had no springs, just woven rope of some sort to support the mattress, which was just cotton material filled with feathers. Not eiderdown feathers, probably chicken feathers, with sharp little ends that dug into you no matter where you moved.

"She wanted to go home! She went to the door. It was locked! Oh great, now she was a prisoner. The bell clanged again. She threw her boot at it and missed. Threw her other boot, missed again.

There was a less than clean wool blanket on the bed. She took it off and  tied it around the ankle of her boot. She twisted the blanket tight around her hand and swung the boot  hard against the wall..bang!

That was one bell that would never clang again!

After she had eaten, Robert Witherspoon had led her up here with a candle in a candle holder. There was no gaslight in this room. There wasn't even a candle. The only light came from a tiny window way up by the ceiling.

Witherspoon didn't seem like the type to keep a person prisoner, after all, he was her ancestor. She looked at the LED readout on her watch for the umpteenth time. A small flash and a tiny chime indicated that the time had finally come to contact her own time.

She lightly tapped some raised shapes on the face, and the timepiece became a videophone. The face of Alice, her travel director appeared on the small screen.

"Where in  Hell is my travel guide, my money, my costumes?"

 She all but shouted into it.

The director looked like death warmed over. she was sickly pale, and it was clear that she had been crying.

"The travel beam malfunctioned. He was sent back to the Jurassic period. He was eaten by a dinosaur! I saw it happen!"

Alice burst into tears.

"My arrangements were made a month ago. Why wasn't I told?"

"A month ago on whatever planet you were on wasn't a month ago here. Percy just became a Dino snack five hours ago."

"It's true that I was in an alternate solar system, but I came back through a worm hole. The timing should still be the same."

"Well, whatever. We couldn't contact you. You weren't at any of your Earth contact stations, so we assumed you had heard, and that you just wouldn't show up. Nobody knew that Percy had already given you your travel chip. It never even occurred to anybody that you could enter the travel beam on your own without contacting anybody. You should have contacted somebody!"

Alice burst into tears again.

"Well, there's no real harm done. Just beam me back now."

"We can't. Percy had your travel co- ordinates with him. Not only yours, but several other customers that were supposed to come home today. All we have to track you with is your travel timepiece. This place is a nightmare. We're calling in everybody we can contact to come in and help. I've already entered your timepiece on the tracker beam, but it's going to take time."

"How much time?"

At least twenty four hours, so sit tight, and don't lose your time piece! "

Rebecca could see the room behind Alice fill up with people.

"Look, I have to go Rebecca. Your timepiece is preset for contact window opportunities. Wait for the next window, and contact me then. I'll be able to tell you more then."

Alice turned her head toward several people who were gesturing wildly and obviously shouting.

" I really have to go. "Bye.

The videophone went dark and became a timepiece again.

"Oh wonderful! My day just keeps getting better and better!"

Rebecca sat on the hard wooden floor in her sock feet, knees up to her chin, and started to cry.

The End

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