Sky Watcher: A Shadow in Time

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Her plan was to save Elizabeth and return home: she does not belong in this time. But, the stakes have risen. With two lives on the line, she must face the consequences of meddling with time, even if it costs her everything.
First 10 Pages


Time is always. It is now, it is then; it cannot be stopped, and it waits for no one.

I asked myself once again: Charlotte, have you lost your mind? Have you gone completely off the deep end? My saner inner voice was becoming repetitive. In fact, it was getting on my nerves! Not for the first time, I tried to reassure myself that, yes, while even thinking about doing something like this would be considered crazy, attempting it was absurd—yet, here I was. I was on my way to Owasco Lake, New York, on what could prove to be the greatest, and quite possibly last, adventure of my life.

As the bus travelled East on the thruway, my mind was racing. My thoughts turned unexpectedly to the conversation I’d had with Jessica yesterday morning. She’d called about dropping some boxes off at the house. Given that I had some running around to do, I told her I’d leave the side door unlocked for her or Michael. She reminded me of a letter that had come for me, which she’d left on the table by the phone. As I told her I’d be in touch tomorrow, I scanned the table and the floor at its base, but saw nothing.

After speaking to Jessica, I’d gone to see my lawyer to review the handling of my affairs if I hadn’t come back within two years. Chances were, if I hadn’t come back by then, I wasn’t coming back. That’s assuming, of course, that I made it there at all.

I expected to be gone for a year or so, and had suggested that Jessica and Michael live in my house during that time. It was a win-win situation—my house would be lived in and looked after, and they would have somewhere to stay together while they saved for a house of their own.

Upon returning home, I was struck by how empty the house felt. The butterflies in my stomach started fluttering. This is not an ending, I reminded myself. It’s the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime! I went upstairs and released the staircase from the attic, climbing up with the last of my boxes. I couldn’t help but smile as I looked around the large open space. This attic wasn’t a gloomy, confined room; it was properly floored and insulated, with two high, half-circle windows letting in the sunlight. Though it had a low ceiling, I could walk through the middle without having to duck my head. When I was little, it had been my playroom. We’d painted a wall pink, hung a large blackboard, and taken up a little table, chairs, and tea set. I still remembered sitting at the table with my biggest teddy, Super Fluffy, and my bunny, Alice, sharing tea and cookies. When I was a little bigger, I’d come up here with Jessica and we’d shared our secrets. Now the floor space was occupied by a rolling rack hung with off-season clothing, boxes of Christmas decorations, books, and keepsakes. I put the last boxes onto the floor and, after one last look around, closed up the attic. It was now midafternoon and all that remained for me to do was write my letter to Jess.

The weather this March had been remarkably warm, and I was hot! First things first: let’s get out of these sweaty clothes and freshen up. I dropped my clothes to the floor, reached in behind the glass shower door, and turned on the water. I took down my ponytail and brushed out my hair and when the temperature was just right, stepped in. Mm-mm, this, I will miss! Questions rushed through my mind. Would I succeed in making this journey? Could it even be done? I had seen Elizabeth’s name on that list on my computer and made up my mind to try to save her, but would I even be able to find her? Is it possible to change things that have already happened? Would there be consequences? Completely engrossed in my thoughts as I was, it came as a shock when Michael’s face came into view in the open shower door. As I looked at him, confused, he smiled and stepped in, pulling the door closed behind him. “Michael, what the—” He cut me off.

“Charlie, when I realized you were in here, I had to come. I just want to be with you one last time, to say goodbye.” His hand ran up my arm, before his fingers lifted my chin, his touch was familiar. I put up a valiant fight, I did, but he knew me too well.

When he left sometime later, I felt only emptiness. I sat on the edge of the bed, turning to avoid my reflection in the mirror. That door had closed some time ago. I thought back to the evening we’d called it quits. We had both known that breaking up was the right thing to do, that it just wasn’t to be. I’d come up to bed after he’d left and cried until I had no tears left. A soft, unfamiliar voice whispered to me in my dreams that night: “Every ending is a new beginning, Charlotte.” These wise words had stayed with me.

It was about a year later when he and Jess got together, and they were perfect for each other. I hoped that they would have a good life together, I truly did. I felt no jealousy, no hard feelings, though now I did feel a small amount of guilt. I suppose that my fear and uncertainty about what lay ahead of me had caused me to grab hold of the feeling of love and protection he’d offered, fleeting as it was. Without question, it would be easier to move forward when I was no longer in the here and now. Tomorrow would change everything.

Leaving Home

Tomorrow—that is today—came quickly! “Elizabeth! No-o-o!” I called out, the sound of my own voice waking me. I sat up in my bed and looked around. I was still at home, in my room. It was only a dream; I was not too late.

I’d been standing alone. My surroundings, everything that I could see, appeared out of focus, as if in motion. There were no colours, only shades of grey and dirty white. Any sounds were muffled and undistinguishable, as if being heard under water. Unable to get my bearings, I shook my head and closed my eyes tight, counting—one, two, three, four, five . . .

Looking again, I saw that there was a crowd gathered near where I stood. They seemed to be standing in groups; some talking quietly to one another, some calling out, all facing the same general direction. I stood up on my toes to get a better look around. My vision was beginning to clear—I could see that I was among the crowd. We were all standing on the dirt ground in what looked to be the town or village square. There were several two-storey stone buildings in the still-grey backdrop. I could see capped heads in several of the windows, as onlookers watched the scene below them.

As the horde of people in front of me opened up, I could see something between the mob and the buildings. I pushed my way forward through the throng of people, aware of more than one unpleasant odour wafting through the cool air with the movement. Looking ahead, I saw a wooden structure in front of the crowd. It looked old and rickety and stood just about the height of my shoulders. I firmly closed my eyes once again, hoping that when I opened them next, this would all make sense.

All of the people who had been standing around faded into the periphery and in front of me stood a rectangular wooden scaffold, open underneath apart from some supporting planks or beams. The front face was open, but the other three sides had a railing around the edge, except where there were a few stairs going up the back. As my eyes slowly rose to the top of the structure, everything came into sharp focus. The crowd returned in full colour, though still mostly grey, a muffled din hanging in the air above them. I saw the cloud of my breath on the air as my eyes were drawn to two ropes hanging from a beam across the top of the structure. No, not ropes. Nooses. This is the gallows!

A sudden hush fell upon the crowd. Not understanding why, I looked around to see what I was missing. That’s when I saw the two men, each in black clothing, walking up the stairs. Between them was a woman. She followed the man in front, her eyes watching the floor beneath her feet. She wore a long, full, light-brown dress smudged with dirt and tattered across the bottom. The man in front pointed to the spot where she was to stand, while the other walked back down the stairs and stood there, as if to block the stairway. She looked from the spot where he pointed up into his face before stepping onto the square he had shown her. Her hands were tied at the wrists in front of her and her long hair hung loose beneath her bonnet, some shorter pieces blowing across her face in the gentle breeze. A woman standing beside me turned and stuck me with her elbow. “That witch’ll pay today!” she sniggered, before turning back to the front with a nod.

The commotion within the crowd increased and I heard taunting shouts of “Hang the witch!” and “Murderer!” and “Show her what we do to witches!” There was exaltation amongst many of the onlookers as well, yet there were some, like myself, who simply looked on in quiet disbelief.

The woman on the scaffold looked out past the crowd, her face without expression. Though we had yet to meet, I knew at whom I was looking. “Elizabeth! Elizabeth!” I tried to shout, but no sound came from my lips. The hangman lowered the noose over her head and snugged it around her neck. Many in the crowd began to cheer. I watched her eyes as they came to rest on someone at the back of the crowd, someone she knew, whom she cared for. She was looking at whomever it was with a small smile on her lips as the floor fell away beneath her feet.

I’d awoken only seconds before the blaring tone of my alarm filled the room. It was 3:45 a.m. I hadn’t slept much and, when I did, I’d dreamed. I felt excited and nervous and a little bit scared. Today was the day I’d been waiting for, March 22, 2012! After quickly washing-up, I took one last look around the bedroom and wondered where I would be at this time tomorrow. I walked down into the kitchen to pour a coffee. The bags I’d left at the front door last night caught my eye. There were three: a dark grey felted backpack I’d knitted, a large grey duffle bag I’d sewn with straps rather than a zipper, and a basic gym bag holding the things I would need between now and midnight.

I left Jessica’s note propped up against the coffee maker. In it, I’d explained all that I could about my going away. I would be gone for a year or two, somewhere where communication would not be possible, but my intention was to return home. She would know all that was necessary and I would avoid actually having to say goodbye. I peeked out the window as the taxi pulled into the driveway.

I was ready! With the last of my tasks completed, I stepped out of the house into the darkness and took a deep breath. My first stop was the GO Train station and the 4:45 a.m. train to Union Station. The ride was a blur, as hundreds of thoughts went through my mind. I wondered once again if this type of travel would actually be possible. Would I make it there? Would I ever know if she truly was an ancestor? I thought of the letter I’d written to Jess.

March 22, 2012

Dear Jess,

As you will have gathered, I’ve already left town. You know that I plan to be away for a year or so and that I won’t be reachable. Please know that I appreciate your looking after things while I’m away. I’ve left any paperwork you may need in the red file folder in the top of the filing cabinet, just in case. Please make yourself at home and use the house and cottage as your own.

I wish you and Michael nothing but love and joy in what
I hope will be a long and happy life together. You know I think the world of you both and that you are perfect for each other. Please DO NOT worry about me. I’m setting off on a fabulous adventure and I’m very excited! It’s time my life took a new direction. As Mum would say, “I will not follow where the path may lead, I will go where there is no path and break my own trail.” That’s what I’m gonna do!

In those moments when you miss your oldest and bestest friend, smile and remember the fun we’ve had together over the years, the learning we did together, the secrets we shared. I will be thinking of you, too!

I’ve left you a moonstone on top of the dresser, like mine. Call me crazy, but I find this stone comforting—in my hand or pocket, or around my neck. If nothing else, let it bring me to mind from time to time!

You will receive a box by courier in the next few days containing some things that I won’t need while I’m away. I will get a hold of you when I return. I’m sorry that I can’t tell you when that will be.

Until then, be happy, Jess. Live and enjoy life—every single minute of it!

Thank you for being a wonderful best friend. You will always be in my heart.

Love you always, Charlie XOX

I knew that she would wonder where I’d gone and why I hadn’t given her more information, but I was also very aware that I couldn’t tell her the truth.

Instead, I’d opted for omission, hoping that she would trust in the little information I’d given her and forgive me when it was all over.

Before I knew it, I was on the bus from Toronto, Ontario, to Syracuse, New York, my ETA just before noon. Leaning my head back on the headrest, I closed my eyes. I’d been over my plan a hundred times, maybe more, I didn’t want to do that again now. I found the malachite stone that hung on my bracelet representing love, protection, peace, and power, closed my fingers around it, and let my mind drift. I drifted right off to sleep as a matter of fact, a welcome change from all of the thinking I’d been doing about Elizabeth, my spell, my chances of success.

From Syracuse, I boarded a chartered bus bound for Auburn before finally hailing a cab that would take me to the beachfront cottage I’d rented for the night, on the South-East coast of Owasco Lake. I would only use the cottage for a few hours, but I needed it nonetheless. As the cabbie drove South down the shore line, I watched the beautiful landscape of the Finger Lakes pass before my eyes and wondered what I would find when I arrived—if I made it. A movement in the trees caught my eye. Was that some sort of wild cat? I’d only had a quick glimpse and squinted trying to get a better look, but it had disappeared.

After arriving at the beach house, I went for a walk around the area. The Finger Lakes region of New York is absolutely gorgeous. I wished that I’d had the forethought to give myself a couple of days to enjoy my stay here, but I hadn’t and I needed to leave tonight—about that there was no choice. The house itself was situated steps back from a rock face that was maybe fifteen feet high, overlooking the water. I walked to the edge, looking out at the quiet lake lying in front of me, then I turned South and walked into the woods. I chose a small clearing amongst the trees as the spot I would return to later on.

The owner of the cottage, Mrs. Potts, had kindly left me some dinner and the bottle of olive oil I’d requested. This, I put into my duffle bag with the lighter, toothbrush, flashlight, a few pens and pieces of paper, a few essential oils, some coins I’d managed to get my hands on, my stones, and the couple of photos I’d packed. After enjoying a bite to eat out on the porch, I watched the last rays of the sun setting over the still, partially frozen surface of the water. Only then, when I was feeling at peace and relaxed, was I ready to prepare my ritual bath. I opened the high bathroom window a few inches to allow some of the warm, fresh evening air into the room. I lit several candles in the darkened bathroom, dropped some lavender oil into the bathwater, and took out my homemade lavender soap. As I lay back into the water, I began to feel doubt rising within me. I had never done anything like this. I’d done nothing more than perform rituals offering thanks. I took a deep, relaxing breath and directed my mind toward the purpose of tonight’s ritual: to save Elizabeth. Focus. As the negative energy seeped out of my body, relaxation set in and I did my best to clear my mind. I let my head and neck rest on the back of the tub and closed my eyes, enjoying the feel and smell of the warm water. I must have drifted off for a moment or two, for I thought I heard a low voice, softly whispering, “Every moment is a new beginning, Charlotte, every instant a choice.” I opened my eyes and turned toward the voice, though I knew that I was alone in the candlelight.

After wrapping myself in a towel, I reached up to close the window. My wrist brushed against something soft on the windowsill and, as I pulled my hand away, I watched a feather flutter slowly down toward the floor and land on the edge of the tub. It was a lovely blue colour, its quill and shaft a shade darker than the rest. It was so pretty that I stuck it inside the bag with my clothes to take with me on my journey, for good luck.

After changing into the grey dress and short boots I’d had made in the fashion of the early 1800s, I tied my leather cord around my neck and adjusted the moonstone that hung on it. As I curled my fingers around it, I picked up my cell phone and texted “Goodbye, Jess. XO” with a lump in my throat. I was about to turn the phone off, when I received a response. “Love you, stay safe.” I placed the phone into a courier box along with my wallet, passport, and some clothing, to be sent to Jess. This, I left on the porch for pick-up in the morning.

As midnight approached, I gathered up my bags and had a last look around before walking back out into the woods by the water. There were only stars in tonight’s sky, the new moon having set with the day’s sun. I could hear the mysterious “who-oo whoo” of an owl overhead, and listened for an answering hoot, but heard nothing. When I’d found the spot I was looking for, I put my bags down, slipped into my long coat, and retrieved my stones and candles. I began to set up for the ritual of all rituals, the spell of a lifetime.

With a stick, I sketched a rectangle into the dirt to represent my Wiccan altar, and put two candles into the centre of my would-be circle. Sitting on the forest floor before my altar, I visualized myself reaching for and achieving my goal. The circle I would cast would be the place where the material world met the spiritual world, the place where magic happened.

My mind was ready. I began. Standing facing East, the direction of the rising sun, I visualized the Earth’s energy travelling up into my body, flowing into my fingertips, creating a bluish light. Slowly, I began to turn toward the South, West, and finally North, while directing the flowing energy into a circle around my chosen space. In my mind’s eye, I could see the circle’s bluish light forming a boundary as I moved it up and down to encompass myself and my chosen area, like a bubble. And we begin . . .

Facing East, I began to call the quarters. I drew a pentagram in the air, and said, “Welcome, powers of the East, power of air. Please join my circle tonight.” I closed my eyes and pictured the pentagram glowing brightly in front of me. I turned to the South. “Welcome, powers of the South, power of fire. Please join my circle tonight.” I did this for the West and water and for the North and Earth. Standing in the centre of my circle, before the altar, I raised my arms in a Y, palms facing forward. “Great Goddess of the Earth and Heavens, Lady of the Moon, Mother of all things, please join me in my circle tonight and assist me with my spell.” I bent to light the silver candle. Within moments, I began to feel her energy within the circle. “Great God, Lord of the Sun and grain in the fields, Lord of the forest and of the hunt, please join me in my circle tonight and assist me with my spell.” I bent and lit the gold candle. Feeling his presence, I spoke the words of my spell.

“Blessed are the Goddess and God,
The Bright and Pure Maiden and her Strong and Virile Consort.
On this day so near Ostara, when the daylight and dark are equal,
When the dark days of winter are past. And the world turns green once more. Our Earth awakens from her slumber, Welcoming new life and new beginnings. So now do I seek a new beginning, a new time.

Earth’s energy I draw upon,
To reach for and attain my goal,
To pass back through the hands of time, To keep safe an innocent soul.

The New Moon will guide me on this night, Many years have I to pass through.
The Full Moon on this date in 1818,
Will light my way as I start anew.

So mote it be.”

I stood, focussed entirely on the energy I was directing toward my objective, breathing slowly, rhythmically. When I felt that the energy had been delivered to my goal, I returned the excess to the Earth and stood quietly in contemplation, simply breathing in and out. After thanking and saying fare- well to the Goddess and God, I released the quarters and began to take up the circle I had laid out, repeating my spell over once and then again.

With my bags over my shoulders, I held my two chosen stones, and stood facing South, the lake to my right. I became aware of a strange sensation, as if something small was spinning in the centre of my head. It grew stronger, slowly spreading throughout my body. I felt dizzy, woozy. There was a buzzing in my ears and everything went blurry. My knees felt weak and buckled. There was the screech of a bird in the trees overhead, and then I was overcome. Everything went black.