She felt dazed and unaware of her surroundings. The room was lit by a circle of blue candles on a table opposite her bed. Despite the remarkably bright light, she lay in darkness. The folds of the curtains suspended from the rods above were thick and smothering.
She struggled to sit up. She needed to get out of bed. She’d been there too long. But, how long? Fear overtook her when she realized she couldn’t move. She was completely helpless. Where was she? She should be somewhere else, but where?
The dim room was decorated with cryptic tapestries that appeared to almost blend in with the walls. The timbers of the building were exposed on the naked part of the walls. They were thick and ancient in the bask of candlelight. Her vision felt warped. She must’ve been out for a while; she blinked hard. Her sight had cleared by the time the footsteps began
She couldn’t move to hide and the heavy footfall sounded like thunder. She couldn’t even raise the covers over her head. The floor sounded hollow beneath the tread. She prayed they would pass her door, that they would allow her privacy until she was mobile. Yet, the individual came to a halt outside the massive door.
The latch began to turn and her heart accelerated. Who was it? What did they want? She closed her eyes; she prayed they would stop. She couldn’t see anyone in such a vulnerable condition. It wouldn’t be fair; she didn’t want some stranger taking care of her, not when she couldn’t even move.
The door swung open and a hulking shadow entered the room. She peeked at the figure from her bed. She had to keep her eyes partially closed; maybe they would believe she was still asleep and leave. The shadow approached and carried something.
She peeked out from half-closed lids to see it was a man. He pulled a heavy wooden chair near her. Why wasn’t the entire room well-lit? Details were difficult to decipher; her vision was not normal. The person was hazy; she felt she was looking at him through gauze.
A soothing voice surprised her, “Wake. You must eat.” The voice was not malevolent or hateful; somehow she had expected something more cold or commanding. In spite of her vulnerability, she felt welcome relief flood her panicked heart. He wasn’t an enemy. She felt safe in her new company; her nerves eased and her fears departed. His clothing was strange; it seemed strange. But, why would she think that? She believed it was unlike what she had been accustomed to. At least, she thought it was unusual. Was it Halloween?
“What’s your name?” The voice gently prodded.
“Uh . . .” she stammered. What was her name? It was such a simple question, yet the answer was evasive. She prodded her own memory. Why was everything so vague? She finally answered, “Cynthia.” “Hello, Cynthia.” She could tell he smiled by his voice.
“You were out for a few weeks. You suffered pneumonia; I’m glad you survived. Where do you come from?”
Another question. She was more confident; her esteem improved with her waking. She almost fully knew who she was and where she was from. The hesitance of the previous daze had nearly lifted, “I was born in Bristol, but I live in Washington.”
“Where’s that?” He seemed puzzled. “Are you from England?”
“Washington D.C.? The country’s capital?” She smiled, the situation had reversed. She couldn’t understand his hesitant acceptance. That was the nation’s capital. Who hadn’t heard of D.C.?
“Which country’s capital?” He quizzed.
“The one right above Virginia, the . . .”
“Oh! The Virginia colony. I’ve been there, but never heard of Washington. It must be a new settlement.”
“Yes,” she couldn’t argue. The exchange had already exhausted her. She looked at the tray to find strange looking biscuits and shiny liquid on top.
“I brought you some honey and bread. I know you can’t take any strong foods at this time.”
“Where am I?” It was her turn to quiz.
“You are in Salem,”
“Which Salem? Massachusetts?”
He laughed at her question, “How many other Salem’s are there in our New World? Of course, it’s Massachusetts.”
Why didn’t he know about such common places? She grew aggravated with the nonsensical questioning. “What date is this? How long have I been out?”
“For about two weeks. It is now September the seventh, sixteen hundred and ninety-two.”
What? She looked at him, overwhelmed with shock. She didn’t exactly know which time she belonged in, but it wasn’t the present one. She studied him and wondered what happened. How did she get there? If she wasn’t supposed to be in that era, why was she? Where the hell did she come from?
He ignored her silence, “You were found unconscious in our village square, many people were afraid of you. The clothing you wore stood out. It’s illegal here for a woman to wear trousers or pants. I felt it was my Christian duty to save you, seeing that no one else would.” He sounded perturbed. “Honestly, they are a good community until something like this happens.”
He reached for the bedding behind her; even at such close range, she couldn’t decipher his features. He propped her up with the white pillows. “I own a mercantile. As a matter of fact, your room is right above my shop. I live down on the bottom floor in the back of the store. My parents founded the shop and they passed away a few years ago.”
He leaned towards her. “You know, you’ve already angered some people.” He chuckled lightly. “Ruth Seawall, her father is a founder of our colony. You should know more about our people, seeing they are how they are. Ruth has sought marriage to me for years. I don’t want to marry her, although her father does press me. I’m not betrothed. Needless to say, Ruth was not pleased when I said I would take you in.” He paused, yet she made no attempt to interrupt. Gossip got her mind off her own inabilities.
“You shouldn’t be alarmed. She has been inhospitable to every female in the community; it shouldn’t distress you. My customers, my deliverymen, she hates anyone within a vicinity of me. I hate it. I don’t want you to be shocked by her behavior.”
She listened as he revealed all about the tiny community. There was no radio or television noise in the silent house. His voice was soothing, and she felt sleepy as he continued. He neither bragged nor cowered as he spoke. “Well, there’s no escape. The entire Seawall family has been angry with me. Some of my customers even stopped visiting my shop. Yet, I will not bow. It seems so hypocritical to leave a sick person in the elements. The autumn is harsh this year.” His tone grew somber. “I hope I haven’t distressed you.”
“Not at all,” Cynthia whispered and tried to smile. “I welcome the company. It feels like eternity has passed since I’ve spoken with anyone.”
“You are coming around well. I want to make sure you understood the community before you ventured into it. Some of their behavior can be… Confusing. They have a nasty ability to deliver… mixed messages regarding their intentions.”
“I understand. Really, I do.”
“Good. Oh,” he caught himself. “I had this made for when you recovered.”
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a long necklace. It was delicately engraved and a large diamond sat in the center of the gold cross. It gleamed in the candlelight. “I thought this would help you feel better. I often order products from Europe for the colony.”
“I can’t accept it.” She eyed the piece. It was beautiful and looked very expensive. “I appreciate it so much, but I can’t take it. I hardly know you.”
“Please, it would make me feel better.”
He persisted and acted offended that she might not accept it. She gave in. “Fine,” she grinned. “Thank you so much.”
He looked at the window; Cynthia watched a strange expression develop. “What is your name?” She felt foolish she hadn’t even asked his name.
“Isaac Cromwell. My shop is Cromwell’s Mercantile.” “Nice to meet you, Isaac.” She smiled at the gift as he laid it on the stand beside the bed.
He watched out the window beside them; flashes of light played across his face. She could see him. He had pale skin and long, dark hair that was tied back. She had no idea how she reached the time she was in, but the anxiety of disorientation was short-lived. The comforting stranger brought her feelings of safety and somehow she knew he cared for her more than anyone.
Why had he taken such good care of her for so long? She was in strange surroundings and the conversation seemed to be nonsense, but she felt warm and secure. She wasn’t in pain; she didn’t hunger or thirst; she was warm and her clothes were clean. She could feel the dry fabric surround her body, her feet and hands.
He grew alarmed as he hurried to her bedside. “I must go now. If anyone comes in, pretend you are asleep. This is serious. Ruth has followed through with her threats. I’m sorry for placing you in this position. I didn’t think she was serious. Please, lie here and do not move. No matter what you hear, act like you are asleep.” Her palms began to sweat and her breathing sped up; danger was near.
Something had happened. Ruth had done something terrible. She couldn’t imagine what, but the jealous woman had done something. She heard a fight downstairs. Isaac argued with another man. “Yes, you are,” a strange and malevolent voice charged.
“I am not harboring a witch. She is a sick woman. She needed help the rest of you hypocrites refused to offer. I couldn’t let her die.”
“Well, perhaps you should’ve.” The angry voice yelled. It was as deep as Isaac’s, yet it was brutal.
She heard violence; glass shattered; shelves tumbled. The entire room sounded like it was being destroyed.
She heard more footfall coming up the steps; it sounded like Isaac. She feigned sleep as a protective measure. The door was cast open; she peeked out and saw it was him.
“It’s too late.” He was on the verge of tears. “They are here. They are coming. Please wear this. It might protect you.”
He pulled the cross from the table and put it around her neck. For one second, their eyes locked. Cynthia knew who she was, and how far from home she was. She looked into his eyes, knowing this was the only one for her. The one she would marry and live the rest of her life with. They were dark blue and she felt peace in the midst of the turmoil.
The stampede came up the steps and violently pushed through the hall outside. Yells and shouts echoed through the corridor, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying. Her heart sped when she smelled smoke. Something was burning and she couldn’t get out of bed.
The group entered, their hostile faces exaggerated by the light from the candles and the torches they carried. They had evil faces, the leader stood out, “There she is. The harlot.”
“She is not a harlot.” Isaac grew angrier.
They all spread out and the leader of the mob declared, “Let’s rid this room of evil.”
They lit the curtains and tapestries, the popping and cracking of the cloth sounded loud in the silence of the home. Isaac fought four men while a fifth brought a chair back and slammed over his skull. She was paralyzed; the once peaceful home was full of fire and rage.
The lead man moved closer and grabbed her pendent. “This won’t help you, witch.” He yanked the chain apart, but she held fast to the pendant. The piece separated and the chain fell over the side of the bed. She wasn’t about to let go of the cross.
“Why are you doing this?” Isaac looked up from the floor; she could only see over the edge of the bed with one eye; blood streamed out of his mouth.
“You don’t insult my sister,” the leader swore through clenched teeth. The mob broke chairs and Cynthia shuddered on the bed.
The curtains introduced flames to the walls. When the room was destroyed, the mob dwindled. With the leader being the last person in the room, he reached his hand on the table and pushed the burning candles to the floor.
She strained to look over the bedside and watched Isaac’s clothing erupt in flames when the candles fell on him. He wasn’t moving or trying to extinguish the fire. It felt pointless to struggle; she knew it was over and laid back on the bed. She felt a hand lay on hers and smiled. It was Isaac; he had struggled over to her bedside. She was paralyzed again and the world was going black.
She heard a beeping; she reached out to switch off the alarm. Her hand hit a strange, cold structure and she heard plastic bowls hitting a hard surface. What was that? She never kept a cluttered nightstand.
She was blinded momentarily; the fire had been intense. She knew it was likely she would never see again. She clung to the pendant, positive they would’ve removed it in the Emergency Room. “Sixteen hundred and ninety-two . . .” whispered through her mind.
She bolted upright and rubbed her eyes. She could move freely and without constraint or exhaustion. She could fully open her eyes and see. She looked around; she was in a hospital room. She knew her name was Cynthia Danvers; she was twenty-nine. It all flooded back to her; she knew who she was, exactly where she lived and, and, and…
And she remembered Isaac. She looked down at the pendant and trembled. Her heart mourned for the loss of love and a sad return to what she knew. A man came in, dressed in green scrubs and a white lab coat.
“Cynthia, you’ve got a clean bill of health. I’m Doctor Clifford
Seawall. I’m your physician today. Nasty car wreck. You’re a very lucky girl.”
“Where did it happen?” She felt woozy from the return to consciousness, but paid no attention to the curt man before her. She looked at him once, and it was him.
The leader of the angry group at Isaac’s store stood before her. He still wore the menacing grin and the vicious eyes. He realized her reaction and sneered even further, “You wrecked in front of an old store, Cromwell’s Mercantile. You should be more careful. You will be released today. I hope that this close brush with serious injury will prevent you from reckless behavior in the future. Have a good day.”
She knew he recognized her as she did him. She could feel it in her soul, a positive feeling. A certainty beyond what she’d believed possible. She knew he recalled. He turned to face her before exiting the room and pointed at the object in her palm, “Be careful with that, I’ll bet it’s really old.”
He left and Cynthia was still speechless. Her mind returned to the mercantile; it all played over in her mind. The threat was gone. As far as her life was concerned, he never existed at all.
A nurse walked in, “Hey! It’s good you’re fully awake. I’ve got some good news. Your observation is over. We had to keep you overnight because you sustained a concussion in the wreck. You’ve done wonderfully. You should be proud.”
“Nurse,” Cynthia began, unsure of any answer. “Yes, sweetie?” The woman cheerily smiled with the greatest bedside manner. Her gentle conduct didn’t lessen the anxiety Cynthia felt.
“The doctor was just in and I…”
“Oh, no honey,” she lightly admonished. “Dr. Baker just arrived. He had an emergency operation this morning. You were probably dreaming.”
“But, he was . . . He was . . . He was Dr. Clifford Seawall. He was just standing where you are now.”
“Uh-oh,” the nurse began. “I’ll alert security. There’s no one on staff with that name. I know everyone here. I’ve been at this hospital almost thirty years. We don’t have any Seawalls, doctors or nurses.” She wasn’t shocked. She knew there was something about him which wasn’t normal. He knew too much to be the doctor; they had a connection that wasn’t initiated by medicine.
One Year Later
The hospital investigation came to an official and fruitless close. No doctor was employed there by the name of Clifford Seawall; no doctor or staff member with that name had ever been employed there. No suspects were apprehended or located. Since there was no real crime aside from impersonation, no actual efforts went into the search.
A few disappointing scans of some security footage, interviews with staff, and they laid her file on the shelf for a few months. He was never found. She could feel those in charge of the investigation begin doubting her. He would be on tape, after all, if he were really there.
After her release she made arrangements at work for some time off. She took a vacation. Danvers, home of the infamous Salem witch trials, was a beautiful place. The Colonial and Federal architecture was worth her trip.
She conducted a little research of her own, in the guise of genealogy. Cromwell’s Mercantile was a business which burned to the ground in 1692. The details were sketchy and although foul play was hinted at a few decades later, it was not investigated at all.
Judge Blythe Seawall ordered the remnants of the store burned, demolished, and a new church erected. The remnants of old journals of town business and events were transferred to microfiche and the wording was blurry and difficult to read.
She could make out the subtle message within the town’s actions. To cover for the sins of his son and daughter, he built a church. They retained their upright standing among the community while they murdered.
One brief mention did catch her attention. The entry for “local affairs.” She read the article and froze:
“A stranger was found wandering into the square. Her odd clothing and strange mannerisms suggested she was a foreigner. The appropriate letters have been posted to our neighboring colonies in Virginia and Carolina. No identification has been made as of yet. She was taken in by Mr. Isaac Cromwell and her illness has alerted the town of a strange sickness which might be abroad. If you feel any symptoms of . . .”
The article went on to describe archaic illnesses the stranger might’ve suffered. She felt vacantly triumphant. She wanted to know for certain, and when she found out, it only confirmed and assured her sadness. She carried on with her position as a photographer for Travel Trend Magazine. Her days were empty and her nights were cold. She visited ports of the world in her search for him. From Canada, to Rome, to Romania, she searched far and wide.
As the years crept by, her search was met with only diminishing hope. He was gone forever. He had lived centuries before she was conceived. She was allowed the privilege of seeing where she was supposed to be. But, how was it so mixed up? Why wasn’t she where she was supposed to be?
She carried the pendant at all times and placed it on her bedside at night. For a few hundred dollars, she visited a sketch artist and had a portrait of him created. The last two remnants of the only love she searched for . . .