While the Universe Yawned

Bayeux 70 x 165cm £437 This section of the Bayeaux tapestry represents the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
This section of the Bayeaux tapestry represents the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.  He didn’t look at me, hidden behind his New York Times.

So I told him the truth.  “It was October 14, 1066.  I was an archer at the Battle of Hastings, you know?  We were roundly whipped.  I ran into the woods and kept on running.  The fight took place north of Hastings, actually.  About seven miles northwest.  I was in the woods and marshes for a week before I made it to the sea and back again.”

“Hmm.”  He was in the sports section now, entirely lost to me.

“I had no idea where I was.  And the dark came earlier there—around 6:30.  I was alone and cold and hungry.  I had a bow…arrows and quiver.  I picked arrows off the ground that first night, flung from the Normans,” I paused.  “Somehow I managed to get from the sea back to the field.”

“I’m sorry, darling, what?” he asked.  He peered over the paper, his glasses low on his nose, his forehead scrunched up.  “You said something about Normans and arrows?”

“No matter.  It wasn’t important,” I sighed and leaned against the kitchen counter to pour another cup of coffee.

“Of course it was important.  You’re important,” he said, folding the newspaper.  “Now, tell me again how you were lost.  You went for a hike in the woods…”

I told him what I thought he wanted to hear–not the truth, because that sounded crazy.  “I went to a park I’ve never been to before – Sussex Woods, about an hour north.  The trail markers were awful and confusing and before I knew it, I was lost.  I ended up on Route 5 and realized that I wasn’t on the trail anymore.  I worked my way back to the woods and eventually came across the main trail.  Two hours for a two-mile hike.”

“I keep telling you to use that compass,” he said.  He looked at his watch.  “Shit.  I need to get moving.”  He pushed back from the table and stood, gave me a kiss on the cheek, grabbed his brief case and headed out the door.

I did use my compass, I said to him in my head.  I found magnetic north and another land.  And all I want to do now is go back there, get lost all over again. 

I planned my trip for the morning – because maybe it matters what time you enter Sussex Woods, maybe it was the dawn hour that opened the way to the Middle Ages.  I didn’t want to risk missing whatever portal sliced open to that world.  I packed a bag with some modern conveniences – my cell phone, breath mints, gorp, two necklaces—one with pearls, the other a gold braid—for trade, iPad, Swiss Army knife, inflatable bed, raincoat, a copy of The Canterbury Tales (it seemed right), and Twizzlers (the only snacky thing I had that I might share to make friends).  Probably not the most practical items for time travel but I was too excited to think clearly.

The next day, I kissed my sleeping husband on the forehead.  I wasn’t running away from him but toward an adventure, I told myself.  I took the subway to the Amtrak station and then the train to Egerton, just south of Sussex Woods.  A soft fog rolled on the salt marshes.  I spied an egret stretching its legs.  Red-winged blackbirds sang.  I walked to the park entrance, sheltered in pines.  I stepped forward, whispered goodbye.

I lost myself.

As I found the clearing, I picked up the quiver with its arrows and the bow, leaning against a willow tree.  The battlefield was cleared of the dead.  How much time had passed?  I walked to the closest village, according to Google maps, Battle in East Sussex.  How did my cell phone work?

A sign on the main road of the village welcomed “time travelers who happened to come across the great divide.”  It is a known fact, it said, that time is “flappy” and that in certain weak spots (Fort Lauderdale, Minsk, Abuja, Athens, Ohio, and my own Sussex Woods, for example) the universe yawns and a flap opens.  I took a picture of that sign, you can bet.  It explained how I started in America and ended up in England walking less than five miles.

The universe yawned.  I was lost and found and lost again.

It yawned. I love that.

45 Comments While the Universe Yawned

  1. Kreative Kürze|Creative Brevity July 2, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Really liked this. Lots of stories about time travel this time. I wanted to know more about what happened once she got there.

    And gorp? What’s gorp?

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks, CB! Gorp is a kind of trail mix — peanuts, M&Ms, cranberry bits, etc. Yeah, I wanted to know more about what happened when she got there too. It would have required some more research. ;)

      1. saroful July 3, 2014 at 10:12 pm

        My folks told me growing up (backpacking hippies, both of them, who used to rock me to sleep in a Kelty pack) that it stands for Good Old Raisins ‘n’ Peanuts.

        1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 10:40 pm

          Hah! I always associate gorp with hippies. Now I know why!

  2. jetgirlcos July 2, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    I love this! I love that time is “flappy” and that “the universe yawned.” What an awesome verb to use there! And to share twizzlers to make friends in the Middle Ages is, well, just perfect! (It’s one of my favorite “road trip” candies of all time :-) )

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      Really glad you liked it! I figured I needed to use a non-technical word for a portal…the protagonist was definitely non-technical, and so would most people who stumbled into the village of Battle, especially those coming in from Fort Lauderdale, all drunk and stupid. LOL.

  3. Mark Baron July 3, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Fantastic read. You had me at Hastings. Been list there myself since childhood. ;)

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      I’ve always wanted to go to England. All that history! Thanks for reading, Mark.

  4. Jennifer G. Knoblock July 3, 2014 at 1:57 am

    You had me with the pic of the Bayeaux Tapestry. :) I love love this list of things the mc packs…The Canterbury Tales, heehee. Do we all have this yearning to go through a time/distance portal? You did a great job of playing on that.

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      Yeah, I think time travel is one of those shared fantasies. I mean, how great would it be to go anywhere in time/space that you wanted? Thanks for reading and commenting, Jennifer. LOVED your poem.

  5. Splendid Empress July 3, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Another wonderful story and, as always, so well written. I really enjoy reading your work – you have a wonderful imagination and the skill with which to share it!

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      Thank you very much, Splendid! Grateful for your kind words and taking the time to read. <3

  6. thewizardsword July 3, 2014 at 5:46 am

    There is so much to like in this piece. The Twizzlers, Google maps, and especially ‘loving that the universe yawned.” Good, good writing!

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      I couldn’t help myself from putting “I love that” in present tense. Thank you, Susan, for your thoughtful words. You got my vote again this week…just love your writing.

  7. Michael July 3, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I’m actually not that far from Athens, Ohio. I must go explore! :)

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:59 am

      You’re a fellow Ohioan?? I went to OU. Athens has all kinds of time warps.

      1. Michael July 3, 2014 at 10:24 am

        Indiana, actually. But I’ve been to Ohio a couple times, like Dayton and Cincinnati. Seemed like a nice place.

        1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm

          Hocking Hills, which is near Athens, is considered one of the most underrated beautiful places in the world. You must visit. And then slip into a flappy space when the universe yawns.

          1. Jennifer G. Knoblock July 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm

            Been to Hocking Hills! Beautiful…I still get emails from the tourism board. :) I’ll be back, someday…maybe I can take the portal from Battle, England!

          2. Meg July 4, 2014 at 2:45 pm

            Be sure to let me know if you get through it! ;)

  8. Bastet July 3, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Fantastic! Love the idea behind the story and how you developed it! A great write!

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Thanks so much, Bastet!

      1. Bastet July 4, 2014 at 12:08 am

        Thank you for a great read! :-)

  9. inNateJames July 3, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I love how your narrator was unreliable at first. I thought she was just telling her husband an absurd story because she knew he wasn’t paying attention. It made the surprise that she was telling the truth even more powerful. And her packing list for her second journey made it so real to me.

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      I am an unreliable narrator! Part of me thinks that she did make it up…that maybe she is a bit crazy. I still don’t know. Thanks for reading and commenting, Nate! Hope you have a happy 4th.

  10. Silverleaf July 3, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    This spoke to my love of history. Time travel, but kind of with a twist, I think. There was something very unique in the telling of this, in her searching out of the time warp. Or flap. I like that – you might have just created new time travel terminology!

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      I’m so glad you share a love of history — that’s what motivated me on this. I love history. Yeah, I think of the flap as a kind of tent flap. To quote Suzanne’s character in her story, “I’m no astrophysicist.” Seems easier to make it up! Thanks for reading and thinking and commenting, Silverleaf! I always appreciate your thoughts.

      1. Silverleaf July 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm

        It made me really smile to see you quoting another story from the grid. What a great place we all hang out in! I’m no astrophysicist either so I’m happy to accept the tent flap – I like it! And I wouldn’t mind travelling through it :)

        1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm

          Amen to all that! Love this place. <3

  11. Suzanne July 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I love the way the narrator is so calm about preparing for her second trip across time (and geography). And I particularly love that she packed Twizzlers. Nice touch. There are some really interesting layers in this, like her relationship with her husband. I could definitely read more. :)

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm

      Thanks, Suzanne! And thanks for noticing the layers. There is something wrong with that marriage. She is bored, I think, and maybe a bit neglected or lacking in a sense of self. Can’t tell you how much I admire your story this week. It is perfection.

  12. Blake July 3, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I feel a bit sorry for the husband here. He comes across as an inattentive, nose-stuck-in-a-newspaper, kind of guy, but seriously… if you ask your wife “When did you know you were lost?” you’re really not expecting the answer to be “It was October 14, 1066.” Furthermore, if that was the answer that came back then I’m fairly sure it would be tempting to “cock a deaf un” as London vernacular would have it, i.e. discretely fail to hear :)

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      All good points, Sue. I think the husband means well but maybe they are both going through the motions. My hunch is that she doesn’t really listen to him all that closely either. ;)

      Thanks so much for the close read and comments!

  13. saroful July 3, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I love the way you built your world in the opening dialogue and then shifted seamlessly into the narrator’s inner voice to show us what she’d been telling us was true- I spent the first half doubting and the second… well. I love that.

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      As I wrote to Nate above, I’m not entirely sure if I believe her. But she seems so damn passionate about this place that I went along for the ride. That probably sounds crazy…I should be the one deciding what’s real and what isn’t, right?? LOL. Thanks for reading, saroful. Always deeply appreciate it. Question: do you have all your related stories in one big piece somewhere? I would love to read it.

      1. saroful July 3, 2014 at 9:07 pm

        No, no, my characters do that to me too… especially when they want so badly to lie to themselves.

        I have much larger pieces of related story in one place, and a bunch of more-complete short stories. I haven’t decided what to do with them. Holly’s story is starting to be surprisingly booklike, but there’s all the little side stories and supporting character melodramas that I play with when I need an escape…

        1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 9:12 pm

          Are they on your blog? Linky?

          1. saroful July 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm

            Not on the blog, in case I want to publish them later. Right now I’m still kind of at the “oh holy crap this is like 178 pages long and…” stage. But my unemployment is giving me actual writing time, yay? If you’re really that interested shoot me an email and pinky swear not to republish and we’ll work something out.

          2. Meg July 8, 2014 at 8:26 am

            Ooooh, yay. Must read. Thank you!!

  14. Brian Benoit July 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Ha, darn – you hit it out of the park pretty consistently, and this was no different. You’ve just got a great way of unfolding stories, and I particularly appreciate how you’re able to do it without resorting to over-the-top dramatic situations (something I’m not terribly good at I’m afraid!). Another great piece!

    1. Meg July 3, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Aww, thanks, Brian. I’m very fond of your writing — I don’t think you are overly dramatic at all. Thanks for the compliment — this was a particularly rough week at work, deadline-wise, so I barely had time to write for fun with any clarity, brain-wise. I’m addicted to these challenges. Need to do a better job of pacing myself.

  15. jannatwrites July 4, 2014 at 12:27 am

    What a great adventure! I like the idea of flappy places and the universe yawning. And I think Twizzlers was a great choice… Who doesn’t like nibbling on those? :)

    1. Meg July 8, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Thanks, Janna!


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