Edgar pushed through the overhanging brush and entered a small clearing, staring at the little hut before him with a measure of mistrust. He looked around suspiciously and saw an old, nasty crone standing in the shadow of a tree.|
“Come inside, my child,” she crooned. “I’ll feed you some cabbage soup.”
She crooked a gnarled finger, and Edgar hesitated only briefly before heeding the rumblings in his stomach. Once inside the hut, he stopped at the sight of a large cage dangling from the ceiling. He turned to leave, but the old crone grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.
“Oh no, you don’t!” With surprising force, she shoved him into the cage and turned the key in the lock.
“Let me go,” Edgar shouted.
The old crone ignored him as she prepared her evening meal. Edgar’s eyes burned into her back. “Are you going to fatten me up before you eat me?”
She scratched her back. “I would never eat the likes of you.”
“What plans have you for me?”
She cackled nastily, as old crones have been doing since ages old. “I’m going to sell you in the market place.”
Edgar shook his head. “No, the forces will protect me.”
“Nothing will protect the likes of you.” The old crone smiled cruelly and placed a log on the fire.
“If you must know, I’m trying to find my way back to the future,” said Edgar. “It’s time I was on my way.”
The old crone turned her wizened eyes on him. “You can’t fool me, Boy. I’m going to make whatever money I can off you.” She lay down to sleep on a lumpy straw mattress, where Edgar’s eyes burned into her all night. When she awoke, her skin was puffy and mottled.
“You’ve cursed me, evil boy,” she glared at him.
“Let me go, Old Crone, and I will spare you.”
“Spare me what?” she spat.
“Watch.” Edgar stuck two fingers in his mouth and let out a piercing whistle.
The old crone’s eyes widened and she put a hand to her heart. “I just heard Mother’s voice, though she died years ago.”
Tears rolled down her face before her eyes narrowed in anger. “Evil boy, you are full of trickery and deceit.” She limped over to the cage on her stick-like legs and unlocked the door. “Get out,” she ordered, “I don’t want to subject any villager to your evil ways.”
Edgar jumped from the cage.
“I trust you know your way through the woods,” said the old crone.
“The forces will direct me,” said Edgar.
“Good riddance then,” she threw him a crust of bread.
Edgar trudged through the thick woods for hours before he came upon an old, crumbling castle. Thick vines covered its façade. Edgar envisioned a disgraced queen, once beautiful, now ugly. She now passed her days away drinking and entertaining the stable boy in ways that were better left unsaid. Edgar pounded the door until she answered.
“Hello, I’m Edgar.”
“And I’m the queen,” she swayed drunkenly.
“Why, pray tell, does her royal majesty answer her own door?”
“I fired my lazy clod of a servant, if you must know,” she yawned loudly.
“I’m trying to find my way back to the future,” Edgar smiled, “but I got lost. May I come in?”
The queen yawned. “Enter. Eat.” Edgar followed her to a large table piled high with food. As he began to eat, she collapsed into a heavy, wooden chair. “Tell me about the future, Boy.”
“It would be difficult to understand,” said Edgar.
Just then, a mud-clad man appeared in the doorway. She abruptly got up and left, her long skirts dragging behind her. “The stable boy beckons,” she offered in explanation, “but don’t leave. When I return, I want to find out about the future.”
“The future?” the stable boy asked her as they left arm-in-arm.
Edgar wandered the grounds. Soon enough, he stood before a rotting wooden stable. He entered to the neighing of horses. Seeing a bed of straw, he lay on it and closed his eyes. The warm sunlight filtering through the cracks in the wooden slats was pleasant on his skin, and soon he fell asleep, awaking some time later to the sound of a cracking whip. The stable boy stood over him.
“Her majesty claims you come from the future.”
“If I do, it’s a secret,” said Edgar haughtily.
“I want to see the future,” the stable boy cracked his whip again.
“You cannot see the future from the past.”
“Liar!” The stable boy sneered. He advanced on Edgar, who stuck two fingers in his mouth and let out a loud, shrill whistle that broke the sound barrier and transported him forward in time.
# # # # #
“Are you done?” a voice asked.
He removed his bloodshot eyes from the console to see an old crone standing in the doorway. “Is this your castle?” he asked.
“Are you insane?” she retorted.
A man stepped around her. “Eddie,” he said sternly, “you’re wasting your life on these mind-rotting games. I’ve been whistling at you for the past five minutes to get your attention.”
Eddie blinked. The man came into focus as his father and the woman as his mother. “I just returned from the medieval times,” he said.
“Great,” his mother sighed, “now he’s delusional.”
“You don’t get it,” snapped Eddie, “I beat the first level of the game.”
His mother’s gaze traveled to the bed. “Who are those filthy characters?”
Eddie followed her eyes. “They followed me from the past.”
“I can’t believe how dirty they are.” His mother wrinkled her nose.
The stable boy sat up, his arms intertwined around the queen’s waist.
“Help, I’m being suffocated,” the old crone crawled out from underneath them. When she saw Eddie, she practically spat at him.
“You evil boy, I trust I never see the likes of you again. I’m going to the market place.”
“Good luck finding it,” laughed Eddie as she hobbled out the door.
“Am I young and beautiful yet?” the queen asked.
“You’ve moved forward in time, Dear, so technically, you’ve been dead for 500 years. Your predicament excludes beauty. However, there is a spa around the corner.”
“Good riddance, then,” she huffed, scratching her lice-infested hair. “Whatever is a spa, I shall go there to find true beauty.”
“Many before you have entertained the same hopes.” Eddie waved her off.
“I’m calling a truce between us,” the stable boy burped. “I need a drink. Is there a tavern in the future?”
“Yup, it’s one block over and to the right.”
“Cheerio.” He charged out the door.
Eddie shut the console down. “I have no further use for them. Their rankings were very low. They were basically stepping stones that I used to elevate my level in the game.”
“I’m glad you shut that stupid thing off,” said his father, “because you have homework to do.”
“Homework is meaningless, Dad. Once I beat the second level of the game, I’ll be knighted. Then I’ll be given a chamber in the castle in which to live. At that point, I don’t think I’ll ever return to the life of Eddie Blow, teenage nobody.”
“He’s so insecure,” his mother whispered to his father.
“In my day, they used to beat kids and lock them in the closet,” his father said loudly.
“There are laws,” his mother cautioned.
“In the land of kings and castles, the only laws are those I choose to create,” Eddie smiled at his reflection in the console, relieved to see that it was someone from far away and long ago.
“I spent all that time trying to return to the future, when everything I wanted was in the past.” He sighed.
As soon as his parents left to room, he flicked the switch, and the console lit up.