Jake Fisher discovers a secret town hidden in the far reaches of Northern California. When he discovers the town, he finds it abandoned . . . a town with no people. But he notices something: while there is no one around, there are many, many doors. When he eventually gets inside Ostium he learns that every door has a specific number. None of the doors will open for him, until he starts with the first door. It opens and begins a journey for him that will take him far away from his normal life, through many more doors leading to different places in time and space . . .
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I let the story sit with me for a few days; not wanting to jump to any conclusions or assumptions. What’s that expression I’ve heard Jake use a few times? It’s best not to assume, because that makes an arse . . . sorry, rather that makes an “ass” out of you and me. First time he told me that it went right over my head like a concord going from London to New York in record time. Then he explained it a few times and it still meant gobbledygook to me. And then he wrote it down and finally the penny dropped.
There’s a lot going on in this Ostium Saga; a bloody lot; on many different levels. What with the person being sent from here through an Ostium door back to the eleventh century. And how it was the time and place they’d dreamed of most of their life and they were finally there. And then to get screwed over by the Ostium Network, which should come as a surprise to no one as they tend to specialize in that; and getting stuck there in that time and place very permanently. And what they did to try and get themselves out. I asked Zhang if they had ever heard or come across any data where a person had tried to contact the Ostium Network from the eleventh century, but they said they had no record of anything like that.
And then there was the discovery of that slim volume, which is the next Ostium Saga that I’m just aching to read, but I’m making myself not do. Not until we put this first Ostium Saga completely to bed. And then if we take a step back and have a look at the bigger picture which is the Conclave, a secret group that has apparently existed for millennia, and one of their duties, so they decided, is to collect stories of people lost in time who all talk about a place called Ostium. It would all seem barmy if I weren’t currently living in the very place all these people used to call home. The Conclave has no idea what Ostium or the Ostium Network is, other than what they have been able to divine through the Ostium Sagas.
And then lets take one last step back and acknowledge the elephant who seems very partial to all things Ostium in the room with the Ostium door, and talk about why all these unique and incredible documents and chronicles and books keep being discovered in old abandoned, ruined churches? What’s going on there exactly? The mind boggles. Makes me want to start checking every old church I come across and with my trusty spade, start digging lots of holes everywhere, just in case, you know?
Did the Conclave know something about this? Some intrinsic link that we haven’t been made privy to yet, and that’s why the Ostium Sagas book was found buried in a church? Maybe it’s just one of those mysteries we’ll never find an answer to. At least that’s not likely in this book. Which is why these Recorder’s Endnotes are not just going to be me rehashing the amazing things I just read and you just listened to, dear listener. No. I’m going to see what I can find out about everything involved in the first Ostium Saga by doing some deep and heavy research.
Okay, update, it’s been a week of me metaphorically ransacking the internet once more for any snippets or clues or shreds of evidence related to this saga and I’ll be perfectly honest: so far I haven’t found much. I will say I’ve learned a ridiculous amount of history about the Battle of Hastings and just general medieval life in the eleventh century, and I’ve to hand it to this bloke, the fact that he was able to ha an enjoyable and fruitful life; to raise a family with grandchildren, and to seemingly pass away from old age with an apparent smile on this face. Even if he did get the Ostium Network branded vaccine cocktail to protect him from all the illnesses and viruses of the time. I mean, I’m almost jealous of the guy. Considering there was only a very poor excuse for medicine available, and the concept of hygiene and cleanliness hadn’t really been invented yet. Obviously a lot of that is blown out of proportion, especially for the big budget Hollywood films, and there were lots and lots of people who lived to ripe old ages, and they were all called witches and bruins at the stake or tossed into the river . . . nah, only kidding. Nevertheless, as bad as things had gone for him, in the end it all turned out pretty good, as he firmly attests to in his chronicle.
After too many days of mind numbing research, or I suppose “attempted” mind numbing research, as I hadn’t really found anything of substance or what I would deem useful and worthy of being mentioned in this Recorder’s Endnote, and just as I was about to say sod it and call it a day, and move on to the next Ostium Saga, I found something. A little something . . . a digital thread if you will that I could have easily said would turn out to be a big bloody waste of time and not bothered, but I chose to keep going, perhaps because I’d discovered so little, or perhaps because this was something waiting to be found by the likes of me, or perhaps even this was Ostium and the Ostium Network working its influence on me and the reality around me, as it has done to all of us on numerous occasions before.
And now as I record these notes some weeks later, I am starting to wonder if this digital thread I plucked that led to a real person, who has revealed himself to be a curmudgeonly college professor may in fact be, secret, yes, oh so very secretly, an alive and well member of the Conclave.
This was the first of the Ostium Sagas I was granted access to read by the Conclave. It had already been translated some time before, that is except for the part in a language that no one was able to interpret. I had only been with the Conclave a few years at that point and while I had seen much and been exposed to plenty that tested the very limits of not just my reality but also my imagination, I still had issues with this chronicle. Too many questions, perhaps; nevertheless, after my initial reading it felt like a tale that had been confabulated; that could not possibly be true. That was the work of fiction; a very good work of fiction I might add. There have been plenty of works of the fantastic throughout our times: Beowulf, the Divine Comedy, and I need not get into the works of the Greek Homer with his marvelous Odyssey. There was simply too much going on; too many directions taken; too many different elements at play. I was told by some of my fellow Conclave members that did not all those points make the tale that more possibly real? Why would someone make up such a story? For what purpose? And then it was explained to me that the accompanying document referred to as the “slim volume” in the chronicle had been found with this Ostium Saga and what the person had written that was verifiable with sources and evidence had been done so. It did seem that a number of points and inferences made by the chronicler were in fact true. Therefore, was it not at least conceivable that the entire story, on some level, may also be true? It was then, with all this mounting evidence, that my mind began to be changed. It was then that I felt an excitement build, a frisson of possibilities. Here was something I could focus on; dedicate myself to. Immerse myself in and learn all I could, and record it for others to read and learn from. And, thus, in a way I began my own Ostium Saga, that concluded with the completion of this book you now hold in your hands, reader of the Conclave. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.
This first chronicle of the Ostium Sagas was recorded by a member of the Conclave in the year 1122. Word of it was discovered at an inn one night when a man, after some mugs of ale, was recounting some stories of his grandfather. And one of those stories involved the grandfather’s wife, who had died some time ago at that point, saying that once, long, long ago she had been tasked with the burial of a special book wrapped in numerous animal skins upon a certain person’s death. She knew nothing of what the book consisted of, and neither did the grandfather. All that was really known was that the item was buried underground within the ruins of an old church located somewhere within the realms of the town of Hesta.
The member of the Conclave who overheard this conversation from a nearby table – as this is how some of the Conclave are trained: to mind their own business while having a drink, but always keeping their ears and eyes as open as possible. In that way many secrets can become known without anyone being the wiser that they have been discretely overheard.
The Conclave member wasted no time, as that is his prerogative. Tempus fugit and all that. But also he was unsure who else may have heard the stories being shared that night in the inn over too much ale and mead. A few days later he reached Hesta and began asking a few people, quietly and clandestinely, whether they knew of the ruins of an old church in the surrounding countryside? The third person provided him with an approximate location, which was good because he could not talk to more than three people without arousing suspicion in the town, being a newcomer and all. He promptly left in search of the church which he found that day as the sun was setting. With shovel in hand, he entered the church, choosing to go deep within in search of a likely place to dig, and as we know, this was to his favor. On the third digging attempt he found the animal skins which contained the chronicle and the slim volume. Not wanting to dally for he suspected there might be others coming to search, he filled in the hole to cover the evidence of his digging and quickly slipped away into the night. Very briefly he returned to Hesta to rest and heard of those who were to go in search of the old church the following morning. The next day, as those men went in search of riches in a fruitless journey, our men left to rejoin the Conclave at a hidden location. And then began the studying of the chronicle and the enigmatic slim volume. And it served as the genesis to the Ostium Sagas, which would not be collected together until a half millennium late as is my task now.
I have been informed now by the Conclave that this volume is to also serve as a history and informational treatise on the Conclave, and to provide details where possible, which I shall endeavor to do so in future endnotes.
For now, dear reader, let this serve as the first of many endnotes, as we dive deep into these Ostium Sagas, and into the beautiful mystery that is the Conclave.
The next Ostium Saga, as I have already indicated, will consist in its entirety the slim volume diligently copied in its unknown and curious language.
I know I keep saying wow a lot, but seriously, wow. All these incredible texts keep being discovered in old ruined churches from all different time periods. The mind boggles. I know, especially during medieval times, churches were the last suppositories of information and books and texts, but still. With all of them being hidden and then found, it’s kind of uncanny. Or perhaps, and I might even say more likely, there’s something else going on here connecting all this together. Whether we get any of those answers from the author or the Conclave, or perhaps through my own research I’ll be conducting remains to be seen.
I felt that the best three words that sum this all up are: the plot thickens!
I kept that slim volume secret from my family and my friends; my life. And each time the traveling market came around, would peruse the stalls in search of any parchments or books. I would look first for any stalls where there was a monk or any member of the clergy, but alas, this did not occur for some years, and then all the texts they had were of the mundane religious variety. I would search all the other market stalls for the written word and was usually disappointed. Some did have a parchment or two, and one or two even had a book, but nothing of interest to me. This went on for some fifteen years and I did my best not to let it affect me that much, even if deep down inside it did. I still kept my secret from everyone and was never questioned by my wife or children who had big families of their own now, which I was eternally grateful for. To even try to explain why I was so obsessive about this would not have been good for anyone.
But as that fifteenth year of searching came to a close, I finally admitted to myself that I never would find anything like that slim volume again, and that was going to be alright. I had kept it in very good condition, and about once a year would read it cover to cover. And while I would still continue looking and searching, for I had come to quite enjoy the activity of perusing the market now, even if I had to walk slower and it took me a greater number of days to search every stall due to my age, I had come to realize it was time to do something else: it was time to create my own chronicle. With my advancing years, the chances of an accident befalling me increased almost daily. And while I still felt relatively healthy, I knew my body could suddenly decide to stop working without warning and that would be the end of it all.
So that is what I have been working on these last many months. My family has asked me what I am writing, and I say it is a private collection of my thoughts and philosophies on the life I have lived and what I believe happens to us when we die and pass on into the afterlife. They have of course asked to read it, but I have repeated, adamantly, no. It is a private journal for my eyes only. I have also said they would not enjoy anything I have to say within these pages, and should just put the whole idea out of their heads. Nevertheless, since I have told them, I keep my chronicle on my person at all times to be safe.
As I look back on it now, I feel both incredibly fortunate and happy with the long life I have been able to enjoy. I have gotten to spend it with my lovely wife as we have grown old. I have been able to enjoy raising children and seeing them grow to adulthood and have children of their own. There is even a great grandchild on the way now. Although I am unsure if I shall live long enough to see the child born.
So I supposed I should come up with some fitting way to end this chronicle?
It has been many decades now since my life completely changed and was put on a new trajectory that I never could have predicted, but as I have said within these pages before, it has taken me somewhere I’ve wanted to go since I was a child and I have gotten to enjoy an entire lifetime here. I will not say that I forgive the Ostium Network for what was done to me. One could even say it was some sort of tragic accident. But no. With the existence of that other tale from the future, I know what happened to me was an orchestrated event. But I have reached my peace with what befell me. In fact, I reached it long ago and in so doing have very much enjoyed my life because of it.
I have left instructions with a close friend and paid her handsomely for it to package this chronicle and the slim volume together in many layers of animal skin, tied very tight. And a week after my death to bury it in the ruins of the church where the door was supposed to take me back to Ostium.
And to whomever is reading these words right now, I thank you for making it all the way through my entire chronicle. And if by chance you are looking to help in some way, to stop the Ostium Network from treating us as necessary sacrifices, like so much unwanted garbage, then thank you all the more, and I hope that my chronicle was in some way helpful, and i pray you also have the slim volume of the other stranded time traveler.
And as I bring this chronicle to a close, I bid you godspeed, and urge you not to feel sad for my ending. I had a good life and while I had expected things to happen differently, looking back on it now, in full and complete honesty, I would not change any of it.
It has been a very good life, and I am ready for it to come to a close.
As I said, it was a slim volume and would be incomprehensible to most, unless they knew the code to read it. This was part of the training we had all experienced at the Ostium Network.
Erm, yeah. I didn’t get that bloody training. And I’m pretty sure mum didn’t either. Would’ve been pretty handy. At least I have Zhang to help. Okay. That’s all.
I devoured it in an hour or so. I was planning on recounting the story here, in my chronicle, but instead have decided to keep the volume together with this work of mine, as they both relate strongly to each other. All I will say for now is that I am not the only one who has been screwed over by the Ostium Network and left in whatever time and place they were visiting to fend for themselves and most likely die. Also the most startling thing about the story in this volume, other than the actual book binding being from the future, is the fact that the story of the person traveling through an Ostium door is not taken to a time before my own time here and now, in the eleventh century, but much farther in the future. Specifically the year 1666. A most auspicious year when there was something known as the Great Fire of London taking place.
As you will learn in my Author’s Endnote to this saga, the slim volume talked about was found along with this accompanying chronicle and served as the true genesis for the OStium Sagas: two disparate tales from different times that were inextricably linked together, even if the COnclave does not full know or understand how. Suffice to say the saga after this one will be that slim volume that is talked about. It is reproduced in this volume in its entirety, word for word, even if little to nothing is understood about it. As with this chronicler’s enigmatic note, it is added to the OStium Sagas with the hope that one day we will have one or more members of the Conclave who will be able to not only understand it, but more importantly, translate it so that all in the Conclave at that time will finally understand it, and to use it as a tool for future generations of the Conclave.
Holy shit. That’s all I’m going to say for now: just holy shit.
Even though it had now been decades since I had been abandoned by the Ostium Network, as I’ve said, I created a life for myself. I became part of a family. But at the same time there was still a part of me that felt distant. Different. Like it did not belong. And that feeling has never left me, as much as I have wanted it to.
But now, reading this other story, of another person, in a very different time from mine who went through the same thing. I won’t say it gives me hope, because that would not be true. But knowing there are others, maybe someone at some time tried to stop them. To change things. This is why I write this chronicle now as I reach my elder years and feel death starting to rear its ugly head and take notice of me.
But my time is not quite over yet.
The next day I returned to the market looking for the monk and his rickety stall once again, and felt dread descend upon me when I could not find him. But then I did: he was simply in a different location to yesterday. I approached him and asked him about the book. He seemed amused that I should have an interest in words that were complete nonsense, unless I actually understood them? He asked. No, I said, as you say, it is complete gibberish, and yet it still holds a fascination for me, that someone wrote these words that seem to have no meaning. What was their intent? Why did they do it?
The monk had no idea and clearly wanted me gone. I asked where the volume had been found, and he said in a hidden space in the priory that one of the other monks had accidentally discovered it one day. He wasn’t even sure why the small book had been added with the rest of the items for sale. And that’s where he stopped, perhaps wondering if he had said too much; worrying that he may change my mind and I might want to return the book. To quickly put his mind at ease, I asked him if any other volumes of this kind had ever been found. He humored me with this last question and said no. And that was the end of it. I went on my way, never to see him again.
As the market ended and the sellers and barriers took down their stalls and went on towards the next town, I thought about what the monk had told me. About where the book had been found. This familiarity to my own situation was not lost on me. So much so that as soon as I had the time, I went back up to the ruined church to where a door was supposed to take me back to Ostium but did not. I studied the ground where I had buried the note all those years ago that had done nothing, to see if it had been tampered with. It looked just as I had left it many years before: undisturbed. But when I dug down in search of the parchment I had buried there, I was unable to find it. I dug and searched for hours, all to no avail. No one could have taken it. As I said, I made sure it looked just as before, with the specific arrangement of stones and rocks upon it. For all intents and purposes. It appeared the message I had left for those at the Ostium Network had simply disappeared.
Unavoidably, I felt a chill run down my back at that moment in time, just as I feel another run down my gnarled spine at this moment, as I write these words.
I went back to my town and my wife and my family and never returned to the ruins of the church again.
Every six or nine months there’s a big market that comes to town. They have a very large variety of wares consisting of just about anything you can think of. You can pay in coin, but few of us use coins, so instead we barter, offering our own items that we’ve either made or crafted or have to offer. The market lasts a full week and is always a time for celebration and jollity. For a massive exchange of goods is taking place both for the residents of the town and for the market sellers. There is also a bounty of news and stories from far and wide. Each night the pubs and inns are teeming with life, laughter, and entertainment.
I had little intention of acquiring anything. Just walked the market stalls and keeping my eye out for anything interesting. Perhaps a you for one of my grandchildren, or a gift for my wife. Towards the end of one of the aisles of the town square, somewhat secluded, was a monk who I recognized by his dress. On his frail stall were a number of parchments and texts. Beneath were a few storage chests containing more of the same.
I came up to him and struck up a conversation as I eyed the written works. They seemed to be all religious in nature, which was what I had expected to find. The priory the monk attended had come on hard times and was trying to raise some money for repairs. He even said a number of the texts had been scripted and copied at his priory by fellow monks. I asked if he had any illuminated manuscripts, but he said no, as I thought. They had some at the priory, but were decreed too valuable and precious to part with, let alone sell so that the monks might live a little more comfortably.
Another monk, from our parish in fact, came up and the two began talking energetically. At this point I bent down to examine the texts in the storage chests. One contained books, all religious again. The other contained only parchments. I search through them, seeing much of the same as I already had. And then at the very bottom I snagged a slim volume. I studied it at first, noting the cover and how it appeared to be made of vellum like the other books, but then I looked at the actual binding and felt my mouth drop open. It was well done. Too well done in fact. And by that I mean involved an ability and technology that no one of the eleventh century possessed. This work seemed to have come from centuries in the future. How could this be?
How much for this item? I asked. The monk seemed annoyed to have to pause his intense conversation. He looked at the volume, took it from my hands and thumbed through the pages, then tossed it back to me. He quoted me a price of a few coins, which I could easily pay, saying it was written in a language no one could understand. He was quite sure it was complete gibberish. I did my best to hide my excitement, paid him with the coins I had on me, then went on my way. The two monks continued their intense chatter without another look my way.
I grasped the volume close to my chest, as if I were holding on to a great secret; for in a way I believed I was. I thought about where I could go to read what I had discovered. Not home: my wife would be there. Not my work: it would be too busy. So I chose to leave town through a small and rarely used gate and was able to slip out without being seen by anyone. I climbed up and down a few hills until I felt there was enough distance between me and anybody else who might recognize me. And then I found a tree to grant me some shade on this warm summer’s day, and drew the book from within my tunic and gazed upon it.
Again I marveled at the impressive trickery of the cover, making it seem like a book that was much older than it actually was. Once more I turned it in ,my hands, studying the binding and seeing the impossible perfection. How I wished I knew more of the binding of books and the printed word. If I had been back in the Ostium Network, it would’ve been easy to pull up this information and learn of the history of these subjects. But alas. And then I paused for some time, for I had not thought of Ostium or the Ostium Network in a considerable amount of time. Over a decade I should think.
Then I finally opened the book and gasped. It was not a printed book as I had come to expect with the expertise of the binding. But then if it had truly been a printed book it would’ve been seen as a work of magic. A thing that was not possible and could not be, and would’ve likely been declared an act of witchery or the work of Satan and soon burned to ashes.
Nevertheless, the written works inside were in a style I had not seen in all the parchments and books I had read and even gazed upon from this time I was now living in.
It was written in my language of the twenty-second century.
It was a written cipher.
The inscribed parchment that the writer of this saga talks about was brought into the possession of the Conclave in 1253 after it was discovered over a hundred years prior through one of our people. It was said to have been found when the ruins of the church were raised for a new house of worship to be built in its stead. We know this not to be true, as you will too reader, as you continue reading.
There was much confusion and mystery surrounding the parchment, and many considered it the ravings of a madman. This was mainly due to no one being able to understand the language it was written in. Many people attempted to understand it, from many different regions and places and all to no avail. Unlike the saga which is written in clear Anglo Saxon, the language of this parchment continues to be a mystery for all who try to read it. Fortunately, it came into the hands of one of the Conclave and was secreted away for safekeeping within our secret vaults. Our experts, including myself, scrutinized and studied it for many years, and while we believe we were able to understand certain parts of words ,the message as a whole still continues to dumbfound us. So it will remain in the safe keeping of the Conclave until the day the language may be understood. But for the sake of thoroughness and completion it is here reproduced in its entirety in this enigmatic language:
Sorry to interrupt here, but if I don’t, you’re going to wonder why no one could understand the bloody language where it’s written in clear English when I reproduce it here. And that’s because the original creator of this note to the Ostium Network wrote it in code. A cipher I think it’s called. It looked like double Dutch to me when I saw it, but thanks to Zhang’s brilliance, they were able to apply their superior acumen and easily break the code and then provide me with a translation which was much more easily understandable, and I now return y0u to the Author’s Note and the translated and reproduced note forthwith.
AUTHOR’S NOTE CONTINUES:
Dear Ostium Network, you fucked up, adn fucked up real bad. I’m stuck here in the eleventh century. My name is Jonathan Frazier and I was sent back through a door in Ostium to document the Battle of Hastings and the aftermath. When I was scheduled to return through the Ostium door it didn’t work. You need to get me out of here. I want to go back to my time. Don’t fail me.
The note on the outside of the folded parchment, which eludes us just as the message does, is reproduced here:
Ostium Network. April 12th, 2155.
We now return to the original words of the chronicler of the saga.
Upon my return to the town, I was greeted by friends and those I had grown close to as if I had been on an extremely short vacation. I explained I’d suffered and accident with my hand and gotten lost. I had not originally told anyone of what I was to do on my trip, but then I had also not expected to see any of these people again.
I let things settle down for a while; a full week in fact; getting back into the routine of things. BUt at the appointed time each day I made sure I was at the church, trying to see if the door would work this time, or if the message I had left for my future liberators had reached its intended target. After that week I stopped going permanently. It was too depressing and would really ruin my mood. People were starting to notice. And I knew it would only be a matter of time before someone became too curious and started following to see where I was going. It wouldn’t be much of a mysterious story, if they found where I kept going. It wasn’t like there was a secret fucking door that would take me back to the future. They’d just find a broken man in a broken place.
But it fortunately never happened, and I was saved the excruciating embarrassment. Before I knew it, another month had passed; then two months; then six months; and then a year. Before long I met someone; she came up to me in fact and introduced herself, and then we became close, then intimate, and then we were soon married. And then the children came. And before I knew it I was forgetting all about a strange, empty town called Ostium; the place known as the Ostium Network, and the whole reason I’d come here. But if I am being completely truthful to myself, what had truly happened was essentially a dream come true. I had dreamed of this place for most of my life, and now I would be spending the rest of my life literally living right here. I had a wife I loved, children I cared for more than anything in the world; many friends who meant a lot to me. And as simple as things were here compared to my former life, I was happy here. I was happy with my life.
And that’s the way things went, for decades. My wife and I grew old, while my kids grew up and soon had families of their own.
And then I found the parchment that changed all that.
First off, I’m surprised the author doesn’t have a note here. That was a bloody big dramatic moment and then the author keeps going on like it’s all perfectly normal and there’s going to be a completely down to earth and reasonable solution to this crazy series of events. Who knows? Maybe he talks about it in his section at the end of the saga.
Anyway, I’m not really shocked by this at all, because first, if you’ve been following the narrative and you know what you’re reading or I suppose listening to in this case, then you can sort of see where it’s leading to. Second, I’ve worked for the Ostium Network and I know what a complete bunch of wankers they are. And three, I’ve had pretty much this same situation literally happen to me that made me forget almost everything about myself, and it took me literally years to get back to any semblance of normalcy and then a whole weird series of events to find mum and rejoin the Ostium Network again.
So while I won’t say things went the same way for me, since our Ostium Saga chronicler sounds like he got stuck in the eleventh century and presumably – and might I add hopefully – just died of old age, I will say things did look pretty dire there for me for a bit and I’ll end this rant by saying I at least know how he feels.
After all the dust settled and I made very sure there wasn’t any kind of door there that I could go through, I just sat on the ground, did my best not to panic, and wondered what the hell I was going to do now?
The sun set and it got dark and soon I couldn’t see anything in front of my face. Feeling depressed and helpless, my cheeks now wet with tears, I laid down and fell into an exhausted sleep.
I woke with the dawn and as soon as I could see well enough again, I searched the entire abandoned church, scrutinizing every square inch of it for anything that might be related in some obscure and/or bizarre way to getting me back to Ostium. At first I assumed that something had just gone wrong; something bad had happened, but it was repairable. I just needed to figure it out and then I’d be able to get back to my time in the very distant future. I went through every door I could find in the church, each way, just to be sure. Then I came back to the chamber and lifted up the fallen door, leaning it against the wall; willing it to reattach itself. Of course, it did not. But I tried opening and closing it multiple times to see if it would have any effect. None. I even tried dragging it over to another doorway and leaning it against the opening, almost giving it up as an act of stupidity, but then tried anyway, just to be sure, only to be intensely and regretfully disappointed.
So I sat there, glumly moping and feeling sorry for myself, as the hours ticked by across the day and into the night once more and then to the witching hour when a crazy thought occurred to me. Back in our intense and extensive training at the Ostium Network we studied all the sources in all forms of media involving time travel and a few of them came to mind now.
But to do this I needed to write something. And to do that I needed some form of parchment and ink to write with. I already possessed a writing implement. But before any of that I needed to make a fire as I was in almost complete darkness. There was some light coming through from the outside thanks to the moon. Even though I was deep within the church, the sparse rafters above were letting in some moonlight. Fortunately I had what I needed on my person and after some time had a small fire going. I scrounged around and collected some wood to make it a bigger fire, and then found a large piece of wood to use as a torch. Then I began the hunt for some sort of parchment. This took me considerably longer, but I did eventually find an old, slim religious text. I searched it for a blank page, but there was none. Unlike the distant future where paper is plentiful, in this time – as in my own also – paper is a rare resource in the eleventh century, and when it is acquired, every spare bit of space is used. So I found a page where there was less writing and proceeded to rub it in the dirty, gritty floor to obscure the words. It didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, but it would have to do. Now I needed ink. I had already been thinking about this and searched the floor for a rock or stone with a serrated edge. With the rundown state of the church, this did not take long. With sharp edge exposed, I drew it across the back of my hand, cutting into the flesh and feeling inevitable pain. I dropped the rock and waited for the blood to run, then took my writing implement, dipped it into my fresh blood, and began writing on the parchment in the language of my own time.
It didn’t take long to write the quick message, which was good because I didn’t want to leave this wound exposed to the elements any longer than I had to. I folded up the parchment, then wrote another quick note on the outside, then wrapped it all in apiece of cloth. Then I dug a hole at least a foot deep into the broken ground of the church right where the Ostium door had originally stood and buried it, making sure to cover it fully and pack it down solidly. Then I waited for the impossible to happen.
And nothing happened. I waited and waited while nothing continued to happen and began to come to some form of acceptance of my new reality I had been thrust into. I do not know at which point I began to cry again. Eventually I drifted off to sleep on the hard ground once again.
As morning sunlight began streaming into the ruins of the church on this third day of my occupancy, I was brought back to waking with a happiness for just a moment, and then, upon seeing where I was, the events of the previous few days and nights came back to me like a thunderclap.
I pulled myself together, holding my wrapped hand which hurt considerably, and began making my way back to the town I had jokingly called home for a while and would now have to do so for a lot longer.
On the way I thought about what I was to do next.
Upon my arrival in the town, I knew.
The month went by both quickly and wonderfully slow. I got to meet and acquaintance myself with a lot of people. Some led to more intimate situations; both men and women, if you must know, sometimes at the same time. And yes, I will be fully candid now: it’s been a fucking awesome time. And continues to be now that I have come to the harsh reckoning that I will be spending the rest of my life in the eleventh century.
I got to experience the way of life in the middle ages, but with an educated mind from the twenty-second century, along with a cocktail of immunizations and vaccines to protect me from every kind of sickness I might be subjected to. While I had basic first aid training, I made sure to avoid getting in any serious accidents and suffering grievous harm. The idea of experiencing surgery in this time was not one I wished to contemplate. And for inquisitive minds, I will put to rest any thought of venereal diseases, as prevalent as they were at this time, see my aforementioned comments on immunizations. I even got a particularly painful injection against syphilis which would not begin to infect people until the horribly named discovery of the “new world” in the fifteenth century. And of course, protection against the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, even though that pestilence wouldn’t be rearing its ugly head until the fourteenth century. All to be on the safe side, which now having to spend my remaining days here, I am eternally grateful for.
You approach your own life very differently when you know you’re going to be somewhere for a short time, like say a month; a long vacation essentially; and for a much longer time, like say the rest of your life. It was necessary for those around to perceive me as one of them; as someone who had always been around, and the key to that was convincing myself. Again, being able to fall back on the essential training I went through helped a lot with this, one would even call it invaluable. So there, there is something good the Ostium Network did for me, even if it feels like with everything else I kind of got fucked over with.
Nevertheless, while I was doing my very best to look and feel a part of the eleventh century, I also was hatching other plans to discover what had happened to me and why the Ostium Network did what they did. And that begins with the day I discovered I was forever trapped in medieval England. It will not surprise you that I remember the day very well, and will continue to have a perfect memory of it for the rest of my life I have no doubt.
It was a clear day with blue skies and big wisps of cloud, and damn cold. I could’ve treated it like a different day, like the last day of a vacation before you fly home, or the last day you spend in your childhood house that has been sold and you must now leave . . . but I didn’t. I treated it just like the last thirty days I’d spent here in the eleventh century, because I didn’t want to give anyone the idea that I would be going. Tomorrow it would be a different story, but I wouldn’t be here to confirm or deny how the people I had come to call good friends over the last month would react. Tomorrow it didn’t matter, but today it did.
I was told by the Ostium Network that once the sun had begun to set would be the time for me to go through the door and return to Ostium. I enjoyed my last drink of ale, said goodbye to my friends and said I’d see everyone tomorrow and went on my way. I needed to return to Ostium the same way I had: with nothing on my person, so I did not dally or go back home to collect personal belongings, I just went on my way.
It was a half mile walk and I enjoyed every moment of it and it wasn’t too long before I saw the ruin of a building that had once been a church. As I got closer, I began scouting the area. Before it hadn’t mattered, but now it was important that I not be seen, as the Ostium Network had specifically instructed me to do. But I had no need to worry: I was completely alone.
I slipped between the cracked and warped wood of the doors to the church and was hit by the strong smell of rot and mold. I’d forgotten how pungent it was. I made my way down the aisle, the rotten wood pews on either side of me. Soon I was past the transept and the altar and through a rear door into the priest’s chambers. Again I waited five long minutes in silence, counting the beats of my heart and my very own breaths. I was still alone.
I walked over to the rotting wooden wardrobe where the priest had once kept his vestments and then pushed the whole thing to the side. Like last time, it refused to move at first, but once I applied enough force, the grating sound began and in a moment of time it was pushed aside, revealing the hidden door behind. The very same door I had opened and come through from Ostium thirty days ago. At that time, following the instructions I had been given by the Ostium Network, I had closed the door and then moved the wardrobe in front of it. I’d also scuffed the ground so the evidence of my moving the big piece of furniture was not so obvious, should anyone choose to investigate this ruin of a church.
I tried the handle of the door and pulled. It did not move. I assumed it was just stuck a little. I pulled harder. Still nothing. Then I braced myself and with both hands yanked as hard as I could. This time it did move, opening quickly and swinging wide and then before I knew what was happening, I was throwing myself out of the way as the door fell to the floor, completely detached from the wall.
After the immense amount of dust had settled, and my ringing ears had recovered, I got
to my feet and looked at the doorway and gasped. Both the door and door frame had completely detached from the wall, but there was no open doorway before me, no dark hole giving me access to Ostium. There was nothing but solid wall and no sign that there had ever been a door or doorway here.