Magical realism – Andrew and Sarah visit a strange museum on vacation. Andrew walks into a side room, and steps out three years later, for Sarah though, only three minutes have passed. The situation becomes harrowing when she meets Andrew’s new bride, Jennifer. It’s a story of letting go, trying to change your past, and understanding true love.
- Status: First Draft Complete
The sun’s glare blinded me as our car came around a tight bend. I flipped the visor and engaged the wipers to remove the dirt and bugs.
Our long weekend at Glacier National Park was coming to an end. Walks through the woods, bike rides along the Road to the Sun, and hikes up mountain peaks offered a much-needed break.
Andrew slumped in the passenger seat beside me, his promise to stay awake long forgotten. My coffee would have to suffice for company.
My mind drifted, imagining the work week ahead and the projects waiting for me at the office.
A hissing sound broke the silence as smoke rose from our car, first in white wisps, then followed by black billows. A glance at the flashing engine light confirmed my assumption.
I nudged Andrew in the side.
“Hey wake up, something’s wrong.”
He rubbed his eyes and sat up.
“Is that smoke? We just had it checked out.”
“Well I need to pull over, something’s wrong.”
Andrew rolled down his window and peered out the side.
“Hey, there’s a station up ahead, and the sign says it’s open.”
Our car’s clock showed 6:47pm. I frowned, but pulled off the road without question.
The shop had a bright flashing neon sign welcoming customers. We parked at the single garage door as a man in blue overalls stepped out. He name tag read John.
“Looks like you folks are having some trouble.”
“Yeah just started,” I said, and turned off the engine.
“Lucky I’m still open, forgot to turn off the sign.”
John popped the hood and began inspecting our car. We grabbed a few things and walked to the small waiting room, settling into the chairs.
“What if we have to spend the night?” I asked.
Andrew looked up from his phone and smiled. He held out the screen to me.
“No reception, I tried finding a hotel.”
I groaned and slumped down in my chair. Just then the rear shop door swung open.
John stepped in with a wide grin on his face.
“Well, that’s an easy fix.”
“Really?” Andrew asked.
“Yup, we’ll have it done tonight. Lucky for you the part’s in stock.”
We thanked him profusely and settled in to wait. That’s when my attention drifted to a small poster on the wall. A white building set against a forest backdrop. The headline beckoned visitors to learn about the full history of the Montana gold rush.
“What’s this?” I asked John.
“Oh that, it’s the only tourist thing around. Been here forever.”
“Should we take a look?”
“If you like a load of rubbish and marketing lies.” Then he shrugged.
“It’s ok I guess, according to the museum this area is home to the largest gold veins in the country, and they claim to have a map to unexplored areas.” He pointed out the bay windows to a gravel road leading from the highway.
“It’s here?” Andrew asked.
“Yup. Bout a five minute walk.”
The clock in the waiting room displayed the time, nearly 7:00pm.
John caught my gaze and waved his hand to dismiss my thought.
“They’re open late, I’ve seen cars drive up until well after dark.”
“Well, we’ve got nothing better to do, want to stretch our legs?” Andrew asked.
I agreed, and a moment later we were out the door. A single brown sign marked the way to the museum. We followed the road past the shop and out into a wide meadow. Toward the end of the meadow the road dipped down into the woods. To our right we saw another sign.
“Original museum location.” Andrew said, and read the sign.
“This is it?”
“No, this was the first location, the sign says the new museum is further on.”
“It’s getting dark, you sure you want to keep going?” I asked.
“We must be close, I can hear running water nearby.” Andrew said.
We continued forward, the evening shadows closing in as the trees lined the roadway.
About ten minutes later we rounded a corner in the road and came upon a clearing. A white building, the promised museum, lay directly ahead.
“It’s exactly what the photo showed, can’t believe we walked all the way out here to see this.” I said.
“It’s not that bad, come on.”
Andrew walked up to the door and knocked. No answer. A moment later he tried the handle.
“It’s not locked. Should we go in?”
“Sign says open, why not.”
We stepped inside and looked around.
“Hello?” Andrew called out.
“I think it’s empty.” I said, and looked around.
The room was roughly fifteen feet by ten feet, and sparsely decorated. A single table stood against the back wall, and several doors lead off into other rooms. Photographs and plaques hung on the walls. The wooden floors displayed the scratches and marks from years of use.
The plaques captured my attention first. Ordered by date, they told the story of the museum and the history of the Montana gold rush. I started in the twenty-first century, with the recent renovation of the building, and traced its history backward along the plaques.
“This place was built in 1695. Is that even possible?” I asked as I glanced at the final plaque.
“Maybe that original spot in the meadow?” Andrew responded.
I walked over to the table and turned the yellowed pages of the guestbook. It contained a few entries for the week. At first I saw dates going back years, then decades. After a few minutes of scanning I turned to the first page.
“Whoa, this guestbook is as old as the cabin. Surely it’s fake.” I raised my eyes and looked around. The room was empty.
I withdrew my hand from the book, and stepped away from the table. The sound of rustling caught my attention as the pages snapped close to their original position. My eyes landed on the single entry for the week.
“July 7, 2024”. I laughed. That was three years from now. Then I noticed the name scribbled beside it. Andrew Whitler.
“Andrew?” I called out, louder this time. With some effort I pulled my eyes away from the words and surveyed the room.
Three internal doors led to other parts of the house. I walked to the door furthest from me, and opened it. Inside was a small kitchen, and several more plaques. Just as I was about to step in to examine one, I heard a sound coming from the entry room.
Andrew stepped in from another doorway.
“Oh good, this is crazy but I thought -“
I never finished the words.
Andrew walked into the room, but he wasn’t alone.
I blinked my eyes, and tried to register what I was seeing.
He held hands with another woman. She stepped forward, and gave him a kiss on the lips.
My unintended gasp drew their attention.
Andrew looked up, and his face registered confusion.
“Jennifer, you’re alive?”