It was a knife, that first time we noticed, the old one that fitted
so well to my hand. These things happen, you said, thinking it merely lost.
I worried the landlord’s kid broke in, took it for kicks.
My glasses, two weeks later, the only thing they gave back. All day we searched
in a blur. That night they bounced on the living room carpet.
We found them iced over, steaming. After, they never quite fit.
There was that folder with your visa application for the trip to China.
The annotated Beowulf. The Oyster cards. Saint Agatha’s
icon, bought in the shadow of Mount Etna.
My wisdom teeth, next. Ghoulish to keep those anyway, you said.
Who but you would want them?
I replied: maybe they’re cloning us? Are they taking souvenirs?
Are they adjusting the dials on days gone by? Maybe there was an accident
with the knife. That big fire downtown, was it the day we spent looking for Beowulf?
Or maybe, you said, we’re overreacting.
Still. You took the important documents and Nanny’s ring to a safe deposit box.
I left a list in my desk: dates, deaths, regrets.
Our share in the commonwealth of avoidable tragedies.
The time travellers left packets of beet seeds. Trout lures, and a recipe for mead. Water
purification tablets, a map of cottage country, with one
cold town a remote circle, scrawled in rusty brown. And Nanny’s ring.
Fantastic, I said, we’ve started a conversation.
You replied: how soon do you think we should start packing?
Leaving me to say it: we’re overreacting. It was my turn, after all.
But I didn’t stop you pulling up Muskoka real estate listings.
And you just snorted, and kept browsing cottages and mortgage rates,
when I queried Amazon for fishing rods and hit Subscribe on survivalist YouTube.
(Editors’ Note: “What the Time Travellers Stole” is read by Joy Piedmont on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 38B.)
© 2021 L.X. Beckett