Dave dropped the last Sharpie scribbled box in the kitchen and slowly straightened to full height, his body aching from three days of moving two housefulls of memories and possessions into one.
Jane smiled at him from the corner where she sorted through dozens of duplicated herbs and spices. “That the last one?” She asked, placing a small jar in the wooden rack and turning the label towards her.
“Yep. If i’ve missed any it’ll have to stay where it is ‘cos it’s not fitting in here.” He said looking around at the boxes piled against every wall.
“It won’t seem so bad when we’ve unpacked everything.” Jane said, smiling in a way that creased the corners of her eyes.
“Probably not, but they don’t build brand new houses with any storage space now do they? I don’t know where the designers think you’re going to put all your stuff.” He said, walking towards Jane and stumbling into a small but heavy box at his feet.
“Be careful Dave,” She laughed, “I have no idea where the A&E is in this town yet.”
Dave enveloped her in a tight hug, pulling her small frame into his chest and kissing the top of her head. “Anyone would think I was accident prone.” He chuckled.
“I would never suggest such a thing.” Said Jane, looking up and tracing the long angry scar on his jaw. Dave flinched almost imperceptibly at her touch, the same way his grandfather had done when Dave discovered an almost identical scar beneath his newly shaven beard as a child. He never did find out how he got that scar, and it was too late to ask him now. He turned to look out the window at the postage stamp of mud that was their new back garden.
“I suppose we ought to do something with that pretty soon.” He said pointing outside. “God knows what we’ll dig up out there.”
“Decades of farming detritus I shouldn’t wonder.” Jane said, turning to look out the window. “This plot was on a wheat field.” Dave pulled away slightly, looking down at Jane with drawn brows. “The man in the shop told me.” She said. “He used to run through it as a child but they were told to stop playing in there after some weird things happened. He said some kids even disappeared.”
“Oh good, urban ghost stories. I bet we’ll find out we’re living on an ancient Indian burial ground too.” Dave said, tickling Jane playfully and soaking up her laughter.
They pulled apart as the letterbox squeaked under the strain of new springs, its closing clatter echoing around the unfurnished entrance hall. Dave headed to the door, picking his way around boxes to the space the new doormat would soon occupy. Seeing their names together on utility bills and bank letters was a thrill he still wasn’t used to, and he smiled as he made his way back to the kitchen.
“Anything interesting?” Jane asked, now back at her task of organising the spice rack.
“No, just takeaway menus and welcome letters from the gas and leccy companies.” He said, pausing on a slightly yellowing envelope.
“What’s that?” Jane asked.
“I have no idea, but it’s addressed to Mr & Mrs Flowers. You haven’t told anyone we’re engaged yet have you?”
“No, of course not. We haven’t told the kids yet. Let me see.” Jane said, dusting off her hands on her jeans. Dave handed her the letter. “It’s hand written, looks like an elderly person’s writing I think. Open it.” She said, passing it back to Dave.
He slid his finger under the envelope flap, pulling out the similarly yellowed letter.
“What does it say?”
Dave read silently for a few minutes and the looked up to meet Jane’s eyes.
“It must be a joke. It’s not very funny if it is.”
“Let me see.” Jane said, gently lifting the letter from Dave’s hand.
Dear Dave and Jane,
Forgive me, I can’t remember if you are married when you move into this house or not. If not, you must be planning it at least, so I hope you’re not offended by my addressing you as Mr & Mrs.
My memory is not what it was and I wanted to write to you before I loose my marbles completely. I need to warn you about events that will turn your life upside down if not avoided. I lost my chance to stop things happening, even though I too received this letter, and as a consequence I am stuck in this time loop trying to stop you making the same mistakes.
When I say you, I mean me – us. I am you. I am writing to you as an old man but from the past. I know this will make little sense to you, it never did to me, but if you don’t listen to me you will leave Jane alone and without any idea of what ever happened to you. In previous letters, we have urged each other not to let Jane read this letter. I imagine we thought one of us suffering a mental breakdown was enough, but I now think you need to tell her everything in the hopes that she might be able to help us.
We have been stuck in this time loop for too long and none of us have ever been successful in stopping us wandering into the portal that sets these events in motion, we hope with every loop that something in the young you will change and you won’t dismiss this letter as the ramblings of an old man. Perhaps one day, one of us will have a love of science or time travel and will believe what we tell you to be both possible and true. So let me set it out clearly for you.
In your back garden is a portal that, once entered, will throw you back in time fifty years. You will find no way back to your own year and will be stuck in a time before you were born. I cannot tell you the date the portal will appear as it seems to be completely random. All I can tell you is that it always appears in the summer after you move into your new home. Look out for a mirror appearing on your back fence, if you see it, run away quickly. It will pull you in and you will be powerless to stop it.
Please do not dismiss me as a crazy old man. Remember this letter when you see the portal appear, I prey your curiosity doesn’t get the better of you as it did me and the dozens who came before us.
Dave Flowers (you)
“Dave? What the hell is this? Is it a joke?” Jane said, her ashen face pinched.
“It’s pretty weird if it is. We only moved in today, this must have been in the post system for a couple of days before that.” Dave said, turning the letter over in his hands. “The paper looks old, like it was written a long time ago but the stamp is new so it’s only been posted recently.”
“There’s a return address on the envelope” Jane said handing it to Dave.
Dave dropped onto the nearest breakfast stool, staring at the envelope. “It can’t be. That’s impossible.” He said, looking up at Jane. “The return address, it’s mine, I was born there. That’s where I lived with my parents, but it’s been gone for years, knocked down.”
Jane’s expression collapsed. “You don’t mean? You can’t mean? Do you think your dad sent this?”
“Yes… No…, I don’t know. Or my grandad, he lived with us too. Actually, I don’t even know why I’m thinking about it.”
“Because it’s weird! An old letter turns up addressed to us on the very day we move in here. It’s odd.”
“Yes, well, let’s just agree to ignore it. Unless a mirrored portal does show up in the back garden.” Said Dave, screwing up the letter and dropping it into the nearest open box.
“Good plan. If we see one we’ll steer clear.” Said Jane. “Although,” She said, turning to face him. “You do realise that if the writer of that letter is your dad or grandad and you don’t walk into that portal, that you will cease to exist.”
“I guess so, if you’re your own dad, you won’t be in the past to father yourself – which is altogether to cyclical to comprehend – and so you will cease to be. Will you just vanish on the day you don’t walk into the portal? Will you vanish from the whole of history? How will it work?”
Dave jumped up from the bar stool and planted a kiss on Jane’s mouth. “Well, I guess you’d better run in the portal after me then hadn’t you?” He said, cupping her face. “Wait a minute, does that mean that you’ll actually be my mum? Ewww, I don’t think I like that idea.”
Jane slapped him playfully on the shoulder. “Shut up and start unpacking boxes Mr Flowers. If you’re going to jump through a portal soon I don’t want to be left to do this all by myself.”
“Fine.” He said, watching her walk away as he reached into the nearby box, retrieved the crumpled letter and pushed it into his pocket.
Written for The Daily Post’s prompt.