In the last post, Anna changed time by not letting her past self kill her captor, tormentor, master, and yes, lover. The two Annas left Odin in the middle of the fog-filled square as they sped off save their General Konstantine.
Yvonne Jeanette Karlsen (1966, Norwegian)
The medics at St. Janos Hospital pulled the bleeding general from the back of his car. The two Annas followed his gurney inside. They got as far as the double swinging doors of the operating room. An attendant in grimy hospital whites blocking their way pointed to a bench in the corridor. They listened in silence from the other side of the door for any clues in the frantic murmurs of the doctors.
The two looked at each other. Neither spoke. Neither knowing what to say in a situation like this.
Anna wondered about the past version of herself sitting next to her. Would Uri betray her and turn her in? Or worse yet, would he enslave her all over again. She also worried about her own state. Was she marooned in the past, stuck behind the Iron Curtain once again, as a persona non grata? Could Odin be capable of stranding her here? Perhaps she should have been nicer to him when she told him to fuck off. Could it be that he was right, and she didn't know the ramifications of what she was doing?
The two Annas held hands, fingers intertwined in nervous grips.
Future Anna thought back to her last encounter with Uri. Not as it unfolded only a few minutes ago, but as it happened four years back. After stabbing General Konstantine through the heart and killing him, she had completed her run to the safe-house. When she showed up on its doorstep in hysterics, the agent cleaned her up and gave her a brandy to calm her nerves.
Only now, her past self wasn't crying at the safe house. She wasn't blathering about how she killed her lover. Rather, she was in a very opposite direction, sitting on a bench in a hospital hallway, waiting on a still living Uri Konstantine. Furthermore, four years ago, she certainly hadn't been holding hands with a time-traveling version of herself wearing a little black evening dress.
This was the classic time traveler’s paradox that she’d read about in the pulp science fiction magazines of her teen years. It was something that the universe ought not to have allowed happen. Yet, the universe didn’t seem to care. Aside from the frantic work on the other side of the swinging double doors, it seemed a quiet, ordinary night.
“We’re losing him,” someone shouted.
Hearing that, future Anna feared what she had done was all for naught. What did she get for her efforts, to be stranded in a place in time that had never happened, and Uri would still be dead?
“No, we still have him,” the medic exclaimed. “Yes, yes, I think we have him!”
“We’re losing her!” someone from another, far off place said. A place that was distant, yet not distant at all. She felt that familiar, disquieting feeing of stepping through a hole in space and time once again, yet this time she didn’t move. She only noticed she was no longer holding onto her other self’s hand. “No, we still have her. Yes, yes, I think we have her!” Anna opened her eyes to look up at the emergency room staff frantically scurrying around her. She was now the one lying in the emergency room “We’ve got her,” someone said. “Welcome back! We thought we’d lost you.”
Anna looked around. This was not the run-down hospital in Budapest, but a clean, well-lit modern ER.
“Don't try to talk,” the doctor looking down upon her said. “Blink if you understand me.”
Anna blinked twice.
“Is it over?” she wondered. “Am I back in London? Back in 1967?” She took a deep breath. I’m alive, she thought. Odin, thank you! I'm so sorry for what I said to you”
They soon wheeled her to a room and a team of orderlies lifted her on her bed.
“Your husband has been notified and he’s on his way,” the head nurse with frizzy blond hair said when all the orderlies but one had left.
“Husband? But, I'm not —”
“I spoke to him myself. He left Stow as soon as he heard and should be here in Boston any time now. I bet he’s stuck in rush-hour traffic.”
“Boston?” Anna looked up at the nurse. “You mean London!”
“Just relax,” the nurse said. “Try to get some sleep. We’ll be monitoring you.”
“Where am I?” she asked, panicking.
“Brigham and Woman’s Hospital,” the nurse answered. “We’re not far from the MFA where you collapsed. You were very lucky to get here so fast.”
“MFA? That’s the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston? But I collapsed in the Royal Albert Hall in London!”
“It's natural to be confused, dear.” The frizzy-haired nurse smiled. She patted the back of Anna’s hand, then left.
That's when she noticed the remaining orderly adjusting the window blinds. Even from behind, Anna recognized him immediately.
“Odin! What have you done!”
“What I did!” He turned. “It’s what you did!” He was out of place in his blue hospital scrubs. He now sported a short yet scraggly beard but he still wore his eye patch.
“Why am I in Boston? And what husband?”
“When you changed your past you changed your future as well. Think of the ramifications you’ve caused.” He sat on the corner of her bed. “The fellow gods and goddesses were not amused by the ripple in time you caused. I had my explaining to do. Being the Allfather was no protection. They censured me.” He looked up to the sky and shook his head. “When you didn’t kill Uri this time around, you changed a lot of things uptime. Everything in your lightcone from then on had to be rewritten.”
“But, what’s going on?”
“You have two memories up to this point. Your original memory from that night you killed Uri through the night you died from your heart attack at the opera in London. And you have a new set of memories going forward from the night you didn’t kill Uri up until you had a heart attack while visiting the museum in Boston. Which, incidentally, you survived. I persuaded the gods not to take away your old memories. The memories of this new reality will come flooding in as you need them.”
“Who did I marry?” she asked. Just then, that specific memory surfaced. “Him! No, Odin! Anything but that! Please don’t do that to me!”
Just then she heard a commotion in the hall. Someone was arguing with the head nurse. She recognized the voice.
“Alright, alright! You can go in, but don’t get her excited!" the nurse said.
The door to her room burst open. Uri Konstantine, disheveled and pale from worry, rushed in.
“Andromeda!” He fell to his knees by her bedside. A tear ran down his cheek. “I was so afraid for you!” He took her hand and kissed it.
Odin nodded discreetly and left the room. She looked back at him with confusion. A hint of anger surfaced towards the god. But, it all evaporated when she saw Uri, her tormentor, her master, now her husband, crying at the side of her bed.
“Mrs. Konstantine,” the nurse said. “Just call if you need to rest. We’ll take your husband out and explain what he needs to do to care for you when he takes you home.”
“No, it’s okay,” Anna said weakly, very unsure of herself. “I want him here.” She stroked his head as he continued his tender kisses.
A week later she returned to their farm in Stow, Massachusetts. Looking around, it was all new, yet it was the house she and Uri lived in for two years. They'd found it together after he defected and moved to America with her. He carried her to their bedroom. Their bedroom. Those words had a curious, comfortable ring. She saw that their bed was a king-sized four-poster made of oak. Of course it was; they’d picked it out together. He put her in the middle and pulled the covers up to her chin.
“No, I’m fine. Just let me rest a little while.”
“I’ll start cooking dinner, then. I’m sure you’re sick of hospital food.” He kissed her forehead and left.
Uri can cook?
The little black dress hung draped on a chair in the corner. It was the only thing she'd brought back with her from a time that used to exist. That dress was the only proof that she wasn't crazy, and that she was a living, breathing genuine paradox in time.
A Polaroid photograph lay on the night stand. She reached over to pick it up. It was on top of a letter and an envelope mailed from England. The photograph was of Liudmila holding a newborn in a hospital room. A young man with unruly hair was next to her. They were both beaming. There was a bunch of roses in the background. Liudmila was still in a hospital gown.
More memories came flooding back, this time of Liudmila. She’s married (no way!) to Michael, that guy that had the crush on her at the flower shop! This photo came with her newest letter, in which she wrote about her new baby! In previous letters, she’d told Anna all about Michael. The way she described him, Michael seemed so right for her, the anchor she so very much needed. She remembered when this latest letter arrived — just a few days before her heart attack. She was so happy for Liudmila. She read the letter again for the first time.
My dearest Anna,Anna put the letter back on the night stand. She smiled at the notion of a reunion between Liudmila and Uri. How the sparks would fly. As she placed the letter back, she noticed the book she was about to lay it on. She exchanged it for the letter.
Let me present Anna Spears. The newest addition to our family. Michael and I talked it over and I hope you don’t mind that we named her after you. She is just twelve hours old in this photograph. But by the time I’m getting around to write, it’s two weeks after she was born. She hasn’t slept through a night yet! I hope she will soon. At least I get to sleep during the day. Poor Michael is going to work every day with bags under his eyes. Now the details. Anna was born on the 1st of May at 4:05 in the morning. She’s 6 lb. 6 oz. She's already very inquisitive. I hope she doesn’t grow up to be a spy!
Lots of love to you and ... him.
Liudmila, Michael, and Anna
P.S. Please visit us in London ... he can come too, I’m not mad at him anymore!
Of course, Uri’s latest book. She remembered that too; what a firestorm it caused, exposing Soviet atrocities in Eastern Europe. How he’d changed after defecting. Or, maybe he didn't change and she got to see a new facet of him. He now occasionally consults for Amnesty International as an expert on the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union. And, he's a new writer making a name for himself. She thought back to his first book and how had exposed the notorious double agent Andrew Locket, and it exposed Locket’s lie that Anna had defected to the Soviets. What a scandal it caused. By that time, Locket had risen to be second in command at the CIA and was in line for the top position. Now an international fugitive, Andrew Locket had disappeared without a trace.
“Loki or Locket, or whoever you are, rot in that bubble Odin put you in,” she sighed to herself. “Thanks to Uri, your lies have been exposed, too.”
Anna felt in her heart that her days of being intertwined with the gods were over. Loki locked away, and Odin moving on to torment some other naive girl.
She heard Uri clattering in the kitchen. He must have dropped a pan. A smile crossed her face as she fell back on to her pillow. She studied the four posts of the gigantic oak bed. Delicious memories came flooding back of this new life. She craned her head to look at the matching oak trunk sitting at the foot of the bed just to make sure it was really there. She smiled at the thought of all those deviously wonderful toys waiting inside for her. She liked the heavy leather flogger the best.
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