The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin
I lay sprawled on the wooden floor of the barn loft, trying to catch my breath. Dahlia Sorley came over the upturned couch and was reaching down to help me up. I could feel a fierce wind blowing into the room from the open doorway. There was a crackling, electrical feeling to the air, like a huge build-up of static.
I leaned over, grabbing the doorframe with one hand for balance. I looked out through the storm and down into the yard. A man was standing at the edge of the cornfield, looking at the house. It was hard to make anything out. The storm clouds had darkened the sky, and the rain was falling in torrents. I was immediately soaked to the skin, just for leaning out.
“Who is that?” Dahlia echoed her sister.
“Get back from the door,” I said, using my other hand to push Calla behind me and then to tug Dahlia back. “Get back, further into the loft.”
Despite my complaints of being tired, I slept fitfully. I had a lot on my mind, after all: meeting Calla as a teenager, and a Sorley, instead of an adult Wiley. Time travel. Zebediah, and his murderous plans. I would punch my pillow and roll over, in futile attempts to get comfortable.
I didn’t bother to sleep in, despite Mrs. Sorley’s advice. I didn’t see the point. I woke up when everyone else got up to start their chores, and helped make breakfast. There was light chitchat again at the table, and then everyone dispersed to do their work.
Agent Johnson and I headed down to join the Sorleys for dinner. We had been unable to come up with an explanation for Calla Wiley’s presence in their house, and, so far, I believed “cousin Jimmy” when he said that he didn’t know that she was also Calla Sorley. It still felt like a set-up, I just wasn’t sure who had done the setting.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Johnson. Hang on a sec.” A young Calla went to the back door of her Kansas farmhouse, in the corner of the kitchen, and hollered. “DAD! JIMMY! Come HERE!”
I stared at the back of her head. I was completely befuddled. It was so weird, to see the love of my life as a pre-teen, and know what she would become. I began to understand what Johnson had meant about time travel stressing people out. It was uncanny.
“They’ll be here in a moment,” Calla said, smiling as she turned back to me. “Would you like a glass of water or something?”
Agent James Johnson of the Continuity Integrity Agency (CIA) of the year 2300, or thereabouts, had recruited me from my own year of 2008 to stop a murder. Or, at least, that’s what he told me while we stood in a garden in that far off future.
“We’ve been tracking Zebediah for quite some time. We’ve gathered intelligence that suggests he means to kill someone from your era. We’re not entirely sure why, but just the fact that he’s involved means that we’re interested in foiling the plot.”
I rubbed my hands vigorously through my hair and hollered for a full minute. Agent Johnson of the Continuity Integrity Agency waited patiently beside me, his hands in the pockets of his pants.
“Feel better?” He asked when I finished.
“No,” I rasped. My throat felt sore.
“I know it’s a lot to take in. You’ve been in three different time periods in less than twenty-four hours. Give yourself a minute.”
The technician in the control booth decided to speak.
“Mr. Franklin, please allow me to apologize on behalf of the Federal Bureau of time Investigation for any inconvenience we may have caused. It is our sincere hope that you will be able to return to your own era with your memories restored. This is beyond our capability, but we have procured assistance. I turn you over to Agent James Johnson of the CIA, and bid you good day.”
“Let’s go, my man,” Johnson said. He sprung to his feet and waved bye-bye to Jameson, and then strolled out of the room. I followed, relieved to be going.
I don’t know how long Agent Jameson and I sat in silence. I don’t really know why he stayed, either. Maybe he hated being in quarantine as much as I did, and appreciated the company. Even if we weren’t speaking.
I opened the dish and found what looked like a lump of bread. It was dark brown in colour, like a rye loaf.
“What is it?”
“Food,” Jameson said. He took a bite of his.
“But what kind of food?” I was extremely hungry, and it didn’t look that appetizing.
“Food food,” Jameson said, shrugging. He chewed with relish. “It’s good.”