I was just arriving home from work, admiring the Christmas decorations on the house when I thought I heard a voice cry out in the back yard. I walked around the house and waded through the snow, heading for the back fence, and looking around for any disturbance or even a body in the snow, but there was only smooth, unbroken snow. When I was almost at the gate I noticed that it was open, and the snow was disturbed and a patch of red startled my eyes. It looked as though someone had fallen and gashed their head on something, but there was no body, and the snow all around was undisturbed. It looked as though the body had fallen in the snow, and disappeared into thin air.
Just as I stepped forward to reach the gate to close it, my foot caught against something and I fell, hitting my head on the metal latch. I was dazed for a short while then struggled to my feet, expecting to close the gate and go back to the house. I was bleeding from a cut just above my left eye, and wanted to get inside, get warm, and tend my wound. But when I looked around, I saw nothing, just untouched snow for a long distance. Far away I saw smoke rising from within a stand of trees. If I was to get help, I would have to make my way there. I felt dazed and confused. Where was I? What had happened to my home? Then I remembered the disturbed snow and blood at the gate; had that been caused by my fall? But how could it be there before I fell? More confused than ever, wondering where and possibly when I was, I sighed and started wading through the snow.
It seemed like hours before I was close enough to see where the smoke came from. There was a small log cabin sheltering in the middle of the copse. Light flickered from a window, and I saw a shadow cross between the light and the window. ‘I hope whoever lives here will help me,’ I thought, ‘and will be able to tell me where I am. How could I have moved from our back yard? Perhaps I did go back in time. There was a time when it was all empty land there.’ I made my way slowly to the door, shivering and weary, my head aching from the cold, and raised my hand to knock.
The door was opened by a tall, slender man who seemed to be about my age. “Helen!” he exclaimed, “Where have you been? You disappeared a year ago when you insisted on walking to Pincher Creek to see if there was any mail from your Mother. We searched and searched, all the way, even going a couple of miles to each side of the track. But your trial led us about half way there, and stopped. It was as though you had melted into thin air. Come in, come in. What happened, how did you hurt your head? And where did you get those outlandish clothes?”
He led me in and settled me close to the fireplace, then went to a cupboard and brought out ointment and a bandage to bind up the cut. I was feeling even more confused. My name is not Helen, though that was my great grandmother’s name. He gave me plate of stew and a piece of bread, and settled down across from me. “Please, dear, tell me where you have been. I have missed you so much, and worried about you; where you were if you were alive well. Please, my love, talk!”
I ate some stew and bread while I gathered my thoughts. I remembered the story of Grandma Helen’s disappearance, and how only a few years ago archaeologists had found an old Native settlement, abandoned for many years. In the digging, they found the remains of a young white woman, and checked the DNA. Ours was on record, since almost all of the children for a couple of generations had been in the armed forces or some police force. The body was Grandma Helen, and her death was caused by a blow to the head. How was I to tell this man, my great grandfather? He would think me crazed by exposure. I had always known that I had an uncanny resemblance to Grandma Helen. I started talking.
For some time after I finished, he sat in silence, looking at me and obviously thinking about all I had said. I was surprised that he took the idea of time travel so calmly, but as I looked around the room, I noticed books on a shelf. I got up and walked over, and there was H. G. Wells’ book The Time Machine. He had followed me, and touched the book, “yes, I have read it, and speculated over the possibility. You must be Sarah Elizabeth. I remember when you were a toddler, how much you looked like my lost Helen. I think we should just rest for tonight. Tomorrow, we will follow your trail and see where you arrived in this time. I think it has to be the small settlement of the Assiniboine, south east of here. We wondered about it, as there were faint traces of their footsteps near where Helen obviously had fallen, but they were so faint we never went to them.”
We sat and talked for a couple of hours. He was fascinated by my tales of life in my time. He had read several Science Fiction books, Jules Verne and others, and was willing to accept the idea of people going round the world in a matter of hours, from Canada to Japan, or Europe. Automobiles intrigued him; the idea of getting into a ‘carriage’ and going at incredible speeds for hundreds of miles just to see a show, or an art display, and then driving back seemed to him something to envy.
The next day, after we had eaten a hearty breakfast, we bundled up and went out. The weather was clear, cold and calm, and my trail was sharply outlined in the snow. We set out, and to my surprise, we found my starting place in less than an hour. I guess I was just too dazed and in shock to be able to judge how long I’d been trudging through the snow. Once we were there, he looked all around at the open, snow covered expanse, and said “no wonder you were so bewildered and confused. To come to this from a street full of houses would be a shock to anyone, even without a head injury.”
He looked down at me, took my hands, and pulled me into his arms. “Thank you for telling me your story. I am pleased to have met you as an adult, and am proud of the brave, sensible intelligent young woman you have become. And thanks for leading me to where my Helen went. Now I know that, though she was badly injured, she didn’t’ die in the cold alone. The Assiniboine would have given her the best care they could, and from what you said, they gave her an honourable burial. I can now rest easy until my life’s end, and I will be with her then.’
He kissed my forehead, and stepped back. “Now, Sarah, take a step forward. You should find yourself back at your gate, in your own time and place. Bless you, dear, and remember me. I stepped to him and hugged him. “Thanks, grandfather. I’m glad a I met you as an adult, I had just a very vague memory, now I have a clear picture in mind when I think of you. And I will, often.” I stepped back, turned, and glancing over my shoulder, raised a hand and stepped forward, and tripped. As he had said, I was lying in the snow at the gate, my head bleeding, feeling dizzy and confused. But then I remembered Grandfather, that handsome, kind young man, and my mind cleared.
It is a memory I will always cherish, though it was a frightening experience. What if I had landed in the Assiniboine village? How would superstitious natives have reacted to a strange white woman in strange clothing appearing suddenly, apparently out of nowhere? I often think of it, and still feel confused. How had it happened? It is a question that I don’t think I will ever be able to answer, but will always keep asking.