The Chronology Enforcement Department

It was sunny when you left home, so you didn’t take an umbrella. An hour later, you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of old artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you. Tell us what happens next! – The Daily Post


This wasn’t exactly how I’d planned my day to go. The forecast had said 0% chance of rain. You know, with time travel being possible, you’d think the weather forecasts would have gotten better by now. But nope. Meteorologists were still just as clueless as they had been in the old days.

Of course, not a one of them actually ever did jump into the future to see what was up. That was, first of all, illegal, and second of all, dangerous. Messing with the time-space continuum could really screw with the world. Something about the electro-magnetic field or something. I don’t know. I’m not a scientist, I’m a police officer. I arrest the kinds of people I wish meteorologists were.

At least I had made it to my destination… whether or not I was soaking wet. There was something about antique shops that had always captured my attention. Maybe it was the fact that everything looked so out-of-place, or the fact that I could imagine my great-great-grandparents using some of this stuff. I don’t know. Whatever it was, I liked antique shops. It was like traveling to the past without really traveling to the past.

The shop’s ancient proprietor walked out of the back room, stopping at the counter and staring at me like he’d never seen a sopping wet police officer before. In all honesty, he probably hadn’t. The force was very particular about how they were perceived by the general public. With my car being in the shop, and Vick out with the squad car, I’d had no protection from the odd weather cycles and thus had just destroyed that vision of proper authority the previous officers in my trade had worked so hard to build. Oh well.

“You look like you just went through a rinse cycle,” the old man laughed. It was a hoarse sound that seemed to only come from his throat, like the air in his lungs couldn’t be bothered to push more noise out than that. He smiled, rosy cheeks rising to envelop his beady eyes, and I could see he’d lost yet another tooth.

“You got a towel back there, Ralph?” I asked as I took my hat from my head and shook some of the water droplets off of it.

Again, Ralph made a hissy laugh and shuffled into the back room, returning only moments later with a shop towel, which I gratefully used to pat my face and neck dry.

“Whatcha here for, Ari?” He asked, leaning against the glass of his counter. Inside the case was a lovely set of Porcelain tea cups from the Ming Dynasty. It was nothing anyone had any use for now, and Porcelain was so delicate and fragile, that the artifacts were pretty much useless as far as value went. They had to be worth something at one time, though. Ralph took special care of them. Maybe they meant something to him.

I lifted my eyes from the tea cups to answer Ralph, “Just checking in. Making sure you haven’t had any suspicious activity going on.”

Ralph rolled his beady eyes upward as he tried to think of something, but the answer was always the same: “No one’s come by but you.”

That’s because no one cared about the past anymore. Why was it so important to keep things preserved when all you had to do was jump back 2,000 years to see it for yourself? Just because time travel was illegal didn’t mean it didn’t go on. It made me wonder how people like Ralph could stay in business, when even some of the most important government-run museums had even shut down.

I sighed and handed him back his towel. “I figured as much.”

“When you gonna buy these cups from me?” Ralph asked, tapping the glass counter top with one scraggly finger. “You eye ’em all the time you come in here.”

I just smiled in reply. “I’d love to, Ralph, but I’ve got no place for them.” I shrugged. “Maybe next time.”

He chuckled again. We had a routine. He always asked me that question and I always replied the same. I don’t know why I took a liking to Ralph. Maybe for the same reasons I took a liking to his shop. Or maybe it was just because he actually treated me like a human being, not like the rest of the world treated me. When I had my uniform on, I was authority. That’s all anyone ever saw.

“You know… I do remember someone else coming in,” he said suddenly, angling his head toward the ceiling and stroking his beard, as if this helped him recall some memory that danced on the edges of his mind.

I raised my eyebrows. “You do?”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “Two days ago. Said he had a message for you, but you weren’t here.”

That was odd. Who would be leaving messages for me at Ralph’s shop? Hardly anyone knew I came here every Wednesday. If anyone needed to talk to me, all they had to do was contact the Chronology Enforcement Department. “Who was it?”

“I don’t know. Forget his name,” Ralph continued. “But he told me to tell you- don’t trust them. And you need to run.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Don’t trust who? And run where?”

Ralph just shrugged. “Beats me. He said you’d understand. Put a lot of stress on ‘them’, though. You in some kind of trouble, Ari?”

I let out a scoff of a laugh. “Me? In trouble?” But the question pulled at something in my mind that I pushed away. No, this situation couldn’t be about that. No one knew my secret.

Ralph smiled again, his toothless grin widening. “All right, I just figured I’d ask.”

I thanked him for checking up on me and to contact me if anything else unusual occurred. The rain had stopped minutes ago, and I was on my way out the door when Ralph spoke up again.

“Oh, I remember now!” He snapped his fingers. “Said his name was Tyler. Said you’d know to trust him.”

Tyler.

I don’t know how long I stood there, frozen to the floor. But I couldn’t force my legs to move. I couldn’t seem to do anything but stare at Ralph in horror before turning and bursting through the doors to the outside. Because someone did know my secret. I did know Tyler. He was my husband. Who I would marry ten years from now. And he had jumped back in time.

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