She woke up to sunshine and a headache, as well as disorientation. What day was it? What time? The bed she lay on was lumpy, the blanket coarse. No clocks were in sight, so she reached for her phone. Her heart raced as her fingers closed on empty air.
The room spun as she sat up. And discovered she wore only a plain gray shift, one she had never seen before. Her lumpy bed sat in a small room with a large window high on one wall. Voices came from outside the room, so she walked to the door. Before she got there, it opened and a red-faced girl came in, carrying an armload of more coarse fabric.
“Well now, Janie here’s your gown and apron. I’ll brush up your hair into the cap. The Herald has come from the Duke and has news, so you have a little more time to get ready.” The girl began shaking out the items and holding them out to —- Janie? No, that’s not my name.
“Who are you?” She took the gown and slipped into it.
Her companion laughed. “Aye, ye did drink a bit last night, do you not remember your own Marie!”
But I don’t drink. Unable to come to a point of understanding what was happening to her, Janie or whoever she was soon had on the clothes Marie brought, including a muffin cap. She followed the girl out to a long passageway, down a flight of stairs, then to a courtyard. A dozen or more folk, all dressed simply except for a man in velvets, surrounded one man who wore leathers and a coat of dust.
Between swallows of liquid in a cup he held, the dusty man spoke in a loud, clear voice. “There are to be no more markets on Sundays. Bring your wares on Thursdays only, unless you have fresh bread or fruit. Those will be on Mondays along with the butcher’s goods.”
The crowd murmured as the man drank. She saw a flash to her left and turned, to find herself in a wholly different outfit in the middle of a busy marketplace. A different man spoke to any who choose to stop and listen.
“The frogs spent some time jeering at their new ‘King’ until one started the plea again. ‘Oh mighty Zeus, we frogs have no laws and no guidance. Please send us a real king!’ The ground shook, the clouds parted, and a huge, sinuous water snake fell into their pond. Before the frogs knew what was happening, the snake ate half of them and eyed the rest with an unappeased hunger.”
Heads were nodding around the circle of listeners and a few murmured sounds of agreement. Who did they think played the role of the snake in their world? For obviously, they were all the frogs.
Something flashed, causing her to turn to her right. Her clothes changed so she wore a bonnet that had a long front and a gown of a softer cotton. Long sleeves and long skirts encased her, unlike anything she had worn before. She stood in a dusty dirt street, edged with wooden sidewalks. Looking up, she saw a crowd outside a building proclaiming itself The Dry Gulch Herald.
A man in a white shirt and satin vest came out, waving a sheet of newsprint. “Lincoln won the election! He’s the 16th president and the first Republican. Don’t that beat all?”
“I gotta send a telegram to my kin in the Kansas Territory,” said a woman next to her. “They won’t believe it.”
She stepped away from the crowd, dizzy and dry of mouth. What on earth had she got caught up in? Heralds, fables, newspapers, telegraphs! She closed her eyes and clenched her fists. STOP!
A hand landed on her shoulder. “Wake up, Sarah. Lunch is over.” The man speaking to her looked amused. “You need to stop reading the news on your phone and stressing over it. It wears you out.”
“Thanks, uh, yeah.” Sarah. That was her name. Her phone lay comfortable in her hand, the local news streaming on the screen. Whew!
In moments, her head cleared enough so she could stand up and go back to her desk. She had a blog to write about the history of communication.
I hope you enjoyed this silly bit of fiction. I wanted to write about the news I get on Facebook, on Fark.com, and in emails. I wanted to tie it all into old means of communication, but that would take more than the few words I usually write. So here we covered a few things that you can look up on your own so you can be thankful that you live now and not then.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.