It was another quiet summer day. Tina Davis was in the kitchen, washing the dishes after lunch. she was trying not to cry too audibly, lest her seven year daughter Sandy hear her.
Sandy had been diagnosed with leukemia only a month ago, but things were already looking grim. It wouldn’t be too long before she had to be put into hospice care. Tina didn’t want to dwell on what would happen after that. How could things possibly have gone so wrong? She put the last plate on the rack to dry and walked out the back door into her yard.
She pulled out a pack of cigarettes from her apron and put one between her lips. She’d given up smoking almost a year ago, but it was the only solace she could find from everything that was happening.
As Tina fumbled in the pockets of her apron for a lighter, she saw a strange flash of light in the small wooded area behind the house, right near the neighbors’ yard. A glowing door had appeared there. Through squinted eyes, Tina could just make out a shape emerging from the door, which closed immediately after.
The figure that emerged from the door was dressed like an astronaut, or rather, a child’s idea of what an astronaut looked like. It wore a bulky rust-colored suit with a large chestplate that had a timer on it. Black tubes ran from the plate to the helmet of the suit, which was opaque. Yet somehow, Tina had the sense that the thing was looking right at her. It flipped open the visor of its helmet to reveal darkness. It had no face or head. Just a swirling void. Tina felt her mouth go dry and an odd tingling sensation all over her body, as if she had just touched a doorknob after shuffling her feet on the carpet.
The sensation stopped.
Tina couldn’t remember why she had come into the yard. She looked around at the cloudless sky, the lush trees, the empty space by the neighbor’s yard. What was she doing out here?
Sandy’s voice jerked Tina back to the present. She turned to see her smiling face on the other side of the kitchen door. Tina smiled back. She still couldn’t believe the miracle that was standing in front of her. It was close to two years ago that Sandy had been diagnosed with leukemia, doomed to never recover from it. But then, she got better. Tina didn’t remember how. In fact, she couldn’t remember the past year at all. All she knew was that Sandy was alive, and one of the happiest nine year olds she had ever seen.
Dr. Adam Wilfrey walked up the steps to the Bureau of Time Management, fumbling in his coat pocket for his ID card. Doris at the security desk buzzed him through.
“Ah, thanks, Doris,” he said, still trying to find the card as he walked to the elevator. “Oh, and good morning!”
Doris smiled and shook her head.
The Bureau of Time Management was a nondescript office building in London’s West End. It had been established a few years ago, when time travel had started to become commonplace, and temporal anomalies started popping up from misuse of the technology. The Bureau was formed to track and contain the anomalies and to make sure that there were no lasting disruptions in the time stream.
Adam Wilfrey was in charge of the Bureau and liked to get in early to make sure everything was running smoothly. He made himself a cup of tea in the break room and walked into the main laboratory to check on the chronometers. They were running as expected. Dr. Wilfrey took a satisfied sip of his tea, but didn’t get to savor it for long. He was staring at one of the chronometers, which was showing something rather odd.
The previous year was missing. All of it. But there were no alarms, no notifications. Nothing at all to indicate that something was wrong.
Dr. Wilfrey put down his tea and picked up the phone on the desk. It was going to be a very long morning.