“Take me to him,” Tobias tried his best to imitate Dr Carmichael from the Ministry. He drew himself up to his full height, clasped his hands behind his back and stared at the nurse with the distinct air of knowing better than anyone else nearby. It seemed to do the trick.
The nurse nodded and led him through a maze of whitewashed corridors with glaring strip electrical lighting. It wasn’t his first outing in this time but he still wasn’t used to it. The nurse glanced over her shoulder, eyebrows knitting together as she spotted him surveying his surroundings. Inwardly he cursed himself but simply cocked his head impatiently at her. She turned her attention back to leading him through the hospital without saying a word.
It was quieter than Tobias had imagined, but the glass in the windows of the rooms seemed rather thick. A few people passed them in the corridor but barely paid any attention. On his first trips, Tobias had been nervous, constantly alert worrying that everyone could tell he was not from their time but truthfully most people just went about their own business. More so this was true for the future. In his day, everyone would appraise passers-by, why was that lady not wearing a hat in public? Look at the man’s suit, does he not know what sort of attire is required of the country estate? Everything was about appearances and everyone wanted to check them. But here, everyone was too busy, so wrapped up in their own tasks they never gave a second look. After the third or fourth trip, Tobias realised it was a pointless worry and he simply needed to act like he belonged.
Still, it wasn’t often he was sent alone. While was apparently too busy to accompany him today which was particularly frustrating considering this was his home time. He shrugged off the swell of annoyance and focused on the task at hand.
The nurse stopped at a door. He wondered for a second how she knew they were in the right place but then he spotted the number to the side. If it weren’t for that, it would have looked like any other door in the place.
“His doctor should be round to see him in about twenty minutes if you want to talk to him. But he said to let you examine Mr Peterson,” the nurse opened the door somewhat reluctantly. Obviously, their subterfuge was not as solid as they had thought as the nurse clearly seemed doubtful. Not that that mattered, twenty minutes should be enough to determine whether there was any need for his presence here.
“Thank you Nurse Tyler,” Tobias smiled effortlessly, dismissing the nurse. Her eyes narrowed as she finally took her leave and went back the way they had come, casting wary glances over her shoulder. Perhaps he should be a bit quicker after all.
Mr Peterson was lying in the hospital bed, his eyes closed and head turned towards the open window. Tobias crossed over and pulled the window closed, supressing a shiver as he did. Light shone through the glass and lit up the man’s face, only serving to make him seem even more pale. His eyes were moving constantly behind closed lids and a look of pain and confusion was etched on his face as if in rock.
“Mr Peterson?” Tobias was fairly sure he was awake. The lack of movement confirmed his suspicion; someone asleep would have stirred even a fraction. “I know you’re awake Mr Peterson, I need to talk to you.”
“I’ve talked enough,” his voice was scratchy and raw. Tobias couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy. If the man before him was experiencing what they suspected, then he knew full well the discomfort he was in.
“Not to me, however, so please indulge me,” Tobias pulled the stool closer to the bed and sat himself down. One eye cracked open; something had piqued his interest. “If you would be so kind as to tell me why you are here.”
“You talk oddly,” Peterson mumbled.
“I talk as her Majesty the Queen requires a gentleman to speak. It is not my fault if mankind has decided that decorum and manners are forfeit in this heinous barbaric time.”
“You sure you shouldn’t be in here?” Peterson started to shift, opening both eyes but still clearly troubled by something.
“Are you sure you should?”
Peterson stared at him for a moment, although his gaze seemed to drift in and out as if he were not completely focused on Tobias, “Course I should. I‘m seeing things.”
Peterson screwed his face up at Tobias’ formal manner but carried on anyway, “I see weird things. Ghosts, shadows, things that aren’t real.” He sighed and all the power seemed to seep out of him.
“It’s ok,” Tobias tried to sound soothing but he wasn’t entirely sure he managed it. “Please carry on.”
“Right, it’s like you’re here talking to me and it’s just us.”
“But I can see other things too and I know they aren’t happening but I see another man talking to someone else. I see you as well, but in completely different clothes. And my head,” he lifted one hand limply to rest on his forehead. “It hurts so much. Like it’s being split from the inside.”
Tobias had heard all he needed, “Interesting. Most just seem to remember but you are presenting with full paradox symptoms.” The man blinked, keeping quiet. “What you are seeing Mr Peterson, they are shadows I suppose, of things that happened once, but no longer happened. You see time is more fluid than you think and a few changes have been made. Most people are oblivious their whole world has been altered but for some reason, some, like yourself can still see what used to be. Most turn out to have been time wardens but others like yourself just seem more attuned to the timeline.”
“What the bloody hell are you on about?”
“To put it simply, someone’s buggered about with the timeline and changed things and your brain subconsciously knows it and is having histrionics about it. But if you come with me, I know some people who may be able to help.”
Peterson’s eyes had widened and stopped blinking. Tobias noticed his hand was hovering over the call help button. “You’re mad.”
“Perhaps, never been tested. You, however, are not. Now, that nurse of yours is going to be back here any second once she realises I’m not a real doctor and I need to be gone,” Tobias pushed his sleeve up and started fiddling with the dials on his chronometer. “The question is, are you coming too?”
It took twenty-three seconds exactly for the nurse to confirm Tobias was not who he said he was and another fifty-three to be back in the room. She stared at the empty bed, vaguely aware of an odd sulphurous smell and wondered how on Earth she was going to explain this to the ward manager.
This story was written in response to Finding Clarity’s Mid-Week flash challenge week 124.