Clara and Elizabeth sat facing one another in a booth while waiting for their order to arrive. This was an old style diner, one mostly found during the Second World War. This place featured a central counter, kitchen behind the back wall, and booths on the outside, adjacent to wrap-around windows.
Clara was suspicious of the black liquid in her cup. Despite having a bowl full of sugar packets and cream, she doubted that this concoction would rival last night’s drink. Meanwhile, Elizabeth was dividing her time between her phone and whatever odd quirk that this blast from the past dredged up. She was tempted to ask about her love/hate relationship with the coffee but preferred to witness it first-hand.
This morning, Elizabeth was not getting any enjoyment from catching up on the endless notifications she had amassed since her last check-in. Normally she would have loved to catch up on what her family and friends were posting on Bealzabook and Twitcher, but last night’s events made that all seem inconsequential.
Nonetheless, she quickly responded to her closest friends and ignored the rest. Elizabeth found it odd that there were no notifications from her wife, although being on tour meant she was always in transit or performing. Before putting down the phone, she scrolled through her apps. There was a nagging sense that there was something she needed to do, but could not remember what.
Meanwhile, Clara picked up the mug of coffee, swirling the contents as though they would crawl out of the cup like some lovecraftian creature. Once assured that the beverage was safe, she took a cautious sip. The reaction was both immediate and comical, doubly so coming from a woman old enough to be Elizabeth’s great-grandmother. This scene reminded her of a child tasting something bitter for the first time.
“Tastes like this coffee has been burning over a flame all night,” Clara said. She then eyed the sugar packets and said, “So, teaspoons of sugar are now individually packaged and sealed?”
Once the words registered, Elizabeth snapped out of her recursive loop. She then looked at the bowl of packets and chuckled.
“Yeah,” Elizabeth replied. “Why do you ask?”
“Well… Isn’t it wasteful?” Clara mused while tearing apart four packets.
Elizabeth was about to explain how they were not all sugar, but that was a lesson better saved for later. Although, she did wonder if Clara would notice the taste of artificial sweeteners.
“People can take packets with them when the order is to go, it is cleaner, and saves them having to refill the dispensers,” Elizabeth said. “Besides, the paper can be recycled.”
Clara shrugged, taking a sip, and this time, her reaction was more subdued. Another four packets were sacrificed in an attempt to make this swill safe for human consumption. When she finished pouring in the sugar, she stirred the concoction and eyed the mound of paper.
“All of that waste for sugar,” Clara sighed, and eyed the creamer. “Are those recyclable too?”
Elizabeth was about to say something, but spotted something on the television. Despite the volume being muted, she managed to infer enough from the news headline and associated pictures to know what was going on.
“Before we came here, you mentioned something about reality being shattered?” Elizabeth asked.
“Ab-so-lutely,” Clara said unfazed by the change in subject.
Elizabeth ran a search on her phone to confirm her suspicions. On her first attempt, she found a relevant Wiki page in addition to several news sites that were covering the story. Every page echoed what she saw and confirmed that Victoria’s parents were back from the dead.
“What did Hecate say?” Elizabeth asked.
Clara grabbed a creamer and shook it, unsure if it was worth a try. All the while, she mulled over her conversation with Hecate in an attempt to refine her summary.
“When I died, Saint Peter talked about the chances of my becoming a goddess had I taken her up on the offer. He also mentioned that I could have ended up a chew toy for making the same deal,” Clara said.
“Why the lack of certainty?” Elizabeth asked.
Clara smiled while she pulled off the lid and sniffed the contents of the creamer, “He told me that our ability to choose throws a kink in determining the future.”
“So our actions are not?” Elizabeth began to ask, but could not think of the word.
“Predestined?” Clara said to confirm the other’s question. “No. Ultimately, every choice we make has an effect on how the world turns out,” she added while pouring in the cream.
“How was it shattered?” Elizabeth asked.
The milky white vortex in a sea of black was eventually stirred to a consistent tone of brown. Clara took a sip and paused, wondering if she could come to terms with her coffee.
“An experiment designed to alter outcomes,” Clara said while deciding on the fate of this so-called coffee. “Instead of altering a key choice in history, they ended up resurrecting alternate timelines and merging them with our own.”
“So…” Elizabeth said. “People who were declared dead years ago could be walking the earth unaware of their deaths?”
Clara took another sip. While no amount of sugar and cream would make this a great cup, she decided that it would do.
“A bit specific there,” Clara said with a grin.
“I saw them after you saved me,” Elizabeth replied. “I thought they were ghosts, but every major news network is covering that story, in addition to related news bites.”
Clara was about to ask, but she was reminded of another lingering priority. She casually retrieved the absconded phone from the inside pocket of her coat and tossed it at Elizabeth.
“Can you reach Evelyn on that thing?” Clara asked.
Elizabeth tapped on the screen and noted that it was in power save mode since it had an eight percent charge. Despite having a charger on hand, the cable she had was incompatible with this particular model.
She ran through the contact lists line by line, discounting entries that were obviously from the previous owner. Elizabeth then skipped over any numbers that were out of state. That helped to eliminate most of the entries except for Firecracker.
“Figures,” Elizabeth said. “She probably figured you wouldn’t be the one using this phone.”
Clara laughed before saying, “Girl from the reign of the Sun King assumes that a gal from the Roaring Twenties is going to have trouble adjusting to modern technology. Smart cookie.”
Elizabeth had never stopped to consider just how old her ex was. Once she put two and two together, she no longer questioned why Evelyn had been the best lay of her life.
“Yes, she is,” Elizabeth said. She clicked on the contact to open the messenger app, then looked up to ask, “So what is it that you want me to say?”
Clara leaned forward and said, “Tell her that I don’t want to be a dingle dangler, but I know who caused this off-time jive, and I’m curious if she’s interested in giving them the electric cure.”
Elizabeth’s eyes went wide and vacant. Clara snickered, since she expected that particular level of confusion.
“Relax. Write it out as I say it, so Evelyn will know that these messages are from me,” Clara said with a wink.
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!