Relentless Past

Part 1

by Liz De Jong (corellian_whiskey at hotmail.com)

Sitting patiently, her feet hanging over the lip of a cliff of startling height, Liz cast her grey-eyed gaze out over one of the last natural bodies of water in this world, thinking quietly to herself. It was often that she came here, her tall, erect form finding rest on this cliffside, soothed by the rhythmic lapping of the waters below. It was a pleasant escape from the usual bustle of life, and even though she mourned for the natural beauty that she once knew, she still managed to enjoy what was left.

With a slight sigh, she closed her eyes, and tried to recall this area as it was, so very long ago. A faint recollection of a more rocky shoreline drifted into her vision, with various shrubs and the occasional wild rose. A picturesque remembrance of a single calm, red sunset here found its way to her, and was quickly taken from her again as a chill wind gusted her back to reality.

Frowning, Liz stood, wondering if the effects of the experiment had caused damage to her memory, and quickly put it out of her mind again when she saw the time. She would be late for her appointment.

Stepping into her rather broken-down coachcraft, she took off immediately, back towards the bustling city that was London. Liz still regarded this... city with suspicion, finding it hard to believe that this was what she had once called home.

She was again drawn into a sort of reverie about her past, most of this daydreaming being occupied by her more recent memories of what the scientists had dubbed her "re-awakening".

Liz had been one of the first to actually be successfully successfully revived from the dead and a severe state of preservation with such now modern techniques, and just as successfully re-awakened in a day and age where the effects of her death could be reversed. Why it was she who was brought back, and not someone more important, she would never know and that damn scientist group would never reveal; they had disappeared.

She retained a vague memory of who she was in those days, and only the faintest recall of how she had died. Such a mystery, it all was... Liz recalled that she was on her way to see the then-famous Sherlock Holmes about something, but her patchy memory would not allow her to recall exactly why she was doing so. She never made it.

The only other thing she could "remember" was the great and penetrating feeling that she had to make it there, as though she were racing against time in a desperate struggle. Little did she know she was right.

Liz smirked a little at that thought, taking her profession into account. It was quite comical, really, when she thought about it... at the time she did "readings" for people with her deck of tarot cards, which had been in the family for years, and often got such feelings when with a client. With some it was a great need for closure that wafted from them, others a great morass of need. But that day, and still, to this day, she knew it was she herself who was in need that time.

Finally landing her coachcraft, Liz hurried into her little shop on the corner, her client already browsing through the various artworks and trinkets scattered about the dimly lit, atmospheric room.

With a sigh, she hung her coat on the little coat-rack at the door, and her tall, lanky guest sat himself down at the table covered with the traditional black cloth.

If only Sherlock Holmes were still alive... then maybe I could get some help. Some answers....

Liz smiled, and sat down in her usual spot at the head of the little table, picking up her cards and shuffling them quietly with a practiced ease. Her posture was unusually strict, but did not seem forced; this was a practiced and habitual position, not uncomfortable to one who was used to it. More a remnant of days gome by than anything else.

"Forgive my lateness, if you please. I got caught up in a personal affair."

The tall stranger smiled back warmly, removing his oddly familiar hat and placing it on his lap. Liz couldn't help but notice a faint fluttering in her gut that wasn't entirely due to his features alone, although it helped. He was.. important, somehow. This was no chance meeting; she could feel it. But she could also sense a bit of a personal distance, a distance from some of the more extraverted aspects of life, and was not quite sure what to think of this. Perhaps there was something she was not seeing.

"It's quite all right." he answered back, relaxing a bit in the chair, now studying her instead of the objects around the room. Such attentions unnerved her, as she was not used to anyone paying any attention to her whatsoever, but she tried her best to hide it behind what she considered to be a professional exterior. It was very hard to resist the urge to check if there were something along the lines of a large dot on her forehead that had interested him so, but she managed. "I only just arrived."

"You don't mind if I ask you some questions first, do you? It usually helps me get a bit more familiar with the personality of whomever I'm reading."

He smiled again and steepled his fingers before his face, resting his elbows on crossed knee, fingertip meeting fingertip.

"Not at all."

Liz nodded, the fluttery feeling in her stomach intensifying. Something was definitely unusual here, and it wasn't just her silly heart running off with her brains for the moment. Liz still kept all senses alert. She began to shuffle the cards absently, concentrating on her client, his mannerisms, and his aura as best she could.

"Can you tell me the nature of your question? I mean, why are you consulting me today?"

He paused a moment before answering, almost seeming to be debating something with himself, then replied, "I've come on... Well, I suppose you could call it a quest, of sorts. I want to know if, with the idea I'm researching, I'm on the right track."

Liz nodded, not seeming too fazed by what her guest had obviously expected to be significant, continually shuffling the cards. She was trying to keep her mind blank, to keep her own thoughts from influencing the cards. It was a battle she was losing.

"I see. I think I can help you there." She spread the cards on the table, in the customary fan pattern, still seeming a bit distant. She shook her head, succeeding in pulling herself back from what seemed a long, long distance, to the here and the now.

"Are you all right? You look...."

"I'm fine." Liz interrupted calmly, looking back at him, accidentally catching his eyes. She could feel her face redden. She kept reminding herself not to worry... the men of this century tended to be a little more forward in all aspects than the vintage she remembered. "Would you please pick the cards for me that feel right to you... take your time, and allow your hand to float over them until you feel the time is right to pick. Then hand it to me, and I'll lay it in the spread."

Her guest nodded, and extended a hand over the cards, closing his eyes in what she thought was mock concentration. Liz couldn't help but notice he had very long, thin fingers, very fine hands, but also very many scars and callouses. These were definitely hands that had seen their time, and Liz found it odd that one so seemingly young could accumulate the steadyness and sureness of movement and gesture that almost always came only with age. It made her ponder his profession, or, more along her current lines of worried thinking, his lack of it.

He picked his first card after a short wait, and the others soon followed, each then placed in the correct position on the silk tabletop. He opened his eyes again when he had finished, relaxing back in his chair again.

It suddenly struck Liz that she was being humored.

"You don't really believe in what I'm doing, do you?" she asked casually as she flipped the cards face up, not really paying attention to them, but waiting for his reaction instead.

"I..." He cleared his throat. "...no, I cannot fully believe what I cannot reason through. I require more physical evidence. But... I am curious, all the same."

Liz smiled, her cheeks reddening again. He was quite the intelligent man, this she could see. That, along with some of the cards that were turning up, contributed to her deep flush. She also found it odd that he did not seem to put up a facade while dealing with something that obviously was a little on the odd side, even now, but still meant a lot to her... that he didn't hang back from every word she said.

"Well," she started, looking up at him again, "The card in the first position here," she pointed, "indicates you and your personality. I see the card of the Hermit... you are a solitary-type person, a person of learning..."

He nodded slightly, but Liz could not tell if he were still just humoring her.

"Crossing you is the two of swords... this signifies what's crossing you. This specific card means you're possibly dreading a confrontation with someone, but that this confrontation is necessary for your peace of mind."

He nodded again, his expression changing ever so slightly. Liz knew she was hitting home.

"Here, this is the Tower -- that signifies a great change in your life, one that you can't stop but is necessary to grow as a person...." She trailed off, definitely getting deeper into the reading herself, now. She had never felt so sure of a customer reading before.

She remembered the reading of the past, the ones she did in her day, suddenly... a lot of personal embellishment, articulate filler, that basically told her patrons what they thought they had wanted to hear. They were usually not really all that interested, and therefore did not provide the belief or open-mindedness that a true reading required.

"And here, this is what's causing the change... the two of cups." Liz flushed again.

"What does that card mean?" Her guest asked, peering up at her with something akin to genuine interest.

"It.. in this position, it shows that the big change I was just talking about is... the introduction of a new love interest. Someone is going to catch your eye and throw your life into turmoil."

"Interesting." the man said simply, leaning back in the chair again, seemingly lost in thought now. An expression that could only be a scowl crossed his face.

Liz continued the reading, getting mixed reactions from her patron. When it was over, however, he did not rise and wish to leave as quickly as most customers did. He showed no intention of leaving whatsoever. Liz grew faintly suspicious, and the feeling of being humored again came to her.

"You weren't here for a reading, were you?" she asked bluntly, snapping him from his train of obviously deep thoughts. He blinked a few times, but this time did not smile. Immediately, Liz wanted to take back what she had said. The constant battle of fighting to become a woman of the times had been won for a moment, and a blunt, abrupt statement made. In her time, most often such was not the case. She was torn between hating herself for being rude, and hating herself for being stuck in the past.

"I allowed you to ask me a few questions; now, would you be so kind as to answer some of mine?"

Liz swallowed. This was taking a very weird turn, one she was not entirely sure she felt safe with. Yes, she definitely wished she'd taken back that last phrase.

"I... guess that's only fair," she answered, not too keen on the idea but not wanting to pass up this singular incident just yet. Even though that old part of her brain screamed 'safety first!', that same part of her brain that had always been slightly unique cried for adventure.

"Excellent. Have you ever heard of a research ground named Setats?"

Liz's heart knocked her ribs. "Yes. I was... part of an experiment they'd done."

"Did that experiment involve cryogenic freezing?"

His relentless questions pounded into her skull, and Liz felt a headache growing, as well as a fear. Setats were the people who had re-awakened her, then left her to fend in this new time on her own for who knew what reasons. And this man knew. Definitely, he knew.

Suddenly, Liz felt an anger growing within -- almost asking 'How dare you?' but remembering that people these days were a little more front and forward, so she held back. But that restraint did not quell the anger.

"Yes... it did. But.. how did you... what does this..."

Her guest again smiled, more warmly this time. "I, too, have experienced this type of... experiment first hand, although under different circumstances. I was preserved, if you will, and was only recently brought back...." Liz's mind wandered back to that feeling of familiarity, and immediately, she knew what had sparked it. It was his clothes, his mannerisms, and just his general aura...they were reminiscent of an era she had known... that she had called home. He was from the same time.

"....and was looking over records to see if there were any others like myself. I have heard of some unrest with these scientists from others as well, and had been doing some research, when your case showed up. I simply could not resist the urge to talk with someone whom I can relate to. But I have forgotten myself... allow me to conduct an introduction. I am Sherlock Holmes...."

It was too much. Her wish had come true, and the one person who could have possibly solved her mystery, possibly known her longing for the past, had found her. All at once, her eyes rolled back, closed, and she tipped backwards in her chair, towards the floor. The back of her head hit with a sickening thud, transporting Liz into a darker realm swirling with dizzying questions.

On to Part 2!

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