I awoke with a jolt. My whole body trembled, bones aching from the cold. I was laying on my side, tucked up into a tight ball, unable to escape the freezing air.
It was pitch black, obviously night, but had no way to tell the time. All I could do was lay in the dark, shivering uncontrollably, until someone came to get me.
A loud clunk woke me this time. I groaned and pried open my eyes, taking a second to realise where I was. I wasn't in my comfortable bed at home. I hadn't woken from this horrible nightmare. I was still in a dark cell in 1869.
Now that I was awake, my hunger pains promptly reminded me I hadn't eaten since yesterday, and my mouth was drier than the Simpson Desert.
The door to the cell swung open, the wall sconce outside the room lighting up Constable Doyle's expressionless face, unfazed by the state I was in. The beam of light was back, indicating the sun had finally risen, after what seemed like the longest night of my life.
He held a cup, and if I wasn't so exhausted, I would've pounced on it before he could blink.
He stepped closer and to my surprise he offered me the cup. "You look like hell, Miss Fletcher."
My body protested as I rose into a seated position, muscles aching from the buggy ride and spending the night on a slab of wood. After taking the cup from him, I drank non-stop, relishing the feeling of the cool water trickling down my scratchy throat. I handed the cup back and he took it from me.
"Feel like it, too," I mumbled, tucking a piece of untidy hair behind my ear.
"You're free to go."
My eyes widened in disbelief. "What?"
"You can go. Mr. Clay decided not to charge you for trespassing."
"Why?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I'm as surprised as you are, Miss Fletcher. Now, it's time for you to leave town. Neither Mr. Clay nor myself want to see you again. If we do cross paths again, let's just say you won't be let off as lightly next time." He stepped aside, allowing me to pass. I sat there for a moment, faced with the same questions as yesterday. I had no where to go, no money, and now I had to leave town. Leaving wasn't an option, though, as I needed to get back to the cottage. I finally stood, legs feeling weak. "Stay out of trouble, Miss Fletcher. Gaol is no place for a lady."
Dragging one foot in front of the other, I made my way out of the cell, eager for the fresh air and warm sunshine. After pushing open the front door, I flinched, the morning sunlight blinding after being in darkness for such a long time.
Shielding my eyes from the sun with my hand, I glanced around the main street of town. It was a little busier than yesterday afternoon, people out and about, buying supplies early so they can get on with their day.
As I shuffled down the street feeling sorry for myself, I was aware my disheveled appearance was attracting attention.
One gentleman, however, was not so unkind, and as he passed me, politely tilted his hat and greeted, "Good morning, Miss."
I forced a smile at him and continued my way through town, back the way Nicholas and I came from yesterday. I wasn't entirely sure where I was going, I just wanted to get as far away from the police station as possible.
It was an effort to keep walking, but what other choice did I have? My mind was foggy but I forced myself to think, to concentrate. How did I end up here? The cottage, of course. I needed to think of the smaller details. I was looking around the living room, then I walked near the fireplace. It was in that spot where I suddenly felt sick and fell to the floor. Did I inhale too much dust or some toxic mould? Am I still laying unconscious on the floor in 2019? But this all feels so real. I know dreams can feel real, but this is something else. I'm hungry, thirsty, weak and sore. If I really did time travel, how did I time travel? Is the cottage some sort of time travel device? Or more specifically, the fireplace? That was when everything in the room changed. No, wait. The painting above the fireplace. I felt sick and the room changed after I touched it.
YOU ARE READING
Clay's Cottage (Book 1)Historical Fiction
[COMPLETED] Seeking inspiration for her next historical romance novel, Tilly Fletcher visits a mysterious 19th century Tasmanian cottage, abandoned suddenly over a century ago by a sad and lonely recluse. As Tilly steps through the still and silent...