Dr. Lisa Bolzano sat alone in her office, burying her face in her hands. She felt it was unfair, being able to sit on the comfortable, custom-made leather armchair while her colleague and friend was lost somewhere - or nowhere - in a past world. She jumped as someone knocked at the door.
Apologetically, Dr. Torres, head of the central lab, entered the room. Lisa quickly sat up. She looked at him, expectation in her gaze. He came in person... was there any word from Phillip?
"I'm just bringing you the new readings." He waved a sheet of electronic paper in front of her as if to justify his visit.
She let herself sink back into the armchair, exhaling heavily.
"I'm sorry, Lisa. I know you were hoping for a different message. I'm sure he'll contact us eventually. Remember, it's only been twenty-four hours. In Egypt, it took thirty-five hours to make contact.
He put the paper on her desk. Lisa knew that the test results were only an excuse to pay her a visit. She could have accessed the chart at any time from her computer terminal. So apparently, Torres wanted to give her some comfort. Or… he'd been sent by the board to test her emotional state.
"Better get some sleep, Lisa. Even if it's difficult for you. There's nothing you can do now."
She gave him a grateful nod before he left the room. No, he had been here of his own accord, otherwise he would have at least asked how she was feeling. She briefly skimmed the document he had left on her desk. Nothing new of course. It went into the trash.
The interior of the office was a mixture of modern coolness and personal warmth. While two grey steel cabinets and an oversized calendar on the left wall created a sterile atmosphere, the other side tried to convey the opposite. There was a large aquarium set into the wall, as well as some paintings. Lisa's gaze wandered from the largest piece she had brought from home - it was the View of Florence by Oswald Achenbach - to the photographs on her desk. The latter didn’t have artistic ambition. One showed her together with her family. The other Phillip and her on a team excursion to Lübeck, the originally planned time travel destination.
She sighed. Of course, Torres was right when he said it would have taken longer in Egypt. Though that had been expected back then, after the time jump was anything but smooth with a few thousand years of deviation. It was only thanks to the tireless efforts of the whole team that a connection had finally been made. This time, however, the situation was different. Even though they didn't quite understand how it worked exactly - they’d been working with data from the distant future - there was no interference signal like last time or anything else unusual. It looked like everything was fine - and yet Phillip didn't answer. The situation was therefore in no way comparable to that of Egypt. What annoyed her most though was that she couldn't do anything other than just wait-and-see.
Nevertheless, there would have been only moderate cause for concern if Dr. Carrol had not made a very disturbing discovery this morning. A little guilty, like a toddler who had done something silly, he had approached her. It is possible that he knew the reason for the delay, he had said.
"Don't keep me in suspense, Rick."
"I have just run a simulation that estimates the effects of several transfers in succession on the body and electronics. This is the first time I've been able to use Keith's new data."
"So… is there a health risk?" she had asked, alarmed.
"No, no. That's not it. But the TTEK's battery could suffer. I mean, it might not be able to reach its full power level again."
"What amount of power loss are we talking about?"
"Up to eighty percent."
That hit home. Lisa had become even more restless since this revelation, imagining more and more horrible scenarios. She span around in the armchair. If she was religious, she would have prayed. For Dr. Carrol to be wrong.
The bumping and rocking with which the fully loaded carriage moved over the cobblestones reminded me a little of my involuntary camel ride in Egypt. Fortunately, I was now in better physical condition and did not have to fight with nausea. Still, the journey was not comfortable. It turned out that the front seat of the two-horse cart could not hold more than three people. So one of us had to move to the rear and make do with the loading area. As the unplanned guest, I volunteered.
I was sitting on one of the crates, whose exorbitant customs costs Alexios had somehow managed to avoid. Because after he had returned from his walk with the officer, we had started moving right away. At first, I had hoped that he would explain to us immediately how he had achieved this miracle. But for the last five minutes, during which we were driving through the narrow streets of Puteoli, Alexios hadn't said a word about it.
The other two had apparently expected to be initiated as well. They threw each other discontentedlooks when Alexios explanation failed to materialize. However, they didn't ask him either. They apparently didn't want to admit to not having the faintest idea how he had done it. I was a little more pragmatic. Wanting to satisfy my curiosity, I finally asked.
"So, Alexios. Tell us how you convinced the customs officer."
He grinned. "I thought you'd never ask."
"Why should I ask?" Gregory interjected, "I already know."
"All the better. Then you might as well tell the story. I have to concentrate on steering."
Gregory didn't expect that.
"Um... I think a firsthand account is more appropriate in this case."
Thalis couldn't help but laugh.
"All right. In actual fact, it was quite simple," Alexios said. "I have left him a small medicinal tincture."
"What kind of tincture?" Gregory asked doubtingly. He didn't seem to realize that by doing so he admitted he knew nothing. Alexios had also noticed this contradiction and threw a skeptical glance at his brother.
Alexios stated it more precisely. "Quite simply, a sage tincture of stamina."
"A little sexual enhancer."
Now everyone understood and a general giggle ensued.
"You were lucky," Thalis said. "If Pontius' manhood had been at its peak, the cards would have been stacked against you.”
"It wasn't, though. And like a good doctor, I noticed that right away."
I didn't know if and how you could visually determine someone’s potency, but Alexios had the right instinct.
"Could you have paid him if he hadn't gone for it?" I asked.
Alexios' expression got serious again. "No, I couldn’t have paid him. He charged a quarter more denari than we have."
So we were really lucky. I wonder what would have happened. Maybe we'd have had to pay off the difference by working the latrines. I'd rather not ask. Instead, I curiously observed our surroundings. I only saw what was in front of us, because the tarpaulin covering the cartblocked the view in other directions. There was a lot going on outside with plenty of vehicles coming towards us. Pedestrians as well. They had to squeeze along the sides, especially when two carts pushed past each other on the narrow street.
We continuedon the same road for a while. From time to time small side paths were branching off, but these were only suitable for pedestrians. At the roadside, there were buildings of various heights close together, made up of one to four stories. The construction method seemed to be very progressive, as the stones used were held together with concrete. However, these stones were - both in arrangement and form - much less regular than in modern houses.
The poor visibility from the back of the cart was more than made up for by its solitude. I was able to withdraw here undisturbed and subject the TTEK to an inspection. After all, I still didn't know what that beeping was all about. So I sat down on one of the boxes.
"Elisa?" I asked silently.
No answer. It was usually enough to form the words without actually speaking them aloud. The TTEK could detect the vibrations through an implanted vocal cord sensor.
But just to be sure, I asked again, out loud. "Elisa?"
Nothing happened at first. Then there was a soft crackling sound. Then about a dozen equally quiet beeps.
Oh, great. What was that supposed to mean? Had Elisa lost her electronic mind?
The beeping started again. Single tones of the same pitch but of different lengths. After pondering this oddity for a while, the solution came to mind. It had to be Morse code! So she wasn't crazy after all! A certain feeling of relief came over me. Besides the question of why Elisa tried to communicate with me in Morse code, the problem was that I had no clue about Morse code.
"Can you understand me?" I asked her.
A single beep indicated that she probably could.
"That's good, but I don't understand you. I know your beeps are in Morse code, but I don't know Morse code."
A brief look towards the front of the vehicle confirmed that I was talking quietly enough for the others not to become aware of our somewhat one-sided dialogue.
Elisa didn’t beep anymore. I had to smile for a second as the memory of a similar situation came to my mind. I had not been able to talk to Manu either, because I had pretended to be mute. He had asked me all sorts of questions and I only had to nod or shake my head in response. And that is exactly what would work with Elisa. Only this time, I was the one asking.
"All right. I'm going to ask you some questions. You answer with one beep for yes, and two beeps for no.”
First the most important question. Even though I could already guess the answer.
"Has the space-time localization been completed?"
"So it’s running right now?" I asked, hoping.
Shit. I was afraid it would be like that since she couldn't even communicate with me normally. Without determining my exact whereabouts in space and time, however, it was impossible to contact Base.
"Is there any damage to the electronics?"
Two beeps. At least a glimmer of hope.
"Does the battery have enough power?"
Ah, so the situation was as I feared. The battery was simply not designed for two time jumps in a row, each causing a complete discharge. All that remained now was to find out why the beeping was necessary.
"Is my earpiece broken?"
"Is there enough power for it?" I asked in disbelief.
Fuck. I didn't think it was that bad.
"Will this get any better? I mean is the battery still charging?"
At first, there was no answer, then a very quiet beeping. I guessed that was her version of ‘maybe’.
After the first sign of life from the TTEK, I had some hope again. ‘Perhaps everything would turn out alright after all.’ That is what I had thought, but I had been wrong.
Disillusioned, I leaned back, realizing too late that was not a good idea. There was a loud rumble and as I turned around, a falling crate hit me hard in the face.
Something hurt like hell. Whether it was my nose, my eyes, my mouth or everything altogether, I couldn't tell.
Aching, I raised my head and leant on my elbows. I was lying in the back of the rocking cart. Thalis was sitting next to me on a box, sporting a mocking smile.
"Can't you be left alone for a minute?“
I was a little embarrassed to find myself in this stupid position. I guess I should have been more careful with those damned boxes. On the other hand, did it really matter anymore? Now returning home seemed impossible? I thought to myself, perhaps it would have been better if the box had contained heavy lead bars instead of herbs and tinctures?
Thalis could not possibly have guessed what was going through my mind, but he did notice my sad face. "You’ll be okay. We're doctors, after all. Nothing's broken, by the way."
That would have been the last thing I needed. Without electricity for Elisa's nanobots, I would have been stuck with a crooked nose in addition to weeks of pain. However, in the end, it wouldn't have mattered. There was no one left to look good for.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"We've just left the city behind. Now it's about thirty miles to the Appian Way. From there only another one hundred and twenty more miles to Rome. “
I thanked him for the information, which I had not asked for in such detail. The word ‘only’, however, seemed a little out of place to me. After all, Alexios had estimated the expected travel time to be several days. I ignored the stabbing pain in my face, letting myself sink back down. I noticed that there was something soft under my head. It was a blanket.
"I put it under your head so you would be more comfortable," Thalis said.
I thanked him again. He seemed to be a really nice guy. So did Alexios. Only Gregory was a little... grumpy? While Thalis looked down on me from above, I took the opportunity to take a closer look at him. I had already noticed the evening before that he had dark eyes, but during twilight I had not been able to make out the exact color. Now I saw that they werea very dark brown.
Thalis tilted his head forward a little. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
Oops! I may have stared a little too long. I tried to come up with a witty reply, but failed.Nothing had come to mind, so I made do with something dim-witted. Thalis frowned and I looked away. Hopefully, he'dchalk it up to language issues. Next time, I'd pass on the repartee, especially when there really wasn’t anything wrong with looking at someone.
I made a new conversation attempt. "To be honest, I'm pretty hungry. Do we stop for lunch?"
"No, we'll drive through until evening. Along the Via Appia there are numerous accommodations. We'll spend the night at one. But we do have provisions for lunch. Would you like something?"
I nodded gratefully, and sat up, avoiding touching the boxes with my back as much as possible. Thalis laughed when he saw me do this.
"You can lean back, I've tied up the top boxes."
Relieved, I leaned back. I took a piece of bread and a piece of ham from Thalis. He also cut a few slices for himself. We sat on the back of the cart, eating and chatting, while the wagonwas rocking over the bumpy country road. Almost idyllic. Almost!
Thalis was not only a nice guy but, once warmed up, very talkative. Only interrupted by chewing the occasional slice of bread and ham, he told me about his life in Patrae, their hometown. Early on he had been an apprentice to his father, who hadin his turn continued the family medical tradition. Unfortunately, not as successful as Thalis’ grandfather, which meant the family struggled to eke out a living.
Alexios had taken the same career path. Gregory, however, disappointed by the failures of a drunk for afather, took up the profession of surgeon. Apparently this was an independent medical profession. After the early death of their father, their uncle Pericles took the brothers Alexios and Thalis under his wing. He was a much more talented doctor than their father and taught them everything their own father had missed.
‘You will become excellent doctors, much like your grandfather’, he had used to say. After their uncle sometimelater emigrated to Rome, they took over his practice in Patrae, but they had no luck. People still remembered their useless father onlytoo well and following the proverb ‘a chip off the old block’ they avoided them. When the brothers received news of Pericles' death sometwo years later, they were saddened, but also saw their chance for a new beginning. Their uncle had a wife, but no children. Thalis and Alexios were therefore the only family members who could continue his practice in Rome. So they had packed their belongings, booked passage on the next ship, and were now sitting here on this wagon. Gregory, who shared their fate, had joined them.
Thalis wanted to recount some more, but Gregory gruffly called him up front. I didn't understand what they were discussing. Their words were quiet but emphatic and they were talking in Greek. It seemed to me as if Gregory didn't want Thalis to discuss their family history with me. I wondered what was the matter with Gregory. Perhaps he was just a loner. I couldn't care less, though, I had more serious problems to deal with. Still, it had felt good having such a casual chat. I was able to pretend everything was all right, that I was just an ordinary citizen of this world, like any other. Of course, this self-deception could only be short-lived.
Sighing, I stepped forward, taking a place behind the bench where Thalis was sitting and staring at the ground. Alexios held the reins calmly in his hands, he hadn't bothered to join inthe dispute between the other two. When he noticed me approaching, he turned around.
"We'll be there shortly. See that big house over there? We can stay there for the night,"Alexios said.
I looked towards the building on one side of the road less than a hundred yards in front of us. Before I could take it in though, my gaze was distracted by the road itself. I had not noticed that we were already on the Via Appia, a change from the country road to the ancient highway. This road was wider, better paved, and busier, populated by fewer pedestrians, but more wagons. There was a brief jolt and we came to a halt in front of the three-story tavern.
Gregory jumped down first. "I'm fucking starving."
He was about to rush off towards the entrance when Alexios held him back.
"Wait. Take the cart to the yard first and make sure it's parked safely. And get the horses fed and watered."
"I'm not your slave, brother. Phillip can go, why do we have him here after all?"
Since I didn't want to be the cause of another quarrel, I offered to go - even if I didn't have the slightest desire to help this ruffian, who apparently regarded me as a slave. Alexios welcomed my offer, Gregory hummed something incomprehensible.
So we set off. While Gregory took the reins and led the horses and cart towards the rear yard, I walked alongside. Behind the main buildingwe found another structure, apparently a stable and a kind of parking lot for carts. It was already pretty full.
"There's a free space back there," I toldGregory.
"I can see that myself!"
I wondered if he was always so obnoxious. Maybe Thalis was about to tell me something about him before he interrupted us. I decided I would ask Thalis, given an opportunity. As we drew near, I noticed some soldiers patrolling the site. They apparently made sure that parked carts were still waiting there for their owners the next morning.
Gregory stopped the horses andstarted to fiddle with one of the harnesses. "Don't just stand there like a barrel of old fish, take the other side!"
I tried hard to comply with his request, because I did not want to encourage his bad mood, not knowing if I was the cause or not.However, once round the other side, I found myself as helpless as the proverbial duck in a thunderstorm. Faced with the tangle of ropes and poles, I was clueless. Elisa would have told me right away where I needed to put my hands, and if the visor lenses hadn't been lost in that sandstorm, which was my own stupidity, she would have even shown me a nice animation. Now though, I had no choice but to confess my ignorance, well knowing Gregory would not be amused.
I cleared my throat. "What exactly am I supposed to do?" I tried asking in a diplomatic way.
"Get the nags off the goddamn cart!"
All right, it was of no avail. I tried to sound as apologetic as possible. "I don't know these harnesses, you'll have to tell me exactly what to do."
"Are you kidding me? It's a harness like any other."
He came over and stood next to me. He hesitated a moment. Then another.
"So this is how it works." He grabbed my hand, somewhat roughly and put it on a spot on the harness. "First grab there and untie the knot."
He actually explained the procedure to me. Rude, in somewhat harsh terms, but detailed and precise. When I made a small mistake, he patiently pointed it out to me.
"Good. Now you can take the horses to the stable. I'll take care of the carriage."
While I led the two brownish horses towards the stable, Gregory called after me to hurry up, because he was fucking hungry. I couldn't figure out the fellow at all. I wish I could have told him off, but that was out of the question, as I was so desperately dependent on the hospitality of the three brothers.
When I entered the stable, holding the horses by the reins, a boy of perhaps fourteen years hurried towards me.
"I will do this for you, my Lord."
Happy to be able to withdraw from this unknown terrain, I handed the reins over to the stable lad. I wondered if it was customary to leave a tip, but even if it was, I didn’t have any coins. At least I could thank the poor boy. I bet it wasn't easy working in the stables, especially for a kid.
"No need to thank me, my Lord. It's my job."
Alexios and Thalis were still waiting at the same spot in front of the inn where we had left them. Gregory had already joined them.
"Now[DD1] let's go in," Alexios commanded. "A jug of mead will do everyone good!"
It really was a nice evening, I thought to myself. The sun was about to dip below the horizon, radiating a reddish glow reflected by the clouds. The trees rustled lightly in the wind, a small bird was tweeting a shrill song. No! I interrupted myself, it wasn't a bird, it was Elisa. She had beeped twice.
I stopped, rooted to the spot.
"What is it now?" Gregory complained.
Good question. In actual fact, I wasn't sure either what Elisa's unsolicited beeping was supposed to mean. I waited for a moment, but it didn’t repeat. Shrugging my shoulders, I continued toward the entrance.
I stopped again, the others looking at me in bewilderment.
“Should we not go in there? Is that what you mean?” I asked her silently.
Interesting. Why though? Had her sensitive ambient microphone picked up something from inside the inn that made it advisable not to enter?
"Um, we shouldn't go in there right now," I said.
Gergory shook his head in disbelief.
"Why not?" Alexios asked.
How should I explain this? If only Elisa could have told me what was wrong.
"I have a bad feeling about this," I told them.
Gregory laughed mockingly.
"The Lord, here, has a bad feeling!Well, that makes all the difference. I think we have to turn back. Return to Greece."
Even Alexios could not help but grin.
"Tell me, did you also have a bad feeling before you boarded your now sunken ship?" Gregory continued.
"Yes," I replied in all seriousness, "a very bad one, in fact."
Thalis frowned. "If that's right, we should listen to his feeling, it's probably a premonition. I for one will not go in there now."
Alexios looked undecided. I guessed he was a little surprised by Thalis’ decision. To be honest, so was I. Gregory, on the other hand, did not harbor any concerns and turned towards the door.
"For Zeus’ sake! You can starve out here for all I care. I'm going in now."
However, he didn't get far. Just as he was about to open the door, a loud rumbling came from inside and the door was pushed open. Gregory fell back.
"Out of my inn, you bastard sons!" The angry landlord appeared and sent two very drunk brawlers packing. Realizing he wasn’t alone, he turned to us. "Excuse me, gentlemen. Come in," he said to his new guests, hoping not to have frightened them off by the little show.
Alexios gave me a respectful nod. "Your hunches are not to be underestimated."
And so we entered the inn together, followed by a slightly limping Gregory.
A few minutes later we had settled in, taking a seat at the bar. The landlord had quickly noticed that we were not just out for a beer after work. As overnight guests, he served each of us a pitcher on the house, the ulterior motive in mind that more drinks would follow. He had been right.
I had made the resolve that after the carousal on the ship I would hold back next time, but I was persuaded nonetheless.
"Beer is nice. The only real drink, however, is wine," Gregory interjected.
Thalis answered, his brow furrowed. "Maybe so, Gregory, but we have started with beer. Not by our own decision, but at the invitation of our amiable landlord and you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Therefore, to change to wine without further ado is not possible."
"But Thalis, why can't you do that?" Gregory asked gruffly. "I'll drink whatever I feel like and now I want wine, preferably Greek wine."
Alexios watched the small discussion attentively, with a smile on his lips.
"I think dear brothers, you can both be right. Let's just order a round of mead for in-between!"
Of course, they also ordered for me. As I wanted to try this foreign drink, I had no objections. I didn’t know much about it, only that it was very popular in the Roman Empire and made from honey somehow. As soon as it was served, the three brothers started drinking. I took a cautious sip at first. It tasted good, although a little sweet.
"I heard a joke the other day that I really must tell you," Thalis said. "An Athenian student goes to the doctor and says: ‘Doctor, when I wake up in the morning, I always feel dizzy. After half an hour everything is fine again.' The doctor replied: 'Then why don't you wait half an hour before you wake up?'"
Everyone laughed. I more out of courtesy because I didn't think it was very funny.
"I thought your students were smart?" I commented.
"You know, Phillip, what you want the world to think is one thing, but the reality is a little different."
This brought to mind a Roman joke, unfortunately, it wouldn't make sense for several more centuries. In history class, the teacher asks: ‘In what regard had the ancient Romans been ahead of us?’ A student answers: ‘They didn't need to learn Latin!’
The early bird catches the worm. Isn't that what they say? Well, I wouldn’t catch any today, I thought, given that it was already light outside when I woke up. Besides, any worms would probably be warned off by my bad breath, which I obviously didn’t perceive myself, but whose presence was safe to assume. After all, I had not brushed my teeth for quite some time. Still tired, I sat up. Funny what thoughts came to mind. Aesthetic issues were the least of my worries right now.
It took me by surprise that I apparently was the last guest in the bedroom. The three brothers were already gone. They wouldn't have left without me, would they? My pulse quickened. In no time I was on my feet. I dressed and hurried downstairs, but my sense of panic was unfounded. All three of them weresat in the guestroom at a table by the window having breakfast.
"Ah, Phillip, you late riser! There you are." Alexios gave me afriendly greeting. I felt something akin to relief, butGregory gave his mocking smile.
"We were just discussing when we should go and wake you up, but now there is no need," Alexios said.
"Just as well, because the discussion got a bit heated.Gregory believes sleeping late is a disease," Alexios said.
"An assertion I still stand by," Gregory confirmed. "Do you remember Alina? She was also ..."
I didn’t listen anymore. Let them engage in pseudo-medical shoptalk, I would have breakfast in peace.
Almost twenty minutes later we were sitting on the cart again, making our way along the bumpy road towards Rome. The horses' hooves made a constant clacking sound on the cobblestones, making my head ache after a short while. Funny, because it didn't bother me yesterday. Perhaps it was because I had taken a seat on the front bench this time. Thalis had insisted on riding in the back today. He didn't want to be responsible for me getting hit by a crate again, he said half jokingly, half serious. I sat next to Alexios, withGregory holding the reins, and I watched the landscape and oncoming vehicles.
There were no pedestrians to be seen. The next village was probably still far away and while woods, meadows, and fields went by, my eyelids became heavier and heavier. Too much alcohol, too little sleep. Despite, or perhaps because of the monotonous clatter, I dozed off.
The sun was almost at its zenith when I woke up again. An odd crackling sound had pulled me out of dreamless sleep and my neck felt stiff as I raised my head. It was then I noticed where, or rather on what, it had rested until just now. On Gregory's shoulder. I quickly sat up completely and mumbled an apology. Despite this small embarrassment I felt much better than in the morning.
Gregory smiled. "I think I'm right about my thesis on sleeping too long," he sneered.
Before I could think of a witty reply, I heard that crackling sound again. Right next to me. I turned my head but there was nothing. Suddenly the noise was replaced by a voice and I realized where it was coming from.
"Dr. Marten, can you hear me?"
Overjoyed, I had spoken out loud. The others looked at me in amazement, but at that moment I didn't care.
"Tell me, how are you?" This time I formed the words without uttering a sound. It also came to mind that the question of how one was feeling was kind of pointless if directed at a computer.
"What's the status? You've obviously got your energy back?"
"Energy is not the problem, battery charge is good. However, for reasons unknown to me, there are only twenty-one percent of operating power available."
"Things have improved though, haven't they?"
"Yes. As you can hear, there is now sufficient power to operate the micro loudspeaker implanted in your ear."
I knew that already. If I hadn’t known better, I would have considered that sarcasm.
"Still out of service are: The spectrometer, the environmental scan, the space-time sounding module, the space-time radio module, the... “
"Alright," I interrupted her, "so everything else doesn't work yet. Will the power level improve further?"
"If I make an extrapolation based on the development so far, I come to the conclusion that in three days a maximum of about fifty percent will be reached.“
The next question was, once again, the crucial one.
"And will fiftypercent be enough for determining our position in space-time?"
"No. That module requires at least seventy percent."
That's the end of it. The verdict had been delivered. The initial uncertainty on the ship, the fears and doubts during the cart ride, and the nightly carousel of thoughts in the inn - all this had happened under the impression of a small glimmer of hope. The belief that everything could still turn out for the better. That was over now. If no miracle happened, and I wasn't stupid enough to believe it would, then I was trapped here. Forever. Till death and beyond.
Strangely enough, I became quite calm at these thoughts. Now I had certainty. I was just trembling a little. Alexios watched me closely from the other side of the bench.
"Are you all right, Phillip? You look so..."
He probably could not think of a word to describe my condition and he left the sentence unfinished. I couldn't think of one either. I stoically answered that I was fine and everything was all right.
As the cart continued to clatter across the cobblestones a whole world of sensations and memories from my previous life, now so far away from me, passed by. Way too soon the beautiful memories faded and I only felt the hard wood of the bench at my back. For quite a while I sat there staring into nothing, pondering over everything.