Timothy found himself in his most favorite setting, the woodlot. It was quiet, and other than for the two boys who had shown him where it was, he was practically alone to enjoy the peacefulness. The boys were loading up a cart at the far edge of the lot. He checked the equipment he had found in the warehouse sized shed that the mansion used to store all of the outdoor implements. The axe was sharp enough to meet his needs, but he’d need to take a stone to it later. If possible, it’d be better to take it to a sharpener in town, if the blacksmith could do it. The wedges would work…but…he sighed. The sledgehammer had come loose from it’s handle. He’d have to see about finding a new one if he wanted to have any hope with the wedges. His axe just didn’t have a head he felt comfortable using. It honestly needed it’s handle replaced almost as badly as the sledgehammer. What was he doing, coming all the way out here with faulty equipment. He had noted the problems back at the warehouse and shrugged it off. This wasn’t going to look that great to his new employers.
He gave the equipment a try anyways, though he knew he very well could get an edge to his shin. He raised the sledge over his shoulder, his lean frame exhibiting perfect control of his tool. With a practiced swing he pulled the sledge down and it hit home on the wedge, a dull crack echoing in the woods. The shaft had splinted. He sat down and pulled the head off the now useless shaft and analyzed the break.
“Hey kid!” Timothy looked up to see one of the older boys who had been loading the cart walking over to him. He felt his cheeks flushed, embarrassed about his sledgehammer. He rather prided himself on his lumber skills. “Hi!” he replied, standing up to greet the youth. “Ah, man, that sucks. Your hammer broke,” said the youth to Timothy, reaching out for the shaft. Timothy handed it to him. “Yeah. I’m sorry I broke it. If you can show me where to harvest some saplings I can make a new shaft for it,” he told them.
“You could just the log splitter. No need to go throwing out your shoulder,” the kid answered him amiably.
“Log splitter?” Timothy rolled the words out of his mouth like orbs of mud. The words together meant nothing to him.
“Yeah, the log splitter. Oye, Jim!” the kid called over his partner. Jim, a ruddy brawler of thirteen years jogged over to Timothy and his friend. “Yeah, Max?” Jim puffed.
“You got a chainsaw and the oil in the back of the wagon? I think that could make short work of…”Max turned back to Timothy, “what did you say your name was again, kid?”
Timothy blinked, chainsaw was another foreign word to him. “Timothy,” he answered. He wasn’t entirely sure if he was actually going to be able to get his work done today if the two boys weren’t going to start making sense soon.
“I think that could make short work of Timothy’s batch over here. It’s from that old rock elm that last lightning storm took down. It should still be just dry enough to go through the splitter without shrapnel,” Max told Jim amiably. Jim nodded and ran back up to the wagon and came back with a strange looking contraption and a bright orange container of a material Timothy had never seen.
“Ever used one a’these?” Max asked as he poured a foul smelling fluid into the strange device. It looked like a long flat blade mounted to a box of similar material to the orange container. Along the flat blade was a chain that had small spikes. Timothy shook his head. “What does it do?” he asked, curious. He came closer to look.
“It makes saws look primitive,” Max smiled at him as he jerked the pull chord. The engine chortled and then sprang to life. Immediately Timothy clamped his hands over his ears, trying to muffle the sound. To Timothy it was a terrifying sound, that of angry spirits. His heart leapt, he felt his entire body throbbing, begging for him to run. He stepped back a good many feet and watched, scared, as Max sauntered over to the log he had been working on, and saw him cut through the log like butter and a hot knife. He might be utterly terrified of the thing, but he understood its value immediately. When Max had finished splitting his long down to size, he shut the engine off and turned to smirk at Timothy.
“What do you think of our little toy, Timmy?” Max asked proudly. He set the machine on the ground and lifted himself up to his full height, placing his hands akimbo.
Timothy swallowed, still nervous of the new thing, not entirely sure if it was alive, or possessed. “How did you do that?” he asked, pointing at the chainsaw.
“It’s made to cut logs. It has a machine on the inside,” Max bent over and flipped a latch, opening the cover up for Timothy to get a look at the engine. It meant nothing to him. Max continued, excited about the tool that the Toy Keeper had acquired for him. “When the machine is working, it drives this chain,” he pointed at the little sharp chain on the dull blade of the machine, “which goes around really fast. This chain is sharp, and those little blades help to saw through wood at a much faster speed than you and I could, even with a double handle,” Max was absolutely beaming. Timothy watched though as the blond boy’s smile faded slightly. “Bad thing is, this little beast is a glutton for petrol and Toy Keeper can’t get a lot of the stuff, so we sort of have to use it sparingly.”
“Yeah, but there’s a full tank on the log splitter, so we can at least show him how to use it, right, Max?” Jim seemed eager to share in the fun.
“If it’s anything like that, I think I’m good with a saw and a sledge,” Timothy murmured.
Max looked dejected. “It is a bit loud,” Jim guessed at what had scared Timothy.
“New to these things?” Max asked, curious about the kid with the tattoo on his face. Timothy squired, his face reddening. He didn’t like looking like an imbecile in front of other people and this situation made him feel as such.
“When’d you come from?” Jim asked. Timothy blinked. That was a new question to him. Usually a person asked from where a person had come, not when. Then he remembered, this place he was in was not a part of his world, but some limbo between worlds.
“I am uncertain of exactly when I have come from. I know that that it has been twelve winters since the Swiss Eidgenossenschaft defeated the Habsburgs and the Swabians,” Timothy looked at them expectantly hoping that would explain from when he came. Max and Jim blinked at him. “Might have to ask the Toy Keeper about that one,” Jim scratched at his head.
“We’re from 1997. Our folks both threw us out of the house because we’re in love,” Jim pointed at Max. Max flushed with a small smirk, which dropped quickly as he looked up at Timothy. Timothy sensed he was supposed to have a reaction to this news. “In love with each other?” Timothy asked for clarification. Jim nodded, suddenly apprehensive. Timothy shrugged, “You both seem nice enough to me, I don’t see why your folks threw you out. It’s a waste of talent to get rid of strong men when work needs to be done.”
Max and Jim weren’t entirely sure about what he meant by ‘when work needs to be done,’ but they also were aware that he was from an older time then them. He probably had to work hard all his life to be able to feed and clothe himself.
“We’re never entirely sure of people’s prejudices when we first meet them. You seem like a nice guy too,” Max smiled as he picked up the chainsaw. Timothy eyed the machine warily. “Here, I’ll take that back up to the wagon. Help him load up those logs and we’ll take the wood back up to the seasoning racks,” Jim offered. Max handed him the machine and helped Timothy pick up the jumble of split wood.
“Why are you guys here?” Timothy asked as they road back to the manor.
“Well, my parents and his parents didn’t like each other in the first place, and they sure didn’t like it that we were dating, so we ran away. It was better than being stuck in houses where people looked like they wanted to kill you. So yeah, we headed down to Brooklyn and hid out under the bridge for like, a week,” Max looked over at Jim for affirmation. Jim nodded his head, a bit distracted with leading the horses. “Anyway, while we were hanging out there, this big snow storm sprang up. We ditched our houses right after a big falling out at Thanksgiving. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise that it started snowing in December. We were hiding out when this weird horse and buggy get up stopped under our bridge. It was pretty fancy, it looked like those old fortune teller wagons from the movies,” Max was trying to be descriptive, but some of his talk was already beyond Timothy. It was nice though, to hear people talk again, so he decided to just sit and listen.
“Anyway, this guy gets out in this top hat and trench coat. I mean, complete creepzilla sleezy. It was pretty awesome. He just comes up to us, sits down, and starts eating a Spam sandwich. He hands us both a sandwich and you know when you’re hungry and homeless, you don’t really question where your next meal comes from. So while we’re sitting there, enjoying the best sandwich we’ve ever eaten, this guy starts telling us about a world where no one would make us feel like we had to run away from home. We thought he was talking about a circus or freak sideshow bit out on Coney or something like that. Hey, if anything, it sounded like somewhere warm. So we took him up on his offer. Next thing we know, we get transported to the Void. Now we’re here just helping out with chores and taking care of the young ones.
It’s pretty nice here. Toy Keeper and the missus is are great. They said that we could stay here and learn a couple of trade skills, kinda grow up I guess, and then they’d take us back within our own timeline if we wanted to start a life together there. I’m thinking we might drop into the future a bit farther.
We met this girl who was here for a short time. She was from 3189. Man she had some awesome stories. I don’t think I’d want to travel that far into the future, but you know, maybe 50 years ahead of time. I don’t know if I really want to meet my family again,” Max confided.
The year numbers hadn’t meant much. The names of places hadn’t meant much. The fact that the kids didn’t feel safe with their their own flesh and blood. Timothy understood that. He understood what it was like to suddenly have all the villagers that he had known for years suddenly become intolerant of him. Some had thrown stones at him.
“I’m sorry that your people abandoned you,” Timothy responded, not entirely sure what else he could say.
“Hey, there’s nothing you should be sorry about. They’re the ones who can’t love us, so we’ll just continue loving each other and make a family for ourselves,” Jim grouched.
They sat in uncomfortable silence as they rode up over the hill. It was still another miles and a half to the manor.
“So, what brought you to the Toy Keeper’s Void?” Max finally asked. Some people had obvious physical deformities, or mental deformities, but Timothy acted like any regular person.
“The villagers deserted me when my fa- when I had a curse put on me,” Timothy told them. marigold had told him he didn’t have to lie anymore, that the people here wouldn’t even really understand the bad omen that was an entire clan being eradicated.
“Curse? Like voodoo. Dude, can you turn into a werewolf?” Jim’s eyes shined. Timothy blinked. Voodoo? Dude? Werewolf? what were these words?
“I really shouldn’t talk about it. It’s taboo,” Timothy squirmed, trying to hunch into himself.
“Taboo? What’d you do, kiss your sister?” Jim poked. Not many things were taboo in the 1990s, though people still had overbearing prejudice. Timothy recoiled at the topic. He had neither brothers nor sisters, but that really was taboo. Just the thought of such a thing had made him feel filthy. “That is disgusting. No, my curse is not that taboo, but it is bad luck to talk of the dead,” Timothy stated, coming out of himself a little.
Jim and Max exchanged a glance. “Orphan?” Jim asked perceptively.
“I have neither mother nor father now,” Timothy conceded.
“And the villagers as you called them, they aren’t family?” Max asked. They knew how to get the answers they wanted, if if Timothy didn’t seem like he wanted to share. Everyone wanted to talk. Everyone wanted to express their opinions at their treatment. Everyone wanted to commiserate with someone else about their emotions.
“No, no blood relationships, just business,” Timothy stated blandly.
“This curse you have, what does it do?” Jim asked.
“People can’t love me,” he answered. Jim and Max stared at him, trying to comprehend such a statement. Sure they felt their parents no longer loved them, but they still loved each other. Could people really not care for Timothy? He seemed to be a nice guy, friendly enough.
“Seriously?” Jim finally asked.
“The people who I need to love me, can’t,” he responded. To him, it was a curse. A true and honest curse. His clan, the nomads that had dispersed across the greater European countries, took great pride in making sure that their sons and daughters married within the nomadic clans. Recently though, they had been persecuted and enslaved. It was not new, they had been driven out of their motherland for their peculiarities. Now though, he could not have the familial bonds, or find a loving partner, an individual who was just like him, Romani. He had been the last in his area of the country. The government had issued an edict that lead to the eradication of his people shortly after the Swabian War. Some, he had heard, had married outside of the clans, but they were shunned by both the clans and the villagers.
While pondering the meaning of his life, Max and Jim had noticed the sudden appearance of fog settling around their wagon. It seemed to be coming from Timothy, but there was no real way of discerning if it really was him or if it was just how the wind was settling.
They pulled up to the seasoning racks and hopped off the bench. Jim started the process of untethering the horses and currying them while Max and Timothy began the laborious task of stacking wood into a new rick.