Mary Gearhart-Gray is a technical editor and
long-time fan of science fiction and fantasy.
Mary is also co-founder and editor of 4 Star Stories.
In her first contribution to 4 Star Stories, she
recounts the story of a time-traveling observer
whose mission goes terribly wrong.
An insistent pinging sound travels along my mastoid
bone to my inner ear. I come awake -- sort of.
Automatically I touch tongue to my upper-right, back
molar, signaling a “yes” response.
I observe. I am a temporal observer.
I observe the ground is hard and I am lying with my
head slanting downhill. A stone is poking me in my
back. It hurts, but not as much as the wound in my
lower-right quadrant that is leaking blood into the
Did you know the Spring after World War I was over
France had one of its most prolific growing seasons
My head is spinning. I’m lying still, and my head is
spinning. There is a roaring sound in my ears. The sky
is very blue -- amazingly blue. I’m thirsty.
The rock hurts. No, I hurt. The rock just is.
I can’t move.
The sky is so blue….
voice inside my head says, “Can you talk?”
I touch my tongue to my upper-left, back molar,
“Are people around you so you can’t talk?”
Through the roaring in my ears, I can hear people in
the distance. Some are crying, some are moaning. Over
to my left and far downhill I can hear a man calling,
I signal, “No.”
“Are you able to talk?”
I signal, “No.”
Water? I am so thirsty. And the rock. Please, move the
Flies buzz. Through the roar, I can hear crows
fluttering and squawking.
The sky is so blue – azure – azul – blu…
“We stopped getting your observations. Your equipment
appears to be offline. Do you need assistance?”
I’m thirsty. The rock hurts my back. I can’t move, and
the rock hurts my back. Yes, I need assistance.
Uphill I see broken stumps of trees outlined against
the blue, blue sky. I don’t recognize them. I try to
Big, leafy, old trees shade my observation post. I
chose the spot because of them and the elevation. On
the hill I would be out of the direct flow of battle,
but I could observe and report everything. Up hill and
hidden among the tree shadows, within the cover of the
dense foliage, I would be cool, safe, and virtually
I remember lying there on my belly among the old,
fallen leaves. I remember monitoring my equipment and
watching the battle through my long lenses. Now I’m
lying in the hot dust looking at artillery-shredded
I don’t remember how I got here. I don’t understand.
I hurt. My head spins. My ears roar. I begin to
I touch my right, back molar with my dry tongue.
“Assistance. Yes. Yes. I need assistance.”
The air smells of cordite, dirt, feces, blood, and
And the sky is so blue until the air between me and it
begins to shimmer in the excited-energy dance
characteristic of a temporal pulse.
My body begins humming and buzzing in time with the
The rock that does not hurt is left resting in the
dirt just downhill from a drying pool of my blood.
Come Spring, the wild, red poppies will bloom
beautifully in these fields.