Well, I haven’t done one of these in a while!
As you may recall, last year (I think it was last year?) I did a monthly flash fiction draw where I selected a genre, a setting, and a random object based on a simple playing card draw. I carried on the monthly draw from authors Cait Gordon and ’Nathan Burgoine, and this year, Jeff Baker has taken over the duties.
This month’s draw was for a tall tale or legend, set on an ice shelf, including a brass bed. At first, I was a bit stumped, but once I had the image of a brass bed on a snowy tundra, I just had to figure out who was the person seeing it. That took me to Herbert and his fiancée, Miss Vida Greenleaf, whom I’ve written about before and keep coming back to.
At some point, I’ll take all the Vida stories and stitch them together, somehow, along with some new tales. (Hmm, Patreon, maybe?) In the meantime, enjoy.
The Brass Bed and the Epic Journey
Herbert and Miss Vida were sitting in a cafe in some charming European city—later, Miss Vida couldn’t remember which one—when Herbert set down his teacup and leaned forward. He nearly put his elbow in the butter dish before Miss Vida whisked it away just in time.
“Dearest,” Herbert said, blotting the corner of his mouth with his napkin, “did I ever tell you how I got started on this time business?”
Miss Vida shook her head. “It seems like something I should have asked, doesn’t it, before you started showing me around all of Earth’s history and future and absconded with my heart.”
His cheeks colored. Mission accomplished, she thought.
“My first test of the time cabinet took me to the Arctic Circle, before even Mister Peary’s alleged discovery of the North Pole. And according to my compass, I had arrived at the very spot.”
Miss Vida had picked up a slice of toast and was preparing to take a bite. Now, she put it back down. “Darling, are you saying that you were the first man to visit the North Pole?”
He hemmed and hawed and looked suitably embarrassed. “I would never try to steal Mister Peary’s thunder. In any case, the matter of who was there first isn’t the most important part of this story.” He leaned over the table, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Because there was someone there before me, too.”
Miss Vida put a hand to her bosom. “My goodness. How can you be sure?”
“Because when I emerged from the time cabinet, once I had steadied myself against the biting cold, I took in the surroundings. Nothing but wind-blasted tundra as far as I could see. And standing about a dozen yards away from me on the snowfield…”
She leaned closer, waiting breathlessly for his revelation.
“…a brass bed.”
Eyebrow cocked, Miss Vida sat back in her chair, lowering her chin in suspicion. “A brass bed? In the middle of the Arctic? How on Earth?”
“I have no idea! The most confounding thing I’ve ever seen. I would have believed myself hallucinating had I not gone up and touched the thing myself. Even sat down on it. And the bed linens! Tucked in so tightly not even the gale could make them budge. And warm! Not to mention dry, despite the snow blustering all over them. But the owner of the bed was nowhere to be found. And I was convinced that if I slipped under the sheets, I would be transported as surely as the time cabinet transported me there.”
Herbert settled back in his chair and crossed his arms. For a moment, the silence hung between them like a heavy, dead thing. Finally, Miss Vida said, “That’s simply extraordinary. Did you ever see the owner of the bed?”
He shook his head. “Not even for a moment. After a short while, the cold got to be too much, and I retreated into the cabinet and returned to our time. But can you imagine? Another time traveling device just like our own? Who created it? And how? And why a brass bed?”
“Why indeed.” She reached for her coffee cup, but before she could pick it up, Herbert took her hand and rose to his feet.
“Shall we see what we can find out?”
“Do you mean you want to take me to the North Pole?”
He smiled wide. “Grab your gloves, my dear! And make sure you have a sensible hat!”