Two Very Short Stories by Alice M. Roelke


A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Time Travel

Pack extra unmentionables. In the future, many women clothe themselves scantily. It is impossible to get a proper foundation garment; most clothiers have no knowledge of whalebone corsets or bustles.

Stay in the prescribed routes. Certain areas of the future are safe for time travelers because the natives try to preserve history by pretending it is the past. Here, travelers can blend into the future with the least discomfort.

Stay in groups. Beware sudden shocks from the scrofulous morals of the future. Stay near your tour group and be certain several of your number keep smelling salts handy.

Do not try to get in touch with your descendants. It can be most disconcerting! A respectable lady once discovered that her great-grandson will become a musician of unmentionable variety.

Above all, learn something. Mr. Wells’ machine offers us a unique opportunity. If we can’t learn from the future, we are destined to become it!

The End


The Literary Hollow

In Literary Hollow, a hundred trees burned bright with the luminous literary skills of writers long dead, and a few living still.  Creative essence transmogrified into oaks, elms, willows and maples represented Keats, Hemingway, Tolkien, and Twain.

The Dickens holly tree, activated by proximity, was liable to be garrulous with its intricate narratives, with talk of Mrs. Jellyby and Tiny Tim.

The Hemingway tree was less successfully done.  When activated, it merely expressed “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber” over and over again.  Unhappily.

If you drank the concentrated sap of Shakespeare’s yew you would speak in sonnet form all the day long.  The sap sold for exorbitant cost to humble hacks, and the tree took to composing doleful rhymes about the travesty and injustice of this (frequently mentioning Denmark).

The e.e. cummings tree left all its leaves in bud, to represent lack of capitalization.

Ray Bradbury’s tree, a mitten-thumbed sassafras, continued to grow, reaching towards the stars while cradled in a dandelion meadow.

“Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms,” said Sherlock Holmes once (there is a Conan Doyle rowan as well), and art in the sap apparently too.  For one day a dark hickory, instead of spouting words of pits, ravens, of bugs gold, unearthed its roots and perambulated, writhing limbs and leaves and charging the visitors.

Literary tree appreciators fled its rampage, screaming, “Poe-tree in motion!”

The End


stories by Alice M. Roelke

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