The Time Travel Jeep is an Urban Fantasy series I'm writing, and sharing in short-story installments. Lizzy is in town for her Grandmother's funeral, when her Jeep starts jumping through time - S. R. Karfelt
It’s hardly a castle, just a shell of one. Most of the leaves are off the trees, their trunks twist, bare branches vein against November sky. My tires bounce over bumpy courtyard stone. I park my Jeep, and a rear tire juts higher than the rest. It feels like I’m sliding forward into the open entryway. Blowing leaves swirl, settling thickly. My first real kiss happened inside that empty castle. It looks the same, except a historical plaque has been mounted near the entrance. I already know the story. Back in the 50’s, an Earl, or a Count or a Squire had it shipped stone by stone from the Carpathian Mountains. He had it reassembled right here in Norman, Ohio, for his love. The story goes that she disappeared and he never finished it to search for her. Teens sneak in the park after hours and build campfires inside it, and graffiti their names on the walls, and fall in love.
That’s what Jon and I did.
It is a long drive home and I should probably leave. Instead I sit and stare at the castle, fiddling aimlessly with the radio. Not aimlessly. I know exactly what I want. I want to hear Bon Jovi on the radio. I want to hear our song. I want to time travel into the past and see my husband again. Most of today has been useless attempts at forcing myself into the past, but this one I want too much to give up. My finger spins the dial. A Temper Trap marathon sounds from my favorite station. Light silhouettes the trees, and I sit back and sip on a chai latte until only cold dregs remain, planning what I will say when my Time Travel Jeep cooperates and takes me where I want to go.
Static and piano music crinkles faintly from the radio, pulling me from a fantasy involving Jon and a summer night long ago. Automatically I reach for the dial. My brain catches up and I shiver, the day vanishes and I’m plunged instantly into darkness. It worked, but I don’t think this is where I want to be. I flick on the headlights. A long black car, resembling a hearse, is parked just inches from my Jeep. There is a door in the castle, and glass now glints in the windows. Thick snowy evergreens tower over the stone walls, and for the first time I’m genuinely afraid of where the Jeep has taken me. This is definitely not Norman, Ohio.
“I can get back,” talking out loud makes me feel braver. I open the Jeep door and slam it shut again quickly. “Once more, and I’ll return.” I open the door, but someone grabs it, stopping me.
“Come out,” A heavily accented, Count Chocula voice murmurs. The door is pulled wide open. “I command you to obey me.” Inexplicably I obey. Automatically nabbing my car keys, I slide out. Instead of landing on leaves, my heels hit paving stones and slushy snow. The dome light reveals a small dark haired man wearing a horribly outdated suit and an actual cape. Eyebrows half-way to his slicked-back hairline, he’s staring wide-eyed, not blinking. It reminds me of my cat when it wants inside.
“Vladimir vants to suck your blood,” he whispers, exaggerating each word and apparently referring to himself in third person. He’s a very tiny man. Clutching his cape in a fist, he’s peering up at me over the crook of his arm. “I vant to, I vant to, okey-dokey?” A faint snort escapes me. Disapproving eyebrows almost meet his smooth hairline. Eyes widening ridiculously, he moves his head slowly back and forth in what I suspect is his idea of a hypnotic gesture. There is not a community theatre in the country that would have him. I bite the inside of my mouth, hard, determined not to laugh at him.
“Vy you not listen to Vladimir? Give me bite.”
“Um, I have some chocolate in the car if you want that,” I offer.
The little freak actually hisses at me, head and eyes still rolling, reminding me oddly of my cousin’s pet Pug. I reach inside the Jeep and tug my purse towards me, fishing inside. Vladimir starts slowly waving his hands at me, old vampire-movie Bela Lugosi style. I expect him to hiss, “Open Sesame”. I produce the chocolate bar, Norman Ohio’s claim to fame, dark with a touch of sea salt. I’d almost rather get bitten than part with it. I hold it up.
He straightens, hands falling to his sides. “Vy you no afraid of Vladimir?”
“Where I come from vampires aren’t so scary.”
“Vot?” He puts hands on narrow hips and bares his teeth at me.
“21st Century vampires are kind of buff, and good looking, or at least sparkly. Would you please stop doing that?” Grimacing, he opens and closes his mouth a few more times. There are definitely creepy fangs in there. I hold the chocolate bar towards him. He sighs dramatically and nabs it from me.
“Vot is buff?” He unwraps the bar.
Sucking in his stomach, he looks affronted. “Vladimir buff!” He takes a big bite of the chocolate and glares at me. The paunch slowly expands as he chews. He takes his time eating the chocolate, bug-eyes traveling rudely from the top of my head to the tip of my booted foot.
“Who you?” It comes out sounding like ‘voo-yoo’.
For some reason I admit my first name. “Lizzy.” A gust of icy wind blows over him. His cape swirls, but his hair remains slick against his head. The wind blows my hair back, cutting through my sweater. It rocks the Jeep and the driver door slams shut, almost taking my fingertips as I reach desperately for it, a shout of protest dies in my throat. The dome light vanishes and I know the Jeep will return to my time without me.
Then I’m simply back inside it. Once more it is daylight in my own time, and I’m staring at the shell of the stone castle through the windshield, my icy fingers clutching my car keys. Once my heart stops thundering inside my chest, I brave opening the door and slide out on shaky legs. My feet slip on damp leaves littering the paving stones. I trot to the empty archway of the castle and read the plaque.
Convoy Castle was transported from the Carpathian Mountains in 1950, by Squire Vladimir Convoy. Convoy’s intended bride, the Lady Lizzy Buff never arrived, and the castle was never completed. Vladimir founded the Norman Chocolate Company, in honor of his lost love.
Racing back to the Jeep, I twist my ankle but keep running anyway. Climbing inside, it takes me three tries to shove the key into the ignition, and I’m afraid to look around. By the time I reach the state line, I’ve received two speeding tickets. No small feat driving a Jeep. I don’t believe in vampires, but I do believe in creepy stalkers. That is what I tell myself, but just to be safe, I’m never going back to my hometown.
This installment of The Time Travel Jeep finds Lizzy on her last night in Norman, Ohio, after her Grandmother's funeral. (Click on "Grandmother" to read that story.) I'll post more of Lizzy's adventures as time allows. Let me know what adventures you'd like to see Lizzy have. If you had a Time Travel Jeep, where'd you want it to take you?