A short story (500 words-ish)
Same, but different. After all this time, all this distance, and only Innes remained the same ten-year-old she’d been then.
Her best clothes now worn to rags, her feet bare since the sandals turned to scaly flakes.
She was back at the place, but not the moment.
The fishing market was closed, the two boats at the decrepit jetty tied up and empty. No smell of fish, no loud hawking of produce, no people, not even a dog or a gull. It wasn’t the way Ines remembered it. The place was a ghost, a memory of the day she’d been here before. March, the day of the equinox, the promise of cool nights, of cooking marshmallows over campfires, and sleeping under the stars next to the shore. A place of magic, a time of power, a pocket of memories.
Now a lost world, a lost life, a forgotten moment.
Innes glanced at the only item that remained real from those days, even though it wasn’t. Not now. The power source was gone. She’d taken the coin from them, never to return. Innes remained lost until she found a way to put it back. The portal, red, a warning to those aware.
What was once garish red paint was now peeled, showed the underlying pale yellow from a lifetime spent in salt spray or space dust.
One day, even the fake marble plinth would go back to where it came from. Everything did. Eventually. The cracked bones of the old phone box stuck up on the high point of the sandy bluff, the ground before it overgrown with Kikuyu grass. Innes saw it as she had seen it then, a place to be found, where parents told their kids to go play. The last things they’d said to her.
“Go play with the other kids. Up there, next to the phone box. Don’t go in, though, it’s the Tardis, and the Time Lord won’t be happy to find stowaways.”
They’d laughed, like it was a joke, but here Innes was, not knowing how many years had passed, knowing only that they were gone, and she was back.
Lost in a place she knew, in a time she didn’t. Alone.
“I didn’t go in, Mum. Someone dared me. For a gold coin.”
Her voice floated back on the salty breeze. “Please don’t forget me. Please don’t leave me here.”