It began with a desk. A sleek new desk with a hidden compartment, bought to replace the battered old one that Cain had clung to until Riff had threatened to throw him out with it. Riff didn't mean it, and Cain knew that, but he let go anyway. The prospect of having a desk made to suit his exact tastes was a pleasant one, and he soon forgot the old desk.
The new one was crafted from a dark wood, with many drawers and cubbies for the numerous uses he gave them. The secret compartment was his favorite, a space big enough to hold half a dozen squat jars of poison, or a thick stack of letters, or a number of other things. It was built into the main surface, and was opened by pressure on its lid.
The desk caught her eye as soon as she stepped into the little store. It was made of sleek, dark wood, and it had an aura of mystery about it. She stepped closer and ran her hand over the curve of the cubbies, loving the satiny smoothness brought on by incredible workmanship and much use. She bought it at once.
It looked good in the corner of her little office, taking the place of her rattling old desk, the one that had been a garage sale find. The old man at the shop had said that nobody had wanted to buy this desk because it was supposedly haunted by the ghost of a demon, a cursed young man with golden eyes.
"You're not any danger to me, are you?" she asked it, patting the desk. Something gave under her hand. Startled, she lifted her hand, and a portion of the desktop lifted up on a hinge. Smiling, she dug a notebook and pen out of a drawer and penned a quick note to the ghost, which she placed in the compartment.
Cain gave the desk a quick, practiced slap without looking, more interested in the poison in his other hand. He placed the bottle carefully in the hiding place, and was startled to feel paper under his hand. He extracted the letter, read it, and raised one eyebrow.
"Riff!" he called.
"Did you write this?" Cain asked, waving the letter.
"Write what, sir?"
"This letter. I found it in my desk. Is it supposed to be some kind of joke?"
"I had noth-" Cain thrust the paper into Riff's hands. The first thing the butler noticed was the thin blue lines the crossed the paper, apparently to keep the lines of script going straight.November 18, 2007
Dear Demon Ghost,
I have just come into possession of your desk, and your presence was brought to my attention. I hope to enjoy the use of this desk and your company in the future, and ask that you refrain from any of the actions that seem to have scared off those others interested in purchasing your desk. I acknowledge that it is yours; I only wish to borrow it from you.
"Look at the date," Cain murmured, apparently amused. "Isn't it odd?"
"Very," Riff agreed. "And I had nothing to do with it, I assure you."
"Then who did?"
"I have no idea. There have been no visitors recently…Miss Mary Weather, perhaps?"
"She wouldn't call me a demon. Any other theories?"
"Magic, sir?" Cain sighed and took the letter back.
"I suppose it's possible…"
Several days later, Lyra accidentally leaned on the catch for the secret compartment, and was surprised to find a letter. It was not the one she had left, and it was addressed to her. Curious, she opened and read it.
November 21, 1891
This joke is, I must say, rather pointless. The fact that you somehow managed to get your ridiculous letter into my desk is overshadowed by the impossibility of you writing to me more than a century from now. I would appreciate it if you didn't return for a repeat performance. I would also appreciate it if you didn't refer to me as a demon ghost. Seeing as I am human and very much alive, it is pointless, since I don't see either as an insult.
"Weird. Why would someone break in to leave something like that? And why would they take my letter?" Lyra shrugged and sat down to write another letter.
"Another one!" Cain yelled, waving the letter at Riff. "How are they getting in?"
"Are you going to read it?" Cain sighed and tossed the paper to Riff.
November 22, 2007
If there is any joke involved, it is being played by you. At this point, I don't care if you're a ghost or a burglar, but I don't appreciate being made fun of. One would think that checking the date would be a simple matter. After all, I am looking at a calendar as I write this. It hangs over my desk, so you must be pretty dense not to notice it. I would appreciate it if you didn't try this again.
"She's very irritated? I'm the one finding letters in my desk! If she really thinks it's the year 2007, then I want proof!"
November 23, 1891
I refuse to give in to your petty insistence that I am the one at fault here. Also, please get your dates right. Otherwise, prove to me that it is the year you claim.
- Cain Hargreaves
November 25, 2007
You want proof? I'll give you proof. Enclosed are newspaper clippings and a few other things that might convince you of the current date. Honestly, where have you been
Included in the envelope was a small stack of newspaper articles, all about New Year's celebrations. And, just for spite, Lyra had included an article she'd printed off the Internet about the 1890's.
"This is crazy," Cain muttered, examining the clippings. "They seem to be authentic."
"Is it possible, sir, that she really is in the year 2007?"
"Possible, but highly unlikely."
"Do you have another explanation for this, then?"
"Well…no." Riff smiled and plucked the clippings out of Cain's hands.
"I suggest that you get to know this young lady."
"Why, and how are you so sure she's young?"
"She writes like a feisty girl I knew before we met, and the hand she writes in is energetic and a little messy. I suggest this because it would be good for you to make friends, as opposed to enemies and fans."
"This is another one of you 'it's for your own good, Lord Cain' things, isn't it?" Cain sighed, settling down in the desk chair.
"Alright, fine. I'll keep writing to her. But I won't promise to like it."
November 26, 1891
Due to the clippings you sent and the insistence of my butler, I have decided to believe you for the time being. We got off on the wrong foot, so I will introduce myself. I am Cain Hargreaves, the Earl of Hargreaves. May I expect another letter from you soon?
Cain HargreavesNovember 26, 2007
Tell your butler thank you for insisting that you believe me. I'm Lyra DeVanna. I'm not of any particular station- are you British? - but I am a college student majoring in English with a minor in Art. I'm 19 years old. How old are you, Cain? Yes, I'll write again soon…will you?
November 27, 1891
I thanked him- he says you are quite welcome. Of course I'm British, and, if my assumptions are correct, you are American. By English, did you mean the language, or something more like writing? I too am 19. Where in the States are you located? What is life like in your time?
November 29, 2007
Silly, I can't tell you about the future! I live in San Francisco, California. By English I meant Language Arts. That is, grammar, writing skills, and reading. I hope to teach some day. If you want to know what life is like, I suppose, for someone my age, it isn't much different from yours. There are seemingly endless parties, and looks are everything. I wish it were different.
Two weeks passed, and the letters flew between Lyra and Cain. Mary Weather began to wonder if her brother had a girl in another part of the country, because he was always at his desk at the oddest hours of the day, writing letters. The bonus was that Cain was in a good mood most of the time, and was willing to spend time with her.
December 13, 2007
What are you doing for Christmas? Are you going to be home at any time on Christmas Day?
Cain read this letter to himself, wondering why she wanted to know. It wasn't like they could just meet on a whim and spend the day together. In fact, he wasn't sure he wanted to. He liked the way things were, having a friend nobody could take away from him.
December 15, 1891
I'll be home in the morning, and late at night. There are several parties I am attending…what are you doing? Surely you're spending the day with family or friends?
December 16, 2007
I'm staying at home and keeping my cat company. My friends are going out of town to visit family, and I'm fighting with my siblings, so spending time with them is out. I'll probably stay up late and take a nap around noon…just because I can.
Christmas came fast, and in the midst of it, Cain found himself wondering if it was possible to send things other than letters through the desk. He got an answer to his question a week later.
When he opened the compartment to check for a letter, he found one. It was sitting on top of a box that just fit inside the compartment. The whole thing smelled wonderful. After carefully pulling both out, Cain out the letter to one side and opened the box. Inside were chocolate chip cookies, hot out of the oven. The temptation was incredible, so he munched on one while he read Lyra's letter.
December 23, 2007
Happy Holidays! I'm experimenting to see if we can get other things to each other...I baked this morning, and thought you, Riff, and Mary might like some cookies! I don't think these have been 'invented' in your time yet…enjoy a taste of the future. And I expect you to share
Cain did share…but only because he'd been told to. Mary and Riff were both quite appreciative, and Riff ensured that their compliments were expressed in Cain's next letter.