Chapter 4: Shifting Sands
The sand shifted inside the bag as it rocked back and forth on the turbulent waters. The garbled breathing of the elephants mixed with the hissing of the snakes. The smell of fresh hay floated around the bag before it vanished from the corner of the gopher wood walls of the ark.
The sand stirred and swirled, moving the bag through time and reality—always looking for its next adventure, returning to places it had once been, staying only a moment with some and a lifetime with others. The bag, never knowing where it would awaken, was simply the carrier for the restless sand.
“Where ya goin, Pa?” the boy asked.
“Knoxville,” the father said, as he filled the bag with an assortment of bandages and ointments.
“If you’re caught, they’ll hang you!”
“Son, it’s a chance I’m willing to take.” The man tossed the bag over his shoulder and mounted his horse. “Take care of your, ma.”
“Yes, sir,” the boy said with a whimper.
The man set off down the dirt road of Kentucky—a state divided in half by a civil war. At night he used the bag as a pillow to rest his head, and during the day he pulled from it what little supplies he had to tend to the wounded Union soldiers. When the bag disappeared, the man assumed it to be confiscated, and now in the hands the Confederate army. In his most vivid dreams, he would never have imagined the mysterious land in which it actually landed.
In the mid-Pacific lies an island, uncharted and invisible to the eyes of those without imagination. To those that are aware of this most magnificent wonder it is simply called Holiday Island. It is a place where creatures of stories go to rest when their stories have been told. It is the place where an oversized rabbit collecting seashells (for hunting objects was his favorite pastime) tripped over the bag and landed face first in the island’s shimmering blue waters. He scratched his left ear and examined the bag that had caused his unfortunate accident. It wasn’t round and woven like a basket, but appeared sturdy and quite possibly a nice substitute for the basket he was accustomed to toting on his yearly rounds. It would do nicely to carry all of the chocolaty eggs his story described. However, when he tried on the eve of Easter to hop through the daffodils onto the pages of his story, he realized that the bag could not come. It was quite a disappointment for him, as he was fond of the bag, but he knew the rules. If it wasn’t in the story, he couldn’t bring it with him. Thinking that another resident of the island might have more luck, the bunny gifted the bag to the tooth fairy, but because of her petite frame, she could not carry the bag. It sat outside the door of her tree house until one day, upon returning from a nightly pick-up, she noticed that the bag was gone.
The series of stops for the bag after its time on Holiday Island were so quick that the bag never truly became settled with its temporary owners. There was its brief stint on the television show Mythbusters where it was used to hold explosives, and shortly after that the bag found itself at the foot of a guillotine during the Reign of Terror. The bag so wished the queen would have been more careful, as it feared it might lose a strap should the executioner miss a swing. In one fitful rage the queen flung the bag at a servant. The sands within could not stand anymore and the bag disappeared in mid air leaving the queen baffled and the servant hopeful that she might disappear as well.
One warm Virginia evening a young Indian girl was running through the dark to meet her forbidden friend, John Smith, when something large brushed over her long dark hair. She turned, startled, to see the bag hanging from a low hanging tree branch. She carefully lifted it off the branch feeling its smooth hard leather and smiled. She was excited to show her new friend the gift that had fallen from the sky. Her father had forbidden their friendship from the moment that he had arrived in Jamestown. She did not realize that he was only trying to protect her.
Every night, Pocahontas would sneak out to have new adventures with John. The bag stayed by her side as a guide of sorts. In the morning, the bag carried the nuts, fruits, and berries that the young Virginian native collected, and in the late evenings, it sat by the firelight with John and Pocahontas. The bag spent many years with the girl. After a few years had passed, Pocahontas’ love for Smith became frightening to her parents. The bag and Pocahontas didn’t know what they were in for, but Smith had his own plan. In 1616 John Smith and his crew captured Pocahontas and her bag. Pocahontas was unable to survive the betrayal of her true love and her new location; she died in Gravesend, United Kingdom in March 1617. John Smith took possession of the bag, vowing to keep it safe in memory of their late nights in Virginia, but the sands within in the bag shifted once again and it was gone.
Newt didn’t know much about his life before he was brought to the Glade, until he found the bag hidden in a box. It’s just a bag, he thought. He considered telling the others about his find, but what good would it be to the others if it couldn’t get them out of the maze that entrapped them. Newt took the bag and sat down in the shade provided by one of the areas few trees. He lifted the leather flap and pulled out a handful of photographs. He gasped and let them fall to the grass. With his hands shaking he picked them back up. They were photographs of him . . .when he was small . . . well, smaller, as he wasn’t exactly the tallest of the boys trapped in the area they had come to call the Glade. He changed his mind and decided that the other boys would want to know. So, thinking he could run faster without the large bag flopping at his side, he left it at the base of the tree and ran to tell one of the older boys, but when they returned the bag was gone. For months he searched for the bag, certain there was more inside. But what Newt did not know was that the bag had returned to one of its previous owners.
The pastor had no idea that the bag had crossed the waters of memory, circulated through the tunnels of time and entered into the world of the written word on the night he passed his treasured bag into the hand of his adopted son. “Christian, cherish it,” he told his son, “and use it for miraculous things.” Christian had a very active imagination, and so when he shared with his father that the miraculous thing was time travel, it was passed off as a creative thought. Christian set out to convince his father of the bag’s unique gift. First he attached a camera to the strap of the bag and linked it to his laptop so that it could record the bag’s comings and goings. Tired from a long day, he placed the bag at the foot of the bed and fell off to sleep. When he awoke that morning the bag was gone. He quickly turned on his computer to see a large arena and a chariot race. In the left hand corner of the screen he could see a small light flashing on the bag. The camera was dying. Christian ran to get his father, but by the time he had returned, the screen was black. Just as his father was about to return to his study to continue work on his sermon, the computer screen revealed a rushing brown river. The father leaned in closer as the image of a man and woman on the bank came into view.
“It’s your wedding day, isn’t it?” Christian asked.
“We were married on the banks of the Amazon. It was February 14, 1996. But nobody was filming.”
“It’s the bag, dad.” Suddenly, the scene changed and before the camera died, the boy and his father saw another man, dressed in the uniform of a revolutionary general. From the comfort of the boy’s bedroom, the two watched as General George Washington placed a leather bound journal in the bag. With the motion, the camera fell off the bag unknowing to the bag’s new owner. Then the screen went black.