Bethany Lewis had been hearing stories about her great-great-great Uncle Mark for as long as she could remember.
Mark Delaware was born September 24, 1785. The thing about being born in the 1700’s, even the late 1700’s, is that by even the most positive estimates of the human life span, he should have been dead long before 2020.
But Mark Delaware was very much alive thanks to a rare condition that caused his body to continuously fall into a deep hibernated state for increasingly long lengths of time. It happened for the first time when he was five years old. He slept for a week straight. At the time, his family thought he was dead and he probably would have been if not for a happy fluke which caused a significant delay in his burial. It was his Aunt Mildred who discovered that he was not, in fact, dead. The shock gave her such a fright that she was never quite the same afterward.
The second time he fell into this hibernated state he didn’t wake up for two weeks. This time, his family was a little wiser and placed his body on his bed. After a couple of days, when it became clear that he wasn’t decaying they were very much relieved.
Concerned, as most parents would be and having a decent amount of wealth, they called for a doctor, however; the doctor would not believe that he wasn’t dead until he woke up. At that time, the doctor quickly convinced himself that this was a horrible prank and that the child was simply faking.
Since he didn’t seem to be any the worse for wear upon awakening, his parents decided to tac it up as an anomaly, or quirk, and it became known amongst family and close friends as “naptime,” and everyone knew not to delve deeper.
It was not until he awoke from a six-year sleep at the age of 32 that his family began to suspect that he might not be aging during the time he was unconscious. When one of his brothers, who was a bit of a math whiz and had an excellent memory did the math on how long he’d been in these unconscious states, he discovered that Mark was not, in fact 32, but rather more likely to be 21.
At first, he was delighted to learn that the time he spent asleep would not be wasted years until he realized that because these times of hibernation seemed to be doubling every time it happened, it soon became apparent that he would vastly outlive not only his family and friends, but their decedents as well. In addition, one could hardly sleep for over a century and expect that everything would remain the same around them. Contingencies would need to be put into place.
But that was always as far as the stories would go. Her grandfather would never tell her what those contingencies were.
Bethany sat at a table in the coffee shop that was at the same location as Mark’s favourite diner the last time he’d been awake. She tapped her pencil on the table in frustration. She’d done the research. She’d done the math and if her calculations were correct, he’d should be waking up within the next week and she planned to find him when he did. The question was, where had their family hidden his sleeping body?
Her parents didn’t know, nor did they believe any of the stories her grandparents told. For that matter neither did her brother or their cousins. But she did. It was one of the reasons she’d become a doctor. She was determined to discover the reason he was able to essentially time travel by sleeping. She would find him, study him, and use the results of her research on herself.
Imagine all that you could see? You would get glimpses of each new way of life. A few years here. A few years there. It sounded amazing!
The pencil in her hand snapped causing her to jump. Drat! She threw the broken pieces into her purse and sighed. Up until now she had been trying to figure out where her family had put him when he fell asleep. She hadn’t been able to decipher that from the stories. Her grandfather, the only person she was aware of who knew, refused to say and died with his secret intact. He claimed that contingencies had been put into place to protect him; however, she had the sneaking suspicious that the person he was actually trying to protect was her. He seemed to suspect what she wanted to do. It was most annoying.
Bethany stared at the faded, black and white photo sitting on the table in front of her. There had to be a way to track Mark down before he travelled too far. She knew he was in the area for now, but once he woke up, who knew where he’d go from here?
The bell above the door rang as a tall gentleman walked in looking rather lost. He was wearing wool pants and his jacket was faded. His hair was disheveled and strands were hanging over his eyes.
Bethany glanced at the photograph again and her eyes flew back to him. It was difficult to say for sure. He took a couple of tentative steps inside and approached the barista behind the counter.
“Excuse me, do you know what happened to the diner that used to here?” he asked. “Sally May’s?”
The girl stared at him nonplused, blinking without recognition. Finally, she just shrugged her shoulders and said it had been a coffee shop for as long as she’d lived in the neighbourhood.
He chewed his lip as he rotated around looking at the tables before slowly walking back towards the door. He was just about to pull it open when she flew from her chair and approached him.
“Excuse me, are you Mark Delaware?” She asked, almost vibrating with excitement, her hands clasped in front of her chest.
He startled at the name before nodding.
“I’m your great, great grand-niece,” she said, sticking her hand out in front of her. A thrill of excitement ran through her. She’d found him.