*Ding!*

Kentucky Blue Clay drums his fingers against the counter and bounces impatiently on the balls of his feet. Normally, he’d browse the shop while he waited, checking out the latest acquisitions from across history. Not today. Today he’s too excited. He strains his ears, listening for signs of life from the back of the shop. Nothing. He tries the bell again.

*DingDingDingDingDing!*

“I’m comin’!” a rough voice shouts from the storeroom. “Ring that again, and the next time you hear it, it’ll be on its way outta ya!” Glint sloshes through the doorway, screwing up his face as an offending scent invades his upturned nose. “Aw, goddamm clockwalkers! I told you bastards not to open your friggin’ time portals in my shop. They stink the place up!” Kentucky’s favorite fence waddles over to the counter. Glint’s a short little bastard, but what he lacks in height he more than makes up for in width. He’d be a crappy shortstop, but one helluva pitcher’s mound. He clambers his way onto a much-abused stool. “The hell you want, Blue Clay?” he growls.

“That ‘stink’ is ozone, Glint. It’s literally what ‘clean’ smells like. Besides, this couldn’t wait! Man, have I got something special for you!” Kentucky carefully sets a leather pouch on the counter in front of the fence. “When you see what I’ve got in here, you are gonna flip that poor, dead weasel you call a toupee. This baby—that you’re about to pay me an embarrassing amount of money for—is gonna put this crappy little pawn shop on the map!”

“It ain’t a pawn shop, it’s an Emporium of Oddities.” Glint glowers at the slight, but leans forward, interested. He fiddles with the focus on the cybernetic jeweler’s loupe embedded in the socket where his left eye used to be. “Enough with the theatrics, time lord. Let’s see whatcha got.”

“Funny you should mention theatrics, Glint, because I have brought you the original manuscript of what is often regarded as the greatest play ever penned by one Mr. William “Goddamn” Shakespeare himself!”

Hw-shakespeare“Shakespeare, huh?” Glint nods appreciatively, sending a series of chins into a wobbly battle for dominance. “Not bad. Shakespeare I can sell. Alright, you got my attention. What are we talkin’? Hamlet?”

Kentucky scoffs. “Hamlet? That whiny little emo prince with the oedipal complex? Please! I said ‘greatest,’ not ‘most grating.’”

Glint rolls his eye. “Fine, you’re not a fan. So Romeo and Juliet then?”

Romeo and Juliet? Romeo and Juliet!? The timeless tale of eternal love between horny, teenage, strangers? Glint, come on man. I’m talking about his most famous play!”

Macbeth. Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Tempest. Julius Caesar.” With each guess, Glint leans closer and closer to Kentucky. “Henry the Friggin’ Eighth!” he shouts in his face.

“Aw, you disappoint me, Glint,” Kentucky says, patting the fence’s ample cheek, “I always pegged you as a patron of the arts.”

Glint snorts a mocking laugh. “Yeah, sure. I got me a private box at the Met. You? You got ten seconds to stop wasting my goddamn time, Blue Clay!”

“Fine, but I worry about you buddy. You’ve lost your sense of wonder.” Taking special care not to fold, bend, or mutilate, Kentucky slides a loose sheaf of papers out of the pouch and lays them on the countertop. “Glint, my friend, feast your eye—and that other thing—on: Voadicia, Queen of Brittania!”

Kentucky spreads his arms, expecting exuberance and adulation. Instead, Glint just glares at him. “The hell is that supposed to be?”

His jaw drops. “What? How do you not—oh, maybe you’re more familiar with the modern, “Boudica” pronunciation.”

“Warrior queen. Drove out the Romans.” Glint shakes his head. “I know the history, but it ain’t Shakespeare.”

“You think I’m trying to sell you a fake?” asks an incredulous Kentucky. “Glint, I’m insulted. When I sell you a fake, you won’t have a clue!”

Glint bends over the counter, examining the pages. “I ain’t sayin’ it’s a fake,” he says, fiddling with his eyepiece. “I’m sayin’ that there ain’t no play by Shakespeare called Voadicia, Queen of Brittania. Far as I know, there’s no play by anyone called that. It just plain don’t exist.”

“Are you insane?” Kentucky shouts. “It’s the single most produced play in the history of the world! It’s assigned reading in every high school English class! It’s freaking Voadicia, and it’s sitting right in front of you! Hell, I came straight here from the premiere to show you!”

Glint sits up and twists the aperture of his loupe fully open. “The premiere?”

“1609! The Globe Theater! Down in the pit with the rest of the groundlings. My clothes still smell like all the stinking, unwashed, Londoners I was pressed up against!” Kentucky grabs the hem of his coat and shoves it toward the fence. “Here, take a whiff!”

Glint pulls away from the odoriferous offering. “Let’s say I believe you,” he says. “You just came from watching this play. Opening night.”

“Yes, exactly!”

“And afterwards, you swiped the manuscript.”

“Yes! How many times do I—”

“And how many copies of this play do you ‘spose they’d made before opening night?” Glint asks. “Seems like a pretty big job for the time, don’t it? Can’t exactly just slap it in the Xerox.”

Kentucky goes pale as the realization hits him. “Wait…you mean…I—”

“Stole the only existing copy and pulled it out of the timestream? Yup.” Glint’s lip raises in a cruel smirk. “Congratulations, Kid. Ya paradoxed the world outta the Bard’s best play.”

Kentucky stares at the precious pages spread across the fence’s shop counter. The only proof in the universe that this masterpiece ever existed. “I—I can take it back, right?”

Glint shrugs. “You tell me. I just sell this crap. I got no idea how any ‘a that chronotech bullshit works.”

Kentucky shuffles the pages back into a pile and slips them into the pouch with a cautious reverence. “It’s not too late. I can jump in right after I left and put it back. Nobody’ll even notice.”

Glint pushes back from the counter and drops off of his stool, rattling a collection of glass eyes on a nearby shelf. “Good luck with that. And Blue Clay, next time you wanna sell me something, make sure it actually exists.”

Kentucky chuckles. “Good advice,” he says. “Christ, I can’t believe I almost destroyed the greatest play ever written.” He keys a sequence of numbers and symbols into a strange device from his pocket and a glowing blue doorway appears in the middle of the shop. Kentucky pauses at the threshold. “The greatest play ever written…huh.” He smiles and steps through into history.


*Ding!*

“Um, excuse me. Sir?”

Glint hadn’t heard the customer come in. In fact, he can’t remember why he came out here in the first place. And why the hell does it stink like time travel? “Hey, sorry,” he says. “How can I help ya?”

The customer places a loose sheaf of papers on the counter. “My grandmother died recently, and I came across something while I was packing up her things. I heard you deal in rare manuscripts and I was hoping you might take a look.”

Glint adjusts his loupe and examines the cover sheet. Voadicia, Queen of Brittania. Glint looks up at the customer, grinning. “One ‘a my favorites! You know, I actually know the author. Comes in here all the time!” He shakes his head. “Hard to believe a no-good bastard like Blue Clay could write something this beautiful.”