Prague's Astronomical Clock

FlashBack Timeline

This is a list of all the work we’ve published so far, in chronological order of each piece’s historical setting.  We update this list at the end of each season.

It’s been a rough day. Ice Age in the morning, Vesuvius after lunch, and the loss of God’s favorite trattoria in Pompeii….

Oh yeah, life’s been nothing but sweet for Jasper since he invented that flat round rolling thing of his.

  • 3400-3100 BCE: Ice Man by Jan Stinchcomb

She stitches his leggings and sews his hat, stuffs his pouch with dried mushrooms, and carves her sign into the handle of his knife.

Remembering the stories he’d heard about her: the face, the ships, all that. That first time he saw her, his idiot brother smirking by her side: That’s her? All this, for her?

Two decades ago, my father brought me to this monastery. Our long journey made me sick for home, while he talked mile after mile about the honour of being schooled in the art of the scribe.

  • Late middle ages (or not!): The Convert by Clio Velentza

See the swamp under the bridge, how it holds its breath. Its rough skin is an outright lie.

Many years ago, back in our green days, we played at the new game of tennis, dressed up for May masques and dared call King Harry’s wife ‘the Spanish woman’ almost openly behind the backs of our hands, our eyes gleaming sideways like Holbein’s drawings. We were careless with our talking as with our dice; there were no forfeits.

My parents consign my eldest sister, Paola, to Venice’s Santo Spirito convent. There is no dowry for Paola and so her duty is our salvation.

I have told them she killed my daughter.

I have told them she kissed her and gave her an apple, and the child perished.

We held our fortified port for six weeks while the King killed Protestants in the northern lowlands but the South Gate finally gave way during a fight for fresh bread. So many died in battle that no sacred ground was left for burying the dead. We stacked the bodies one on top of the other in the gendarmerie tower and covered them in salt, of which we had plenty.

  • Late 1600s/Early 1700s: Footsized by Sarah Peploe

Her breasts hurt with milk, still. They’re heavy. They leak sometimes, dark and obvious through her dress. She is behind with the washing. Her big girl who is nearly seven has been helping, and her sister Doll, but Doll is close to her own confinement.

Mama always knew there was something about that lightning, even before that old rascal Franklin tied a key to a kite.

“I’ll come home,” he said, taking on the face of a soldier. Serious. Focused. “We’re fighting for independence. Liberty.”
He liked to repeat things I already knew.

At the dank, doomed mine they pay money to see where I took my last steps two hundred years ago, to hear the tale for entertainment.

I thought about what had made the orange bleed. Was it hurt when it was picked, when it was cut? It wasn’t special, it was tainted and I didn’t want it.

The lady of the house pays me not to move. It isn’t enough for her to have garden statues made of stone. To have a genteel party, there must be living statues.

I see those small ones about me betimes, when I bind rope or thresh corn. My living childer work with me, all three, but the others appear and do their share

Perhaps there are actors, however lowly, however unrecognised in the world, who are born to act, to take on other names and others’ words. If they cannot — well, possibly they end up here, in a grubby boarding house in miserable London.

This ain’t no rock or land I’m familiar with. It’s as though the stone has steeped too long in the river above it, becoming soft and corrupted on what the city adds to the brew. From which stinks and damps rise up like disturbed spirits to tighten round our throats or drown our thinking. The subtle and vicious ways this earth works to keep us in our place.

  • 1800s: Tyn by K.B. Carle

Tyn, a man the color of the coals that collected under his mama’s good cooking pot before turning to ash when the fire got to them, digs his hands deep into the earth, letting every bit of pain loose through the tips of his fingers.

That night, the wind bore a strange cry. Not the cry of a banshee. They knew that sound, carried it around like a familiar chill.

A miracle became—
“Necessary,” said the midwife.
“Imperative,” insisted the father.
“A thing best left to God,” thought the mother, meaning the miracle, not the baby, but possibly meaning both.

I shrug them loose, lean in and swaddle you tight so you won’t feel the cold. Pretend I’m still here. Your eyelids close, open, close, open less… As they slide down, sealing you into sleep, I am still here. I brand my mind with the moment, breathing in deep, sucking you into me before they take my wrists.

They took his shoes, they slipped them from his feet and placed them in the wall, beside the lintel of the door.

I’d have his bath waiting for him, the water warmed by the same coals he blasted and carved from the earth, the same coals they paid him with. A bonus, they called those coals. A pitman’s hearth should never go cold.

Somewhere outside Jacksonville, Illinois, the train slows to a crawl. Clara cups her hands and peers into the darkness but sees only the rail bed stones and the ragged edge of a sorghum field.

With this same rifle he learned to shoot at Cemetery Ridge, taking Confederate soldiers from a distance of two hundred yards. In those three days of slaughter he knows exactly how many men he killed. At night, each pallid face comes to visit.

Cotton fluff swirls around us like snow, only it is as hot as an oven. All the windows are shut, but I can see grey sky if I peep out when no one’s watching.

The heat made her an inch shorter as she watched the dust devil tread toward her down the only road in this not-even-a town. Her hands rested at her hips. No—her palms hovered, brushing the grips of her pistols.

The thumb is indistinct, mid-sized and slender. If it were a tree limb, it would reveal I was fifty years old.

Mr Matthews lays the sack on the scales. Rose doesn’t blink, for fear of missing the tilt of it, doesn’t breathe, for fear of losing more than she already has.

Your mother spreads out pitchblende from Czechoslovakia. Your job is to pick out the pine needles from the crevices of the lumpy grey-black ore, a radioactive Cinderella.

Some say Conan Doyle is only here because the organisers offered him a good seat to watch the athletics. Others say he is here on behalf of the Daily Mail. I really don’t mind about that.

  • April 15, 1912: Iceblink by Mary Morrissy

You was the senior man. Four years on the Oceanic, you. You stared straight ahead, damned near blinded with concentration. And saw nothing at first.

  • World War I: Plum Jam by Frances Gapper

From our ladders we can see the plum-blue Malverns. The army’s bought up this harvest, still on the trees.

  • World War I: Ogdens by Gaynor Jones

She scoops a clump of dirt-brown tobacco from the barrel and tries not to think of gunpowder.

He’d found the stick grenade half-buried in mud in a bend of the Somme, in the days after Amiens…

John Haas went to war, aged twenty-three, a plumber’s helper, with a few dollars saved, and a picture of his Dresden-doll sweetheart he carried in his left breast-pocket…

After he died they put a stranger in his stitched-up shell, sewing his name into the fellow’s mud-mushed brain to keep it from slipping.

  • 1917: Gutted by Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon

She collapsed into my arms, where she belonged. We knew each other inside out, solid together since her husband enlisted.

These are the facts of the matter. The warehouse fire was entirely accidental. I don’t know the cause of it; I’m not privy to that level of information.

In the factory, blue overalls hung loose on a wiry frame; lavvy-brush hair and jug-ears stuck out in permanent surprise. He studied the older men, deep in concentration at their workbenches, paunches solidifying.

When he was used up the lads gave him the grand title of Chief Splosh Maker, and he’d spent a few happy weeks warming the pot, spooning loose tea and pouring for the exhausted gang. But they couldn’t cover for him for long.

She was statuesque with a face that could make a soulless man swoon. Or a soulless woman. Skin as flawless as fresh paint.

I last saw my big brother Charlie laugh in 1937, the day after George VI’s coronation. He nearly wet himself when I asked him about a word in the National Anthem. Why were we supposed to send the King Victorias? They weren’t in season.

Mother’s pinkie draws away from the teacup, reaching towards our glorious past. The footmen have been drafted, the maids soldier on in factories, but the afternoon tea is holy in our house.

He says they have enough. Their eyes meet. The word “enough” sounds foreign to her, as though it has lost all meaning.

Anna crouches, wonders if the pilots can see her: if she stares right at them will her image haunt them long after this day, this raid? Will they remember the defiant German woman? Will they tell their grandchildren she had it coming?

Years later, she would think back on how she had cried for her dolly, and not her brother who had been buried by the roadside. Years later, she would wonder about the home they had left – if the new owners feasted on the mangoes from their trees.

Uphill, lush rows of foliage are speckled with faded cotton saris. Her sisters in suffering have moved on. She wonders if one might have a drop to spare. Neither her legs nor her voice will carry up. The country is free but she is not, trapped in the mazes of this place the sahibs call Heppi Balli.

Promiscuous, they called Dorrinda. Callie wasn’t sure what that meant. She reckoned it must mean forced down on the dirt and pushed into the way fourteen-year-old Dorrinda had been by that man.

It is realy horrible here. The journey took AGES and AGES and I blubbed and the lady took my pear drops away so I didn’t choke.

  • 1950s &1960s: Balm by Charmaine Wilkerson

“What? What?” her son said, with that down-curved oh-shape that his mouth took on when he was annoyed. He wouldn’t understand. She couldn’t expect him to. Tiger Balm in America, after all these years.

The foetus curled, I swear, somersaulting and dreaming in my watery home. I thought, it will stop soon, lay down bone and blue, grow into the caul.

  • Late 1960s: Estelle by Sheila Scott

‘It was on the clipboard at the last check.’ The commander pulled open a small drawer beneath the seats and rifled through its contents, sending odd items drifting into the air around them.

First time in New York; first time in Brooklyn. Johnny P has a bit of blow and some weed he needs to dispose of on account he doesn’t indulge during the week. Would be rude not to help him out.

He knew the dangers, we all did, and it weren’t as if he were taking risks. We all had experience of clearance projects like these, heard the stories, seen appendages blown to mist or found a few miles off. But this was Yousef’s legs. Yousef’s. The kindest heart in the group. S’way it always goes, though.

  • 1985 / 1994: Senna by Steve Campbell

Go, Go, Go, Go, screams the commentator. The cars burst toward us from the start line and Dad reaches over and grabs my arm, squeezing each syllable. Go, Go, Go, Go.

Steel melts at 2500°F. Pigs made sure it’s hotter than that so our dark, meaty flesh roasts to a crisp at the police barbeque. Feels like I’m melting. Can’t barely breathe.

Guess that was the end result they were counting on.

  • 2000: Y2K by Charles Duffie

Kaamisha squeezes her eyes and prays to wake up at home but she’s still here, in a bathroom stall at school.

They say Noah died, 350 years on from the Great Flood, as a naked, purple-lipped drunk. But some know better.

Image of Prague’s Astronomical Clock by Vera Kratochvil.