Stepping Back

swanage pier

© Sandra Crook

“It’s not real.”

The building and pier are quite real, Jonathan.”

“But the scene inside the cafe looks like a painting, Raven.”

“Simply step through the door as you did previously.”

Jonathan Cypher walked toward the painting on the building in the English coastal town. Then there was an actual door and everything changed.

“It is now 1927. The men inside are members of the Communist party. A Soviet agent has recruited them to assassinate the King of England. You must stop them.”

The man without a past stepped back in time ninety years on his mission to rewrite history.

I authored this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields writing challenge for 26 January 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

I did a Google image search and discovered the Pier Head Cafe is located at Swanage Pier in Southern England. The Bizarro comic strip for 24 January 2018 depicted a one-panel joke set in 1927 so I had the year stuck in my head. I looked up 1927 at Wikipedia and discovered the following items:

  • January 19 – Great Britain sends troops to China to protect foreign nationals from spreading anti-foreign riots in Central China.
  • March 24 – Nanking Incident: After six foreigners have been killed in Nanking and it appears that Kuomintang and Communist Party of China forces would overrun the foreign consulates, warships of the U.S. Navy and the British Royal Navy fire shells and shot to disperse the crowds.
  • November 12 – Leon Trotsky is expelled from the Soviet Communist Party, leaving Joseph Stalin with undisputed control of the Soviet Union.

So I hatched a plot of the Communist party of China to assassinate King George V of England. The man who is passing himself off as a Soviet agent is really working for the Chinese (I edited this paragraph to be more historically accurate as per my conversation with Neil below). The word limit prevented me from explaining things in more detail.

I once again am using the characters Jonathan Cypher and Raven last seen in The Kepler Tomb. Of course there was no real plot to assassinate the King of England in 1927, but I needed to make up something.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to


49 thoughts on “Stepping Back

  1. There have been tons of plots to assassinate the King of England over the centuries. I kind of doubt the Soviet or Chinese would bother due to issues of power. More likely to be Uncle Richard.


    • I think that book was on my reading list some decades back but I’m not sure I have the stamina for it now. Yes, humanity has been through brutal times and in some places of the world, it’s still that harsh.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great take James. I love that idea of alternate histories, what would the world be like if X had happened instead of Y. What would the world have looked like if George V had been assasinated? Who knows, but it would be interesting to explore the possibilities

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve always enjoyed history and historical research and have contemplated if it could be changed.
    I.e.: If you could have visited a European Jewish community in 1934 with the message, “Get out now, while you can,” would anyone have heeded?

    There was a fellow in the 30s Winnipeg, who’d lived in Germany in the 20s. He told people, “Hitler’s going to start another war.” Everyone said he was a nutcase.
    Getting people to pay attention and do something can be a hopeless task.


    • My understanding is that the Jewish population in Germany in the 1930s were very well assimilated into the culture. Many of them considered themselves Germans first and Jews second and they were truly baffled when the persecution began. I suppose given that, not many people would heed a time traveler’s warning. Events only look so apparent after they’ve occurred.


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