333 Years

Reading Time: 4 minutes


“Hello?” Nell smoothed her hands over her gown, patted her hair into place and struck what she had been told was a becoming pose. She knew she was not always visible to the clients but old habits die hard and Charles had always liked her thus.

They were taking a long time, so she called again, “Hello?” Of course, time was not really an issue for her since she had died in 1687. Usually Nell enjoyed these séances as a break from the eternal routine where she had continued as the Royal Favorite Whore. Finally, she heard someone coming and she settled into her pose.

(Illustration by Marie Ginga from an image by ariadne-a-mazed from Pixabay)

Light filled the room and a young woman in breeches stopped short, opened her mouth and said, “Whoa! How did you get in here?”

“The medium summoned me.”

“Medium? As in, ‘you are a ghost and a medium summoned you’?”

Nell nodded. “Yes.”

The two young women looked around. “Is the medium here too?”

Nell’s eyes traveled again over the strange objects and realized the third person who was always present on these occasions was not, in fact, in the chamber. “She should be here. I remember hearing her voice, calling me away from an evening at the theater. But I never saw her or anyone else until you came hither. I cannot explain this and I do not like it.”

The young woman looked Nell up and down and said, “Well, I didn’t summon you and I don’t want you here, so please go away.”

Nell sat down on an odd-looking chair and tears filled her eyes as she said, “I do not think that I can go back, not without the medium to make the link between here and beyond. This has never happened to me before in 333 years.”

The young woman looked at her intruder with sympathy. “Three hundred and thirty-three years. That’s 1600’s, right? It explains the period costume. So, okay, my name is Angela. Who are you?” She cocked a quizzical eyebrow at Nell, who realized that a twinkling of metal was embedded in it. On closer inspection, there seemed to be several more, scattered across Angela’s face. The poor girl must have been in an accident. Coming back to herself, she sat up proudly and said, “Nell Gwyn, best beloved whore of His Majesty, King Charles II of England.”

“R-i-g-h-t!” The two continued to look at each other across a few feet of space and several hundred years of history. “It’s a good thing,” Angela continued, “that I paid attention to the history lesson that day. So, I remember about you guys. Something about chopping off heads. No, wait, that was his daddy, Charles I. Then your main squeeze” (she mimed a hug) “came back from somewhere…”


“Yeah, Paris, and Bob’s your uncle.”

Nell frowned. “No, I have no uncles at all.”

“Never mind; it’s just a phrase. I must say you girls back then didn’t have many career options. Is that how you ended up as a sex worker?”

“If, when you say, ‘sex worker’ you mean ‘whore’, then, no. I sold oranges and was an actress in the theater before Charles became my lover. I was lucky; my life was much better after that.”

“Well, Nell, this is all very interesting but we need to find a way to get you out of here and back to…you did say you’d come here from the theater, didn’t you? Say, does that mean that your life keeps on being like it was after you die?”

“Yes, it is much the same.”

“Wow, that’s sick!”

“No, it is not ‘sick’ at all; it is very pleasant.”

“Sorry, Nell, it’s another phrase. It means, like ‘amazing’,” she frowned, “or something.”

“Oh, I see.” Nell paused. “Very strange.”

“Well, things change a lot in 333 years.”

“Yes, they do change. What shall we do now?”

“Now, I don’t think we need a priest to exorcise you. You’re not a demon. Are you?”

“No, no, I am not a demon; I am just a poor, mislaid ghost who wants to find her way back home.”

“‘E.T., phone home!’”Angela doubled over with laughter and fumbled her way into another of the odd-looking chairs. “Oh, oh¸ oh; no, I don’t think that’s going to work either.” She got herself together a bit at a time as Nell stared, unimpressed.

When the process seemed complete, Nell said, “Another phrase?” Angela could only nod, but happily, some things don’t change.

Nell offered, “I think the best idea is to find another medium who can restore the link.”

“Yes, it must have been something like a supernatural computer glitch that landed you here by mistake. So, we need a medium, like Whoopi Goldberg in that other movie, but I’ve never gone in for all this New Age stuff. Wait, I think they advertise online. Just a sec, uh, second.”

Angela tapped her fingers over rows of printed letters and numbers that Nell thought must be like a printing press. At a right angle, a series of paintings appeared in a frame. Nell gasped as one of the portraits started to move; it was like a puppet show with real-looking marionettes minus the strings. Angela spared Nell a glance and murmured, “Don’t worry; it’s just modern technology.  I’ll put in my credit card number and get Live Chat.”

After more tapping, the face of a blonde, middle-aged woman appeared in the frame and they heard her say, “Good evening, I’m Gloria. How can I help you?”

Angela said, “We have a situation here, Gloria. A ghost, Nell Gwyn to be exact, has shown up out of the blue, claiming a medium summoned her and that’s not anything I’d ever do. So, she seems to be stuck here unless we can find a way to send her back to her Heavenly Theater with King Charlie. Can you help us, please?”

Gloria peered around and said, “I’m not seeing any ectoplasm. Is Nell standing in front of the computer?”

The two young women exchanged places. Gloria frowned hard. “Oh, yes. I see you now, Nell. Your aura is very green and I think that’s from you being misplaced, you poor thing. Okay, now let’s all close our eyes and concentrate on forming a link that will take you to where you belong.”

A shiver passed through the universe. Angela opened her eyes to the scent of oranges and the sound of ribald laughter. She looked at the man beside her, with a long, curled wig, and knew she should have paid more attention to Restoration comedy.


This story previously appeared in Antipodean Science Fiction, March 2021.
Edited by Marie Ginga


Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia. She/her has pieces published or forthcoming in 365 tomorrows, Ab Terra Flash Fiction 2022, AHF Magazine, Akashic Books Fri Sci-fi, Altered Reality Magazine, Frost Zone Zine, Fudoki Magazine, Granfalloon Magazine, Theme of Absence, The Were-Traveler and Wyldblood Magazine.