MAUREEN'S AMAZING TIME TRAVEL ADVENTURE
nothing I hate more than having dinner with
Richard and Maureen Bridges. His endless talk
about his job at the experimental government
think tank bores me dreadfully, and his wife
keeps punching me good-naturedly in the face. Try
as I might, however, there's just no way to get
out of it. They see through every lame excuse I
make, and on the occasion I faked my own death
they hired a private investigator to track me
down to my new address.
is why, for the umpteenth time, I found myself
eating over-boiled carrots and roast beef with
the texture of used condoms in the company of the
pair, sitting around the horrible wooden dining
table which Richard had built himself, acquiring
splinters wherever I touched it. The room was lit
only by a couple of candles on the dining table,
which gave the place the air of a last meal in a
death cell. Even with the low lighting I could
see the hideous decor of this rather squalid
room; the flying porcelain ducks, the nasty green
wallpaper, the little stuffed pig on the
bookshelf which kept looking at me as if it knew
where I hid my mother's corpse.
is the way with these gatherings, I had been
making small talk all through the meal without
actually applying any conscious thought.
did you see Crime Traveller last night?"
asked Richard at one point.
that stupid programme about the woman from Red
Dwarf who uses a time machine to solve
this point, Maureen did the thing she always
does; laugh at the most inappropriate moments. I
wouldn't mind so much if it was a nice laugh, but
Maureen always laughed in the same way Ming the
Merciless would on the day Flash Gordon is
executed. And it was always followed by that
high-pitched gasp for air, like a drowning walrus
with something lodged in its throat.
- HUUUURRHHH," went Maureen.
the one," said Richard. "Don't you
think it's entertaining?"
come on, Mikey, where's your sense of
humour?" said Maureen, punching me in the
face. She always called me Mikey, which I found
extremely annoying, as my name is Travis.
just don't like that sort of thing."
but it raises interesting questions, doesn't
it?" said Richard. "What would you do
if you had a time machine?"
might as well ask me what I'd do if I had a
magical flying unicorn who breathed winning
lottery tickets," I said, regretting the
words instantly, as it brought a fresh storm of
guffaws from Maureen. "Time travel's
you don't know that for sure," said Richard.
this point, the fourth guest at the gathering (as
yet unmentioned as he had spent the above
discourse occupied by a particularly resilient
roast potato) looked up. He was wearing a tweed
suit with leather patches on the elbows and a
rather irritating bow tie, and his white hair
stuck out on all sides like a dandelion. He was
clearly a learned type, if the round spectacles
didn't give enough of a clue.
he said, "It is possible to know for sure.
Or rather, to prove that time travel is
impossible, with simple logic."
yes, Earnshaw?" I asked, glad to have an
ally against the Bridges couple. "How's
hypothesis," he explained genially, leaning
back in his chair and steepling his fingers.
"Let's say that I go back to the university
now and devote the rest of my life to the
discovery of time travel. To all my descendants
and heirs I will give the same task, who will do
the same for all their descendants and heirs,
until finally a working time machine is made. At
that point, the discoverer is told to construct a
second model, and send it back in time to this
very date, this very time, and this very place.
Say, in the hallway, just beyond that door."
Earnshaw stood and went over to the door.
"So, if time travel is ever discovered at
any point in the future, the time machine will
now be behind this door."
swung the door open, and we all tensed. I don't
recall ever having been so relieved to see an
empty room. Earnshaw grinned, shut the door, and
sat back down. "QED," he said.
on a minute," said Richard, thinking hard.
"That's no way of knowing. You're just going
to forget you ever said that. Why don't you write
it down, make a pledge or something. Then we'll
know for sure."
this necessary?" I asked as Richard got up
and went over to the cupboard where the
stationery was kept. He didn't reply. I should
have known; Richard hated being outsmarted,
especially by someone like Professor Earnshaw. He
found a piece of paper and a pencil, and passed
them to the Professor, who seemed to be quite
enjoying the game.
well," he said, then began to write, reading
it out as he did so. "I, Professor Martin
Earnshaw, do solemnly swear to devote the rest of
my life to the discovery of time travel, and when
it is discovered, I will construct a second time
machine and send it back in time to Richard
Bridges' hallway at precisely," he checked
his watch, "7:15pm on the 13th of February
2003. I also pledge that everyone who follows in
my footsteps will be given the same instructions
until a working device is created. Sincerely,
Professor Earnshaw." He signed it
elaborately, and handed the paper back to
said Richard. "Now, go open the door."
shook his head, smiled, and did so.
time machine looked kind of like a motorbike with
no wheels, covered in black plate armour and
winking lights. Something that looked kind of
like a lightning rod was mounted just behind the
seat, and there was a control panel between the
said anything for quite some time.
hell," said Earnshaw.
don't understand any of this," said Maureen.
simple, love," said Richard. "The Prof
took this paper home and kept it, and at some
point some future Earnshaw invented the time
machine, and then sent it back here! You must've
passed that paper down for generations,
fact, the letter was filed away by Earnshaw and
forgotten about. It was discovered in an
archaeological dig many thousands of years later,
in a world ruled by the Japanese, who had long
since discovered time travel and felt that
sending a device back to the specified date and
time would be a laugh.)
said the Professor, sitting back down and mopping
his brow with a large red handkerchief.
"Blimey," he repeated.
was now wearing that awful I'm-always-right smile
of his. "QED," he said.
then," I said, "now we've got a time
machine, what are we going to do with it? Change
not," said Earnshaw flatly. "The
timeline is too fragile to mindlessly tinker
come on, Prof," said Maureen. "Where's
your sense of adventure?"
are unlimited theological problems with changing
history," said Earnshaw, scowling. "If
we intend to go back and change things from
within our own timeline, then since the event
happens in the past, all we have to do is intend
to do something and it's already been done.
What's more, from our point of view it will have
always been like this. We won't even know if we'd
apparently didn't understand what the professor
was saying, as he ignored it completely.
"Just imagine what we could do with
it!" he said. "We could use it to make
ourselves the richest men in the world."
room was now much bigger, decorated with tasteful
Regency wallpaper and with a crystal chandelier
illuminating the expensive mahogany dining table.
For a few seconds, it seemed to me that there was
something wrong with the room, but the feeling
faded quickly. After all, the dining room had
always been like this. I adjusted my expensive
tuxedo and put down the crystal wine glass.
would we want to do that?" I said.
"Aren't we already the richest men in the
yeah, but I'm just giving an example," said
Richard, putting down his caviare.
a fool would use something as wonderful as the
time machine for personal gain," said the
Professor, scowling through his gold-rimmed
spectacles. "This could be used for the good
of all mankind. We could go back and stop Sir
Walter Raleigh discovering tobacco, save the
lives of millions of people."
looked at him oddly. "What the hell's
seemed confused. "Sorry, I'm not sure why I
commented Maureen. "I see what you mean.
Like, we could go back and kill Adolf Hitler as a
no telling what that would do," said
Earnshaw. "Maybe the Nazi Party would just
have a different leader. Maybe this leader would
be much better at the job. He might even win the
Second World War."
glanced around at the Swastika symbols that
decorated most of the drapes. When I turned back,
Richard was wiping cranberry sauce from the
sleeve of his SS uniform.
have I lost the plot here?]" said Richard,
in German. "[Who was Adolf Hitler?]"
opened his mouth to speak, then frowned.
"[Funny, I knew a second ago, then I just
was just thinking,]" I said. "[What
right have we to try and change the course of the
Second World War, anyway? What if the Allies had
won? Nah, I think we should stick to personal
gain. Maybe we could go back and murder your wife
as a baby, Richard.]"
titter of laughter went around the table, and
Richard took his gorgeous blonde wife's hand.
"[Now, why would I want to kill
Tiffany?]" he said. "[When she's just
won the Nobel Prize for Literature?]"
shrugged. "[Forget it.]"
looked around. "[I guess none of us have any
use for the time machine, then.]"
exchanged glances. "[Guess not,]" said
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