Monday 28 May 2012

It's Turned Out Weird Again

The day had started out in an average normal way with a trip from 2012 to 1979, via a triumphant curry at the Euthanasia, and then back to the cold winter of 1979. During the meal I met up with my regular travelling companions and against normal rules they were returned to my time-stream. We were not allowed to be told why under the Temporal Confidentially Act 2057 Clause 189 of which none of us had heard.

Roth, the taller of my travelling companions then found a strange note, pinned to a lamppost, suggesting that we were his/her/their last hope and we needed to catch a bus. Now, we couldn't just go ignoring a note like that...

We got on the bus as instructed to find it was from London roughly around 2012.

That is the story as so far told in Skimming Time Like A Stone On A Pond

“There is no one else on this bus,” I said. I had taken courses in stating the perfectly obvious.

“By the feeling in my stomach, this isn't a normal bus ride, I think we’re going through time. Again,” added Eolist.

“I think it's a alternative reality," Roth suggested.

“I'm not sure anyone has ever accused any of us of spending much time with reality, let alone a alternative one,” I thought a moment. “Anyway what makes you think that?”

“Like Eolist, it was a feeling in my stomach. Different from time travel. Not as much week old sushi as bad fairy cake."

"You’re right. It was different," she agreed.

“I shall speak with the driver. He must know the route,” I didn't feel too positive about this but I walked to the front of the bus, past the please don't disturb the driver whilst the bus is moving sign.

“Driver, where is this bus going?”

The voice that spoke back was like an icy wind. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. The voice had no substance to it, no life, yet it reverberated. “You are nearly at the end of this part of your journey. One of you will not return."

I leant forward to draw level with the driver. I didn't want to, but I was compelled. The driver was tall and wearing a black hooded cloak. The fingers that held the steering wheel were so very thin. I was about to ask another question when the bus stopped.

The voice spoke again. “It is time for the three of you to leave."

I looked out of the window. There was nothing there. Darkness. “Here?” I queried.

“Yes. HERE.”

The doors opened and I walked back down the bus to my companions.

“What did the driver say?” asked Roth.

“He said we should get out here.”

“There is absolutely nothing out there.”

“He was really insistent.”

We got off the bus. It was the only light. As soon as we were all off it simply faded. The bus faded. It didn't drive off, it faded.

“It's turned out weird again,” said Roth. He couldn't have been more right.

“Where do you think we are?” I asked.

“Has anyone got a torch?” Eolist suggested.

“Yes, hold on.” I pulled a torch out of my pocket and twisted the barrel. Nothing happened. No light. “That's odd.”

“Maybe if we just feel around and see what is around us,” suggested Roth.

We walked around slowly. As far as we could tell there was nothing for as far as any of us were willing to walk. Certainly none of us wanted to get out of earshot of the others. Being in a strange place in absolute darkness is unnerving.

Eolist suggested trying the floor. We all felt around. It had the texture of concrete. Hard and rough but basically flat.

“I've found something,” said Roth, “I think it’s indentations in the floor. I can feel shapes. Letters. Oh. It says, H. E. L. P.” I think he may have looked quite shocked if anyone could have seen him.

All three of us sat upon the ground and started checking for more letters. If there were any we couldn't find them.

“Any idea what we should do now?” asked Roth.

“No. I think maybe we should wait and try and work out what is going on,” I suggested.

While we waited I recounted my conversation with the driver and his warning. This didn't help much.

Will Eolist, Roth and Tunguska be able to a) find help, b) find the lightswitch and c) work out what the driver’s warning meant?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Skimming Time Like a Stone on a Pond

It was cold and snowing in early January 1979. The high road in Slobbering-under-the-Bed was in darkness due to a, not uncommon, power cut. Some workers somewhere were on strike.

Apart from a chap in the distance, I was alone in the high road. The buildings were a mixture of half-timber, some more modern brick and a couple of 1960's concrete delights. The full moon made up for the lack of man-made lighting.

I had been quite young in 1979 and lived somewhere else, so it was interesting to go back in time and see Slobbering during this era.

The chap in the distance was closer now. He was very tall, dark haired and Olympic-swimmer-broad across the shoulders. I could hear his feet crunch in the snow. In 2012 the flow of traffic would have drowned the sound out. In the late '70s there were few cars and all I could see were parked. A Ford Anglia sat under an extinguished streetlight a few yards away.

I contemplated what each of the shops had become by the early 21st Century. Most of the banks had become pubs. The quaint little wool shop would become one of about six mobile phone shops. The cafe across the road would degenerate into the Wrong Topping Pizzeria. The gents outfitters would still be having its closing down sale. Where I was standing was just at the join between a tobacconist and the butchers shop. They had become rival Estate Agents - awfully sad.

The crunching noise became louder, I turned to face him and as I did so he changed. His hair remained dark, but he lost nearly 12 inches in height, his breadth across the shoulders shrank, facially he altered from heavy boned Englishman to fine boned Asian. Even more strikingly his attire mutated from a council style donkey jacket to a most splendid tuxedo complete with a white napkin draped across his right arm.

He spoke, "Sir, your reservation is ready. If sir would like to accompany me to your table, the other guests will be waiting in about half an hour."

I opened my mouth to speak when a scraping noise filled the air. I looked to where I thought the sound had arisen. The split between the tobacconist and butchers shop grew wider. First one Taj Mahal style arch appeared, then another and finally a third. It was through the third the door was situated. The waiter ushered me inside.

The odd events of the last few minutes had masked my realisation of how cold I had become. The winter of '78 to '79 had been particularly bitter and my attire wasn't really adequate. I made a note to do better research in future before travelling into the past.

The Euthanasia was a very special restaurant indeed. The little booths seemed to disappear off into the distance. There was a world supply of flock wallpaper on show.

"Waiter," I said, "I didn't think there were any curry houses in England in 1979."

"Sir was in 1979? We had wondered why it took so long to pick sir up. In answer to your question, there were many fine curry houses in that era."

"What time is it now?"

"Roughly seven thirty. It is always seven thirty in the Euthanasia before one has eaten. Afterwards time progresses nearly normally."

"Sorry, I meant what YEAR?"

"Does sir think he is standing in a curry house in Slobbering-under-the-Bed's high road?"

We walked further until we reached a large booth. It was empty, but there were balloons on the table. Many helium filled balloons. Some had numbers on them.

"I thought you said the other guests are waiting?"

"Sir, they'll be waiting in about half-an-hour's time."

I sat down. There was a small notice on the table. It read "In case of problems of a personal nature, patrons are advised to fit their own oxygen masks before helping friends and family members to fit theirs."

"Would sir like a drink whilst he is waiting?"

"Yes please. Glenmorangie please."

"Your usual pint?"

"Ohhhh yes."


The gentle sitar music faded out for a moment and a disembodied voice asked us all to pay attention to the waiter standing in the isle. He will present safety instructions it said.

An unfamiliar waiter stood in the isle with an inflatable life jacket. He started speaking. "Sorry about the life jacket. One of the guests had a vindaloo and was attempting to inflate it in the traditional manner." He threw the jacket on the floor. "We are about to head back into space-time again. A slight feeling of nausea is common, although it can be counteracted with a little of the lime-pickle - it's very good. Should we crash, I wouldn't recommend going through the emergency exits here, here or here." He moved his arms from behind himself to in front, "as there is a good chance you will walk into the vacuum of space or into the mouth of a long dead creature from the prehistoric past. Thank you for listening. Enjoy your meal."

The music started once again. I've never heard Lady Gaga's Poker Face played on a sitar before.

I started reading the menu. It contained a list of fine curries, each with its official name and description of the cooking technique, spices and an indication of whether CO2, foam or water was the best extinguisher to use. In the margins were offers of help from the Samaritans and the Red Cross.

Almost together Indigo Roth and Eolist Petite arrived. Although they arrived together it was pretty clear they had been involved two quite separate activities (or one really weird one). Indigo slipped off his flippers and wet suit to reveal a perfectly pressed tuxedo. Eolist propped up her skis and ski poles, sat down and said "Man, that was the frothiest cappuccino I've ever crossed."

"Hi you two - what is it with the balloons? They seem to have lots of different numbers on them." I thought about this. "Are they for my birthday but you couldn't decide how old I would be when I got to the Euthanasia?"

"No," said Roth, "They are a promotion from my local chinese takeaway. I don't think you'll ever be 43A."

"How did they get here before you did?"

"I got help from the Badgers."

"Let's order. What is the today's special?"

"Dodo tikka masala, Sir. It's very succulent." The waiter had appeared silently at our table ready to take our order.

"Isn't the Dodo extinct?" asked Eolist.

"They are now madam."

"Perhaps you would prefer the Bang Bang chicken? Very tasty, but armed like the A-Team and more dangerous than a bear with a toothache."

A voice sounded from the next booth. It was a dark brown hairy kind of voice. Our friend Bear leaned around, "Sorry, but that's a very bearist comment. We don't all have very bad tempers or defecate in the woods."

The waiter bowed and apologised. Bear leaned back in.

"Excuse me waiter, but what are the figures in the margin? Have you been forced into including nutritional information?"

"Oh no, sir, those are survival percentages. We like our guests to know whether they need to get their affairs in order before ordering."

We ordered. The food arrived promptly and was every bit as special as we have come to expect the Euthanasia to serve.

Like most good evenings, the conversation flowed and it was all over much too quickly. Plates lay with half-finished food and gently bubbled and dissolved.

"We normally return our guests to their original time and place, but I received a message that you must all be returned to Dr Max's point of origin."

"Who was the message from?"

"I am not permitted to tell you. Temporal Confidentially Act 2057 Clause 189."


It was 1979 again. The three arches closed behind us with a scraping noise. The three of us stood in the snow, Eolist holding her skis, Roth back in his wetsuit and I was back in my brightly coloured Hawaiian shirt. Nicely inconspicuous I thought. Whoever sent the mystery message could have included an improved wardrobe.

"Shall we go back to 2012?" I suggested. "I have some particularly fine coffee beans. Genetically engineered them myself. I was just talking to one the other day whilst I was roasting it over a slow flame..."

"Hang on, there is a note attached to this lamppost," said Roth, cutting me off in mid-flow. "It says, Help me - you three are my last hope - catch the next bus."

At that point a double decker red London bus appeared. We climbed aboard, not really knowing what to expect. We sat down by the middle exit and waited to see how things would unfold. This was a bus from London 2012. It shouldn't have been in Slobbering in late '70s.

Eolist pointed out the notice over the doors. It seemed appropriate for a bus ride after a good curry.

Tunguska, Roth and Eolist return shortly in "The lion, and which flat-packed wardrobe"

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Misfortune Favours The Brave

The rain was pouring. I stared out from the end of the pier at Paralytic-in-the-Wardrobe, the neighbouring town to my home town of Slobbering-under-the-Bed. There was no sea to be seen and nor would there be until erosion, global warming and possibly plate-tectonics had worked their magic. Paralytic was more than 30 miles from the coast, no matter how out of date your sat-nav. Only an English town council could have decided to make the town a fully fledged seaside resort, complete with pier, without the sea.

I was sitting in one of the little covered seats often found on seaside piers wearing my seaside hat. I had a little time to wait, so I sat down with chips wrapped in newspaper and enjoyed a little lunch. There were a variety of stalls this end of the pier. Hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, fish and chips, shellfish and jellied eels. Numerology, palmistry and a little place that will give you a certificate with the meaning of your name. I'd tried this one earlier - yes, that's Tunguska. How do I spell it? T-U-N-G-U-S-K-A...

However I was waiting for the fortune tellers stall. It was dressed to look like victorian tent although it was clearly more solid than that. I'd heard this one was very good with a deep insight into the future. I wanted to find out for myself.

I chucked my vinegar soaked newspaper into the bin and with timing of extraordinary luck a woman with a couple of plastic shopping bags walked out of the fortune tellers stall. I walked in.

There was a small lace covered table and a heavily decorated lamp hanging over it. The fortune teller was in the semi-darkness on the other side of the lamp. I couldn't make out his or her face. When he or she spoke the accent was so thick I was still no wiser.

"Take a seat, Mr. No, no, don't tell me."

I sat down.

The androgynous accented voice um'd and ah'd and finally said, "Mr Kissmequick." That's a cracking start I thought.

In the centre of the table was the traditional crystal ball, as made famous on the Wizard of Oz. It glinted wonderfully in the light.

"I can sense you are psychic and other-worldly?"

That made a change from 'bonkers'.

"Hold out your hands"

I held out my hands. The fortune teller took them. He or she had spent some time working on the land - possibly as a plough. Cats tongues have been less rough.

"The dream is within you."

That's nice and enigmatic, I thought. My turn to ask a question, "Are any of my relatives here?"

"I sense the spirit of your granny. She has a surprisingly deep voice for a woman."

"What does she have to say?"

"She said, 'Watch out for a creature which is half red-squirrel and half colossal squid.'"

Now that is good advice. "Anything else?"

"And, 'Would you like a pizza when you stop mucking around in here?'"

I blinked a little at that one. Before I had time to think he or she was off again.

"Stare into the crystal ball and tell me what you see. I can sense more spirits collecting to speak with us this afternoon."

I looked hard into the crystal ball.

"Let your mind go completely blank."

Easy one that.

"Keep an open mind."

If I kept a more open mind, my brains would blow away.

"What do you see?"

"I can see a lace table throw. It's really detailed looking through this ball."

"Get out. Go. Be gone. I curse your next sandwich to be really bland."