Jack Farley sat on a rock with his small son overlooking the stone circle in the fields below them. “Why do we talk differently from all the others father?” his son asked him.
“Because I taught you to speak as I did so that you can listen to the story I am about to tell you and you will pass it onto to your own children. They then will pass it on to their children and so on, until the tale that I tell you reaches the right generation to carry out what needs to be done, so I can get back to my own time,” Jack said.
“Can you tell me the story?” asked his son, dressed in animal skins.
“Yes, it is time, listen very carefully as you need to pass this story on, I will tell it as it happened, or as it will happen, hopefully.”
“My name is Jack Farley, I am a past area sales manager for Tykon, a heavy plant machine producer, done it for a few years now and I love the job, takes me all over the time but sometimes, going back too far can be a pain in the arse, assignments back before our communications network was established can be lonely and without contact back to HQ it can be nerving.
I have no family, it would be impossible to get married and have kids with all this travelling that the job involves. It suits me down to the ground, I’ve always wanted to be a high flyer in business and that means I never would have time for kids.
So, one day I get this very important assignment which means I will be going back a long way. So I was up early to beat the traffic, I get dressed; take off in my pod, stopping at Tarbucks for a quick coffee and to call the office to tell them I was on my way.
Running late I got caught in the bottle neck at tunnel 6, rush hour again. The radio tells me there has been an accident between junctions 2030 and 2020 and the traffic is nose to tail for over 7 years. Why people all have to leave for their journey at the same sort of time is beyond me really, it’s not like we are travelling distance rather we are travelling through time so it really doesn’t matter what time you leave, you get to your destination at the same time anyway. I guess it’s just human nature; we can’t change the habits of a lifetime. When, years ago, people travelled distance they all wanted to get there early, I can understand that but the habit of getting up, having breakfast and then getting into their vehicles has never faded. I could have waited until after the rush hour but I needed to push on, an important business deal was about to be signed; a job that would structure the company for life, I couldn’t wait around as I was in anticipation of the result.
Since Dr Emmett Brown’s company, DEB’s commercial release of the flux capacitor the market has been flooded with prospective time travelling tourists and the time tunnels that used to be empty save for scientists and businessmen like myself have now been filled with millions of delivery vans, youngsters out on a beano to more liberal time zones like the 1960s and 1990s or old age pensioners holidaying in past paradises. Needless to say the congestion is becoming a problem and as other tunnels are constructed it only leads to more people being able to afford cheap time travel packages.
So I sigh as the traffic comes to a grinding halt just past the 2030 turn off and take a sip of my coffee, this is going to be one hell of a long journey. People always flock here to see the last flickers of the ozone layer disappearing and the solar rays bursting through. It’s quite sick really watching all those innocent people fry but it is a historic event and gives people faith in the new artificial atmosphere.
A pod with floral purple cushions and a box of disposable handkerchiefs on the passenger shelf pulls off into the hard shoulder. The grey tops inside pile out and sit on the bank sharing out cucumber sandwiches and French Fancies. A delivery driver beeps his horn in frustration; he cannot get past; why, if he is on performance related pay like most of them are he doesn’t simply pull off the tunnel an hour or so sooner in order to get there earlier hasn’t registered in his feeble excuse for a brain. He beeps again, waving a mid-finger at the aging folks on the hard shoulder.
The traffic moves forward a couple of months and then grinds to a stop again, I hit the steering wheel, why did I not just wait until this traffic had cleared I think to myself. That is when I spot a lone young man with crusty dreadlocks and a big backpack standing on the 2027 slip road holding his thumb out for a lift. Usually I avoid hitchhikers like the plague, bunch of freeloading skivers with nothing better to be doing than hassling people for lifts to festivals, this guy is probably looking for a lift back to 1969, they all want to witness Woodstock; get a haircut and get a fucking job I say to myself as he stands there hopeful for a lift.
Then I think about the long journey ahead, it wouldn’t be so bad if I pick him up so that I can have some company even if it’s just for a few decades, I might be able to convert him to become a businessman like myself. So I stop and pick him up. “Hi,” he says through his dirty bearded mouth, “thanks mate!” I’m not his “mate” but I smile anyway and allow him to throw his muddy backpack on my clean backseat and jump into the passenger seat.
“Where are you heading to mate?” I ask him in his own broken language, regretting my decision and hoping it wasn’t too late, hopefully he wanted dropping off at the illegal warehouse parties of the 1990s.
“1914,” he tells me, what on earth does he want to do back then I think but I nod and he sits back, “busy on the tunnel today isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it always is,” I reply.
“All these time tourists, sad really,” he says. Now I am sorry, he may not be the stereotype holiday maker but he is, more or less a tourist himself, he doesn’t time travel for business, he’s just bumming about getting his kicks. “So, when are you off to?” he asks, typically making small talk and without any real interest.
“2600 BC,” I tell him.
“Wow!” he screams, “what are you doing that far back?”
“Well, I work for a machine company, selling heavy building equipment. I want to get the pagans to buy a heavy-duty crane in order to lift the stones in the construction of Stonehenge,” I tell him, taking another sip of my coffee.
He grins, “That is like, crazy man!”
I smile back, “well, they need it and the purchase of the crane will secure the company name for hundreds of years to come. Sure it will not bring much money into the firm but it’s a crucial marketing strategy against our nearest competitors.”
He nods, “crazy, man.”
Not really interested why he wants to stop at 1914 I thought it best to ask him why anyway, “why 1914, not many festivals happen back then?”
“Oh no, I’m not off to a festival,” he grins, “I’m a freedom fighter on a peace making mission.”
“Oh right, how does that work then?”
“Yeah man, when I get there I got to get straight to Sarajevo and find a man called Gavrilo Princip, he was a Bosnian Serb and a member of a secret military society known as the Black Hand. He assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand which led to the Great War of 1914 and in turn led to the uprising of the Nazi Party in Germany which started the Second World War.”
“Oh right,” I said, surprised by his answer, “why?”
“I’m going to kill him before he carries out the attack thus putting an end to both world wars. Billions of people will be saved,” he proudly announced.
I was shocked, it was just this sort of messing around with the time continuum that led to so much confusion and alteration in our own time, costing taxpayers billions in funding the agency that had to put it right again. This sort of thing was, and for good reason, highly illegal and so I pointed this out him. He seemed sad, “I have to do something, I cannot let all those people die,” he wailed.
“That is not the point I told him, upsetting the timeline in such a degree would have serious repercussions. Who knows what might happen, I mean the failure to advance in technology in the way that the world wars allowed humankind could mean that time travel never gets invented and the tunnels will close around us, trapping us in our destination time,” I told him, adding “you fucking idiot,” for good measure.
“Oh right and introducing the pagans to crane technology is not corrupting the timeline then?” he asked.
“No, not in same way, it has already happened,” I told him sternly, “I cannot let you do this.” I was right I had to stop him, our way of life depended on it.
“You know the album Peace in our Time, the 1987 hit album from John Lennon? Well that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t kill Mark David Chapman, Lennon’s assassin in 1980 would it? That album changed the way people thought about war and peace, never did any harm to kill him did it?” he questioned.
“That is not in the same ball park,” I informed him, “you can’t compare it. You can’t change history like this, it’s the golden rule of time travel not to tamper with the past, look at the Marty McFly, with his brother fading from the photo, remember that? Yoko Ono might think you’re a hero but the time cops will have you strung up for this one. I cannot let you do this.”
Just then, as I was thinking about how I could stop him, we were passing the junction for 1920 he went to open the door, the time winds howled outside as I was just picking up speed after the traffic jam. I tried to press the central locking system control but it was too late, “I have to do this,” he claimed and leapt from my moving vehicle. In my mirror I saw him roll over to the embankment and lie lifeless on the floor. Hopefully he was dead, I thought, unless if he was to get another lift he would probably not mention his mission and it was only a six year trip to his exit.
“Fucking space cadet!” I yelled, “That hippy-time-meddling mother fucker!” I yelled even louder. After some time though the whole event was forgotten about, he was obviously dead and I could get on with my assignment without concern.
Hundreds of pagan workers walking to and fro across the downs, slowly pushing great rocks on pulley-systems made from small wheels, puffing and panting as they went were the scenes my eyes were blessed with as soon as I exited the tunnel. “Great!” I told myself, my rival company had clearly not got here yet, they were sure to be interested in the plans I carried in a long tube under my arms. I locked the pod, securing the invisibility shield and went on my way to find the top dog in charge of this construction.
I had changed my clothes to blend in with the locals back at the BC service station; it was the last taste of a McDougall’s burger and fries I would be getting for some time, I just didn’t know for how long. Before the moon was out I had made contact with the head foreman of the site, a druid called Hawkwind, he seemed very interested so he took me to his home where his wife feed me venison and gave me some mead to drink. In the morning we began working on construction of the crane according to the blueprints and he agreed to pay me a vast amount of gold for my idea. I tried to clench the deal with a gentleman’s handshake but he favoured sacrificing a lamb, claiming I was a gift from the sun itself. I was chuffed, whatever he felt like thinking was fine with me, the gold would be worth a small fortune in my time and I would have secured the company name in prehistory. My job here was done; I thanked the tribe and walked back to the time tunnel, I was so pleased to finally be away from these stinking, uneducated Neanderthals.
Reaching the hillside where I left my pod I put my hand under my robe where I secured my invisibility shield control key and found it was gone. “Shit, where is it?” I asked myself and scanned the ground around me. I took a walk back across my tracks and could see it nowhere. Frustrated and annoyed I climbed the hill again, there was an operating panel on the underside of the pod I could use to manually switch the security system offline.
Careful not to bump into the pod I put my hands out in front on me. Some passers-by looked at me oddly, walking like a zombie around the hill, not that they knew what a zombie was. I covered the whole hill and could not find the pod or the tunnel entrance which by now should have homed in on my location automatically by mind control. The tunnel operating system was a telepathic computer that could sense your request to open a tunnel and automatically did so. I tried to focus my mind, it normally did not take any real concentration but I found however much I tried it simply just didn’t work.
The tunnel not working I could have put down to a glitch in the system and figured it would be operational again in seconds. However with this and the missing pod I knew something was not right. I sat on the hillside and considered how this could have happened. That is when I remembered, him, “that fucking hippy!”
To say I was in desperation was an understatement son; I spent the next few weeks wandering around in hope of finding someone else from my time that was stranded too. I found no one. I was chased away from every tribe. We live in changing times son, the agricultural revolution is underway, they were busy turning from hunter-gatherers into farming communities and these villages simply didn’t want anyone like me that was incapable of looking after my own. Heck, I couldn’t even make fire, I tried really I did but a boy from 2098 had no chance, we just didn’t need to know how to do it. I lived off the berries and fruit I found; I couldn’t hunt or fish even if I could make fire to cook it with.
I had forgotten how much time had elapsed, it seemed like months and I was full of beard and too skinny and undernourished to continue walking. I found some cliffs and decided to end it there and then. I had come to terms with the fact that history had been altered, although I was unsure if stopping the assassination of Franz Ferdinand had been the root cause of it I figured it most probably was, hell a future without “Take me Out,” “Walk Away,” and “This Fire” was bad enough but the results of that hippies actions was far worse than the sudden disappearance of a rock band, it had slowed the development of technology to the point where time travel in my era was impossible. So I took a deep breath and threw myself onto the cliffs below, perhaps if they wiped out Oasis too it wouldn’t have been so bad.
I awoke in a mud hut surrounded by smelly hairy men looking at me. They smiled when they saw me and got me to drink some muddy water, it was rank. Slowly I was nursed better by a toothless lady; she was covered with hair and stank of foul crap. She was disgusting but was far from old; she could only have been 20 years old at a push. When I looked past her hair and toothless smile I had to admit that she was quite pretty. This is when I developed my plan.
It was all so easy, all I had to do, and no matter how much I cringed at the thought, is mate with this girl. Then I could produce offspring with which to tell this story to. The story would be passed through the generations until it got to the year 1914, then the man of my future family line would be able to kill the hippy that killed the assassin that should have killed Franz Ferdinand before he got a chance to kill the assassin, allowing the assassin to kill Franz Ferdinand and therefore begin the wars which would lead to the technology being devolved to invent time travel and thus reopen the time tunnel where someone could come and rescue me, simple really.
So I smiled my best fake smile at the girl, confused she looked onto me and giggled, it was the beginning of a relationship of which I thought I would hate at first. The family took me under their wings; they supported me until I was well enough to start work in the fields. So I learned to make fire, I learned how to sow the crops and herd the livestock. I was even able to come up with the simplest of ideas to help them with their farming. I had become a valid member of the team, my muscles grew more than ever before, my hands became rough, and my teeth began to rot like theirs. I took much pleasure from understanding the world as they saw it, a life without Christianity or any other formal religion; they believed in the things they could see and touch like the fertility of the land, the powers of the moon and the sun. They feared that their new life of farming would go against their beliefs. That is when I began to understand the reasons for building the Stonehenge; it was symbolic that on the great winter solstice the sun and the moon would meet in the square formed by the stone circle. The moon and the sun, their gods, would be united and still bear as much importance in their new lives as farmers as it ever did when they were hunter gatherers.
Life here was so simple; I actually began to enjoy it. The girl, Aife, her name meaning beauty had become my beauty; I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight but I managed to overcome my 21st century perceptions of what a young lady should look like and look past her prehistoric features. We spent many hours staring up at the stars, I tried to tell her that they were other suns but she did not believe me. We spent hours just sitting by the river, swimming and fishing, knowing that in my time they would all be polluted. We spoke but our conversations took a long time, she often did not understand me.
Even though we did not work well together, well we were from completely different time zones, completely different cultures, we made love. She liked the way I was with her; understanding of her needs sexually was something the other male villagers just didn’t care to do. Before long, despite my horror of what I had done by the fact this could never work between us and I did it out of need to return to my own time rather than through love, she fell pregnant.
My life here changed when you were born son and I treated you both like my family, trying to hold back my desires to return to the 21st century I got on with raising my pagan family. I watched you grow in hope that one day you would be old enough and wise enough to take heed of this story, to understand what you must do. You must carry this tale with you, you must tell it to your offspring and I hope that the family chain will not be broken.
So now we are here, at the hill where my pagan life started. If you succeed in conveying the story and so do your spouses through the passage of time the timeline will be fixed and the tunnel will open up before us, then I must go.”
Jack and his son watched the hill, silent in contemplation. It was clear that his son wanted to say something important to him and several times he said, “Father…..”
“Yes?” asked Jack.
“…..I….ermmm….I promise to pass this story to my own children,” he said with a tear in his eye as they both watched the wind whip up into a twirl and form a tunnel.
Suddenly from out of the tunnel came a pod, it skidded on the grass and the figure of a man stepped out and looked at the smelly, bearded, pagan dressed Jack sitting on the hill, “J…J...Jack?” he asked.
“Roy?” asked Jack in disbelief, it was his old associate from the office, the sales manager for the 1800-1900’s.
“Damn!” exclaimed Roy as he approached Jack, “you smell worse than you look, what the fuck happened to you; the boss sent you away just yesterday, he wants to know if you secured the deal?”
“Yes, I did Roy; it’s great to see you again.”
“What? Have you been on the piss or something?”
“Something,” he replied, “now let’s go, my pod is out of order, you’ll have to give me lift.”
“Yeah, no problems, hop right in.”
Jack looked over his shoulder, his son stood there amazed. Jack walked up to him, “Son, you are a man now; you must look after your mother and explain to her why I had to go.” He kissed him on his greasy hair and got into the pod.
“Who was that?” asked Roy as he pulled into the tunnel.
“Oh, no one important,” said Jack.
“I’ve been out at Giza, the great Pyramid project is moving so much faster with our JCB. This time next year the company will be in a position to give us all a fat bonus.” Roy sped on through the tunnel, out of the BC and into the AD years. When all of a sudden they hit heavy traffic and the lane came to a stop.
Jack thought about his home, his air-con flat under the artificial atmosphere, he thought of his job, the same thing day in day out, the office and all the over-egotistical staff. He thought of everything he left behind so many years ago. Then he grabbed Roy by the scruff of the neck, “Roy!” he shouted, “take me back, take me back now!”
“What? I thought you said you closed the deal?”
“No, I have a few odds and ends to sort out, tell the boss that I’ll be a few more days.”
The pod re-landed back on the hill where the pagan boy and his mother, Aife stood watching in wonderment. Jack got out of the pod and run over to them, “I am back!” he shouted and hugged them, “forget the story son, forget it all and never tell it to another soul as long as you live!”
Roy went off confused as the tunnel evaporated after him.
Jack walked over the hill and watched the people gathering at the Stonehenge, solstice was soon and the cold dark nights were drawing in. Jack huddled close to his family to keep them warm.
WHITE SPACE VAN MAN
NOW OUT IN PAPERBACK!
Out in paperback via Amazon very soon!
Or out in eBook format via, Amazon, B&N, nook UK, iTunes, Kobo, Sony, WHSmith, R&A, and EBM and others.