Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Rise and Fall of Doctor Risenfall

I’m just a young lad, been delivering this crazy old man’s newspapers for so long I cannot recall a day when I didn’t. I never see him but despise walking up his cluttered path. There’s a variety of chocolate bar vending machines in states of disrepair, heaven knows what he needs with them all, or even worse, what he uses them for.

Sauntering up that same old path again, leaving his newspaper on a pile of old newspapers, worn and yellowing; he orders them but never picks them up. It was just another day in my tedious life, until in boredom I kicked that mountain of newspaper in frustration to note they were all dated the same day; today.

This disturbed me, every newspaper was identical, today’s edition. It couldn’t be, I thought, the top one I delivered yesterday, and the one underneath on Wednesday. Anxious I bit my lip, raised myself from a crouch in confusion. It didn’t help that I sighted another newspaper delivery boy, sauntering up the path; was he meddling on my patch? No, he was me.

He looked like me in every way; he strolled past in my clothes, ignored me as if I did not exist and plonked today’s paper on today’s paper which I just laid. I shook myself, was I dreaming?

Just then the old man appeared in his ragged, stinking clothes. He held his hands in the air and cried “Eureka!” Then he noticed me, I backed off a step. That smelly old man in his filthy white lab coat smiled, “Welcome to the land where time stands still!” he bellowed.

“Oh,” I replied, “how long has it been like that?”

“Well I don’t bloody know, do I?” he simpered and with that he beckoned with bony finger that I follow him inside. Normally of course I’d refuse, but given my other-self had moved inside too I figured what the heck, I might be missing out on something here.

His house was as equally messy as his garden, broken machines rusted in corners and contraptions of a bygone era whirled and flashed lights at me. He span on one foot to face me, jeepers he looked creepy. “I am Doctor Risenfall,” he explained, tripping over live wires as he stumbled his way through the mess.

I gathered my suspicions and laid my cards on the table, “are you some kind of inventor?”

He returned an apprehensive frown, and then announced, “Behold, my thyme machine!”

Now I understood why I saw myself back there, as unnerving as it was. “You’ve made a time machine, like out of chocolate bar vending machines?” I asked in a flabbergasted manner, “Can I see the future?”

The doctor slipped some seeds in one end of the giant contraption, “No,” he answered bluntly, “I said it’s a thyme machine, you put seeds in this end and…..” The machine wailed and puffed a cloud of dust into the air, the cat hid under a table. “….And fresh thyme comes out this end; no need to cultivate it.”

“Oh right……” I replied as the machine plonked some scraggly strands of herb from its far end.

The Doctor gave an awkward sneer, “It will change the herb industry, if I can get it to work on basil too.”

He looked annoyed at my disappointment. “I’m sorry doctor,” I confessed, “I thought, you know what with the whole meeting another me, and you saying about this being the land where time stands still, that you had invented a machine which could travel in time.”

The doctor twirled and covered his face in frustration, “I once toiled with the idea of building a time machine, but it’s all in the past.”

He threw himself down on a wooden chair by a desk and rubbed his forehead until it reddened. “Oh that’s a shame, be wicked that would, a time machine,” I offered, “but a thyme machine, you know, pretty cool as well.”

“Oh I did invent one of them too,” he waved an arm randomly in the air, “but I never use it.”

I followed the direction of his arm with my eyes and there, covered in dust and cobwebs stood a vending machine converted with wires and beeping gadgets hanging haphazardly from it. I wandered over to it and noted on each arm of the vending machine sat a separate glowing globe. Images from within the globe, as I drew my eyes level to them, depicted an animate display of a bygone era. One was of a Victorian street, another with a castle and lastly, one with dinosaurs roaming around. I was awestruck, “Oh wow, that is so cool; how come you never use it?”

“I was going to be famous,” the doctor groaned, “it could have revolutionised the travel industry, confirmed historical reports and given man a chance to amend past errors, but there was no future in it.”

“Can I borrow it?” I asked, well it was worth a shot.

The doctor gave a suppose-so shrug, “If you bring it back by yesterday.”

This was freaking awesome I reckoned. “How does it work?” I asked.

“Just as a conventional vending machine, put your money in the slot,” informed the doctor, “and make your selection.” 

Without thinking I fumbled for change in my pocket and scanned the spheres of time, wondering which one I’d like to try. I spotted, above all, one which displayed a grand Edwardian hall where dancers pirouetted and chortled; a period of history I always admired. So I made my selection, pressed the corresponding code, B56 into the panel and held my breath.

The spindle began to twirl, my excitement bursting. It pushed the globe and I shrilled with delight. The doctor swung his head from side to side and scanned the contents of the table.

Butterflies developed in my stomach as the globe began to fall towards the collection slot; what will happen, will I find myself back in that era, what will it be like and will I be able to get back? So many questions I hadn’t cared to contemplate before flooded my mind.

“This was my only problem,” sulked Doctor Risenfall, “the idea was ingenious, the design faultless, just the damn……”

I ignored his moping, too excited to listen. The globe dropped but got stuck between a protruding globe and the glass cabinet. “NO!” I cried and attempted to push the machine.

The doctor continued, “…….mechanism.”

I slammed my fists against the glass, I kicked the bottom, I wobbled the machine but the globe wouldn’t budge.

“It will not work,” informed the doctor miserably.

I dug my fingers to the bottom of my pockets but could find no more cash. “This cannot be,” I muttered, “it has to work.”

“Oh it works alright,” sighed the doctor.

“Hold on, you said it didn’t.”

“When?” asked the surprised doctor.

“Just a second ago,” I informed him, crazy old man.

 “Yes, that’s the point, seconds,” he sighed, not looking up from his table.

I didn’t need this foolish madman, I had newspapers to deliver. “I’m coming back tomorrow……”

“No you’re not.”

“… give it another go,” I declared.

“Sorry,” the doctor sighed, “I was once as optimistic as you, which was tomorrow.”

Now I was angered, “I can’t leave it like this,” I told him in no uncertain circumstances, “I have to try, have to see if it’s possible.”

“Oh it’s possible alright, but it just gets stuck, none of the time,” said the doctor, still unmoved, “you can try again, but it won’t be tomorrow.” Slowly he stood up, sauntered over to me and faced the machine. He pointed into its left hand bottom corner and I again followed the direction of his bony finger. There was a globe already stuck close to the bucket slot.

I crouched and stared into the sphere. I saw a young boy delivering a newspaper to a dilapidated house. I gasped; it was me. 

“Welcome to the land where time stands still!” he bellowed. 

1 comment: