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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Matter Of Time.

“Wait. So… what? You’re going to steal a time machine?” Lily asked, shaking her head as if trying to dislodge the cobwebs of Felix’ twisted logic from the nooks and crannies of her mind.
Indent“No no,” Felix said. “Geez, Lil. You’re being so linear!”
Indent“Explain it to me again, then.”

The sky looked mildly depressed –the colour of freshly laid tarmac, an ominous shade of grey– and was gently pelting the earth with lazy, heavy snowflakes, dusting the city in a downy layer of white. The coffee house, crowded but not unpleasantly so, smelled of overpriced coffee beans and fresh, crisp winter and radiated the kind of manufactured cosiness that seemed to be de rigeur these days. Lily and Felix had managed to secure two large, comfortable chairs with between them a table so tiny it only barely offered enough space for the absurdly large, steaming mug that stood precariously atop it. Lily held hers in both hands, the steam pleasantly wafting into her face. She closed her eyes and inhaled the cinnamon-y smell of her beverage-with-a-ludicrously-unpronounceable-name; machi-something. London was happening on the other side of the large window behind her back.
Indent“The thing is,” Felix said, bringing Lily back to reality, “it’s only a matter of time before time travel will be possible. With advances in technology increasing exponentially I’m convinced we’re almost there. We’re ready for it, you know, as a species. And just think, as soon as someone takes up time travel, the linear nature of his life, his existence, becomes void.” Felix started gesticulating in his obvious enthusiasm. “The trajectory of his life through time will be untethered, zooming forward, folding back in on itself; it will be anything but, you know...”
Indent“Yes! A time traveller’s life bends and twists all over the place like... like a deflating balloon flying through the room.”
Indent“Your metaphors stink.”
Indent“I know. But it’d be great, right?”
Indent“I think so, yeah,” Lily said, taking an infinitesimal sip of her coffee, breaking eye contact and looking away. A snow-covered double-decker bus thundered past outside the window in a blur of red and white, strawberries and cream. “You know,” Lily then said, her eyes mischievous and large above her mug, staring into the middle distance, “you could argue that we’re all time travellers already, travelling forward through time one minute per minute, every minute of every day.”
Indent“Exactly!” Felix exclaimed, slapping the tiny table, almost knocking his coffee to the floor. “You got it! The trick to becoming a bonafide time traveller, though, is to be able to control the speed of that forward motion and even reverse it. When you’ve managed that, well, the sky is the limit.” As he said this his gaze rose to the ceiling and he made a sweeping gesture with his hand. Lily giggled discretely into her mug. His sense of drama was charming.
Indent“Okay, okay,” Lily said. “So you think this’ll happen in your lifetime? You think you’ll be a time traveller, one day? Is that it?”
Indent“Spot on. I’m convinced that it’ll be sooner rather than later that it will be possible and I’ll be the first in line!”
IndentLilly giggled and looked at her watch. “That seems as good a moment as any to nip into the bathroom for a second. Hold that thought, though, I want to know more,” she said as she got up and placed her over-sized mug delicately on her chair. Felix watched her snake her way to the bathroom.

He couldn’t believe his luck. One moment he was scouting the place that rents out safety deposit boxes to tourists at Waterloo station, and the next this girl seemed to appear out of nowhere and almost literally stumbled into his arms. He wasn’t exactly sure what happened in the following moments –a frenzy of apologies and smiles and charm from her and a collection of vowels and awkwardness from him– but before he knew it they were strolling out of Waterloo station and he was telling her about the fabric of space and time and she actually appeared to be interested.
IndentHe’d been endeared when she was as happy as a child when they exited the station and stepped into the snow; she actually shrieked and started skipping around, catching flakes in mid-air, tracing out figures in the snow on the ground and on cars; so happy, in fact, that he was swept along in her giddiness, even though he generally hates the snow.
IndentWhen they approached the coffee house she insisted they go in there and order the largest cup of coffee they had and even though Felix was appropriately trend-savvy to feel a aversion towards the consumerist nature of these kinds of places he felt compelled to give in to her wishes; when a pretty girl asks you to have a cup of coffee with her, other urges come into play that instantly override any impulse to be trendily contrary. They went in and here they were.

“I consider myself an enterprising individual,” Felix continued before Lily was even sitting down properly. “A risk-taker. A forward-thinker. So really, I want to treat this time-travel malarkey as a business opportunity. There has to be money in there somewhere. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Indent“I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes to that,” Lily replied, not wanting to interrupt Felix’ flow with unnecessary debate. The warmth of the mug in her hands held close to her face and the intoxicatingly unfamiliar smell of the beverage was making her pleasantly woozy.
Indent“I mean,” Felix said, unfazed by Lily’s complacency, “the fact that we’re talking about it now, and that I’ve been thinking about it all this time already proves that I’ve taken my first steps towards exploiting these developments. But here’s the kicker, you see? I’ve come up with a plan. I’ve decided that time travelling is not something I’m going to exploit, or even do, it’s something I’m going to invent.”
IndentThis got Lily’s attention. She lowered her mug into her lap and cocked her head to the side like an inquisitive puppy. “How do you reckon that? What are you, a scientist, one of those quantum mechanics?”
Indent“No no, none of the sort!” Felix snorted. “I drive a FedEx van, for cryin’ out loud. No, I’m going to steal it. I’m going to steal the designs of a time machine.”
Indent“You... wait?” Lily paused, looked away, blinked twice. She bit her lip in a way that made Felix’ heart melt a little. She looked back at him. “How does stealing the designs of a time machine make you the inventor? That just doesn’t follow. I could steal, I don’t know--” she waved her hands around, struggling (and failing) to come up with something appropriately contemporary “--the designs of the T-Model Ford but that would not make me the inventor, would it? The thing exists, it’s here, it’s probably patented like you wouldn’t believe.”
IndentFelix just grinned nefariously. “Yeah. But a T-Model Ford can’t travel back in time.” He paused for effect. Lilly narrowed her eyes and looked at him, the implications of his intentions falling into place in her mind’s eye. “You chew on that for a while,” Felix said. “I have a gallon of coffee in my bladder right now, gotta go, hold my seat, will you?” An instant later he was pushing himself past the other patrons, rushing towards the bathroom.

Lily took a deep breath and glanced at her watch, a cumbersome thing, large and heavy on her wrist. It was hard work, pretending to be unfamiliar of a story she’d heard dozens of times during her training. Felix had taken his time coming to the brunt of the matter, but she had him close, she felt it. He had basically already told her all she needed to know but she needed him to clearly articulate it for intent and motive to be established.
IndentShe loved his unpredictable mind; she had to admit that this first-person account was much more engrossing than her textbooks back at the academy, mainly because Felix had turned out to be exactly as eccentric and singular as her instructors had told her he’d be, and then some. Regardless, she was here to do a job and she planned on doing it right.
IndentShe was enjoying this time frame, too. She’d read about coffee and coffee houses, she’d seen pictures in books, and now here she was, sitting in one and actually drinking the stuff. And snow! She’d actually walked in snow, touched the stuff wth her bare skin! A story she would be telling at every birthday party for the rest of her life. It was those kinds of perks that got her to sign up at the academy in the first place.
IndentShe felt like she had all the time in the world in this pleasant bubble of reality they were inhabiting, but fact of the matter was she’d have to leave soon. She sipped her coffee again in an attempt to ignore the irony of her situation and marvelled at the taste.

“I’ve been mulling it over,” Lily said after Felix had returned. She tapped her watch; it bleeped quietly. “Break it down for me, how do you intend to do this?”
IndentFelix grinned. “Sure. Sometime soon time travel will be invented, I’m sure of it. We’re ready for it. We’re on the brink. And at some point in my life, whether it’s when I am 40 years old or 80, the underlying technology that makes time travel possible will become public knowledge, just like everyone now can find out how a car works. At that point I’ll travel back in time and give myself the designs, and hey presto, I’ll be the genius who introduces the world to time travel. Bob’s your uncle.”
Indent“Bob’s your... never mind,” Lily said, recognising the 20th century idiom. She took a deep breath, tapped her phone again and got up from her chair. She stood in front of Felix, still seated; she loomed over him, straightened her jacket and looked intently at her watch.
Indent“Whuh? Is it time to--” Felix said but Lily cut him off.
Indent“Felix Edward Hinman,” Lily said, her voice as stern as her face, “you are under suspicion of unrightfully appropriating the original designs of the flux capacitor and thereby of chrono-fraud of the highest order under statute law 1142α, articles 471-c through g of the year 2112,” Felix shifted uncomfortably in his chair, “and in light of today’s developments you have been found...”
IndentShe looked at her watch, hesitated a beat or two.
Indent“Yes, you have hereby been found guilty of this crime which is punishable by non-existence.” She looked up, into his eyes. Felix looked back, incredulous but unsettled, and saw sadness in her face.
IndentLily blinked, looked away, looked back into his eyes and mouthed ‘I’m sorry.’ Then she tapped her phone twice and vanished into thin air, like a television set being turned off.
IndentFelix gasped, eyes wide, heart pounding. He looked around but no one seemed to have noticed this girl just disappearing. He felt his blood rushing and his skin crawling, like the air in the room was closing in on him, squeezing him like an invisible vice. Then a clap, as loud and unexpected as a thousand people snapping their fingers simultaneously, and Felix too blinked out of existence, erased from the annals of history.


Anonymous eline said...

ever thought about writing a book? Or publishing a piece of your writing?

5:10 pm  
Blogger Martin said...


12:59 am  
Anonymous eline said...

You should. I'd buy it!

1:12 pm  
Blogger Martin said...

Splendid. The check is in the mail. I appreciate your donation.

1:13 pm  
Anonymous Marte said...

For every time I read this, I love it even more. You're a genius, even if you don't know it yourself yet.

12:55 am  
Anonymous eline said...

Am waiting for the check and the copy of your work ;-)

10:19 pm  
Anonymous eline said...

check? check??

10:19 pm  

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