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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Science fiction stories
- Subject: Science Fiction
- Published: 11/24/2013
A Tear in TimeBorn 1980, M, from Exeter, United Kingdom
“It was a lovely service,” I said to the vicar, with tears in my eyes. The vicar was shaking my hand enthusiastically and telling me that it was a lovely turn-out, and it was great that so many people had come. I was standing outside St Bartholomew's Church. It was half past three and the service had just finished. I stood to one side with the vicar as people filed out to go to the wake, which was conveniently just next door. I do not remember much about what happened next. It seemed to all just be a blur. The one thing I do remember, though, is how many people came up to me and said to me that it was a lovely service, and it was what he would have wanted.
Those words were still ringing in my ears when I got into the car later that day, and began to drive home: “It was what he would have wanted”. Not that I knew what he would have wanted, because when I was a kid, he was always busy in his work. I remember his big oak desk, where he would sit and pour over manuscripts for hours. The sound of the sat nav snapped me back to reality. It was, as usual, saying 'recalculate,' and the voice beside me was saying, “I hope it knows where it it taking us. Surely a map is better than this.”
“Technophobe!” I said, and laughed. My wife Karen worked in publishing. We had met at university, although not at Book Society. I was not into literature as much as she. We had been married for ten years. The sat-nav was complemented by our two young children saying in unison “are we nearly home, daddy?” from the back seat of the car. Finally, we arrived at home. It always seems quicker getting home than going to somewhere.
“You did well today,” Karen said supportively.
“Thank you,” I said. We took the children up to bed, and then settled down for the night ourselves, as it had been a long day.
“You realise tomorrow we are going to have to start clearing out your grandfather's stuff from the attic. Jerry phoned, he's fed up with it.”
Jerry had been the tenant since my grandfather had his stroke. We had then moved him to a home. I remember my childhood fondly, with my grandfather behind his big oak desk, pouring over manuscript. He always read to me until I was able to do so myself. It was with these happy images running through my head that I eventually drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, I came down to breakfast and found the kids installed in front of the TV, watching one of their favourite programs. Karen was making breakfast. She must have felt me come in, as she looked up as I entered.
“Eggs?” she said. “We will need them to fortify ourselves for the task ahead. I've already booked a sitter for the kids.”
After we ate, we went down to the car, and drove the 20 miles to my grandfather's house. It not was my grandfather's now, of course; we had decided to rent it two years ago, as we could not bear to let it go.
As we pulled up in the driveway, Jerry waved cheerfully to us from the top of the lawn. He came down and greeted us both with a hearty handshake, and asked us whether the drive over had been ok, and whether we had found the place alright. I found this funny, considering we'd driven the route numerous times over the years.
I smiled and said, “We were worried it could have moved.”
I followed Jerry and Karen inside, into an ornate entrance hall, which seemed out of character with the rest of the house. Jerry asked us whether we wanted tea, and we sat in the front room chatting amicably. I suddenly looked at my watch and said “best get on with it.”
As I climbed up in the attic I suddenly had a foreboding feeling wash over me, like everything was going to change. I tried to forget about it, busying myself clearing the many unpublished manuscripts my grandfather had amassed over the year. Then, when I could not ignore it any longer, I went over to the chest. It was sitting there in a clearing, just like I'd seen it years before, when I had purchased it. I felt around it and found the iron key, and fitted it into the lock. It turned with a click. I lifted the lid. It was rather reluctant to reveal its contents to me, opening with a creak of protest. I put my hand inside and rifled in amongst the old newspaper clippings I had put there to conceal the chest's true contents. When I moved the newspapers aside, I found what I was looking for. I hurriedly grabbed three pages and stuffed them inside my green Barbour jacket, and shouted downstairs, “There is nothing up here. Just some old papers that we can throw out... I'm just about ready to leave,” I said, “I think we are done here.”
A few days later, when Karen was out at work, I went to my Barbour jacket to look for the documents I had taken from the house. To my dismay, however, I found them missing. I was frantic; I searched the house from top to bottom, even checking the bins. After a good three hours of searching I sat exhausted on the settee until I heard Karen come home from work, a little after six. She came in, and I asked her what had become of the papers that were in my jacket pocket. She mentioned that she had found them when she was tidying up, and taken them into work and was having them authenticated, having first read the contents and shown them to her boss, and said that she did not think I would have minded as she thought the reason I had taken them was to study them closer. The feeling of uneasiness was growing – if they decided they were authentic, this would surely not be kept quiet, and the papers would get involved. What was I going to do? Now I could not just lock the papers up again and pretend I had never found them. So I smiled at Karen, and said “No, that is fine, darling. I was going to show them to you anyway. They are really interesting. I thought you would have been really interested. My grandfather had quite the imagination.”
She said, “Everyone at the office thinks they are real, this is really exciting! And the content is amazing. It talks about The Killers, and The Harvester, but they are dated from hundreds of years ago! So how can this be? You know what this means? It means that I can finally get out of children's publishing, and be famous.”
“Young persons' publishing,” I reminded her.
“Yes, whatever, listen. I could publish these and finally get out of children's publishing. If I see one more book about a camel -”
“- Camels are a very popular animal,” I said “and anyway, I don't think you should publish them, because I know that the people you are publishing for now think they are real, but imagine if years down the line they get uncovered as a hoax. You will lose your job, and then where will we be?”
“I can always get another one,” she said optimistically.
The rest of the evening was spent talking about mundane topics, however I could not hear Karen's responses too well, as I was desperately trying to come up with a more permanent solution, that would not alert Karen to my past. I had been such a fool thinking I could do this and there would be no consequences. My biggest fears were realised when, on Sunday morning, there was a knock at the door.
“Yes?” I said. I had just returned from my run in the park. “Edward Thompson, the Gazette and Echo. I would like to have a few words with you about some documents that have come to our attention from an anonymous source.”
“No comment,” I said, remembering all those TV shows I used to watch as a kid.
The man, smartly dressed in a tie and trilby hat, smiled at me. “Yes, we have heard that line loads before, sir. Now, can I talk to you about the documents?” Before I could offer another word in objection, the man continued:
“Now, I believe these documents were your grandfather's. Am I right in saying?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Now, we spoke to a tenant at your grandfather's house... a Jerry Smith.” He looked down at his pad briefly, to check he had his name right. “Smith, yes. Smith said that last Sunday you came over to clear out the attic of his house with your wife,” he peered inside, briefly. “...and found the said documents that you then brought down and your wife showed an interest. But you laughed these off.”
“My name is not going to appear in this article, is it?” I said.
“No, no sir, we will change your name, don't worry.”
“And the location?”
“That can be changed too. Now if you would just answer my questions, I will leave you alone. I am sure you have got better things to do on a Sunday.”
And so I reluctantly agreed to answer his questions, all the while being comforted by the fact that this was a local newspaper, and if I play it down enough, it probably won't make the front page. So, I did my best act for the papers. After it was over, I went in and had breakfast. When Karen asked who it was, I played it down, too.
“Oh, just some guy. He had the wrong address, I think.”
“And why were you so long at the door?”
“I was giving him directions.”
A few days later, the article appeared in the paper. True to his word, the journalist had changed the name and location but, to my dismay, the story ran on the front page.
Austen and Pepys' diary extracts uncovered
Far from the numerous publications that have been published under the title The Jane Austen Diaries, a document has been uncovered that seems to suggest that the author herself kept a dairy. In reality, the two pages discovered revealed that she was not just ahead of time in her books but also in her personal writings as well.
The contents of the document, which is dated 1795, when Miss Austen was 20, relates her trip to Mr Henry Miggins' Cornershoppe with her father, where she hears an early incarnation of the band 'The Killers,' and tells of her excitement at owning the harpsichord music.
Also found was a hitherto undiscovered entry by the noted diarist Samuel Pepys, in which he relates his delight at being taken to a Harvester restaurant by a good friend of his.
The documents have been scrutinised, and authenticated by excited experts. The diaries have both been digitised and will be auctioned at Sotheby's early next year. They have created quite a buzz among historians and literature enthusiasts alike, and all are hoping that more such diary entries will be uncovered.
The two documents were found in a chest in the loft in South West England, by Christopher Long, who admits he was shocked by his find: “I was cleaning out the loft and my grandfather's chest was just sitting there. I knew he was in the publishing business,” he explains, and continues that he almost threw out the Austen diary entry after seeing the state of it: “It was torn in half, you see, but when I noticed the date I knew it must be something important.”
Here follows a hitherto lost extract from the diary of Jane Austen, discovered by Christopher Long:
Today I was taking my morning constitution with Papa, when he told me that he had some business to attend to at Mr Henry Miggins' Cornershoppe. After a brief conversation with Mrs Miggins, during which we exchanged pleasantries about the weather, Papa and I alighted upon the establishment.
Once inside, Papa was discussing some business with Mr Miggins and I strolled around the shop, looking at the various curiosities and trinkets, which they had for sale. It was during this aimless wandering that my ears suddenly happened upon strange music. When Papa had concluded his business, I was so bold as to approach the counter and say to Mr Miggins “Pray tell, what is this strange music?” as I was not familiar with the tune. The only things I had heard around the house were the familiar strains of Beethoven and Mozart, and a bit of Vivaldi when Mama was hosting one of her most excellent dinner parties, and trying to marry me off to a steady wave of young suitors.
Mr Miggins replied that it was “The Killers,” the latest thing from Paris! He then went on to explain at length how he had been in Paris for the summer season and had been taken by his cousin to an establishment called H.M.V, in which they sold all manner of harpsichord music. Dear reader, I was impressed, but was a little taken aback at the name “The Killers”. I mentioned this to Papa, saying that it was a quite inappropriate name for a group of young gentlemen, and now they would never get a wife. This was reinforced by them repeating, “somebody told me that you had a girlfriend” - however, they did not say whom, which was quite scandalous. I was quite repelled at first, however, I have to admit that as I wandered among the trinkets I became quite enchanted.
I told Papa how I was quite partial and I must buy the score forthwith, for I should die if I did not possess it! We parted with our money (a whole three shillings and tuppence). After we purchased the sheet music, Mr Miggins mentioned that his son Alfred has many other such compositions of different young men. To my shame, I felt quite faint and had to leave the establishment forthwith, for I had thought Alfred to be an utter bore. However, with this new revelation, my mind was quite changed! I could not wait to take the music home and play it to Mama, and see if the string quartet could learn it for the next dinner party.
Jane Austen, Year of our Lord 1795
Here follows a hitherto lost extract from the diary of Samuel Pepys, discovered by Christopher Long:
This evening I met up with my very good friend, Mr. Stuart. We had not seen one another for some days, so we conversed amicably as we strolled along London's Pudding Lane. Mr Stuart then suggested we should partake of a bit of supper, and he knew of a new establishment that had just opened. Deciding to forgo Thomas Farriner's Bakery, we walked to our destination and conversed excitedly about the prospect of a hearty meal that we were both expecting.
Eventually, a little after quarter past eight, we came across the establishment in question. The name, noted here for posterity, was Harvester. My keen eye noted that it was quite busy, which is always a good sign when it comes to eateries. We were greeted at the door by a rotund man who asked in a high pitched voice, quite at odds with his physical appearance, whether we had ever been to a Harvester before. I found the question quite perplexing, as I had not known there were any more of these. He continued by offering to point out the “salad bar” to us, which I admit was most helpful.
After this, he departed and we took our seats and had the most excellent meal of steak, washed down with an unlimited tankard of ale, as the man had informed us that all refills would be freely provided. We became quite merry and at midnight parted ways. I hailed a coach, and instructed the driver to take me back to my lodgings, whereupon I went to bed and slept soundly.
Samuel Pepys, 1660.
I stared at the paper, not believing what I was seeing. I thought it would be on Page 9... and who said anything about Sotheby's? And who are these literary experts?
“Karen?” I looked at her accusingly. “Who are these experts?”
“What?” She looked at me. “Show me. That man wasn't asking for directions, was he?”
“No,” I said, “he was a reporter.”
“Why didn't you tell me?” she said, “This could have been my big interview!”
“I was trying to protect you. You know how the media are. Anyway, who mentioned Sotheby's?”
She looked up, smiling, “Oh, I took them to Marcus to be authenticated, and we may have joked about Sotheby's, and the money we could get...”
My heart began to pound in my ears. Karen was still talking, I could see her lips moving, but could not hear any sound. I had to act now, or the game would be up, but what to do? I would have to re-acquire them somehow, but even this was shaky because it could link back to me. In all my travels, I had thought the here and now was safe for me, but evidently I was wrong.
Once we had gone to bed, after checking that Karen was asleep, I slipped from my bed and made my way downstairs, knowing the key card that would let me into her publishing offices would be in her purse. I also thought of how proud my grandfather would be of me now, because for once, I was not stealing something for personal gain. Once I retrieved the key card, I closed the door as quietly as I could, though in the stillness of the night, it still made a loud noise, which seemed to echo round the house. I went to the car and drove to Karen's office. I used the key card to get inside, and then jumped the turnstile and headed up the stairs to the fifth floor, and began my search for the manuscripts. I did not have to search for long, as they had been left lying on Karen's boss's desk, with a note to the secretary to file them away. As soon as I had grabbed them however, I heard sirens outside. I looked around hastily for my exit, and decided I would use the underground car park, which would be empty this time of night, as I had parked in front of the building. I saw the exit too late, as I heard a policeman yell “STOP,” and “PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD!”
Later that night, when I was led to the interrogation room, I decided that believe me or not, I would outline the entire tale. When they asked me whether I had seen the documents before, I explained I had first come across them a long time ago. I began to outline my life up to this point; I had been an ordinary child, having grown up visiting my grandfather's house many times. It was on one such visit, that I noticed that my grandfather was not at his desk. When I searched for him I found him changing into old fashioned clothes, and stepping into a brilliant bright blue light, which seemed to be emanating from a crack in the wall. As an unafraid child, I followed him through the crack, and found myself in a place I did not know. However, I found my grandfather in hushed conference with a lady about twenty two. My grandfather finished his conversation with the young woman, turned round, and saw me standing on the street. He was taken aback but then began to smile and tells me that him and me share a bond much greater than flesh and blood. That we can travel through time. He rushes me through another crack in the wall and suddenly we are back at his house. He sits me down on his lap, and starts to relate to me how time travel works, how he came to discover his gift, and how I must not tell anyone, least of all my father. There are five basic ideas behind time travel, he told me, and now I was telling the police. They are:
1) Only people who can time travel can see the cracks in time through which to travel as blue glowing cracks. Everyone else just sees cracks.
2) Time travellers can make the cracks appear wherever they want.
3) Whatever technology you take into the past, it transforms into that time's equivalent.
4) Take back a picture and whatever the picture is of, it manifests itself in that time.
5) For anything you bring from the past to the future, works the opposite way to taking stuff back to the past.
I agreed to not tell anyone, and start practising by myself. It is not until my teens that I come up with the idea of getting famous historical figures to write diary entries about future events, so I start by taking an iPod loaded with The Killers albums. I go back to the same time and place I went on my first time travelling experience and walk into the first shop I see – Mr Miggins' Cornershoppe, and start chatting to the young man behind the counter, whose name I soon find out is Alfred, and then introduced Alfred to the music I have. As pertains to the ideas behind time travel, the music on my iPod is no longer music on my iPod but as harpsichord sheet music. A few days later, Jane Austen enters said establishment and gets very excited about the music which she hears. I am watching all this in a concealed corner, and I then follow her back to her lodgings, where she writes a diary entry. As soon as she has turned in for the night, and her pages are left on her writing desk, I sneak from the shadows, take the pages, and return to my own time.
A few days after this, I pull a similar trick to do with Harvester restaurants on Samuel Pepys. However, upon my return my grandfather confronts me and gets me to confess my intentions with said diaries, which he is furious about. So much so, that the following day he makes me accompany him to a shop where we buy a chest. He makes me put the evidence of my crimes into this chest, and then covers them up with old newspaper clippings, and says I will never see them again. Years later, I go to university, where I meet my wife, forgetting all about the chest, until my brother makes me go to my grandfather's funeral and we have to clear out the attic. And the rest you know. To keep my promise to my grandfather, I had to break into the publishing house.
I finish my story, and needless to say, the police did not believe me. I was put in a cell, while I assume they spoke to my family, and I was left there overnight. When I was finally released, I was charged with Breaking and Entering. When I went home that evening, I had to retell the story to my wife. She, naturally, did not believe me, called me a liar and my marriage was never the same after that.
A few days later, when the documents were returned to me, I went to the back garden and burnt the documents that had started this whole torrid affair. In a way, I guess I was honouring my promise to my grandfather. After this, I went back to the house to find Karen sitting alone in the front room. I apologised to her for the trouble I had caused her and the family. This was icily accepted and then knowing that I could never make up for what I had done, I imagined a crack into existence, I stepped through without deciding on a destination. The last thing I saw was my wife's shocked face as I disappeared through the crack. Then the crack resealed itself.