“Pass me that spanner would you please?” Asked Vi’s disembodied voice from under the battered Mini. “And you may want to stand back a bit.”
I did as she asked, then moved back a few feet.
I stepped back a few feet more.
“ Little further!!”
Finally she pulled herself out from under the car.
“What are you doing all the way over there?”
“You told be to step back, then said ‘further’. Twice”
“Oh, sorry, the ‘further’ was me talking to myself about how far to tighten the nuts. She’s fixed now.
“How did she get into this state?”
“A little run in with an anti-war protest. I was there to see Jimi Hendrix, nearly got myself stuck there. Could have been nasty.”
“And there’s no time for me to fix her up properly?”
“No, I’ve got a job on that’s pretty urgent.”
“So you’re an actual witness? That must be exciting. We don’t get many of you guys down here.”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“What do you do?”
“Well, you know the old philosophical question, ‘if a tree falls in the woods and no-one’s there to hear it, does it make a noise?’”
“I’m there to hear it. For centuries archaeologists and historians argued about what actually happened in history, and in some cases whether anything happened. My job is to go and find out.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“Not if I stay on script and don’t get caught up the action.”
“So where are you off to now?”
“A minor war in Europe 5th Century by the modern calendar. I’m commissioned to witness the death of a minor noble who otherwise may have unified most of the Germanic world.”
“And you just turn up and seen him die?”
“Pretty much, a quick in and out.”
“Ok, I’ll just test run her for you and then you’ll be off.”
“I’m in a hurry. How long does the test run take?”
“Half an hour real time, maybe a bit longer.”
“Look, tell the truth, I stayed in 1970 a bit longer that I should have done. I went early to see Hendrix play before he died and kinda got sidetracked. Can I take her without a test?”
“No. But I can come to 5th Century Europe?”
“It’s strictly against the rules you know.”
“So’s taking an untested machine. First she goes back and forth on auto, then I take a ride, then you get her back. But, I’ve always wanted to see history. Real history. We’re only allowed to test drive these things to certain times, and even then we’re not allowed to stop. So there’s a deal there if you want it?”
“Ok, hop in.”
I fiddled with the controls and set the trip computer for the correct time and place.
“Buckle up, we’ll be there before you know it!”
The first sign of a problem was when the year counter started to accelerate. The second sign was the noise. By the time the stars started accelerating past us towards a spot light years into the distance I knew that we were beyond control.
Vi looked across and shouted “Even I know this is not normal – what’s happening?”
“As far as I can tell the trip computer’s failed and we’re accelerating into the past.”
“At least it’s not something I fixed then!” Vi screamed. “What’s that?” She pointed ahead at the ever growing point of light.
“We’re heading into the ‘big bang’. Backwards!”
“Well, my philosophy on life was that I wanted to go out with a bang!” Vi laughed manically.
We both blacked out.
“Where are we?” Vi asked after we had both come round.
“I think the question is, ‘when are we?’”
“Is anything working on the time machine?”
“All the dials read ‘0’. But then, if we’re before the big bang, they would. The life support must still be working, otherwise I think we’re nowhere and nowhen.”
There was an explosion. The battered Mini flew at an enormous rate out from the pinpoint of light.
“How far into the future do we need to go for you to be able to fix this?” I asked Vi.
“A few tens of millions of years…”
“Oh well, by the time we get there you’ll have witnessed a lot of history. Might as well sit back and enjoy the ride!”
Author’s note. This is not a ‘fan fiction’ but there is more than a touch of ‘Dr Who’ and more than a touch of Connie Willis’ ‘Blackout’ in the inspiration for this story. I am indebted to both.
(c) Chris Johnson 2015