37 Minutes: 28 Years

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Mike shivers in his sweatshirt and jeans, and wishes he’d thought to bring a jacket. He texts his girlfriend Ruth: “I’m going to be late. Something weird happened.”

He gets no response but that comes as no surprise; Ruth maybe beautiful and passionate but these lead to the odd bit of silent and resentful too. He checks his watch.

Wind whips vortices round the bus stop and twitches bare blackthorn twigs on the bushes. The City 4, headed for Cambridge, looms in the far distance.

Mike knows he’ll help a young mother with her buggy, that the driver will grumble about change, a woman will be crying in the front seat.

Because it all happened 37 minutes ago.

He’s just enough time to pull a book entitled “Hamlet”, but actually his college manual, from his satchel and checks no one is close enough to see what he’s doing. He flips past pages of maps, a bestiary of exotic and magical creatures and looks in the notes section as he has done every couple of minutes in the last half hour.

.

Ruth of Ely

I’m going to be late. Something weird happened.

.

Still no answering text from Ruth.

He jumps as a car roars past the bus and pulls up in front of him, window opening. A familiar voice shouts, ‘Get in.’

Mike pushes the book back into his satchel and opens the door. In the driver’s seat is a heavily bearded man wearing dark glasses as he always does. Mike says, ‘Morning, Professor. What’s up?’ The bus enters the stop, horn blaring.

As Mike slips into the passenger seat and puts the seat belt on, Professor Valaak says, ‘Great chronological events – and you’re in the thick of them. You need to do what I tell you right now.’

Mike growls, ‘First, I’m going to see Ruth. Second, whatever you’ve done with my last half hour undo it now.’

Valaak goes on, ‘In the glove compartment is a special college manual. It contains all my research. Sadly it won’t be available until four to five hours after I’m dead but no matter – I’ve seen it all of course.’

Your…?’

Don’t interrupt. At the same time the notes section will be available. As soon as it is follow the instructions.’

With the greatest respect, sir, no. I’m going to see Ruth.’ He leans his head back against the restraint, closes his eyes – and thinks: Ruth. After I’ve finally got her to accept my ring I’m going to study exotic languages starting with those no one understands like Gorgon and Selkie.

Valaak says, ‘You’ll never see Ruth again unless you do as I say.’

Mike’s eyes flick open.

Valaak goes on, ‘You are 37 minutes behind her in time. Effectively, cut off and in a parallel universe. Do as I say and use the manual. Now…’ He looks at the dashboard clock. ‘If all goes well I should be dead in a few minutes…’

Dead? What is this all about?’

Don’t worry. It’s what I’ve spent my whole career trying to achieve.’

Eyes rolling up, his hand falls from the steering wheel. His body jerks and the car accelerates in a curve, tyres shrieking, and heads for the bus stop on the other side of the road. Mike pulls the handbrake on and the car spins in rubber smoke.

.
.

~

.
.

Mike sits on a creaking plastic chair. He’s been there for four hours and slowly numbed by the bustle of the minor injuries unit of Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Valaak was carried away, sheet over blue face and lips, by the ambulance crew.

People come into the unit with blood on their faces, limping on broken toes or wrapped in bandages. He’s ignored by everyone except a staff nurse who periodically checks his eyes, blood pressure and asks about headaches.

I don’t have a headache. Can I go home?’

This time the nurse nods. ‘I think I can discharge you now.’ She looks at the cover of his notes. ‘Can you confirm, um … first name, age and your address?

Mike. I’m 23. I live at 42 Glissom road, room four.’

Good enough.’ She says to the student nurse beside her, ‘Pupils still equal and reacting to light, BP 120 over 75.’ She looks at Mike. ‘Call NHS 24 or come back here if you get a headache, feel dizzy or nauseated.’

He thanks her and gets up, glad to be leaving, blind to anything but the desire to find a quiet place where he can look at his manual unobserved.

It’s dark in the car park and he has to wait until he’s reached a decent street light before he can open the manual. Going straight to the notes section he sees a message.

Mike of Bastheim

Is Valaak dead already?

Ruth of Ely

.

Mike stares confused for a moment. He whips out the quill and writes:

.

Ruth of Ely

I’m so sorry. The afternoon/evening has been a disaster. Where are you?

.

The page clears and fills with:

Mike of Bastheim

Do exactly as I say. Don’t screw up.

.

Mike writes:

Ruth of Ely

What?

.

Mike of Bastheim

Listen very carefully. If you try to sort this out yourself it’ll take you 28 years. Don’t bother. Mike, you, has done it for you – and it took his entire working life

.

Mike’s mind reels. Getting a degree at the secret college of Morgan Le Fey or Muffy College, Cambridge, enables graduates to cope with extreme elements of the paranormal but he wasn’t ready for that. He writes:

Ruth of Ely

What? Professor Valaak was me?

.

Mike of Bastheim

Yes. Part of the job was finding a way of contacting me 37 minutes away. He was, you were, bloody amazing. I can take it from here. Go to the station and find me. I’m on my way to London. The train was at 23:03

.

Ruth of Ely

That’s only 23 minutes away. Don’t get on it!

.

Mike of Bastheim

Not me, stupid. Me 28 years ago – I have no control over her. I, she, was so pissed off. I thought you were coming to the college to propose to me. You never turned up. You never communicated again until today, but it wasn’t you. It was you 28 years in the future. Do you really want to marry me?

.

Ruth of Ely

YES!!!

.

Mike of Bastheim

Then get to the station fast. I got horribly pissed for ages and banned all my friends from ever talking to you – bloody run or I’ll have lost you for life!

.

Ruth of Ely

I’m in a taxi. Can I help you do whatever needs to be done?

.

Mike of Bastheim

No, arse. I need to kill myself and you’re 28 years away.

.

Ruth of Ely

Please don’t kill yourself.

.

Mike of Bastheim

Moron. For a really intelligent bloke you’re incredibly thick! I don’t want to be here. If I get this right I’ll forget 28 years of not having you and we can start again. Look, I’m not dying, just killing myself. Something that exists can’t not exist. Didn’t you learn anything at Muffy? Nothing can’t exist! Allow your 28 years of research to sort this out.

.

Ruth of Ely

Well, at least you haven’t changed in attitude and language. What sort of mood were you in at the station?

.

Mike of Bastheim

Have you any body-armour? That’s the sort of mood I was in.

.

Ruth of Ely

What about all his, my, research? It’ll all be lost if you die.

.

Mike of Bastheim

Sod the research – anyway it’s in the manual you’re holding, git. Everything, every minute of your day, every day, every year was spent solving this problem, contacting me in my parallel universe and telling me how to do the other half of the solution.

Now all I need to do is work out how to chop my own head off with this nail file. Joke. Run!

.

Ruth of Ely

I’m nearly there, just pulling up. I love you.

.

Mike of Bastheim

Stop writing and bloody get on with it! Sorry, do I sound like a bitch? God knows how much I love you even if you haven’t grasped it. I know you’ve spent your whole life looking for me and died to give us a second chance. I’m crying just thinking about it.

.

MIke throws cash at the taxi driver and tumbles into the cold rain of November. Dashing into the cover of the station, he checks directions and heads for the platform labelled “South: London”.

The platform is packed, people stand in dripping raincoats and wield furled umbrellas. He shouts, ‘Ruth, Ruth!’ as the train pulls in.

He finds her picking up luggage and preparing to board the train. She’s scowling, frowning and tense as a snake ready to strike. He squeezes between passengers. ‘Ruth, I’m so sorry. Forgive me…’

He doesn’t get to finish as her knapsack, swinging horizontally, belts the side of his head. He crashes off a luggage trolley, falls to the platform and sends suitcases tumbling.

The crowd stand silent, half wanting for the train doors to open, half wanting to watch the fight.

Mike rolls to dodge a kick aimed at his stomach. ‘Stop going mental and marry me.’

.
.
.
.
.

©Gary Bonn 2014.

Home

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s