Sunday, April 18, 2010

Graham Storrs' Timesplash

Graham Storrs is someone who thinks a lot about the future. It’s a place we’re all going, whether we like it or not, a place where we, our children and their children will have to deal with changes we can barely imagine. Some of us can’t wait to get there, to see what it’s like, and how we will cope. That’s why Graham writes science fiction―he wants to know what happens next in this amazing story we’re all living.

After a career in research and software design, Graham has turned his gaze firmly to the far horizons and now lives and writes on a remote mountain-top in rural Australia. Surrounded by gum forests and wild animals, he relies on his wife, Christine, and their Airedale terrier, Bertie, to keep him anchored in the present.

Today Graham shares an excerpt from his novel, Timesplash.

* * * *

The light, when it came, blasted away her thoughts. Light and sound, gravity and pressure, rushed in on her. Something enormous smashed into her from the side, crushing her shoulder, her hip, slamming into her head. If it hadn't been for the helmet...

Gasping, winded, she gaped at the great slab of green that had hit her, and her mind wheeled and lurched. It was the ground. It hadn’t hit her, she had hit it. She had fallen—not very far, thank goodness!—onto a huge empty pasture. Sniper was there, close by, already bounding to his feet and looking around. Patty pushed herself up, shakily, looking for the others. They were there too, about twenty metres away, also getting to their feet. Sniper took off his helmet and surveyed the area. Then with a few deft flicks of the catches, he threw off his harness and strode across the field to where Hal and T-800 were unfastening themselves.

Miserably, Patty struggled to her knees, bruised and shaken, and took off her helmet. Sniper hadn’t even glanced her way. She might have been dead for all he cared.

They were in a large field. It had a rough, agricultural look about it. Could it be the same manicured and planned parkland Patty had seen earlier in the day? There were no people about, but the big house, Eerde Castle, was clearly visible, just about where it ought to be. There was the sound of traffic somewhere—not the whine and rattle of normal traffic but the growl and roar of old-fashioned petrol engines. Even in the middle of a field, she could smell exhaust gasses.

She was back in the 1980s! For a moment the fact drove all resentment and misery from her mind. If the lob had gone as planned, they would be spatially close to where they had been lobbed from, but temporally shifted sixty-five years into the past. She tried to get a better look at the far-off mansion, but she couldn’t see anything different about it.

“Are you okay?” It was Hal, standing over her, offering her his big hand and smiling. She took his hand and stood up.

“Yes, I think so.” She rubbed her shoulder. “A bit bruised.”

Hal grinned. “You get used to that.” He stepped close to her. For a moment she thought he was going to try to kiss her, but instead he started opening her harness catches. “It’s all a bit of a shock at first. You’ll get your bearings in a minute.”

“Is this really the past?”

“It sure is. The twelfth of July, nineteen eighty-two.” He looked up at the sun. “About ten in the morning, at a guess.”

Sniper, arriving with T-800, looked coldly at Patty but addressed himself to Hal. “Stop fussing with her. She’ll be all right. We need you to get us to the house. We only get a few hours, you know.”

“Right,” Hal agreed. He and T-800 stuffed the harnesses into backpacks, and then he nodded across the field toward the castle. “The road’s that way.”

They picked up their helmets and set off. Patty limped a little from the pain in her hip, but everyone else seemed okay. No one spoke much, taking their cue from Sniper, which suited Patty just fine. She watched his broad back with growing resentment, trudging along in a sulk in which her own pains and grievances gradually overwhelmed any sense of wonder she might have felt at being back in the twentieth century.

In fact, Patty had seen enough old vids from this era for none of it to be very surprising, yet when they left the grounds of the castle and walked into the road, little things began to catch her attention, like the number of telegraph poles, the quaint, old-fashioned cars that made such an appalling racket, and the huge, colourful signs that seemed to be directions for drivers. More and more, the fact that she really was in the time of her grandparents impressed itself upon her.

“Hey, watch this,” Hal called to her. They were passing an abandoned pile of builder’s sand beside the road. He ran across the pile of sand, kicking it around as he went. Patty thought he was just showing off, like young men often did around her, but then she noticed what was happening to the sand in his wake. It seemed to be jumping, vibrating, squirming. She screwed shut her eyes and looked again, as if they were the source of the strange blurriness she saw. Hal stopped at the far side of the pile and looked back at it proudly. With strange shifts of colour and position, the deep prints of his feet were slowly being erased. The weird, shifting of shape and colour spread briefly to the road surface around the heap, causing Patty to jump back in alarm as the effect rippled out toward her feet. In thirty dizzying seconds, the pile restored itself.

“Now do you believe we’re back in time?” Hal shouted.

“Stop pissing about,” Sniper snapped.

Hal gave Patty a grin and turned back to the road. Patty stared for a long time at the sand. It was a small splash, she realised. The little anomaly that Hal had caused—disturbing a pile of sand that should never have been disturbed—had righted itself. But for those few seconds before the restoration was complete, there had been a shake-up in spacetime around the sandpile. Causality had been thrown into disarray and it had taken a while for it to settle back to how it should have been.

She set off again, hurrying to catch up with the others, noticing for the first time that their footsteps left faint, blurry marks on the road that quickly faded behind them.

* * * *


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