ON TIME (and in full?)


Where: Starbucks Invercargill

When : last week …




gnibble, munch, crunch, and frustrated chew too (think fingernails) … and then:

Screen shot 2014-02-09 at 3.43.39 PMOh no. Now I perceive my coffee imperceptibly going down, slurp by subtle slurp and with no input on my part. Which can only mean—

—he’s here.


The last thing I need right now, unending pearls of wisdom delivered to my ear by an intangible invisible long-dead seventeenth century pirate—

‘Ye looks worried, Lad.’

So he’s noticed and is concerned. How nice. Just when for once I thought that I might have a Sage-free coffee in congenial surroundings without straining to look as if I’m not talking to myself. Some hope, dead or not he can smell coffee from a mile upwind or two centuries away. Invisible eyes peer at my notebook.

‘Time travel? Y’re surely not still on that old chestnut? Don’t ye know it be impossible?’

‘Rubbish! You do it—often. Too bloody often—’

I sense a grin. I don’t like it when he grins, it usually means I’m being outflanked—

“I can do it because I’m entirely non-physical and outside of time. As ye keeps pointing out, I’m intangible. If I wasn’t I couldn’t, only the intangible can penetrate. That’s the problem for you Densies (no offense, Lad) …  solid folks are limited to four dimensions. Always.’


‘Four dimensions, Lad. Length-breadth-depth … and time.’


I sense a patient sigh. The dead are nothing if not patient—

‘Ye denotes position by use of co-ordinates, Lad. L,B, D, and T. Note that no two tangibles can occupy all four of ’em simultaneously. Can’t be done, any attempt to do so needs force which results in disruption.’

A valid point. Perhaps this is why bubbles pop when I poke ’em with my finge—

“So if something is occupying it’s own space in its own time … how then can anything else take up the same?’

A good point. But wait, it needs clarifying a bit— ‘So if a man from the past goes into the future, or vice versa … what then?’

I sense another grin. Bigger grin, uh-oh. Somehow I’ve just hung myself out to dry. Bugger.

‘Okay … what does happen? Either he don’t go there, or if he does he triggers a very minor displacement that destroys the whole planet.’

Oh no. For a moment there he was almost making sense.

‘Come on, Lad! He arrives—what happens? He displaces air that’s exactly where it should be. So where, then, if he’s lucky enough to even hit the planet, does it go? Either he absorbs it into his own structure—which alone should kill him—or he instantaneously displaces it outwards. Every molecule outward bound will disturb others, and they likewise in a cascading chain reaction moving beyond the speed of light—’


‘—that is, if he don’t arrive inside a brick wall. Or giraffe.’

MEMO TO SELF:  don’t put me down for time travel.


‘You said lucky to hit the planet?’

‘Be a moving target, Son. Not all that easy in the great scheme of things.’

Snort. ‘Awfully big target!’

‘Awfully high speeds. Y’ know, I never realised when becalmed in the Sargasso once that I were actually travelling at sixty thousand knots—and that be in just one vector. There’s plenty of others in the mix too, with no reliable datums. Think about it. To travel back just one day from a clearly defined location like (say) the Vampire State Building … if ye didn’t make allowances for the planet moving ye’d find y’self an awesome long way from the nearest harbour.’

Thank heavens for calculators—fiddle fiddle tweak tweak—ye gods, that’s over a million and a half miles. More than three times to the moon and back. Ouch. I shelve any plans to go back to witness the sack of Troy, or Cleopatra getting bitten on the ass by a snake—

‘That was bitten by an asp, Son … and it were her breast anyway.’

Oops. Stupid Americanisms, no wonder we get confused sometimes. Oh …

I’m suddenly aware once again that I’m alone. Also in need of a refill, but he’s made his point. If I’m to use time travel as a theme I need something better than to send someone back physically. Fiction, someone once said, unlike reality has to be credible and make sense. Perhaps I’ll have to go down the good old well-worn ‘alternate universes’ path.

It occurs to me to wonder where an almost illiterate seventeenth century pirate learnt all this stuff? But he gave the clue, an intelligence not bound by the physical limits of time or space—and I know that he’s spent generations reading over shoulders in the great libraries of the world and sitting in on an awesome amount of university courses since. Lucky bugger, sometimes I wish that I too were —eeek! No thanks, not yet, brrrrr.

Damn. Why does everything always boil down to time?

Sod it—time for that refill … then carry on revising my Valkyrie story. Which one day I’ll publish—all in good time …





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