Wednesday, 10 February 2021

1900th Post - The Traveller

For my 1900th post I thought I’d try my hand at a very short piece of fiction. Hope you like...

I was nine years old when I first met the traveller.

It was around the end of August 1962. He spotted me in the street and we got to talking. He had one of those faces which always seem familiar and I kinda trusted him from the start. Good move by me, for sure.

He bought me a coffee in a local cafe and started to tell me about his talent for prediction. He must have been in his fifties and we hit it off straight away. At the end of what, even for me, was a most unusual conversation, he looked down at the comic I was reading. It was an issue of Amazing Fantasy and it featured the first tale of a brand new character called Spider-Man. I didn’t expect the comic to last but I kinda liked the story on this one. Anyway, I digress, he looked at the comic and pulled out two £10 notes which, frankly, was more money than I’d ever seen at the time... and told me to buy a few more copies of the comic and to save them for later. To take real good care of them and then he gave me a list of other comics which, he said, his contacts in publishing told him would be coming out in a few years. He told me to buy a few issues of each and to keep hold of them and to never forget. Just keep them safe. Put them in an attic or something but save them until I could sell them for some real cash. And after that it was a few years before I saw him again.

I don’t know why I trusted him then or, well, what made me do it anyway but I did what he said and didn’t think back on it. But then, every few years, I’d run into him in the street in exactly the same place and every time he’d have a hot tip for me. Like who to bet on in an upcoming Grand National or, as I got older, which artist to invest in. And, after a little while, I got used to him being right. I started looking forward to these random encounters and, though I didn’t see him every year, he usually had a good piece of financial advice with him. I managed to get the fees to pay for college to study the sciences, all off of the money made from buying the things he told me to procure. I mean, it took a while for the comics to suddenly become worth a fortune but, other stuff had a quicker pay off and, after a while, I stopped questioning him about why or how he knew this stuff because I’d figured it out by then, of course.

I mean, I didn’t know who Damien Hurst was but I know investing in his art helped me pay my way for a better house and the money I made meant I was doing my own research for myself. I was my own boss and the things I was interested in were what I got to study every day, in my own laboratory which, due to my mysterious (seemingly ageless) benefactor, I set up not far from where we’d first met.

And when those comics paid off in the late 70s and early 80s... which amazed even me (nowadays everyone knows who Spider-Man, The Hulk and The Avengers etc are)... I was able to use the money I’d invested in them to buy shares in a new computer company he told me about called Apple. It took a little while but, honestly, not too long before... well, you know Apple I’m sure?

Of course, by now I had a pretty good idea of who my mysterious benefactor was and, I suspect you do too, right? I mean, my scientific research into things that interested me was going pretty well and though I didn’t outright say much about it, I think he knew I had figured things out by now too... just as he’d figured things out back then, so to speak.

What I hadn’t expected was for the visits to not stop when I’d caught up with him... or we'd caught each other up.

I mean, sure, the visits slowed down a lot... the intervals when the traveller came to me were now sometimes as much as six years apart but, once I’d finished inventing the time machine (my chrono-perambulator, as I called it) which... well let’s still call him 'The Traveller' shall we? When I’d finished my time machine, which 'The Traveller' had told me never to tell anyone about, I expected the end goal had been reached but no, even as I went back to visit my younger self and advise him... um... me... about the comics and the art and everything else, I was still getting visits from myself. So I did what I always did and kept taking my own advice... or rather, his own advice. Gets confusing sometimes. 

 So there I was in 2012. I was 59 years old and, honestly, The Traveller seemed like he was getting slightly younger every time he popped up. Or, at least, the frequency of his trips, from his point of view at least, were obviously getting less spaced apart and I was really catching up with myself, if that’s the right way to say it.

I never once questioned the paradox I was living. I guess a more philosophical man might have stopped to wonder how this cycle got started in the first place but... well, I have no room for philosophy. I am a man of science or I would have never invented my chrono-perambulator in the first place.

But, I’m getting away from myself again... so there I was in 2012 and he tells me to start building a big storage warehouse out of town and to start filling it with canned foods and then, he tells me, start storing water around about mid-2019 and also... you know those little surgical masks you see people wearing in countries where they’re worried about infectious diseases? Get some of those, he says. So, since I know enough to trust myself, I did what he... is ‘he’ the right word? I did what 'I' said.

So now it’s 2020, right? I’m just getting the first reports of the new breed of Coronavirus in China and I figure, this is it, we’re going to have a pandemic this year... just like The Traveller implied...

I was hoping to see him again just to make sure we’d survived this whole Covid 19 thing okay but, I tell you, now I’m self isolating with my stash of water, tinned goods and, yes, loo rolls... well, I really worry when I think about when he last came to see me a few weeks ago. I’d gone back and advised myself to stock up on these things as soon as I had a spare minute, of course.

However, when I last saw him he was looking decidedly dishevelled... a far cry from the impeccably dressed, older version of myself I had been used to seeing over the years. I even think I noticed a rip on his sleeve but I didn’t say anything about that... nor about the bruise on the left side of his head, either. He said he couldn’t have more than a few minutes stay this time because he had to get back to... well wherever... make that whenever... he came from but he just wanted me to know that, 2020 was just the start of our problems and, stupid as it may sound, I should try my best to gather some of the things on the list he handed me as soon as possible. He knew I was good for the money, he'd... okay, we’d... been investing in profitable items for almost sixty years but he warned me I needed to keep an open mind about how things were going to go.

He then went his merry way but... I don’t know... I’m not so certain I’ll be seeing him again. He bounced back to his own time quicker than usual (the shorter the length of the journey the shorter the duration of the visit before the physics of the situation mean that it’s a good idea to bounce back to your point of departure or... untested things might happen to you... don’t ask me to explain the technical stuff unless you can keep up).

Anyway, I hope I see him again someday but, in the meantime, I have the latest shopping list to get to. The machine guns and ammunition shouldn’t be a problem. But the amount of timber and the necessity for crossbows might take a little longer. Goodness knows how I’m going to be able to get all that Holy Water from the church though... I wouldn’t even believe in such a thing if it wasn’t on this list. I wonder what happens to make me become all religious in the future? Only time will tell, I guess. Like I said, I hope I see that traveller again soon... there are some pointed questions I’m just going to have to ask him.

The End

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