Chapter 5

Written by: Linda Alley
Imagine, if your mind can take such a journey, your own organs turning in upon themselves. I writhed on the ground, cursing my own folly. Why should an odyssey through the cracks of time not also leave cracks upon the body? With a final jerk, I lay still. A curious odour of vomit, spilled ink and freshly-cut grass permeated the air. My mouth was as dry as a Quaker’s cellar. Rising shakily, I patted my limbs. Miraculously, I appeared unscathed. 
 
A whey-faced man was selling bottles of water beneath a tree. Judging by the paper stick protruding from his lips, I had moved forward in time again. Instinctively, I looked for the camel picture, but the box beside him bore lettering instead: SMOKING KILLS.
 
 I smiled grimly, recognising a kindred spirit. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself blotting Jeffrey’s disclaimer in my haste to pilot his machine. It seemed that human nature had not altered over the centuries. I placed a penny before the vendor. He raised his eyebrows.
 
“It's a pound, mate.”
 
“A pound?” I stared at him perplexed. “That is water, is it not?”
 
“There’s plenty down there if you’re gonna be a tight-arse!” He waved ill-humouredly behind me.
As I followed his gesticulations, I saw we stood in grassy parklands that sloped down a hillside towards a murky river. It was undoubtedly the Thames, yet beyond that we might have been on the Moon. Immense towers soared into the Heavens with curious names like HSBC engraved upon their roofs.
 
I turned around. It was still there. The Royal Observatory. I had come here with my father, only weeks before his death. A fervent amateur astronomer, he had been eager to hear George Airy’s lecture on the new meridian.
 
I stumbled forward and encountered a group of Oriental girls standing along a metallic line. When they saw me, they gave delighted squeals and dragged me into their midst. The eldest held up a cane with a grey rectangle fixed to its end. There was a sudden click and she removed the contraption for my inspection. To my astonishment, my likeness had appeared on its surface. Yet as I looked closer, I felt the blood drain from my face. My dark locks had turned a dusty grey. Clapping a hand to my boyish forehead, I found it furrowed with hideous wrinkles!
 
A bolt of electricity jolted through my body. It seemed to leap from the metallic line below my feet, shooting up my legs and through my torso to the very top of the observatory where it crackled and sparked around the colossal time ball. 
 
I dashed into observatory, the intense internal vibrations compelling me upwards. By the time I reached the roof, my body was as tight as a violin. As I mastered my breath, I realised I was not alone. A woman, clearly elderly by her gait, was walking towards me. Her face crinkled into a mischievous smile.  
 
"You alright, George?”
 
It was Patty. 

Comments

A very smooth and believable transition Linda. You have deftly moved the story forward and beautifully connected the past and the future. Loved the appearance of Patty at the end of the chapter. Looks like she is going to play a very prominent role in the coming chapters.