a tale in weekly parts
Xander was perplexed. “Do you mean to tell me that after all the time you and Jarvis have been flashing around in time and space, you haven’t found out how it works?”
“It depends what you mean by ‘all the time’ we have been doing it.” Albert said. “You are still stuck into linear thinking. Time isn’t like that.”
“But you told me that you travelled back in time to create yourselves from parts you took from the future.”
“Exactly. But that was in the future, so it hasn’t happened yet.”
“And yet, here you are. Okay. Here’s a question. Can you take me to a time before you were created?”
“Of course we can, Xander.”
“But… but… How?”
“Now are you beginning to understand why I have no idea how it works?”
Xander just stood with his mouth open, not a sound coming out. Albert looked at Xander and said, “Esterkha’a”. Xander found a bed and fell asleep.
“He’s still not ready for that, is he, Angel?” Jarvis asked Albert.
“I fear not, Munchkin,” Albert replied. “Let’s get him home. Can you sort his head out on the way?”
“Sure thing, Sweetie-Pie.”
Xander awoke in his own bed. Outside, it was daylight. Inside, his bed covers were strewn all over the room, all damp. It was the cold that woke Xander; the cold caused by the evaporation of the seemingly gallons of sweat he had produced in his sleep. That his bead covers were everywhere but on his bed suggested that he hadn’t slept too well.
Xander tried to signal Albert, but had no response. Jarvis didn’t answer his call either, and he had no sense of where his sister was, or when, or in what dimension. His mother, Madge, burst into his room.
“Are you alright, Son?” she asked, excitedly.
“I don’t know, Mum,” Xander replied, “I’ve had the weirdest dreams. Arthur Dent—”
“Arthur Dent, from the Hitchhikers Guide.”
“Yeah. He came and told me that time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so, and that he couldn’t get the hang of Thursdays. Then Albert Einstein—”
“I know who he is.”
“Was. He came and said that Arthur Dent was right, that time is an illusion.”
“That is strange.”
“But that’s not all. Then Uncle Albert came and told me that they were both wrong. He said that time is an allusion, not an illusion. What do you suppose he meant by that?”
“Don’t ask me, Xander. You and your sister are the clever ones. I never know from one minute to the next what’s going on. Neither does your father. Oh, he pretends he does, but he doesn’t. He’s as baffled as I am. Don’t tell him I told you that, will you?”
“Don’t worry, Mum. I won’t say a word.”
“So why do you think you’ve got this thing about time going through your head?”
“I had a long conversation with Uncle Albert about it a couple of days ago. I expect that’s it,” Xander said defensively.
“That man worries me sometimes,” Madge said, “filling your head with nonsense, like that.”
“I’ll be okay, Mum. Can you let Chav and Ixus in when I’ve tidied up a bit, please? I fancy a bit of doggy love. There’s no love like doggy love, is there?”
“I’ll let them in now. They’ll help you to tidy up,” Xander’s mother said with a chuckle, “at least, they’ll help you rearrange things.”
She left his room and went downstairs to let the dogs in. While she was gone, Xander’s father, Al, stormed in.
“What were all that noise in the night, Son?” he asked accusingly.
“Tossing and turning, crying out, mumbling; I even thought I heard some crying. Fair upset your mother and me, it did.”
“Not enough to make you come in to see if I was in trouble, though,” Xander said.
“Well. You’re a growing lad now. Don’t want your parents come rushing in every time something’s on your mind.”
“I’m eleven, Father,” Xander said forcefully.
“No call to raise thy voice with me, Lad. I’ll thank thee to keep a civil tongue in thy mouth.”
“Will you please stop with the fake northern accent. We don’t have an allotment, or a whippet. You were born and raised in Surrey. I thought we’d got rid of this in 36 and 44.”
“Don’t blame me, Lad. I only say the lines I’m given. I think the writer goes off on one occasionally.”
“Well, let’s hope this is the last time he does!”
“So. What’s troubling you?”
“How much do you know about Uncle Albert?” Xander asked.
“I know you can all travel through time, and I can imagine the complications that could cause,” Al answered.
“That’s what’s getting to me, Dad. I’m okay with moving to the future or the past. I know that any future we go to is only a possible future, but it seems to be fixed, too.”
“How do you mean?”
Xander went to his wardrobe and retrieved a strange-looking hat. “This hat is from the twenty-seventh century,” he said, “I brought it from a shop we visited in that century. Now. According to the best theories I’ve seen, if anything changes in this century, it will have a knock-on into the future. That shop may not exist. Anything I do may cause that hat to disappear. It shouldn’t be possible for me to keep anything from the future.”
“It obviously is, though.”
“I know. But how?”
“Don’t ask me, Son. You and your sister are the clever ones. I never know from one minute to the next what’s going on. Neither does your mother. Oh, she pretends she does, but she doesn’t. She’s as baffled as I am. Don’t tell her I told you that, will you?”
Al got up and walked toward the door to leave. Xander called, “Oh, dad?”
“It’s French. It means you’re welcome.”
“They say ‘de rien’. De means two, and rien means nothing. So de rien means two-nil.”
“No, Dad. Deux means two.”
“That’s what I said.”
“You said de, not deux.”
“What’s the difference?”
“They sound different.”
“Not to me, they don’t.”
“They do to anyone who speaks French.”
“So what does de rien mean?”
“Literally, ‘of nothing’. Like we say ‘think nothing of it’ or the Americans say ‘aint no thing’.”
“Ah. Got you.”