Speed Of Light

Entry by: Alex Fleet

30th January 2015
I Told Me So

And the winner of this week's competition is . . .

Well, I won't be telling. That's not in the spirit of the competition.

But I know.

Because I told me so.

I was in my shed at the end of the garden. I had been tinkering for hours - well days really - years. I still could not get the engine to stop cutting out after a couple of minutes.

My head hurt with trying to figure it out, so I ambled indoors and put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea. While it was bubbling away, I switched on the computer and logged onto the Hour of Writes to see what this week's competition topic was. Something completely different to think about - a brain reboot if you like.

I laughed when I saw that it was Speed of Light. How ironic that if only I could sort out the problem with the engine, this is what I hoped to achieve.

There are so many theories about the speed of light - it will be interesting to test them and see how many actually are correct. I reckon that, in the same way that breaking the sound barrier creates a great crash of thunder, breaking the speed of light barrier will result in a massive flash of light. I won't see it of course because I will be in front of it, a small fraction of time before it occurs. I will be the fastest thing in the universe - possibly. Other theories reckon that a traveller speeding at that velocity will find his journey time is shorter than that of the wait by the folks left down on the ground, due to some sort of warping of time.

I must remember to set my stop watches - one to stay here and one to take with me.

I start writing the entry for the competition and I am so focused that just as I hit the 'submit' button I don't hear the door burst open behind me and the running, skidding sound of rushing footsteps.

The first thing I know is a heavy hand clasping my shoulder.

I jump. Turn. Scream.

I know that I have been working hard. There is always a risk of a breakdown where people work as intensively as I have been for the last several years. But I have never heard of it manifesting in this way before.

I am standing there, looking at


He - or should I say me - is laughing at me, tears rolling from his eyes, laughing like a maniac. He/I is laughing at me as I stand there with mouth ajar, saying words that just won't come out, while he stands there in his little time warp. He is holding the cup of tea I dropped when I saw him, as if he knew I'd lose my grip.

"We did it! I did it - you did it!" he shouted.

We whooped and hollered, jumped, high-fived. This was weird. I'd never high-fived myself before.

"All you've got to do," he shouted "is swop the inter-septic terminals!"

I stared at him. He had a week's worth of stubble on his chin and he smelled like he hadn't washed for a week. "Yeah, sorry," he said, as if my personal hygiene was something I was concerned about at this particular point. Heck, I'd just broken the speed of light. I want to know about it!

He looked at the computer behind me and grinned. "The winner of the competition is the one that starts with the words . . ." well of course I'll not repeat that part. He laughed at me again, then said "Sorry, got to dash!" and left. Just like that, at a run.

I shouted after him - how, why, what - but he was out the door.

Suddenly I snapped into action, leapt across the room, chased after him. But his adrenalin was in overdrive and he was halfway towards the shed.

I ran after him, my heart suddenly pounding, and burst into the shed as he scrambled into his craft.

Both the little machines sat there on the floor of the workshop - a bit of a squeeze. Mine was clean and shiny, his was black and scorched. "It gets a bit hot and rattly at times!" he laughed as he slammed the cockpit shut of his bike. I - we - call it a bike because its scarcely larger than a recumbent pushbike.

I shout at him but he is focused on flicking switches, checking systems and either can't or won't hear me.

Finally, he glances towards me, gives me a big grin and shouts "Don't forget to leave the paper trail!" and he has vanished.

Not through the door of course: he/I has disappeared from sight. He is here, somewhere, but invisible.

I feel a sensation of a faint breeze within me as he passes through me - that's just the sort of thing I'd do! - and there is the scent of gently re-arranging molecules, the smell of the wind on your clothes when you have stood on a hilltop in the wind.

Phew. Did I dream that?

I collect myself and when I've stopped shaking, I reach into the guts of the little craft and swop the inter-septic terminals.

It works.

I test, retest.

Then, after more hours of check and prep, I am strapped in, wondering why I'm not shaking, for all the nerves I feel.

I must remember to leave the trail of marker atoms on the way, so I can follow my route outwards - and on my return.

I press the final button.

And disappear.

I'm on my way. I will succeed. I told me so.