Guide to identifying a time-traveller

About Time

I looked out of the high window to the street outside.  The rain poured down, not torrentially, but with an insistent persistance, that left the pavement devoid of pedestrians, and road itself almost barren of of vehicles.  What should have been a quiet summer’s evening was a complete wash out, and I was glad to be inside.  I turned from the window and picked up my glass from an antique occaisonal table.

“Not a time to be outside” I stated to the room at large, not really expecting a response.  The four of us had, as was our wont, adjourned to the Library after dinner, scowling concertedly at a new member who had the temerity to ty an join us.  The Library had been ours for time immemorial.  Greywood had plomped into ‘his’ armchair and, tumbler of single malt not withstanding, had fallen asleep.  None of us could really understand how he did it.  He was demonstrably asleep, with light purring snore emanating from around a large fluffy moustache – that we would often joke had a life of it’s own – and yet not a drop of whisky would be lost from the glass, all would be consumed before the evening’s end.

The Commonwealth Club (we often called it the  Prune Club – being elderly curmudgeons was our raisin d’etra) is an anachronym, looking like something that Phileas Fogg might have belonged, hundreds of years before.  But even in our supposed modern world it has its place.

Darbishire and Memana were bickering over some item or other that they had read in the news as I was looking out of the window, but they broke off as I made my comment on the weather outside and Darbishire said “that reminds me of a joke: time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana!”

Memana groaned and I looked round for a pillow, or failing that a book, that I could throw.  Greywood huffed through his moustache and fixed Darbishire with a steely gaze.  This was another of Greywood’s traits that we had never fathomed: no matter how deeply asleep he seemed to be, he always knew what was being talked about.  We waited for the inevitable anecdote from his time in The Service.

That was a truly terrible joke [said Greywood], and besides which, it is factually incorrect.  Fruit flies may, indeed, like a banana, but time does not fly like an arrow. Every moment in history is available to us if we had but the means to access it, and what we experience is merely the brain trying to make sense of all this time happening at once.  During my time in The Service, I was seconded for a period to the Bureau of Anomolies in Time and Space.  Some boffin or other had managed to crack a limited form of time travel, and whilst the Government had tried to keep it under wraps, a boot-leg version had leaked out to the criminal classes.  There were two issues with this technology.  One, whilst you could jump a reasonable amount of time into the past or future, you could only do so for a few seconds, a minute at most and you would come back to where you jumped from as if you were on a bit of elastic.  The other was that the process of jumping had a physiological effect and all the muscle fibres in the body would contract a small but significant amount.   As a result, the technology was all but useless for espionage, and the technology was suppressed lest it fall into the wrong hands. Suppressed badly, and inevitably it did fall into the wrong hands.

The head of BATS was not a complete fool – you don’t get to head up such a specialist group if you’re an idiot.   He acted promptly, called in extra support as required and the team were able to track the leak and find the criminal group who were planning to use the equipment.  They had had some plan of using the  technology to gain information on sporting events.  We managed to catch up with them in the midst of their first attempt and scooped them all up, with the exception of the time-traveller.   Police records indicated that we had the whole gang as far as was known and so it was no simple matter to find our lost waif.  We did not know what he (or she) looked like, we did not know where they had jumped from, how far into the past or future they had jumped, or when they had returned to our time.  As I say, the head of the team that I had been seconded to was not a complete idiot and, as he had seen me at work before, he called me in early.   A job like this is tricky in so many ways, but I was able to tell the team reviewing the CCTV footage from the venue what to look for and the Police were able to pick up the, as it turned out, man before he had got too far.

Greywood sipped his whisky, wiped his moustache, resettled himself into his chair and started to fall back to sleep.  There is only one thing to do at such times and we all knew the drill.  Memana was closest and kicked Greywood’s foot.

“Hey! Oh no you don’t!  How did you know who to look for?”

“I would have thought it was perfectly obvious – I told you about the technology, and it’s physilogical effects.  All they had to do was look for the person who suddenly had serious problems walking – time wounds all heels, you know”.

© David Jesson, 2017


One man’s now is another man’s history

Sonia awoke to a persistent beeping noise: “What the hell is that?” she muttered. She’d told her team not to wake her under pain of death and they’d never not complied. That’s when she realised it wasn’t her phone but the Gadget. Pulling open the drawer she read the message flashing in fluorescent letters: “Report immediately.”

Punching in her entry code – not her birthdate (she’d terrorised all her staff with instant dismissal if they used that) her’s was the date her dog died – Sonia strode into the office.. She found them all sitting round the coffee machine, feet up and chatting. “Up!” she yelled in her best sergeant major voice and enjoyed the scampering response. “We’ve got a top priority alert. A suspect on his way from Boston. Time Traveller. Someone down there goofed and he used a ray gun on the senior security guy who’s now gone all ga-ga.”

Her team looked decidedly unhappy with that news: “Erm boss, how’re we supposed to handle that without getting fried ourselves?”

“We’re just running interference” she reassured them. “We announce a delay with the refuelling truck which gives them enough time to get a specialist out here from Boston. Everyone needs to keep calm, act natural and it’ll be just fine.”

It’d been Sonia’s suggestion that they use the excuse of the refuelling truck as a delaying tactic. Here in Anchorage, the conditions meant they frequently needed to handle freezing weather and today was certainly cold enough to freeze the proverbials off a brass monkey.

Sonia changed out of her uniform into something a bit more unchallenging and low level before making the announcement about the delay. Her announcement was greeted with the expected groans, so she announced that free hot refreshments were available. She took the opportunity to move amongst the passengers and engage each of them in brief conversation, but no-one was triggering her spidey senses.

Her phone rang “John’s landed” she heard in her ear. This time it was her turn to groan. Really, her little brother? They’d had to send the doofus to handle this on her territory? Sonia flashed her best smile to the cute looking guy in the Bruins sweatshirt and excused herself. Pity this wasn’t a real delay, she could’ve pulled there.

Pulling on her outdoor layers and boots, Sonia crossed the runway to where John’s plane was taxiing to a stop. Bundled up, John emerged first and hurried down the stairs. “Hi Sis, it’s the guy in the Bruins sweatshirt. Have you spotted him yet?” “Don’t be ridiculous” she snapped in response, “I’ve just been chatting to him and he’s just an ordinary guy.” John grinned, “Yeah he is exactly your type, but he’s the guy, I promise you.” “So why didn’t you stop him at Boston then?” John sighed, he could feel his big sister assessing him cooling, expecting him to confess that he’d messed up. “I identified him, but while I went to get my kit to put him down, the head of security persuaded my boss that he could handle it without any fuss himself. Seems he was wrong.”

“What this ray gun he’s using?” Sonia enquired. “We don’t know yet. It’s the first of its type we’ve come across” John admitted. “They usually just knock you out, but these ones seem to make their victims loose their memories and their mental faculties.” “Sounds nasty.” “Yup, that’s why I put out the instruction to just delay him. I didn’t want my big sis getting into any trouble she couldn’t handle” grinned John.

Swiping him round the ear, Sonia asked for details of John’s plan. “Well, he’s seen me before, so …” “He’s seen you before? That’ll make it more difficult. How well would he know you?” “We chatted for nearly an hour, so it’s a risk. I’m going to need to disguise myself. Any thoughts?”

Sonia pondered as they walked across to the airport terminal. Going to her office, she signalled a cleaner pushing a mop and bucket to join them. There John and the cleaner switched outfits, including the glasses and knitted hat the cleaner was wearing. Sonia walked round John and admitted “I’d not recognise you even if I was expecting to see you.” “Perfect” said John and got his kit prepared. Pulling on thick heavy cleaning gloves, he pushed the mop and bucket across the terminal building and into the lounge. John pushed the mop around in the guy’s eye-line and when he was confident there’d been no reaction, he moved round behind him. Looking over the top of his glasses, John picked his spot carefully and plunged the needles into the guy’s neck. The guy startled, but collapsed before he could get his hand into his pocket. Sonia and her team raced in, removed his ray gun carefully, and cuffed the guy.

Later, as they were walking back to his plane with the prisoner, Sonia asked “I forgot to check, how’d you know it was him in Boston?” “Usual thing, I got an instinct …” “Oh come on” said Sonia “this is me remember, I know how your mind works. What was it that trigged those instincts?

“There was something wrong I couldn’t put my finger on, so I struck up a conversation with him. We talked ice hockey ‘cos he was wearing a Bruins shirt. He knew facts and figures, but there was no colour, no opinion. Even though he said he was a long-term fan, there was no passion. So I asked about more stuff. And he was the same – all facts and figures, but nothing personal.”

“Time travellers need to get their cultural references right, especially when they come from the future. My guy sounded like he was reciting history … not talking about life.”

© Debra Carey, 2017


#FF Prompt: Guide to identifying a Time Traveller


time travelling


Write a guide on how to identify a Time Traveller.
Extra points for the use of puns.
Double extra for the use of sound science.

I’ll obviously have to rely on @breakerofthings to adjudicate on the latter, but haven’t actually asked him yet. Oops …


Word limit: anything from 100 – 1,000 words
Deadline: 2pm on 9th June 2017

Put your link in the comments below, or if you are without a site/blog, please email us and we will post your story with an appropriate byline.

A graveyard is an odd place to meet, yet here you both are …


I’ve fancied writing a drabble for a while now but it’s been a real struggle as I suffer from verbosity. Nevertheless, I was determined not to give up. Here’s my first attempt, even though the title/prompt is ridiculously long … 


Internet dating become boring? No idea what to do on your first meet? Don’t care for coffee, fed-up with galleries, don’t want to waste wine if he’s plain wrong?

So, you get chatting to a bloke and he says “how about doing a tour at Highgate Cemetary?” You think he’s joking but, no he means it. You see famous graves: Karl Marx, the godfather of Punk, the author hiding behind a man’s name, Dickens’ wife, a pre-Raphaelite model, a Russian spy murdered with a cup of tea.

Pity the bloke himself turned out to be deadly dull.


© Debra Carey, 2017


Thanks goes to my friend Jacks, who actually did meet a first date in a graveyard – if not Highgate Cemetary. I can’t remember if he was dull, or just plain odd …

#Secondthoughts – What did you send?

Side profile of a journalist typing on a typewriter

I’m not quite sure when this will get posted, but I thought it might be interesting to do a quick follow up on the piece I wrote for November’s writing prompt, and on prompts in general.

I really did write the piece in a flash – it took about 40 minutes when I actually sat down and put fingers to keyboard.  I’d spent a couple of days thinking about the prompt, which had given me a couple of ideas and themes that I wanted to include, but I was really pleased about how the ideas turned into words on the screen.  The punchline is perhaps a bit obvious, especially for a writer, but I have to admit it was the starting point for this piece.

I wrote the piece in three stages.  The first few sentences, then the last paragraph and then the middle.  I’d intended to include something about “ashen-faced, angst powered world leaders rushing from one committee to another” in that middle section, but the ending, which I do quite like (obviously!) took a lot more words than I was expecting.  I still think there’s some mileage in that section, so maybe I’ll come back at some stage and write an extended version sometime…

One of the things that I really like about flash writing is how quick the process is… given the opportunity, I will overthink things and go back and polish and tweak for as long as I can get away with it – and then as like as not hide the piece away because it isn’t quite what I thought it would be.  Flash gives me permission to post a rough cut, with minimal (if any editing) because there is a hard deadline.

And finally, writing prompts are a bit like book club reads.  Wait, what?  Yep, you read that correctly.  Book clubs are great because you get steered towards things that you’d be unlikely to choose for yourself.  So whilst you bring your experience (and, dare one say it?, prejudices) to your reading and in this case writing, you have to think about things that you’ve not thought about before.  Some things chime, some things you feel worthy for engaging with and some you ignore…at least for the time-being.  But much like the abyss, the time-vortex and pretty much anything else you can stare into, be careful…the writing prompt will stare back…


An absolutely true post script, written six months after the fact.  I stand by everything above – I’ve just gone and re-read the story, and actually I think it does still work, and I still like it.  I am not blind to it’s faults – I’ve spotted several points that, if I’d taken the time to re-read it before I posted it, I would have re-worded.  But as I said here, this was very much a rough cut, written in a session.  I need to do more of this sort of writing…


© David Jesson, 2017


“So what have you been up to, pet?  Are you feeling better?”

She sniffed discreetly: the room was distinctly fusty.  She wondered if a spray of Febreze would cause offence…

When she’d left that morning, himself had been distinctly under the weather – problems at both ends, probably best left at that.  She’d left him cocooned in the duvet, sleeping off the chills, listening to the radio with the occaisional feotid, flatulant eruption.

Now, here he was, sat up in bed with the lap top out.  He beamed at her over the top of the screen.

“I’ll say, love! I’ve been on Ebay.  I got pipped at the last minute on an inflatable Santa for Christmas, but I got a set of garden gnomes in’t club strip for twenty quid!  And they sing the club anthem!”

He looked and sounded like a puppy that has just discovered socks, and has not realised they might be important.

“Awww, that’s nice.  I’ll go and put the kettle on.”  Her normal cheery smile slid from her face as she turned and walked off to the kitchen.  “It’s an ill wind…” she muttered under her breath as she left the room.


©David Jesson, 2017


Express Yourself

I’m here today for the second in my series of interviews with the journalist, biographer, pundit and bon vivant, Jocelyn Humpheries.  Today we’re focussing on her writing as a biographer and in particular some of the little snippets that didn’t make the final cut.  Jocelyn: which of your biographical subjects was your favourite?

Oh! That is rather invidious – I do so detest those sorts of questions.  I enjoyed writing all of them, even – perhaps especially! – the scathing ones.  I do have a soft spot for the first one I wrote where the subject was, at the time, still living.  He was such a dear!  I don’t know if people say that about me now, but he would have been about the same age as I am now when I interviewed him.

That would be Colonel Hart-More?

Indeed. Although he didn’t really like to use his rank.  He was an eccentric in many, many ways.  He was almost a caricature of an English army officer.  Not quite Colonel Blimp, he always appeared far too…not effete but…refined, perhaps is the right word, for that.  And of course he had displayed extraordinary heroism when he was a serving officer. So many medals for bravery and gallantry and all the rest of it, but he was always incredibly uncomfortable when talking about this part of his life.  In many respects I had much more success digging into the archives for information.  I always felt that this part of the biography was rather dry…there was so little of him in it, if you see what I mean?

I think so, although I’ve always felt that the whole book worked in the sense of presenting someone who so clearly spent his life alive in an incredibly vibrant way.

So kind of you to say so.  We spent many hours talking over his life and whilst there were some tidbits from this time, there was nothing that I could ultimately put into the biography without it seeming shoehorned in.  For example one of our conversations that always stuck with me, even though I couldn’t repeat it verbatim now, flowed over all sorts of ideas. all sorts of philosophy and metaphysics.  But the most important part, to me, at least boiled down to what he perceived to be a vast irony in the use of uniforms.   Boiled down, what he said was that really there was no such thing.  No two soldiers look identical.  Even if you found two of the same height and build, the chances were that they would wear their beret differently. Some would have rank, or marks of achievement.  Every regiment has its own distinctive features. Every soldier is an individual, and they will find a way to express it.

© David Jesson, 2017

Uniformly Bad

“What’s that they say “all the nice girls love a sailor”? Well, I’d only gone ‘n married one. And not just any sailor mind, but one with proper prospects. “No point living in Pompey if you don’t make sure you get the best of the bunch” me Mum always said. And I did. Royal Navy ‘n a Chief Petty Officer no less. The Navy’s training ‘im to be an engineer, so when ‘e’s done ‘is stint, ‘e’ll have a trade for life. Mum’s dead happy, but then she likes a good looker and my Jim’s that for sure. ‘e can turn on the charm and that cheeky smile don’t hurt neither. But my Dad seemed a bit – I dunno – quiet. Wouldn’t say nothin’ when I asked ‘im though.”

“We’ve fallen out over that, my Dad and I ‘ave. ‘Cos I‘ve found out why. My Dad, ‘e knew about them. Jim’s girls in ‘is previous postings. ‘e’d told me about them – ‘is exes he called them – and maybe they are. But I don’t think children never become exes. And ‘e never mentioned nothin’ ‘bout them till I caught ‘im out. Worse, ‘e gave me all this bleedin’ chat. Called them girls ‘orrible names, suggesting they “knew the score” and all that malarkey. What score is it when you leave a girl pregnant eh? Jim 1 – mother ‘n baby 0. That’s not on. That’s not how it’s done.”

“The child support people came after ‘im and take the money for the kids direct from ‘is wages. That’s ‘ow I found out. I don’t mind ‘im paying, but I do mind that they ‘ad to force ‘im to do it. And I really don’t like ‘im talkin’ ’bout those girls like they’re scum.”

“Sorry, I jes’ couldn’t ‘elp myself, I’ve not bin able to talk to no-one ’bout it.”

The solicitor smiled “Don’t worry Marleen, you’ve given me plenty of information to draw up the documents. I’ll get the divorce papers sent round for you to sign in the next couple of days. You can drop them back off with my secretary and then we’ll get things moving for you.”

“Thanks Mr Palmer. I’m moving soon as it’s done. I don’t wan’ to see another bleedin’ uniform again in my life. Not bothered ‘bout prospects, just a good man who comes ‘ome to his wife at night and takes care of ‘is kids.”

“Don’ suppose you know someone like that, do ya?”

© Debra Carey, 2017


And this month, a bonus story from JS Pailly of Pailly’s World, taking us into the glamor of space travel…

A Million Credits

Back on Earth, Monique had never been able to afford expensive clothes. The most she’d ever spent was 50 credits on a pair of glossy red shoes.
Now she was pulling on a skin-tight jumpsuit of carbon nanofiber mesh, studded with safety valves and wired with auto-adaptive life support circuitry–200,000 credits. A layer of thermal padding went over that, followed by an overlayer of protective ortho-fabric–another 600,000 credits, easily. Nitrogen pressure gloves locked at the wrists. Heavy space boots connected below the knees. Finally, Monique positioned her helmet over her head. With a twist, it snapped in place, and the heads-up display lit up before her eyes.
Monique glanced at the small, crooked mirror affixed to the dressing compartment wall. She did an awkward pirouette in microgravity, trying to get a good look at herself all around. She’d spent almost five years in space, living and working on cargo haulers, but this was the first time she’d ever had to wear an E.V.A. suit: the uniform of the real astronaut. She felt giddy. She laughed, thinking: I feel like a million credits–the spacesuit certainly cost that much!
The radio crackled in Monique’s ear: “Yates, what’s they delay?”
“Yes sir–sorry, sir!” Monique answered, sliding open the dressing compartment door. “Won’t happen again, sir!”
“We’re already behind schedule, Yates. I don’t want to explain to central that we missed our delivery due to a clogged toilet.”
“Understood, sir!”
Monique pushed off the wall, maneuvering herself through the tight confines of the logistics module, making her way toward the airlock. This wouldn’t be a grand or glamorous job. Monique was an internal fluid dynamics systems technician–in other words, the ship’s plumber. This morning, at approximately 0600 shipboard time, two filters in the ship’s bio-waste disposal system had ruptured simultaneously, causing a clog to form near the exterior vent. The repair required a spacewalk.
Not exactly “one small step for man,” and yet this was a special moment. Monique could feel her heart pounding, and her helmet’s L.S.S. monitor confirmed her elevated heart rate. For the first time in her life, Monique Yates was going out there: out into space. And she felt excited.

©J.S. Pailly, 2017

FF Prompt: Uniform

Today’s prompt is just a single word:

and we’re only allowing 500 words too …


Deadline is 2pm on Friday, 12th May 2017.

Either provide a link to your site in the comments below, or email us your story (see contact form on the about us page) and we’ll post it for you (with an appropriate byline).

A reminder to new readers/writers: if you want to retain the copyright, please state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.