Man Out Of Time (The Time Bubble Book 3), page 1
Man Out Of Time
By Jason Ayres
Text Copyright © 2015 Jason Ayres
All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Cover art by
Daniel Fisher’s head was in a spin.
He leaned against the crumbling brick wall of the aging railway underpass and tried to make some sense of everything that had happened over the past few minutes.
He was a large man with broad shoulders and shortly cropped, dark hair, which was beginning to show signs of receding. Almost forty years old, his middle-aged spread was well and truly starting to show. In truth, he had always been on the chubby side, and now, without the metabolism of youth to hold it in check, he was rapidly expanding.
For the past few years he had been working in a factory as a forklift truck driver, living alone with his life going nowhere fast.
For a brief period in the past, he had been someone. Over a decade ago, he had seized power temporarily in the local area. It had all happened during the national breakdown in law and order that had occurred during that terrible winter when it seemed like the world was coming to an end.
In his mind, almost everything he’d done during that time had been perfectly justified. The one exception was the terrible act he’d committed which he had done the utmost to block from his mind. If he did find himself thinking about it, he dealt with it by trying to convince himself that it wasn’t him who had done it.
His friend Ryan had gone to prison for it, so as far as he was concerned, it must have been Ryan who had done it. Justice had been served. As long as he kept telling himself that over and over again, perhaps eventually his mind would come to believe that was the truth.
It wasn’t too difficult when he was awake, but sometimes at night he woke up in a cold sweat with the image of snowflakes falling on the dead girl’s face imprinted on his mind. He could see every detail of her dead body as she lay in the woods, the blood staining the snow where it had seeped from her head.
Then it was much harder to fight off the guilt.
Living alone meant that he didn’t have to make any effort when it came to cooking. His diet consisted predominantly of burgers, chips and lager. It was hardly surprising he had let himself go.
Right now he was wearing a pair of ill-fitting jeans which had sunk down, exposing a classic builder’s bum cleavage. The upper part of his bulk was squeezed into a plain, white T-shirt at least two sizes too small. It had ridden up over his stomach, exposing a couple of inches of midriff – pretty on a girl half his age, but quite hideous on him.
There was an unidentifiable yellow stain on the front of the shirt, about halfway between his nipples, which were beginning to jut out. He was developing a classic case of the moobs.
This was the outfit he had worn to the birthday party he’d been to during the evening. Despite his shabby appearance, not to mention his vile personality, he had somehow found himself leaving the party with the seemingly real prospect of shagging Jess, the 21-year-old birthday girl. She seemed to have quite taken his fancy.
Quite how he’d managed to pull her he wasn’t sure, but it was a huge triumph as far as he was concerned. The icing on the cake was that she was the daughter of the head of the local police who’d tried and failed to put him away for murder. As acts of revenge went, this was about as sweet as it could get for someone like Dan. What a fantastic evening it had been.
Until now, that was. After the party, Jess had led him into the railway underpass with promises of delights that had seemed too good to be true. As it turned out, they were. Just as it seemed he’d been about to hit the jackpot, weird things started to happen.
Jess had told him to close his eyes and wait for a surprise, and he most certainly got one. When he opened them again, a vaguely familiar-looking man had appeared seemingly out of nowhere, right in front of him.
At first he had not been able to place him, and when Jess had addressed him as “Dad” it hadn’t made it any easier. He hadn’t even known she had a father, not one who was around anyway.
As he looked closer, he recognised the man. He was his old English teacher from school. Strangely, he seemed no older than the last time Dan had seen him, which had been over twenty years ago.
That was the first in a series of strange events. As he’d struggled to contemplate exactly why his old schoolteacher had appeared out of nowhere, he’d become aware of two other men running down the tunnel towards him.
As they’d approached, he’d quickly recognised them as his old schoolmates, Charlie and Josh. They had been at the party. As he wondered why they’d followed him here, they had run straight at him and with no explanation had cannoned straight into him, sending him sprawling.
Dan was pretty handy with his fists and he certainly wasn’t going to stand for that. When they’d clattered into him, he’d fallen backwards a few yards and lost his footing. Quickly, he had got back up and turned round, spoiling for a fight.
But Charlie and Josh had vanished, as had Jess. Only Mr Grant, the English teacher was still there, but now he looked considerably different. Having been wondering a minute or two before why he hadn’t aged, now he’d found himself looking at the same man, but visibly much older.
All of this had happened in the space of barely a minute, so by this stage Dan had become thoroughly bemused by it all. Was he hallucinating? Had that little prick-teasing bitch, Jess, been playing games with him all along and slipped something into his drink?
How could he have been so stupid as to fall for that? He knew deep down that gorgeous, 21-year-old women didn’t lust after his body. They never had done, even when he had been that age himself. He had let his desperation for sex cloud his judgement. What a gullible idiot he had been!
It had been noisy in the tunnel. A high-speed train, the early morning express from Birmingham to London, was racing overhead at almost 200 miles per hour. When the noise abated, Dan spoke first.
“What the fuck is going on here?” he asked. “What have you fuckers done to me?”
“I see your grasp of the English language is as limited as ever,” Peter had remarked. “As for what’s going on, I’m afraid you’re going to have to work that out for yourself.”
That was an awful lot to try and work out. Dan seized on the one thing that was glaringly obvious, the sudden change in appearance of his former teacher. “I don’t get this,” he said. “One minute you’re young, the next you’re old. And where’s everybody else gone?”
“You know, Daniel,” Peter had replied, slipping easily back into the tone he used when
Despite being in a poor state of health and not feeling particularly brilliant, Peter had been savouring the moment immensely. He had been looking forward to it for a long time.
Dan had replied with what he hoped would sound like a threatening tone, but his unfortunate choice of words made him sound more like a pantomime villain.
“Oh no you’re not! You’re not going anywhere until you tell me exactly what is going on here.”
Peter had replied to Dan’s statement in the traditional pantomime style. “Oh yes I am. And, by the way, you’re officially dead. Good luck!”
And with that he had stepped forward and vanished, leaving Dan alone and utterly perplexed in the tunnel.
Josh Gardner’s entire adult life had been focused on one thing and one thing only.
Ever since he and his best friend, Charlie, had discovered the time bubble in the railway underpass, his life had been intertwined with the mysteries and intricacies of time travel.
He had met his future self twice when he had come back from the future to meet him. This future version of himself had assured him that one day he would unlock the secrets of time travel.
He had already had some personal experience of time travel, having jumped forward in time himself in both of the time bubbles he had discovered. But those were journeys he couldn’t control; he was bound by the fixed nature of the bubbles.
He wanted more than that. He wanted to find a way to control exactly when and where he could travel in time.
As far as he knew, no one else in the world had managed to unlock the secrets. But that didn’t mean he was the only time traveller out there.
He’d had a most surreal experience when he was barely out of his teens with a mysterious man he had met at a racetrack. The man had claimed to have knowledge of the future and had tipped him winner after winner that afternoon, saying that he knew the results before the races were run.
As soon as Josh had arrived at the University of Oxford in September 2020 he had befriended a scientist based there, Professor Anthony Hamilton. He had been conducting experiments with tachyon particles at the time. Professor Hamilton had long since retired, but Josh had used the university’s generous research facilities to continue the experiments.
He eventually abandoned the field of tachyonics in favour of exploring the possibility of bending space-time, recalling a memorably analogy that Peter Grant, his English teacher, had once demonstrated to him.
He had folded a piece of paper in half and suggested that if you could jump from one end of the paper to the other where the ends touched, you could traverse the entire length of the sheet in no time at all.
This enduring image had stuck with Josh ever since, and finally now, after almost thirty years of research, he was ready to attempt his first jump through time.
Josh was 47 years old but still looked pretty good for his age. His hair was grey and he was developing a noticeable paunch around the middle. Unlike Dan, he dressed well and looked smart, enabling him to carry the extra weight well.
The good looks with which he’d charmed the girls in his youth were still there, but he was long past playing the field now. He was happily married to his long-term partner Alice, who had happily aided him in his time travel quest.
A professor in the astrophysics department at the university, Alice was as fascinated by time travel as her husband. Considering how much time they had spent on it over the past few decades, it was probably just as well.
She, too, had maintained her good looks and her figure, too. At the age of 45, she got plenty of admiring glances from the students around the campus, and would probably have been flattered to know that they referred to her as a “MILF”.
One thing she hadn’t done was become a mother. It wasn’t as if she and Josh hadn’t had a good sex life. Despite the long hours spent unlocking the mysteries of time travel, they’d found plenty of time to play, too.
As she grew older and failed to fall pregnant, they’d thought about trying some of the revolutionary new procedures available that had helped so many women struggling with infertility. However, the truth was that they were happy as they were. She had always felt that if it happened naturally, it would be fantastic, but if it didn’t, they would still be happy.
As fate dictated, in the end, it didn’t happen and so the years that they might have spent child-rearing were instead devoted to the time travel experiments.
They had settled instead on being godparents to Charlie and his wife Kaylee’s children. The two couples frequently got together to socialise at weekends, often joined by their other old friends from past adventures, Josh’s former teacher, Peter, his wife Hannah, and their daughter Jess.
It was one of these occasions that Josh and Alice were attending this warm Sunday afternoon in late summer 2049. It was Charlie and Kaylee’s daughter’s birthday. Sophie had been born on the 22nd of August 2031, about a year and a half after her brother, whom they had named after Peter.
With ever-improving advances in technology, telecommuting had never been easier, and Kaylee was able to successfully combine parenting with continuing to pursue her career with the Met Office.
She had been instrumental in the pioneering research that now enabled the weather to be forecast with a 90%+ degree of accuracy as far as fifteen days in advance. In recognition of her accomplishments, she was now the UK’s representative on a worldwide team working towards the very real possibility of controlling the world’s weather within the next twenty years.
It was a controversial scheme, with many claiming that humans should not have that much power, but such arguments had been heard many times before over all manner of things, right back to the days of the Industrial Revolution.
From GM crops to artificial intelligence, there was simply no way to hold back the inevitable tide of progress, whether it was morally right or not. And who could argue against technology that could end suffering in parts of the world that even in the mid-21st century still suffered periods of famine and drought?
Kaylee believed completely in what she was doing, and a large part of her life was devoted to it.
By contrast, Charlie had taken a step back from the corporate career that he had never really enjoyed. Taking time out to share the parenting duties with Kaylee, he’d discovered a talent for writing. Inspired by their past adventures with the time bubble, he had carved out a niche for himself writing science-fiction novels.
After a few years steadily building up a fan base, he’d really struck gold recently when an up-and-coming British holomovie company had expressed an interest in turning one of his novels into a movie.
He hadn’t said yes, yet it was something he needed to talk about with Josh and Peter at the party. The plotline of the book in question had been inspired by their past adventures. Having it in print was one thing, but thrusting it firmly into the public domain was another. Was there a risk that their secret could be uncovered?
Completing the line-up of guests for the party were Hannah, Peter and their daughter, Jess.
Hannah and Peter were both retired now, she after a distinguished career with the police in which she had risen to chief superintendent of her local force. Jess, meanwhile, had followed her father into the teaching profession.
During Hannah’s time in the police she had been involved in all manner of modern technological innovations. Her force had been the first to introduce self-drive traffic vehicles that could police the roads and issue fines for motoring offences without the need for any human presence whatsoever. She’d also championed
Just as Kaylee had faced criticism for her experiments into weather control, Hannah, too, had found herself the subject of political debate, with the media complaining that the UK was being turned into a police state.
This accusation was nothing new. It had been raised many times since the police had first been formed, but Hannah was satisfied with the work she had done. The roads had never been safer, and crime detection was at an all-time high.
The one lingering regret from her time in the police force was that she had been unable to prevent the miscarriage of justice that had occurred over Lauren’s death. She herself had been the one who had found the girl’s broken body in the woods.
Lauren had been murdered during the breakdown of law and order that had spread across the country during the “Black Winter”, as it had now become known, almost twenty years ago.
In the end, she had administered her own justice by assisting with the plan that had led to the propelling of the true killer into the time bubble. She had alleviated her guilt somewhat by ensuring that the innocent man, Dan’s friend, Ryan, who had been wrongly convicted of the crime, was later pardoned.
Unable to reveal the identity of the true killer without risking exposing the secret of the time bubble to the public, she ensured that Ryan was freed after an appeal due to questionable evidence. She manipulated this as best as she could from behind the scenes and ensured he received some extremely generous compensation.
But she still felt unhappy that justice had not properly been done. Dan should have suffered a lot more for what he had done.
In 2046, at the age of 55, she had retired to spend more time with Peter. They had spent so many of her younger years apart when he was stuck in the time bubble that she was determined not to waste the time they had left.
With a healthy pension in recognition of her fine service, they were comfortably well off. Such a pension was rare indeed by the 2040s. In an era when people were living longer than ever and having to work into their seventies, she had done remarkably well.
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