Saturday, 18 January 2014

Relativity



“I’m such a fan of hers,” Samantha said, peering round the corner of the alcove where she and Lucas were lurking.   The dour Scotsman seemed distracted, rummaging in the pockets of his overcoat and scowling.

“Eh?” he said, “Whose?”

“Miss Goddard’s,” she replied, “I’m such a fan.  You’re not planning to do anything unpleasant are you?”
Lucas looked hurt and pulled something absolutely hideous from his pocket.  It writhed unpleasantly, a rainbow shimmer of carapace and mandibles, and the dim light of the alcove bent around it as though unwilling to touch it.   The creature was only a few inches long and hard to look at.  It made Samantha’s head hurt.    “When would I ever do something unpleasant?” Lucas asked her.

“Whenever you want to,” she replied
“Whenever I need to,” he said, “Anyway it won’t hurt anybody, not what you’d call hurt.  Not actual hurt.  Anyway we need to get it done.”
Samantha sighed and held out her hand.   Lucas dropped the creature onto her palm and she felt it land a few seconds after she saw it resting on her flesh.   She grimaced at the touch, and also at the impossibility of the thing.   She wondered if there was any point asking the enigmatic Scot what the creature-

“It’s a tikworm,” Lucas said, the moment before she opened her mouth to ask the question.
“Time parasite?” Samantha asked and then wondered why she’d asked.

“It’s a time parasite,” Lucas said and then he grinned wickedly.  “You’re already noticing things getting out of order.   Well don’t worry, nothing’s permanent unless-”

“Why would I let it bite me?” Samantha asked before he finished the sentence.  She hesitated as her mind caught up and put things in the right order.  “Damn that’s annoying.  So what do I do with it.”

Lucas looked out into the small restaurant where New York’s finest sea-food was being consumed with gusto by a generous population of diners.
“See that fellow with your Miss Goddard?”

Samantha nodded.  She’d wondered who he was, certainly no movie star like the woman he was dining with.   The man was a bit unkempt in her opinion, hair too long, gestures just a little bit too expansive and clumsy.   “Not her husband,” Samantha commented.

“They’re just about finishing up their meal,” Lucas said, “Go over there and let the tikworm have a good bite.  Of him, not her.   I wouldn’t like to mess with Charlie Chaplin’s wife, can you imagine the hilarity of his revenge, eh?   Pursuing me halfway across the world with his bandy legged walk and an angry twirl of his cane.  Eating my boots.”

Samantha looked at Lucas incredulously.  “You want me to-   Won’t they notice?”

“Trust me,” Lucas said.   She’d done that countless times in countless contexts, a thousand thousand realities, a thousand thousand of her, and each of them with only the vaguest notion of what the others were up to.   None of them entirely trusted Lucas though, but all of them trusted him just enough.

“Alright, alright.”   She palmed the tikworm and set off across the Oyster Bar toward the table where Miss Goddard and the stranger were chatting.  The man was dabbing at his moustache with a napkin.

“An absolutely fine time,” he was saying as Samantha drew close, “I really must thank you again for taking the time to…”  He stopped as Samantha stopped by their table.  He and Miss Goddard looked up at her questioningly.
“I’m such a fan of yours,” Samantha said to the actress, “I wondered could you possibly…”

“I’d be glad to,” said Miss Goddard with a smile, reaching into her purse.  Samantha wondered if requests for autographs were so common that the star had simply anticipated the request or whether the tikworm’s effects were being felt.   Still, this was the ideal opportunity.   While Goddard was looking in her purse and her companion was watching her search for a pen, Samantha reached out and pressed the hideous little invertebrate against the man’s neck just above his collar.  Mandibles closed.  The man opened his mouth to object.  Samantha remembered the smell of the rain that morning as she stepped out of her home, thought of the scent of her mother on the day that Samantha was born, heard the quiet voices of the nurses in the care home decades afterwards.  And then the tikworm was back in her hand, concealed again and Miss Goddard had already signed the autograph.

“Thank you,” Samantha said gratefully.  She accepted the treasure and turned to leave the table.

“Strangest thing,” the man said to Miss Goddard as Samantha walked away, “We’ve been here for an hour, a simply wonderful hour, but it feels as though almost no time at all has passed.”

Samantha returned to Lucas as quickly as she dared and handed over the now bloated tikworm.

“Beautiful,” he said as he held it up and watched it wriggle and twist, and bend light around it.

“Mind telling me why?” she asked him.

“Soon this wee beastie is going to change into a butterfly,” he said, “Well… sort of a butterfly.   And it’s just fed on an hour of that man’s time.  A whole hour that’s going to grow and blossom and shine inside the little creature.”

“And that’s useful to… us?” she asked.  She wasn’t really sure who “us” was, except that she was always on Lucas’ side, and that there was a dreadful war spilling out across all of reality that Lucas was helping to fight.


“An hour of Albert Einstein’s time?” Lucas said, still admiring the vile larva in his hand, “Oh aye.  Useful enough as it is.  But wait till this little chap spreads its wings for the first time.    And starts to soar.”


A response to a prompt from Studio30Plus based on the words "Time" and "Parasite"- in this case both.
For Professor Einstein's version of the encounter click here.
For more about Lucas and his antics click on the "Lucksmith" tag below