Anna Maria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roland Michel Tremblay

 

 

 

 

 

 

44E The Grove, Isleworth, Middlesex, London, TW7 4JF, UK

Tel +44 (0)20 8847 5586  Mobile: +44 (0)794 127 1010

www.themarginal.com   rm@themarginal.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

 

 

Anna Maria in 300 Words

Prologue - Letters from Anna Maria and the Duke of Connaught

 

Genesis – God lives in Chiswick

The MarginalsWestminster’s Predictions of the Future

Psi-Star – Victorian Ignorance is Bliss

Déjà Vu - Oxford’s Reality Multiplication

Dead Girl’s Song – York’s Resident Ghost           

Save Devon from this Filth – Righteous Citizens of Sidmouth

Kill That Prime Minister – London’s Library from the Future

Ham III Time Paradox - The Uncertainty of King George Varney

The Box on the Seven DialsFull Circle in Covent Garden

Scale Universes - The Richmond Park Experiment

Bibliotheca Alexandrina in El Cerro Del Pueblo

 


 

Anna Maria in 300 Words

 

 

In God lives in Chiswick, Anna Maria and the Duke of Connaught meet Ms Barnsworth, a mentally ill patient who claims she’s from another universe in which she is sent to a space station around Saturn. She is also apparently capable of creating human beings out of the vacuum of space.

In The Marginals, our heroes meet two scientists who are studying statistical probabilities, predictions of the future and people’s behaviours. When they meet they realise that they are a perfect match but don't dare admit to it in order to avoid being the victim of this predestination.

In Psi-Star we find out about how Anna Maria at 18 learned to cope with being the most psychic woman alive whilst developing quantum computers in Victoria.

In Déjà Vu they get to fear a Professor from Oxford capable of changing reality at will.

In Dead Girl’s Song, we meet a special ghost from York in quest for the key to the city.

In Righteous Citizens of Sidmouth, our characters have to fight against a small group of people who denounce online inhabitants who do not conform to their beliefs.

In London’s Library from the Future, it is not easy to distinguish the reality from what books from the future are describing. Should they destroy the career of the Prime Minister or not?

In The Uncertainty of King George Varney, the existence of some of our descendants is due to a temporal paradox, and the survival of humanity after two world wars depends on Anna Maria finishing the work she started years ago.

In The Box on the Seven Dials, the Duke of Connaught experiences for himself what mind powers can do to his own personal existence.

Finally, in The Richmond Park Experiment, we find out about other scale universes.

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Letter from Anna Maria to the Duke of Connaught

 

 

Humanity does not yet understand many things on this Earth. I am proof of that, no one has been able to explain to me who I am, and I am still trying to figure it out myself. For a long time I thought I was alone in this world, a lone and lost woman. I thought I met people like me, I know now that I am unique.

Arthur, do you believe that you know me? Would you recognise me if I were to meet you somewhere on the street? I know you would not, but I see through you, I know everything there is about you. I know what you think, I know your past, I would guess your most probable futures. I could even tell you where you were and who you were before you were even born. I could also tell you when you will be.

Nothing unusual I guess, there are many psychic mediums on this planet capable of such things, and for a while I accepted that, I was just another one of those crazy clairvoyants who could predict the future, even though I never did open for business. I never needed to, I was born very rich from parents who, just like my friend Bertrand Russell, died when I was still a child. However, my parents are still present in my life, so I’m never alone.

This whole adventure started with a scientific mind. I was a young and promising scientist working in a variety of fields, as I was fascinated by any mystery underlying this world. Who are we, what is this universe we are living in, and what is our role or purpose, if any, in that universe? How’s everything working? What is the science underlying all this that could explain any phenomenon?

So I studied on my own philosophy, psychology, the mind, my mind, which for some reason never appeared to work the same way as everyone else. I was also highly interested in theoretical physics, perhaps I thought I could find there some answers to explain scientifically what was happening to me. Bertrand has been my mentor all those years, even though he is but a ghost.

I could try to explain my life, I could never be certain that I was right. I then looked into many New Age movements, their beliefs, which led to reading a lot about religion and mystic philosophies. This was another dead end, because I could not picture the universe the way they did. Perhaps it was just a barrier of language or vocabulary and we’re all ultimately talking about the same concepts. But I continued on my own, understanding that no answer would come from any other human being or school of thought.

For a while I was considered like a genius mind, I made many discoveries in so many different fields, even though I had not carefully studied any of them. In fact, I don’t even have a degree, I just had many interests, and my strange abilities gave me the chance to work in these fields.

I live in Richmond Park, in a coquette house overseeing Thames Valley. I suffered a lot during my life, no one really knows all that has happened to me. I decided to isolate myself completely, so I would not have to tell anyone, or explain why I knew so much about their existence and everything else about everyone. I could also hear all their thoughts and see their pettiness, and after a while this so-called civilisation can be so depressing. I had to go as far as I could to stop witnessing the stupidity of mankind.

Also that anyone who got too close to me, with a genuine interest in what could be called paranormal phenomena, would have liked nothing better than imprison me into a lab and dissect my brain for posterity, hoping somehow to get some answers about my abilities. Unfortunately my brain scans showed nothing unusual, maybe it is at an esoteric level that something could be witnessed. And I’ve gone through so many tests in my life which did not bring any answer, that there’s no way I would like to be a lab rat again. You have been warned.

I lived in the closet long enough. Before I die, I need someone to write all these extraordinary events which have marked my existence. Don’t ask me why, I know that someone is you, even though the thought has not yet entered your mind. It would be more to help anyone who may have been born like me, with the gift. I know damn well that it is not a gift, it is a curse, but I will let you be the judge of that.

If I can help people like me, then it is my duty to do so before it’s too late. However, the way it is going, I might never die. I would not be surprised, I am healthier than anyone I know. I take huge risks while people tell me that I’m crazy and that I could die. I laugh all heartily, I know that I have yet many years to live in front of me. I know when I will die with certainty. I could go into ice water right now, naked, and I would survive. And I did it many times in the last few years.

Because of my gift, I never stayed anywhere for too long. I lived in Ottawa, York, Paris, Carcassonne, Mont St. Michel, Brussels, Los Angeles, New York, London and even near the North Pole. I was born in Richmond Park in London, it has always been my permanent home. That alone could do a great book, without the fantastic and the paranormal which has plagued my life, but I have decided that it was time to tell it all as it was.

Every time I moved to another city or country, I thought it would be different, meeting new people who had no clue about my secret abilities. I was wrong, it kept growing like if I was a shining light, a beacon attracting the weirdest events, and often, the weirdest people. I had nothing like a normal life, and when you hear it all first hand, you will say: she’s mad, she belongs into an asylum. I nearly ended up there many times, believe me.

I know things I should not know. I feel I am not real and that all the reality surrounding me is an illusion. At night I can slow time down, and then, a whole new universe opens up to me. In there I can meet ghosts, other weird souls from other worlds, and I can acquire knowledge that will never be known to the world for hundreds of years.

My experiences have brought me to the brink of insanity. For a while my family and I thought I had a serious mental illness. My brain would switch on, it could last for weeks and months. In these periods, I was completely dysfunctional, but I reasoned like a genius mind. I could suddenly play piano like a virtuoso, I could tell you more about how to unite Relativity and Quantum Mechanics than any other theoretical physicists. By slowing time, it gives me the chance to see the world differently, to switch timelines, to change my reality. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

My quest is to find out how I acquire this knowledge which seems to appear out of nowhere. I am looking for the one person in the world who can understand and help me. I will find that in you, Arthur, but it is not everything I will expect. A friendship will form, where the established reality will be questioned to its limits. Can we travel in time? Can we acquire a knowledge known to no one without having done any research about it? Can we meet weird entities from other worlds? Can we build our own fantasy world, from which we can acquire knowledge? This is a fantastic journey, dealing with real issues. As long as I can prove that I am not a mental case. It is a story about the means to get there. It is not a perfect science, there are drawbacks, and the source of the knowledge needs to be identified.

I am far from having all the answers, despite what many people think. With your help, Arthur, we may get closer to the truth.

 

 

Anna Maria

Richmond Park, Surrey

 

 

 

 

Answer from the Duke of Connaught to Anna Maria

 

 

Madam, I acknowledge reception of your letter and that you are my neighbour when I’m in London, living next to Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. I have read your missive. In layman terms, what was all that about? Please, discontinue all communication with me. This is a serious matter and shall be acted upon.

 

 

Prince Arthur of Connaught

Duke of Connaught and Strathearn

MI5, Director General

Sidmouth, Devon

 

 

 


 

Genesis

God lives in Chiswick

 

 

My name is Prince Arthur of Connaught. I am the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, a title now officially extinct but unofficially still in existence. I am a descendant of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and for security reasons dating from before the Second World War, the title has been past to descendants in secret. I may one day tell you that story. I was born in 1972 in Sidmouth, Devon, which is still my permanent address in the United Kingdom. I live in the clock tower overlooking the sea, just beside the Connaught Gardens.

I am the Director General of MI5, the British Security Service. There is little I could actually write which concerns my employment at MI5, however there is a part of my work which is not classified, though we would not advertise it anywhere from fear of ridicule. I have been often accused of spending more time investigating those paranormal and unexplained phenomena than being worried about terrorism. And this is how I got to know my best friend yet, Anna Maria.

Anna Maria has been described by our service to be the most psychic woman alive, and she sure helped me out on many cases in the past which have never attracted any attention from the media. These little short stories I intend to write about our experiences are for the purpose of documenting these strange events in case some other investigators might eventually be confronted with similar puzzling situations.

I apologise for my writing style, I’m afraid you will not find here fanciful descriptions or poetry. I am no Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an author both Anna Maria and I admire very much. Her because she identifies with his character Sherlock Holmes, following our little investigations, me because Sherlock Holmes stories were required reading for any agent working at MI5 or New Scotland Yard, where I was posted for many years in the past.

When I am in London, I live at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. It is not a coincidence if the green just outside Pembroke Lodge is called Sidmouth Wood, this has been in my family for a long time, even though no one would find any record stating so.

Anna lives in the house next door, which is how we met. Her house is like one of these old English cottages, located just beside where the philosopher Bertrand Russell used to live while he was alive. Russell’s ghost is apparently a daily companion of Anna Maria, which might explained why she loves the area so much.

There is something striking once you get inside her little house with a roof made of thatched straw. Inside it is more like a bunker not even touching the walls of the house, and which could resist a nuclear attack. In time I will get to explain in detail why this is so, but it will not be in this present case.

I will however state here that I noted a lift which appeared to be indicating many floors down, though I was only aware of one staircase going to the second floor. This is where we meet most of the time, in a sort of conservatory with a circular skylight window all around, with unfinished paintings everywhere and a huge telescope in the middle.

Anna is a very talented painter, although she would never admit to it, as she continues to maintain that she is not the one painting them, others do it through her. That statement would be impossible to believe if her paintings did not show so many different styles. One would have a hard time proving they were all made by the same artist. And I know something about this, having worked with New Scotland Yard on fake art for a long time.

The first time I have met Anna Maria, it is not I who enticed her help, but her who would not leave me alone until I finally sat down and listened to what she had to say. She was my neighbour after all, and I noticed her stunning beauty over and over again. I would have never dared looking at her for too long, or even talk to her, unless it was an emergency.

There was a terrorist attack being planned that we knew about, and we were getting ready to make our move, however Anna was convinced that we would miss our shot and many people, including innocent citizens, would die. That alone would not have warranted my attention, she did though know so much about what we were doing, and completed so well the poor intelligence we had, in the end I either had to imprison her for being a terrorist, or some sort of spy, or believe her claims that she was a psychic medium and take her advice.

Today I’m glad I did exactly what she told me to do, because we averted a crisis which would have certainly resulted in many deaths. I could start by telling you that story, but it is so less fantastic than the others I will tell you now, that I feel it can wait for another time. Once this terrorism case was over, I intended to use her for other cases, but she had something else in mind:

“Now that I’ve helped you, let me explain the reason I really wanted to contact you.”

“What,” I said, “was it not to save so many people from these terrorists that you decided to attract my attention?”

She laughed and said: “It is not my job to play spy and do the work of the good people at MI5, it would be a double full time job. Beside, I am interested in something completely different and more rewarding than ‘little desperate terrorists’. I am on a mission to unravel the unexplained.”

She was in fact very much into anything related to the paranormal, which could eventually lead, I was guessing, to proving that perhaps she was not so weird after all, and maybe, just maybe, one day we could understand these phenomena and explain them from a science’s perspective.

Anna Maria described to me at the time that there was a woman in a military mental institute who needed our help, as she was not crazy after all and she could prove it somehow, as she had seen what that lunatic was claiming to have gone through.

I could not refuse her anything after what she had done for us, so one day I picked her up at her house in Richmond Park and together we went to this asylum to speak with Ms Alice Barnsworth, who incidentally thought she just came back from a space station somewhere in the orbit of Saturn.

Phew! What’s the head of MI5 doing here? If my subordinates or the press got wind of this, I thought, my rivals would have a field day.

Without me Anna Maria could have never talked to Ms Alice Barnsworth. I was equally surprised by the security at that military base, where even the head of MI5 had to pull many strings to get access to. I remember asking the soldier at the entrance at the time: “Are you keeping UFOs and dead alien bodies here or what?” Which he only answered with a sarcastic smile which, to this day, I’m still trying to interpret.

Once we were introduced inside the building, we found Ms Barnsworth in a cathartic state, she was unconscious in her room. As soon as Anna Maria posed her hand on Alice’s forehead, she woke up and said:

“Oh, Ms Anna Maria, so nice of you to come and help, so you have received my call?”

“Oh yes,” Anna answered.

“How could she, I’ve been told you were not given the opportunity to contact anyone on the outside,” I promptly added.

“There are other means to contact me,” smiled Anna. And she quickly went to the point: “Though I have a good idea of what you went through, Ms Barnsworth, I would be grateful if you could tell us now in presence of a witness, the Duke of Connaught here”.

“Pray, tell me why my presence is required as a witness?” I wondered out loud.

“Simple Arthur,” (Anna always called me Arthur from the start), “we need an official account in Britain’s archive from a reliable source that Ms Alice Barnsworth is in fact the God of her own universe she created recently.”

I looked at Maria straight in the eye, thinking she was about to laugh at this joke, then I looked at Alice, afraid she might be upset by this claim, and then I could no longer contain myself, I laughed so hard, I feel the whole base heard me. I only stopped once I realised that I was upsetting them both. And then I rationalised that it must have been a figure of style, an allegory or something, and I was about to understand what she meant by such a preposterous claim.

“No doubt there must be a banal explanation for this statement, I have to admit that you have piqued my curiosity. Let’s sit down and hear it all,” I said embarrassed, and we sat down and Alice started her extraordinary narrative.

“As you know, Ms Maria, I was posted until recently on the Saturn Space Station where some unusual event happened in my life. I was a good soldier with a strong imagination. I never thought it could lead to the creation of a new universe.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “you need to realise that you have been judged instable mentally, you were obviously dreaming whatever you are saying to us.”

“Please, Arthur, listen to her,” said Anna.

“No,” I added quickly, “nothing could be served from entertaining the idea that Ms Barnsworth, no disrespect intended, is alright. Her path to recovery must first pass by us telling her the truth. There is no space station around Saturn, Ms Barnsworth. I am the head of MI5, if we had such a space station, no matter how secret this project would be, I would know about it.”

Anna Maria looked at me and smiled. “Arthur, you need to understand that Ms Barnsworth is not from our reality, she’s from another universe, if you wish.”

“You expect me to believe this? What proof can you offer me?” I bluntly said.

“For a start, here is Ms Barnsworth’s folder which I obtained under your own authority from the investigation the doctor on the base did a few weeks ago. You will find that Ms Barnsworth was a soldier with a magnificent record, who died during the Gulf War in 1991. She is buried in a military cemetery around here. You will also find that Ms Barnsworth here present has the exact same DNA that was taken from the corpse at the autopsy. They dug out her body as they could not believe it, and it is verified that she is dead. How do you explain it?”

I snatched the folder from her hands and read it aloud:

“We cannot explain how there appear to be a second Alice Barnsworth, a soldier attached to this base in 1991, as she died in Iraq 15 years ago. It has been surmised that she is her identical twin, as they share the same DNA. No proof has been found that Ms Barnsworth ever had a twin. If she had, her twin would have had to be in the military as well, as demonstrated by the aptitudes and knowledge of Ms Barnsworth. It is improbable that this knowledge could have been transmitted by her twin sister before she died, since Ms Barnsworth is aware of many other top secret dossiers which only occurred after 1991. It is interesting to note that despite her knowledge of these top secret files, she still sometimes have it wrong, and have no knowledge of other files which we would assume her to also be aware of. She claims that she was part of the ‘Time Project,’ a top military secret about a machine capable of transporting her to parallel universes, but to the best of our knowledge there is no such project on this base or anywhere else in the United Kingdom.”

“This is science fiction,” I finally said while this was sinking in. “It is more likely that you have a vivid imagination. Anna, do you have any idea how busy I am? That terrorist cell you helped us with, it is one out of dozens… all ready to explode at a moment’s notice.”

“How do you explain my death? I never died in 1991, I never went to Iraq. I was a jet pilot in another world, and I was trained to be an astronaut in the British Space Programme, which I hear in this universe, is not very developed. How do you explain the chip they found in my arm? Everyone in the army has got one where I come from.”

“A chip? Like dogs and cats have?” I asked. “Any veterinarian could have given you one. No need for a parallel universe for that.”

“With that much data about me on it, including my life story up to my financial details? And what’s more, you can read it in your report, the chip confirms that I am an astronaut attached to a space station around Saturn.”

I read through the report, and it did confirm that part of her story. So I had to say: “It’s an elaborate hoax, nothing more. Your veterinarian had a good joke at your expense, I suggest he hypnotised you. Congratulations for having fooled a few militaries willing to believe anything.”

At that moment Alice looked at Anna Maria for help, and so Anna looked at me and said: “Would you mind if I were to help you visualise Ms Barnsworth story?”

“What do you mean?” I answered.

“I have this ability to transfer images to other people’s mind. I can show you what I have seen.”

“Really? You do realise that if you can achieve such a feat, I will keep you under observation at MI5 for years to come?”

She smiled and said: “I know you will want to do so, I know you will not do so. Unlike you I am aware of the probabilities of all my possible futures.”

She closed her eyes and instantly a flow of images came into my mind. I could see myself in some sort of space shuttle docking at a space station near the rings of Saturn. It was amazing, a vivid dream like nothing I had experienced before. I could see real images like if they were coming from a television set, but directly into my mind. That alone ought to be more fantastic than the story of Alice, I told myself.

Ms Barnsworth continued her narrative, and as she did so, the images of her story came to my mind via Anna. We found ourselves in a huge room on this actual base, with what resembled what I could only describe as a Z Machine like the one they have built in Albuquerque in New Mexico, some sort of machine capable of creating a huge magnetic field.

“That machine was initially supposed to help us travel in time, however after that huge burst of energy I found myself in what I believe to be a parallel universe,” Alice said. “When I came to my senses, I was arriving on Saturn at the space station, and then I simply fainted right after the docking procedure. I had no idea what I was doing, and thankfully everything was computerised, I was on autopilot. When I came to my senses, I got up and started to walk on the station, I was surprised at how big it was, and the view from the window with the rings of Saturn was a spectacle I never thought I would witness.”

I felt the need at this point to get out of this vision and get back to reality. I grasp the arm of Anna Maria and suddenly everything was back to normal. “How do you know these visions are real? Maybe you’re capable of seeing images of her own imagination?”

“I would know the difference. Besides, there are things about me you don’t know yet. This phenomenon is not new to me, I do live in many parallel universes at the same time, many different timelines all at once, in as many time periods as there are,” she said.

“This does not make any sense,” I mumbled. “What about me, then? Do I exist in all those parallel universes?”

“Oh yeah, you do in many of them,” she added. “It might surprise you that we are linked in many timelines, though you’re not always the head of MI5, which does not make it easier in all those universes where we are investigating our cases. From my point of view, our friendship and working relationship is not new, it is as old as time itself. Most of my powers at predicting the future come from my foreknowledge of other parallel universes. I am not always right because there is no way for me to know exactly what will happen in this actual timeline, I only know the probability of an event occurring, based of what happened in other worlds where time is running faster than here. Timelines are not all running in parallel at the exact same time, some of them are years in front of us, others years late compared to our own time.”

“So you say I will eventually believe you, and work with you on a regular basis?” I said a bit more alarmed than I would have liked to.

“Oh yes, you are my long time helpful companion, and don’t worry, we do not marry in most timelines,” she added almost as a joke, which I was unsure of how to take.

At that point Alice Barnsworth became impatient: “Right you two, perhaps you can sort your problems out later, I have a feeling our time here is limited. Do you want to hear my story or not?”

To which I answered: “Right, for what’s it’s worth…” And she continued.

“I knew I was part of a special project, I knew I was supposed to have travelled in time, and somehow ended up in a weird sort of reality on Saturn. It made no sense to me, and instead of shutting my big mouth, I went straight to the doctor on the station and told him everything. You can guess the results…”

“You were declared there as you were declared here: a lunatic,” I said.

“More or less. They were not as barbaric, at the very least,” she added. “I was confirmed unfit for duty. Little I knew that soon I would totally agree with them.”

“How so?” Anna Maria felt the need to ask.

“Because nothing can explain what happened next,” she answered.

To which I replied: “How can you even begin to explain what happened before?” She looked at me with hard eyes, so I stopped and she continued.

“Soon I woke up suddenly floating in space, without even a space suit, and I could breathe! I could see Saturn in the background, the space station, it was wonderful! I was thinking I would never want to leave such a place. I could live here forever, that was my thought.”

“Can I… Anna, would you let me see this?” I said out of curiosity. And she answered: “Of course.”

I have to say, this was incredible. I instantly realised the impact that words alone could never achieve. I saw that planet in all its colours, those rings made of smaller parts, that great space station we, humans, had succeeded in building in some parallel universe. I almost cried, as it seemed so real! At that point I wanted to believe, this had to be real! Or else, I would have wanted to remain connected to such a mind that could recreate something even our probes and huge space telescopes could not even report back. A photograph will never do justice to the real thing.

“Soon I began to think I was very much alone in my time spent in space. I started to understand this universe, this primordial soup of electrons appearing in a blank space, galaxies forming, and finally I dreamed up in my mind one man, the perfect man, the man of my dreams. He appeared there, out of nowhere, and I was ecstatic. I was happy beyond belief. The only problem was that I created some sort of monster, or half human, or perhaps he was too human after all. He could not simply accept this reality. He was wondering, questioning, trying to understand.

“‘What am I doing here?’ he would often say. ‘What is this place? What is the purpose of this world? What am I supposed to do?’

“At which point I panicked and went back to the station. The only problem though was that every time I came back from a little trip in space, I found myself in a dire situation where people thought I was in a coma. I could also not just wish myself to be in space. Going there to meet my new friend I created required a lot of focussed mental energy, or something similar, I can’t really explain it. Can you?”

I looked at Anna Maria, to whom the question was directed. I could not stop from pointing out that no one in their right mind could explain any of this.

She simply smiled: “Pray, continue your fascinating adventure.”

“It didn’t help that I was definitely suffering from hallucinations. Rapidly I was declared schizophrenic, someone who could have a cataleptic fit at any time. They were trying to link this to a new sickness related to space travel, while I was trying to explain that it must be the result of travelling to a parallel world, at which point it was clear I was delusional to everyone. They let me walked freely on the station anyway, figuring that I was not very dangerous and it was like a prison that no one could escape at any rate. Or so they thought, because it was not long before my next episode. In my mind I had recurring dreams, one with a weird disconnected universe with a single human in it, living in space without any need for a spacesuit. The second time around I found him there alone, looking at the stars, pensive. I wondered how long he had been like that contemplating the universe, in a vegetative state, like a tree lost in space. He answered:

“‘Why, since I last saw you of course. You took a long time to come back. I seem to be aware of the universe, capable of mathematical equations in my head about how it works. I can see there is much awareness out there as well. I need to know more, you need to tell me.’

“I was so astonished that he had not simply disappeared when I did, I felt deep pity for him. For days he remained there thinking. That’s not a life!”

“I know some philosophers who could not dream of a better existence,” Anna Maria said. But Ms Barnsworth did not think so.

“Anyway, I decided to create a house for him, with a bedroom so he could sleep in at night, though for him there was no such concept in his mind.

“‘What are those nights and days you are talking about? Why do I need a house or even why would I sleep? You’re not making any sense. And what do you do on that space station of yours when you’re not here with me? I have so many questions to ask, please don’t ever leave me again.’

“So I built the house in the background, and some plates of marble on which he could walk in space to his house. At the end of the path I put a well filled with water, even though I’m not even certain if I thought as far as to wonder where would the water would come from. It was just there, and I instructed him to take some and drink on a regular basis, or he would die. And then I thought about food, but decided that this could wait, as I did not want to simply create a machine making food appear out of nowhere, I would never hear the end of his questions about where that food came from in the first place. Thankfully he didn’t question the well, or where the water came from. He did ask where the house came from, and I had to tell him I just wished it and there it was. He wondered why he did not have these abilities, and so I gave it to him. I said from now on you can dream and create whatever you want. So we waited, for him to create something, but nothing appeared. I asked:

“‘Don’t you want to try your new powers? Don’t you want to create something?’

“He looked at me blandly, he was like a blank storage device, and I told him so. And I understood: how could he create stuff out of nothing if he had no clue about what else existed in this world? So we talked some more about my world, he asked endlessly those questions that I would imagine only a child who still knows nothing about this universe would ask:

“‘Are there others like you on that space station? Do you have houses like that inside that station? What is that planet below, could we go for a visit? Could I live there? What is a blank storage device? What is a dog, you mentioned before that you found them annoying.’

“It went on and on and I got tired, exceedingly so. In the end I think I just collapsed and found myself back on the station. Once again, I had everyone surrounding me as if I was an alien. I had obviously fainted, or had a fit. Once I felt good again, I realise that my new man could communicate with me in the real world, I was now hearing voices, my insanity was complete. He could see through my eyes everything I observed, and somehow managed to control my every move. I started to act oddly to everyone on the station, while he was learning everything he could about the world. I was a hostage in my own body. By the time I broke out of this servitude, I found myself in space once again with many houses, plates of marble and wells in front of each house, and many new people everywhere, deformed dogs and cats existing as I sort of described them to him initially, floating in space doing nothing, not even barking or meowing. There was something weird which was totally out of control, a bird crying and whinging on his shoulder, of beautiful colours though, blue, yellow, green, and a huge beak.

“‘What is that?’ I found myself say, with a smile. ‘Is it a parrot? How can it even fly in space?’

“‘I don’t know, I saw one on your space station. Is it cute or what? It certainly brings life in this dead space. He’s my best friend.’

“‘What do you mean you saw that on my space station?’

“They had the time together to develop their own philosophies, religion, theoretical physics, and somehow found a way to contact their god, me, a mentally ill patient. And though he was now constantly in communication with me, it started to impede seriously on my life while I was awake on the station. They held me hostage, had unreasonable demands, they wanted me to create new stuff for them, new technology, new ways to explore the rest of the universe. And since nothing more had been thought of in my mind apart from their world, they now wanted a real creation, like the one we have right now, a planet Earth, so they could also explore and get out of where they are. I looked at them, blinking:

“‘Considering what you have just achieved, why don’t you create yourself a planet and move there?’

“My friend answered that they did not know enough, they had not witnessed any of it, they only had a vague idea of what Earth represented. They realised by then that we did not usually lived around in space stations surrounding weird planets which could not support life, and especially, we did not float in space in houses with wells. None of it made any sense anymore to any of them. They blamed me for having created something which was unfathomable to them. I had to shout back:

“‘Do you really think that my God was any better in creating the universe I come from? Do you think any of this makes any sense to any of us? Planets, stars, galaxies, oxygen, trees, birds and what else? The difference is that we have stopped a long time ago to question everything, we just accepted it and we moved on with our lives! So you should! Just invent the world of sales, become marketing addicts, create industries, space programmes… I don’t know, anything to quickly forget to think about where you are and why.’

“Somehow it was not enough. When I woke up, I found that this whole thing was destroying my fragile mind, and after a major cataleptic fit or stroke, their world ceased to exist for a while. Fortunately, since many people on board the station were now reporting having seen houses in space with people floating all around. My doctor thought that my illness was contagious.

“I soon got back to normal. No more visions, no more crazy imagination running wild, I was even forgetting that I should not even be on a space station which did not exist in the first place. I even secretly thought that I was not completely cured until I actually woke up back on Earth in England, in my comfy bed, declaring this whole thing a wild dream.”

“That settles it, then,” I finally said. “You have woken up in England, you have dreamt this whole thing, you are cured Ms Barnsworth!”

“It is not that simple, I’m afraid,” said Anna Maria. “There are many parallel universes where we do have a space station around Saturn and many other planets. And Ms Barnsworth’s existence is well documented on those worlds, I remember hearing about people having visions of houses and people in space, it is a fact. A strange one, but one all the same. Ms Barnsworth contacted me in parallel universes once she came back to Earth from the station, this is how I came to know about all this. I quickly realised that in this particular timeline of ours here, there was an anomaly. There was a Ms Barnsworth who said she lived on a space station in the solar system, but no space station other than the International one in orbit around Earth. It is why I contacted you Arthur about Ms Barnsworth as soon as I found out about the anomaly from other parallel universes.”

“Then if what you say is true,” I felt the need to ask, “there are many Anna Maria out there helping many Alice Barnsworth in many universes? Some of them simply to understand what happened to them, others completely out of their original timeline, not once but twice over? How did Ms Barnsworth end up here, where we don’t have a Z machine capable of creating a huge burst of energy, so she did not leave from here? And we don’t have a space station, so she did not end up here either as a result of their attempt to send her in time. So why is she here at all?”

Anna Maria thought about it for a moment. Then said: “I can only think of one thing. Ms Barnsworth, perhaps as a consequence of her experience through this ‘Time Project,’ has gained some paranormal powers. She can now create worlds at will, and therefore should be able to throw herself out of a universe to jump into another. She must have wished to get out of that schizophrenic world altogether, but was somehow incapable of going back to her original timeline, and so ended up here.”

“I wanted to come here,” said Alice. It was not random. I thought of a normal place, not too developed technologically, retard on many levels, like on paranormal and theoretical physics, a society not very much advanced compared to the ones I came from.”

You can imagine I was deeply hurt and insulted: “What? How dare you say we are retards when it comes to technology and science in general? How dare you! Could we build space station everywhere in the solar system? Sure we could, but why spend so much money? What about the rest which makes you so advanced compared to us? In any case, surely it is only a question of time before we can achieve the same results? What do you think Anna?”

“Well, my poor Arthur, I tend to agree with Ms Barnsworth. Compared with other timelines we are really lagging behind. The whole paranormal science here is just that, paranormal instead of science. And if you say you are studying time travel in this day and age, you might as well state that you are studying the fantastic. There are not that many universes out there still talking in terms of quantum physics and relativity. How many times have I told Bertrand Russell that this universe would have been much better off without Albert Einstein, as he threw us off course for a very long time. This is very difficult for Russell to accept, as he was such good friend with Albert.”

“What!” I shouted, “do you really want me to believe that without Einstein, we would be much more advanced in physics today?”

“Not only without Einstein, eliminate Newton and Niels Bohr, and see how fast physicists would come up with better ways of picturing and describing the universe! In ways that actually make sense, for a change. The real question in quantum physics is not why it is so weird, the real question is why has it stuck in the landscape for so long since it does not explain anything. However, we’re not here to debate physics. Let’s hear Ms Barnsworth’s story.”

“All right then,” I said, still unconvinced. So I turned to Alice and said: “So you came here, a timeline where we are supposedly not advanced at all, to find peace. But then, you told your story to everyone and now all you have achieved is to convince us you were crazy!”

Ms Barnsworth looked defeated, she admitted: “I confess this was stupid, but they found me on the base, they declared me dead a long time ago. I let slipped a few top secret things which were no secrets in my timeline, and hence I found myself in deep trouble. I guess I had not thought about it that far. My only defence was to tell the truth, but then it got me into more trouble. Until I realised that Ms Maria must exist in this timeline, and as I remembered in my timeline  that she was the most psychic woman alive, and that is no small claim for a science which is not called paranormal in my world, I thought she could verify what I’m saying here, and free me from this situation. I’m glad she found me, as I didn’t believe in my telepathic powers! I feel I have none.”

“And how do you propose she goes about it?” I answered, “I don’t believe you, I don’t believe her, despite this trick of putting images in my mind, I’m afraid it won’t be enough. You see, we’re not that gullible. And if we are so backwards to you, then perhaps it is because we are more cerebral, intelligent, moving slowly without jumping to conclusions. I would not have it any other way. Let me tell you what awaits you, whatever it is you feel Ms Maria can do for you. You will finish your days in an asylum here on the base, where they will probe and try to understand how you know so much about their little secrets, whilst somehow you either faked your death, or are simply an identical twin. I hope for you they don’t start to believe you could be a clone, because then it could be more serious than you can imagine.”

Ms Barnsworth looked at me completely horrified. She closed her eyes and for a second there I thought she was about to disappear into thin air, as to my astonishment she became a bit invisible, and at the same time I also felt myself moving somewhere else. Anna posed her hand on her and Alice opened her eyes, she said:

“Never mind what Arthur is saying, this is not what’s going to happen. We will get you out of here, and you will live happily forever after somewhere else in this world, never to think too much about all this. Because my friend here, is powerful. More powerful than anyone on this base. And once he will decide to get you out of here, he will. And it won’t be for you to be probed by other people, it will be to free you from all that you have gone through. He doesn’t look very receptive now, but he will by the time we’ll leave this base. He doesn’t understand yet who you are, and how important you are to humanity. I bet you don’t even know that yourself, but it is not to me to tell you that. It is best if you don’t know.”

“Know what?” both Ms Barnsworth and I asked at the same time. But Anna simply bowed her head and signal to Ms Barnsworth to finish her story:

“Somehow I thought I had destroyed them all, my new humanity, killed them all in my mind. That no one else on the station could see them was proof enough that it was so. At the same time, unfortunately, it was also becoming clear to me that I could not have imagined it. I had real people in what seems a real world to me, telling me that my visions had become real! Or that they were real to begin with. My doctor did not know what to say, it was like decades of studies and beliefs had just gone out the window. He was even afraid of me, well, not until he saw on the satellite images from Earth, no less, that my visions were real and there were people living in houses in space, breathing, going along with their meaningless lives, and I was photographed right in the middle, having an argument with a man, the one we thought I created out of nothing. And so, since I was unable to shake the thought that it was all my imagination, it was not long before I started to hear voices again.

“So once more I ended up in space, meeting my new creation. My friend was standing in front of me, hiding something behind him. When he moved away, there was there the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen in my life. I knew her, I remembered having thought of her before that time, it was not like he created her like he appeared to have done with the others. Or at the very least we both thought of her before that time.

“What he said to me then was astounding to say the least: ‘I present to you our daughter, she is our creation, she is ours. And if that does not convince you to remain here with us forever, then I don’t know what will.’

“I spent hours with her, just talking. I answered all of her questions to the best of my abilities. It turns out that she never saw the space station, as somehow they or I moved the whole village around Pluto, where no more spying satellite could spot them, as the ex-planet was no longer of interest to anyone by then. It was still beautiful, that shade of blue which I clearly remember trying to find with difficulty on my palette of colours on my computer some years ago. I digress, I was talking to you about my new daughter, and I had no doubt in my mind that she was mine, and was the fruit somehow of both my original friend and I, though as far as I can remember, we never… you know… how should I put it…”

“Had sex?” I said.

“Snuggled together,” Ms Barnsworth corrected me.

“So people in your world don’t reproduce by having intercourse, they just wish and create new people whenever they want?” I felt the need to ask.

“At the beginning, yes, I admit. Later on this changed, as you will see. I simply decided to copy this same world I was used to, and they reproduced through snuggling. It does not stop the fact that they could still also spontaneously re-create the universe they wanted, create new people or make them disappear at will. However many in time will forget this ability I have given them, it will seem more like coincidences to them when suddenly what they will want will happen like a miracle. I would not want to jump to the end just yet, so let me tell you all about my new daughter.”

“Created out of thin air, just like God would,” I voiced.

“Yeah, just like God!” cried Anna Maria with a smile, coming out of what seemed like a trance until that point. “Please, Ms Barnsworth, continue.”

“We were still spotted around Pluto, don’t ask me how, Big Brother sure has eyes everywhere in my original timeline. So I moved everyone so out of sight, we were completely outside the universe altogether.”

“And where would that be?” I asked.

“Outside of space, that’s all I thought at the time I made the decision, so I don’t know where that would be. I just wished it, all right? And it happened. We were outside of space. So, about my daughter… where was I… you are so exasperating with all your questions, sometimes I wished you just didn’t exist!”

Anna Maria suddenly got up in a state of panic: “Please, Ms Barnsworth, stop right there on your train of thought. You need him to get you out of here and get you the life you’re hoping for yourself”

We both looked at her with surprise. I said: “What, do you think I would simply disappear if Ms Barnsworth wished it?”

“Yes!” was her answer.

So I said: “No one has that much control over the existence that they can get people to vanish or appear out of nothing. What universe do you live in?”

“Let’s just say that I am much more aware than you are about what’s possible and what’s not in this world. So please, just shut up, listen and learn! You’ll never again have that chance, I can assure you. The questions you would be asking right now if you knew what I will tell you later… and how stupid you will feel with your doubts and accusations then…” she almost shouted. She sat down after this burst and tried to calm down.

“Should I continue then?” Alice asked. And upon noticing that Anna was all right, she did: “I don’t know what I was talking about now…”

“Sex and reproduction,” I said.

“Right, you men, is all you can think about,” Ms Barnsworth affirmed.

At that point Anna said something so amazing to Alice, it threw me off my chair: “Well, it’s your fault at any rate… perhaps you didn’t think this through far enough? I’ve seen worlds where sex was not everything! Such animal instincts…”

The look on Ms Barnsworth’s face was impossible to describe, it put her into deep thinking mode, that much I could see. And understanding her mistake, Anna quickly asked Alice to pursue her narrative, as if to change her mind:

“All I know is that my little adventures with my society, which was developing more and more with each passing day, with my adorable daughter right at the centre of it, was simply killing me. If I continued to go and see them, I would surely die, as my doctor was telling me back at the station. On the other hand, if I stopped visiting them, they would become alienated and drive me mad back on the station. As they were still communicating with me then, and to some extent, controlling me.

“They quickly understood though that I was getting sicker, and I made them appreciate that if I were to go into a coma or even die, they would vanish out of existence. From that point on they helped me in every way they could. It was truly a symbiotic relationship, even existence. My creatures were helping me see more clearly. In no time I got better and convinced everyone around me that I was normal, no longer schizophrenic or suffering from hallucinations. I know it wasn’t true, and I will spare you all the episodes I had, it suited me at that time to appear normal.

“My people were however dissatisfied with me, they wanted more, evermore. They agreed with me that my world did not make any more sense than theirs, they wanted it anyway, they thought it was the real world, the one from which they appeared to have been created from and for. We had to reach some sort of agreement in the end, as I was still getting sicker from visiting, so I could no longer have direct contact with them. And their intrusion in my mind on the station was simply having disastrous effect on my behaviour, it threatened my sanity at every turn.

“So I made a decision. I had to get rid of them without killing them, they were after all my creation. They were real enough that others in my reality had photographed them. Funny, what gave me the idea, was my doctor. He was deeply religious in nature, I even found him annoying with his stories about the divine, God and Jesus-Christ.

“‘Please! Give me a break!” I told him, ‘in my timeline, we got rid of those centuries ago.’

“He would not back down however, and insisted that I read the Bible, at least Genesis. I shouted: ‘I would prefer to burn in hell before I did something so ludicrous.’ He was determined, and hid his damn Bible under my pillow, no doubt in hopes that I would read it at some point.

“And I did, I read the beginning, Genesis. It was like an illumination! I thought, that’s it, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll create a new universe in seven days for my people (well, seven second anyway from my perspective, several million of years from theirs, whatever), I will put them on Earth so they can evolve on their own without me. And their whole history will happen instantly from my point of view, so I won’t have to supervise the whole thing for millennia.

“I made them mortals, capable of reproducing, copying the whole world we’ve been used to anyway. I placed myself outside of time… well, different time rate at any rate. Never mind. I just wished it and it happened. Bang. Just like that. Problem solved, I finally got rid of them. I was so pleased with myself! I had solved my situation in one short burst of genius thinking. And to keep what I called my husband and daughter happy, I created another version of myself, in my image, to live with them for as long as a normal life would be. She was to possess my own knowledge and intelligence, guide them as they went along, and make any change I would myself see fit as everything evolved in time.”

“So you could call it a creation with an evolution?” I said, “how convenient.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly it!” Alice stated. “I didn’t think of it this way, but this is it, a creation with an evolution. I had to make it believable. With so much space, and stars and galaxies, and distance, that they could never really get out of their island, never understand enough to get out of it, never reaching the edge. I just thought, all right, just need this whole universe to make some sort of sense to them, or perhaps not, who cares, they should never leave it, never truly understand it, eventually die after many generations. Natural disaster, or if they kill each other, I couldn’t care less. By then the people I cared about would be long dead anyway. I just wanted to get rid of them, so I could continue some sort of normal existence. I gave it as much thought as I could to get them going, and then I left it all to them.

“I had other big fish to fry in my own existence, though I started to think about the irony of this all. I was after all living myself perhaps in some sort of creation of some other being that came before me, and I was wondering if he or she had given more thought to it than I did. By then I was declared completely insane, and I certainly was not going to deny it. I believed it! I just wished I could finally get back to reality, whatever that was. Some sort of normality.

“My doctor went wild after that, he wouldn’t let go. He said he had the proof that I was crazy, and for many weeks I awaited his famous proof.”

“I think I know,” said Anna.

I had absolutely no clue, myself. By then I was so gripped into that story, I cared little about if it made any sense or not. I wanted this proof so badly, I thought it would reveal a lot to me. So this time I stopped Anna from speaking, and I’m the one who said: “Please, continue!”

“Well, the proof was quite something, I have to admit. I was not prepared for this. My doctor came in one day in his office with a big smile on his face, whilst I was sitting calmly. He assured me that today was the big day, and that for once I would be able to realise that everything I had told him was just an elaborate story I had concocted in my mind.

“‘What about the photos which prove my saying,’ I asked?

“His answered was that we could discuss it after he presented me two persons he had discovered should have been part of my life, but we’re no longer because I left for the space station. Who could be those two persons, I thought, which could change anything to what I’ve been through? As far as I knew, this was not even my own timeline, I never left for any space station ever. So I thought his little surprise will be no surprise to me.

“I was wrong. Who came into the room were the original man I created, my perfect man, and the supposed daughter we had together. They were there in front of me, in flesh, they existed in this reality for the first time. I created them, I thought. I sent them to exist on a new Earth somewhere out of space, I re-created a universe for them, they should not be there right in front of me right now.

“‘Who are they?’, I asked.

“‘Don’t you recognise us’, the child said, ‘I’m your daughter! That’s my dad!’

“And she cried, and cried, until it seemed there was nothing left to cry. I could not remember them. My doctor assured me that there in front of me were my husband and daughter, who had learn with distress that I became schizophrenic, and decided to come to the station in order to help me.

“They showed me photos, films, proofs that what they were saying was true. I could only think that I created them in real life as a consequence of losing them to that imagined universe which I could no longer visit from fear for my health. And so, I accepted them for a while, I enjoyed their presence, even though at the back of my mind something was not right.

“Nothing was right anymore. I didn’t believe in reality, in anything. Perhaps I was crazy after all, my mind was gone, some links disconnected within my brain, whatever. I had to escape it all, I had to get out of there, these people, and whatever it is that I believed until that point. So I shut myself out from everyone, I disconnected myself from reality. And that was it, I was really out of my mind.

“I think I was unconscious for quite a while. When I came back to my senses, I was on Earth, my mind was connected to a computer and they were probing my brain, trying to cure me. Some technology I know does not exist in this world. If you want, Duke Connaught, I can provide you with all the schematics to prove to you that this works and does not exist here, however I would not want anyone to go through what I went through, so you can forget it.”

“Of course,” I said with sarcasm.

“Don’t interrupt!” she cried, and I shrunk back into my chair. She continued.

“I had only one thought, to get out of there, this painful process. I was not about to become a computer for them, so they could say they cured me and I was finally back to normal. I was normal! I know that. They were the retards, they had not witnessed everything I did, this extraordinary journey, which I believe in the end to be true. I had new powers they did not understand, I had evolved to a point they could only dream of, if they would only listen to me and believe me!

“So in the end I had only one wish, the one to return to a universe similar to the one I left, but still not advanced enough that I would not have to go through any of what I had gone through. This is how I believe I ended up here. It is by trying to find out if any of what I was familiar with existed here in this parallel universe, that I was reassured that I succeeded. However I made a crucial mistake by doing so and divulged some information which was known from only a handful of people here, top secret information, and now I’m in deep trouble and I need your help to get out of here.”

“Can’t you just switch timelines again, then?” I asked.

“No, it seems that I also wished that I would no longer have any of these extraordinary powers. I simply wanted to be normal again, just like every miserable human being. That’s what I wanted whilst I was being tortured back then, and now I see I wasn’t thinking clearly. I’m in a mess.”

“Is that it, then? Have we heard it all?” I added.

“Yes, this is what I had to say. I am now in your hands, please help me to get out of here, so I can start living the life I was supposed to, if there is such a thing.”

Anna stood up from her chair, she took the hand of Ms Barnsworth to reassure her, and said:

“Don’t worry dear, you will be out of here soon. Where would you want to go? Better yet, let me guess. For some reason I feel you want to live in Chiswick.”

“Yes, you are amazing. Just like I knew you would. Chiswick is where I come from, this is where I want to go. But is it wise? Perhaps I should be sent to Siberia instead, where no one will ever find me?”

I was about to stop this nonsense when Anna Maria seemed to realise what I was about to do, and she took my hand, squeezed it really hard, and gave me no chance to add another word. We left the room, looking at this strange being in front of us… she sure looked like she had believed her story. She was convincing enough, and yet, it was undeniable that she was insane. But I couldn’t dismiss the evidence, that woman died years ago in Iraq. Or did she? I was going out of this base with one single idea in my mind, I was going to do the research of the century about this woman. By the end of the next day I would know everything there is to know about her, that’s all I could be thinking about.

On our way back, neither Anna nor I said anything. I was in deep thoughts, and she seemed to have realised that, and believed better of it than to interrupt them. She got out the car saying only one thing:

“Let me know what you find out, let me know how we will proceed with this case.”

She said it so nonchalantly, as if it did not affect her in the least. As if she had said those same words to me many times before. She had this great ability to put all of this out of her mind, so I said:

“What are you going to do now?”

“Why? I need to feed Barnsworth, of course. He’s been left alone all day, apart from perhaps Bertrand Russell, when he can actually see him, that is.”

“Barnsworth?” I asked puzzled?

“Yeah, my gold and blue macaw,” she answered.

I was so lost, I can’t even begin to explain.

“What, you have a parrot called Barnsworth? How is this possible? When did you buy it?”

“Years ago, he’s the best friend a girl can have.”

“Can anyone verify that you called that parrot Barnsworth years ago? Before you even met or knew Ms Barnsworth existed?”

“Bertrand could, but he’s a ghost, so I suspect it would be difficult for you to get confirmation from him. Fear not, my new dear friend, here I have all the papers for you to consider. This is no coincidence if my long time friend parrot is called Barnsworth, I was made aware of Ms Barnsworth a long time ago. She’s so important to this world you’re living in, that you will never be able to understand. Let me know what you find out and what we’ll do about this.”

And then she left to go back to her bunker disguised as a lovely villa. I’m sure she slept very well that night, I can’t say I did as well. By the time it was morning I had a complete plan of all I would do to verify this woman’s story, even if at the back of my mind it was ludicrous and a big waste of time. There were just too many clues and hints to prove me otherwise, and so in the early morning I set myself to work. I went to Millbank in Westminster, MI5 headquarters at Thames House, and I give all my agents orders they will never forget. Many thought I had become crazy, and perhaps even considered right away who should replace me. To this day they must still be puzzled, because I have not told them anymore than they needed to know to do their job.

First thing I did was to verify if Mr. Barnsworth, as the parrot of Anna Maria is called, has been called so for as many years as she claimed. Then I checked if in any way she could have known about Ms Barnsworth before the last few days. This was important to discover if this was not an elaborate hoax. I ordered a full search on both women, I was satisfied that they did not know each other before then. I was however flabbergasted by Anna Maria’s history. I won’t get into details now, because this has nothing to do with this actual case.

You would be amazed to realise how much information on one person a team of agents at MI5 can find in one day, I was however amazed that they were unable to disprove her story. In fact, everything they found was very much confirming everything, and only helped to make the case even more mysterious. It defied logic and common sense.

I found out about Ms Barnsworth’s family in Chiswick and decided to bring them all along to visit that ghost from their past. I invited Anna Maria to come and so we all found ourselves at that military base once again later that afternoon.

I decided to play a game with Ms Barnsworth, I did like her doctor did on the so-called space station. I prepared her psychologically to meet the proof that she imagined it all. I have not even told her family who they were going to meet or the purpose of their coming to the base. I told them that it was in the name of national security, they had been summoned there, they had no choice. So I got them all together to witness the scene that would ensue.

Alice first met her parents. The look on their face and what they said convinced me that, one, this was their daughter, and two, she died in 1991. Alice’s reaction also told me that she was not that surprised that I would try such a trick, and seemed to consider these people like replica of her parents, but far from being the real thing, since she believed to be from another universe. The parents concluded that this was their daughter, but someone brainwashed her or played with her memory, as not everything should be as it was.

All right, I thought, now the candles on the cake. I let in her husband and daughter, and was ready for fireworks. I was right, there were sparks. While I was playing with everyone’s deep emotions, feeling great about it and learning all that I wished to learn, Anna Maria looked at me with a disapproval glance, and a smile. At no time did she interfere with my big plans to get to the truth, and for that I either admire her, or in retrospect, can only imagine she knew all along that only this could convince me.

Well, the husband and daughter came in, they almost had a heart attack. For a second there I thought we would lose the husband and Ms Barnsworth altogether, though they were both freaking out for different reasons. For Mr. Barnsworth, it was to find his long dead wife alive, for her, it was to meet once again the very perfect man and daughter she had created in that distant world of hers. She was so ecstatic that they actually existed in this timeline, as she put it, that she cried all the tears she could. She no longer wished to be isolated in Siberia, she wanted to live here with her family in Chiswick. But why accept them so readily now, when she didn’t in the other timeline when they were presented to her by that doctor?

At this point I wasn’t so sure anymore of what to do, or what I had accomplished there, or even what all this proved. One thing I knew, is that there were enough circumstantial evidence to prove that the woman was not crazy, unless her whole family was on it too. There was no way at any rate I was going to keep Alice Barnsworth imprisoned on that base, I knew that then.

So I went to everyone concerned on the base, talked to them, and we left with Ms Barnsworth. I made sure that no one would be pursuing that case, I told them to forget it all, never happened. I’m glad that to this day my influence seems to have done the trick, no one bothered Ms Barnsworth after that and she is still living in Chiswick with her family, who still cannot believe that, somehow, perhaps by an act of God, their daughter was returned to them.

They all became deep conspiracy theorists, not believing a word the government says, and claimed Alice never actually died in 1991 in Iraq. They’re still trying to understand where she was all those years. Probably a prisoner of war in Iraq, and they are now spending a fortune helping other POWs worldwide. Good for them, it still explains nothing.

After that Anna Maria left me alone, leaving me with all my questions and worries, as I had witnessed extraordinary powers there, at the very least hers. I could see her sometimes arriving in her Rolls Royce that she parked in her underground garage. She was rich, that much I knew, I had some hints from my research, and yet, she remained a total mystery to me.

In the end I decided she deserved to be investigated further and I knocked on her door one Saturday morning. I brought along my border terrier Bubba, in order to look more harmless. I pretended I was walking the dog and decided to come over, it would look innocent, I imagined.

Innocent it was not. She was expecting me, she had one of those wonderful hot chocolate made of real chocolate waiting for me, my favourite, it was warm, but getting cold. She also had dog food ready, though she has no dog.

“It is not as hot as it should be,” she said, “because you hesitated in coming here, you went for another tour of the buildings before coming over. It was predictable, however less probable than I thought. Sorry.”

I could barely believe my ears.

“Never mind about the hot chocolate. Please, tell me, what just happened?”

She invited me upstairs in her little conservatory, all done nicely with warm colours of woods, and then her parrot Barnsworth jumped on my shoulder. I looked at him twice, and said: “Yeah, let’ begin with that parrot and how he got his name in the first place, shall we?”

“Come here, right in the middle of the room, and bring Bubba” she said.

“Bubba? I got him only yesterday! How the hell do you know his name? I decided that this morning! I told no one, and it is not even a final decision!”

“It is now, I’m sure,” she laughed.

She was good. I followed her to the centre, with the parrot on my shoulder, then the circle in the middle went down a very long time. I was alarmed.

“How far below underground are we going? What’s going on here? Who are you? Are there tunnels deep underground where I have lived for many years, and I never knew about it, me, the head of all secret agencies in the UK? How is this possible?”

When we reached the bottom floor, there were installations there as good if not better than what we had at MI5. Machines I could not even recognise. It did not appear to have been used at all. My name was everywhere, Duke of Connaught, my family tree, and so the name of Russell. It was crazy, I thought this was some sort of nightmare and I would wake up soon after.

This woman was playing with my mind, and so must be a spy or terrorist, or anything like that. Then I came to see a painting of me and my dog Bubba, a dog I only bought the day before! It was unbelievable! I was speechless. I looked at her, my mouth wide opened, asking for an explanation.

She simply answered: “None of this is a coincidence. You should have been aware, you helped developed all this, the modern installations that is. You just did not help me in this actual timeline, I’m afraid to say. I have the same installations across many parallel universes, as a result of the Prime Minister Lord John Russell, who served under Queen Victoria and built those underground tunnels in the first place. It was turned into a real bunker as a consequence of Bertrand Russell, campaigner against nuclear weapons, and also the Phantom Squad, a little-known military regiment whose headquarters and training centre occupied Pembroke Lodge during the Second World War. They’re still alive today, they come and visit me every year. You recognise yourself here, because you were sort of here before! Now, preparing for the new war, down here we’re out of space, and out of time. It is the only place from which we can observe all the changes in the universe, understand what’s going on, and act accordingly.”

“Would you ever ceased to surprise me, woman! What is this? Should I call my agents and have them storm this place right now? Give me one good reason!”

“They couldn’t find it in the first place, it does not exist! You see, in Victorian times it was just tunnels to protect against conventional bombs. For the Second World War, to protect us against nuclear attacks, it became the best bunker you will ever find. And now, for the Third World War, it is more complicated. When what you have to fight for are changes due to time travel, as this is a reality in many other parallel universes interacting with ours, and also in the future of our very timeline, this is what this place has become: an out of space and time bunker. A communication centre to observe the changes as they happen, spot anomalies in history so we can either correct them or plan around it. This place is in used in many other spaces and times, it is up to you if it will be used in the here and now.”

“Have you ever wondered how IBM became so successful? Quite an unlikely history for a company, wouldn’t you say? More like science fiction. That company is an anomaly in time. It should not have happened.”

“IBM? What are you talking about, who cares about IBM and how successful they were at inventing computers?”

“Have you ever wondered how we won the Second World War?” she continued. “Hitler was so technologically advanced, so powerful, and yet, somehow we won. They were superior in everything, the real history is much more ugly, I tell you. Nuclear missiles and gas mustard is what won the war, the German won, and we never cracked the code of those enigma machines, this is pure fantasy. Why is it that most German scientists, the greatest on Earth, simply jumped on a ship to reach America to fight their own country? Is it making any sense to you? German invented nuclear weapons, not Americans! I’m telling you, Arthur, this is a noteworthy anomaly in time.”

“What are you saying! I don’t even want to go there! We defeated that son of a bitch, we were more powerful than he was!”

“We lost the Second World War, don’t you see? In many timelines, an infinite amount of them! Only in a few isolated ones, including the one in which we are evolving in right now, we have won that war. It is because of people from the future and their time machines, who somehow created a few new timelines by modifying history. They went back in time, through future knowledge we defeated the Nazis. Now, what do you make of that!?”

“This is madness. I don’t believe this. You’re out of your mind.”

I tried to turn on a computer, dear me, I could not even find the on/off button. She turned it on with her mind, and it was so futuristic, I could barely believe my eyes. I had to believe her in the end, nothing else made any sense. I was aware of the deep implications, but decided to keep that for later. I innocently knocked on that door for a reason after all, to get to the bottom of that story with Ms Barnsworth. So she invited me to return upstairs, in between her telescope and innocent paintings, so we could discuss around a hot chocolate, what it is that brought us together from my point of view. I asked:

“So, who was that Alice Barnsworth? That you even called your parrot like her many years before you even heard of her?”

“You have no idea, do you, of who she is?”

“Well, yeah, she was a soldier, she killed people for a living, she was a lunatic, off her head, completely insane. I wish I could say it was the result of some drug she was given there in 1991, but even then, it doesn’t quite add up, does it?”

“You have no idea of who she is.”

“No, I don’t. Why don’t you enlighten me?”

“She is the God of this universe, she created us, we are her descendants.”

“What? You’re mad! Why am I even listening to you?”

“She is Eve, the first woman, her husband is Adam, the first man!”

“Nonsense. You can show me all your bag of tricks, somehow try to fool me with a cave full of stuff about my family - granted, most of it is classified secret, and God only knows how you came to find out about this - but you will never convince me that she is God.”

“She isn’t ‘The God’, she is but one God, and particularly the God of that very timeline we’re evolving in. She created that timeline, actually botched it from the sound of it, which is why she came back here. Many other versions of her created other timelines, but by no means has she created all the timelines that exist. Remember, she got inspiration from something else that existed before us, she was thrown out of her original timeline created by someone else, and somehow she created something alike. She did not even give any thought to the world she made, she vaguely wished for something similar to what she knew. She has however created most timelines that you and I evolve in, and so she’s as close to a God as you and I will ever know. Remember though that other versions of us exist in other timelines created by others.”

“This is not possible. There is no God, there was no creation. It is all down to evolution, there was a Big Bang!”

“Are you sure there was a Big Bang, instead of just trillions and trillions of electrons appearing out of nowhere, and eventually evolving into what you see today when you look at the sky?”

“It is useless to argue with you. You think you know everything. Hell, for all I know, you could be God, you strike me as someone much more powerful than her, who understands much more than she ever will.”

“Yes, I believe she is not even aware that she created this timeline. And as for your question as if I am a God, I can only say that I am, as I created many universes in my own mind many years ago. However I got tired of it after a while. Nice exercise though, if you ever get bored in this life, please go ahead, you can also create worlds, as many as you like.”

I was outraged by what I was hearing, that our whole universe and humanity could have started in the mind of a mentally ill and insignificant woman, a soldier and hence a murderer, who did not even know that she was God. And that time travel bullocks… And so I left that place with my dog Bubba as fast as I could, saying:

“I have the honour to say good day to you Madam.”

I was hoping to have a nice walk in Sidmouth Wood before dinner, whilst forgetting that any of this ever happened.

“She can get lost, her and her bunker out of spacetime,” I said to my border terrier afterwards. I looked at him, wondering if he was deformed from the original version in that other original universe we derived from, as Alice Barnsworth had said. Never mind, she looked so nice to me, I couldn’t be bothered.

I had no intention to ever talk to Anna Maria again after that day. Surely she didn’t have all the answers, as she claimed to. I hadn’t realised then that she had already fascinated me beyond belief, got me to think more than I could bare, and that soon I would once again find myself knocking at her door asking for her help.

As so is life that we can disagree with the people we meet, and yet, when we need their help, we simply put their crazy beliefs at the back of our mind, walk over our pride, and ask for their help.

 

 


 

The Marginals

Westminster’s Predictions of the Future

 

 

One evening I was having a reception on the terrace at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. Important people including the Prime Minister and the Queen of the United Kingdom were present. The area had been closed to the public for the event, the car park looked like a war zone with so many helicopters and army trucks. If Anna Maria was looking out of her window, I knew she would be wondering what the big hoo-ha was. I was afraid she would invite herself. She however always seemed to know what I was thinking, and she respected my privacy.

There were a lot of great questions and answers to be found at that meeting disguised as a reception, and I spent most of the evening talking to generals, politicians and others, and listening to the Queen as she seemed to show interest in our work. She is such a genuine person, her powers may be symbolic, but when she tells me something, you can bet I wouldn’t dream of contradicting her or not follow her advice. She’s also so diplomatic, you would never really hear an advice or an order, you can only guess some suggestions between the lines.

It is not to boast about my position that I am telling you this, but I feel you need to be in the right context to understand the situation. I was talking with the Prime Minister and the highest General of the British Army, Edwin Kuester The Third. They were commending me about my recent success about that terrorist plot which we unravelled at everyone’s complete surprise, as it became known how poor our intelligence was in the matter. I was hesitant to mention the wonderful help Anna Maria had provided, I was afraid I would be ridiculed in front of the Prime Minister by that General, whom I thought, would certainly not agree with the use of clairvoyants to gather intelligence. I was hoping the subject would go away, but then, to my astonishment, The Third brought the subject up.

“I heard your success is mainly due to a certain Anna Maria? A psychic medium or something?” the General gallantly said.

I was convinced he was trying some trick to annihilate my credibility in the eyes of the Prime Minister, I was fuming inside. It turns out that the Queen was listening in the background and she joined us upon hearing the name Anna Maria. That was it, my career was surely over now. Such a brilliant career all gone down the drain because of one general who seemed to know a bit too much about my top secret files at MI5. Even my own agents barely knew anything about Anna! I was pondering these questions in my mind, trying to find something to say to discredit that General Kuester, anything, or change the subject of the conversation, when the Queen spoke:

“Anna Maria, did you say? I know her, I have met her many times. She is extraordinary. Without her the fate of England would be different today, and mine as well. That is all I will say upon the subject. I commend you Duke of Connaught for having secured her services. She lives next door to you, isn’t she? In that beautiful little villa. I stayed there once for a few days, it is really worth visiting if you get the chance.”

My heart was about to explode, I sincerely believed that the smile on my face would never disappear again. What? The Queen herself knew Anna Maria and stayed at her villa? Who is that Anna Maria? How did she get to meet the Queen many times, and save the Crown and the country? My head was buzzing. This was something that my research of the century about Anna did not uncover. What else did I miss in my intelligence gathering about that not so common psychic woman?

The General Kuester, perhaps seeing that he missed his target practice the first time around, and seeing that I was winning the war since I had the benediction of the Queen herself, was very quick to point out that they too had a special section within the army where all those paranormal phenomena were investigated. He went on to explain his pet project, hoping to get the Queen’s ear, but by then she was no longer interested and was already speaking with some annoying Earl I could barely stand myself.

“Prime Minister, we are investigating this remote-viewing thing that the American seems to have an interest in,” General Kuester The Third said. “We hope to predict the future, develop a reliable science to come up with better ways to predict behaviour. We have a woman scientist, brilliant in her field, Frederique Loren I believe.”

There was no time to waste, I join in to impress the Prime Minister as well, stating: “Oh, predicting behaviour, the future, yes, we are also working on that, as far as I can remember. We have this scientist, a genius in his own field, working on behaviour patterns and determinism, that sort of thing. His name is… well, it is… did you say Frederic Lorentz? That guy is working for us, it is not a woman. Did you come and steal him from me like you did last time I stumbled upon a great witness?”

I have to say, both the General and I were trying to impress the Prime Minister without really knowing what we were talking about, or even what it is that those people we were paying so much were actually doing with our pounds, or worse, if this was all justified or simply wasted money. And now it was falling into petty arguments about budget and staff allocation. I was ashamed with myself.

The Prime Minister looked like he was about to tell us what he thought of our little debate, and if he believed it was all worth it. Or any opinion whatsoever would have been welcomed at this point, as we were really on shaky grounds. Just as he was about to say something, while the General and I were there unable to breathe, a huge commotion happened right behind him.

A man and a woman were fighting each other with their fist, would you believe? At my reception! With everyone who’s got a name in England present! I would like to say that I was enraged, but I welcomed the diversion, hoping it would soon die out and we could resume on other topics of conversation. It did not go away, it broke the party in the end.

It turns out, by some weird coincidence, that the two people fighting right behind the Prime Minister, were Frederique Loren and Frederic Lorentz! So, whether the Prime Minister wanted to hear about this or not, we had no choice now but to listen to it all, with these people washing their dirty laundry in public in such a fashion.

Frederique took a few vases and broke them on the floor, before shouting: “Was that predictable, then? Mister Lorentz?” She then pushed the Prime Minister who fell on the Queen! I was about to have a heart attack, but the scene was so amusing that I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud, quickly stopping, incapable of believing what I had just done. In my mind, it was far worse to laugh at it than actually having pushed them in the first place.

“Did your calculations show that I would push the Prime Minister into the Queen? Hey? Hey?” Frederique continued.

“Well, you have been so unstable lately, that I would have to say yes, it was predictable that you would be doing unpredictable deeds, extreme conduct!” was Mr. Lorentz answer. “And you, did you predict that I would punch you in the face tonight, did you?”

We had to separate them and move inside to calm them down, and also to assess the situation. An investigation would surely follow, and I certainly wanted to avoid any storm or cloud over MI5 because one of my men couldn’t control himself. At that point, I was hoping to put the entire blame unto Ms Loren. Yet in such matters of a men fighting with a woman, it is often so that the woman always has the upper hand and sympathy of the public, as they see the other sex as weak, innocent and without defence, when I know very well that women in general can be as cunning if not more so than men. So we listened to their story, the General, the Prime Minister, the Queen and I.

What was so amazing is that those two had a similar name, and working in the same field of work. From what I gathered, Frederique Loren and Frederic Lorentz were studying human behaviour, statistical probabilities and real predictions of the future and the behaviour of their subjects. When they met they realised that they were a perfect match but didn't dare admit to it in order to not be the victim of this predestination. They wished to be free of making their own decisions, of thinking the way they wanted, without becoming a casualty of their own theories about life. This desire to be different and not be a statistic brought them to the brink of war with each other and they became alienated with their field of study. They were now acting like mad people to escape predicted patterns.

It was all confusing. Upon hearing all this, the Queen said something to me that chilled me to the bone. She wondered: “Why don’t you go get Anna Maria, if anyone can tell us if there is such determinism in life that we have no free will, she can.”

Upon hearing the name Anna Maria, Frederique Loren was ecstatic: “Dear me, I worked with so many psychic mediums, they all tell me she’s the best. She declined working with us on our project. I would so love to meet her! Please!”

It seems that I had no choice in the matter. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to talk to Anna Maria again, and now I had to go and beg her to come over because the Queen requested her presence. I was already thinking about lying, never knocking on her door and pretend that she wasn’t home, when I heard a voice behind me, it was Anna Maria:

“Someone wishes my presence?” she asked innocently.

How did she know? I never asked. When her gaze met the Queen’s eyes, they both went to each other as if they were long time friends!

“My dear child, I am so pleased to see you again, I would have invented anything for you to pop over,” the Queen said.

“So nice to see you again Elizabeth, which reminds me, I will have to come and visit you again soon, we need to talk,” Anna Maria answered. Then she turned to the Prime Minister: “You too, you remember what we were discussing the other day? Well, you will be pleased to hear that there are new developments.”

What! She also knew the Prime Minister? She was on a first name basis with the Queen? I looked like such a fool. And I called myself the head of the greatest intelligence service in the world? I was devastated.

The Queen brought Anna Maria to the two little terrorists who had destroyed my reception and said: “We have a bit of a little mystery here, and I would love to see you in action. Let me present you, as far as I could understand, Frederique Loren and Frederic Lorentz. We have a little conundrum for you. It seems to me that destiny brought them both together, and the question is, is there free will in this world, or is the fate of this country already sealed and there’s nothing anyone here can do about it? After all, if one can predict the future so well, then the future cannot be changed?”

“Ms Maria, I am so pleased to meet you,” Frederique started, shaking Anna’s hand. “I understand you didn’t want to be part of our study, but tonight I might finally hear your thoughts upon the matter. It could be of tremendous help to me.”

“Of course,” Anna answered, “why don’t we sit down and you can tell me everything that occurred so far.”

As far as I could tell, they were questioning if we had the freedom of action or the freedom of thought in life, because of determinism and predestination. A debate as old as philosophy and religion themselves, I was wondering what was the point of even asking the question.

It is interesting to note how they met. They were allocated two different conference rooms at MI5 headquarters in Westminster in Central London. Two symmetrical rooms where MI5 people dressed in suits were sitting to the left of the room, and the Armed Forces people were sitting to the far right of the other room. Both our friends were assigned to the wrong conference room, started to explain their projects, and were being told after a while that they were in the wrong room. This is how Frederique and Frederic first met, when they switched places and realised why there was a mistake as they have almost the same name. They also understood at that point that they were working on related topics, her for the Armed Forces and him for MI5.

The idea that was discussed in both rooms was, for Frederic's presentation, that if you could predict exactly how people would react in certain circumstances, you could sell them the right thing or idea at the right time. For Frederique's presentation you could predict how they would react to your actions strategically during a war or even in the world of diplomacy and the balance of power.

“I am studying chromosomes and people's personalities,” Lorentz started. “Just by looking at people I know exactly how someone would react to something you would tell him or her. I have become a databank of detection and probabilities, of personality traits. I can even guess the first name of someone just by looking at him or her.”

“Can you guess my name?” the General Edwin Kuester The Third asked, with a mocking tone.

Frederic remained completely blanked. He venture to say: “All I can say is that your name is rather pompous and complicated. I reckon it is a unusual name, beyond that I would not venture a guess.”

“Edwin Kuester, is that so?” Anna said behind him. “The Third…”

The General turned around with a violent start: “Yes! However easy to guess since my uniform shows my rank, you must remember the name of the highest General in the British Army, don’t you?”

“Yes, I knew it. It is not from memory though that I got your name, it is from your mind. Feel free to not believe me, I don’t really mind.”

“You will admit though that I was right at any rate, pompous and complicated name, from deluded parents who obviously thought their kid would become someone important one day, and they certainly pushed very hard for this to happen, stopping at nothing…”

The General lost patience at this point: “All right, all right, I don’t need my life story exposed in public like this!”

“So I am right then? See how much information I can gather just by looking at that fat bastard!”

This time I was the one who had to intervene, or risk a diplomatic crisis: “What is wrong with you? Don’t you have any respect for anyone, especially the distinguished guests at this reception? Who invited you here anyway? I apologise General for this impertinence, I am truly sorry.”

“I forgive you,” he said to me, as if I was responsible for the words of my employee. “You need more disciplined at MI5, I would be more than happy to oblige a few courses and training session. Send them my way, I will break their will and freedom of thought in less than a week.”

“Enough of this,” cut Lorentz. “The freedom to act and think is exactly the discussion here, we’re trying to prove that we don’t have much in this world, though we would prefer more. You would never break my will, quite the contrary, as I am too aware of your mind control devices. It is to people like me and my research that you got to know what to do to achieve your objectives. You see, I am also working at developing the computer that can predict the way anyone would react or what they would do confronted with certain situations just by analysing their DNA pattern. The sort of advanced behavioural pattern identification I am working on for MI5 is for the purpose of prediction behaviours with known terrorists or even simple innocent citizens in light of MI5 possible actions. I am also secretly trying to boost the economy in order to make capitalism look more attractive to consumers, in some other independent research for the Department of Trade and Industry.

“Sometimes people appear to be twins, but are not,” Frederic continued. “They look the same but are of a different age or even sometimes of a different race. Still they look very similar. Studies showed that they go on to live very similar lives. They fall in love with the same sort of people, they buy the same things and usually study the same topics, and end up following similar career paths. They have almost the same combination of chromosomes. So you can imagine my surprise when I came face to face with Frederique Loren. We looked like either identical twins, or a match made in heaven. I was always able to keep a certain professional distance from my research, I never really felt that it could be applied to myself. Suddenly I had no choice, I was directly confronted by it. Did I have any choice in the matter? Or was I simply to marry her, have babies and live happy forever after, as I was programmed to by my chromosomes and genes?”

I have to admit that all that we had heard from Fredric sounded quite impressive. Even though his lack of manner and respect, I was proud to have him on my team. As it was some sort of competition between the army and the intelligence services, between the General and I, I could see that he was growing impatient for Frederique to explain what she was doing, hoping she would be as clever.

“And what about you Ms Loren, what have you got to say about this? Come on! What have you been working on?” he finally said with some impatience.

“I am working on predicting the future by remote viewing and the careful study of human behaviour in general from a sociological point of view. I am directing a team of people capable of seeing the future, and I’m proud to say here that we’ve had a high success rate, bringing some questions about our freedom to act and think in this world. When we tried to see how the enemy would react to certain decisions the British and American armies made, we uncovered some disturbing facts about the way we can change the future and our destiny if we get a glimpse of what it is.

“We have the freedom to change a predestined path as soon as we know the future. We can change how we react to certain events if we know we would react this way in the first place. There are many levels of complexities about how the enemy thinks we think, and how they perceive us and our reaction to for example another announcement that they intend to test some nuclear weapons in view of using them very soon to blow up their neighbour. It is like teasing us, testing us, it’s like a game. And we unfortunately have to play it for the public and the world’s opinion. In secret though we do not need to react the expected way, the enemy knows this, it is why there is always another ulterior motive to what they are really stating whenever they do so. The same for us, we say something, we do another, the more unpredictable we act, the better. Predicting the future in those conditions in hypothetical scenarios become a main priority in order to avoid alienating the whole world, our enemy and our own people alike.”

I could see she was as eloquent as Lorentz, and the General appeared to be pleased about her speech and the strategic implications for the country. His smile was shouting: you see, us army people are not just brute force, we also have an intelligence element to our working and thinking process. He was less pleased when Frederique brought it all back to a more mundane level:

“To bring it to a more personal perspective, when I meet Mr. Right, I have the choice of not meeting him, or not to start a relationship. In one word it was not predestined, I have free will.”

“And I say you have no choice,” Frederic added. “In certain circumstances, you will act a certain way and you could not deviate from the path laid out for you. Almost like fatalism. And by the way, Ms Loren, if you can predict the future with a high degree of certainty, and you don’t interfere, then surely the future is already written and people will act the way I predicted they would. There is no question that we were all predestined to meet certain types of people, and that if you could know what a certain guy would fall for, by putting a certain woman in front of him you could be certain he would fall in love at first sight. It is the first law of the new advanced behavioural patterns I invented.”

Then Frederique argued back: “No, if I had set my remote viewers and clairvoyants to find out who I would meet the next day, I could have decided not to come and avoid meeting you in the first place. I have the choice, the freedom to do what I want, to reject you even if I had no prior knowledge of the future, you bag of flees.”

“You play with nature, but that it is also part of nature,” Frederic added. “This can be analysed by my computer too. How would someone react exactly if he or she did not know the future? And once they know the future, how would they react then? This can be computer analysed. You are using tricks to change the future, but this could as well be part of the normal development of life. It could be carefully planned, predictable stuff.”

Upon hearing this, the Queen suddenly proposed a test: “Anna, do you know who will next enter this room? Please don’t tell us yet.”

“Well, you wouldn’t think much of my powers if I were to tell you,” Anna started, “since it is someone any of you could easily guess. It is the waiter. I understand what you’re thinking. What not many of you could guess or predict is that he will come here with glasses of brandy, offering them to everyone. It is true that I know who will take one and who will not. And if I were to tell you right now who will accept a glass of brandy and who will not, then I would influence the decisions of everyone and they would make different decisions which I also know the results. I can predict the future, and I can also predict the future once people know their future. Now, let me write down something…”

“A glass of brandy anyone?” the waiter entered and proposed.

“Please go away!” I shouted at him, and he did. “So, did you foresee that I would say that?”

“Yes I did,” said Anna with a smile.

She gave me a bit of paper, I read it aloud: “No one will have a glass of brandy.”

“It was the future to be expected after I told you about the most likely future, and then the second most likely future after I told you about the first one.”

Everyone applauded, and I felt the need to say: “Come on, this is not a show, I am not hosting a séance here.”

“You are right, of course,” Anna responded whilst I felt guilty for saying so. “We were discussing a most important question. I need to say that I can only predict the future in terms of probabilities, the most likely outcomes. So in the end I would have to say that we have a certain degree of freedom, or free will. However it seems that in any case all of it is very much predictable, and I am fascinated that the main lines of our lives could be incorporated into our DNA, as Mr. Lorentz suggests. That a computer could like me predict the future, wow, it throws me. It would mean that my powers are not so supernatural after all and clairvoyants are perhaps just very good at spotting and analysing the very same data that a computer can, and reach the same conclusions. Could one day computers become even better at predicting behaviour and the future than I am? I seem however to gather information differently. Unlike computers comparing people and personalities, cause and effects, and then approximating how similar people would do in similar situations, I seem to get my knowledge from a different source, or do I?”

“Does this frighten you that a computer could beat you to it?” the General Kuester asked.

“It would please me,” she answered. “Fascinating stuff. That is a study I would have liked to be part of.”

“Well, I don’t need psychic mediums on my research,” Frederic said, a bit too harsh for my taste. “I’m hoping for a breakthrough in Quantum Mechanics, where we could forget the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and compute exactly where all your subatomic particles, and hence all of you, will be in two days from now, or even years from now. I bet we can stop talking in terms of probabilities, and that like the stars, planets and galaxies out there, our particles are following well defined paths from which they cannot deviate.”

“This is absurd!” Frederique felt the need to yell. “Everyone can see that it would defy logic or common sense. The proof, if it was so, I could predict the future with 100% accuracy. No one can. Not even you Ms Maria.”

“This is true,” said Anna. “Perhaps it only means that like computers today, it is highly difficult to keep track of all that is involved, all the variables which have to be taken into consideration. We have not developed this to a perfect science yet, but if anyone can achieve results, I’m sure it is the both of you. Well, tell us more about your dilemma, what happened next?”

“I feel bad for saying so, but I have used the resources of my office to find out more about my personal life,” Frederique admitted. “Don’t get me wrong, the idea was sound and worth pursuing, it could have led to a breakthrough. It just happened that my personal life was the perfect opportunity to test my theories.”

“Of course,” the General pointed out with sarcasm, before Frederique continued.

“So when I went back to work, I ask the best remote viewer we had to try to see if I had a future with Frederic Lorentz. She was positive that I would end up marrying him. It angered me. I deliberately at this point decided that it would never happen. So I ask her then to try again, and she confirmed once more that I would marry him! I couldn’t believe it! I openly hated the man already, annoyed that he could be right in what he was saying. And no matter how hard I was convinced I would never marry him, in all likelihood I would eventually marry him!”

“Same for me,” Frederic added. “I inputted the data of Frederique's file into the computer to find out if we were compatible or not. The results were undeniable, we were a perfect match, and if we were ever to meet, we would fall in love with each other immediately and marriage was guaranteed. I didn't like the idea of this determinism at all. So no matter how we fought this, we slowly fell in love.”

“Despite trying very hard not to, since at any cost we didn't want to become a casualty of our predictions, statistics and probabilities,” Ms Loren said. Then we met again by accident, or so it appears, in a shopping centre. We weirdly both decided to shop on that same day in the same little boutique when there were about 600 shops in that centre, and there were 10 different shopping areas in that region alone.”

“We sat down somewhere and observed people,” Mr. Lorentz continued. “It is time to test our theories, who is right, who is wrong? Shopping for us became for me a marketing campaign and for Frederique a deep psycho analysis of the behaviour of people. I was measuring the chances individuals would have to do certain things when confronted with certain situations.”

“We both got everything right at first when not observing and describing the same events. For example a little girl was crying right in the middle of the plaza, she was obviously lost. I predicted correctly that certain women would be running to help, others more business like would run away upon hearing what seemed like a whinging siren to them, and how certain men would have liked to help but were afraid they could be accused of paedophilia or something, you get the idea.”

“Another example, there were many restaurants and I had to guess which ones people would choose, simply based on how they looked and their mannerism. You think it is easy to guess who likes Chinese, Indian, Italian or American fast food? Try it. I guessed correctly for 10 different individuals.”

“And none of you thought of helping that lost little girl crying in the middle of the plaza?” I felt the need to point out. They both looked at me puzzled, as if to say: for what reason? These people might be brilliant in their intellectuality, they certainly lack all major normal personality traits anyone else has as inner instincts.

“The test was more important,” said Loren without any shame. “Then we started to talk about love, our own possibility of falling in love, and our free will in preventing it from happening.”

“We could not bare the thought that we had no choice in the matter,” added Lorentz. “We decided there and then to play against the laws of probability and statistics by not falling in love with each other. Very quickly we believed that perhaps that was the sort of behaviour that was planned for us in this situation. Our personality traits had become so complex that we saw many levels up front and we realised that by developing more complex patterns we could still see a pattern of predictability, and we could still be following the path laid out for us. We could still not be free of making our own decisions.”

“After discussing this,” Loren added, “all our predictions about the different shoppers were wrong. We could no longer predict anything, and apparently both our approached were not working. For example, I guessed incorrectly every time who would walk in the automatic stair mechanical thingy that goes up and down, you know? And who would simply stop on the big step and wait until they arrived at the top or at the bottom.”

“And I was unable to predict who would enter a record shop, can you believe? Something as simple as that! You can always tell who’s craving for the latest CD or DVD, it’s written on the forehead for god’s sake! I’m ashamed of myself.”

“We laughed when we realised how many millions of pounds had gone into our respective research, when in fact it might not work at all.”

Hearing this from the very scientists that I was sponsoring was something, to hear it in front of the Prime Minister and the Queen was something else. I thought these people would have their budget cut before long, if this was really what they thought of their little experiments. To me it sounded all very childish, and yet the results could be tremendous against our enemy, whether they were our own citizens one day, or other countries who could only think of war to solve their problems.

At this point the Queen had lost interest and said: “I am very tired. Though this is a fascinating story, I have to go home. But please someone make sure I hear the rest of this adventure. Ms Maria, I would very much wish to hear your final verdict on this.”

“Oh,” Anna began, “it is a bit late and I agree that everyone wishes to go home. We will continue that conversation one day, however I can already tell you that those two will definitely marry, have children, and live happily forever after. I’m not certain what this do to free will in this world, but I’m certain of it. It is written all over their forehead, a computer could confirm it!”

The look on both scientists’ face said it all, I believe in that instant they renewed their vow to never marry. How useless this would be, we could only hope to find out in the near future. And this is how the evening ended, with all the expensive cars and army jeeps leaving Richmond Park, and the helicopters flying away over Thames Valley.

I personally accompanied Anna Maria to her villa with my dog Bubba, unsure of what to say, a bit embarrassed really that I had not come to her sooner to, at the very least, discuss the first two cases we worked on together. It is however fruitless to lie to her, she always knows the truth. She perhaps knows your state of mind before you even got to understand it yourself.

“You know… I’m sorry…” I tried to say.

“Don’t worry, I understand. But now this has changed. Sad that you had to see that both the Queen and the Prime Minister trusted me, to finally decide that your prejudices were unjustified. From now on, we will be a team.

I felt like those two mad scientists, trapped in their own fatality, incapable of accepting their fate, and yet, unable to escape it. Was this the beginning of a wonderful working relationship? Did I have any choice in the matter? Was it simply logical that I would resign myself to using her whenever I felt the need? And, would we marry one day? It was all very confusing and a bit frightening. When you suddenly realise that your destiny was leading you somewhere, that you did not have a choice in the matter, and after all is done, you can clearly see that all the signs pointed to it: it was all predictable, it was already all written in someone else’s mind somewhere.

“This is one of those things we can only accept in life and continue without thinking too much about it,” Anna said, as if finishing my own thoughts.

I exhaled loudly, as if to resign myself to that very fact. “I agree, I guess. There isn’t much I could do, apart from acting like those crazy ones tonight, or blow out my brain. Which do you suggest I do?”

“No need to be an extremist, that’s for sure. Life is much simpler than we all seem to think around here. There lays the secret of life, simplicity. Oh, can you hear?”

I heard some loud noises or voices in the distance as we approached her house. “What can it be?”

“It’s Barnsworth, my parrot,” she said. “I hadn’t realised we could hear him so well from afar. Hopefully you can’t hear him all the way to Pembroke Lodge?”

“Now that you mention it, I heard those cries during the night many times, they keep me awake most nights,” I said with a smile.

She laughed: “Liar, he sleeps at night, I would know if he were making that much noise then. He goes to sleep at 22h every day, even if I am awake most nights in the same room.”

“And what are you working on, if this is not too indiscreet?”

“You know, I have my own little investigations going. I have a lot of research ongoing. I meet many people regularly, all desperately seeking my advice.”

“Like the Prime Minister and the Queen?” I felt the need to point out.

“Yeah, like the Prime Minister and the Queen, and soon you. You wouldn’t want this country to be ran by blind people, would you? Who better than me to advise them?”

“Who indeed? I don’t know, real consultants and professionals who have dedicated their life to becoming experts in their own field?”

“I am an expert, in many fields! You’d be surprised”, she laughed.

“So that’s what you do at night, you are becoming an expert in just about everything.”

“Yes, you could say that. Tonight for example I’m going to read about this Lorentz’s research, there’s potential there.”

“Since you’re such a good friend to the people I protect, I’ll make sure you get all the relevant information about this topic. I will also arrange a meeting with both Frederics in my office, so we can hear the new developments. I can personally show you around MI5.”

“I accept your invitation with pleasure, dear Duke of Connaught. Thank you for walking me home Arthur.”

She kissed me on the cheek, kissed Bubba and I walked back to Pembroke Lodge with my border terrier.

The next day I arrived early at the office, hoping to do some control damage following my failed reception the night before. I was cursing the people who invited those scientists at my evening. I could understand that Frederic Lorentz was there even though I had not invited him personally, but why was Frederique Loren present? Did General Kuester invite her? Did Lorentz? I was thinking about this when both of them showed up in my office.

“Sir Connaught,” she said, “we wanted to thank you for yesterday and to announce that we have decided to get married. That Pembroke Lodge of yours seems like the perfect venue to hire…”

“Wait a minute!” I cried. “What are you doing here Ms Loren? Considering the mess you made yesterday at Pembroke Lodge, I’m not sure if I want either of you to ever see it again in your lifetime.”

“Don’t worry, we will be there again, it is all part of our prediction pattern. After last night, the General thought it would be a good idea if Frederic and I worked together on our projects. Your Director thought so as well. It was the whole point of the conference I gave here, you do understand. So I’ll be spending a lot of time here. Are you not going to welcome me on board?”

“I’ll have to have a word with my Director, it seems there are things I’m still unaware of around here. Talk about predicting the future, when the present can surprise you like this.” They both laughed. “So you’re getting married now? How come, yesterday it seemed to me that you would never accept your fate?”

“Why fight it, we’re in love,” Frederic said. “It would be such a waste, because my calculations show that if you cannot find your perfect match, you end up with your second, third or even fourth best match.”

“So?”

“So, the chances you’d be happy in love in that situation are slim then, you’re more likely to end up in a dead end relationship, fighting all the time for no good reason… and ultimately either commit some sort of crime or murder!”

“Ah!” I murmured. “That’s how it works. That explains a lot. That’s what we pay you to come up with. Well, congratulations, and keep up the good work. I predict a smashing success!”

“Thank you Sir.” And they left my office, whilst my head was still spinning around. I decided to keep an eye on them, and so I always found a way to be near them or finding reasons to go to their office. I was intrigued, about if this new marriage proposal was going to last.

I should not have worried or bothered, before long they were fighting again like two mad people, acting completely out of character, in totally unpredictable ways. They were like two nuclear bombs who could explode at any time. They ended up in my office on a regular basis to explain their behaviour and ask for forgiveness. They always sort of found a way to justify their behaviour, as if they were no longer responsible for their own actions.

“Ah Sir, it was predictable when I smashed the lab, it was in me genes. In a perfect world, the one I will create, you would have known about that and taken precautions. I am not responsible for my action,” Frederic would say.

“So there’s no more morale or ethic in this world? All prisoners should be freed?”

“No, no, of course not. It may be planned, predictable, but the punishment they get is also a logical consequence following their actions, for which they are not responsible for, of course”, Frederique announced.

“So I should punish you then?”

“Oops, right… well… we are the foremost experts in this field in the world, you know?” Frederic said.

“Right, just go back to work. And whatever your problem is, please sort it out! Get quickly married, have children, like all normal people. It might be the solution.”

“We’re no longer engaged Sir,” Frederic finally admitted.

“What? When did this happen? I didn’t even have the time to tell Anna Maria you were getting married!”

“Well, you see Sir, the marriage is on and off on a daily basis,” Frederique said.

“That way, I guess, there’s no way to find out the ultimate outcome, you still hope to beat the odds? Trying to be unpredictable again?” I added, whilst they looked at each other with a smile.

These meetings became more and more complicated. I wasn’t sure how to respond anymore, I was only hoping that the fruit of their work would be worthwhile.

“So,” I asked, “why is the wedding off?”

“Have you got time, Sir?” Frederique started.

“The long or the short version?” Frederic added.

“Just tell me!” I yelled!

“Well, the confirmation of our marriage brought second thoughts in both of us,” said Frederique. “We went back to our families. We were vaguely talking about being free to escape the path laid out for us, or escaping determinism or god's plan.”

“We both wanted our own individuality, our freedom of thinking and doing what we wanted, you understand. As our respective families can confirm, we were alienated with our field of study.”

“We were thinking and worrying too much about this, we both decided independently to cancel the wedding.”

“And we feel so much better now!”

“Do you? I mean, really do?” I said. “To me you are both so unpredictable, I may have to lay out some new policies to prevent that kind of behaviour around MI5 headquarters.”

So a few days went by, and then they came back in my office for whatever other consequence of some astonishing bad behaviour on their part, and I could no longer sustain it.

“Please, explain yourself. Convince me I should not fire you after you have once again succeeded in creating a panic in this building?”

“Are you talking about the fire alarm?” Frederique said.

“Or the fact that every single computer in the building just exploded?” Frederic added. “Because it was all part of a careful study of how people within MI5 would react to those unpredictable situations.”

“Whatever. What is the problem now between you too?” I asked.

“Well, Sir, we both spiralled into unhappiness and regrets,” Loren admitted. “Which is why I suppose we acted in very peculiar ways, to attempt as much as possible to be outside the norms for our own type of personalities.”

“I guess you could say that we are trying to be out of character and do crazy things, to become unpredictable.”

“Does this explain why you showed up at a conference dressed as Harry Potter characters? I’m getting tired of this,” I said.

 “Oh that?” Loren said. “Well, it is very funny actually. We laughed about it like crazy that night. It was so hilarious to see your face when I came down the staircase ramp in my witch outfit, you should have seen your face, Sir. Totally predictable.”

“I trust the Prime Minister reacted the predictable way when you, Frederic, came out of the lift dressed as a wizard with your pointy hat, acting so foolishly, frightening the three women within? When they ran out, it is on him they jumped on as their possible saviour, you know?”

“Yeah, very instructive to sometime act like a psychopath ready to kill the three women standing there, just to see what would happen. When finally the door opens, they rush out. Is it my fault if the Prime Minster happened to be standing there? I was conducting an experience.

“Just like I did,” Frederique added, “when I dropped a set of stairs, pushing everyone down as I went along. Is it my fault if I got caught in my long dress and fell directly into your arms?”

“This is unacceptable behaviour, very destructive,” I finally said.

“It was a simple study in people's reactions and perceptions of others,” she confirmed. “The real worrying fact here, is that if both Frederic and I thought of the same thing independently, perhaps it was a predictable behaviour after all.”

“I don’t rally care anymore! This will stop or foremost scientists in your field or not, you’re out of here for good! Do you understand me? Where will you stop? It has to stop before someone gets hurt.”

“Of course,” said Frederic sheepishly. “In the meantime, we’re gathering so much interesting data, you’ll see great results very soon.”

“You have three days, no more than that. I want concrete results from all this by then, and you better be convincing. General Kuester has to be here anyway for a meeting at that time, we’ll assess your work then. Now off you go.”

Three days later I woke up early as usual, hoping to go for a walk with Bubba around the lodge, appreciating the view of the valley whilst eating my toasted egg sandwich the restaurant does for me every morning before they open for the public, when Anna knocked on my door alarmingly. I opened hurriedly.

“Arthur, we’ve got to go now!”

She stopped to look at me naked, as I was just coming out of the shower, and in my panic I did not even pick up a towel. I was standing there confused, she smiled. Did she know she would find me like that this morning? I didn’t have much time to think: “What’s going on?”

“Quickly, we’ve got to go! Something horrible is about to happen and only you and General Kuester can prevent it. I already called him, he is on his way to Millbank, he will meet us there in half an hour.”

I immediately went put on my clothes laying there on the chair, realising that I was naked in front of Anna Maria. She wasn’t complaining, but I was afraid it could be misconstrued later. I looked at her, trying to assess my mistake.

“What?” she said. “It’s not the first time I see you naked.”

“Yes it is!”

“Not from my perspective anyway.”

“That’s reassuring! Now turn around so I can get dressed.”

In no time we were in my Bentley rushing towards MI5 headquarters.

“So, are you going to tell me what happened?”

“It is more what is going to happen. Our two mad scientists will die today unless we intervene quickly.”

“How so? And how do you know?”

“They’re totally out of control. Let’s just say I received the visit of Frederique last night. She ended up crying in my living room with a bottle of Cointreau in her hand, completely drunk. Whilst, funny enough, Frederic was apparently drinking the same weird liquor in his own bedroom, also crying and throwing up everywhere, as he told me on the phone later on that night when I called.

“They met two days ago, as we could have predicted, in a lost place in town by what appears to be chance. Like miles away in Greenwhich, at the observatory no less, a place that neither of them ever went to. They could not believe they met there and saw it as the ultimate test of predictability pattern in their own behaviour. They considered that predestination was so powerful, that they had so little freedom, that they ended up in their own crazy and unpredictable ways to be doing exactly what their personality would tell them to do. They decided to separate there and then and to never see each other again.”

“Which explains why the next day they were physically and morally sick, since it is obvious that they love each other, in their own strange way.”

“Exactly. And that wedding will still happen at Pembroke Lodge next week, though I haven’t told them that.”

“Of course, that is, if we prevent them from dying today?”

“Oh, we will, now that I knocked on your door so early.”

“And saw me in the nude, which I guess you already knew you would.”

“Hey, predicting the future ain’t that bad sometimes!”

“I suppose I could have taken the time to put something on before I answered the door.”

“I knew that by knocking so shockingly on your door so early in the morning, considering your personality, that you wouldn’t take the time to get dressed.”

“Great! Am I so predictable now?”

“Always. Anyway, this morning Frederic will decide to take his car on the wrong side of the road on Westminster Bridge, causing chaos. On the bridge he will stop in the middle, stopping the traffic in both directions. He will then open the door and jump off the bridge, saying that if this is not extreme enough and if this is predictable behaviour, he will definitely marry Frederique. Frederique on the other hand will have a similar extreme reaction. She will decide to steal the helicopter from the roof of the building.”

“She can fly those things?”

“Apparently so, I suppose that even without knowing exactly, you can fly it?”

“I don’t think so. Well, please continue.”

“Maybe you’re right, as the helicopter will soon after plunge in the river Thames, almost on top of Frederic.”

“Anna! Surely you’re joking with me?”

“I wish I was, but I would never play such a game with you.”

“How likely are you to be wrong in your prediction of the future?”

“Very unlikely.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Trust me, it will happen.”

We soon arrived at MI5, General Kuester was already waiting in my office. As Anna and I entered, he was sitting at my desk, reading my papers, would you believe!

“Hi Edwin, I trust you had a good look at all my secrets?”

“Ah, Duke of Connaught. You will forgive me, but as I am hear much earlier than planned, at the request of Ms Maria here, I thought I should not waste any time finding out what was so urgent.”

The phone rang and I quickly picked it up. I listened for a while, and then hung up the phone.

“General, it seems that the army training you offer to your employees, the brainwashing, has not worked with at least one of your employees.”

“How so?”

“Frederique Loren just stole an helicopter and his on her way to Parliament Square.”

“To the river Thames right by Westminster Bridge,” Anna added, “to be more précised.”

“Would you care to make a phone call to prevent a catastrophe?” I said.

“I am not in the mood this morning. What are you talking about?” he answered.

His mobile phone rang at that point, a large satellite phone with a huge antenna, and he answered it.

“Yes? Yes? Right, dispatch team 1 and 2 immediately, I want a quiet operation. Make sure she survives with minimal damage to the civilians. I want a quick and clean job, do you understand? Don’t let the police intervene before you do! Let’s keep this in the family, I’ll deal with her later.”

So I picked up the phone and gave some orders: “Intercept as quickly as possible an old and cranky old Gold Renault 5 matriculated G705 DPD, probably in the vicinity of Westminster Bridge. Stop the driver from blocking the circulation on the bridge and jumping into the river Thames. Yes, you heard me! Alert the rescue police boat as well, it is likely we’re preparing for a massive rescue operation in the river Thames by the bridge.”

And so we waited for the results. As predicated by Maria, both Loren and Lorentz ended up in the Thames and were rescued in time. They were sent to the nearest hospital and we went there to hear their excuse, fire them, perhaps prosecute them, and wish them luck in the future.

When the General, Anna and I arrived at the hospital, we witness something touching. They were both in the same single bed side by side, holding hands and kissing like two virgins. We could see the shift in their way of thinking.

“I think they realise now,” Anna said, “that it is useless to fight it, that really, they should go with the flow and not worry if they become a casualty of their own theories of predetermined reality. They need to be happy in love and to follow their heart.”

“Rightly so,” said Frederique.

“The wedding is back on, we want to marry as soon as possible at Pembroke Lodge,” Frederic added.

“This time we won’t change our mind. And you’re all invited!”

“Are you sure this time?” I asked, with a smile.

“Oh yes,” answered Anna.

And so the wedding was called back on and they got married the very day Anna predicted. It happened on the green just outside of Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park, and once again the Prime Minister and the Queen were present. Anna had just finished talking to the Queen, and I with General Kuester and his fat and unpleasant wife, when we walked toward each other as the ceremony was to being.

We could see that our mad scientists were still not cured, as he was dressed as the bride and she was dressed as the groom. After they kissed, she said out loud:

“I want 16 children in order to escape any kind of statistic or probability or predictable behaviour pattern!”

And while everyone was laughing and applauding, I turned to Anna Maria and asked: “Is this not sort of making a prediction and making sure it will happen? And so it becomes a predicable pattern?”

“Don’t start,” she smiled. “By the way, they will have one child, and after that they will say it is way too much work to have another.”

“And would that child be a prodigy, or a nut case? Considering the parents…”

“I think I told you enough already. Got to keep some things a surprise, you know, or else life is not worth living.”

And I have to say, I totally agreed with Anna Maria on that very point, but I had to add as I took her hand in mine: “Just a shame that for you, there’s never any surprise in life.”

“You’re almost right there, and I will tell you later if you wish what my own personal experience is about that very topic. I have learnt to live with it. Beside, when I look at you, and the more I get to know you, I can say that sometimes you surprise me in unpredictable ways.”

If I could still surprise Anna, just by taking her hand, it was good news indeed and there was some hope for her, even for us perhaps.


 

Psi-Star

Victorian Ignorance is Bliss

 

 

A few weeks after the whole Frederique Loren and Frederic Lorentz episode, I invited Anna Maria for a long walk around Richmond Park. We had been all shaken by the previous events, and it was undeniable that even I suffered some mild consequences following that mad adventure.

My dilemma was that for a long time I thought I would not marry until I was no longer the head of MI5 or in active duty for her Majesty the Queen. First because I had no personal quality time, and second I always thought my life or the one of my close relatives could be endangered, being such a public figure in the intelligence circles.

I could see that little by little Anna Maria and I we’re getting closer, and that our walks could be considered less than innocent to the eye of my critics. I would have perhaps not hesitated in asking her in marriage to shut them up, also that I truly loved her, if it was not for this determinism business we had gone through. The comments Anna made here and there that we were to be involved sometime in the future and that we were already husband and wife in other parallel universes threw me off. This whole concept seemed ludicrous to me, at the same time it was cause for concern.

It may be inevitable that I will one day marry Anna Maria, but for the principle of it I was now moving cautiously. Moreover, I suppose that I liked to be unpredictable with her, just to prove her wrong at least once in a while, especially about my own life. Until now I thought it was random and filled with coincidences. I had never even thought of those philosophical questions prior to meeting her, and now they were governing my existence, being constantly on my mind.

So sometimes we could have romantic dates, like when I invited her at the Ivy, and the next day we were front page news all over the country. Other times I could be distant as if she was not even a good friend of mine. To my surprise, this duality in my character was easy for her to accept. She seemed to enjoy this uncertainty, like a relationship that could linger for years in the preliminaries without ever going somewhere.

The subject came up when we went for this walk, with my dog Bubba on one side, and Mr. Barnsworth on her shoulder on the other side. We must have looked like strange shadows to people we met along the trails. It is fascinating how much attention a parrot can bring to someone, it is like these folks never saw a bird before, let alone for a walk in the park. If only they knew how demanding these animals are, worse than children from what I could gather. Stop looking at the Blue and Gold Macaw for three seconds, and up there he is destroying all your stuff with his powerful beak. My briefcase needs to be replaced, and some admin people at MI5 will have headaches trying to imagine what happened to a few important files that I brought once at Anna Maria’s mansion.

Bubba is no better, she ate my only pair of shoes lately, I was not happy about that, particularly at the thought of shopping in Richmond for a pair of shoes, as I hate shopping. I was not yet at the point of asking Anna to buy a pair for me, in this day and age men have to do these things for themselves. We can no longer expect our meals to be ready when we come home, and I guess we have got away with it for way too long. So I asked my maid instead, and after her many complaints, and an unexpected bonus, she will go and buy me exactly what I need.

I am not yet a pink man, but I considered the idea and would certainly make every effort in any relationship to be a modern man. Thankfully we can afford a whole bunch of servants, so I will never change a diaper in my lifetime. I never said I was perfect, at least I’m trying (am I?).

You may be wondering why I am so honest with my readers. It is only because everything I do is reported in the newspapers anyway, and so it is better that my critics do not feel like I’m lying here about unimportant events, as to not risk being accused of lying about everything else. I am after all narrating unbelievable events, and yet they are true. So no, the head of MI5 doesn’t buy his own shoes. After such a confession, you can expect to read it on the front page of the Daily Mirror in the near future.

These were all questions on my mind, I never knew if Anna had the same ones, but I suspected she knew I had them. It seemed that I was trying hard to avoid the subject, it is not easy for me. So the subject came up. I asked why she didn’t seem to worry that for so many months now we were like a couple, it was even established all over the news, and yet, neither her nor I had made any real advance to develop it further. I know many women who would have cracked by now and moved on if they had felt being played and used like this for any amount of time. I thanked her for being patient and for not being hysterical about it, like a previous princess I dated long ago. Don’t ask who, I don’t kiss and tell, despite the fact that you could easily find out, it was all over the Mirror and the Sun for months. At least, when they were printing that crap on their front page, they were less inquisitive about other more important national matters which I did not wish to discuss. So the Princess served some purpose in the end, it was not all wasted.

Of course, it was a different story with Anna, as this was potentially going to be my wife. And yet, I was telling her that I was far from being ready, quite the contrary was going though in my head. I also mentioned that she appeared willing to go further, though it could have been a simple impression on my part. She avoided the topic, perhaps she knew I was only mentioning it to avoid alienating her and prevent a crisis between us. Good communication is one of my mottos at MI5, with it you can avoid just about any crisis, or so I was trying to convince myself and others, when none of my subordinates actually believed it.

I also reminded Anna what she told me at the wedding of Loren and Lorentz, that she too had to struggle with what those two mad scientists had gone through, and it had not been easy. So she began to tell me some events of her early life which led to the woman she was today, and how she could now appreciate life without driving herself crazy with her gift.

“Arthur, I knew quite early on that I had special abilities. I was born with my brain turned on, as some would say, connected to some sphere of knowledge out there, though I could not at the time pinpoint what the source was or what the extent of my so-called powers meant. If there is one thing I have learnt, is that there is perhaps no limits on what I can accomplish if I take the time to develop my aptitudes. It is only when I was 18 that I fully understood the extent of my abilities, when I was qualified the most psychic woman alive by a doctor in paranormal at Birkbeck College. Dr Brown used to call me his very own Psi-Star.”

“Yes,” I said, “I have read about him and his studies concerning you. It was quite impressive as I recall, no wonder he wouldn’t let you go. You have made his career, he wrote no less than five books after that about you. I haven’t read them all. Are you still in contact with him?”

“Oh God no! It would remind me too much of a time I decided to put behind me, and he is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to be part of this sort of experiments ever again.”

“I can understand that.”

“Let me start at the beginning, and how I got to meet him in the first place. I used to work as a simple secretary when I was 18, it was in Victoria at 29 Bressenden Place just behind Buckingham Palace. Nice building, we could see the Queen come and go either in a Rolls Royce specifically designed for her, unique in the world, or in her special helicopter. This was certainly the only office in the City with a view on the Queen’s back garden. We often joked that we should invite her for a cup of tea one day, since she was such a good neighbour, providing distraction on our long and boring days at work.

“Incidentally, did you know that when Elizabeth travels internationally, she travels on a normal British Airways plane with normal passengers on board? Of course, they clear all the seats in first class for her, and she sits in some sort of throne right in the middle of it, all transformed every time at high costs. I feel this is so romantic, I love the people of England to continue so skilfully to respect royalty as they do. You will not find this anywhere else in the world, and it is my opinion that we should cherish this. Long live the Queen! Never mind the expense.

“Well, sorry, I got carried away here for a second. Let’s just say that I was easily impressed when I was a teenager. I love the Queen, as you can see. She has to be protected at any cost, and should have more power than her status gives her at this time. She should be the real power behind the government, as only she can be trusted as what’s best for her people. That’s my opinion. Please forget I mentioned it.

“Well, now you know that I am totally devoted to her, and that’s why I helped her so much as you found out recently. She still has an important role to play for peace in this world, believe me. You can only admire her for all that she has done and that she’s about to do for her country and the world, as she will intervene soon for the first time in history against civil wars and corrupt governments. You don’t know that yet, I’ll tell you another time, or I’ll pretend then that we are finding out all about it together, when I knew all along.”

“Corruption? Civil war in the UK? None of my data supports this, you must be incorrect.”

“The chances that this will all happen are 50%. So I could be completely wrong about this. I would never have mentioned it to you if I were not confident that you could understand the implications.”

I have to admit, I was a bit freaked out by that speech of Anna Maria. We were after all living in some stable and normal time, as long as we didn’t worry too much about the wars in the Middle-East, which I agree, we were very much involved in. The Queen only had symbolic powers, which was just fine for everyone concerned. But then Anna Maria became very preoccupied, it was almost surreal. I had to ask: “My God, what’s wrong?” She didn’t answer, she just continued to brood, looking over the horizon as if seeing some majestic war scene in front of her eyes.

Why consider some impossible civil war that I could never see happening in my lifetime? What was she talking about? What was she foreseeing that I had no clue about? Dear me, was all this going to happen while I was still the head of MI5? It would mean that I had failed the people spectacularly!

I had to tell myself in the end that the future was not yet written, if anything, Anna and I would write it together, for the best of the people I represented. None of this would take place while I could still influence it somehow and had the ear of the Prime Minister. So after Anna’s had her contemplative moment, and me a few heart attacks, I asked her to get back to her original story. Coming back to reality, she more than willingly agreed.

“So I was working for a firm in Victoria at the cutting edge of developing the technology we use in computers today. Even in those days there were talks about quantum computers, how they would work with quantum mechanics in order to process data at a much faster rate. It was said that these computers would be processing with the help of other computers in parallel universes! So you can imagine I was interested, since even then I had a feeling it could be one of the sources for my out of the way knowledge. I had already read a lot on the subject and I could comprehend everything that was going on at the firm. I used to impress the engineers flirting with me at the time, with my understanding of what they were working on.

“I was happy with my job, though it isn’t easy when you’re that young and would like a more active role in the company you work for. I remember that I arrived late on a cold morning. I rushed into the office to see the beautiful and young Raymond, someone I had a crush on at the time.”

“Has it gone anywhere?” I asked innocently.

“How can you be jealous? As you just confirmed again, we’re not even an item. And no, I never slept with the dreamy Raymond, as you will soon find out.

“We exchanged a big smile and suddenly my eyes fell on Lucy, an older woman who looked at her watch after looking at me from head to toe with a condescending air. Then she left the room. Another secretary called Tania, who became my good friend, came to rescue me from a bad mood following the attitude of that sad case who thought she could control our lives.

“‘What is that monster up to now?’ I said to Tania.

“‘Who does she think she is, that Lucy? Our boss?’ Tania answered. ‘She’s just a secretary like us.’

“‘Who makes many mistakes…’

“‘And somehow always succeeds in getting us blamed for them.’

“‘I hope being late is not so terrible an offence, with my final written warning, that would be it. Lucky you, you don’t have your final written warning yet!’ I said to her.

“‘I’m the lucky one with my three written warnings… but no, no final one thus far. It won’t last though, we’ll both be unemployed before soon, if she gets it her way.’

“And we laughed about our situation before getting on with the business of the day.”

“Really,” I interrupted her. “You managed, you, to get a final written warning? You must have been quite the little devil.”

“Were you not listening? That my best friend was that close to being laid off is a sign that you didn’t need to do much at that firm to find yourself on the street. Especially when you are working with a bunch of backstabbers.”

“I have to admit, I never had a job myself where people were not backstabbers. You would think they were fighting for their lives, and yet all they succeed in doing is to make everyone’s life miserable, their own included. They’re like children.”

“At least you’re the boss.”

“I’m afraid, being at the top doesn’t help. I now have everyone scheming in my back, hoping that I will fall from grace one day and simply disappear forever in a Black Hole. And what good would it do them? I would be instantly replaced by someone worse. However, they cannot think that far.”

“Exactly. Anyhow, this is the kind of environment we were working in. Our boss was Mr. Pemberton, the Managing Director. It is he who was forced into giving me all those warnings. My only worry really, if I were to be fired, was that I might never see again that gorgeous Raymond. Tania tried to convince me that it was time I gave my papers and theories to Mr. Pemberton, in a bid to save us both.  

“‘I’m probably off the mark,’ I told her. ‘He will laugh at me. I don’t have a degree in Physics, how could it be any good for their research? They are just ideas I had…’

“‘Some ideas you had?’ she said. ‘Is that why you went on reading all the books in that library out there, took the time to write a novel on the subject, and now you say it is all worthless? You could have fooled me! If there was nothing to it, you would never have spent months on this. Have some faith in yourself! Maybe it’s worth something? That I can’t understand any of it is a sure sign.’

“‘Can you imagine if it was worthy?’ I continued. ‘Mr. Pemberton would be so red with jealousy, that it would be all he needs to decide to fire me on the spot. And then go on and implement my ideas as if they were his discoveries.’

“‘It would certainly shut Lucy up. If you lack the confidence to give your theories to Mr. Pemberton, I’ll give it to him for you!’

“‘Drop it Tania, I will decide if he should see my work, when I feel it is ready and that I have read much more on the topic. I don’t want to lose my credibility.’

“‘What credibility? You have none darling. And therefore, you have nothing to lose. But let’s not talk about this anymore. Let’s concentrate on your lack of confidence, and I know just the thing. You are aware you often said to me that you had psychic powers? I remember the few tricks you did which convinced me that you were. Well, tonight I am bringing you to an experiment about psycho-kinesis at the University of London. You have to come.’

“‘Why would I want to go there?’

“‘You’re coming and that’s final.’

“So after work we both went to the university to meet the parapsychologist Dr. Brown. He explained to us that the extrasensory experiment he intended for us was very simple.

“‘There are four lights in front of you’, he announced, ‘and you need to try to influence the apparatus so the lamp number four will light up more often than the three others. If the result is over 25%, it cannot be due to chance alone and you have proven your psycho-kinesis ability.’

“Tania was the first to try. She sat down at the table with the controls, so when she felt ready she pushed the button and one of the lamps lighted up. On the other side of the window, seeing that all the lamps were lighting up except number four, Dr. Brown asked me if perhaps my friend did not understand the experiment and was trying instead to get all the lamps to light up except number four. He was very impressed anyway, because he explained that it would also be significant if lamp number four were to light up less than 25% of the time. It would mean that she could affect the events in a reverse kind of way. But then lamp number four lighted up many times in a row and all his hopes were gone.

“Now it was my turn to sit down as Tania talked with Dr. Brown. While they discussed the experiment, and the fact that perhaps Tania was some sort of an anti-psi-star, and therefore might be inviting bad luck into her life, they could see in the background that every time I pressed the button, lamp number four lighted up. After a while I turned around and said: ‘Perhaps the machine is not working?’

“Dr. Brown rushed to check it out. Pressing the button a few times and seeing that all worked fine, he could not believe his eyes.

“‘Try again, while I double check that I have recorded this and will record the next attempt.’

“Once again lamp four lighted up every single time. Shaking, he brought me into his office, pushing away Tania who was a bit insulted, as she thought for a moment that she was some special subject and was already dreaming of going out with Dr. Brown. In the office, Dr. Brown was delighted by these results.

“‘I declare you the most psychic woman alive!’ he said. ‘You should be using your skills to better the human race. You should be able to influence events and perhaps people by will alone. You must be very lucky in life, and gifted, since you obviously can get information via other means than your five senses.’

“It is Tania who answered for me: ‘In reality, Anna is very shy and unsure of herself. She is not particularly lucky or gifted. The man she hopelessly fell in love with in the office, Raymond, is gay.’”

That brought me back to reality. “Ah, ah! So Raymond was gay? Well, well, well…”

“Yes he was,” Anna said smiling. “Now do you see why it was useless for you to be jealous?”

“How come you couldn’t sense that he was gay?”

“I wasn’t that good then. Besides, it was not news to me that Raymond was gay, I was told not long after I started, as if it was the best piece of gossip ever to come out of that company. Lucy told me, she enjoyed every second of it. It was too late by then, I already had a crush on him, and the fact that he was gay made him so much more attractive to me.”

“That’s crazy, how can you say that? It makes no sense.”

“I was 18, remember? Perhaps it was safe that way. I couldn’t really be afraid of him, or that it would become serious. He was unlikely to rape me in a back alley.”

“Here’s a thought.”

“Well, you always do worry about this when you’re a woman, you know? Don’t tell me that’s news to you?”

“Well…” I said embarrassed, as I actually never thought about it. “Yeah, I guess so. Please continue with what Tania said to Dr. Brown in that office.”

“Tania added, in order to prove how useless I was: ‘She is about to be sacked from her job, even though she came up with the solution to a major problem they’re dealing with whilst planning the next generation computers, and she won’t tell anyone about it except me.’

“‘May I suggest,’ said Dr. Brown, ‘that perhaps you are not using all your potential? I would like you to try a different approach. I want to see you again tomorrow night. In the meantime have more confidence in yourself, take control, and confront reality. You need to provoke the circumstances, everything should happen beyond your wildest dreams. The results of the experiment shows that you should be able to affect the people around you, turn everything to your own advantage.’”

“Dear me, is that true!? Can you do those things he said you could do?” I asked alarmingly, frightening in the process the dog, the parrot and some old woman walking near by.

“This and much more,” Anna answered. “You can too, to a lesser extent. With a bit of practice, within days you could really impress yourself, I assure you. I thought you read Dr. Brown’s books about me?”

“Kind of read them, sometimes speed reading works so well, you read a book in three minutes and forget all about it the next second. You just know at least there is nothing frightening or threatening within the book. Perhaps I read them too fast. If this is true,” I added quickly, “then the Russian and the Americans, and God knows about the Chinese, are perhaps already working on this. Should I prepare to defend the country against an army of people exhibiting that kind of power?”

“Relax, I have yet to meet anyone with that kind of power, as you put it. I would have heard of it, believe me. I am, as far as I know, unique. It is not in any case as great as it seems, as you will see.”

“How so?”

“The next day I was back in the office and plucked up the courage to give my papers to Mr. Pemberton, the Managing Director, under the eyes of an excited Tania, but under the funny reaction of Lucy, the other secretary. With a very patronising tone, he said:

“‘Would you have me believe that an 18 year old secretary of mine, with no education whatsoever, can aspire to solve problems that engineers with years of experience have struggled with for so long? Good female engineers are very rare. As a prime example, to this day I have never seen a woman engineer who distinguished herself in Physics, or published a book that was recognised as a great body of work. In fact, I know no woman who wrote theoretical physics or even philosophy.’

“‘Perhaps it is because they had male Managing Directors or Professors who thought exactly as you do. Maybe those male sexists were so frightened at the idea of publishing a woman, they published the papers under a pseudonym, a male name? It is just possible that many great theoretical physicists and philosophers are in fact women! I wouldn’t mind being published under the name Raymond if you wish.’

“And then a smile came across Mr. Pemberton’s face: ‘Raymond is gay, if you don’t know that by now...’ Leaving me to wonder if being gay was worse than being a woman in this world.

“Exasperated I told the sexist bigot male, and I even surprised myself by the tone I was employing with my Managing Director: ‘Read my papers and chuck them in the bin if you don’t like my solutions. I am not expecting miracles here, I’ve already been told by another person that I might be wrong.’

“At that he panicked, looking at my diagrams and blueprints: ‘There’s something quite puzzling in this, I do not wish to dismiss it so readily. Who else has read this before?’

“‘A mathematician I know,’ I answered. ‘So what, you won’t read it now?’

“He then said: ‘Lucy, get the non-disclosure forms and contract agreements for our engineers out immediately. You, Anna Maria, you read them and you sign them all right now. Who is that mathematician?’

“‘Bertrand Russell’, I said.

“‘Very funny, since he died in 1970. I don’t suppose there is another mathematician out there called Bertrand Russell?’

“‘No, that’s the one I’m referring to.’

“‘I’m quite aware that you apparently talk to ghosts, Ms Maria, as from my office I hear all your conversations with Tania. So let me rephrase my question: Has anyone alive read this?’

“‘No.’

“‘Dear, dear, if this is any good, and it certainly looks promising, I would be a laughing stock if the word gets out. I can already read the headlines: George Pemberton, desperate for any new breakthrough, publishes white papers written by his 18 year old secretary, whose mentor is the ghost of Bertrand Russell. Not only a woman, but one without any qualification whatsoever.

“‘Read it or else I won’t do your presentation for the third quarter meeting in Dublin,’ I shouted at him. ‘Even better, I will fill it with obvious mistakes and you would never know the difference, but your Board of Directors will.’

“At this prospect he reminded me: ‘You are on your final written warning, Ms Maria!’

“‘Exactly! I don’t care anymore!’ I yelled.

“‘All right, all right, I will read it tonight! Now get back to work!’

“Satisfied, I left his office. I was greeted by Tania who heard half of it and wanted to know all the details of what happened.

“‘After all these insults,” I told Tania, ‘I don’t think for a minute that he will read it tonight as he said. It is more likely that he just wanted to get rid of me.’

“‘He sounded genuinely interested, from what I overheard. From here I could hear Lucy melting. Who was insulting who?’ Tania was afraid to ask.

“‘We were insulting each other,’ I pointed out, before putting my face between my two hands in shame, just as Lucy brought the 50 pages of forms and contracts I had to sign. She then went right back into the office of Mr. Pemberton. Tania and I were trying to listen to what was happening in the office. We heard loud laughter and we were completely discouraged.”

“This is horrible,” I said trying to comfort Anna. “Why were you working there anyway, I know for a fact that you didn’t need to, you were born rich.”

“This is true, however even rich you need to find a reason for your existence. For me it was to acquire all sorts of knowledge and experiences. At the time, working for a cutting edge research company on the verge of a breakthrough in computers, sounded perfect to me. And believe it or not, even a job as a secretary doing admin all day and earning less than a street cleaner, is also a very interesting experience to learn about the world and humanity. This is where and how you can finally understand how low human nature can be, it tells you a lot about psychology and sociology, both important topics to prepare me for the life I intended to lead. How could I understand anyone if I was so disconnected from everyone, their working place and what they went through every day? I took many jobs just for the fun of it, just to observe and learn from my colleagues. In this case though, I was mostly interested in physics, electronics and research. And I have learnt a lot.”

“Fascinating. I can’t believe anyone would deliberately put themselves through hell if there was no need for it, just so they can learn a thing or two about people and their environment. Sounds like you’re a bit of a masochist. For me I had no choice. Yes, I was also born rich, but I still had to become someone important, Prime Minister being the main goal to my family, and I may still be Prime Minister one day. I ended up being the head of MI5 simply by pure ambition and the desire to prove I was capable to everyone and myself.”

“And not even to help the good people of the Kingdom, get them out of their eternal misery?”

“And that too, of course… I guess,” I finally said unconvincingly.

“You don’t lie very well, you’re clueless,” Anna said smiling. “You wouldn’t do a very good Prime Minister. Unless I was there at the back guiding you and writing your speeches, that is. I speak from experience here, in case you wonder.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. With you I let go of my guard as I know it is useless to lie to you, but in public I’m a good liar, or else I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

“I know!” she laughed, and I joined her in laughing about this shocking confession I had just made. Of course, in my position at the government, it would be suicide to be honest at all times, it would go against national security. So I certainly didn’t feel guilt about it, it was part of the job and I accepted it willingly. Lying and distinguishing the lies of others is my trade.

We had now reached Pembroke Lodge once again, and so I asked: “You don’t mind if we have a nice picnic? I would very much like to hear the rest of your narrative.”

“It is a lovely idea. Let’s leave the parrot and the dog at the house.”

So I asked the people at the restaurant to bring us some food and wine on the grass where I lay down a sheet, and we sat down with a wonderful view of Thames Valley as Anna continued with her story.

“That night at the University, Dr. Brown asked me to lie down on a bed and he connected me to some machines. He asked me:

“‘Try to fall asleep. I want you to think about what you would most like to happen tomorrow. Then, when you will enter REM sleep, I will wake you up and ask you what you dreamt about.’

“So I fell asleep just to be awoken not long after. I then told Dr. Brown: ‘In my dream, my Managing Director invited me to a chic restaurant to announce that he would get my papers published, as it was the best thing he had ever read on the subject. That he would use this to request more funds to start research based on what I had written, and that he no longer cared to be the laughing stock of the scientific community, as my work spoke for itself. My reputation would be assured.’

“‘Good, very good. Let’s see if this happens tomorrow,’ the Doctor said.

“‘Dr. Brown!’ I cried. ‘There is no way this will happen, it is wishful thinking. The man is sexist and worried about his image. He hates me and almost fired me today because that Lucy has poisoned him against me. Moreover, it is unlikely my research is worth anything. How could it be?’

“‘Now, now, this is not the right attitude to adopt, my dear child. You have to convince yourself that what you just dreamt is actually going to happen. You have to tell yourself that it has already happened. Don’t doubt yourself, you can make it come true. Convince yourself! Now, you go home, you go through your day tomorrow, and you report back here to me about what happened. It better be good because I know you can do it!’

“The next day I lived in the hope that Mr. Pemberton would ask me to lunch. So far his schedule appeared to be full, and he was not even in the office. I had to cancel all his appointments, and I tried to contact him at home without success.

“I discussed my dream with Tania and we were both horrified that Mr. Pemberton was not there. At the end of the day he entered the office, my papers in his hand.

“‘Anna Maria, you’re coming with me. Tania, cover for her, would you? Where is Lucy?’

“‘Seeing that you weren’t there, Sir, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to leave early,” Tania announced with a grin.

“‘Never mind, let’s go,” he said.

“It turned out that he spent the day on the phone talking to everyone about my research. He invited me to eat, but instead of the chic restaurant that I saw in dream, it was a disgusting little pub on the corner of the office in Victoria. It was filled with horrible people walking around us, dropping stuff on our table and pushing me in the back. I must have seemed unhappy to him as he asked:

“‘Are you okay?’

“‘Yes, it is just that in my dream you were bringing me to the nicest restaurant in town.’

“‘You had a premonition about this? What else did you see in your dream?’

“‘You were telling me that my theories were the best thing you ever read and that you would publish them, get more funds and start research. Don’t worry, I am not dreaming now. So, tell me the bad news. I am a bit surprised that you would bring me to the pub to tell me it is crap, or to sack me.’

“‘Well, the papers are revolutionary and I want to publish them.’

“‘What? Are you serious?’

“‘Yes I am. My God Anna, you have just re-written all of physics! And I could not find any obvious flaw! Of course, you will have to rewrite them completely at least five times under my supervision, so it looks more professional and in line with what’s to be expected in such papers. We don’t want to tell them all, just enough to get us the investments required. I sincerely believe we’re on a winner here.’

“‘I don’t mind! I will rewrite them ten times if necessary!’

“‘You had a dream about this?’ he asked.

“‘Yes, in which you were not asking me to rewrite it another five times, if I may add.’

“‘Weird. You might not have to rewrite it you know, it all depends on the committee, they might accept it as it is, though I would be very surprised, it would be a first.’

“‘And under which name will it be published?’

“‘Your name of course, though I will share in the credits, I mean the firm will, it is in the contract you signed. You will need my name there anyway in order to publish, it is no easy matter in the scientific world to get anything published without the proper credentials. Don’t worry, the credit will still be yours.’

I felt the need to stop her there and ask more specifically: “You let that bastard take credits for your findings?”

“Something you need to understand about me, Arthur, is that I didn’t mind that. The search for the truth is more important to me. The man is a moron, everyone knows I’m the one who wrote it all. You will see.

“‘Well,’ Mr. Pemberton started, ‘I would never have suspected that you could be well versed in those fields. I saw you leave with books some nights, I never thought you would read them and came back with this. Are you sure you are the author, or the only contributor?’

‘Well, apart from a little help from my ghost friend Bertrand Russell, who by the way was also a good friend of Albert Einstein, but please feel free to believe it was all in my imagination if it suits you. So yes, I am the author of these papers. Why, don’t you think I am intelligent enough?’

“‘Yes, intelligent, I admit. You are full of surprises, I would have never guessed that my secretary could be so observing at work and be capable of writing such technical papers. If I didn’t know you better, I would have thought this was written by a seasoned theoretical physicist from Oxford University. It’s going to be hard to prove your theories however, you sort of bring a new interpretation to Quantum Physics, well actually you just rendered it completely useless, but I don’t believe it will be necessary at this time to get carried away with that part of your papers. Fascinating stuff, but we don’t want to alienate the whole scientific community just yet. We’ll start slowly and see the reaction, and get our funds. Then we’ll see if we want to go further with your weirder theories about the Theory of Everything. Brilliant, but a bit too revolutionary for our actual purpose. You do realise that quantum computers may no longer be a possibility? This would be our ruin. We immediately need to assess what else we could work on considering this major shift in thinking.’’

This was too much, I had to interrupt her once again: “TOE? Surely I misheard you. You came up with a Theory of Everything, convincing enough to get Dr. Pemberton to say it was brilliant? If that is so, why have I never heard of it? Why has the world not heard of it?”

“It is out there, it made a lot of noise at the time, my papers were popular. It just kind of faded out in time and people forgot about it, sticking to the old equations and systems of thinking. Pemberton was right, the world was not ready to put back Newton and Einstein into question, as they are Gods in physics, and gods, as any religious fanatics will prove, are always right even when they’re wrong.”

“I can assure you that I will read all your papers. This is simply astonishing!”

Our lunch and wine arrived at this point and we enjoyed eating our meal in the soft wind of the day. There were birds all around and children singing, and I thought this was a perfect moment in time.

“I am already becoming drunk from this fine red wine from France that you offered me,” she said. “What year is it? What region? Château de Carcassonne? I have a house there, did you know?”

“Yes, I know.”

“And another one on Mont St. Michel.”

“Oh, that I didn’t know.”

“I love France, as I have been French many times. I spoke perfect French the day I was born, I was speaking French to my parents before I ever learned to speak English.”

I was listening to Anna Maria’s past, being more and more amazed by her accomplishments. Was it possible that I was sitting next to a genius mind? A woman who at 18 had rewritten physics as we know it? I remembered reading something about it in my report from MI5, of course I never realised the implications as there were not that many details. I knew at the very least that she was telling the truth. It helped, otherwise I would have thought she was playing mind games with me. And so, while eating our Brie and drinking a good bottle of red wine from around Carcassonne actually, she continued her extraordinary report.

“So for the third consecutive night I went to see Dr. Brown. You can imagine that he was pleased with the success of the first attempt.”

“Well, is it not plausible that it would have happened anyway? How do you know you really influenced your future there?” I mentioned.

“Not only the future, but most probably the past as well. You see, when you start influencing your future, you switch timelines and you could find yourself in a parallel universe in which the papers you wrote were different.”

“But then you would surely notice that they were different papers, you would remember.”

“At the time, I wouldn’t have. When you switch timelines, you acquire whatever memories of that timeline, you forget wherever you were the day before. Quite possibly, when you dream at night you prepare for the timeline you will wake up in the next day. Life is not linear, it goes all over the place. Someone who stagnates in life is someone who most probably does not switch timelines very much, or switch to similar ones. Today I’m well trained, I remember my different futures and pasts, I can recognise what changes from day to day. Sometimes buildings that were there yesterday, do not exist the next day, or lamp posts have appeared on a path where they were absent or different the day before.”

“This is unbelievable. This is not true. If it were, I would know, I would have felt something like that.”

“Try it, just tell yourself that tomorrow something will be different, something great will happen, and convince yourself that it will be so. After a few days you will see the results, it works for everyone.”

“It would be a waste of time.”

“Listen to the rest then, and you can judge for yourself. We tried the experiment again. This time I dreamt that a red car would collide with mine and that my friend Tania would die. I was quite distressed by my dream, I told Dr. Brown my concerns. If I was really influencing my future, why would I create such an accident that would kill my best friend?”

“Or was it simply a premonition?”

“Perhaps, however there is a fine line between having a premonition and making it happen by will alone. Dr. Brown was quick to tell me:

“‘You should be able to influence the future, it might not happen. You just need to concentrate and repeat to yourself that it will not happen.’

“‘How does someone do that?’ I asked. ‘How can I actually influence the future, or change it?’

“‘The only thing I can think of is meditation,” he said. ‘Try not to think about anything, attempt to stop hearing that stupid little voice in your head for a few minutes, and then make it happen.’

“So I repeated this in my head many times, convinced myself that it would not happen. Of course I knew I could at the very least act differently in order to prevent being in that position where I could have an accident in the first place.

“The next day I was in my house getting ready to go to work, I kissed my cats goodbye, telling them that my friend Tania might die today, but again she might not. At that moment I wondered if I should stay home with the cats. I sat in the big chair with one of them, wondering how I found the energy to ever leave the house when I could be so happy here with my animals instead, working on my projects all day. And for a moment there, I kind of got lost in my thoughts, I was in some sort of trance. When I woke up, I realised that I might be late and somehow I convinced myself that I had changed the future. I told my cats that soon I would be recognised in the scientific community for my hard work, and I would change many things on a massive scale. Then I left.

“When I picked up Tania on my way to work, as I used to, I explained to her my dream and we were both worried that I might have failed in changing the future.”

“Wouldn’t it have been simpler to stay home that day?” I proposed.

“Easy to say, but both Tania and I were close to losing our jobs, we had to go to work. Also that it is difficult to begin being superstitious and act differently for a myriad of reasons, just because you had a dream, a premonition, a vague feeling that something bad might happen. Most especially when you are not convinced in the first place that it will happen, when you have your doubts about it. You see? I wasn’t then as good as I am today in predicting the future. I was often wrong.

“I see, I didn’t think of that.”

“Thus I drove very slowly, and when I reached the location of the accident, I saw the red car and I didn’t accelerate on the green light as I did in my dream, I remained still. The red car took another direction anyway, consequently we were safe. We discussed that somehow I had influenced the future, even changed the destiny of Tania. Perhaps I could push this ability further and hope for a big award in physics?

“That day in the office Tania was worried. Lucy, who hated us both, had backstabbed us again by reporting a series of mistakes that were not exactly our fault, but she blamed us for them. Tania felt that this was it, it would be our very last day in the office. It was not the first time that this woman attacked us, and every time Personnel got involved and there were meetings after meetings to find out who made the mistakes, and eventually it always ended with a written warning whether we proved our point or not.

“Although Tania thought it was over, I became suddenly very confident. I knew that it will backfire and the monster would be blamed and take responsibility for her own mistakes. Sure enough this is exactly what happened, and I have to tell you, I felt strong but weird about my new abilities.”

“The thing is,” I felt the need to point out, “I remain unconvinced that it is not all coincidences.”

“It is one of the first laws of changing timelines. You can never be certain if the results are not just a string of wild coincidences, even when the results could only be described as a miracle. It is only by convincing yourself that you had anything to do with the results, that you in fact influenced them, that you can convince yourself that it works wonder. Certainty has a big part to play in order to change your timeline. If you are certain it has changed, if you are certain an outcome will happen, then it will most likely happen. If you have any doubts, even a slight one, it might not work. When you see the results, you don’t doubt anymore.

“Also, don’t question me too much,” she added. “I have an ulterior motive for telling you my own experience right now. I’m preparing you to meet Mr. Henry Williams, a philosophy teacher at Oxford University who is experiencing déjà vu at an alarming rate, and appears to be switching timelines as well. We will go to Oxford together and see for ourselves. He needs our help.”

“I’m not sure if I will have the time for that,” I said.

“You will, I have already foreseen it. Anyway, let me finish my story before judging.

“A few weeks later, back in the office, everyone was celebrating the success of my papers. I won many awards and great critics, despite having kept for ourselves most of the important parts. Mr. Pemberton promoted me, I was now a Consultant, and Tania my PA. The other secretary Lucy was very frustrated while Tania and I were delighted by this change of events, enjoying every moment of our success over her.

“I met with Dr. Brown on a regular basis to discuss what was going on. Was I now predicting the future or influencing it? I was dreaming what would happen the next day. I could remember it and I could change the events to my advantage. Sounds fantastic, right? It was not the case at all. I felt that I was no longer living, I believed life had become an unchallenging state of affair, like a video game.

“I told Dr. Brown that I would win the most looked after award in the country, and that he was invited to accompany me to receive my prize. In fact, to my knowledge my articles were never submitted and I had no chance of winning. The next day I learnt that somehow someone presented my papers to the committee and I had been nominated. When Mr. Pemberton, all excited, hoped for us to win, I was very sad when I announced that I would win for certain. I appeared to have lost the will to live and I got more and more depressed, even though I was enjoying all that success and adulation. At least I helped the firm forget about quantum computers and develop other revolutionary technologies instead. I couldn’t see that at the time, as it had not yet happened, it was a consequence I was blind to.

“On the night of the award at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster Square, Mr. Pemberton, Dr Brown, Tania, Lucy, a few engineers from the firm and I were are all sitting around a table. We won firm of the year and best promising technology with our work on faster than light communication. A few of us went to the podium, and Mr. Pemberton had only one thing to say: ‘It is all due to Anna Maria!’ and he pushed me toward the podium so I could give a speech. I was very distressed, unhappy, I began:

“‘Thank you, but I do not deserve such honours. I must confess that I influenced the events somehow so I could win. I have done a lot of soul searching lately, I came to the conclusion that I cheated on life, that I do not deserve the prize, in fact, I did not deserve all the acclaim of my findings. I should be… I am a simple secretary.”

And I left the convention centre crying. I had a glimpse on my way out of Lucy, she suddenly appeared to have regained an interest in life. Dr. Brown ran after me and caught me in the corridor on my way out.

“‘What has gone wrong?’ he asked.

“‘I dreamt my own suicide yesterday. I can no longer live if I know exactly what will happen in my life and if I can influence everything to my own advantage and satisfaction.’

The next words are what saved me at the time. Dr. Brown simply stated:

“‘Perhaps ignorance is bliss after all.’

And suddenly it occurred to me that he was right, nothing stopped me from getting back to what I was, a normal human being who didn’t bother anymore with predicting the future and changing it.

“‘You should forget,’ he continued, ‘about psycho-kinesis and ESP, about the mechanisms of existence, and try to live a normal life.’

“A glimpse of light came back in my eye, ‘ignorance is bliss’, I repeated to myself. After that I went on to live some sort of normal existence.

“And this was my experience about determinism, fatality and what you wish to call it.”

Mmh,” I began, “was ignorance really bliss? Did you really abandon your clairvoyance gift so you could finally appreciate existence?”

“Well, just long enough to get back my bearings. It was a lot to take in at the time. Instead of taking the short cut, as I did with Dr. Brown, it grew with me, and eventually I reached a good balance in life. Now I am happy, I don’t regret anything. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

“Not even the future?” I asked, sarcastically.

“Well… maybe just a bit…” she admitted.

And on this nice afternoon, on the grass outside Pembroke Lodge, I ordered another bottle of wine and we enjoyed the English autumn air of the park.

Once again I didn’t sleep that night, thinking and remembering what Anna Maria had told me. I found her old papers going back 16 years. She also gave me the others which were not published at the time. It went well over my head. From what I gathered, these theories did not sit well with parallel universes, time travel and predictions of the future.

It was true that suddenly physics came back to some sort of common sense, there were no more mysteries of the quantum world and some breakdown of the laws of physics at high speed. No more limit of the speed of light as we could go faster, no more galaxies moving away from some sort of central point where a Big Bang would have occurred, and what else I have read in there. Brilliant, no doubt, with one simple principle that all matter was simply expanding at the same expansion rate, she went on to successfully linked together all of physics and explain all those mysteries which convinced everyone that something was amiss with the universe.

But now, where does this leave us? How can we explain the paranormal world and all other physics tricks of the world of science fiction? I went to see Anna Maria and she welcomed me into her conservatory. I asked her those questions and she simply answered:

“You have noticed, hey? Nothing can pass you by. So I won’t get away with it so easily. Yes, it has puzzled me as well. I have new theories to explain all this, different interpretations to explain that even without a wave function universe and quantum superposition, there are still parallel universes, and time travel is possible. To give you a hint, just remember Ms Barnsworth, how she created perhaps many realities by will alone, virtual worlds like computers do every day, and then she switched between them and even travelled in time. Your mind is a powerful thing. And I discovered that it is still possible to create supercomputers by linking them to other computers in parallel universes, just not the way we were going about it, it has nothing to do with quantum mechanics. My very brain is the prototype of such a supercomputer, as I am linked to all my other selves out there.

“One day when we are both very drunk, I will explain in more details. I can only say that there is still a lot - and perhaps there will always be a lot - of unexplained phenomena that physics will never explain. We are still at the beginning and everyday we get closer to the truth. Finding answers, that’s my sole purpose in life, this is what motivates me to continue.”

“And what would you say is my own purpose in life, what is it that motivates me? Do you believe that I share your goals?”

“Not yet anyway. At the moment you are simply curious, you’re looking at ways to take advantage of such an edge that I represent. Don’t feel bad, you will get what you want, but I’ll get something in return.”

“What would that be?” I asked worried.

“Don’t look so horrified, I’m not asking for your soul. I just need your help here and there, nothing more.”

“You don’t strike me as a woman who needs any help. I bet you can get yourself out of any situation because of your abilities. What help could I possibly provide to you? I’m no psychic medium, I’m no theoretical physicist, I’m no paranormal investigator or ghost hunter, I am merely a civil servant. Granted I am the head of MI5, but how could this really help you?”

“At the moment, you’re nice company. I am very much alone in my own universe. I have planned it this way, I have no friends. For many years I lived in complete isolation, now I’m ready to let one person in, one special person, you. And even though you are not aware of it, you and I go a long way. You know that, you’ve seen my basement.”

“You mean your bunker out of space and time?”

“Call it what you will, you and I will be spending a lot of time there in the near future.”

What I was unable to tell Anna Maria, was that she may have felt very much alone, however I’m sure she suspected that I needed her perhaps more than she would ever need me. Maybe it was for my own sake that she came into my life, before I reached a middle life crisis with no one around to suffer me. I was glad for her friendship and decided to accept it for what it was, for the time being. She wanted me to investigate with her that Henry Williams in Oxford, why not. That’s what friends are for, even though the concept of friendship for me never quite made any sense. I was a man of my time, and I guess my personality was right for my job. I also believed that Anna Maria was helping me understand her by exposing me to Ms Barnsworth, telling me her own past and now presenting me this Professor Williams.

Was she preparing me for something even wilder? Or was this the peak of her experience? And would I, myself, ever experience this first hand so I could claim without any doubt that it was all true?

 

 


 

Déjà Vu

Oxford’s Reality Multiplication

 

 

The day came that Anna Maria said I was ready for something quaint. It is not exactly the word I would have chosen to describe that case of hers, but I have to admit it was special, if at any rate we were not once again dealing with a lunatic. This time though I got a very convincing proof, I saw for myself, as you will learn later on.

So I arrived at Anna Maria’s villa quite early for our departure for Oxford that morning. She talked to me whilst she fed her parrot, her six cats, her marine fish, two snakes, three tortoises, one chameleon and two poisonous frogs.

“Do you have too much money that you don’t know what to do with it, that you feel the need to buy yourself a zoo?” I had to asked.

“My conscience is stopping me from buying more, to be honest. I love animals. They love you unconditionally, they want affection even if you’re ugly, fat and smelly, only positive thoughts emanate from them, well, they bring me peace.”

“I can’t even manage having a dog, your macaw Mr. Barnsworth alone would drive me insane.”

“You’d be surprised what you can endure when you put your mind to it, I know you would cope just fine with my zoo.”

“And why did you get poisonous frogs? What is the point?”

“They are so cute! Have you seen the bright colour on their belly? Find me a non-poisonous frog that looks that nice, and I’ll gladly adopt it.”

I was disgusted when I saw her manipulating crickets and rats to feed her animals. It looked so unlike the image I have of Anna Maria, who seemed so pure and innocent.

“How can you be vegetarian, and yet, feed these insects and mice to your animals?”

“I’ve been considering for a while to turn them all into vegetarians. I need to do some research to find out if that would be possible. For now I have little time to myself.”

“Of course, your little investigations on the side, that Professor Williams we’re going to meet today. Are you finally going to tell me more about him?”

“Oh, it is all very simple, and yet I understand that for you it will be hard to digest. I wish to stress that this is but one case in dozens I receive each month. I don’t investigate them all, but this particular one has something in it. I can help him, and it will help you understand what we’re dealing with.”

“All right.”

“Professor Henry Williams is a successful and rich philosophy teacher who is paid to think and publish books by Oxford University. He has been experiencing Déjà Vu at a disturbing rate lately. He tried to understand the phenomenon, and as he thought some more he claims to have uncover something really wrong with his existence. You see, his Déjà Vu episodes no longer reflect reality. Events and people are changing everyday, contradicting his previous memories of the events. I have to say that this is very rare that someone would go through that process and remember the previous loops so well. Understandably it made him question not only his sanity but also the normal flow of time and the reality we have all come to believe in. He wrote a book on the subject, he sent me a draft. It’s really impressive, and that’s why I’m interested in his case.”

“Have I not heard of him on TV recently? That shooting in Oxford?”

“Yes, I’m glad you’re already familiar with the case. Let’s go, my animals will survive without me for a while.”

So we left for Oxford in her comfy Rolls Royce driven by her chauffeur. She certainly travels in style. I was glad I wouldn’t have to justify this to anyone, I would have a hard time convincing the people of Britain that the head of MI5 needed to drive in a Rolls Royce with a chauffeur. According to them I would need to drive in a Renault 5 and have the same salary as a simple administrator, probably the lowest level possible for any civil servant serving the Queen. We quickly arrived in Oxford and met with Professor Williams. He had money, no doubt, his mansion must have been the biggest one in the whole area. He however opened the door himself.

“Please, get in, get in, I am so glad to meet you. Oh, I sincerely hope you can help me get out of this mess. Please sit on the sofa, I’ll be back in a minute with coffee and tea. And as for me, a glass of Porto it will be.”

“For me as well then, please?” I quickly said. I suspected I would need it. A few minutes later we were all sipping our Porto, even Anna Maria, and the Professor began to tell us what was wrong with his existence.

“As you may be aware, I am now an authority on the subject of Déjà vu, as I have spent a great deal of time researching and writing upon the subject. One of the ways to explain Déjà vu is if we have actually lived those moments before. Somehow we must have gone back in time and relived the same events as if in a time loop. Through Déjà vu we can remember having lived those events previously and we can change what is to come. If we had many Déjà vu episodes and could drastically change our future when we go back in time, then tomorrow I could be a priest instead of a philosophy teacher. I have come to change my mind about the phenomenon, and now I feel it is due to memories from parallel universes and simply switching timelines. However at the time I thought about it in terms of time loops and going back in time from within the same and unique timeline. I’ll get back to that later.

“I’m not lying to you, almost every day I wake up now being someone else, with my whole household being different, or my house suddenly being smaller or larger. Sometimes I am a philosophy teacher, like today. Sometimes I am a medical doctor, a parapsychologist, a theoretical physicist or even a psychic medium. This gave me the chance to analyse what was Déjà vu from different perspectives.

“What I believe I discovered, was that the future, the past and the present are always in movement. As a result one day we are a philosophy teacher and the next day we can be a medical doctor, as it is possible to change the future whenever we go back into the past and are aware of the future. Yet, everything seems fine and we don't question this fluctuating timeline. We don't completely remember having lived in the future, except through Déjà vu, intuition and feelings.

“Déjà vu is what made me understand that something was not right, that perhaps yesterday I was not a medical doctor. I remember events from a different past and can even predict the future to a certain extent, a future very different from my actual life. As I struggled to understand what was going on, I spoke with my wife and colleagues about Déjà vu, trying to explain them, wondering if perhaps I was crazy and suffering from hallucinations.”

“My dear Professor Williams,” Anna said in a gentle and amiable voice, “our time is of some value and I can see you have a lot to tell us. Please let me draw my own conclusions, and let’s start at the beginning. Tell us the facts.”

“Well, will you help me? Can you?”

“I can reassure you by stating here that I have experienced what you did, to a certain degree. There’s nothing to worry about. I feel that everyone switches timelines like you but few remember it. Clairvoyants are probably the best ones to have a clear view of this phenomenon, and yet they still seem unaware of what underlay this exact process by which they gather information. You on the other hand must be well placed to bring us answers.

“Though this could be a normal physical phenomenon,” Anna continued, “there is something interesting in that mysterious knowledge to be gained from these déjà vu or other timelines. Something more spiritual. Understanding this about the existence gives us the chance to understand much more about the universe we live in. The first thing being that time is not linear or chronological, as Professor Williams mentioned.”

“Note that I don't repeat the same events over and over again,” pointed out the Professor. “From one Déjà vu to the other my reality changes. In my Déjà vu people have different functions, different job titles, are no longer there, etc. I clearly remember having lived this before. In time what I felt that I experienced before was no longer happening in real life. Then, to my horror, I changed, though I didn’t remember at first that everything in my life had changed. Only via the Déjà vu did I get to understand that I had already lived this life, but I was not a doctor, I was a teacher.

“Eventually what I was experiencing was no longer a Déjà Vu (already seen) but a Jamais Vu (never seen before), as you will see. I no longer recognised my reality and actions. I felt lost because I remembered having lived this in a different way. And while I was going through all that, I feel I have experienced Presque Vu (almost seen), as if the explanation was within my grasp and yet escaping me. I need to find a way out of these time loops so my life will no longer be switching from one timeline to another.”

“Enough!” I yelled. “This is fascinating, but I want to hear what happened to you. It is useless to debate it before-hand as I have no clue about what you’re going through.”

“Sorry sir,” the Professor said. “Ms Maria told me you had little patience, I guess it goes with the job at MI5?”

“Never mind all that,” I said, looking at Anna and feeling a bit betrayed. As usual, she smiled innocently. What had she told him about me to prepare him to meet the beast?

“All right, let’s start with my first time. I tried to buy some screws a few weeks ago at a Home Hardware store before my class, and the moron serving me had no clue about what they were selling in their store. While I was waiting there, I noticed a kid playing around, and somehow I realised it was a Déjà Vu. I had already witnessed this, and I knew the sink on a pedestal on display was about to fall on him. I stopped it from happening at the very last second, though the parents and the manager of the store didn’t believe that I had saved the child. Until of course the sink fell all on its own a few seconds later. At that point we were all very impressed with the power of Déjà Vu, as I had most definitely saved that Child. I even knew his name, Louis, because in my Déjà Vu he had told me so. For a second there, they thought I was a magician. Then I rushed to Oxford University.

“I walked on the green in front of the college toward where my class was waiting. As usual I was very late, and I met one of my students along the way, Esteban Estevez.

“‘Hey, professor, professor!’ he interjected, branding his essay to me.

“‘What now? I'm late! I can't deal with that, I just cannot! Not now! I'm terribly late!

“This is where the Déjà vu began. For this whole Déjà vu both realities were identical, as if I needed to change something but failed to do so.”

“Interesting idea,” Anna said.

“Esteban Estevez was not about to let go of me: ‘It's not fair! I shouldn't get an F for this!’ he shouted in my ears.

“‘Esteban, Esteban, Esteban... you know you deserve an F for that essay...’

“‘Why! I worked very hard on it!’

“‘Esteban...’ I told him, ‘when I correct everyone's papers, I see wonderful things, intelligence, and a great future. When I come to your essay, it makes me despair.’

“‘Nooo? It can't...’

“‘You simply have no future in this university or any other.

“‘But I want to enter the Masters Degree programme...

“I laughed at that: ‘There's no way this will ever happen, I'll make sure of that!’”

“That was a bit harsh,” I felt the need to state. “What about giving every citizen in this country a fair chance at building a great future?”

“Trust me, you don’t know Esteban Estevez, and this was Oxford for God’s sake, not the University of London!”

“I studied at the University of London!” I said not in a good mood.

“That explains it, doesn’t it? Look at the state of the country. Anyway, Esteban pleaded his case: ‘What is there left for me then? As a career, I mean...’

“‘Well, there's a home hardware store close by hiring people like you... perhaps one day you'll make it as a supervisor, if you work more seriously there than you studied in your entire life.’

“And that was the end of my second Déjà Vu. I simply said after that: ‘Strange, I have the feeling we already had this conversation before...’

“‘Yes! In one of my nightmares!’ Esteban added.

“‘Just run! You're already late!’

“‘Just one more thing, professor...’ he finally said whilst running, ‘you're late too!’

“And then I talked to myself as I walked faster and looked at my pocket watch: ‘I know! I know... If I could only stop time once in a while, life would be so much easier! The screws did it, I will have to blame it on the screws... no one will believe it. It's my damn destiny, always late... stupid clerk... no brain, no future, I tell you... it's just perfect... perfect for Esteban.’

“You need an attitude adjustment, mate!” I said in no kind way.

“Don’t worry, before this tale is over, you will see that I have learnt my lesson many times over. Once I entered the class room, I dropped my books on the table while Esteban went to sit down.

“‘Thanks for waiting for me, even though I'm late! I've got a good reason this time... ah, never mind. I didn't prepare anything for today's class, so I'm going to talk about myself...

“‘As usual!’ Esteban barked from the back.

“‘Come on! I sometime prepare my course... don't I?’

“‘Well...’

“Would it be out of place to say here that my professors at the University of London always prepared their course before coming to class?” I said mockingly.

“I’m sure they did. So I said to my class: ‘All right! Anyway, you know which books you have to read for the test, read them and we'll all be fine... I hope. Now I need to speak about my personal experiences, about Déjà vu. I've been experiencing it a lot recently. I don't know if it's because I'm writing a book about it, but I tell you, it has opened the door to a series of Déjà Vu and I'm not sure what to make of it. I was visiting a town recently and I'm certain I had been there before. I remembered every single detail, I knew what to expect around the next corner, but it was my first ever visit.

“‘Apparently some Freudians believe that the Déjà vu phenomenon is about…’”

I interrupted him at this point, like a real philosophy professor, he was getting lost in his own thoughts, and I couldn’t stand it any longer: “Is it really necessary to go into that much detail?”

“Yes it is! You must have been a terrible student, I would have taken care of you.”

“You mean, you would have given me an F when I would have deserved an A+? I had teachers like you, they changed my destiny and they don’t even realise it, bastards.”

“Gentlemen! Please, stop acting like children,” Anna said.

“I apologise for his behaviour…” I said. And then seeing her reaction I added sheepishly: “and mine.”

“Now that this is out of the way, after my class I went back to my office. On my way there I met Elizabeth Fairwater, the right hand of the dean.”

“‘Henry, the dean is looking everywhere for you,’ she said. ‘You should go to his office immediately.’

“‘What does Charles wants with me, I wonder?’

“‘Perhaps it is about Esteban Estevez... your biggest fan!’

“‘What? He came to see you, once again?’

“‘Yes, the poor kid is trying hard. He wants to do a Masters Degree now...’

“‘Can you imagine, two or three more years to endure his overzealous attitude?’

“‘Don't worry, Charles told him that his average results were not good enough.’

“‘He spoke to the dean? Nothing can stop him from dreaming, but that's pushing it. And now, my dear Elizabeth, I need to get back to my office.’

“‘What about the dean?’

“‘Oh! I almost forgot. Must be old age.’

“‘You're not that old. It's just that you're always in thinking mode, must be hard to remember anything in that sort of mind state?’

“‘Very funny Elizabeth. But I must admit, better blame philosophy than old age.’

“‘Don't worry Henry, every single philosophy teacher in this college suffers from amnesia, just like you. Thankfully you have me to show you the light!’

“‘What would we do without you? Fall in precipices lurking around everywhere, while reciting in our heads Aristotle's wisdom?’

“Why are you telling us this?” I interrupted him.

“Because she’s about to die! And if I had not told you how nice and important she was to me, you would not have given it a second thought. I know you people at MI5, death is just the norm, a stat, isn’t it? Let me tell it my way, I know what I’m doing.

“This is where the third Déjà Vu began, as I was entering the Dean’s office. I felt weird physically until I decided to speak about it. From the moment I realised the Déjà Vu, my reality was different from what I remembered. Here is what should have happened but did not because of the Déjà Vu:

“‘Ah, Henry, please sit down. Am I glad to see you! There's something important we need to talk about.’ Charles said to me.

“‘Not Esteban, I hope?’ I answered.

“‘Nope, it's not about Esteban Estevez. I trust you will deal with him in time. It's about the marketing of your new book expected to be a best-seller. George is eager to get the ball rolling and is waiting after the final version. They are in a hurry to get it out there.’

“‘The book will be sent to George today. A best-seller you say? From the University Press? Times are changing...’

“‘Aren't they just? It's very exciting! I'll be able to get you a big raise after publication, we wouldn't want to lose you now to some better university somewhere willing to give you more money.’

“‘I'm already more than comfortable, Charles, thanks to you. Though I wouldn't mind having fewer courses to give so I could spend more time thinking. It's my job, after all.’

“‘Say no more Henry. I'll see what I can do. Soon you'll be a free man! And you will beg to teach more classes when you will get bored thinking your heart out.’

“‘Thanks Charles, I'll get in contact with my assistant Marianne. She's working at correcting the last chapter right now at my home.’

“‘I'll call George to let him know. Have a nice evening, alone as usual, once Marianne goes back to her husband.’

“So I left the office with a smile on my face, saying: ‘You wouldn't have it any other way, that's why I can be so prolific and contribute so much to philosophy and the department. Goodbye Charles!’

“And this is what really happened in real life:

“‘Ah, Henry, please sit down. Am I glad to see you! There's something important we need to talk about.’

“‘Weird... wait…’

“‘Everything's okay, Henry? How long should we stare at each other like this?’

“‘I'm having a déjà vu, Charles.’

“‘...a déjà vu? Isn't that the subject of your book? You certainly do live in what you write.’

“‘I have lived this before! I know this meeting is about the book and I don't give a damn about it! George can wait as far as I'm concerned. I need to get out of the office immediately, I feel trapped in a temporal causality loop of some sort and I want to free myself.’

“‘A temporal what? What are you talking about?’

“‘A time loop! Charles.’

“And I left his office slamming the door. Outside the office the déjà vu continued. In real life I was walking like a madman, trying to do things differently to escape the déjà vu instead of having a big smile on my face at the prospect of my latest book already being considered a best-seller. In both instances however I ended up knocking on Elizabeth’s door, the Dean’s secretary. Unlike my vision though, where I was going there to gloat, in reality I thought she could helped, as it was Elizabeth's job is to keep us all sane.

“And you were obviously going insane,” I had to add.

“Only as far as if we consider long and frequent déjà vu being insane,” Anna answered.

Elizabeth dropped a pen on the floor and as I remembered getting down to pick it up, at that moment I thought I was hearing a shot and seeing Elizabeth receiving a bullet in her chest. As the dean came out of his office to find out what was happening, he too got shot by Esteban. In my vision, Esteban then fired at me shouting: ‘This one's for you professor!’ But he missed me, and then other students stopped him, holding his arm, while Esteban finally shot himself saying: ‘Let me go! I've had enough! Please, you don't understand!’

“As I predicted that all this would happen in real life, and realising that Elizabeth would get shot, instead of picking up the pen I pushed her right back into the office while she received a bullet in the forehead. Then Charles Worpington got killed and Esteban missed me before blowing up his head.

“This is what we heard on the news,” Anna mentioned.

“Dear me, I suppose it went all around the world!” the professor said with some regrets. “Soon after I jumped in my car while many police cars, ambulances and journalists arrived on the scene. I rushed home still under the shock and on the verge of a nervous break down. I remember saying:

“‘This is not happening. This can't be happening to me. Why is this happening to me? Or how… Yeah, how can this be happening to me? I need to get into thinking mode as soon as possible. I'm already in thinking mode... figuring this out. I need to understand! I need to free myself!’

“Once home, trying to forget, I opened books where I hoped to find some explanation about déjà vu, I was also throwing them on the floor when irrelevant: ‘There must be an answer somewhere in there. Someone must have experienced this before and documented it. Shame, philosophy appears to be useless at explaining this. Plato, Socrates, Saint Augustine, Joan of Arc, no, no, no! Philosophy won't help me this time... ignorant! Just a bunch of stupid people who thought they knew everything! They know nothing! Mmh... must be a medical condition, I must be crazy. Do I have any books about...’

“And this is when another déjà vu started, this time with a twist. The elements of my reality were no longer quite right, people changed somehow and they did unexpected things compared with my memories of the events. My assistant was no longer a simple assistant, she was my wife!”

“Wow!” I said. “You turned around and suddenly the first woman you saw turns out to be your wife. Talk about a nightmare.”

“Careful,” Anna said laughing, “I am your wife! You just don’t know it yet.”

“Let’s be serious, this is no laughing matter. We’re talking about my life falling to pieces, here,” Mr. Williams criticised. “While I was reading, Marianne Wilkins entered the room. She is married to Dr. Wilkins, another professor at Oxford.

“‘You're here already?’ she said surprised. ‘I was not expecting you for a few hours after what I heard on the news. As your personal assistant I would like to know if there is anything else I can do with your book before sending it to the publisher.’

“‘Yes... of course... you do that.’ I said distracted, as I was lost in my thoughts.’

“‘I have done all the corrections and I need to go home. Should I send the book to George?’

“Getting back to reality, I said: ‘After the shooting, George will not be expecting the book anymore. Leave it, anyway I think I need to rewrite that book now.’

“‘So, nothing better than facing death to inspire you, right?’

“‘Yes... of course... you do that... don't forget to send the book to George! He's expecting it today.’ I added still confused.

“‘You're crazy! I'm out of here!’

“‘Marianne! Don't send the book! Marianne? Oh never mind... go and snuggle with your Martin for all I care. Why do I care? I don't care. Why should I care? I don't care. I don't... Martin Wilkins. Sex. Hard-core and sweaty sex. Must be nice to have a life. A hot and sexual life… like if I care. Marianne! You're fired! You hear me? You're fired! And please send the damn book to George! It's going to be a best-seller for god's sake! Yeah, a damn best-seller... it's better than sex. Marianne?’

“All that I just described happened in my mind. In reality, this is what took place between Marianne and I.

“‘Oh hi Baby,’ Marianne greeted me. ‘I didn't know you were back already. What would you like to eat tonight? Crêpes, pasta... oh I know, what about a huge Shepherd's pie, just like my mother used to make them? With no onions, I know how you hate onions darling.’

“‘Marianne! Marianne? What are you doing here?’ I said. ‘Have you sent the book to George?’

“‘What book? You're working on a new book darling?’

“It is worth mentioning here that I was between minds about the changes, I was uncertain about if Marianne was my wife or my assistant.

“‘Of course I am, it's finished! You know that. Or do you...’

“‘Well, you're always talking about one book or another. I wish you wouldn't. It has been two weeks now, you know.’

“‘Two weeks?’

“‘Yes, two weeks and I can't stand it anymore. Whether you want it or not, tonight we're making love.’

“‘You want sex?’

“‘Oh, sorry! I didn't know we could say the S word around here. Usually you can only survive hearing snuggle... making love is already too much for your poor mind. Yes darling, tonight we're having sex!’

“‘Who are you?’ I asked hesitantly.

“‘What do you mean?’

“‘Well, what are you? My teacher assistant? Or are you my wife? Yes, you are my wife, aren't you? This is confusing.’

“‘Darling, you've been reading too much, once again you're completely lost. I know just what to do to get you back on track. I'll bake you those little cakes you're so fond of.’

“‘Don't joke with me! Who are you? What are you doing here?’

“‘You've really lost it this time! I'm telling you Henry, I won't suffer this anymore, I'm tired of caring for a mad man! I will ask for a divorce pronto if you force me to! I won't stick around until they put you into a mental hospital!’

“‘Yeah! Go back to your Martin! He must need a nice Shepherd's pie tonight, or does he prefer crêpes?’

“I had not realised the impact my words would have on her, as there was a lot going on behind my back that I was unaware of. Marianne Williams broke down in tears.

“‘You know about him? How did you find out?’

“‘I don't know. I don't know where that came from. I'm sorry baby, I must be losing it. Unless... you're having an affair with Martin Wilkins?

“‘So you didn't know? How...’

“I took her in my arms, too glad that she was actually my wife, and I said: ‘Don't worry Marianne. I must deserve it, I'm such a bad husband.’

“‘Well, you're usually so absorbed with your philosophy.’

“‘I can't believe you're my wife. I know you are, but somehow I feel that I almost let you slip away for that Martin.’

“‘I'm sorry.’

“‘I just had a déjà vu, very vivid, in which you were my assistant and not my wife. I tell you, this reality must exist, I was even confused when you entered the room. You were married to Martin Wilkins.’

“‘You do remember that, before we got married, I gave you an ultimatum? I said that I loved you but if you were not to marry me I would marry Martin.’

“‘It was not appropriate for me to marry my assistant, but I married you anyway. In the other timeline I must have told you to marry Martin.’

“‘You must have dreamt all that.’

“‘I don't think so. I have experienced many déjà vu recently and they could be considered to be a consequence of time loops. We could be going back in time with the chance to change our future if we can remember our mistakes. I sincerely thought you were my assistant today. What if my reality has changed somehow?’

“‘Well, I'm sure you will write it all down in your books. Though, is this philosophy?’

“‘Good question.’

“‘I'm sorry baby for Martin.’

“‘There are worse things...’

“‘What can be worse than infidelity?’

“‘Haven't you heard the news?’

“‘What news?’

“‘The killings at the university?’

“‘What?’

“‘Let's open the TV, it must be on every channel by now, nationwide.’

“So I turned on the TV where we could see photos of Esteban, Charles and Elizabeth, and scenes of where the shooting took place.

“‘There, on every channel... just like I predicted.’

“‘Oh my God!’ Marianne said.

“On the TV we could hear: ‘...a student called Esteban Estevez pulled out a gun and shot the dean Charles Worpington and his assistant Elizabeth Fairwater. No one knows yet the motive for such a crime but it is said that Esteban suffered from bad results and could not enter the Masters Degree programme at the University.’

“Upon hearing that, I instantly pressed the mute button. It went straight to my heart. How did these journalists got to know so much? They didn’t know everything though.

“‘And that's nothing,’ I said to Marianne. ‘One bullet was meant for me!’

“‘What do you mean? How come...?’ she replied.

“‘This morning I told that kid that he had no future and that I would go out of my way to make sure of it. So he shot everyone... but missed me in one of nature's wildest ironies. I feel totally responsible for this.’

“‘Maybe not, you never know. Perhaps he had other problems, his girlfriend might have left him, maybe she just died or something.’

“And so I pressed the mute button again and the TV continued the story:

“‘His girlfriend died unexpectedly two weeks ago from a car accident. This new incident reminds us of other killings in the United States, notably...’

As the TV confirmed that the girlfriend of Esteban died, and as Marianne virtually just said it, we both looked at each other thinking about the coincidence. So I muted the TV again.

“‘How did you know… déjà vu?’

“‘A lucky guess... I guess.’

“‘Well, I need to get back to work, despite everything that has happened. There's more to it than you'll ever know but I won't tell you just yet.’

“‘Why?’

“‘Because you would get me declared insane and ready for the asylum, while you go and enjoy a better life with Martin.’

“‘Don't say that, you don't know anything. I love you Henry, I always did and I always will. Martin is just, you know, snuggling at a higher speed.’

“‘Sex, hot and sweaty sex... is that all? I need to get back to work! Go and cook your cakes. I have a lot of soul searching to do.’

“‘I'll bring you your bottle of Porto, I'm sure you'll need it.’

“I really didn’t need to hear about your sex life, Professor Williams.” I reproached him.

“Good, as it is inexistent, just like yours I suspect. So there’s nothing to speak of, we’re both sexually frustrated men.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m quite happy the way I am.”

“Anyhow, I went back in my office while Marianne brought me a bottle of Porto with a glass on a platter, and then she went to watch the news. I sat down thinking that I needed to read about the human brain. At that moment I wished I was a medical doctor instead of a philosophy teacher, so I could find the answers I was looking for. The door bell rang once. Then twice. Then three times. ‘Marianne, are you getting it? Marianne? Marianne!’

“The TV was off, everything around seemed to have changed again, Marianne was nowhere in the house and so I opened the door. The scene was so surreal, Esteban Estevez was there surrounded by a large limousine and five half naked girls dancing to a popular tune.

“‘Hello Professor! I thought you must be bored by now. I'm bringing in the entertainment! I know you live alone, I just wish to make you understand that I'm on your side. I will free you from your boring life as a philosopher.’

“‘What is this? That's it, I'm completely mad! Are you not in prison? Oh wait... you are dead! Perhaps you did shoot me. Maybe I'm dead. Is this what purgatory looks like? Esteban Estevez haunting me for eternity? Bringing down the entertainment?’

“Esteban was dancing and singing, taking his shirt and trousers off. It was more than I could bear.”

“‘Bring down the Dancing Girls! You know these girls are special, if you know what I mean! I never felt so alive! And you will too after tonight. Can we get in? Are you not an old pervert? Like all the other philosophy teachers at the university? This worked well with professor Burnaby, and Williamson...’

“‘Get out! Get out! All of you, and your stupid dancing girls and flashy car! Marianne! Call the police!’

“‘Your assistant lives here now? I don't understand. I knew you were human after all! Don't you enjoy the company of women? Maybe you're gay? That's it! You're gay! I should have known you were gay, like half the department. What am I talking about? The whole department is gay except Burnaby, Williamson, and... ah yes, me! The Gay Mafia has taken over. Does this mean I have absolutely no chance in my studies, Mr. Williams? Well, I am more than ready to sleep with you.’”

Mmh, so you have a sex life after all,” I could not resist saying.

“I was red with rage and I slammed the door yelling ‘Get out of here!’

“Marianne suddenly appeared, asking: ‘What's wrong baby? You're in such a state! What happened?’

“‘Open the door and find out for yourself!’

“She opened the door, surprised, and then turned back to me and said: ‘There's no one there.’

“I looked for myself, they had vanished inexplicably. ‘You're right, I've imagined it! This is more serious than I thought. I need a psychotherapist. There's no more answer to be found. I'm just completely crazy!’

“‘Have you drunk the whole bottle of Porto again? You know Porto is not like wine, you can't just drink the bottle and hope to remain sane. Why don't you come to bed? Perhaps tomorrow everything will be clearer.’

“‘You're probably right, tomorrow's another day. A normal day I hope!’

“‘Any chance of snuggling tonight?’

“‘...not after the day I had.’

“So the next day I woke up and my life was totally changed again. I was now a specialist of the brain, as if being a philosopher could not help me understand déjà vu, and somehow I decided I needed some new skills to help me understand. As I was getting ready to leave the house, I experienced another déjà vu confirming all this. As I was preparing my medical instruments in real life, in my vision I was putting my books and papers ready for the day ahead at Oxford University. And as I was driving to the Oxford Hospital, I could see in my mind that I was in fact driving to the college where police barriers, other investigators and journalists were still present. I remember saying to myself: ‘They're still here? Unbelievable! How long can it be to figure out that a loser student did not get what he wanted?’

“As I got into the hospital, I met Elizabeth Fairwater, except that instead of being the dean’s PA, she was now the Head Nurse attached to Charles Worpington, the Hospital Director.

“‘Hello Doctor Williams,’ she said. ‘Did you have a good night sleep? Your patient Mrs. Winterbottom is not recovering very well from her brain operation. I'm concerned she won't make it.

“Whilst looking at the medical folder with a photo of Mrs. Winterbottom on it, I answered: ‘I knew it... unfortunately we found out too late about her brain's tumour. There wasn't much we could do for her. I'll go and see her later. But now... please come into my office.’ So we went into my office where I continued: ‘Are you the one keeping us sane around here?’

“‘Are you kidding? The more you doctors operate on people's brain, the more you seem to be losing yours. What would you do without me? But please bear in mind that I'm also the biggest gossip of this hospital. Anything you will say will be held against you and will be repeated to everyone else.’

“‘I don't care. Listen, I'm experiencing déjà vu and something is not right. I feel I should be a philosophy teacher at the university, not a medical doctor specialist of the brain. Somehow I've changed my present, as if the past, the present and the future were all intertwined. Like if there was no linear existence to be lived. And through my déjà vu I've changed everything. Like if we were living as much in the future as in the past.’

“‘Just what I said. You're all going mad! Yee ha! And I'm the only sane person around here! I should be operating on our patients... if they wish to stand any chance of survival. How much Brandy did you have yesterday, my God?’

“‘You were also in this other reality, you were not the Head Nurse, you were the right hand of the dean!’

“‘That's the best I heard so far! Wait until I tell every single nurse in this department! They'll go insane too!’

“‘Elizabeth! I'm serious!’ I said.

“‘Studying the brain must have somehow wrecked your mind! Forget about it. I need to remind you that the Director, Charles, is looking for you. Something about your latest book on mapping the human brain or something...’

“‘Charles, you say? That's the name of the dean!’

“‘Apparently he says that it should revolutionise the brain as we understand it. Are you a genius after all? No wonder you're completely mad.’

“‘Oh dear! What book is that? Is it not about philosophy? About déjà vu perhaps?’

“‘How should I know? I'm only the Head Nurse, no one's telling me anything. And they sure are right in not doing so! Thanks Henry, you made my day! Soon all 13 floors will be talking about you!’

“So I quickly opened my computer and read about my book. The title was Déjà vu, from a medical perspective. Then Charles entered my office.

“‘Henry, about your book!’

“‘Forget the book, sit down, I need to speak about déjà vu.’

“‘Well, as this is exactly the topic of your book, let's talk about it then.’

“Whilst still looking at my computer screen, I said: ‘As far as I can tell, being a specialist of the brain does not help me understand what déjà vu is.’

“‘What are you talking about? Your study is perfect, no one ever mapped the brain like you did. You explain just about everything that goes on in there! The two brain processes for example, studying the blind people still able to process certain images. This book will be a best-seller!’

“‘I don't believe you see an event twice because the brain takes some fraction of a second to interpret what it sees from your two eyes. Well, in theory it is possible, but considering what I'm going through right now, it no longer makes any sense. This book needs to be rewritten.’

“‘Who cares? We'll make a lot of money, the hospital will get a better reputation, you can't let me down!’

“‘Rewritten not from the point of view of a medical doctor, but from a paranormal investigator's point of view. What I'm experiencing is definitely supernatural.’

“‘In that case I no longer wish to publish the book, as this will not be right in our curriculum. I'm warning you Henry, this is a big mistake. Parapsychologists are just charlatans without any credibility! I'll have your head on a platter for this! Mark my words!’

“‘You're a real nightmare! Just like when you were the dean of the university! I will no longer suffer any pressure from you!’

“‘Hey, a bit of respect, I'm still the Hospital Director around here. Dean's university? What are you talking about? Oh, which reminds me... a young and promising new graduate called Esteban Estevez, was denied working at the hospital because of one person only: Henry Williams.’

“At that name I went white, and yet I didn’t remember.

“‘Ah yes, Esteban…’ I said. ‘I know something about him... something terrible. I just don't know what.’

“‘Well, get over it because we need him. Please reword your report so we can hire him.’

“‘I have a feeling that something is not right with that young man…’

“Just as I said so, Esteban Estevez entered the room in a big bang sort of way. And shouted: ‘Where’s Doctor Henry Williams?’

“He was followed closely by Elizabeth who added: ‘You have no right to go in there!’

“Looking at me, Esteban yelled: ‘Is it you? Yes, I do recognise you from the back cover of your books.’

“‘He's got a gun, I'm sure! Take cover!’ I cried, jumping on the floor and pushing Charles to safety.

“Esteban took his gun out and shot Charles, missed me and killed Elizabeth. Other people come in and try to stop him, and once again he shot himself, saying the same fateful words than previously: ‘Let me go! I've had enough! Please, you don't understand!’

“I sat down in my chair, seeing once again everyone dead around me. And under the horrified look of another doctor, I said: ‘A parapsychologist… this is what I need to be to understand what is happening to me.’

“‘Get a grip man! There’s been a shooting in your office!’ the Doctor said, puzzled by my reaction. How could he understand my predicament, I ask you?

“‘Get out! All of you! Get out of my office! And take those corpses to the morgue for me, will you? While I try to figure out what's happening here...’ I yelled.

“‘Well, good luck! But I'm going to call the police and don't you dare touch anything before the coroner finishes his job! For all I know you're to blame for all this!’

“I pushed them all out, and slammed the door saying: ‘I won't touch anything but I have some thinking to do. So thank you very much for your visit, you're not welcome back at any time.’

“As I wished to be a parapsychologist, once I turned around, there were no more bodies anywhere. I had switched reality once again and no one had been killed yet. Something weird happened, a slight change in the atmosphere, everything around the room had changed, including the room which was now smaller. I looked out the window, everything was different. I was no longer at the hospital. ‘Where am I? Something happened... or am I just tired?’ I was now in a small building where I apparently based my paranormal investigation organisation. All around I picked up books about ghosts, paranormal investigations, clairvoyance, precognition... and I stated: ‘This is much more like it. These books I need to read right now!’

“At that point in my head, I had what I could only explain as a double déjà vu. I knew I was a paranormal investigator, but I also remembered being a medical doctor and a philosophy teacher, while I was trying hard to understand what was going on. I was sitting at my desk reading, sometimes stopping like if I was absorbing what was happening in the two other timelines. Then I had a strike of genius: ‘Wow, this is amazing! I have a psychic gift, I can see other timelines. I seem to know all possible realities and can act according to what I learn from them.’ I was re-enacting the shooting scenes at the university and the hospital, it was like a vivid dream. I knew what would happen next, the name Esteban Estevez resonated in my head like a beacon, just as Charles entered the room, now the Director of the Oxford Paranormal Study Centre.

“‘Good morning Henry! I need to speak to you about your book...’ he almost sang.

“‘A book... let me guess, about déjà vu? Yes, yes, it is coming to term. I think. I just need more time.’

“‘More time for what, it is finished!’

“‘Yes, it is finished, I know what I'm talking about. Wait... Sixth sense, extrasensory perception, getting information via other means than our five senses...’

“‘Why are you telling me this? It's fine, this is perfect for the book.’

“‘This is how I can explain my déjà vu. It is like a clairvoyance gift, the acquisition of information about another person, object or events not involving the known senses or logical inference. Charles, I think I've uncovered a breakthrough here! I know the mean by which mediums and psychics tap into the unknown! It's like déjà vu, but it's more!’

‘Better be a great breakthrough,’ he said flatly, ‘if you wish to take the time to rewrite the book. If you think it can impact that much on the sales.’

“‘Charles, have you become a money grabbing person? I'm talking about real life here, explaining the unknown! I hope to help people with this, not make a fortune!’

“‘Well, get rich first, you know how the Oxford Paranormal Study Centre is in great need of money. Then you can help people. Anyway, how would you help anyone?’

“‘I have the gift! I can even predict the future, I'm telling you!’

“‘Precognition? Prove it!’

“‘You're about to die, and Elizabeth too.’

“‘Could we pick up another example, if I'm dead you won't exactly prove me anything.’

“‘This is serious Charles. I cannot stop it, a young man called Esteban Estevez will do the killings and even shoot himself.’

“‘Are you sure? How can you be certain?’

“‘I can't, you're right. I've only seen possible futures.’

“‘Who is this Esteban Estevez, I never heard of him. Why would he want to kill me?’

“‘Ultimately he wishes to kill me, but somehow he fails in every timelines that I'm aware of. I don't even know where to start to find him, but I guess he will come to us. Perhaps we can change the future, prevent the killings?’

“‘I'm all up for it... though I don't believe in your new found precognition gift.’

“‘You know I've always been a bit psychic.’

“‘A bit crazy, yes. Psychic, no. I still need hard proof! How would you know the future? Can you explain it to me?’

“‘Time loops, going back in time, changing the future the second time around, or remembering different timelines… that's it! I need to study theoretical physics, I need to look into fluctuating timelines, relativity and quantum mechanics!’

“‘Quantum what?’

“‘Physics, Charles! It is all down to physics. Somehow we are going back in time, this is why we have déjà vu. Or perhaps we just have glimpses of parallel universes which are not exactly synchronised with ours. And if you go further, you can see much more, have many déjà vu, know the future, or at the very least possible futures.’

“‘This is crazy stuff Henry. I don't know. I don't like it. Let's stay within the boundaries of paranormal investigations, or else the book will be useless.’

“At that moment Elizabeth Fairwater entered the room: ‘You want coffee in here?’ she asked. ‘You seem to be involved in quite a discussion.’

“‘Elizabeth, do you know a certain Esteban Estevez?’ I enquired.

“‘Yes, as a matter of fact he came here this morning. He wanted a job, he's a huge fan of yours.’

“‘Has he left a CV?’

“‘What? You can't guess his address?’ Charles wondered.

“‘Charles, I need your support here. I'm only trying to save all our lives.’

“‘Save our lives?’ said Elizabeth. ‘Charles! Why do you keep me in the dark about these things? I knew the finances were bad, but I didn't know you were planning to close down the Study Centre. I suppose I'll need to find a new job now...’

“‘Elizabeth, let's talk about this another time. Has he left a CV?’ I asked again.’

“‘Well, if that kid can save us, I'll go and get his address immediately! Wait a second...’

“‘Right, I'm off,’ I said whilst taking my jacket.

“‘Don't you think I should come with you?’ Charles asked.

“‘No, I don't want you to die.’

“‘What about you?’

“‘Somehow I feel he cannot kill me even if he wants to.’

“‘Why?’

“‘Because it's not my destiny to die at his hand. Perhaps there’s a deeper meaning to this.’

“‘Call the police, at least!’

“‘The police won't do anything, until we're all dead, that is. Goodbye Charles.’

“I left the Oxford Paranormal Study Centre in my car and went straight to Esteban's place. Once there I knocked on the door and Esteban let me in. He was surprised, to say the least.

“‘Yes? Oh, I know you, you're Henry Williams, right?

“‘I'm a parapsychologist working at the Oxford Paranormal Study Centre. I'm sorry I missed you this morning.’ I said formally, unsure of what to expect.

“‘Don't stay there, come in, come in!’ Esteban answered excitedly. ‘I’m so pleased to see you!’

“I picked up books from the table, they were my books. So I asked: ‘You've read these?’

“‘I'm your biggest fan. I've read all the books of THE great paranormal investigator. That's why I wish to work with you.’

“Then I saw a gun in a half opened drawer and suddenly I panicked. But I tried to keep it cool: ‘What makes you think you would be the right candidate?’

“‘Haven't you read my CV? I know there isn't much in there. I assure you, I have all the motivation in the world. I can work very hard on anything you will ask me to do. I have a passion for anything paranormal. I know this is where we will find all the answers.’

“‘Which answers? Or more specifically, to which questions?’

“‘I don't know. For example, what are the underlying laws of the universe? Finding the truth behind the mysteries of life. What makes us human and what is this weird planet we're all living on?’

“‘In which one of my books have you read this?’

“‘Mr. Williams, if I appear to be talking like you, or using your words, it's only because we think alike. We all share the same space. We're all interconnected. Wouldn't you say so?’

“‘Did you know I was a bit psychic myself?’

“‘I've read your books, I know a great deal about you. I'm not surprised by anything. But why? What do you feel when you're looking at me?’

“‘I don't know what to feel. I can see a lot of energy coming from you, like you're going to leave an indelible mark on this planet's history one way or another.’

“‘You see? That's very positive. That's why you need to hire me and let me work with you.’

“‘That's just it. Is it positive? Is it negative? What are the consequences of your actions? Do you know?’

“‘Everything happens for a reason, Mr. Williams. Who are we to judge if something is positive or negative? For every positive pole, there is a negative one to keep the balance intact, to keep the world going.’

“‘I don't remember you talking like this before.’

“‘We haven't talked before, have we?’

“‘I suppose I never actually took the time to really listen to you. It might have been my mistake. I will consider your request and perhaps you will be hired.’

“‘I'm so pleased, Mr. Williams! You won't be disappointed, I promise you!’

“‘Goodbye Mr. Estevez.’

“‘Goodbye and see you soon!’ he finally said.

“As soon as I left and was back in my car, I called the police.’

“‘Hello, police?’

“‘What is the nature of your emergency?’

“‘I know of a dangerous man called Esteban Estevez.’

“‘We know him. What has he done now?’

“‘You need to stop him because he will kill people soon.’

“‘I'm sorry, who's on the phone?’

“‘My name is Henry Williams, I work at the Oxford Paranormal Study Centre.’

“‘Oh, are you not the one who wrote those books about ghostly apparitions?’

“‘Yeah, yeah, years ago.’

“‘My mother is an avid reader of your books.’

“‘I'm talking about real murders here...’

“‘So, tell me, how does the great Henry Williams know about the future actions of Esteban Estevez? Perhaps a little angel told you? Maybe it was your sixth sense? Or was it a ghost?’

“‘That kid has a gun!’ I shouted down the phone.

“‘But as long as he has not done anything wrong, yet, there is nothing we can do.’

“‘Are you saying that the only thing the police can do is to pick up the bodies afterwards? You certainly would not try to prevent any crime! Well, once he kills the Director of the Oxford Paranormal Study Centre along with his assistant, and that he has shot himself in the head, I'll remind you that you didn't do anything about it.’

“‘Thank you Mr. Williams. Please call again, you are important to us. We are always happy to hear about strange phenomena.’

“‘Can you tell me your name and your badge number?’

“‘Why don't you just concentrate very hard, and you might just be able to guess this information. Have a nice day!’ And he hung up the phone on me.

“I was out of my mind. ‘How dare they speak to me like this? It's incredible how they can get away with treating people like that. Unbelievable!’

“I remained there to watch over Esteban. The police quickly arrived and from where I was, I could hear their conversation.”

“‘Yes? What is it this time? I haven't done anything wrong, so whatever you heard, I had nothing to do with it.’

“‘Calm down Mr. Estevez. Can we come in?’ the police asked.

“‘No you cannot! Stay where you are unless you have the right papers, which I know you don't.’

“‘We got the word that you had a gun and you might be tempted to use it.’

“‘I don’t have a gun!’

“‘We'll be watching you, so don't do anything stupid.’

“‘The thought has never crossed my mind, officer. I'm only trying to get somewhere in life. I'm desperately trying to find a job I like, but I can see it's not going to happen. There is just no place in the world for Esteban Estevez. And you're certainly not helping.’

“‘Wow! We didn't ask for your philosophy of life, we're just saying that we will be watching you. Have a nice day, Mr. Estevez. By the way, why don't you find yourself a job? Or even perhaps go back to college, it might help keep you out of trouble.’

“‘Why don't you go and arrest real criminals for a change? Like all these people who are trying very hard to stop me from going anywhere!’

“As I saw the police leaving, I also saw an angry Esteban coming out of the house, putting his gun in his pocket and jumping into his car. So I rushed back to the centre before him. He followed me in a few minutes later and yelled at me with rage: ‘You told the police I had a gun, you tried to get me arrested, you tried to ruin my life! What have you got to say for yourself?’

“‘You're hired!?’ I answered.

“So he shot Elizabeth and Charles and then he turned slowly towards me saying: ‘Too late!’

“I was completely confident that I wouldn’t be killed, so I shouted: ‘Please shoot me, I know you will miss me somehow.’

“‘I never wanted to kill you! Don't you understand? I only wanted to be recognised by you, to be accepted. I wanted your support, your acknowledgement of my potential!’

“I wasn’t prepared for that confession. Esteban didn’t try to fire at me, he just turned the gun to his head and shot himself. I just walked over the bodies as if nothing had happened, not even bothered by what I had just witnessed. I simply said: ‘Is that the time? Oh dear, let's go home...’

“When I arrived home, I was surprised to see a young girl reading a book in my living room. She was about 15 years old. The house also did not look the same as yesterday. Everything seemed to have changed.

“‘Who are you?’ I asked. ‘Students are not allowed here, you should take an appointment to meet me in my office at the university.’

“‘You should see a psychologist if you do not feel well,’ she answered.

“‘I'm not joking, I will throw you out!’

“‘Mom told me you were going through a patch, she didn't tell me how serious it was! Don't you recognise your own daughter? And you're not even a teacher at the university anymore, you're working from home! What drugs are you on?’

“‘You're my... daughter?’ I asked hesitantly. ‘I work from home? What is it that I do?’

She picked up a book and threw it on the floor: ‘God! You're really losing it. This should jog your memory!’

“‘Of course, I'm an author.’

“‘Good! That's sorted... that point at least.’

“I read the title of the book aloud: ‘Temporal Causality Loops, by Henry Williams, Theoretical Physicist. Well, that's pretty good, don't you think?’

“‘Yeah... if only we could understand in which language the book was written. You must have sold 20 copies of that book, at least. Mom is starting to complain. It may be time for you to go back and teach physics at the university. Try not to forget that I told you.’

“‘Of course.’

“‘Now, I hope you cooked something and cleaned the house, or else all hell will break loose!’

“‘What do you mean?’

“‘Hello!? You're not working, she's working. You have to clean and cook!’

“‘But I AM working, I'm thinking, and writing books...’

“‘That's not working! It doesn't bring any money! Let's face it, you're just lazy. Teaching was toooo stressful for you. I feel like eating a Shepherd's pie tonight, but mom would prefer crêpes, so you decide.’

“‘Please order Indian or something. I've got lots of thinking to do.’

“‘What? You must be joking, after my speech you're going to think some more?’

“My wife Marianne arrived at this point and she no longer looked like yesterday. Her hair and eyes were of a different colour and she looked tired and stressed beyond belief.

“‘Hi mom!’ the young girl said.

“‘Marianne, thank god you're here!’

“‘I hope you cooked supper, cos I'm dead!’

“‘When did we have... what's her name? Oh yeah, Wynona, isn't it? I remember now.’

“‘Now you're suffering from amnesia? This is just great! Any reason not to go back to work!’

“‘Have you ever known a guy called Martin Wilkins?’

“‘Never. Was he one of your colleagues?’

“‘Don't lie to me now, are you having an affair?’

“‘Dad! How dare you? Mom is the most faithful person I know!’

“‘Henry, why would I want to meet other people when I'm completely satisfied at home?’

“‘Mom! Don't be gross!’

“‘I'm very pleased you never met him. Please Marianne, sit down. I need to speak to you both.’

“‘You won't have to ask twice, I'm so tired. I hope as usual we don't have to listen, but just nod in agreement and pretend we understand your babbling?’

“‘Yes. That will do. I'm starting to remember everything now and I just want to organise and express my thoughts. I have a secret to tell. Though I remember marrying you, Marianne, and having had Wynona, I have to say that I also belong to some other lives where things are, let's say… different.’

“‘You never wanted me in the first place, I was a mistake! So don't try to justify now with your physics that I should not exist!’ Wynona yelled.

“‘Don't get me wrong! I've reach the top, this is the jack pot. I'm so happy! I'm working from home, no longer teaching classes, I have a lovely and faithful wife that I love, and I have the most wonderful daughter in the world that I wouldn't trade for anything.’

“‘That's nice to know, but don't forget you still have to clean the house!’ Wynona felt the need to say.

“‘What do you mean exactly by these other lives?’ Marianne asked.

“‘Other timelines, where things happen differently. You know the Many-Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics states that many different timelines exist, an infinite amount of us inhabiting each new parallel universe. And if we are aware of the different timelines, we can make different decisions in our past and in effect change our future for the better. Or simply just jumped to other timelines and acquire the memories we would have had in that particular new timeline.’

“‘You spent nights trying to explain this to me. And your different timelines, from what I gathered, are all parallel to each other, except when they split into branches when you decide to go right instead of left. How could you know about the other worlds and somehow jump from one timeline to another?’ Marianne asked.

“‘And I thought all these late nights you were not listening to me! I'm impressed!’

“‘Henry, I've corrected all your books! My name should be on the cover too! You always thought I was brainless…’

“‘Well, from now on I will consider you a genius!’

“‘Only because you think you're a genius, and then, she must be if she understands you,’ Wynona added.

“‘To get back to your question. How do I jump from one reality to another? How do I change my future and even the present? Very simple. Einstein's Relativity could account for a fluctuating timeline where the past, the present and the future blend together. Time and space are after all relative, our life is not linear or chronological. In fact we may be trapped in time loops and suddenly reality brings us back in time, or help us switch timelines. I don’t know.’

“‘And how do you account for time loops?’ Wynona wondered.

“‘The Earth is always moving in space at a relative speed, there are other strange celestial bodies having a strong gravity effect on the earth. Time and space vary according to our speed in the universe and the gravity exerted upon us. Time is always fluctuating, one second can be 1 hour or 5 years from one second to the next. It could also go backwards, creating time loops. Or at least, account for the different time rate in other timelines.’

“‘So now we live as much in the past as in the future? Why is it that we don't feel anything?’ Marianne asked.

“‘Because you don't pay attention to this fluctuating timeline. Psychic mediums do! That's how they know so much. And if we can remember the future while back in the past, we can change our timeline and be someone else. Déjà vu is a way to know what happened previously, helping us to remember other timelines.’

“‘Right! But what has this to do with the shepherd's pie?’ my daughter asked.

“‘Great! I now know the means by which this is happening. My déjà vu due to a fluctuating timeline where the present, the past and the future are all mixed up together and life is not linear or chronological.’

“‘Is this changing anything apart from being a new chapter in one of your books?’ Marianne said.

“‘This is a breakthrough! But you're right, I wonder, is it just a physical phenomenon ruled by physics and there is nothing else to it except the power to remember we have lived this before in other realities and that we can change our future? Or is there another purpose to this? Another higher power in action to take advantage of all this? What have I got to learn from all that?’

“‘That tonight we eat crêpes à la Normande!”

“‘All right, I'll get on with the supper. Tonight we eat Indian.’

“‘Not again!’ they both said together.

“The next day when I woke up, I wasn’t sure where I was. I looked around, rushed to reach the books on the table to see if any of them had been written by me.

“‘Oh no! My universe is in shambles again!’ I understood. “What is this book? Helping Others by Henry Williams, Psychic Medium. Oh no! I'm a fortune teller now! I can remember... my schedule, one appointment this morning, Mrs. Winterbottom is coming at ten.’

“My daughter came out of her room and I was pleased to see her.

“‘Good morning dad!’

“‘Oh! It's you! You're still here!’

“‘Where else would I be?’

“‘It's just that I grew accustom to you and I wouldn't want to lose you.’

“‘Why would you lose me?’

“‘Well, there are some decisions you can make in life and, I understand that some paths I have taken were mistakes. Now I can make things better in my life.’

“‘Daddy... always thinking. You should have been a philosopher, you know, instead of a clairvoyant.’

“‘Oh, you know, I'm a bit of everything. I'm a philosopher, a medical doctor, a theoretical physicist. I can be anything I want, I can reach all the knowledge there is in this universe. Because I can take advantage of the mechanics of this existence.’

“‘Keep that crap for you devotees who wish to know if they should get out once in a while and find the perfect man. Even I wouldn't have too much trouble telling them to provoke their own circumstances, and then maybe, just maybe, they would meet the perfect man.’

“‘You don't understand anything. I've got only myself to blame, I suppose. I will teach you everything you need to know to make sense of the underlying truth of this world.’

“‘Don't bother, I read your books and I still cannot understand the world you live in.’

“‘Yes, but my ultimate book is never written, you understand? As soon as I finish it, it needs to be rewritten. Because I learn more everyday! And then I become someone else, someone new, with a new book to write. The story of my life.’

“‘I love you all the same.’

“‘Where's your mom?’

“‘She's gone to work.’

“‘Oh yes. By the way, I had the strangest dream last night. Some killings occurred at the university and/or the hospital. I remember one name: Esteban Estevez.’

“‘How did you know? Gosh, you ARE a psychic! Great! Now I can't have any secret anymore!’

“‘Please, tell me you're not dating that guy?’

“‘For six weeks now! He loves your books more than he loves me, that's how we met. You don't disapprove of me, do you, dad? I'm 15 now...’

“‘Right, of course not. I can see there are still things in my life that are not perfect. I'll have to act upon it.’

“‘You said killings?’

“‘Don't worry sweet heart, they will never take place. I'll take care of it. Just make sure you bring him over so we can meet him and become friends.’

“‘He would love that, he's been asking to meet you since the day we met. Thank you daddy! You're so great! I thought you'd freak out completely! Now I think you should get ready for your first visitor of the day.’

“So Mrs. Winterbottom arrived at the door and we sat together in my office.

“‘Welcome Mrs. Winterbottom, please sit down and tell me what brings you here today.’

“‘I want to know all about my future and what I should do with my life.’

“‘Just that, hey? I'll see what I can do.’

“At that point I clearly remembered that when I was a Doctor at the hospital, Mrs. Winterbottom was one of my patients who died.

“‘You need to go to the hospital as quickly as possible. You have a brain tumour.’

“‘Are you sure? How do you know?’

“‘I can see it.’

“‘Will I die?’

“‘Waiting any longer would be fatal. If you go this morning, you'll be fine. Do you want to stop now?’

“‘No, please. I need to know about my son.’

“‘I see many timelines. In many of them he's dead, from many different ways. How did he died? I'm sorry, I mean, is he dead?’

“‘He died of a drug overdose, I've been told.’

“‘This was not the likely occurrence, I didn't see that yet. Now I can see it. Your husband was too rigid, he pushed him too much. In all realities where your son is alive, your husband is absent.’

“‘There isn't much I can do now, I can't bring him back from the dead.’

“‘Yes there is. Yes you can. You need to think really hard about what I just told you. You need to imagine a life where you left your husband to live with your son alone, convince yourself that the next day you will wake up in that reality. You wouldn't know about the change, but I assure you it will have happened. Thinking is very powerful, it can change your life. You can imagine anything you want and, I'm telling you, if you want it enough, it will happen.’

“‘But changing the past, how...’

“‘Trust me Mrs. Winterbottom. Do as I say and you'll see. Now you need to go to the hospital to get examined. It's urgent.’

“‘Thank you Mr. Williams.’

“And so she left and my daughter came back.

“‘So, how did it go with the old woman?’ asked Wynona.

“‘I just saved her life and probably the one of her son. In this timeline anyway, and a few others.’

“‘You're sure of that, aren't you?’

“‘Well, you can accompany her to the hospital if you want a proof, she's got a brain tumour and they're just about to find out.’

“‘Since when are you a doctor, who can even diagnose someone at a distance? You're not a faith healer, now, are you?’

“‘I guess I can be anything I set my mind to. I don't even need to be going through the nightmare of living all these realities, and that's what’s so perfect. You need to learn from whatever happen in your life so you can move on to learn more. Being aware of the future gives me the chance to control my life in order to maximise what I need to learn, so I can change and evolve. This is what I have learnt. And now I'm exploiting my aptitudes to help others and myself to a better life.’

“At that point I felt I reached a breakthrough in my understanding, and with it came a new sort of vision. I suddenly saw the young Esteban Estevez walking beside me at the university. It made me think. I remember telling Wynona:

“‘I'm having a vision... please don't say anything. My God! There are some versions of me out there where I will never learn!’

“‘Now you know just how I feel.’ Wynona said.

“‘I have to help myself...’

“And as I said that, I switched reality instantly and found myself on the green in front of Oxford University. As I was slowly walking, without any book, towards the building for my philosophy class, it was like I knew what was going to happen and I was waiting for Esteban. He didn’t fail to show up and he was once again questioning his F on his essay.

“‘What a great day this is!’ I said as a welcome.

“‘Hey, professor, professor!’ Esteban said.

“‘Hi Esteban, let's go and sit down on this bench.’

“‘It's not fair! I shouldn't get an F for this!’ he cried whilst giving me his essay to look at.

“‘Why do you believe you should get a better mark?’

“‘I've read all your books, I worked very hard this time, I was really hoping to get a good result and to eventually enter the Masters Degree programme.’

“‘You're right, you have worked hard, it is much better than what you used to give me. You have read my books and other books, I can see. You might have a future after all. My friend, you should not be judged compared with the others, but from what you were and where you are now.’

“‘Really? I was not expecting this. Here's my pen.’

“I had my own pen this time, I crossed the F and wrote A+. I handed the paper back to Esteban and preached as much for him as for myself:

“‘Don't let anyone tell you that you have no future, always find a way to get there in the end and prove them wrong.’

“‘I can't believe this, professor. This is a life changing event for me!’

“‘Believe it or not, this is also a life changing event for me. You'll get your PhD, even if I have to help you after class. If this is really what you want to achieve.’

“‘I feel like crying...’

“‘Me too, it's exhilarating. Now off you go, or you'll be late for my class!’

“‘But what about you professor? Are you not going to be late to your own class?’

“‘Now I'm in full control of my life and I will never be late again, even when I'm actually really late.’

“When I arrived in class, I said:

“‘Good morning. I just came, late as usual, to let you know that today's class is cancelled.’

“‘Why?’ Esteban asked.

“‘Because I need to go home, rewrite my book, marry my assistant and have a baby!’

“‘You've decided to do all this today?’

“‘I'm going to take advantage of everything life has to offer. I'll let you know how it all turns out! Although I've already got a pretty good idea...’

“And that, my friends, was my weird experience up until today. I know it was long, thank you for listening without interrupting me too much,” Professor Williams finally told us.

“And do you retain your so-called powers now?” I asked him.

“Yes, I am as much a clairvoyant, a medical doctor, a theoretical physicist as I am a philosopher. I am much more. My learning process is multiplied in many parallel universes at the same time, it is a never ending process limited only by my own imagination.”

“And do you still switch reality regularly?” asked Anna Maria.

“Not since that last time. It was like a full circle. I came back to where it had all started, and from there I wished for some stability and sanity. I like to wake up in the same reality every morning.”

“Do you feel you might be tempted again?” added Anna.

“I risk losing too much, I would first need to better control this changing timeline business. I hope that with your help I could reach that knowledge. So now, Ms Maria, you say you have gone through something similar? Would you care to share with us what has been your own experience?”

“I’m afraid, Professor Williams, we need to leave immediately. Whatever I would say now would be useless and wasted,” Anna stated quite strongly.

“What’s wrong Anna? What have you foreseen?” I demanded. She ignored me and spoke to Professor Williams alarmingly.

“You have to make sure, Professor, that you remain in control of your abilities. There will be times where you could switch timelines and not remember your past in other realities. You would be in effect stuck in that other timeline. You have been very lucky so far that you could remember glimpses of other realities through your unusual déjà vu, and that bit of information was enough to bring everything back to your mind. But if you don’t cease right now to play with this phenomenon, you will get stuck in the worst situation ever. And now, I’m sorry, we need to leave urgently and go back to Richmond Park as quickly as we can. In the meantime, follow this advice to the letter: for the next two hours, you will play Chess with your computer and not think about anything else but your strategy. You absolutely need to play chess until we can safely reach London.”

“How did you know I played chess on my computer?”

“I have bought a few of your books, and I have read them. Nothing magical. Good day, Professor Williams, we will speak again soon.”

And so we left Oxford and Anna instructed her chauffeur to drive at the highest possible speed, never mind the speed cameras and the army of police cars we could meet on such a journey.

“Why do we have to go back so quickly?” I asked her.

“Arthur, I’m so sorry, I have made a terrible mistake. And let this be proof that I am not perfect. I was unable to see the particular future that awaits us, because it only began to take shape near the end of Professor Williams’ story. You made quite an impression on him.”

“What? The man hates me, and I cannot say I particularly like him.”

“You gave him an idea, and now it is out of his control, as obviously he understands nothing of what is happening to him. You are particularly in danger, but I would not want to tell you more until it really happens, just in case it doesn’t. I’m so sorry Arthur, did you have anything planned for the rest of today and tomorrow? Now is the time to cancel all your appointments. Because you’re coming with me to my basement and there will be no way to communicate with the outside world.”

“Anna, this is ridiculous. Tomorrow I have an important appointment with the Premier, this is not the kind of meeting you can easily get out of without an exceptional reason, like an unknown country declaring war on Britain.”

“You have no choice, pick up that phone and cancel your schedule. You’re coming with me to my bunker and we’re not coming out until Friday morning. National security is at risk.”

“Wow!” I said, whilst turning on my phone. “You certainly make it sound like the perfect honeymoon.”

She turned around with a smile, even though she was still in a panic state: “I guess in your case there couldn’t be any other type of honeymoon worth considering.”

So we ended up in Anna’s basement for the next two days. I brought Bubba with me, and she brought down her six cats and Mr. Barnsworth, her parrot. I had my portable computer with me and I was glad that I could actually do some work. But Anna felt I was wasting my time.

“Don’t bother with your work. Before this is over, things will be so different that all that you could do now will be wasted. Trust me on that.”

So I didn’t know what to do, except ask more questions.

“Why are we here?”

“Because here is out of space and out of time. We are safe from any change in the timeline.”

“So our reality is about to change? What’s wrong with that?”

“It is many timelines, too many to count, and though it could be considered acceptable for this to happen, I don’t like it and I will not let it take place.”

“So what will happen then?”

“I will not say until you can see it for yourself on that big screen over there and those other monitors. I don’t want to influence anything at this point. Let’s hope I was wrong yet again.”

I looked at my portrait where I appeared with my border terrier, that very painting which freaked me out the first time I saw it as it defied logic, since I had never posed for it, no photo had ever been taken of me looking like that, and I had just got Bubba the day before. And now I was mesmerised again.

“That painting, and now that I’m thinking about it, all those other paintings over there, they look very familiar. I mean the style, the way they aged, the colours, everything is like… my God! Who painted that portrait of me?”

“Nice of you to finally notice that, I thought you were an expert. So what is your expertise telling you?”

“It is not possible. It is a perfect imitation of what Leonardo da Vinci could have done hundreds of years ago.”

“A fake? This is an original da Vinci painting! And down there you will find some Rembrandt, Goya (my favourite), Poussin, Van Gogh, Renoir, etc., all unknown in this reality. They come from universes that we knew were doomed, and we have vaults down here filled with all this art which unfortunately we cannot bring outside of these walls without creating chaos.”

“Why keep it then? Why bother?”

“Good question, you should ask yourself that question, next time you meet yourself in a parallel universe. You were instrumental in saving all this art. There is something sad regarding a world about to end, you feel the need to save something just so you can tell yourself that it was not all pointless.”

“But how did Leonardo da Vinci end up painting me and my dog?”

“We went there, you and I, we disguised ourselves and we paid him well. We hid the painting in the past somewhere safe and recovered it years later so it would have aged normally. Here’s the result. Of course, it was not exactly you and I, I cannot imagine you, in this timeline, doing such a thing. Are you glad you did it in other realities?”

“I was about to suggest we move the painting into Pembroke Lodge, now there’s no question about it, we won’t. My colleagues are so paranoid, they would have it probed and analysed in no time just to satisfy their curiosity.”

And then, to our horror, Mr. Barnsworth jumped on the painting, his two legs on it, whilst snatching a big piece of the frame with his powerful beak! What made the whole scene even more surreal was that Bubba started to bark very loudly, whilst we tried to get the parrot out of there. I took the macaw in my hands and I looked at him severely:

“This is a da Vinci, for god’s sake! One that no one even knows exists! It is worth million of pounds! Put that in your little brain, if you can!”

Anna snatched Mr. Barnsworth from me, and said: “You’re frightening him, he is more intelligent than you think, don’t patronise him. He just doesn’t understand the ridiculous idea that this object could have any value to anyone. I’m afraid he doesn’t discriminate, anything is up for grabs. I hope he will one day stop destroying everything he put his beak into. Now, let me show you some parts of the basement.”

“All right, Sir!” I said, military style, with a salute of my hand. “Are you sure you didn’t know beforehand that he would do that?”

“Well, I had to find out just how much you liked that painting of yours…” she answered with a smile. “No harm done in any case.”

“Except that big chunk of the frame is now gone forever. Can’t believe that it survived intact for so many centuries, and yet, in less than three seconds it has been annihilated by Mr. Barnsworth.”

“Well, it is part of the history of the painting now. Let the art world of the future try to figure out what happened here today, or even how this painting can exist. If you look carefully, your can see your Pocket PC, your futuristic watch and many other anachronisms. Come.”

And so we went and looked at many different rooms, some very large, containing more and more machines, laboratories and other futuristic stuff for which I had no idea what their purpose could be.

“What is all this?” I asked. “I can’t recognise any of it, and believe me I know the latest technology on the market. Has it even been manufactured on this planet?”

“Well, yes and no, it depends.”

And then she showed me some vaults packed with arts which came from other realities, books authors never had the chance to write in our timeline, and even highly successful authors, from the look of it, which I knew had never existed. There was everything, software, games, domestic appliances, inventions…

“I could spend years down here reading and trying to figure this all out. If ever physicists prove parallel universes one day, we could get it out in the open and fill the museums of the world with for title: ‘The Art the Grand Masters never did but could or should have done.’ We could also flood the market with new technology and inventions of all sorts, we could make this world a better one overnight. What’s stopping us?”

“Be my guest! Let’s get it all out. We’ve done that in many realities, it confused the whole world, but hey, they adapted. I’m curious to see what you will decide this time around.”

“For now this is all new to me, I wouldn’t want to do anything I might regret until I know fully what happened in all those worlds you seem to know everything about.”

And then my eyes fell on another Leonardo da Vinci painting, of Anna Maria accompanied by Mr. Barnsworth.

“What have we got here?” I said. “Now I know what you think of your own portrait. Let’s bring it next to mine, if you don’t mind.”

“I knew you would do this! I should never have showed you this room.”

“Of course you knew, and subconsciously you probably hoped that I would do exactly what I’m about to do.”

Ten minutes later Anna’s portrait was next to mine in the main room.

“Should we let Bubba have a go at the frame of your portrait?”

“This will never happen.” She answered with a laugh.

“So what are we going to do until Friday morning?”

“Would you care to read your memoirs?” she asked, taking a book out of a drawer. “Of course, it isn’t exactly your life, but it can be entertaining to read about what you could have achieved and never did.”

“Really? Was I Prime Minister? How did I manage that?” I demanded, taking the book in my hands.

“It depends on which version you read,” she answered, taking out a few more copies out of the drawer, slightly different from the first one. “You have collected many different ones over the years.”

“I see. It becomes then a bit useless to read them. If anything is possible, then my imagination can do the trick. Even, I could do like that Professor and simply change my reality.”

“Exactly, you’re beginning to understand.”

“You will have to show me one day how to do this. So what will you do?”

“I will monitor the news about what’s going on outside. Here we are protected from any change, but if we go out before I say so, God knows what could happen. We might have never met!”

“I also understand now why you cannot let this happen, it is quite radical that we could switch to a reality where everything is so different, I might never have been born.”

“That’s it, that’s exactly it! All probabilities considered, on Friday morning we will get out of this cavern, and you will never have existed.”

“Dear me! All because that Professor from Oxford wished it?”

“I’m afraid so. You were unkind to him, he wiped you out of his existence, and consequently, out of existence altogether. You do understand, however, that this only happens from his own perspective, we’re all living in our own bubbles quite independently from anyone else. We all create our own multiverse every second of our existence. This time it’s different though, because we’re in here, and we’ll go where that poor man will end up. He needs my help.”

“What about you, in that new reality?”

“I live in France on Mont St Michel, a recluse life, I’m highly suicidal.”

“Let’s go monitor those screens.”

And so we watched the events taking place on many different parallel universes at once, up to 50 monitors at the same time, and I learned how to make this all work, and especially to understand what I was looking at. Not an easy matter. And on Friday morning I finally hit the jackpot, I shouted for Anna Maria to come and watch.

“Anna! This is unbelievable! Do you know who the Director General of MI5 is?”

“I’m afraid so.”

On the screen, which Anna confirmed was the reality outside, Professor Williams was now the head of MI5!

“The bastard! Not only he wished me out of existence, but he took my place!”

“I told you that you made a big impression on him. In his puny mind he thought he could do better than you. That he could be out there telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and still keep it all together in the best world there is. And now he found out that he couldn’t, and the world out there is nothing like the one you knew two days ago. It has now degenerated into a police state, and the civil war is ready to explode at any moment.”

“What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to get out of here and go have a little chat with Professor Williams.”

“I will have him arrested on the spot.”

“You have no power out there, dear. You don’t exist!”

“I will assassinate him then.”

“Let me deal with it, or you will have us both killed in an instant, and you will doom this country in the process.”

And so we got outside via a second exit at the end of unending tunnels, and we got out from the Veterans building outside Richmond Gate. We jumped into a taxi and reached MI5 headquarters in Westminster 40 minutes later. Along the way we have seen no more than 100 policeman and women, soldiers, tanks, countless CCTVs everywhere, abuse of authority here and there. The whole of Central London was even deserted, as if people were afraid of going there and were now living in the countryside. It was frightening.

“Amazing!” I said. “I would have never believed how easy reality could be manipulated and how quickly we could lose power and revert to some uncivilised world. This is like a Coup d’État, and yet, we would have never known about it. We would simply accept reality as it is, never questioning it.”

And yet, it didn’t seem that different, you could still have believed it was the reality we left, but some terrorist act had just been committed. Of course, I would have supported such a state of emergency in those conditions. And now I found myself reconsidering my emergency plans, because I was seeing this from a different eye, one that knew that this was a Big Brother State, and not simply a state of emergency justified by recent events.

“That’s nothing,” Anna answered. “We have not yet started to fight people playing with time travel.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Americans are changing the timelines all the time, they have time machines, and they’re not the only ones. Thankfully we are their ally, so we don’t suffer much from their interference. Remember, I told you that we lost the Second World War.”

“Yes, you did! I never considered it then, or believed you, but now, how could I doubt you? Anna, you are a God sent. Without you, the Great British Empire would be nothing today. We owe you the greatest honours, and our gratitude.”

“To you and I Arthur, we’re in it together. And we still have to revert back this reality somehow. The game is not played out yet.”

“How can we make sure he will receive us?” I asked.

“I have his manuscript here, and one of his published books that in this reality he has never written. I will just send them to him as our visiting card. His Ego and curiosity will dictate to him to invite us within seconds.”

“Brilliant! I should have thought of this. Anna, you are such a master, and so much wisdom comes out of you, you put us all to shame.”

Anna was right, and within minutes we were ushered in Williams’ office.

“I am quite puzzled with what my secretary just brought me from you. Is this some sort of plot or game? I am not amused, I am not impressed.”

“You still received us, though. How do you explain it?” I said.

“I want to assess what sort of threat you represent and what is your motive. You better have a good explanation, your days are counted. How dare you target me? The head of MI5 of all people? I am more powerful than the Prime Minister and the King put together.”

“The King?” I repeated, astonished. “What happened to the Queen!”

“Professor Williams,” Anna began. “Have you forgotten who you really are?”

“Professor Williams? What are you saying, why are you calling me this?” he said.

It was clear Henry Williams could not remember anything from his other realities, especially his original one where he started having déjà vu. I thought Anna’s tactic was remarkable.

“Professor Williams,” Anna continued. “Teaching philosophy at Oxford University? Your wife Marianne and your daughter Wynona?”

“I had dreams about Oxford University and philosophy. Is this hypnotism? Are you trying to brainwash me somehow? Do you possess some sort of mind control device? I will call security this instant.”

“Wait!” I shouted. “Esteban Estevez!”

At those words Williams broke down and fell to his knees.

“I remember!” he said shaking. “It’s all coming back to me! This is not my reality, somehow, is it?”

“No it is not, Professor Williams,” Anna affirmed. “You have made a mess of this existence. I told you that this could happen. You switched reality without really wanting it, you don’t remember anything, and now you are stuck here in that chaos you created.”

“How do you know?”

“I am Anna Maria. You called me to help you, and I am helping you.”

“How did you do this? How did you trigger my memories like that?”

“You could have on your own, I assure you. It is not easy to remember your other realities when you switch timeline as you did. You only needed to be aware, or be reminded.”

“I don’t belong here, I tried to make this place a better place, I know I have failed. What should I do? How can I go back to my life? Please, tell me!”

“Simple, just wish it, just convince yourself, repeat it to yourself all day long. Go to bed, and when you wake up tomorrow morning, everything should be back to normal. Just remember the life you had, just go back to it. You can do it, you have done it many times.”

“I promise you I will try.”

And so we left my office, even though Professor Williams was now occupying it. We went back to our bunker for one more day, just in case the whole enterprise was not successful. But the next day everything was back to normal, even though some details were different from what I remembered. So I guess we were not exactly back in the reality we had left, but close enough, and that was good enough for me. Anna and I went for a long walk in Sidmouth Wood in order to forget what we had just gone through.

There was no doubt in my mind that I would need to rethink Britain’s security entirely to protect us against that kind of new potential danger. And there was also no doubt in my mind now that Anna Maria was the most important human being alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Dead Girl’s Song

York’s Resident Ghost

 

 

I was invited by the Prime Minister to participate in the annual party meeting in York that December. I find these public meetings to be real nightmares, even though there was a time when I was hoping to be invited so I could make an impression and fulfil my ambitions. My own brother Eugene, who is a Minister close to the Prime Minister, eats politics for breakfast, and for him this was our chance to shine and to establish ourselves as leaders of the British Kingdom.

Perhaps it is because the questions journalists put to him are simple to turn to his own advantage. Whenever the economy is horrible, he can simply state a few prepared statistics claiming that they are working hard on it and they have met with great success the challenges left by the previous administration. When it is about unemployment, they can always find a study somewhere proving that there is nothing to worry about and soon 100% of the population will be working with the highest salaries possible, even the civil servants, even though it is clear that those will never get any more money, despite their weekly strikes. It doesn’t matter, in the end we give them a raise, and their salary is still well under the inflation.

My brother Eugene doesn’t have a high opinion of civil servants, because in his eyes they are all incompetent, just like everyone working in the government. If that was not so, if they were bright enough, they would be in the private sector where the money is, and they would stop whinging about how bad they are paid when they are basically not doing anything anyway in a days work. It is well known that you need three people in the public sector to do the job that one person does in the private sector. Of course, even though we all think that, none of us would plainly admit it in such a meeting. We say that negotiations continue, and hope secretly that they will go on forever. Sorry for being so candid, but I said I would speak my mind. And yes, I know there are exceptions.

The questions I get are not so simple. It seems that even journalists have caught the conspiracy theorist bug, and their questions are getting weirder by the day, as this following transcription can testify:

“Duke Connaught, is it true that you are a direct descendant of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert?”

“Yes, this is so,” I answered.

“Are you then a reptile?”

“A what? I’m sorry, I must have misheard you.”

“Surely you are familiar with the new ideas that all elite families in the world are reptiles from outer space? Most especially in the UK and the US?”

“I’m sorry, my PR agency and the people who work at guessing your questions and preparing my answers, never anticipated that question.”

“Does this mean you cannot answer? Do you think by yourself, Prince Connaught? I hope so, otherwise, who’s really making the big decisions at MI5? Your PR department?”

“Next question please!” I shouted, growing impatient.

“What do you make of the rumours and proofs that the government is responsible for most terrorist attacks, in order to further their own war agenda and police state? Nowhere in the world are there more cameras watching its people and police on the streets than in the UK. What have you got to say about this surveillance state?”

“I have nothing to say about conspiracy theories. If they exist, I’m afraid, no one told me. As for if I am a reptile… arrrgh grrrrargne woof! This was my impersonation of turning into an alien. Please stop watching and believing everything you see on Doctor Who and let’s get back to business, the real issues. Any serious question, anyone?”

“Those were serious questions Duke Connaught, and the earlier you answer them, the more successful you will be at preventing the whole country believing in conspiracy theories. At the moment, 80% of the population have lost confidence in their government, they feel you are lying to them on a daily basis. The world is changing, freedom and human rights are gone, we all know the media are just repeating what the government tells them to say, good citizens are harassed daily one way or another by a camera or the police. We’ve all lost many points on our driving licences, wherever we go now everywhere there are so many laws, we break them all without even realising it, and we pay huge fines that none of us as a nation really want. What are you planning to do about this?”

Those are the questions I got, and I’m not even the Prime Minister yet, my own brother might beat me to it. So in the end I had to make false promises just like people in politics have to do. I would be lucky if in a few years some journalist won’t dig this up and state that I lied or did nothing to change the situation as I said I would. I stated:

“So, you have lost three points on your licence and paid a fine because you crossed the line and didn’t pay for your congestion charge in Central London. Big deal! Is this a sure sign that Big Brother has arrived? Look, if I ever become Prime Minister one day, I promise that I will get rid of most cameras in the country, whether on the road side or CCTV. I promise that all those terrorist laws which are making my life so much easier right now at MI5, will be deleted. I promise that the police force will be slashed by two or three or ten depending on the size it will have reached by that time. However, as I am not the Prime Minister, those are not questions for me. At the moment I’m in charge of security, your security, and I like things the way they are, the way they’re going. I sleep better at night because I can do what needs to be done to protect this country. And every time I stop a terrorist attack, I am grateful for the loss of freedom and liberty you have suffered for your own protection. I don’t intend to abuse those powers, if others do, it is your job to denounce them. I promise to keep an eye on them, all right? Question time is over!”

I finally got out of the building with a huge headache, fully aware of all the mistakes I had made. My assistants were shouting in my ears all that I did wrong, and I blamed them for being incapable of predicting these questions. I wished that Anna Maria had been there to support me, see the future and advise me as what to say. I was thinking about that when I saw a huge anti-war manifestation outside the conference centre, the whole place in front of the York Council building and the medieval castle was filled with people. Even at the top of the walls of the castle there were people brandishing huge banners and other signs against the government. I was exasperated.

And suddenly, there in the crowd, who did I see? Anna Maria, with a sign in her hands with LOVE written on it in big letters, she was protesting with the others! All the security guards panicked whilst I jumped into the crowd towards her, taking the sign and throwing it in the air. I took her by the arm and we escaped miraculously with the help of security, as people recognised me and were ready to trample upon us.

That was the culmination of that wonderful day in York. I could just read in my mind the headlines the next day. There is always a photograph somewhere to take the picture you never wished they could take. The one and only woman I was publicly dating, even though it wasn’t true, was spotted in the crowd denouncing my own policies, and everyone will know that I was angered by it, went there to take her out, and was red with rage. I should have pretended she was never there, then no one would have been the wiser. Too late now, I have to work on my impulsivity.

When we were finally out of sight of the crowd and journalists, Anna was in a very good humour, laughing and enjoying herself as if she was drunk, not realising in the slightest what she had done.

“Don’t you understand how serious this is? My career? The public image of the government? Everyone’s already so suspicious and ready to impeach us all, and there you are making a clown of myself! I’m afraid I might have to resign tomorrow morning if it is all over the papers!”

She was still unmoved by my hard speech, she was still laughing. For her, life is a game, I thought. It is a joke. She will do as she damn please, because in the end nothing really matters to her. She has this extraordinary way to visualise existence, and beyond that, nothing exists. But suddenly she turned around and looked at me in the eye, and said the most astonishing thing ever:

“You are unpredictable sometimes Arthur, I was so sure I had made a bigger impression on you than that, I guess I took it for granted. In so many other realities, you just simply joined me! Upon seeing me, you picked up a sign on the floor and joined the crowd! The next day you were the hero of the day, you proved to the nation on which side you were, on their side, and that you would work very hard at doing what they want from you. It was your open door to the Prime Minister’s office.”

“This is preposterous. You know very well that I am not that person you describe. This would never have happened in my lifetime. Perhaps you’re not as bright as I thought. God, Anna! I’m here wondering if the civil war you talked about is around the corner, I can almost feel it in the journalists’ questions, and there you are shattering all my nerves!”

“Calm down. I know very well who you are and who you could be. I knew the odds were very much against it that you would join me there today. I did it anyway, I gave you the chance. Let that be a lesson to you, and I could not think of a better way to demonstrate it. You need to realise that in other timelines you are much more successful, because you do not take yourself so seriously, ambition does not eat you alive, and you truly feel for the people you work for, that nation that you represent. You are ready to sacrifice yourself and everything you represent for every single life there is in this country. You do extravagant things, astonishing behaviour, put your neck on the line every time, you are being sued by the Crown because you went there and took the side of citizens you felt were right. You are the most popular politician on the planet, the saviour of all civil servants! You are revolutionary! People really feel that you are working for their own interest, and not your own petty personal ambition. That is the lesson you have learnt today. And if you want, we can still accomplish it. We can produce new signs and get out there with the crowd. Well?”

“No way! Been to York, done the speech, seen the castle, now time to go home. I couldn’t care less about being the hero of the civil servants, they can all die a horrible death as far as I’m concerned.”

“Oh! Watch out, the place is packed with journalists. How can you risk your entire career saying things like that in a public place? You might as well have added a racist comment right in the middle of it all, that would have been much more effective. Maybe you don’t really care?”

“Well, I’m just not going to be a hypocrite liar. If I am Prime Minister one day, unlike others I know, the population will know who they are electing, they will know what my thoughts are, there will be no surprise as they will know what to expect from me.”

“This could turn very ugly. All right, I’m not insisting. I was just teaching you something, and how you could change, and how this would actually really bring you the results you desire. But before you go back in your cavern to sulk over your terrible day, there’s a reason for my presence in York, and I would very much appreciate your input into my investigation.”

At these words, I finally saw an escape to the misery I was destined to subject myself to, repeating in my head over and over again all that had gone wrong on that day. So I turned to her expectantly and said:

“Oh, you are on one of your cases then? Fascinating, I will be pleased to join you. Considering what we’ve gone through before, I can only guess that this will be another mind boggling situation? What is it about?”

“It’s about a ghost who’s in search for the keys to the city of York.”

“Ghost?” I answered, more disappointed than I wanted to.

“I know you don’t believe in ghosts, Arthur, but after this you will. And not only that, you will find it a mind boggling universe, as you put it. You know I would never lie to you, and I’m telling you that everywhere I go I see ghosts, almost every house I go to! Are you not the least curious about those apparitions, these people who are dead, but still somehow walk the Earth, often repeating over and over again the same traumatic events of their existence? How do you explain their universe, where they live, the laws of physics that can permit such an aberration? Are you not worried that you will end up one day as one of them? Haunting MI5 forever, incapable of influencing anything? Or haunting Pembroke Lodge like Bertrand Russell, living at my side as the only living person you could talk to?”

“Why? Am I about to die? And this is your way of telling me the future I can expect for myself? Are we to be married in death, or in between? Dear me, Anna!”

“No, no, sorry, this couldn’t be further from the truth, you’re not about to die. Anyway, you’re reaction proves to me that even though you don’t believe in ghosts, you’re very much afraid of becoming one, especially one trapped for eternity in between worlds. So you do believe in ghosts.”

“All right, I admit. One can not believe in God, and yet being afraid of it on his death bed, just in case God might exist after all.”

“Exactly. You will not doubt after meeting that man this evening. We are to meet him at his bookshop near one of the main entrances to the old York. You will come with me Arthur, right?”

“Why do you even ask, when you know perfectly well that I will be going?”

“Well, I like to give you the impression that I don’t know exactly what will happen next. Or else, what’s the point? It is enough that there’s no more surprise for me in life, I don’t have to impose it on everyone else.”

“Well, I could have certainly appreciated your insights today at that annual meeting. Where were you then, when I needed you the most?”

“Don’t be petty Arthur, your ambition is just but a distraction. It has no bearing on the real significance of life and the meaning of the universe we live in. Don’t insult me with common human worries when so much is at stake.”

Those were harsh words coming from Anna. I suddenly felt quite small, like someone in front of his master, and I had just failed every test she had put there before me. I remembered how I just went into the crowd and got her out of there as if she was my own daughter doing something against my will. I felt so ashamed with myself, it was hurting me even more than the idea that the next day I would be crucified all over the news in Britain. I had no right over Anna Maria, she knew what I was doing more that I could ever know myself. And so I realised that I should just shut up and learn.

I thought, what if she was right about me joining her in the manifestation, if really that had made all the difference in the perception people had of me? However, I could never have done it. It would have gone against all my principles. In the end, I may be a bit hypocritical here and there, and lie a bit here and there, but this would have been the ultimate deception, as I would not have believed in the cause I would have been defending. I don’t want peace, I want war! I want to eradicate all those enemies of Britain, so we can finally live in peace. And there’s no better position than my own to see the big picture. I know I’m right, it is inevitable, though I wish it wasn’t.

I’m proud of London, of the United Kingdom, that we can be such a powerful force in the world. We won two unjust world wars, never mind what Anna says about it, and we’re certainly going to win the third one. Surely Anna knew how I felt! She should feel the same! Where was her patriotism then? Peace and love is meaningless when the enemy is pointing his cannons at you, especially when those cannons are those of bacteriological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. That’s my reality, what’s hers? Did she believe, like all the others, that all was propaganda and that I believed our own PR lies to the nation?

So what was she playing at? Just to show me how events could have totally different outcomes, depending on our very own nature? That nature needs to change first, here’s the problem. It made me think that Anna was so perfect, so opened to any eventuality, she could have adapted instantly, changed her predisposition, enjoy any life changing event as if it was the most natural thing. I had a lot to learn from her I realised that day. She possesses a unique point of view, she knows better. Ultimately, she’s the only one with the real overall picture, all the implications, all the long term consequences of any event.

I have to admit that I am very much in the dark about everything, and yet I’m ready to fight to the death blindly. And what does she do with all these powers at her disposal? She chases ghosts in Yorkshire. What a waste. At least, she would not let me down if something horrible was to happen tomorrow morning, as long as those events were ones affecting the whole nation. As for me, I guess she doesn’t mind if I become the most hated man in Britain.

So that evening we went together to Micklegate Bar, which is a tower serving as the entrance to the old York. We walked down a staircase made of rock at the end of the old wall circling the medieval city, and we could see above a building with a platform in front of it with a metal rail. Three kids dressed like in the past were standing still on the platform in front of the Micklegate Bar, they had a strange look in their vacant eyes. They looked at the sky mesmerised.

“Look Arthur, observe. You would not normally see this, but I am helping you to see what I see when I look at that particular spot,” Anna said.

“What’s the meaning of this?” I enquired. “Who are those clowns or actors?”

The police arrived at that point. They looked at me when they got out of the car, while I was pointing at the kids. They finally realised that there were kids on the platform and they saw that a fire was underway in the Micklegate Bar. I knew that once the firemen would reach the three kids inside, they would disappear outside, as they were ghosts of the ones dying inside. I cannot explain how I knew this, it must have had something to do with Anna. And it happened, all three disappeared in front of our eyes as soon as the firemen were inside. From what we heard, a girl died in the fire, there were no other kids or brothers inside. I was so certain they all died in there, nothing made any sense. I turned to Anna for answers.

“What have we just witnessed?” I asked.

“Welcome to my world,” she simply answered. “Let’s walk away and come back in five minutes.”

So we did, and when we came back, there were no more police car, fire truck or ambulance. There was no sign of any fire ever taking place at Micklegate Bar. I was completely lost.

“What is the meaning of this? Where is everyone? What about the fire? It never happened in the first place?”

“It happened all right. And it does happen over and over again. In fact, it is so powerful, sometimes it happens in the real world, as you just witnessed. You might not have realised, but those brothers were there in 1797. Those police and firemen were there many years ago, in 1997, extinguishing a fire that took place 200 years before. They tried to extinguish it without success, and suddenly they could not find any sign of fire, and the girl they rescued simply vanished. Now explain this to me.”

“I can’t!” I said horrified. “Can you?”

“Come on, let’s go and meet the latest victim of the dead girl from Micklegate Bar.”

And so we walked on the rampart until we reached another Bar. Right after the entrance, at 20 Bootham Street, there was a nice and cosy little bookshop called Worm Holes.

“Very appropriate,” I said out loud, whilst Anna smiled at me. We went in and met a man called Ron Titler.

“Have you seen them?” he asked Anna eagerly.

“We both witnessed the scene, yes,” she answered.

The man looked at me puzzled: “So you are a psychic too? Oh wait, you were on the news tonight, you’re in the government, my God, you were both all over the news! This is mad! Oh dear, they ridiculed you badly, this is so funny that you should turn up on my doorstep…”

“Calm down, please,” I said. “I’m no clairvoyant, Anna somehow helped me visualise what I can only suppose you saw yourself?”

“You’re a reptile, are you not, or an alien or something? This world has gone to hell, I’m telling you. Anna! We can’t trust that man! He is part of all this, this conspiracy against me. How can you show up with him, when he so disgustingly pulled you out of the crowd? I had not recognised you there on TV, but I sure thought you would be in prison now. Oh wait, I remember they said you were a couple? Well, if that is what love is, then you might have it worse than I with me ghost of a girlfriend.”

“No, you’ve got it all wrong!” Anna said. He’s my friend, he may be a reptile,” and Anna winked at me whilst saying so, “but he is a friendly one who can help us. You can trust him as you trust me. What you see on TV has nothing to do with reality, it is very deceiving.”

“If you say so,” he finally said hesitantly.

Dear me, now I’m a reptile and an alien, and it is all over the news. There’s really no way out this time. I am the scapegoat of this administration. I will hear jokes about this in the corridors of Thames House for years to come.

“Now,” Anna said, “please tell us what it is that you saw and experienced, and we’ll see how we can help you.”

“Let’s go upstairs, I have sofas and big chairs, it has a nicer atmosphere away from the door and the noise outside. You seem to have brought with you many journalists. That is bad publicity for the book shop at any rate, I hope they don’t film the sign or mention the bookshop.”

“Are you afraid they might believe you’re a terrorist?” I asked.

“Not at all. There are no real terrorist in England, apart from the ones sponsored by our own government, that is,” he answered.

“Here we go again, another deluded soul,” I added.

So we went upstairs. “I love the place, the ambience, I could retire here. What books are you selling?” I asked.

“Oh, books I love, nothing anyone would want to buy. Anyway, I don’t need to make money or sell books, real book lovers just enjoy coming here for a cup of tea and read in this soothing environment.”

“I see,” I said. “Another rich mummy’s boy with too much time and money on his hands, who finally accomplished his dream of having a shop losing money by the minute. Wonderful, where this country is going. Now I know how all these little shops still populating these lovely remote cities far from London survive, they don’t, the owners don’t need to sell anything to continue to exist.”

“Arthur!” Anna shouted at me with reproach.

“I don’t mind,” said Ron Titler. “It is true. You should thank people like me, without us, all you would find on all those lovely villages of the country side, would be those faceless big chains. Nothing better to destroy the face of the old York. Well done! Mr. Reptile Prime Minister, or whatever it is that you are in that brilliant government of ours. You let this happen. The latest superstore just outside the city is bigger than the old York itself. I have never seen such ugly building in my entire life, destroying all the architecture around. We have lost a great art in time, the one of building to last, structural design which is great to look at. What’s wrong with us today? Don’t we have the money, taste or the skills anymore to build such wonderful architecture?”

“Please, we’re not here to debate these issues,” Anna said. “Get us a nice cup of tea so we can listen to what you have to say.”

“All right, would you like some biscuits? I’ll just put them on the table here.”

Once we had our traditional cup of tea, and that I finished eating the whole plate of biscuits, as I was famished, Ron sat comfortably, with his intellectual air, and told us what he had witnessed.

“Well, a week ago I was walking near Micklegate Bar, and I saw those three kids in awe, pointing at the sky with their mouth half opened, it was quite a sight. Micklegate Bar was on fire, I could hear a girl crying, and I rushed inside to save her.”

“What about the firemen?” I asked.

“What firemen?” he answered. “There were people passing by, but none of them looked concerned or even seemed to realise that the gate was on fire. I called 999, no one believed me, no one showed up. What firemen?”

“Don’t listen to Arthur,” Anna said. “Those firemen were there a few years ago, they too witnessed and saw what you saw, they were too late to save the girl.”

“What?” Ron shouted. “What do you mean?”

“Is it not obvious to you yet? Sarah Brocklebank is a ghost. The three kids outside are her powerless brothers looking at her dying in the fire, a fire that took place in 1797, a fire that killed them all. And now, these events are playing out over and over again for eternity. Whoever is sensitive enough can pick it up and witness it, centuries later. It is so strong, in 1997 everyone could see it, firemen went in, tried to stop the fire, came too late to save Sarah, and soon after the whole thing disappeared as if it never happened. This is all very well documented, have you not done any research about it?”

“Are you serious?” Ron asked. “This is extraordinary, incredible, unbelievable. What a great book that would do, I could sell it here. I think I might start writing tonight… great books are what life is all about, you know!”

“Right!” I said bluntly, as I couldn’t give a toss about that. “We still don’t know what that story you intend to write is.”

“But I love her! And she loves me! She’s real! Or is she? A ghost… and you are sure? It would explain a lot. How she always seems to disappear, or appear out of nowhere. Oh God, I definitely fell in love with a ghost, I was afraid you would confirm it, that is so me. I will never love anybody else, ever. Is there not a way for her to become real for good, be part of my life?”

“I’m afraid not,” Anna answered.

“You must be wrong, you have to be. She’s so real, she’s singing tomorrow at the music festival. How more real would she have to be?”

“I’m telling you, she is but an illusion. Granted, a powerful one, but still without any substance.”

“But I’ve kissed her, I even…”

“Let’s not go there,” Anna said.

“But I did, you know, it was real. In fact, it was surreal. I don’t think I could ever have another orgasm like that in my entire existence. It was like ten orgasms in a row, I was not ejaculating, and yet, I continued to have that orgasm for over an hour. How do you explain this?”

“I don’t have all the answers,” Anna said a bit freaked out, but fascinated all the same.

“Wow,” I finally admitted. “An orgasm that can last hours without ejaculating. Pray continue, that would certainly be the discovery of the century in my book.”

“Arthur!” Anna shouted.

“Anymore biscuits?” I asked. “Or something more substantial? I could eat a horse. And don’t you have any alcohol?”

“Arthur!” Anna cried. “Don’t be so common!”

“Common?” I said. “I’m British, and that’s what British do. I’m proud of who I am and whom I represent.”

“There’s a bottle of Brandy and glasses in the cupboard over there,” our host suggested. “I have a platter of sandwiches in the small fridge at the back for the book reading tomorrow, but we can have it now. Please take it and shut up.”

“Thank you,” I finally said satisfied, pouring Brandy in three glasses and uncovering the cellophane from the sandwich platter. “People in Yorkshire know how to receive.”

“So I saved Sarah from the fire and brought her here.”

“Really? I’m impressed,” said Anna. “This is highly unusual.”

“She didn’t stay long after that. I comforted her, we made love, I turned around, and she was gone. I thought she flew off, so I ran downstairs and looked outside in all directions. She was nowhere in sight. The next day I was walking in the gardens near York Minster, I reached the walls of St Mary’s Abbey. This is where I always go when I need to find her after she disappears.”

“Like if you needed to drag her back into reality so she could continue to live with the living,” Anna said. “Otherwise she lives at Micklegate Bar, the place where she burnt and died with her brothers.”

“But why is she appearing in those ruins?” I asked. “Why would she also be living there?”

“Answering that would go a long way towards helping her,” Anna answered.

“So the next day I met Sarah in the gardens near what remains of St Mary’s Abbey. She was very impressed and in awe by the Abbey, she described it as if it was still there intact. I remarked that it must have looked like that in those days, and that I believed it was probably even more charming now that only the walls remained. I found that romantic, you see. She didn’t appear to understand what I meant. She invited me to her home, pleased to meet me again. At Micklegate Bar you would have never thought there was a fire, everything was undamaged. I asked her how they were able to clean everything and replace the furniture so quickly. She was vague about this. Then I realised that nothing looked like the day before. The place is a museum! But it wasn’t the day before, it was a normal house, with furniture from the eighteenth century or something.

“As I was processing this in my mind, she wanted to sing me her song, her only song. And it is a wonderful song, very melancholic. I was so impressed, I brought her to the City Council to meet the Mayor. I thought it would be perfect for the music festival as it was about York and history, something about finding the keys to the old city and how disappointed was her father that she could have lost the keys to the main door. He never forgave her as he lost his job, and he simply abandoned her to the city. Since then she is looking for these keys to get back in his favours.”

“Fascinating. And she went along?” Anna asked.

“Oh yes. At the Town Hall, we were invited to sit down and then she sang her song again. The Mayor was ecstatic and wanted her to meet a musician he knew called Charlie. Afterwards the Mayor confessed to me some unusual event which happened right after we left. He said he was on the phone talking to Charlie, the man responsible for the music festival, saying that he made a great discovery today via someone he knew to be quite annoying, a real pain in the ass, but that something positive came out of it, this wonderful singer that would be the star of the show. When he hung up the phone, he said Sarah was in his office with him, looking disgusted by what she had just heard. When the Mayor looked again, because he did not understand how she could still be there, she was no longer there. He was shaken and got a drink to forget about it. He felt so bad, he called me to apologise.”

“So? What’s the big deal?” I asked.

“Now, how strange is that?” Ron stated. “She never left my side! It would mean that she was at two places at the same time! Can you explain it? I can’t.”

“This is quite unique, I have to admit,” Anna added. And as she said so, she suddenly went into a trance. Both Ron and I panicked, we didn’t know what to do.

“Should we hit her in the face?” Ron asked.

“Are you mad? This is Anna we’re talking about here.”

“Should I call 999, then?”

“You didn’t seem to have much success in alerting the authorities last time you called 999. I know a much better number which could get us help within two minutes, wherever we are in the world.”

“It will be all right,” Anna finally said, coming around. “Just give me sheets of paper and a pen, quick!”

Ron opened a drawer, took out papers and pens and threw it all on the big desk.

“I’m always ready just in case either one of my visitors or I gets an idea and need to write right away. Please, go ahead, knock yourself out!”

So Anna sat down at the desk, picked up a pen and started to draw bars and waves on the sheets, so perfectly, you could have thought it had been done by a computer. Afraid that the sheets might get mixed up, and understanding that this could be some sort of code or message, I carefully kept all the sheets in order. She continued to write for over 10 minutes. When it was over, she simply said: “That’s the music to go with the words.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “You are joking!”

“Well, we will soon find out,” Ron affirmed. “Let’s go right now to the computer wiz of a musician the Mayor put us in contact with. If anyone can scan this and see if it can be translated into some music, it is him. It’s worth checking out. How amazing would that be? The music to go with Sarah’s song. But how?”

“I really don’t know,” Anna said. “It just came to me. I had to write it down.”

“But, this is not even musical notes, or numbers,” I mentioned. “Waves and bars, what the hell? How do you channel this information, this is nothing short of amazing, genius! I would have seen everything. And what is it, guitars, drums, synthesizers, midi perhaps?”

“I have no idea,” Anna admitted. “Out of it Charlie will get the music, that’s all I know.”

“I am curious to see that,” I said. “Can you imagine how helpful that kind of encryption technology would be on the front during a war? If somehow we could communicate in that language telepathically?”

“Well, we’re not computers yet, Arthur,” Anna said. “Even I cannot decipher this.”

“But you somehow received that data from some weird source, right? Now I understand what you mean by how much more important this is compared with a stupid government’s meeting in York. This is a breakthrough! I need to call my staff, I need to analyse that, I need to understand how you can achieve this, I…”

“Well, first let’s go to that musician, York’s music festival depends on this,” Ron Titler said.

“No way!” I said. “This is going to MI5 headquarters right now, sorry mate, I don’t care about your ghost love story and your meaningless music festival.”

“Arthur, let him try first, it will be quicker,” Anna said, still exhausted by what she had just achieved. “I assure you, you won’t find there some sort of code that could threaten the country. I know this is simply a song. His friend will achieve in two hours what your staff will do in two weeks. We don’t have the time.”

“Two weeks? You really have faith in MI5, don’t you?”

“It’s not a question of faith, it’s a question of facts. I know it will take them two weeks. The music festival will be over by then.”

“And you know that because it happened in some parallel universe? And then what happened with the music and the festival in that alternate reality?”

“I cannot be certain how I get this information. You experienced it tonight when you guessed the kids outside Micklegate Bar were brothers and were dying in the fire, you said you sensed they would disappear. Well, at least I know that one future is that Charlie wrote the music instead, but it’s nothing like this. It is too modern and Sarah didn’t like it, leading to more problems. Let’s go and bring him these sheets, he’ll know what to do with them, and you will learn as well so you can teach your staff afterwards. There will be plenty of time later on to go over this, but right now there are more pressing matters at hand.”

 “So let’s go then.” Ron said. “But first let’s get Sarah. I’m sure she would like to hear the music.”

“Where will we find a ghost, if I may ask,” I pointed out.

“Easy, St Mary’s Abbey. It never fails,” Ron added.

So we left and went to the ruins, we entered by the side of the Abbey, where the wall no longer exists, and though both Anna and Ron could see her, I couldn’t.

“Good evening Sarah,” Ron said.

“To whom are you talking, where is she?” I asked.

“Oops, sorry Arthur. Can you see her now?” Anna asked.

“All right, she just appeared out of thin air! Now I definitely believe in ghosts.”

Sarah was standing there right in the middle, waiting for us apparently, as if she knew we were coming.

“Hello,” she answered. “You have brought friends.”

“This is Anna and Arthur, they’re here to help us with the song.”

“Yes, I know,” Sarah said.

“Did you somehow communicate the music to Anna?” I asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“Well now we will try and see if it can be transferred to a computer,” Ron said.

“What is a computer?” Sarah asked.

“Oh dear, we’re not out of the woods yet,” I felt the need to say.

So we went to that Charlie, did the presentations, and after that, the first sentence to come out of his mouth was: “You were on TV tonight, I have celebrities in my home. You know what you two need? A good PR machine. The one you’re using right now obviously failed. I can help you, it won’t be easy to get you back in the high esteem of all the good citizens, but give me a few years and a few millions, and I’m sure I can do something for you.”

“What are TV and PR machine?” Sarah asked.

“Evil things, dear, you wouldn’t want to know,” I told her.

“She doesn’t know what a TV is? What century is she from?”

“Exactly,” said Anna. “Now, here is the music which goes with the song. Do whatever you can with it.”

“What are these lines?” Charlie asked. “Were they taken from the life support machine of a dying man?”

“What? You don’t know what waves and bars are?” I said. “What century are you from?”

“I know what they are,” answered Charlie. “This could take me a while, I will need to be very imaginative indeed to translate that into music. Let’s see which applications could do the trick. Please get yourself comfy, there’s a bar over there.”

“I’m sure Arthur is pleased to hear it,” said Anna with irony.

“You bet!” I added walking towards the bar.

So we talked with Sarah while our computer wiz worked on the sheets. We learned about Sarah, and this time we didn’t turn around the issues, we talked frankly.

“Sarah,” Anna began, “are you aware that you are not alive? That you died in 1797, more than 200 years ago?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she answered, and then she broken down and cried.

“Well done Anna, where are your manners?” I said with irony, whilst Ron comforted her.

“I guess we should not push the issue,” Anna whispered to me. “I think we should get the song ready, get her to sing it, and help her move on.”

“How do you propose to do that?” I wondered.

“From the song we know she’s looking after the keys to the city, to give them back to the Mayor. Let’s help her do that. She could give them back at the festival, it would wrap things up nicely.”

“All right, let’s ask her about the keys,” I said. “Let’s wait until she composes herself.”

A few minutes later Sarah had calmed down. And so Anna tried again.

“The keys to the city you mention in the song, do you know where they are?”

“No. The keys…” and then she broke down again.

“Perfect, we’re really getting somewhere,” I whispered to Anna.

“Don’t worry, I’ll find the keys. I already have a good idea of where they are, St Mary’s Abbey, no doubt, or else she wouldn’t feel so strong about that place.”

“All right, let me make a few phone calls, will start digging now.”

“You can’t do that! This is sacred ground, not to mention the Roman ruins underneath. It cannot be done without the Mayor’s approval, and probably English Heritage and all sorts.”

“Oh, right, I had not thought of that. So what do you suggest?”

“We’ll go tomorrow with a shovel, and we’ll try to be discreet.”

“Well, hopefully the keys won’t be too deep underground. Two centuries could well have brought them a few feet down.”

Two hours later, as Anna had predicted, Charlie had done it, the music poured out of his speakers. I have to say, even though I’m usually unmoved by music, and I have many times before fallen asleep at the opera, snoring out right in the audience, but that little medieval song really moved me.

“This is it, this is my song!” Sarah said. “I have been singing it for many years now, and I want everyone in York to hear it. Let me sing!”

And so Sarah Brocklebank sang her song, while we left, giving them a rendezvous early the next morning at St Mary’s Abbey. The next morning we were on sight, and once again Sarah was there alone in the middle of the ruins, with a very sad attitude upon her face, she seemed to be good at crying all the time, and that is certainly something I cannot stand. Seeing Ron consoling Sarah, as he was obviously in love or in lust with her, made it worse for me.

“All right, enough with all that,” I shouted a bit too loud for Anna’s taste. “Let’s find the keys, the only thing which will bring back a smile on the lady’s face.”

And as I said so, Sarah lighten up: “Oh yeah, please, let’s all find the keys.”

“Where are they, then?” I asked, worried she might start crying again.

“I don’t know, but they are around here somewhere,” Sarah said. “Have you tried under the benches, perhaps in the heart? I used to play a lot behind those doors over there.”

We all looked at those imaginary doors and benches, trying to imagine where all these could have been centuries ago, the poor Sarah had no idea we couldn’t see any of it, and we knew better than to remind her.

“How do you do that?” Sarah wondered in amazement.

“Do what?” Ron asked.

“You walked through the benches, this is magic, this is evil! And you can also walk through walls, I just remember now… you walked through that wall!”

As Sarah said that, suddenly the whole Abbey came back to life, just as it was two centuries ago on the day Sarah lost the keys.

“Come on guys, this should help us walk the right path,” Anna said, will we looked in awe at the beauty of the Abbey.

“This is… this is… wow!” said Ron. “It is… I can’t find the words to describe… where is my camera! You could have told me, I would have brought it! It will inspire me for years to come! Thank you Anna, I don’t know how you do it, but you are amazing.”

“For that, no doubt, she is,” I added. “I wonder if I could ever get use to this travelling into the past, or is it just a vision?”

“Sarah, this is called auto-suggestion, it is not magic or the fruit of evil doings. I am suggesting these scenes to you and it is in your imagination that you can see us walk through walls. It is but an illusion. I have that power, there is nothing to fear. Do you understand?”

And as Anna finished her sentence, four kids appeared, one of them holding keys in her hands.

“This is me and me brothers!” Sarah cried. “But how?”

“You wait outside,” the young Sarah Brocklebank said to her brothers. “I’ll hide the keys and the first one to find them wins.”

“Why is it always you hiding the keys?” mentioned her older brother. “You better remember where you hide them this time.”

And out they went, as we all followed the young girl eagerly. She walked to the heart, opened a door. Inside, there was a wall with a loose rock. She pulled it out and hid the keys.

“This is where I put the keys, I remember now!”

And as she said so, the ruins came back. Thankfully the wall was still there, but no loose rock could be found, as it had been cemented many times over in the last two centuries. So I looked around, and as I saw no one in sight, I took the shovel and knocked out all the cement. I pulled out the loose rock we had seen in the vision, and up there were the keys. Nice big and strong keys which had remained there since 1797.

“I cannot express to you how happy I am!” Sarah cried. “I need to bring those keys to the Mayor immediately, get my father reinstated and finally be forgiven for my hopelessness. This means everything to me!”

“Let’s give the keys back to the Mayor after your song tonight at the music festival. It will be the culmination of the celebrations,” Ron said.

“Oh yes, great idea, I cannot wait until tonight!”

And so we found our friends later on that night at the festival. We heard many different songs, all very modern and loud, keeping the best and lovely little medieval song of Sarah for the end. It was stunning, the crowd was mesmerised, just like Sarah’s brothers on the night of the fire. Many were crying, including me, would you believe. I just couldn’t stop myself, it was surreal.

“You are so cuddly when you cry,” Anna said, squeezing me in her arms. “I cannot resist hugging you.”

“You better enjoy it when it happens,” I answered. “You are unlikely to see me cry again for a long time. I believe I have a soft spot for medieval music, must be in my inherited genes.”

“I think you are a sensitive soul at heart. I admit that ghosts bring that sort of emotional baggage with them when they show up, and dump that on us unaware, so you have an excuse. I like it all the same.”

After the song, Charlie, Ron and the Mayor walked on the stage towards Sarah.

“The Mayor of York!” shouted Charlie to the audience, whilst everyone applauded. “And we have a surprise for you. You all know Ron, the librarian, he will tell us a bit of history which goes with the song you just heard.”

“Citizens of York, just as in the song you just heard, written and composed by Sarah, I present to you the daughter of Thomas, the York Gatekeeper. In 1797 Sarah lost the keys to Micklegate Bar in St Mary’s Abbey whilst playing with her brothers. Her father Thomas was fired from his post as a consequence, and he never spoke to her again. All her life she searched for these keys, until, as an old woman, she finally remembered where they were. She went to the Lord Mayor’s parlour to bring the news, but dropped dead before she spoke. Well, today Sarah has found the original keys to the City of York! And it is with pride that Sarah will now give the keys to the Mayor more than 200 years later.”

And so the Mayor accepted the keys, saying: “York is safe again from the King of Scotland!”

And the fireworks started, an impressive display of pyrotechnics accompanied with more medieval music. We went backstage to meet them all, they were all in good spirits except Anna, who suddenly felt very sad.

“I think our friend is ready to move on, Ron,” she said. “You better say your farewell and give her your blessing.”

“Is this true Sarah? Are you leaving?” Ron said alarmingly.

“I am sorry, I have accomplished all that I hope to accomplish, and now I am free. I will remember you. Thank you!”

“Farewell Sarah, I love you!” affirmed Ron crying, whilst Sarah’s ghost simply vanished peacefully before our eyes.

After she disappeared, the Mayor came to us and said: “Have you got the keys, I cannot find them, they were in my pocket. I had everyone looking everywhere, have you got them? The keys are nowhere to be found, they are lost again!”

The next morning Anna and I returned to London in my Bentley, as she sent back her chauffeur after she arrived, knowing she would come back with me. For the record, we didn’t sleep in the same hotel room.

Near Sheffield, when I felt we were far enough, I took out from my pockets the keys to the old city of York, and the sheets Anna draw that night in the Worm Holes bookstore. She looked at me with deep reproach, but she smiled. Of course I knew she knew I had them.

“Well, you know, I have to check how old these keys really are, if they are the original ones, and maybe, I say maybe, they will be returned to York. Or perhaps they should be in the British Museum or the Tower of London. What do you think?”

“I think you are incorrigible. And as for the music, I tell you, it will take your staff two weeks to decipher them.”

“Impossible, I cannot imagine how top rate cryptographers could take that long.”

“It is not that they are incompetent, I didn’t tell you why it will take them two weeks. Administration problems, other more urgent events, strikes, bladibli, bladibla. You know, bureaucracy.”

“Ah, now I understand, I feel much better. Nevertheless, I will test them anyhow, and I will freak out at them afterwards and point out that it took another man two hours to bring to life the most beautiful music I have ever heard.”

And so ended our adventure in York. One good thing about Anna’s visit to York, was that I avoided watching the news, I even forgot all about the government’s meeting disaster. I remained peaceful all the way back to London, which is in itself something amazing that only Anna Maria could have achieved. She made me forget about the reality of life by exposing me to the most fantastic event ever. I find it such a great way to escape reality, I’m not sure how I would have coped without her in my life. I felt like nothing or no one could ever reach me, as I would always have something much better to fall back on, Anna Maria. This was love, true love, and I could not even conceptualise it at that time, how important it was becoming to me. Just her presence was enlightening me, and I felt bad for my lack of manners which she never hesitated to mention.

In my case it was not as the expression says: “Behind each great man, there is a great woman.” It was more like: “Behind that great woman, there was that small man.” And instead of feeling threatened by it, I embraced it, happy and confused that she could have come into my life and saved me from utter boredom. I certainly never felt I deserved it, so what was she doing with me? She had explained it before, I remained unconvinced. Then again, no poet has ever been able to explain love, and as I was no poet, how could I ever answer this most essential question?

For me York will never be the same. It is at the top of the castle, where I asked Anna to bring me back to the past so I could see for myself how it looked originally, that I understood how special she is. I would never let her slip away, and if I ever need reminding, we can always go back to York and re-enact our rich history.

 


 

Save Devon from this Filth

Righteous Citizens of Sidmouth

 


At Thames House, the MI5 takes Equality and Diversity very seriously, and so just before the New Year’s holiday I was sent on a two day long and horrible workshop about how to handle racism, discrimination, gay people and other differences that seem to be populating the department. It seems that everyone has something that someone else could have fun about or could use as a reason to bully them. I was proud to tell them that almost everyone I was working with was from another planet and that it was all harmonious, until that is I came back to my office and received the visit of the only Muslim of my team.

Oh, oh, I thought, here is a Muslim, right now the government has been declaring war all over the place in the Muslim world, and I was wondering how he was holding on. So I asked him. Dear me, not only he felt that everyone in the organisation was up to get him, but on top of it he was writing down in his diary every time someone attacked him or that he felt victimized for being Muslim. He had already filled three books over a five years period. And I thought everything was fine in paradise.

So I called Human Resources and told them to investigate, and at the very least, to remind everyone that this was not acceptable. I also promoted the man, it was only fair, he had been there for 20 years, and 13 times had tried to become a manager, being refused every single time. I went back home less innocent that night, but exhausted by the pettiness of the world. One day’s work is hard enough, but learning about all the bitchiness of all the people I’m surrounded by all day long, and that I myself am part of their little mind games, and that now half of them hate me for having stood up for the only Muslim of the team, was more than I could bare just before the holiday. It really sapped all of my energy.

I was only too glad to leave at work all these problems whilst thinking about going back to Sidmouth, as I did every year for the holidays. I was looking forward to some peace and tranquillity doing absolutely nothing. Unfortunately my brother Eugene had something else in mind, and left a message to get back to Sidmouth as quickly as I could, as we had a war on our hands and only us could deal with it. He also pointed out that I should bring my girlfriend with me. I had no more energy to tell him that I had no girlfriend, but I gathered that he meant Anna Maria. I’m telling you, how can I convince the press that she’s just a friend, if my own brother spread false rumours about me in White Hall?

As I was coming back to Richmond in my car, I could see the sky was very dark, it didn’t help my mood. I went straight to Anna Maria, her little house appeared as peaceful as ever despite the thunder or hurricane I thought was about to hit, and as I came to knock on her door, snow started falling at an amazing rate, I had never seen so much snow falling over London. Anna answered her door.

“Good afternoon, I guess you know why I’m here?” I said.

“Not at all, it is quite a surprise,” she answered.

“What? You don’t know that I wish to bring you to my home in Sidmouth for the holiday? My brother said we had a war to fight, though I cannot imagine what it could be about. He told me to bring my girlfriend around.”

“You have a girlfriend? You never told me,” Anna mentioned sheepishly.

“Well, let me see… there are a few people he could have been referring to, but I’m pretty sure he meant you. I wonder why he believes you could be of help in his personal war. I reserve the right to veto your help to him if it is inappropriate, though I know you wouldn’t help him if it was for personal gain or ambition.”

“As it stands, I’m afraid I might not be of any help at all. But please, enter.”

So I got in, Mr. Barnsworth appeared to be in a state of shock. He was flying everywhere like a mad parrot, throwing everything on the floor and destroying anything still attached to the walls.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked.

“I presume he is suffering from the same thing as I do, must be the climate, this snow storm coming. My brain is like turned off, and I have lost all my special abilities.”

“Seriously? It can be turned off?”

“Oh yes, not sure if it is weather related, or my own depression due to the weather, but I fear I might not be of help to anyone for a while. So I don’t think I want to go to Sidmouth. As much as I hate knowing everything all the time, I equally hate not knowing what’s coming next. I prefer to lock myself in until I feel better. I would have loved to go to Sidmouth, believe me, but not in those conditions.”

As she was talking, I had Mr. Barnsworth on me eating my tie, my cufflinks, my watch, and any buttons he could lay his beak to. Most of my shirts now were missing a few buttons, Anna felt sorry for me, but found that it was hilarious. Seeing me struggling, she came to pick up Barnsworth and we walked upstairs where she put him in his cage.

“Nonsense,” I stated with some authority. “It is not only for your special abilities that I come to you, I would very much appreciate your company in Sidmouth. And I do believe in destiny, perhaps there is a reason for your brain to be turned off as you say. It is the holiday after all, and for once you won’t know what to expect. I think it is perfect timing, so pack your bags, I’ll be back in half an hour. If we are quick it won’t be so dark outside and you will stand a chance to appreciate the beauty of Devon.”

I didn’t give her the opportunity to answer and I left. I came back half an hour later and she was ready. The snow was now falling hard, there was already a lot accumulated on the road and in the fields. I was wondering if we would be able to reach Sidmouth in one piece. Once on the M3, I was thinking about going back.

“Wow, the only snow storm in two decades, and you were unable to predict it, how amazing is that?”

“Well, the Weather Channel was unable to predict it either, so God only knows what happened there.”

“God, or Global Warming. This new governmental policy of deregulating the weather is quite magic. Now every country in the world can decide if they want it warmer or colder every year, or turn their country into an inhospitable desert. I’m afraid we’ve all chosen the worst. And now we have the warmest winters ever, there’s never any fog anymore, and now look at this.”

As we continued along the road, we could see many accidents, it was getting harder to avoid the cars on the side of the road.

“Oh, what is that over there? Isn’t that Stonehenge? You didn’t tell me we would be passing by Stonehenge, what a nice surprise! And how beautiful it is with all the snow. Oh, thank you for bringing me to Devon, I would have missed that.”

“I believe you will tire of seeing it very soon, the road is now blocked, we cannot go any further.”

A man was indicating that we needed to park in the Stonehenge car park, so I turned and stopped the car.

“What’s the problem?” I asked him.

“You will have to wait until they have cleared the snow and put some sand and salt on the roads. It could be quite a while as this storm caught everyone by surprise and this part of the country is not equipped to deal with this. All trains, planes, boats, everything has grind to a halt, the country is entirely paralyzed.”

“All right, thanks!” I finally said to him before turning to Anna. “It angers me that we could be so unprepared for a stupid little snow storm. And look at me, on my way to wonderful Devon when the whole country could be under attack. We can’t even deal with a bit of ice, how would we ever cope with a bacteriological attack? The country is entirely paralyzed… those are the most dreadful words you could tell the Director General of MI5.”

“I can’t be certain, but this is most certainly not an attack, unless you feel some people can control the weather, as you pointed out with your deregulations of the weather patterns.”

“I have a few phone calls to make, I’ll get us rescued from this in no time and we’ll get back to London. What do you think?”

“You’re asking me? I have no idea what we should do. For once I’m happy to let you take control of the situation, do what you feel needs to be done. But do your phone calls quickly, this is a great opportunity to visit Stonehenge under a blanket of snow, and that I wouldn’t want to miss for anything.”

A few minutes later I had to fight with the good people of English Heritage for them to let us visit those few rocks, despite the fact that it was now closed for the day and that due to health and safety issues no one was allowed near the place. In the end I had to tell them it was an emergency and a question of national security, and hop they ushered us in.

“So, they’re not coming to help us?” Anna asked.

“The man was not joking when he said the whole country was paralyzed, even MI5 is incapable of rescuing us. I bet the Americans could if I were to give them a call. They are prepared for anything, even in a strange land such as Great Britain.”

“Have they reported to you that there was any reason to believe something was about to happen?”

“No, everything looks fine. In the end they hung up the phone on me shouting that I should enjoy my holiday, that everything was under control.”

“Well then, I suggest we enjoy the moment and patiently wait, what do you think?”

“All right, I’ll cancel my phone call to the US President, it would be shameful after all if words got out that the Director General was stuck at Stonehenge in a tourist trip, and needed rescue from the U.S. Army. Let’s wait until the road clears and let’s continue to Sidmouth.”

An hour later three trucks finally showed up, the first one getting the snow out of the way, the second pushing it further away, and the third dropping sand on the road. I again used my meagre powers to be the first car following the trucks, claiming that I needed to reach Exeter rapidly in case of a national emergency. It was partly true, but why Exeter instead of London, the more logical choice? Just need to show my badge and everyone just obeys. Great, everyone respects authority, everyone is too ready to help as soon as they see a badge. They have been well trained, that’s how I like it.

“Are you not worried how quickly everyone is breaking their back over your most simple whim just because you show them a badge? How easy it would be to simply take advantage of this and abuse power.”

“I don’t care right now, as long as it takes us to Devon tonight. I could not have spent the night with those morons, stuck in the Stonehenge gift shop, discussing the latest policies of the Prime Minister. We might not have survived the night, and believe me, a badge might have enraged them instead of helping us. Don’t worry, the population can very quickly turn against authority. The balance of power is a difficult thing, and we’re always very careful to never go too far, otherwise it is riots time and then it is total chaos. Much PR is needed to get back on track and to gain back the confidence we need to rule the country. But, we always succeed in the end.”

“You have all read The Prince by Machiavelli, I assume.”

“How did you guess?”

“You virtually recite it by heart!”

“And what’s wrong with that?”

“Just drive.”

“Oh, look, there’s a pub on the right, I wonder if those truck drivers will stop there for a pint?”

“Concentrate on the road! Remember, I cannot predict anything at the moment. And don’t you dare using your authority to stop those truck drivers for a pint down the pub!”

“All right! Gosh, I didn’t know I was going to Sidval with my grandmother.”

“Well, I’m your girlfriend on this trip, and that’s what girlfriends are for.”

“To be a pain in the ass?”

“To teach you compromise. Something you should have read about somewhere, it is after all the basis of diplomacy.”

“Diplomacy? Never heard of it at MI5. Not part of my job description.”

“I know!” Anna yelled, before we both exploded in a heartily laugh.

We finally reached Exeter and spent the night in a hotel. The next day we drove to Sidmouth along the small roads, and the way there was simply magical, with snow and ice everywhere on the trees. I was very pleased Anna Maria could see Devon in that way, because it is very rare as it never snows anymore in the South of England.

So we arrived at the tower overlooking the sea and I invited my dear guest inside to meet my brother Eugene. They had only briefly met in York a few weeks before.

“Ah, Anna Maria, just the person we need for the little war we have here on our hands.”

Eugene, please, give us the time to arrive. Anna does not feel well, and she probably won’t be of any help in your actual case. And what could it possibly be about? A war in Sidmouth?”

“Come, come, I will gather my warriors, and once you had a wash we’ll meet again in the café upstairs to discuss it. I’ve asked them to prepare you a feast.”

“We’re both vegetarians,” Anna said.

“What? The devil has turned you into a vegetarian, Arthur?” Eugene asked.

“You know I never liked meat, I was well on my way to become a vegetarian even before I met Anna,” I said embarrassed.

“Oh, it really means love then, I’m pleased to hear it. That’s what I call the compromise of the century.”

“Ah,” I said, whilst smiling at Anna, “the compromise of the century. There is hope for me then, in the diplomacy circles.”

 “Diplomacy, you? Leave that to me, you’re the soldier of the family, kill first, ask questions later, if any.”

Eugene! Can’t you see that I’m trying hard here to save face?”

“Not hard enough,” Anna said with a laugh.

An hour later we were sitting inside the café located over our lodging, Eugene had invited three citizens of Sidmouth that I knew relatively well, as they were high profile personalities in town. The first one was Richard, the proprietor of the porn shop, the second was Alan, the owner of the bookstore, and the third was Cristina, the head of the Lesbian Association for the whole Sidval region. I started to be a bit uncomfortable, why would Eugene bring to us these three specimens of all people, it was not exactly how I wanted Anna Maria to be introduced to my home town. However the best quality of my brother, being the Minister in charge of three large departments in the government, was that he never wasted any time with futilities. He was to the point, a problem solver of the highest calibre, and I knew he had a good reason for this meeting.

“Very simply put, we are at war with the righteous citizens of Sidmouth,” Eugene began. “You know the culprits, the usual suspects. The religious type who have already caused the closing of at least thirteen shops and other organisations in Sidmouth. They will only be happy the day there are only the thirteen churches still standing in town, with all the business gone forever apart from the bakery and maybe one restaurant if we’re lucky. As according to them, just about anything slightly related to the existence is part of the axis of evil. God! You should hear them Arthur, you would believe they were Jesus-Christ himself! Except that Jesus-Christ only ever spoke of peace and love, as far as we can believe the Church on that point. If we don’t act now, Sidmouth will have to close down for good in a few months.”

“I don’t understand, what are you expecting from us?” I asked.

“Well, you need to save your home town, we are facing closure ourselves due to a lack of business,” said Alan.

“And you are the head of MI5, surely you can dig up some dirt against them so we can destroy their reputation, or at the very least their credibility,” added Richard.

“And what about you, Ms Maria, maybe you can sense that they are un-pure themselves, or somehow twisted in the head, or anything that you could sense to convince them to stop what they’re doing, as they’re hurting the community,” said Cristina.

“Well, I can already tell you that I will not be using the resources of the intelligence services to spy on citizens in this case,” I said.

“And I’m afraid at the moment I seem to have lost all my abilities. It will pass, but it may take a while,” Anna admitted.

“What? You’re both useless?” Eugene said.

“Well, I believe that we need to act, but I guess we’ll have to do it the old fashion way,” I affirmed. “Let’s spy on them ourselves, let’s find out what we can, and let’s see if we can reason with them. What have they done so far which resulted in so many organisations closing down?”

“They have outed more lesbians in a month in Sidmouth than anywhere else in the country in the last ten years,” said Cristina. “The consequences were terrible. Many of my friends and members simply moved elsewhere like London, just to avoid being so badly treated by the population.”

“They have made porno films the ultimate sin, and now no one will go anywhere near my shop. Many good people are now branded the biggest sexual pervert ever, simply because they bought a magazine or even just visited my shop,” added Richard.

“And though I can understand why they would attack the porn shop, or the Lesbian Club, what about my simple bookstore? What! They accused me of selling the latest Harry Potter book, can you believe? Harry Potter! An institution in this country! The biggest export ever. What evil they can see in those books is beyond me, but they are driving all my customers away,” said Alan.

“You’ve got to help, we need to get them out of the way before they hurt the whole community beyond repair,” said Eugene. “Please tell me you will take care of it?”

“Why, can’t you do it yourself, Eugene?” I asked.

“It will be fun, and we’ll both be the heroes, saving our home town together. Beside, I’m the bureaucrat, you are in the field most of the time, this job’s for you and your… well… friend here.”

“Girlfriend? Is that the word you are looking for Eugene?” I said.

“Yeah. And I don’t apologise,” he admitted.

“We’re only friends,” Anna stated.

“Well, at least we know heterosexual couples will go on forever,” Cristina said. “You’ll have many babies and insure humanity’s future. Now, what are we going to do about it?”

“Come and see for yourself, let’s go in front on my shop,” said Alan.

So we went to the bookstore and could see a small delegation of people in front of it. Every single customer trying to go in or out were harassed, their photo was taken, their licence plate was also photographed, and they were shouting that it would all be online soon, they will be identified, their employer would be contacted, they would lose their job, etc.

“What are you selling in that bookstore?” I asked Alan.

“Nothing, it is the most normal bookstore in Britain. I don’t even sell porn, like my friend Richard here. I don’t even decide what I sell, it is standard all around. Now you understand the threat.”

“Yes, I do,” said Anna, surprising me. “We have to do something. How annoying that I cannot simply read them, what are we going to do Arthur?”

“Have I agreed to do anything?” I asked.

“Yes!” Anna said. “Or I will never speak to you again!”

“No compromise possible here, Arthur, your other half has spoken, you will help,” said Eugene with a smile larger than usual, added by a wink.

“Okay, let’s target the leader, once he or she is gone, we stand a chance that the others will not bother anymore. Most of them are probably coerced anyway by their duties to their church, afraid of being judged. Who is the leader?”

“That one in the middle, Mrs. Hudson,” said Cristina.

“What do we know about her?” I asked.

“Perfect citizen, married for 39 years to the same old fart who is more a slave to her than a husband, as he is so weak. They go to church every week, if not every day, talk in terms of God’s plans all the time, write articles in all the newspapers in town which they are now basically controlling, nothing really could be said against them. They live in one of those nice bungalows up the street,” Richard mentioned.

“Children?” Anna asked.

“Five girls, all very successful and righteous, high placed between here and Exeter, one in London working for the Department of Constitutional Affairs,” Alan said.

“None are Lesbians as far as I can tell, unfortunately,” Cristina added.

“Well, we’ll have to go and interview all of them, under some false pretence,” I said. “This could take a while.”

“No, we only have to interview the one still living in town,” Eugene affirmed. “I heard some rumours about that Alicia, if we can get her to admit to anything, we might just be able to destroy the parents by the same token.”

“And what are those rumours, if I may ask?” I demanded.

“I’m sure you will find out soon enough,” Eugene answered.

“All right, let’s go,” I said.

“She’s down the pub at this time, next street,” Alan pointed out.

“Data, I need data. Who is she? Who is she married to? What does she eat on a snowy day?”

“She’s fond of fish, I hear,” Richard said.

“Anything else?”

“Only Eugene knows anything, really,” Cristina added.

“Well, Eugene?”

“Go and speak to her, we’ll sit somewhere else and observe your spy qualities in action. I have total confidence in you, if there is anything, you will most certainly find out.”

So we went to the pub, they pointed me in the right direction, and then I wondered: “How am I going to get rid of the husband?”

“Next time he goes to the toilet, I’ll take care of that,” Anna answered.

I looked at her quite worried: “What are you going to do to him?”

“Don’t worry, I’m a good actress, I’ll find something.”

And so the man got up and went to the Gents, followed by Anna under my alarming gaze. But there was no time to waste, and so pretending to be utterly drunk, I sat down at Alicia’s table.

“I’m so sorry, I think I drank too much. I hope no one from my Church is here, or else I’ll be in trouble. I’m supposed to be off the booze you know, this is a relapse. Oh, please, could you help me to get me to my car?”

“Which Church do you belong to?” she asked.

“The big one there outside,” I answered. “Please help me.”

“You’re not going to drive in that state, I’ll get you someone to bring you home.”

“I know you from somewhere, are you not Alicia the daughter of Mrs. Hudson? Your mum is quite something, I admire her very much for all that she does for Sidmouth. She’s my role model. Oh dear, I hope she doesn’t see me in this state, she could lose me my job.”

“Don’t worry, I understand exactly what you are going through. Let’s quickly get you out of here. Your Church, the Alcoholic Anonymous nor my mum will ever know.”

“Does she knows you’re down the pub? So it must be all right then to have a drink now and then?”

“Well, let’s just say that I suffer from the same disease as you, I’m a reformed alcoholic. On my way to be reformed, let’s say. Moderation has a much better taste, I think, but for her there’s no compromise, and she would not hesitate to denounce us. Come quickly, we can still help you if I am myself doomed for eternity. We’re no longer on speaking terms, you see, she no longer recognises me as her daughter.”

“And she never drinks herself?”

“Are you joking? She’s practically married to the priest.”

“That close, hey?”

“So close, I suspect they sleep together.”

“Really? Wow! Any proof or evidence?”

“Who knows? Now let’s go, I’ll save your soul,” she said with irony.

“Don’t bother, I feel better now, I should be able to call myself a cab.”

So I left the daughter. Wondering about Anna. I went straight to the toilets, followed by our group, just in time to get that filthy husband off of her.

“Hey man, what are you doing with my girlfriend? Get out of here or I will call Mrs. Hudson, she’ll be pleased to hear about this!”

The man turned white and left as quickly as he could.

“I can’t believe we didn’t plan this better, the man was ready to rape you! Eugene, what were you doing all this time, has it never occurred to you that Anna might have needed your help?”

“All turned well in the end, you saved the girl, your girl,” he said embarrassed.

“Please, she’s no one’s girl, she is a woman with her own rights, more capable than any of you, by the look of it,” said Cristina.

“Don’t worry, I was in control, he was as drunk as a fish,” Anna answered. “So, what did you learn?”

“We’ve got her, she practically sleeps with the priest.”

“Is she, though?” Cristina asked.

“Who cares? I recorded the conversation on my mobile phone, we’ll get Mrs. Hudson to hear it and it will be enough to shut her down for good,” I said cynically.

“My brother, ladies and gentlemen,” Eugene said with pride.

The next day Mrs. Hudson was nowhere to be seen, and yet the little group was still active in front of Richard’s porn shop. It was still snowing on that day, which didn’t make our little mission any easier.

“Right, it seems there was more than one leader in that little group,” I said. “Who’s next on the list?”

“This is pornography we’re talking about, this is top priority on everyone’s black list,” Richard said. “I have every single priest in town parading in front of my shop on a daily basis. Take you’re pick, they’re all here!”

“I didn’t realise how religious the people of Sidmouth were, this is amazing,” I felt the need to say.

“They must all be bored out of their mind, to seek some sort of salvation from anyone,” Eugene added.

“Anyway, most of these churches are empty, and this handful of people does not represent everyone,” Cristina said. “Don’t buy into their propaganda, Sidmouth is no more religious than any other town. We’re talking about a few electrified sheep who think they’ve been touched by the hand of God, when we all know that they are themselves the worst sinners.”

“It could be because they have a tormented conscience that they feel the need to bully others, maybe they’re trying to ease their own guilty conscience. They should mind their own business,” added Alan.

“Well, I’m sorry to remind you, but porn is legal in this country. Get them out of my premises!” Richard stated disgusted. “If anything, I’m helping society by helping some people to clench their thirst, and then they’re less likely to rape anyone. We’re still free to enjoy a good magazine, whatever the content.”

“Has any of these priests ever entered your shop and bought anything?” I asked.

“Unfortunately not. Anyway, it wouldn’t help. Discrediting one priest would not go very far in discouraging the 12 others.”

“What about the law?” Anna asked. “Is there nothing in there to prevent this?”

Eugene, you’re the Barrister,” I said.

Mmh, it has been a while, I’m not sure,” Eugene answered. “I don’t know the law by heart, you know!”

“It is clear the police are not willing to clear this mess, or else they would have done something. I called them a thousand times, they must belong to some of these churches,” Richard admitted.

“How can we get rid of them all in one go?” I asked.

“A gun?” Alan suggested with sarcasm.

“Maybe if I walk naked right in the middle of them all and cause a panic?” Cristina proposed.

“They would be back the next day,” answered Anna, “or else I would join you.”

“You would be the ones getting arrested,” I said. “The police would be there within minutes to stop that, especially if they are as righteous as we are supposing they are. Are they all from the Church of England, answering to the Archbishop of Canterbury? Then there would be only one stop on our schedule.”

“They’re a mix of the low, middle and high church, some of them answer to the Pope even though he ignores them, others appear to answer directly to God,” Alan said.

“Right, I had enough, I’ll deal with them,” Anna announced.

“What are you going to do?” I wondered out loud.

“Just give me permission to use your name,” she answered.

“I give it to you and I will take full responsibility,” Eugene said.

So we watched anxiously Anna going towards the crowd, we could see from afar that she was engaged in quite a conversation, with a pad and a pen, she was writing down a lot of details.

“What do you think she could be telling them?” I asked Eugene.

“I don’t know, but you should marry her, she seems to be frightening them out of their wits,” Eugene answered.

Within five minutes they were almost all gone.

“She’s unbelievable,” affirmed Richard. “I will marry her if you don’t. Can I?”

“Back off, pervert!” was Eugene answered. “She’s ours.”

“Well, more to the point, she’s Arthur’s,” added Alan.

“Well, to be perfectly clear here, she does not belong to anyone, all right?” Cristina affirmed, while we all looked at each other very embarrassed.

“If anything, she’s mind,” Cristina added very softly, almost to herself, and we all laughed while the last priest left the scene and Anna came back towards us.

“What have you done, what did you say?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“And yet, you cleared the area,” Eugene added.

“Yes they left, and they won’t be back, I can assure you,” Anna answered.

“By what miracle have you achieved this?” Richard demanded to know.

“I simply asked them their name, address and phone number, that’s all,” Anna said.

“That’s all?” Cristina asked.

“Yes,” Anna answered.

“What did you really tell them?” I asked.

“Well, I told them who the two self important men out there were the Director General of MI5, and the great Minister in charge of everything after the Prime Minister. That’s all I had to say, really. They instantly panicked and left, never to return I’m sure.”

“So you put the fear of the police state into them?” I said, with a smile.

“Yeah, and so what? After all, the police was not interested. I learnt from the best, I learnt it all from you!” Anna said laughing. “Anyway, I simply took their name down, let them sue me.”

“Perhaps this is it, maybe our problem is solved?” said Cristina.

“We’ll see tomorrow. In the meantime I’m inviting you all for a feast to the restaurant of your choice, whilst there is still one” Eugene said.

“Yeah, I need a drink,” I added.

The next day was the night the Lesbian Association was meeting. Again there was a little group in front of the club, and no one ever would dare venture inside. This had to stop, one way or another.

“All right people, who’s the leader of that crowd?” I asked.

“The old lady by the door, she’s called Therese, but we all know her under the more familiar name of Mother Teresa,” said Cristina. “Kill Mother Teresa, and I will be eternally grateful.”

“You killed Princess Diana, didn’t you, MI5 I mean? Should be easy to kill Mother Teresa now,” Richard said.

“We didn’t kill Diana, she killed herself all by herself. Whatever, you know what I mean,” I said.

“We know exactly what you mean,” Alan added, with a smile. “Now, how should we proceed? It is not going to be easy, Mother Teresa is beyond reproach. I can guarantee you, we will not find anything against her.”

“Apart from the 13,000 letters of moaning she wrote all over England in the last 60 years, to complain about everything just for the sake of it,” Eugene confirmed.

“She’s a born complainer, with a talent to write frightening letters to Managing Directors all over the country,” Cristina said. “She must be responsible for thousands of people losing their job, as the poor woman does not realise that for each letter she writes to complain, a full investigation is ordered, and usually it all ends in tears. She won’t succeed though, I won’t close down the Lesbian Association for her, she needs to be told that we have the right to exist.”

“I heard enough, we can all go home,” I announced. “I need to make one phone call, and meet her tomorrow at her place. I’ll deal with her. I’ll shut her up for good, believe me.”

“How?” Anna asked. “You’re not thinking of using MI5 resources, I hope?”

“In this case it is a sensible solution,” Eugene answered. “She is a danger to the United Kingdom. Without even being aware, she causes chaos all over the country, getting people sacked all over the place, being personally responsible for many shops and other organisations shutting down. She’s destroying Great Britain’s economy and work force.”

“Exactly,” I added. “And that’s what she’s about to understand one way or another tomorrow, once I have some statistics in my hands about the consequences of her own actions for the last 60 years. She’s a little terrorist in her own right, more damaging to the country than a dirty bomb in Central London, because she destroyed many more families than a dirty bomb could ever hope to reach.”

“Yeah! Well said! That’s what I expect from my MP! Sorry, I mean my Minister. Truer words were never spoken!” cried Cristina. “Mother Teresa is but a little terrorist, her and all her moral fibre, and she’ll have to answer to MI5!”

“A little terrorist, it reminds me of Mr. Barnsworth…” I pointed out. “Perhaps I should deal with him as well.”

“Mr. Barnsworth, who is he?” asked Eugene. “Perhaps I can help you there with the backing of Downing Street. Is he a political terrorist? You know Arthur that you have all the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s men at your disposal?”

“It won’t be necessary,” Anna said. “All the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s men cannot avail against my beloved parrot.”

“You have a parrot?” asked Cristina. “Me too! I have an African Grey and a Scarlet Macaw. What’s yours?”

“Oh, mine is a Blue and Gold Macaw… my favourite. I just bought him a special light and it really brought out all his wonderful colours,” Anna answered, as they moved away in the distance to continue their girl talk. I never thought these two women could have anything in common, and yet, they were now the best of friends.

“So? Is MI5 also responsible for the real Mother Teresa’s assassination?” asked Alan.

“Not another conspiracy terrorist?” I said turning to Eugene smiling.

“I heard she was shot three times from different angles,” added Richard.

Eugene! Can you remind me why we are helping these people again?”

The next day our little group was outside Mother Teresa’s house. It had finally stopped snowing, the sky was now cleared and the snow was melting at an amazing rate.

“I’ll go with you,” Eugene told me.

“No,” said Anna. “It is likely that she has an aversion to authority, or else other pre-eminent people who tried to reason with her before would have reached her.”

“She needs a woman’s touch. Anna, you should go with the Duke.”

Less than 30 seconds later we were at Therese’s door and we were showed in. Both Anna and I looked around the living room, puzzled by the décor. The place was filled with half baked pottery, badly knotted macramé and a myriad of small dolls. The colours on the walls were pale blue and pink, it almost made me puke as it was so offensive. In the corner there was a little girl crying as if she had been punished.

“What is wrong, darling? Do you need help?” Anna said walking towards her.

“Careful,” I said all suspicious, as suddenly the little girl fell to the floor like a plank of wood.

“What are you doing to my Petite Pleureuse?” yelled Mother Teresa as she entered the living room with tea.

Une Petite Pleureuse? Oh, I remember this tradition,” Anna said. “Dear me, I really lost all my senses, I thought she was real.”

“And pray, can someone tell me what is a “per tit pleurotte?” I asked.

“She’s my Petite Pleureuse, or my Crying Little Girl. Every respectable house should have one. It reminds us of everything which is going wrong in this world, and all the suffering that the children of the Earth endure.”

“And you are their self-appointed saviour, right?” I added.

“Quite so, young man. Please have a seat, I have brought some tea and some cake as I know how to receive.”

“I don’t suppose you have any beers in your fridge? Even one predating the First World War would do,” I failed to ask under the circumstances.

“I know who you are, both of you,” Therese began.

“So you have already identified us as a threat with your little group of terrorists?” I said wincing.

“I read the Magazines, my dear Duke of Connaught. You were on the cover of a few of them lately. Mediocre photos, if I may add. The journalists obviously didn’t pay you anything to organise a photo shoot in your mansion. Are you planning to get married soon?”

“Well, we never really discussed it,” Anna said blushing.

“No sex until marriage!” yelled Therese very loudly, whilst I choked on my tea and spread it everywhere on her dolls.

“Of course not,” said Anna becoming redder by the second.

“Do you plan a civil service?” Therese asked.

“A civil service?” I wondered out loud.

“Do you plan to marry in the Church?” asked Therese crisply.

“Oh well, we’re not even at the marriage stage yet,” answered a humbled Anna.

“And what about children?” Therese demanded.

“And what about children?” I asked. And then I looked at Anna Maria who was shrinking on her seat, and I thought this was it. “We’re not at the confessional, this questioning will stop right now. I have here a little memory stick. It contains thousands of letters you have written over the years to many government agencies and other private companies. I also have a full report of the known consequences of your actions and other manifestations you organised. You, madam, are responsible for a lot of chaos in this country, you have also threatened highly delicate and secured operations dealing with chemicals and other waste products. You have cost the jobs of countless civil servants and other employees. You have destroyed more families and lives that I can count. What have you got to say in your defence?”

“You’re not frightening me. I have an anti-social behaviour order against me, or an ASBO if you prefer. I had dealings with the law, and they failed to stop me because I’m right. The last person of your status to enter my humble home was the Queen herself.”

“The Queen came here?” I said astonished. “She certainly went everywhere, that one. Except my own house…”

“She tried to do what you are trying now, to stop me in my crusade towards defending our values, our rights and religious beliefs, and she didn’t succeed. She was also much more polite than you, you would never have known she was here to stop me. She was congratulating me on my mission instead, but I can read between the lines.”

“Dear me, you crossed the path of the Queen herself at some point in the past, and she couldn’t do anything to stop you?”

“Perhaps she was acknowledging how strong I am, that I never faltered in my duty towards a perfect world in the eyes of God.”

“What did she say when she saw your Petite Pleureuse in the corner?”

“She said it was quite original and that she would acquire one.”

“Well, I can assure you that she does not have one, I would have noticed and remembered such a horrible thing in my several visits to all her palaces and castles. Have you not lived a full life, now? Are you not getting too tired to jump to the barricades for any old reason? Let’s see, you were arrested last because the nearest cathedral was charging a few pounds to get in.”

“How dare they charge faithful citizens to go and pray in their own Church? The Bible is so clear on that point, it infuriates me!”

“Is there nothing we could do to ease your conscience, to convince you that the end of the world is nowhere in sight, and that you can resume a peaceful existence, leaving your fellow citizens alone to live their life, especially when they are in their own rights to do so?”

“Why would I do that, if it offends my beliefs and values? The very ones at the core of all our traditions and faith? I have my counsels, Duke of Connaught. I have the support of my community and my Church. Together we are saving the very soul of our Kingdom. You can send me to prison, but I’ll go there with my dignity and my pride, knowing that I’m not the traitor here. Just like my poor Theodore who died during the Second World War, I will defend my countrymen, I will defend my Queen!”

“We’re not getting anywhere here, I’m not reaching out. Anna, can’t you help? Has this weasel shut you down as well?”

“I have been nothing but polite to you, I would request that you show me the same respect.”

“You are a weasel, you are also a witch on a mission to destroy this country, not to say a bitch. You have already helped caused the closing down of at least 13 shops and other organisations in Sidmouth alone. Your Save the Children PR campaign, I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. You may think you are polite but your words are as poisonous as the snake, and they have the same impact on me as swear words would have on you. You are a despicable woman! And it is about time someone tells it to you frankly!”

“I cannot believe what I’m hearing! I will sue you for this, you can rest assure! I have won many similar cases in the past, and the culprits paid dearly their lack of respect. Please, leave this instant!”

“Arthur, I am also shocked by what I’m hearing,” finally said Anna. “Please, just leave and I will speak with her.”

“Do you know they are calling you Mother Teresa?” I asked.

“It was all over the local papers, of course I know,” added Therese.

“Well, you have nothing in common with her. You have never helped anyone in your entire existence. All you did was to cause problems and destroy good relationships. Those children you talked about? Have you ever even helped one? Rescued and feed one? Have you ever served a soup to a homeless? Is there one single person in the whole of Sidmouth who could actually thank you and be grateful for something you personally did to him or her? Have you been to Calcutta and help the poor sick Indians? What is your God going to say when you go to Heaven? How will he judge you?”

And then Therese broke down and cried, just like a little girl, just like her Petite Pleureuse. I didn’t regret, because under the tears was hiding a monster, I was still filled with rage when Anna pushed me out of the house and remained inside to console the weasel. I went to my brother and the others, and they could see instantly that I was not touched by the hand of God in my handling of the situation.

“What happened, where’s Anna?” Eugene asked.

“She’s inside, probably trying to prevent me from being sued by the witch. I went mad, she’s now crying.”

“You hit her?” Alan asked.

“You should have shot her instead!” Richard added.

“I’m not crazy! Of course I didn’t hit her, though I admit I had murderous thoughts in there,” I said.

“So what have you told her to put her in such a state?” asked Cristina.

“I can’t remember now, something about the fact that she was no Mother Teresa and would not go to heaven, something like that.”

“Wow, that is cruel, I like it,” added Richard.

Anna Maria finally came out of the house, she looked exasperated, but she was still smiling.

“So? Were you able to save the day, and my career?” I asked worried.

“Oh yes, you did that yourself. I simply comforted her, heard her confession, and made sure she would be respecting her New Year’s resolutions,” announced Anna. “I think you hit the nail on the head about your comparison with Mother Teresa. I believe it must have been a weight on her shoulders that she was not as pure, helpful and dedicated as Mother Teresa. The poor woman aspires to be a Saint, and you reminded her that she was far from being a Saint. It must have been deeply buried in her subconscious mind.”

“So, how is this helping us?” asked Eugene.

“She has decided that from now on she will work harder on becoming a Saint, just like Mother Teresa.”

“So, how is this helping us, again?” I asked.

“She agreed to stop the demonstrations or trying to cause trouble to any business or other organisation in town. She will not again try to get people in the right path using the methods she has been using up until now, she won’t write any more letters to everyone willing to listen. She will now concentrate on helping people directly, children, homeless and others. She now wishes to open a new centre to help women and children in distress. She will be helping people instead of talking about it all in the wrong places and causing distress all around. She will work at easing the pain and suffering, just like Mother Teresa.”

“I don’t know about you, but I call that results!” yelled Cristina.

“We have to celebrate our victory!” added Alan.

“As a thank you I will send to each of you, personally, the best porn DVD of my collection. And don’t worry Cristina, as Lesbians go, I have a top notch one you will be dying to watch,” Richard said smiling. “Don’t look at me like this, I was only kidding!”

“Let’s go to the pub, it is my round, all night!” I said happily.

And so ended our little visit to my home town. The next morning Anna and I returned to Richmond upon Thames, and as we passed Stonehenge, Anna asked me to stop so we could see it now that the Sun had come out and the snow was gone.

“Isn’t it extraordinary? Look at the trees, the leaves are coming out, they are in flowers!” Anna pointed out.

“Tell me about it, something has gone horribly wrong. Last week it was summer, and then came the wind and the leaves fell down like in the autumn. Then came the snow storm, and today it is spring again. In one week we have gone through all four seasons.”

“What is that telling you?”

“How powerful humans have become, that we are now capable of destroying the planet without even using nuclear weapons. Perhaps there is something after all to be said about little eco-terrorists like Mother Teresa.”

“She was also an eco-warrior?”

“It was one of her other main causes she took on.”

“How more powerful do you think we can become? Could we destroy the rest of the universe?”

“What do you know Anna, that you’re not telling me?”

“Nothing, you know I have lost my abilities, though I feel it is coming back now.”

“About that, I knew there was a good reason for it. I have learnt that even without your special gift, you are still a powerful woman, your resourcefulness never ceased to amaze me this last week in Sidmouth. You have adapted admirably well, you were the little super trooper in there, I was proud to have you on my side. You certainly didn’t disappoint those people who required the help of your gift, and ended up getting the help of Anna Maria.”

“Well, I did failed in that old woman’s house, I really felt vulnerable then, as if I had lost all my confidence. I’m sorry I was not of much help in there.”

“Nonsense. You really did complement me, we are a team, without you it wouldn’t have worked. You remained there, you listened to her, you comforted her, you probably suggested things, you ensured she would keep her new resolutions. Without you, she might have called the police the minute I left, and hold on to me with her teeth until I was out of the Magistrate’s Court with no more great position at MI5 to return to. Again, you saved me.”

“And you do need saving. My God, Arthur, the things you told that poor woman, I’m surprised she didn’t have a heart attack. You were shouting at her, she must be over 70 years old!”

“Nah! She is more robust than any of us. She will live to be 130 years old and bury us all, just like Mother Teresa. Never be deceived by the appearance of your enemy, the one with the bomb might very well be a 70 year old woman. Now it is the children who have the bombs, tomorrow it will be respectable ladies, because terrorists think they can get away with murder. Well, not at MI5.”

 After this discussion, Anna and I remained silent for a while, looking over the beauty of the rocks. Stonehenge really puts everything back into perspective. A strong bond was being built between us as we continued our adventures here and there, we were building together our own history that even time itself could do nothing to destroy. After thousands of years, we could still be standing right here in this field in Wiltshire, under the puzzling look of the onlookers, wondering what all that was about and if all our great accomplishments had any meaning after all.

 

 


 

 

Kill That Prime Minister

London’s Library from the Future

 

 

On Monday morning at work, I had to sack someone, interview three others, chastise a few more, take care of a few murderers on the go, order some stationary, and in between, suffer an impromptu visit from Anna Maria.

“Anna! This is Monday morning! I have tons of things to do, I have no time for you. What is it you had to tell me that couldn’t wait until tonight?” I ventured to say.

“Oh, you know me, I never show up without a good excuse. You won’t be sorry,” was her answer.

“Come on now, the Home Secretary is on his way, nothing else is important. You have to go.”

“No way! You pick that phone and get the Home Secretary re-routed to somewhere else right now, like Alaska,” she said with her most authoritarian tone.

“No way! The Home Secretary is having lunch with me, and that is final. Do I have to call security?”

“Yes you do, this very instant!”

“Why?”

“Because that little Jiffy Bag on your desk is a letter bomb,” she said calmly.

“What? I’m in no mood to play, Anna. The Prime Minister is in trouble, once again, and it is my job to save his ass. I’ll call you tonight, okay?”

“It is a letter bomb!”

“It is not possible! All my letters are triply scanned before they reach me, I have a whole team in the basement making sure of it, you can see that it has already been opened. Now you need to go!”

“Arthur! You leave me no choice! Watch!” she yelled. And as she was telling me so, she threw the Jiffy Bag out the window. A few floors down it exploded on the pavement. I was speechless.

“Do you realise what you have just done? You could have killed the Home Secretary as he entered the building!”

“You didn’t leave me any choice, and I know there was no one down there.”

“But now there’s no way to contain this, it will be all over the news worldwide within two minutes! What were you thinking?”

“Now that I have caught your attention, there are twelve more of these things in the building. And now I have to go, I have an appointment with my hairdresser, and I never miss my appointments with my hairdresser. You can forget about the Home Secretary, you have twelve letter bombs to find. I have the honour to say good day to you Sir, and I will speak to you again tonight, once you have calmed down. You are overworked my poor Arthur, you should learn to relax, take a few days off. I shouldn’t have to suffer your stress!” she said simply before leaving my office, leaving me completely aghast. Anna Maria had done it again, she saved the day whilst I was trying to usher her out. Damn!

I spent the rest of the afternoon chasing letter bombs all over the building at Thames House, cancelling the Home Secretary’s visit, which turns out to be useless as he got here in the end and saw for himself the mess I was in, and then I went home completely out of my mind. Another day in the office, I thought. I took the rest of the week off, so I wouldn’t have to face journalists asking me why MI5 had been targeted with 13 letter bombs, and how they actually reached their recipients despite the highest security measures ever. To be honest, at this point, I don’t care. I’m just trying to do my job. Actually, I’m just trying to survive, and it is becoming damn difficult in this day and age! I guess in my autobiography this chapter will be called: “Another failed attempt on my life,” or something of the kind. Could easily have been the last chapter in my biography written by another.

I was in the worst of moods when I arrived at Anna’s house that night. She saved me and many others, and yet, I was angry with her, like if she was responsible somehow for those letter bombs. She was involved, that was enough for me. She was part of it, she would have to be as investigated about this as any terrorist would be, I hated her. I was still shouting at her when I entered her house.

“So, you went to the hairdresser whilst I was chasing mail bombs? How much did it cost you? Because I certainly cannot see any difference! Who is it that you want to look like, Marilyn Monroe, or a bad version of Anna Nicole Smith? What is it that you want? Why can’t you just leave me alone? I can deal with my own problems!”

“Well, good night then,” she said. “And don’t come back until you change your mood and attitude!”

The thing is, I needed her, I wanted her support, I loved her, and yet, I felt like abusing her, blaming her for everything that was going wrong in my life. I was like, completely out of my mind because of stress and everything I had to deal with. She was my scapegoat, I knew it, she knew it, and yet I couldn’t stop myself. Poor Anna, she certainly never deserved it, I couldn’t help myself.

“Good night then, see you next month!” I shouted, and yet I was not leaving, thinking that perhaps she would enjoy more verbal abuse from me.

“Go then, what are you waiting for? Get out! I never want to ever see you again!” she screamed.

I was still there, waiting in the entrance, hoping that I could instantly calm down and defuse the situation. Until her damn parrot jumped on me, and that I couldn’t stop myself from hitting him back with my bag in self defence from this frontal attack, and then I left. Angry. I could have destroyed anything on my way back to the Lodge. And that’s what I did when I returned. Oh dear, I destroyed another portable computer, my third one this year, the TV, and a whole priceless Limoges set of plates and cups. My mom would have killed me, if she was still alive to witness my burst of anger: “Mes assiettes de Limoges!” she would have cried. Thankfully the pots and pans she bought personally in Villedieu-Les-Poêles in France survived. So when I finally calmed down, and felt so bad about Mr. Barnsworth for throwing him on the wall like that, I returned to Anna Maria’s villa all apologetic.

I didn’t care that she told me that she never wanted to see me again. That was love, the only way I knew it. It meant: “I love you dear, that’s why I freak out completely like this and make death threats! That’s what love is all about! You know I couldn’t live without you? You know you are the only thing that still makes me sane in this world?” And yet I couldn’t say those words. Somehow I hoped she knew, and I think she did. Because when I rang her doorbell again, it was like we never had a fight, she welcomed me with my special hot chocolate made of real chocolate, and that was it. We talked about the weather, I noticed her stunning hair, and then she asked Harpreet to call Robin in because she had something quite fantastic to show us down in the vaults, and his presence was required. Now, before I get into that little mystery, a proper introduction is required.

Robin has been described as my rent boy in the newspapers when I gave him one of my castles in Scotland. It didn’t matter that the castle was in ruins, it has been described as one of the loveliest of the whole Scotland, and this was too much for the journalists of this country. Such a treasure should remain within the Royal Family, they said, or in the hands of English Heritage and National Trust. They simply did not understand my logic behind it, it was my own designed to keep Robin in my employment, as without him I couldn’t survive. I call him my Scottish Gay Butler, he is in fact the Manager of my worldwide estates and affairs, he is also occasionally a good spy for me when it comes to Scottish matters. And boy I needed him when this whole Devolution thing happened, and one day I may be able to tell you more about this state of affair.

Robin first came to my attention when I worked for New Scotland Yard. I was so impressed by his capabilities and personality, that I gave him ten times his salary to come and work for me. The problem was that he became a millionaire a bit too quickly over the 12 years he has been in my employment, and so giving him one of my castles was the best way to ensure he would need a lot more money in the future just to keep it running and to bring it back to its days of glory of early Scottish history. The plan might have backfired with the British public, but now that they see what Robin has done with the castle, they are grateful I gave it to him. It is now opened to the public and we managed to put together quite a little museum about Scottish Royal history.

At MI5 they call us Batman and Robin when he is in on a mission. My own codename for him is Mrs. Hudson when we are on a trail, as per Sherlock Holmes landlady. He likes that. More than once he tried to have sex with me, I take it with a pinch of salt. Who knows, I keep telling him, if it doesn’t work out with Anna, I may have a go with you. I’m just joking, of course. Before Anna, one night we came close, but I’m not going to talk about that now. Unlike others, I don’t care what people think of me, I have developed a thick skin over the years. I have nothing to hide. Anna believes I should have had sex with him, somehow she thinks it would have helped me understand many things. God knows where she got that from. Maybe she would enjoy a threesome?

What I know of Harpreet is that she is a bright and modern Indian woman. At the beginning I thought she was simply a servant and chauffeur for Anna, but it turns out that she is also some sort of Manager of Anna Maria’s estates, and this is no simple matter since Anna is like a little country or protectorate in her own right, having little consulates and embassies in virtually every country. Harpreet speaks hundreds of languages, including many dialects. Don’t ask me how this is possible. She used to work as an interpreter at the service of the Lord Chancellor's Department now called the Department of Constitutional Affairs. She must be the most renowned interpreter in the world. She has something like eight PhDs and she is well versed in international laws. She has been very helpful to me on many occasions, and so I have learned to tolerate her negative attitude towards me. I’m not certain when she came to the attention of Anna but they have been together for many years now.

Since that little adventure I am about to recount, Robin and Harpreet have become best of friends and they make the loveliest couple, even though he is gay, which might explain why this friendship works so well, since love does not get mixed up in the equation, unlike between Anna and I. If Anna had been a lesbian, it might have been a totally different story. I probably would never have spoken to her in the first place, as lesbians are usually not fond of me. All the ones I have ever met who were openly so, were militants and wanted to kill me for some reason, as I seem to represent everything they hate most in men. Go figure.

Sometimes I think Harpreet is a lesbian, one I would hope could actually like me, however I am not privy to these secrets, and there is a lot of tension between us. She is very protective of Anna, together they are quite powerful and sometimes intimidating. It’s a shame really, because she is quite a stunning woman, and I admire her for all her accomplishments. I suppose I could find out easily if she was gay, but I respect her privacy. I bet Robin knows all about it, however this is the one thing he will definitely keep secret from me. And now I find myself fighting against all three of them, as they tend more and more to gang up against me. I was thinking recently about how to get my Scottish castle back and ship that butler to Scotland to die along with their Devolution, but I quickly put those thoughts aside. We’re all grown men and woman after all, there’s no need to be petty, and I wish they could follow that advice. They think I am a child, when I believe they’re the ones acting like children. So who’s right? Perhaps we are all children, and that is the big secret of humanity.

I mentioned the Scottish Devolution a few times now, and I’m sure you would like to know my real thoughts about it. Well, what do you expect from me? I am the direct descendant of Queen Victoria, I am the head of MI5, I believe in a strong British Empire, otherwise I would be a traitor. I am against the Devolution of Scotland, against Québec’s sovereignty in Canada, against Northern Ireland’s independence, or severing ties with Africa and India. In all Britain’s history, we have never been weaker than today, and it is getting worse. I understand I will make many instant enemies by stating these beliefs, however you can have comfort in knowing that Anna Maria’s beliefs are the total opposite of mine. She believes in the emancipation of all nations, independence, self-sufficiency. And she has softened many of my positions. A few more years and I might finally get a more international and modern view about the geography and politics of the world. Anna challenges everything about me, and sometimes I don’t like what I am becoming. I know she’s right, we cannot live in the past anymore, we need to change and move on with the times, listen to what people want and give it to them, in the name of peace at least if nothing else. It’s taking time, but I’ll finally come to term with all this.

Anyway! This is really going a bit far off from what I set myself to tell you today. And so let’s get back to the mystery at hand. Robin arrived, he immediately went towards Harpreet to gossip, and altogether we descended to the vaults. We walked for what seemed to me to be miles, until we reached a hole in the wall, leading to a new and impeccable designed room. It was very modern in nature, with empty shelves all around, tables designed in square in the middle, and some sort of big machine at the centre. On the tables were many books. Both Robin and I looked at them, picked up a few, opened them, they all looked shiny and new, but there was nothing special about them. We inspected the machine, and then we turned to Anna and Harpreet with a questioning gaze.

“You see nothing weird about this scene?” Anna asked.

“Should I?” I answered.

And then suddenly Robin said: “Funny, the copyright of this book states London, January 2074. And this one 2117. What’s the meaning of it?”

And as he said so, the machine started to shake, there was electricity in the air, and out of thin air appeared a book on the platform. I picked it up, it was a book about England’s history, it looked like it was published in London in 2042.

“What is this, some sort of library from the future?” I asked.

“Exactly, is it not fascinating?” Anna answered. “I was unaware of this room, Harpreet heard the noise when passing by a few days ago, and so we broke in.”

“You destroyed that wall yourself?” I asked.

“Yeah, what’s your point?” Harpreet said, almost as a personal attack. “We’re not as weak as you think we are.”

“So who would be sending these books?” Robin wondered, trying to help me escape my faux-pas.

“And more to the point, why?” added Harpreet, with her Indian accent.

“And why is Robin’s presence required,” I asked.

“The answer to all these questions,” Anna began, “must be in the content of the books. And to read all that, as new books keep arriving by the hour, we need everyone’s help. Come on people, we have a lot of reading to do! What do you say?”

I was flabbergasted. This was so incredible, I kept thinking it was a joke the girls were playing on us. However the book did appear out of nowhere, and I didn’t believe Anna had the powers to make things appear or disappear. It was pretty convincing. And there was no denying that the books content was impressive, about the future, and a past which was yet to happen. Though I wasn’t so sure about why they were sending books, it seemed very inefficient to me. I was at the point myself where I could no longer read a book made up of paper, I had them scanned and digitalised by my staff so I could read them on my phone.

“Why not send DVDs, computer chips or even a laptop computer with all these books included on it? Why send the least efficient format for data?” I asked one day.

“Because books remain the only format which could be readable in any era, whether the world is technologically advanced or not,” Anna answered. “Imagine we had discovered this library after World War Three, we might no longer have electricity to plug in a computer, or the technology to read that data. Also, I doubt they are using DVDs or chips in the future. God knows what technology they have, if any.”

“Of course, what was I thinking,” I admitted. “Moreover, there is this possibility that in the future the people sending these books are located where they do not have access to technology, perhaps a place where books are now forbidden and they may be afraid that all these fine writings would be destroyed. They ship them into the past hoping that they will survive more easily the test of time. Also. if the end of humanity was imminent and no one else in the future would survive, at least their stories would be known to someone who cares, people in the past who could appreciate them.”

“It is possible that we can prevent that imminent destruction of humanity or maybe not,” Anna added. “In which case it would not matter whether we change the future or not, the books are available in the future, they only need to be known to everyone in the past so they do not become useless. In that case the library needs to be available to all. I feel though that there must be a better reason why we need to have these books in the past other than just making sure people read them. We probably must learn something from them, something that may change the future.”

“There is also this possibility that something horrible will happen in the future and the only way to warn us is to send these books here,” Robin mentioned. “I am not certain about the content, they look innocent to me, perhaps even normal stories not much different from the books we have today. Maybe only some of the books are of interest, maybe only some of them will shed some light over the events of that future.”

“Perhaps altogether all these books draw a picture of the events to come,” said Harpreet. “Only by reading them all we should be able to see all the elements in action, a puzzle to be solved in order to understand fully all the events and people that will lead to this state of affair.”

“It is definitely not meant for the masses, it would create chaos,” I affirmed. “What happens in this room, what is said or read in this room, remains in this room. Perhaps this knowledge is destined to a few key people so they can make better decisions or change their future actions if they were to know the consequences of their acts. In which case, who are these people who need that knowledge so they can be warned, and somehow stopped? Once I am fairly certain about who should know about this, I will need to contact them and give them a full report about the future.”

“We still don’t know how far in the future these books are from,” Anna pointed out. “Or if anyone discussed in there are already alive today. So these people who need that knowledge might only be born in a few years, even decades. I would guess that if we could change the future, it must be from a very near future, or else, how could we affect events centuries apart?”

“We can travel in time, can’t we?” I said.

“Yes, but how would these people sending those books know about that?” asked Anna.

“Good question,” I answered. “In the future, who knows who will be living here? We have to assume they will have access to these premises and the knowledge of the people who lived here before.”

“That explains this book over there. This is written in Kalmyk, the old Oirat Clear Script, a subgroup of Mongolic languages. There are only 160,000 people in Western China who can read this,” Harpreet said.

“And I bet you are one of them,” I added.

“Yes Sir, I can read and speak anything written or spoken in China and India, the two future superpowers of the world,” stated Harpreet flatly, as a matter of fact, annoying me in the process.

“This is well targeted, this is for us then,” I finally said. “The sender or senders knew who would be at the other end. Why send a book written in that unknown language into the past, unless you know someone can read it. What is the content of that book?”

“It is highly flammable, you wouldn’t like it, let’s leave it at that.”

“Why?” I said. “What have we ever done to the Kalmyks? I didn’t even know they existed until a minute ago.”

“I believe the Russians have been highly successful in eradicating them through ethnic-cleansing. And in Mongolia, Kalmyk has no official status and it will quickly disappear.

And so for the next few weeks we set ourselves to speed reading all of them, as they kept coming. The shelves were now almost all filled, and once the last book fitted on the last remaining place on the last shelve, the books stopped coming. It was like this library had been complete in the future, the room had been rebuilt in the past, and now all the content was being transferred to the past, either so it could be saved from whatever was happening then, or that this future would be known and perhaps prevented. It was a strike of genius.

“There is a whole international shelf over there,” Harpreet affirmed one day. “Good thing we each speak many languages.”

“Well, except Arthur,” added Robin. “He only speaks English and French.”

“Only? English and French are the two languages of diplomacy in the world, and so they are the only two required languages in order to be understood and keep the peace worldwide,” I said in my defence.

“Right!” said Harpreet with cynicism. “It must explain why all I seem to have read in these books is about war and destruction, and every book in another language is so anti-British and anti-American, I feel we might avert that kind of history if we were all to learn a few more languages and get acquainted with other cultures.”

“Good point Harpreet,” Anna said. “Arthur, perhaps next time you meet the Prime Minister, tell him that instead of only having the choice of French, Spanish, German and Italian in the school curriculum, we should have all sorts of languages from all around the world. It could help broaden Britain’s horizons. I wouldn’t mind being able to read that Kalmyk script, it’s beautiful.”

“From what I read so far, Prime Ministers and Presidents are not the trusted types,” Robin answered. “There is clearly a pattern developing in all those books.”

“Right, perhaps it is time to sit down and compare notes,” I said. “Are we any closer to finding out why these books have been sent to us?”

“It could be interesting to know if these people in the future have no literature, no publishers, no more books,” suggested Robin. “They could have been sending these books into the past in a specific hidden room hoping that this room would be available to them sometimes in the future in more peaceful times. They needed to get these books out of where they were, or else they would have been found and destroyed, and the owners thrown in jail. The people who sent them may never had the time or chance to read them, they would have had to send them into the past immediately as they were getting into their hands.”

“I think it might be better to simply believe that these books were sent into the past so we can find out what is to come in order to prevent it,” Anna announced.

“I have picked up on a few disturbing things,” I said. “I want to know if you think the same.”

“If these books suggest anything to us, there are few powerful politicians who should be killed right now,” Harpreet said. “Including, I’m afraid to say, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

“And the American President, and a few of his cronies,” added Robin.

“I thought so too,” I said. “Sabotaging their career might be better than killing them, though. What do you think Anna?”

“It’s all there, if we can believe that these books are describing a highly probable future for us. All the worst conspiracy theories becoming true. The authoritarian military State becoming totalitarian, the laws against freedom and liberties, the identity cards and chips, the civil wars, the Third World War, the shift of powers and superpowers. It is a frightening prospects. We have to do something to prevent it.”

“We have to get them out of power,” Robin added.

“Sabotaging their career might not be enough,” Harpreet announced. “Look at the President of the United States, his life is plagued with scandals, and yet, he is ever more popular! He could come back to power no matter how much damage we could inflict upon his career.”

“Wait a minute!” I said. “This is not an easy matter. As the head of MI5, my first responsibility is to protect the life of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Queen, and other foreign dignitaries. My role is also to prevent any plot against them, and this could be a trick. Before we do anything, I need to know much more, I need some sort of confirmation. Anna, what is your gut instinct telling you? You’re the Queen of knowing the future, can’t you see it?”

“That’s just it, I can’t. There are some futures where all of this is possible, though I would have categorised them as unlikely. It changes everyday though, I could wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly this could be a very likely future.”

“All right then, we’ll have to investigate this more deeply. Robin, you will get a few of these books and run to the labs. I want you to carbon date these books, analyse the ink, the paper, anything that could help us establish if these books are from the future, and if so, if they all come from the same source. Which would be highly suspect.”

“And Harpreet will go with him,” Anna added. “You are well travelled, check the photos, find out if they represent a realistic future. Some portraits show us today’s personalities, but much older than they are today. Could this have been done using technology?”

“Good idea,” I said. “In the meantime Anna and I will have a little chat with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I don’t know how we will go about this, it is a very delicate matter.”

“Why don’t you use the prisoner’s dilemma tactic,” Robin stated. “As in the game theory? We were very successful at this game at New Scotland Yards.”

“What is that?” Harpreet asked. “Some sort of bad cop good cop thingy?”

“Nothing so crude, no one can play that game anymore, everyone is way too aware of that tactic, it is the best way to fail your interrogation.”

“In essence,” I said, “you are proposing that I tell them that I know some new facts which threaten national security, and that I give them the chance to blow the whistle on each other, in order to alleviate their own sentence, or even guaranteeing them freedom if they cooperate with me?”

“Exactly,” Robin said. “You tell them each separately that if they tell you what you need to know, you will do what you can to save them, but if they don’t, if they defect, both of them, you will have no choice but to make what you know public and there will be dire consequences. If only one of them blows the whistle on the other, you make that one the scapegoat and try to save the whistleblower.”

“And of course,” I finally admitted, “in this matter, as it is usually the case anyway, they will both pay dearly if there is any truth to any of this. They must be aware of these tricks, the prisoner’s dilemma has real and concrete applications both in politics and economics, and both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are well versed in these tactics.”

“Good, if they are aware of the game, then they’ll have a real dilemma on their hands and let’s see how they play the game,” Anna said.

“Hopefully they will know that tit for tat is the best strategy in game theory, and that by pretending to them that the other has said this and that, from what we learned in the books, might cause them to retaliate and defect, in effect to admit to it hoping for a lighter sentence, and even help from MI5, as your primary mission is to save them no matter what, right?”

“In their mind anyway,” I needed to explain. “As I would never be a traitor to my nation, and will never tolerate one leading this country, whether they are aware of their treason or not. And in this case, it could easily turn out that none of the elements causing the chain reaction leading to the future we know of are already in action.”

“I can already tell you, Arthur, that most likely they won’t say anything,” Anna admitted. “Either because they know nothing of this yet, or they know the other will not crack and give in.”

“So it is useless to interrogate them, then?” I asked.

“Pretty much,” Anna said. “We won’t learn anything new, we will alarm them, in turn they will alarm the whole cabinet, and who stands to lose in all of this, it is you, all of us.”

“What about what Robin and Harpreet will discover?” I demanded.

“They will find out that radiocarbon dating books from the future is a puzzling experience that will further a great deal the science of carbon dating. Also that the ink and paper used in the books are different from book to book, composed of unknown material and usually in accordance with the publishing practices of the countries where the books were supposedly printed in. Photos seem accurate as far as they can tell.”

“Where does this leave us then?” asked Robin.

“That if this is a hoax, it is a very well planned one indeed,” said Harpreet. “Let’s face it, who could attempt such a hoax on such scale? Look at how many books there are when one or two would have sufficed.”

“Not with me,” I said. “The number of books makes it impressive, more believable. They must know both Robin and I have experience defrauding fakes, that we would do all these analysis, now we can say beyond doubts that this library is from the future. What should I do? Invite the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the President to come and visit the library? Let them take them away, read them and remain aware of the consequences of their actions, hoping that it will be enough to prevent such a future?”

“No,” said Anna. “I have a feeling that it is in the future that we will get the answers were looking for. There are too many unknowns in this affair, I cannot believe that I can remain so much in the dark about that kind of future. I am not accustomed to being so blind.”

“So blind?” I asked. “After you single-handedly saved us from wasting weeks of analysis and interrogations? You are amazing.”

“And yet,” she added, “I am not comfortable with any of this. I feel there is something wrong. We need to find out for ourselves before we create the scandal of the century and even help making this future a reality by exposing it to so many people who would believe it without more evidence or proof.”

“All right,” I announced, “going to the future has always been one of my great dreams, and I certainly look forward to it. I wouldn’t mind knowing what Pembroke Lodge, your villa and Richmond Park look like in, let’s say… what year should we go to?”

“The most futuristic book we received is from 2307, I believe, 300 years in the future,” Harpreet confirmed. She was good at that kind of detail, she would have been as asset on my team at MI5. And in a way, she was on my personal team.

“Let’s go to 2307, then,” Anna proposed.

“Okay,” I finally said. “But we’ll go prepared, this will be done the proper way and both of you girls will need some basic training in that kind of operation. We may have to blow up this library in the future, so it never appears in the past, and so I’ll have to get some guns and explosives. This is serious stuff, I never thought I would have you as my team, but under the circumstances we cannot involve anyone else.”

Two weeks later we were ready for our adventure and we all found ourselves in the main control room of the bunker under Richmond Park. Both Anna and Harpreet were working on the computers, whilst Robin and I were sort of waiting in apprehension.

“So, how is this time machine of yours work exactly?” asked Robin.

“Excellent question,” I added.

“Excellent indeed,” answered Anna. “To be honest, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” asked Robin. “Who built it, then?”

“I did,” Anna answered. “We possibly all did in a parallel universe, or in the future, I’m not sure. I know both Arthur and I worked on this, possibly Harpreet since she has a PhD in Physics and Maths.”

“Harpreet,” Robin wondered, “do you really think another version of you worked on this? Or even that you will in the future?”

“I don’t know, but I have some ideas of how it works. There are definitely some micro-singularities in here, micro-black holes, which would explain the gravity needed in order to play around with time and space. The computing technology for this to be possible, God knows where they got that from, or if it is from the future. It is quite impressive, and a five year old could operate the commands. Stupidity couldn’t send us somewhere in space, I know that.”

“I’m so re-assured,” I said. “So how long before we are in 2307?”

“We are,” announced Anna.

“All right, so first let’s go to the surface and find out if anyone is waiting for us, or if we can surprise anyone.”

“Can’t use the elevator, it’s not working,” Robin said.

“Plan B, let’s use the circular staircase in the nearest tunnel,” I answered.

So we went to the surface and came out somewhere in what used to be Sidmouth Woods.

“Oh my God! What have they done here?” Anna freaked out.

“What are we looking at?” Robin asked.

“It seems, these must be invisible buildings?” Harpreet suggested.

“I know what this is, but how dare they build a whole city as large as Belgium in the biggest European Natural Park ever? How dare they destroy it like this? If this is the future for Richmond Park, I don’t even want to meet these people.”

“Invisible buildings? What are you talking about?” I wondered out loud.

In front of us were hundreds of towers, but we could see through them the trees and flowers, and yet, the technology was not perfect enough that we would not noticed the buildings, and there were lights all around so we couldn’t miss them.

“Simple technology, they simply have cameras reflecting back at the front of the windows, what you should see at the back. I’m familiar with this, and I knew the future would be filled with those, however never thought they would build this in Richmond Park.”

“At least they kept many trees and we feel like this is nature, even though it’s not,” I suggested. “But what about planes, or any flying thing, are they not worried that people will crash into these invisible buildings?”

“No danger. In this day and age, no flying object has a pilot, it is all satellite and computer controlled,” Anna affirmed.

As we walked towards Pembroke Lodge and Anna’s villa, it became clear that it was all gone. In their place was a huge tower of at least 100 floors.

“We will never be able to know who was in charge of the bunker. What are we going to do?” asked Robin.

“Let’s go back down and find the library,” I proposed. “We might find something out down there.”

So we went back through the tunnels until we arrived at the library. There was a nice little archway leading to it, there were no book on any of the shelf. Once inside, another archway was leading to another back room.

“Interesting, that’s a room which does not exist in our time frame,” I said.

“Maybe it does, we should have probed for such an extra room,” Robin added.

“I agree. Let’s explore then,” I recommended.

The new room was packed with equipment to print and bind books. There were many books about how to bind and print books in many different countries throughout the ages.

“That does it, then, this was a big hoax,” I announced.

“And a good one at that, look at the extent they went to in order to be convincing,” said Robin.

There was another library in the new room, filled with the exact same books we received from this time period.

“And here are the original books that they used,” said Harpreet, whilst opening a few. “They simply scanned them, modify them a bit, and reproduced faked ones. Quite clever!”

“Not clever enough, they couldn’t fool me,” Anna said. “So what do we do now?”

“Let’s gather evidence, I want information on who’s behind this and their motivation,” I ordered. “Then we destroy the lot and go back to our time.”

“Don’t you want to catch them?” Robin asked.

“How could we, with whose help?” I asked. “How could we prosecute them? Now I understand what Anna meant about the new war and how difficult it would be to fight it.”

“That’s nothing, but it’s a beginning,” Anna acknowledged. “All right then, here is a portable computer which contains all we need. What do you want me to do with these tablets of rubber you gave us?”

 “Oh dear, leave that to Robin,” I quickly said picking it up from her. “Robin, you know what to do.”

“Yes, sir!” he answered.

Within ten minutes we were outside in the tunnel and the whole place was reduced to rumbles. We went back to the control room and back to our time. I left the computer to Robin and told him to get the content analysed. Harpreet wanted to be part of the team and so I let her. It was obvious that at this point that to fight this new Time and Space War, I couldn’t involve anyone else but the ones who were already involved. At least I had at my disposal three highly powerful people, with great abilities and skills.

A few days later we all reconvened in Anna’s conservatory.

“Anna! Put Mr. Barnsworth away!” I shouted.

“All right, all right,” said Harpreet, taking him and putting him in his cage. “And what about Bubba? Should we put him away too? Cos’ I would be happy to oblige.”

“The dog is fine,” I said. “Give him some biscuits. So, what have we learnt? Who was behind this?”

“Be prepared for a surprise!” Harpreet announced.

“A big one!” Robin added.

“Why?” I asked.

“I know, oh dear, I know! The culprits are us, all four of us,” Anna admitted. “Yes, I can see it, my God!”

“What do you mean it is us, how could it be, for what purpose? Which version of us, from which time, from which universe? Why?” I demanded to know.

“I know everything,” Anna said. “I understand. I can’t believe I didn’t understand this sooner. They knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t buy into it, that we would go to the future and find the portable computer, that we wouldn’t act upon anything they sent us. They knew.”

“Who knew?” I asked.

“We knew. Us in another timeline, where things have played out quite differently. We, well, they were so afraid that the same could happen in our universe, that many versions of them in many universes are trying to reach out to many of us out here, including us. They wanted us to know that what happened there, even if it doesn’t happen here, is still a real danger we should be aware of. The people who run this country, who run America, are potentially not to be trusted, and since they never really disappear even after they are voted out, and come back in power at some future time, we need to be aware of what they’re capable of, what could have happened, and what could still happened here.”

“Are you telling me, Anna, that somehow some other version of us, are working hard trying to reach out to all the versions of us out there, so we can be prepared to accept some, how should I put it, Nazi world?” I asked.

“Exactly. Some of us out there are quite clued up, they play at many different levels, trying to protect as many timelines as possible, unlike us who are only concerned with out own. Who can blame them?”

“Well, I can! I almost destroyed the careers of one Prime Minister, one Chancellor of the Exchequer, and one President. All that without any valid reason. I take this very seriously.”

“Well, perhaps it is time for you to reassess your priorities, and question whom you serve,” Harpreet said. “These people have done terrible things in other timelines, what makes you think that in the here and now they are teddy bears?”

“Good point,” added Robin.

“Good point?” I shouted. “Where’s your proof in the here and now? What happened to the innocent until proven guilty? What if in our timeline they are the most peaceful people ever? Anna, what can you tell me about how much truth there is about what we read in these books?”

“You know, I can only read the probability that a specific future will take place. It is possible, but unlikely.”

“How unlikely? 75%? 50% 25%?”

“The probabilities change everyday.”

“What are you saying then? What should I do?”

“We can only keep an eye on them on a daily basis, I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got to offer you.”

“Ah! That’s just great! Wonderful! And now I have to face these people on a daily basis and pretend that everything is fine, when they could turn evil on me, and on us, any minute!”

“Well,” Harpreet said, “isn’t it your job anyway to make sure they don’t turn evil on us any minute? To question everything they do all the time? Don’t tell me you trusted them implicitly forever, without ever questioning their orders and motivations?”

“Yes I was! I had no reason to doubt them. And I couldn’t do my job if I had reason to doubt them. I trust them!”

“Well, perhaps that’s the lesson we all learned,” Anna said. “Never trust your leaders blindly, they may not be working in your best interest, the interest of the people.”

“And as soon as you doubt anything, take measures to check it all out,” Harpreet added.

“Are you telling us to investigate our honourable leaders?” Robin broke in. “I won’t hear of it.”

“It’s not acceptable, that’s not how I want to play the game,” I added. “We have no reason to suspect anything at this point.”

“We have every reason to suspect everything at this point,” Harpreet said.

“Just continue to do your job,” Anna said. “I’ll let you know when things go awry. Trust me. Little escapes me.”

“Words, words, this is madness. All right, I will from now on question everything, think twice, and consult with my consort.”

“At least we know what to look for, we know what they did in different circumstances. We know what they could potentially be planning. I guess we could keep on eye on that,” admitted Robin.

“Yeah! That’s not too much to ask for,” Harpreet suggested. “Just question everything they do and say. Double check if it is the truth. Simple. And eventually, if you don’t trust them anymore, then act, denounce them or destroy their career.”

“Easy to say,” I said finally, ending the meeting.

A few days later I was walking alone with Anna on the river bank near the Parliament, with view on the big Ben, we sat on one of those benches by the Thames river, the very same ones where I spent so many hours reading Sherlock Holmes short stories on my breaks.

“Careful,” I said, “everything you say here is being monitored and recorded. Anywhere within half a mile of the British Parliament isn’t safe.”

“Well, why do you want to meet me here for, then?” Anna said. “You want to get us both arrested for conspiring against the Prime Minister and the Chancellor?”

“You’ve already said too much. I have to leave now. Let’s meet again tonight in Richmond Park.”

“You are exasperating Arthur!” she said, standing up and getting ready to leave.

“Don’t blame me! You’re the one who wanted to meet me on my lunch hour! Do you think I would go five miles away to Old Street just so we could speak in private? I’m not the one who turned us both into conspirators against the Crown!”

“Yes you are! Another version of you did, and he thought he had a damn good reason to do so. See you tonight!” she said.

That night we were in Sidmouth Woods, trying to assess what had changed and how to react in the future to anything.

“What am I gonna do, Anna?” I asked her sincerely. “I’m not sure if I can do my job anymore. Trust is gone, I take a double take on anything the Prime Minister is telling me, I feel everything he says is a lie, a blatant one.”

“It should have been the same whether or not you had been made aware of what he was capable of or not. What is this bollocks about following your leaders blindly? Don’t tell me you were one of these sheep who never questioned authority, your leaders?”

“Maybe I was, I don’t know. Until you have a reason to doubt them, there’s no point in doubting them. They never gave me any reason to doubt them.”

“And yet, they have been lying to you from the beginning. Perhaps you were not the right person for the job, I feel a woman would have been able to see through the lies. You men are so trusting, without any justification. You only become weary if a woman is in power, this is when you break down and start justifying all sorts of things. You’re all the same.”

“Give me some credit, I’m not so simple minded. I’m not so simple. You’ve got it wrong. This is Harpreet speaking, not you. She is anti-man, you are not. Get a grip!”

“Maybe you’re right. Harpreet is quite a feminist. She’s been with me for so long, it is hard to distinguish between my own thoughts and hers.”

“I’m glad you realise that. I tend to agree that women in power are sometimes, and often, more clever than men, but they can also screw up big time. And I’m not talking about Margret Thatcher, she’s an exception, nothing could be generalised from her years in power, that’s why they called her the Iron Maiden.”

“Yeah, wait until the first American President is a woman, and see how many generalisations will be made out of this. A complete disaster. The war of the sexes will never end, it is a lifelong struggle. And yet, we all know that men in general cannot be trusted.”

“This is Harpreet speaking again! She is a lesbian! Isn’t she? Tell me! Now! She is so anti-men, such a feminist, I know she is a Lesbian!”

“She is, all right? But I assure you, it has nothing to do with the fact that she is a feminist. Think of it, she’s Indian. They have much more to fight for than British women have. She could easily be heterosexual and feminist. She will not submit to anyone or anything, and I believe she has proven her worth many times over. She is exceptional, and that is why she works for me. Compared to your Robin, Harpreet is gold.”

“You don’t know everything about Robin, he is gold too, or else I wouldn’t be paying him so much. He is so intelligent, if he had been a General of the Army, he would have won any war.”

“Perhaps it is because he is gay?”

“Don’t you dare! It has nothing to do with anything.”

“If you say so.”

“So, what are we going to do?”

“What do you mean what are we going to do?”

“Well, after everything that just happened, I can’t just continue to do my job as if nothing happened. What do you suggest I do?”

“Well, nothing. Until I give you more insights that is. Just go to work every morning, and do what it is that you were doing before. How hard can this be?”

“I can’t pretend, I can’t lie to the people I work with.”

“Well, perhaps it is time you learn to do so. Look, Arthur, I have quite an insight into the future, I can give you a lot of information, and I know it is all going to be find. So I know you can take it, you can do your job, you’re worrying over nothing.”

“I hope so, I really hope you’re right. My whole world has been turned upside down, and I am now relying on you so much, that without your counsel, I can no longer make any major decision. You don’t know how it is, to be incapable of even writing a letter to anyone without first wishing to consult a psychic medium in order to make sure you’re not making the biggest mistake of your career. I am now so dependent on you now, that I can’t even make one decision before consulting you. This is a disaster for a man of my position. Where has all my confidence gone to? I cherish the day that I could make a decision on my own, and knew intrinsically if I was right or wrong. Gosh! Do you want my job? Do you want to make all these decisions for me? Should I simply stop living and let you take over my life? Do you see how I feel?”

“I know exactly how you feel. And no, I won’t take over your life, I won’t make all your decisions for you, this was never my intentions anyway in the first place. You seek counsel from the people around you, you then make your own decisions, you do what you feel is best. I have all the confidence in the world in you. I am not here because of your position, I am here because of you. You are worth it, you are someone, you make a difference, whether I was here or not. I’m just one more counsel for you to seek out information from before deciding. You decide, you’re in control of your destiny, ultimately I have nothing to do will all that. I can see why you see me as a threat to your own emancipation, but I’m telling you, you’re much more in control of your destiny than I ever was. I’m glad you brought it up, and you’re right, I do not have all the answers. I have the knowledge and the experience that you lack, but in the end you have to trust yourself, you have to make your own decisions. And who knows, you maybe right more often than you think, because no one else is walking in your shoes, no one knows exactly what you’re going through, you have to trust your instincts, and I hope to never interfere with that.”

“You are so wise Anna, you put me to shame. And you are right. I’m glad we talked about it. I’m not so useless after all, I am capable of my own decisions and of acting of my own counsel. It worked very well for me in the past, I’m sure it will continue to do so whether you exist or not. So, what should I do next?”

“You’re asking me?” Anna said laughing. “I don’t know, do I?”

“You’re right. Let’s take it on a daily basis, and don’t be surprised if I still seek your counsel, on a daily basis. I hope you don’t mind? To be honest, I’m glad I have you, I’m so pleased with your insights, even if at times it becomes cumbersome, since I can no longer make any decision without first consulting you. Well, you know what I mean, you understand.”

“Arthur, don’t worry! And please, feel free to make decisions without first asking me. I assure you, you are strong, you are capable, I sometime feel the same, I need your advice before making a decision, please don’t let any of it stop you from doing what you feel should be done.”

“You need advice? On what? On which tree you need to plant in your garden? When you are the one who has an arrested opinion on the matter about every single great plant in existence? You never seek my advice, you never needed me for anything, because you appear to have been born knowing everything already. I am annoyed that you seem to know everything, you will never need me for anything, will you? Why would you ever need me for? Companionship, is that it? Do you feel that without me you would be so alone and you can’t bear it?”

“Yes! And so what? I need you, all right? And even though you’re totally useless, I like your company, I need you by my side to give any significance to my existence, okay? I love you, do you understand? It makes no sense to me, it could never make any sense to anyone with any sort of intelligence, and yet, it is so! I wish I could be happy with my little villa, my little existence, my parrot and other animals. I can’t help it, or else I would get rid of you so quickly, you would be astonished. I wish I wouldn’t care for you, I wish I could live without you, but I can’t! I need you, and I can’t explain it, because you’re certainly not worth it! You know it, I know it, so why are we together here, now, talking about it?”

“Wow! I never thought you would be so honest about this.”

“Well, you pushed me to this point, so now what? What should we do? I want to get rid of you, at the same time, I need you. I could very well survive without you, and yet, I want you here.”

“Well, for me it is more like, I’m so lucky to have you, I’m so happy to have you, I wonder what it is that you see in me, and why you feel the need to have me there. I feel inadequate, I feel I don’t deserve your attention, I don’t deserve you. And yet, I know I am strong, I know I don’t need you, I’ve lived all my life without you, I survived just fine on my own. Why would I want to make my life more complicated by including you within it when there’s no need to?”

“This is a deep conversation indeed. I never thought we would have such a conversation. I know your most intimate thoughts, you know mine.”

“So why should we continue? Don’t you think we might ultimately be better of on our own?”

“I don’t know, all I know is that I need you, I’m happy when you’re there.”

“And me too, even though I can be so irascible, so careless. I shout at you, I vent my entire hanger with you, I’m always in a bad mood, and sound like I hate you, but you know, deep down, this is not true. I love you, I just don’t know how to express it, I’m just incapable to stop myself in my anger.”

“Ah! I can’t believe you can say these things! I can’t believe you are aware of it! How can you be aware, and yet, make me suffer so much? You know it, you know it is unjustified, and yet, you do it! How can you explain it?”

“What are you talking about? Of course I’m aware. But I can’t help it. You won’t find me often admitting to it. I guess you’ll just have to live with it. That’s who I am, that’s how I am.”

“I know, and that’s also part of your charm. You’re lucky I can see through you so well, because otherwise I would never suffer so much crap.”

“Great! We are together, we don’t understand why, we both want it and wish we could live without it, and yet, we’re stuck together. I guess we have to thank God for such an impossible existence. So, tell me, what do we do next?”<

“But nothing! We just live and let live. Whenever it becomes intolerable, I’ll let you know, or you’ll let me know. That’s all.”

“Okay, I guess I can live with that.”

“So can I, I suppose.”

“This weird arrangement of ours, it will have to do for now.”

“And I’m sorry to have to tell you Arthur, but it will do so for another decade at least, I know that much.”

“Oh, Anna….”


 

Ham III Time Paradox

The Uncertainty of King George Varney

 

 

 

One day I was walking in the tunnels and vast corridors under Richmond Park, as I used to sometimes in order to map this underground which never ceased to amaze me. I kept finding new rooms and vaults, until I reached what could only be described as catacombs. How on Earth could there be thousands of skeletons under Pembroke Lodge, with no history book or local archives mentioning them? Where did they come from? Who were they? What time in history were they from? And these are no small catacombs, I would say that this is larger than the catacombs of Paris under Montsouris Park, and down there they have counted six million people who died in Paris’ past.

For a second there I was standing in the middle of it all, and I felt like the whole of London had been buried under Richmond Park. What made this mystery an impossible one to solve, was that only in recent history had London been so populated. Was it possible that for centuries, like in Paris, they removed most corpses from all those cemeteries and brought them all here with no one ever knowing or noticing? Then it would have had to be every single cemetery in the country. Who could have been so bold, as Napoleon was in Paris, to make such a decision?

I continued to walk in between the walls and shelves of bones, still in awe, and puzzled by the fact that Anna Maria never mentioned it to me before, when suddenly in front of me was standing a replica of the monument called Seven Dials, identical to the one you can find in the middle of Covent Garden. There were also seven large alleys of bones and skulls leading to each dials on the monument. Neat I thought, totally useless to have seven sun dials underground, where the sun never shines, and yet, it was a prominent location, right in the middle of the catacombs, from what I had observed.

I was about to investigate the monument when a kid appeared out of nowhere right by the monument, he was not even 20 years old. A strange blue aura was emanating from him, he looked like he was trying to speak to me, but he only succeeded in frightening me to death and I ran out of there as fast as my legs could suffer. I don’t remember ever running so fast in my entire existence.

When I reached our main control room under Anna’s house, I still didn’t feel safe, I was pressing the button of the lift, hoping the carriage would reach me before the mad blue kid came back. I remembered all those films where just as the lift’s doors were closing, some monster or murderer would put his hand at the last second to prevent the doors from closing, and I almost had a heart attack when the doors finally opened and the kid was inside, still trying to talk.

I felt like falling down to my knees and pray to whatever God I never believed in, and cry for Anna, so she would come and save me from this nightmare. Instead, I reminded myself who I was, I took my courage at heart, and I tried to touch him. As I did so, he disappeared. I entered the lift, I went up with a sense of power, like a man who could keep his self control. However, once the doors opened, Anna Maria was standing in front of me, looking worried, and I jumped in her arms in a pitiful state. I nearly cried, and the only thought that came to my mind was that Anna would never want to marry a wimp. So I composed myself, however she could see that I had gone through an ordeal.

“I am not used to seeing ghosts like you, I can tell you that I would never wish it to my worst enemy. How do you cope?”

“You have seen a ghost too?” she answered.

“You as well? A 20 year old kid, dressed weirdly, trying to speak but no sound coming out of his mouth?”

“Yes, I’ve seen him too, upstairs in the conservatory. Strange, isn’t it?”

“Strange? I nearly died of fright, yet, you are now as normal and peaceful as one can be, you barely look worried. I almost cried a minute ago. I am embarrassed.”

“Come on, it’s over now, come to mummy,” she said with a laugh.

“I suppose that if I were used to seeing ghosts all the time, it wouldn’t have worried me. Also that you saw him in the bright light of day, I was in the catacombs.”

“Pardon me? The catacombs? Where would that be?”

“Have you never reached those huge vaults with high ceilings, filled with stalactites and stalagmites, packed with just about every single person who ever lived in England in the past one thousand years?”

“I’m sorry, but I must have missed that room in my intensive mapping of the tunnels. Could you find it again?”

“Sure, well, perhaps… hopefully. It was near Ham as far as I can recall, so not very far from here. I can’t go back now, we’ll have to wait until I calm down. Don’t you have a bottle of Brandy somewhere? I really need it if we are to confront the ghost again.”

“Sure, come upstairs and I’ll serve us both some Brandy. For the ghost however, this is something new, this is not how I usually see them. I couldn’t even begin to explain what it is that I saw. Cute kid though, I wonder what his story is.”

“Not a ghost?” I said, whilst taking the glass of Brandy and drinking it all in one go. “That’s reassuring. What was it then?”

“Don’t know, it’s a mystery.”

“Where did he appear exactly?”

“Well, right where you are, actually…”

As soon as I heard that, I got up and moved away from the chair.

“Now you’re telling me! Let’s go outside, and bring the bottle!”

Once on the little mound just in front of Anna’s villa, I seemed to be breathing better. The magnificent view of Thames Valley in the background helped a great deal, looking at those rich houses forming the second wealthiest area of the whole of the United Kingdom. Suddenly, in front of this great view, the kid reappeared, as I dropped the bottle of Brandy on the ground. This time he could speak:

“I am King George Varney of Ham III. Your counsel is requested, we need your attention, please come to us… your presence is desired, impossible to come to you. Hear my plea! Whatever you do, never discuss your religion in a public place. Here is how you can locate us….”

Then he disappeared again. I turned to Anna and asked:

“Have I imagined this?”

“King George Varney of Ham III? Was there ever such a king, and so young?”

“Of course not, this is heresy. King of Ham? Last time I checked, Ham was not even a city, just a bunch of rich people all stuck up and snobbish living in a square mile, shame on them to live in a place called Ham.”

“Ham III? What could he mean? The third Ham?”

“Well, we’re standing right now on King’s Henry the VIII’s Mound, he was after all the King who made possible the whole Richmond Park, it was his hunting ground. He lived nearby, this was an extension to Hampton Court Palace.”

“Actually, it was King Charles the First who enclosed this park, not Henry the VIII.”

“Really?”

“If you didn’t know that, perhaps we have missed a King George Varney in our history. Time to go back and do the research of the century, I need to find out all about King George Varney. For the religion comment, this is not the place to discuss this.”

“I agree, you don’t know how much I do. But can’t you sense anything, don’t you know what’s coming next?”

“I’m afraid not, we’re dealing here with an improbable event, something totally unexpected.”

“The difference being?” I asked whilst we were walking back to the villa.

“When the Titanic sank in a significant amount of parallel universes, the news was so dramatic, with such an impact worldwide on everyone, that if I had been living in those days I would have foreseen it as clear as day. I would have known before the boat even existed in the mind of the architect. If an event happens in a very limited amount of realities, and if in this actual timeline it happens before it takes place in most other timelines, then I have no possible way to have an insight about what’s coming next. This is so rare, that I enjoy those moments. It is like being as blind as the rest of you to what life can bring next. This King Varney is such an event, this is special. I can tell you that not many versions of us will ever know about this, this is almost limited to our own timeline. Perhaps we are the only ones who will experience this. I’m so excited!”

“Great! Wonderful!” I said with irony. “I can’t wait to find out all about Ham III and the great King George who never existed.”

My prediction came true soon enough, we couldn’t find anything about a King George Varney of Ham III, and I called every Royal I could find just to make sure. We could not even find the catacombs, they simply vanished.

“If it’s not in the past, then it must be in the future,” Anna finally announced. “Ham III is the key. At some point in the future, there will be a second ham, and a third. It will become important enough that there will be a King of Ham. Very simple, I don’t understand why we could have been so blind. It is your fault, with your history about the King’s Mound, I assumed it was in the past.”

“You cannot blame me for everything in this life, get a grip. Well, nice to know that we will never get rid of the monarchy, I couldn’t bare the thought of a republic and an all powerful President of the United Kingdom.”

“God knows how many republics and monarchies we could go through by the time there is a third Ham? We’re not talking a few decades here, this is hundreds of years at least.”

“How can you tell?”

“I have a vague feeling.”

“So not so special after all, this unusual event. Do we know the exact minute of the coronation of King George Varney? Perhaps we could pay him a visit.”

“I have no idea, unfortunately. We’ll just have to wait until he contacts us again.”

Days passed, I had to go across England and Wales to supervise many branches of the newly created Ministry of Justice, and when I came back, Anna was out of her mind.

“Still no news of King George Varney of Ham III?” I could see that it was driving Anna completely mad.

“I can’t even see your catacombs, no matter how much I probe the future!” she shouted. “Right, you come with me right now and we’ll investigate every single corner of those tunnels in the Ham area. I have here sophisticated equipment to probe just about every single wall. Harpreet is still trying to figure out how it all works. Get Robin over here, we will need his help.”

“Ah, so when your sixth sense fails you, you go back to more conventional means, machines and electronic gadgets…”

“I have no more patience Arthur, King George Varney needs our help, but he seemed incapable of articulating the one thing we would have needed, a date. I’ll find those catacombs, even if it kills us all. I don’t understand, I know they will only exist in the future, but you said it was many miles long, and yet, there are no vaults that large in that area. Also, they were built in a place out of time and out of space, and so they should be here right now! Or at the very least I should be able to sense something…”

“Yeah, the famous catacombs. I gave this a great deal of thought, and I was inspired when visiting the castle in Cardiff. If there will be three different incarnations of Ham, then at least twice its population was eradicated completely. I saw millions of dead, Anna. That’s twice London being annihilated. And as far as the King of Ham is concerned, perhaps there never was a third London. All we can hope for, apparently, is a third Ham. Your King had more than a trick at his disposal. I think it was technology that brought him to us, along with his environment. Nothing supernatural.”

“Then should he not be able to do it again? Come back to us? It’s like he ceased to exist, I cannot even foresee his presence again. I’m in despair! Please Arthur, you’ve got to help me see more clearly, I can’t sleep anymore!”

“Simple, we go to the future. I mean, one thousand years from now should do it. Surely there will be signs of the existence of King George Varney at some point in history?”

“Perfect, change of plans. Let’s get ready for any eventuality, we need food, oxygen, machines to tell us if the air is breathable, whatever. We’re leaving tomorrow morning.”

In less than 24 hours, Robin and Harpreet had assembled enough resources for us to survive a long term nuclear war. All four of us were apprehensive at the thought of going so far into the future.

“We have no idea what to expect,” Robin said.

“We could find ourselves in the middle of an ocean, it is quite probable in fact,” Harpreet added.

“Cheer up people! I don’t know about you lot, but I know I won’t die in the next few days,” Anna claimed, assured.

 “Wait a minute,” I cried. “You said so yourself, this is a limited event, it happened only in a few timelines, perhaps even only in our own reality. You could very well die in the next hour and you would never have seen it coming.”

Euh, well, whatever, I don’t care. We need to save King George,” Anna mumbled.

“Or die trying,” Harpreet added.

“Well,” Robin said, “going one thousand years into the future, we might find out if Jesus-Christ ever returned.”

“Or if Shiva Mahavatar Babaji, the eternal manifestation of God, is still alive in the Himalayas,” Harpreet added with a smile. “Who knows, your King George might be in fact representing the long awaited return of Haidakhan Wale Baba, or Babaji for the intimates.”

“Exactly!” yelled Anna. “So let’s go! I can’t stand this uncertainty, I’m not used to it.”

And then Anna touched a console and that was it, we were one thousand years into the future. We had felt nothing, everything around us was still as it was.

“We’re there,” Anna declared. “More action, less talking, is what we need. You see how simple it is? Can’t believe we argued about this for hours, when one second is all we needed.”

“That’s it?” I shouted. “We’re now in the year 3000? You said it so casually, for such a momentum event…”

“What do you expect? Flashing lights, insurmountable obstacles, years of travel? I’m afraid, this is not how this place works.”

“Which reminds me, in the future of King George Varney, all this wonderful technology no longer exists, or else, he would have come to us in a more direct way,” Robin announced.

“Good point. However out of time and space this room might be, it is not eternal,” Harpreet said.

“Well, in the here and now we brought the room with us to the future,” Anna answered, “along with miles of tunnels. This is our own turf we brought to the future. And I don’t see an ocean pouring in to drown us. So let’s go and find out what’s out there.”

“Miles of tunnels travelled to the future with us?” I asked puzzled. “Then what about the catacombs? Have we not erased them from history by moving here?”

“I reduced the boundaries of what came with us,” Anna answered. “If necessary, that field can enclose the whole of London and its suburbs.”

“How re-assuring,” I said. “I will need to update my files about you, you’re much more of a threat than I first assessed.”

We took the lift, but it stopped in some sort of underground room. We followed the steps up and came out right where Anna Maria’s villa used to be. There was no trace of the subsequent tower which was built over it last time we were in the future, a few centuries ago.

“Where is the futuristic city we saw last time we travelled in time, where are all the buildings in Thames Valley?” I asked.

“Oh my God! Everything has disappeared, there’s nothing left!” Robin added.

“Even St. Paul’s cathedral has disappeared, look, we cannot see it anymore,” Harpreet pointed out.

“One thousand years is a long time, long enough for everything to be buried underground,” Anna announced.

“Even the castle of King Arthur reveals some remaining walls in Tintagel, Cornwall, and that was eight hundred years ago. Surely there should be ruins everywhere,” I said. “Unless they got rid of them, they cleaned up the place. But how?”

“Well, that’s more like it, I’m glad there is no trace of that mega-city crowning Richmond Park,” Anna admitted.

“So what do we do now?” asked Harpreet.

“Harpreet and I will explore around here and secure the underground installations. You and Anna take the four by four military Tout Terrain and go to Ham and Hampton Court Palace,” suggested Robin.

“Sounds like a plan,” I answered.

Anna and I left Harpreet and Robin behind, went back below and took the Tout Terrain. We got out in Sidmouth Wood, some yards away from where Pembroke Lodge used to be. Pretty cool how we got out, in a special contraption opening out from the ground, so we could escape the underground tunnels. On our way across the fields towards Ham, I really felt like we were the last two remaining living beings on the planet.

“Can you hear that silence? I’m surprised there are trees, I can’t hear a bird or a bug,” I said to Anna.

“I know, it is disconcerting. Last time I felt such silence was when the electricity went out and that every single machine in my house went off. Until then I had never realised how much noise all this electronic machines do. Well, now that we’re alone, and that no journalist can hear our conversation, let’s talk about what King Varney said, about not discussing our religion.”

“I was wondering when you would ask that question, I was kind of hoping you would have forgotten.”

“Forgotten? The three sentences that a king from the future, who came all the way to us in impossible circumstances, told us? In fact, I was going to confront you about it that very night in the restaurant you invited me to, so it is really good timing that I heard Varney mention it.”

“And what is it you were going to ask me?”

“That you’re no Protestant, you are Catholic. Now, why would you lie about such a thing?”

“Yeah, I’m surprised Anna, really. How could you know that I’m not a Protestant, and yet, the reason why my whole family for generations has lied about it escapes you?”

“I never said it escaped me, I just wanted to confront you about it, so we both knew where we stand.”

“I’m much closer to the throne than anyone could ever imagine. If the Queen were to die tomorrow morning in a plane crash, I would be the next King of England.”

“I know.”

“I told you that everything about my family and I had to be hidden during the Second World War, to protect us, and even before that time, since the First World War in fact. The proof still exists that I should have been the King, and that I will when she dies.”

“Strong motive to get rid of her, isn’t it? For a person as ambitious as you are. Have you dreamt of that day, of Arthur Connaught, King of the United Kingdom?”

“Every single night. There is only one thing which could still prevent me from reaching that goal, it is if anyone as snoopy as you figure out that I am in fact Catholic. The throne cannot be passed on to a Catholic. Which is why you cannot tell one soul, including Robin and Harpreet. How did you find out?”

“Let’s just say that in other realities, it is with a King that I share all our adventures. And he appears to trust me more than you do.”

“Ah! I knew it! I will be King one day!”

“I never said that! I said that you are King in many other parallel universes. And in some of these worlds, you had to abdicate when they found out you were Catholic.”

“So I will never be King?”

“Who knows? The probabilities are high, I cannot tell with certainty.”

“I wish now that we never had this conversation. I will feel like a failure for the rest of my life. To know that if circumstances had been just a little bit different, now I would be King. It is a depressing thought. What is it coming down to, then? One day I should have walked right instead of left?”

“Calm down, it is likely that King George Varney is one of our descendants, and hence, you must have been King in your lifetime.”

“Our son?”

“Our son’s descendants.”

“We have no way to know if it is from our own timeline, it could easily have been from one of those other realities.”

“Possibly. Which brings another problem.”

“I know, you’re no Protestant either, despite what your file states.”

“So you knew? Why have you not said anything?”

“How could I marry a Jewish woman if I ever wanted to become King, and her my Queen? I couldn’t tell why you lied about it, but it suited my needs, and so I hope you will continue to lie. I much prefer you as a Protestant, just like me. It will be hard enough to marry a commoner, she needs not be other than a Protestant to crown it all.”

Both Anna and I laughed all heartily whilst going towards Ham, the empty Valley below was quite a sight.

“You will then be pleased to know that I’m a Princess, from the French-Belgium empire.”

“You have been around, aren’t you? Have you got parents and grand-parents from all over Europe?”

“Pretty much, rich and royal families on all sides.”

“So why the lie, then?” I asked her.

“I’m very impressed with your skills, or the ability of the British government to find out everything about its citizens, things I wouldn’t even know myself if I had not surprised a conversation between my father and my mother one day. You see, my mother used to be a young girl living in a rich Jewish family in Romania. When the Nazis came in 1940, they took possession of everything, they blew up all their animals, and then that was it for my mother, she was never Jewish again after that, neither her children. She lived in fear all her life that there would be a second holocaust. She married a rich Catholic man from Brittany in France, she then became Catholic. When I was born, however, they were living in England, and so I was born Protestant. This is when religion became a convenience, to suit the needs of the moment. You can switch as many times as you wish, which explains now why I’m so not bothered by religion, it has become a bit meaningless to me. So, for the record, I’m Protestant.”

“It doesn’t explain why you would hide the fact that your mother at least was Jewish, and your father, Catholic.”

“My sister, she doesn’t know anything about it. As far as she is concerned, she is Protestant, just like her parents.”

“Your sister? You have a sister?”

“Yes, she still lives in Brittany, in one of the family castles. It was my mother’s dying wish that I never told her that she has a Jewish heritage, and to this day I had never mentioned it again. So how the hell did you find out about it?”

“Don’t worry, I have eradicated those files I found. In England at least, no one will ever know. I don’t know about France, Romania or Belgium, but I’m on the case, and if there is any proof out there that you are Jewish or Catholic, I will make it disappear for you, darling.”

“Good. I’m sure you have been as successful at getting rid of any evidence that you were Catholic?”

“You can bet on it. Unfortunately my brother knows, he could always destroy me one day.”

“So I guess you will also have to eliminate him on your way to the top.”

“I guess so, and you too now, you have become a liability. Gosh, so many people know way too many things in this world, soon it will be a few million people I will have to get rid of if I ever wish to become King.”

“Don’t worry honey,” Anna added with irony, “I will always be there to help you eradicate them all. So we are still both Protestants, and we shall never discuss it again.”

“Unless we are two thousand years into the past.”

“Exactly.”

“So, you’re a Princess, then?”

“How else could I become you’re Queen, dear? We wouldn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past, I will be Queen one day. Make sure you correct your secret files about me, I’m no commoner.”

“Interesting, fascinating… how wonderful, you’re full of surprises.”

“So now, what are we looking for?”