Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Neil and Scott meet a strange man at a Sci Fi convention. He convinces them to try his time machine.
Does he really have the secret of time travel? Just where and when will their adventure take them?

Submitted: April 15, 2015

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Submitted: April 15, 2015

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Scott and Neil had had an amazing day. The Science  Fiction convention in Nottingham had been well worth the drive down from Manchester. They had had their photos taken with three Doctors, met other Doctor Who cast members and bought one of the Red Dwarf actors a pint of lager. At five o’clock the exhibition hall began to empty. The event was officially over and people were drifting towards the exits. The two lads were not ready to leave just yet. Neither of them wanted the day to end. It had just been perfect. They strolled slowly along in the general direction of the way out but dragged their feet, taking as long as possible. Clutching carrier bags full of merchandise, autographs and signed photos they talked about how this day ‘would go down in legend’.

The stalls that had been selling everything from Tardis hoodies to edible Spock ears were now closing. The stall owners were now more interested in beating the traffic home than selling their remaining stock. Neil reminded Scott that Blade Runner was on one of the satellite channels later on. Scott suggested they watch the classic film with a few cans of lager and a curry. Neil was about to reply when they noticed a man waving at them. He was standing on a corner behind one of the stalls. He waved them over.

‘What do you think he wants?’ asked Neil.

‘Probably after a lift home. Come on, let’s leave him to it.’

‘I’m gonna see what he wants.’

‘Neil-’

Neil walked quickly over to where the man stood. Scott followed reluctantly. Neither of them recalled seeing the man or his stall during the day. He was in his fifties and had a grey goatee beard.

‘Alright mate?’ said Neil. ‘What’s up?’

‘If it’s a lift you’re after then I don’t think we’ve got room.’ added Scott.

‘You gentlemen have a decision to make.’

‘I know. Do we listen to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or War of the Worlds on the driver home. Where do you stand?’

‘Hitchhikers every time. But that’s not why I wanted to speak to you.’

‘What do you want?’

‘I have a way to travel through time.’

The lads laughed.

‘Have you got a Delorean parked outside?’

‘Or a blue telephone box?’

‘No, no. This is quite serious.’

‘Really? Well, you’ve picked the wrong place to sell actual time travel. This is a Science Fiction convention. Science Fiction. The clue is in the name.’

‘But where else would I be believed?’

‘He’s got a point there, Neil.’

‘Where is this time machine of yours then?’

The man pointed with a theatrical flap of his arm.

‘There!’

Scott and Neil laughed.

‘A tent? You’ve got a tent that travels through time?’

‘Very good. Where’s the hidden camera? This must be a wind up.’

‘I can assure you that I am serious.’

‘How much do you want for the tent, sorry, I mean the time machine?’

‘A pound.’

‘A quid? You’re flogging a time travelling tent for a quid?’ laughed Neil.

‘Yes indeed. Everything costs something. You would not take it for nothing would you? People are naturally suspicious when offered something for nothing. You can’t give anything away for free. People assume there’s a catch. Besides, if I was interested in money I could go back and win last week’s lottery.’

Neil and Scott nodded to each other.

‘Fair enough.’ said Scott. ‘But why a tent?’

‘The space must be sealed, confined. Everything inside the tent travels with you. And when you get to whenever you’re going you can roll it up and pack it away. You could carry it with you in that rucksack. There is a control panel inside the tent. Simply enter in where and when you want to go. You can travel to any location in any time period. You should find it easy enough to use. Think of it as Google Maps or perhaps a Sat Nav, but with a time and date setting.’

‘This is definitely a wind up.’

‘You will never know unless you take a chance.’

‘Stuff it,’ said Neil. ‘Got nothing to lose.’

He handed the man a two pound coin.

‘Keep the change.’ he said.

The man packed up the tent. Neil stuffed it into his rucksack.

‘Bon voyage.’ he smiled.

‘What if it doesn’t work?’ asked Scott.

‘Then you’ve bought yourselves a two man tent for two pounds.’

Neil and Scott grinned. Neil slung his rucksack over his shoulder. They headed for the exit. They crossed the car park discussing what a crazy day it had been. They tossed the rucksack in the boot of the Nissan Micra. After a brief argument they settled on listening to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the driver back. As the car stereo launched into the story of Arthur Dent and his adventures in space they pulled off the car park.

The next evening after a crappy day at the office Scott called round to Neil’s flat. Scott lived with his ageing father but spent most of his free time round at Neil’s flat. Scott helped himself to a can of lager from the fridge. He flopped down on the sofa beside his friend. He pointed at the large screen television.

‘What’s on tonight then?’

‘New Doctor Who on one, classic Doctor Who on the Olden Golden channel, or Aliens on the movie channel. Which do you fancy?’

‘Tough one. Which Doctor?’

‘Witch doctor?’

‘Which Doctor is it?’

Neil flipped through the television magazine.

‘Sylvester McCoy.’

‘Excellent.’

‘Hang about. Later on there’s a Back to the Future triple bill.’

‘Get in. Can’t beat a bit of McFly.’

Scott took a gulp of lager. Neil stared at him. Then Scott understood. They both grinned. Of course, they had forgotten all about the so-called time travelling tent.

‘Come one. Let’s go check out this time machine.’

‘What about Back to the Future?’

‘Firstly, you’ve seen it dozens of times. And secondly, if the tent works you can go back in time and watch it.’

Twenty minutes later they had assembled the tent in Neil’s living room. They stared at the dark blue two man tent. Neither of them believed that this was a time machine but they had seen far too many films to resist the opportunity. Just imagine, what if they could travel through time?

‘We’ve been conned.’ said Scott.

‘Had to gamble though, didn’t we?’

They didn’t speak for a moment. They stared at the tent, deep in thought.

‘Where should we go first?’

‘December Nineteen Seventy Seven.’

‘You mean-’

‘Yep. Let’s got and see Star Wars the week it came out.’

They grinned as their imaginations carried them away. Neil tossed the rucksack into the tent. They climbed in. The tent was surprisingly roomy on the inside. There was plenty of room for them to sit side by side, not quite tall enough to stand upright. On the tent post near the front flaps was a control panel. The panel was the size of a mobile phone. Neil pressed the ‘on’ button. An egg timer rotated on the screen for a few seconds before the panel flickered to life. The panel read their current location, date and time.

Scott swiped the screen. He changed the location slightly to Manchester city centre, the date to 27th December, and the time to three o’clock in the afternoon.

‘There!’ he said.

They waited in anticipation. They wanted this to work. They wanted it to work partly because time travel would be amazing, and partly so they wouldn’t feel like idiots sitting in a tent in Neil’s living room. A second later Scott spoke.

‘Has it worked?’

‘Dunno. Doesn’t feel like anything has happened, does it? Hang on. I’ll check.’

Neil unzipped the front of the tent. He stuck his head out.

‘No way!’

‘What? Has it worked?’

‘Has it heck! We’re still in your living room.’

Neil zipped the front of the tent back up.

‘Oh well. We could always use it for camping.’

‘What a minute.’ said  Scott. ‘Maybe you have to press this.’

He leaned forward and pressed the green Go! Button on the bottom of the panel.

Then it happened.

It felt like the ground beneath them had caved in. Felt like the tent was falling, tumbling, spinning, down, down. Neil and Scott screamed, swore, shouted. It was as though the tent was dropping down through a tunnel. Their ears were full of wooshing but there was another sound, like a dozen records being played backwards.

A while later there was a popping sound. Then the floor of the tent hit something hard. They were winded. They sat up. Whatever was happening seemed to have stopped. They exchanged puzzled glances.

Neil unzipped the door flap of the tent. He poked his head out. He swore.

‘Have we done it?’ Scott called.

‘Can’t tell. We’re not in your living room anyway. Looks like Manchester. And it’s day time.

Scott pushed Neil to one side to get a look for himself. They stared out at the Manchester side street. A man in flared jeans walked past. His thick hair touched the collar of his coat. The man glanced at them as he hurried past.

‘Alright mate? What date is it?’

‘Twenty seventh of December.’

‘But what year?’

‘Seventy seven.’

His brisk walk turned into almost a run as he left. Neil and Scott climbed out of the tent. Neil packed the tent into his rucksack. Slinging the bag over his shoulder the two men headed for the main road.

They stood for a long moment just taking in the scene. The cars going by were all 1970s models, in colours that suited the period. Neil spotted a bottle green Morris Marina just like his granddad had owned when Neil was young. The colours of the cars were dated, browns, yellows and greens. The people on the pavements were also in fitting with the period. The man wore their hair almost as long as the women. Flared trousers and  flowing dresses, neckties with knots the size of bowling balls. Something else struck Scott. There was not a mobile phone in sight. Nobody was texting or tweeting or face-timing, or instagramming, or snap chatting. He gave his friend a nudge.

‘No phones. That’s the clincher. Little detail like that. Looks like we’ve done it.’

‘So you’re saying-’

‘Mate, we’ve done it. We’ve gone back in time almost forty years.’

They stood in silence.

‘Isn’t this Market Street?’

‘Yeah.’

They watched the cars rushing up and down the street they had always known to be pedestrianized. On the corner at the top of the street was a building site. It looked like something big was being built.

‘They’re building the Arndale Centre.’

The shopping mall they had spent many an afternoon mooching round was still under construction. They stared at the familiar surroundings that were so very different from the way they knew them. They headed along Deansgate. The street had the same layout they were used to but without the chain stores and American fast food outlets. Neil pointed at a café. The red painted sign said  the Magnet.

‘My dad used to take me there for sausage, beans and chips.’

They spotted a queue outside the Deansgate Picture House. Posters said they were showing Star Wars. Neil looked around, tried to get his bearings.

‘This is a pub. Part of that chain that does cheap lager. Wipe your feet on the way out kind of place.’ He paused. ‘Or at least it will be a pub.’

‘Should have definitely kept it as a cinema.’

They joined the queue. They grinned as they listened to the chatter about how epic the film was supposed to be. They don’t know the half of it, whispered Neil.

‘Have you got any money?’ asked Scott.

‘Twenty quid.’

‘That should do it. Especially at Nineteen Seventies prices.’

‘But it’s a new note. They had different notes back then. Bigger notes. What do we do?’

They shuffled along the queue trying to figure out how to buy a ticket without any Seventies currency. They neared the glass ticket booth.

‘I’m not missing this.’ said Neil. ‘Follow me and don’t make eye contact.’

Neil took a deep breath and, staring straight ahead, strode past the ticket booth. Scott hurriedly did the same. They filed into the theatre. They took their seats. The wooden seats were a change from the cinema seats they were used to. At their local multiplex the seats were almost like armchairs. If you were tired then it was all too easy to nod off. Neil had missed ten minutes of the first Harry Potter film that way after having a late night beforehand. But the seats in the Seventies cinema were rickety and uncomfortable.

Neil and Scott shifted in the creaking seats. They got as comfortable as they could. The lights went down. The atmosphere in the theatre was electric. There were gasps and cheers as the now famous writing appeared on screen. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

Scott and Neil joined in the cheering and went along with those seeing the film for the first time. They knew this was special, they knew this was cinematic history.

Two hours later the lights came up. The audience applauded. The lads clapped along.

‘That was class.’ said Neil.

‘The effects were not as good as Blue Ray though.’

‘Mate, this was forty years ago.’

As they were following the throng out of the cinema Neil turned to the young man beside him.

‘Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father.’ he said.

The man stared back with a puzzled look on his face.

Still buzzing from the film they bounced down the street. They ducked down a side street. As they assembled the tent they discussed what they’d just witnessed. They climbed inside. Neil tapped the control panel. He hit Go!

Again it was like the floor disappeared from beneath the tent. They were rocked as the tent seemed to tumble and fall. All kinds of strange sounds filled their ears. Distorted,twisted voices, sounds that seemed like nothing of this world echoed and reverberated through the tent. They fell and fell.

Then it stopped. They hit something with a thump.

‘Looks like we’ve stopped.’

They unzipped the front of the tent. And looked out. They were back in Neil’s tiny flat. They climbed out. They grinned at each other. Neil pointed to the clock on the fireplace.

‘We’ve been gone less than five minutes.’

They flopped onto the sofa. They stared at the tent. It looked like any tent you’d find in any camping store.

‘This is mental.’ said Neil.

Scott nodded.

‘Tell you what, after work tomorrow we’ll go somewhere else.’

‘We don’t have to go to work tomorrow. Not just yet anyway. We can go on a mad trip through time and-’

‘And come back in time to go to work!’

‘Exactly.’

‘All we need to do now is get a good night’s sleep and decide where we  want to go.’

They spent the rest of the evening drinking lager and discussing which periods of time they should visit.

Just before eight o’clock the following morning Neil woke Scott where he’d fallen asleep on the sofa.

‘Morning mate.’ said Neil.

‘Mate, I had this bonkers dream. We bought this tent and we went back in time.’

Neil stepped to one side. Scott sat bolt upright. He stared in disbelief at the tent.

‘You mean that actually happened?’

Neil grinned. Scott sat up, patted his bed head hair.

‘Where are you going?'

‘The Wild West.’

‘Get in!’

‘I’ve checked online. I’m thinking Deadwood, 1876.’

‘Let’s go, partner.’ laughed Scott.

An hour later they entered the tent. Neil punched the date on the panel. He knew Scott was thinking the same thing as him. Would this work again? Could they really go where they wanted in time? He hit the Go button. As the tent rocked and fell they laughed and cheered. Something was happening. The tent was certainly on the move.

The tent slammed to a stop.

They glanced nervously at each other. Then unzipped the front of the tent. Bright summer sun spilled into the tent. They heard bustling noises they couldn’t pinpoint. They rushed out of the tent. The sunlight hurt their eyes.

They emerged on a raised wooden boardwalk. Men on horse-back and horse-drawn carriages trundled up and down the dusty road. People headed along the boardwalk. The men wore cowboy hats, long dark overcoats and waistcoats. Scott noticed a pistol on one man’s hip. He gave Neil a nudge. They stared, eyes wide. They noticed that even those wearing long overcoats had bulges on their hips from the pistols they wore. The women wore flowery long dresses that reached the boardwalk. Neil and Scott stood in shock for a moment. They were actually in the Wild West.

‘Excuse me.’ came a voice from behind.

They turned to see a thin man wearing a white apron.

‘You fellers are blocking my store. Folks won’t be able to get by.’

They mumbled that they were sorry. Neil packed the tent up quickly while the man huffed and puffed at them. They apologised again before shuffling away along the boardwalk. They moved slowly down the street. They stared in awe at their surroundings. The town looked every inch the Wild West frontier town. From the boardwalk, the wooden store fronts, the horses clomping past, it all seemed authentic. As unbelievable as it was, they were back in the Old West.

They came to a large two storey building. The sign out front said the Gem Theatre. The raucous noise from within suggested it was anything but a theatre house. They peered through the large windows.

‘A saloon!’ Scott said.

Neil charged through the double doors. Scott followed.

The large room was packed. Most of the round tables were occupied by men drinking beer or whiskey. They talked, laughed and drank. They smoked pipes or cigars. Women in frilly corsets and stockings draped themselves over some of the men. Neil and Scott crossed the room. The stench of beer, smoke, dirt, sweat and other bodily fluids was overpowering.

They perched at the bar and stared at the scene. A man in a suit behind the bar poured drinks and chatted to customers. He had slicked back hair, a thick moustache and an evil glint in his eye. A customer at the bar mumbled something. The barman spun on his heels.

‘What? What do you mean, you can’t pay?’

A second later a pistol was in his hand. He waved it in the customer’s face.

‘Al,’ the customer stammered. ‘I’ll pay tomorrow, I swear.’

‘You got some sand, drinking and whoring in my place without the funds to pay for it. Come see me tomorrow with the money, else, I’ll come see you.’

As the customer rushed for the door Al fired a shot at the ceiling. The man ran out onto the street. Neil and Scott were frozen to the spot. The others in the saloon did not even look round. Clearly people being shot at was nothing unusual. As they glanced around the room they spotted that every man’s pistol was on display either on their hip or lying on the table top. The six shooters were on the table in front of drinkers as though it was any other possession. Neil smiled. In his day people left their mobile phones on display not guns.

Scott leaned in and whispered to Neil.

‘Check him out.’

He pointed a subtle finger at a man crossing the room. The man was around forty years old. He wore a wide brimmed hat from under which wavy shoulder length hair touched his shoulders. A waved moustache drooped on his face. His suit was immaculate. He moved with such swagger. He walked not so much like he owned the saloon but like he owned the town. The way he moved reminded Neil of John Wayne in the early black and white films.

The man went straight to the space at the bar next to them. The barman placed a glass of whiskey down in front of him. The man nodded thanks. He turned to Scott and Neil. The two men flinched. Scott looked at the floor while Neil chewed on his thumbnail. The man looked them up and down.

‘Them’s might strange duds.’

‘What’s that, mate?’

‘Your clothing.’

‘We’re from England. Everyone in England dresses like this.’

Neil neglected to mention that his England was around one hundred and forty years in the future.

‘England eh? Wont hold that against you none. But there’s some that might.’

Neil and Scott simply smiled.

‘What are your names?’

They introduced themselves. As they shook hands he told them his name.

‘My name is James Butler Hickok. You can call me-’

‘Wild Bill!’ burst Neil.

‘That’s what some call me but Bill is fine. So my reputation has reached as far away as England.’

‘Everyone’s heard of Wild Bill Hickok.’

‘That right? Makes me yearn for the old days. Trouble has a way of being drawn to a man of my reputation. Can I buy you fellers a drink?’

Before Scott could ask for a Smirnoff Ice or any other modern day drink Neil pointed to the whiskey.

‘Two of those, please.’

Neil and Scott sipped the whiskey as Wild Bill told them stories from his days as a lawman.

An hour later Bill necked the whiskey. He tapped his hat to them and mumbled that he had a bit of business to tend to and bid them good-day. They watched him saunter out of the room. They crossed to the door. The famous gun-slinger went over the dusty road to another saloon.

‘Come on.’ said Neil.

He walked slowly in the direction of the other saloon. Scott followed. As they moved across the road a horse and cart narrowly missed them. The driver’s swearing made them burst out laughing. They had no idea what a goldarn yack was but it didn’t sound complimentary. Still chuckling the crossed the boardwalk and went into the saloon. This saloon was more run down than the Gem. Empty glasses and bottles littered the tables, their feet stuck to the wooden floor. Neil and Scott hovered near the bar. They spotted Wild Bill. He was standing by a card table. He was waving his hands in frustration. Neil and Scott could make out what he was saying.

‘Hell, Charlie. Y’all know I sits with my back to the wall when I play poker.’

Charlie replied that, as he won the last hand, he wasn’t moving. Wild Bill shook his head. He reluctantly took his seat with his back to the room.

‘Deal me in.’ he growled.

The card game got under way. Scott turned to Neil.

‘What are we doing now? We’re not just gonna watch this lot play poker, are we?’

Neil shook his head. He jerked a thumb towards the door. They headed towards the exit. A man barged past them. He darted across the room.

‘What’s up with him? Is it last orders or something?’

A second later a shot rang out. The room erupted. Men pushed and shoved, shouted and yelled. Neil and Scott squeezed through the throng of cowboys. Neil swore. Scott gasped.

Wild Bill Hickok lay slumped on the floor. He was face down, blood spilling from the back 9of his head. His lifeless hand still held the poker cards. The hand of two aces and two eights would become known as the Dead Man’s Hand. Scott dragged Neil out of the saloon. They stared at each other on the boardwalk.

‘That was awful.’

‘Brutal, mate. Not like Bonanza is it?’

They found a piece of land by some stables. They quickly assembled the tent. They dived inside and returned to their present day.

They reappeared back in the flat. They were sweating from the Deadwood summer heat but also from the shock of what they had just witnessed. Scott flopped on the sofa with a sigh.

‘I don’t think we should go anywhere else.’

‘Scott we’re just getting started. We can go anywhere. A bit of research, could even get some period clothing online. The possibilities are endless.’

As they munched on chippy dinners Neil talked Scott round. Scott felt better to have hot food inside him. He took a swig of Coke.

‘You know where we should go, Neil?’

‘Go on.’

‘The future.’

‘Great Scott! We’re going Back to the Future.’

They laughed but both wondered just what they would find in the future. They decided that they did not want to venture too far into the future, but no point in going a couple of years as nothing would have changed to be of interest. They settled on sixty years.

‘Twenty seventy five.’ They said aloud.

They scurried into the tent like excited children on a camping trip.

The tent rocked and rolled along. Then stopped. They unzipped the flap and stared out. Manchester city centre looked similar to their present day. They climbed out of the tent, packed it away. They walked along Deansgate. The layout of the street was the same. Coffee shops, bars and restaurants, lined both sides of the street. Customers chatted and laughed, each person had a mobile phone in their hand. Maybe not so much had changed in the sixty years. People were still glued to their mobile phones. Scott pointed to a coffee shop. They decided to get a brew and see what was happening.

They went in the American chain coffee shop. The place was bus. Some customers were smartly dressed in dark business suits, others wore jeans and t-shirts. Most of the people were on their mobile phones. Beeping, screeching, dance music played out over the speakers. The auto-tuned electronic voice sang about love. Neil and Scott found a table. A young waitress in a white apron approached their table. She smiled.

‘Two teas, please.’

‘Tea? Sorry, we don’t serve tea.’

‘Really?’

‘No call for it. My granddad used to drink tea. Nobody these days drinks tea.’

‘What do you have?’

‘We have espresso, cappuccino, mocha, café latte, skinny latte, fatty latte, frapuccino, scappudappertrappucino.’

‘Two coffees with milk. Cheers.’

‘Anything else?’

‘Any chocolate muffins or are the just for the granddads?’

‘Yes, we have muffins.’

‘Two of those as well.’

‘Coming up.’

The waitress returned a few minutes later with their coffee and muffins.

‘That will be forty three pounds please.’

Scott took notes from his wallet.

‘We don’t really take cash.’ She paused. ‘Go on then. My boss will kill me but make sure you have cards with you next time, okay?’

‘Yeah, sorry love.’

She smiled and took the  money.

They discussed quietly how things did not seem all that different from their present day. The waitress returned to their table. She leaned in.

‘Aren’t you going to put a photo of the drinks and cakes on MyLife?’

‘What?’

‘Y’know,MyLife? Social media. You have to put what you do, see, say, think, eat and drink on MyLife.’

‘We’re more anti-social media.’ Neil grinned.

‘But it’s the law.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The Second Freedom of Information Act. The public has to share everything online. You can be fined or even go to prison of you don’t.’

‘But what about privacy?’

‘They say that if you’ve got nothing to hide it should not be a problem. That’s why everyone you see is on their mobile phones.’

They looked around the room. Most of the people were using their phones. They were obviously reporting what they were up to.

‘But not everyone is.’

Scott nodded to a man sitting in the corner.

‘He’s probably a Mech.’

‘What’s that?’

‘A mechanoid. Robots. Machines that look like the rest of us.’

‘Really? He’s a robot?’

‘Shh. You don’t want to get into trouble. The Mechs are campaigning for equal rights.’

‘How’s that work?’

‘They argue that they’re programmed to think and feel like we do, therefore they should have the same rights. Anyway, just be careful.’

She gave them a smile and rushed back to the counter. They stared at the man. Was he a robot? Could that be possible? He looked just like them. He was in his thirties and in need of a shave. He was drinking coffee. Surely the waitress was joking with them. The man turned and stared back at them. Before they could speak the man marched over to them.

‘What are you glaring at? Never seen a mechanoid before? I’m sick of you people treating us like freaks.’

He grabbed Neil by the throat. He lifted him off the ground. Neil coughed and gasped for air as the man’s grip around his throat tightened. The vice-like grip was definitely mechanical. Scott grabbed a chair. He slammed the chair into the robot as hard as he could. The robot let go of Neil and turned to Scott.

Neil knocked the robot to the floor. The two men ran from the café. They raced down the street. Voices came from behind them. They ducked down an alleyway. Neil yanked the tent from his rucksack. The two fumbled, assembled the tent. The robot appeared at the entrance of the alley. He pointed a finger. He ran at them.

Scott and Neil dived into the tent. Scott dragged the zip shut. Neil hit the panel.

The ground fell from beneath them. They bounced and bobbed through time.

Back in the flat they tried to catch their breath. Neil could still feel the robot grip on his throat.

‘I think we need a break from this.’ said Scott.

Neil nodded and went to put the kettle on. Scott took the tent down.

A week later Scott called round to Neil’s flat. The tent was assembled in the living room.

‘Aw mate. We can’t. We decided it was too dangerous.’

‘Hear me out, Scotty lad. No cowboys. No robots from the future. Nothing dangerous, I promise.’

‘What then?’

Neil smiled. He waved two orange tickets at him. Scott took them.

World Championship 1966, Jules Rimet Cup Final Tie, Saturday July 30.

‘What is it?’

‘That, my friend, is a ticket to the World Cup final, 1966.’

‘Where did you get the tickets?’

‘You can buy anything online these days. You up for it then?’

Scott laughed.

Ten minutes later, and fifty years in the past, they were walking up Wembley Way with thousands of football fans. There was a real carnival atmosphere. Those not wearing replica shirts wore rosettes and scarves. A lot of people carried old fashioned wooden rattles.

‘I can’t believe we’re here.’

‘I know. This is history.’

Staring up at the towers of what they knew as the old Wembley they filed into the ground. The atmosphere inside the stadium took their breath away. The England fans were already in the party mood. The crowd was cheering, singing, waving flags. Scott and Neil soaked it all up. They alone  knew that after extra time England would beat Germany 4-2 and that the match would go down in English legend.

The two of them bounced along with the crowd as the match played out. During injury time some fans ran on the pitch. Neil and Scott jumped up and down. They yelled out the famous line from Kenneth Wolstenholme’s television commentary.

Some people are on the pitch… they think it’s all over… then as Geoff Hurst scored again… it is now!

To see in reality the scenes they had watched on television countless times brought a lump to their throats.

After the game they called for a pint in the pub near Wembley Park tube station. The ale house was packed. They shoved their way towards the bar. They squeezed into a gap and waited to be served. Neil noticed a woman behind them. She peered around, scanning the faces in the busy pub. She had long red hair and a mini skirt that showed off her legs. Neil nudged Scott.

‘She looks like Jane Asher when she was going out with Paul McCartney in the Sixties.’

‘If you say so.’ replied Scott.

‘I’m gonna work my magic.’

He pushed his way towards her.

‘Hi love. Are you lost?’

‘I’m looking for my friends. I’m sure they said to meet them in here.’ she said.

‘It’s chaos isn’t it? Good result though.’

‘Yes. I’ll never forget this day.’

‘Nobody will. It will go down in history as the day we won the World Cup.’ said Neil.

‘Definitely. Till we win it again.’

‘I wouldn’t hold your breath.’

She smiled.

‘Your friends could be anywhere. Can I buy you a drink? I’m Neil, by the way.’

‘I’m Jane. And I’ll have a white wine, please.’

‘No worries.’

‘I’m not worried.’

‘I mean, you’re welcome. And Jane? You look like Jane Asher.’

‘I get that a lot.’ She laughed.

‘I’ll introduce you to my friend.’

Neil and Jane pushed through to where Scott stood at the bar. They ordered two pints of bitter and a glass of wine. Neil paid with a Nineteen Sixties five pound note. Scott glanced at him. His expression asked where he’d got the period money from. Neil mouthed internet.

The three of them took their drinks and retreated to the beer garden to enjoy the last of the afternoon sunshine. They found a free table. Jane lit a cigarette. She offered the pack to them. When they both declined she raised an eyebrow.

‘Unusual to find two blokes who don’t smoke. Most people smoke.’

‘Not where we’re from.’ said Neil.

‘Do things differently up North, eh?’

‘In our local pub you can’t even smoke inside. You have to go outside.’

‘Sounds like a different world.’

‘You have no idea.’

Later that evening they walked Jane home. On the doorstep of her redbrick terraced house she shook their hands and thanked them for looking after her. Her hand lingered on Neil’s arm.

‘You’ll have to tell your friends that you were taken care of by two Northern gents.’

‘I will. I can’t believe I couldn’t find them. They can’t have looked very hard for me. And to think, they gave me a hard time the other night because I wanted to stay in and watch Doctor Who.’

They grinned and wished her goodnight.

They found a quiet spot and assembled the tent.

Back in the flat they drank lager and slouched on the sofa. What a day! They had witnessed history. Scott took a swig of lager then spoke.

‘I don’t think we should do this again. I mean, it’s far too dangerous. The past and the future. We don’t know what dangers there are. In the present we know the way the world works. We’ve had our fun but it’s time to call it a day.’

‘But-’

‘We should concentrate on living our lives in the here and now.’

‘Fair enough.’ Neil said.

Six months later.

One evening while watching television an idea popped in Neil’s head. As he tried to sleep that night he could not get the thought from his mind. He should make one last trip. Scott’s mother had died when he was young. There had been an accident one evening. What if Neil could save her? Scott was always a bit uptight, something of a worrier. Perhaps if he had his mother he would be happier. Bundled in the rucksack he had the power to return his best friend’s mother to him. He had to do it, didn’t he? He owed it to him.

The next morning he assembled the tent. It was strange doing it alone. He tapped in the date of the accident in 1991. He hit the Go! Button.

Back in 1991 he went to the phone box on the corner of the street. He dialled his friend’s home phone number. He gasped as Scott’s long dead mother picked up the phone.

‘Hello?’

‘Don’t go out tonight.’

‘What? Who is this?’

‘Something terrible will happen. I know it will.’

‘Is this a threat?’

‘No. Look, stay in tonight and be with your family. Please. Please.’

Neil hung up. He sighed. He hoped it would work.

He climbed back in the tent. He returned to the present day. He went straight round to Scott’s house. He knocked on the door. His mind was racing. Had it worked? Had he managed to do it? Scott opened the door.

‘How’s it going, Scotty lad?’

‘Fine, yes. What can I do for you? Neil, isn’t it?’

‘Of course it’s Neil. I’m your best mate.’

‘We’ve not seen each other for years. We were never friends. To be honest, my mother did not want me hanging round with you. She can be a bit over protective.’

‘I see. But you’re happy though, yeah?’

‘Yes, I think so.’

‘See you around.’

Neil trudged through the streets, hands stuffed into his pockets. He had given Scott back the parent he had lost but in doing so he had cost himself his best friend. He could not undo that. He could not deprive Scott of his mother once again. But Scott was no longer the friend he had grown up with.

Thirty minutes later Neil was inside the tent. He punched the date in the panel. With a lump in his throat he hit the Go! Button.

He knocked on the front door. Jane answered. She smiled.

‘Hello you.’ She said. ‘Here you are. All by yourself again.’

‘What?’

‘When we met after the cup final we were both drinking alone, remember?’

‘Yeah, of course. Anyway, I just wanted to see you again. Long time, no see, and all that.’

‘It was yesterday.’

‘Not for me. Can I buy you a drink?’

Jane nodded.


© Copyright 2020 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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