Tea Time

 

Things aren’t made the way they used to be. Take time: time used to have a much nicer quality than it does today. And light: when was the last time you got proper light? And something seemed to have happened to all the spaces, like they’d been … sort of shrunk down and actual space taken out of them … So it really wasn’t his fault when he stopped time.

He was trying to build time machine, okay? Never mind why. He had his reasons. He hadn’t meant to rip a hole in the fabric of causality. He just wanted to go back and make things right. Instead of just having them seem to go more and more wrong. And now there was a gaping lapis-edged void twinkling with stars and infinite blackness facing him from across the workshop, and he couldn’t get to the kettle or the sink. Never travel through time without a cup of tea – he thought he’d read that somewhere. Or else the thought had occurred to him in one of those times in the wee small hours, when the world is all your own. The other thing, of course, was that there was … like a “time ghost” blocking his way.

She was beautiful. Not just ordinarily beautiful, but beautiful in the way that lines of blue light flowed through the air like the most perfect sketch of a person, etched in time. She echoed with life.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ she said, stepping in front of the rip. ‘This rift is not stable. It needs to heal and disappear. Then time will resume, and it will be as if it never happened.’

‘Who are you?’ he asked.

The time-ghost smiled. ‘Not a bad question to ask, in the circumstances. I am a might-have-been, an if-only, a shadow of a memory – a spirit of being.’

He looked at her, disbelieving. ‘But—’

‘Oh, I’m as human as the next man,’ she said, glancing at him as if she was beginning to enjoy herself. ‘And who knows,’ she added with a twinkle, ‘we might even have known each other at some point in time and space, through the byways of being. Somewhere, anyway. You have another question?’

‘Um, would you like a cup of tea?’

The spirit nodded with satisfaction. ‘Ah, another very good question.’

‘It’s just – can you … sort of reach the kettle and the teabags? I can’t without crossing the rift.’

‘I believe I can,’ she said with a smile. ‘We shall have a cup of tea,’ she said moving about among the tea things, ‘since you so graciously offered.’

He was a little unsure if she was making fun of him. She turned towards him amid the tinkling of spoons and cups. ‘And we shall talk of many things. Of life and time, and might-have-beens.’

He didn’t quite know what to say to that.

‘Now, tell me,’ she said floating closer and handing him a gently steaming cup and saucer. ‘Why do you seek to travel the temporal plane? Why do you risk everything?’

There was a long silence.

She looked up from her cup. Then she nodded and reached up a finger to brush away a tear.

He felt the ghostlike touch under his eye and a tingling frisson like a perfect moment.

‘I think I begin to understand,’ she said. She patted his hand. ‘Drink up, before it gets cold. Never underestimate the importance of a good cup of tea to the process of time-travel.’

He looked up sharply.

She had her cup held over her face, but he got the feeling there was an inscrutable smile twitching across her features.

*

The teacups were on the sideboard. The spirit was looking brighter. She was glancing back at the rift and then at him. She appeared to reach a decision.

‘Here,’ she said, ‘take my hand, and we’ll walk awhile. The repairman probably won’t get round to this rift for a while. And who knows, maybe we’ll even bump into a few people along the way.’

He looked at her. ‘Do I have to come back afterwards?’

She glanced back. ‘We can talk about it. Can I borrow a scarf? The infinite void gets a bit chilly round about now.’

He lent her his scarf. The faded wool seemed to suit the time-spirit. The outlines of light in the air seemed to fill out a bit when she put it on, gaining solidity and colour. ‘Ready?’ she said.

He nodded.

They drew back the way she explained to him, took a leaping dancing step towards the rift, and disappeared in a twinkle like a pair of stars fluttering in the air for a moment.

One happy moment.

You take them where you can get them.

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  1. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    You’re writing is something special, Andrew.  I know it would take me 20 pages to get that much story into a story.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Very good again, Andrew. Questions to be answered later.

    … but …

    “rip a whole in the fabric of causality?” I read on trying to figure out if that was intentional or not. Maybe you did rip a whole.

    • #2
  3. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You’re writing is something special, Andrew. I know it would take me 20 pages to get that much story into a story.

    Thank you, Judge. I really appreciate that right now. (Although in fairness, if I recall rightly, in the most recent part of Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel I think it did take me the full 20 pages. But that was a bad day on the fairway, you understand. Maybe if I use a niblick?)*

    *: I always did like Wodehouse’s golf stories. And I’m not even sure what a niblick looks like. 

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You’re writing is something special, Andrew. I know it would take me 20 pages to get that much story into a story.

    Thank you, Judge. I really appreciate that right now. (Although in fairness, if I recall rightly, in the most recent part of Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel I think it did take me the full 20 pages. But that was a bad day on the fairway, you understand. Maybe if I use a niblick?)*

    *: I always did like Wodehouse’s golf stories. And I’m not even sure what a niblick looks like.

    A nine iron.

    • #4
  5. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Percival (View Comment):

    Very good again, Andrew. Questions to be answered later.

    … but …

    “rip a whole in the fabric of causality?” I read on trying to figure out if that was intentional or not. Maybe you did rip a whole.

    Er, I remember noticing that when I was going through. I can’t even claim type-gremlins on that one. Won’t be a moment. 

    Wait, questions? Um, would you believe I was told there would be no math . . . ?

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Very good again, Andrew. Questions to be answered later.

    … but …

    “rip a whole in the fabric of causality?” I read on trying to figure out if that was intentional or not. Maybe you did rip a whole.

    Er, I remember noticing that when I was going through. I can’t even claim type-gremlins on that one. Won’t be a moment.

    Wait, questions? Um, would you believe I was told there would be no math . . . ?

    The nature of time ghosts. The identity of the repairman. If you repair rifts in time, do you charge by the hour?

    • #6
  7. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Percival (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You’re writing is something special, Andrew. I know it would take me 20 pages to get that much story into a story.

    Thank you, Judge. I really appreciate that right now. (Although in fairness, if I recall rightly, in the most recent part of Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel I think it did take me the full 20 pages. But that was a bad day on the fairway, you understand. Maybe if I use a niblick?)*

    *: I always did like Wodehouse’s golf stories. And I’m not even sure what a niblick looks like.

    A nine iron.

    Huh, you don’t see many knights in plus-fours these days. Which reminds me of a very interesting story, which since you are so interested, I will now proceed to relate . . .

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You’re writing is something special, Andrew. I know it would take me 20 pages to get that much story into a story.

    Thank you, Judge. I really appreciate that right now. (Although in fairness, if I recall rightly, in the most recent part of Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel I think it did take me the full 20 pages. But that was a bad day on the fairway, you understand. Maybe if I use a niblick?)*

    *: I always did like Wodehouse’s golf stories. And I’m not even sure what a niblick looks like.

    A nine iron.

    Huh, you don’t see many knights in plus-fours these days. Which reminds me of a very interesting story, which since you are so interested, I will now proceed to relate . . .

    The real ones, with “Sir” prepended to their names, probably can be caught on the links about as often as anyone else. Merlin says “golf is a good walk spoiled” but I think he lifted that from Mark Twain.

    • #8
  9. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Percival (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Very good again, Andrew. Questions to be answered later.

    … but …

    “rip a whole in the fabric of causality?” I read on trying to figure out if that was intentional or not. Maybe you did rip a whole.

    Er, I remember noticing that when I was going through. I can’t even claim type-gremlins on that one. Won’t be a moment.

    Wait, questions? Um, would you believe I was told there would be no math . . . ?

    The nature of time ghosts. The identity of the repairman. If you repair rifts in time, do you charge by the hour?

    Can I get you a cup of tea? I think I’d have to write it to find out more definitely. This one just sort of started emerging about an hour ago and left me blinking in the starlight, so to speak. 

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Very good again, Andrew. Questions to be answered later.

    … but …

    “rip a whole in the fabric of causality?” I read on trying to figure out if that was intentional or not. Maybe you did rip a whole.

    Er, I remember noticing that when I was going through. I can’t even claim type-gremlins on that one. Won’t be a moment.

    Wait, questions? Um, would you believe I was told there would be no math . . . ?

    The nature of time ghosts. The identity of the repairman. If you repair rifts in time, do you charge by the hour?

    Can I get you a cup of tea? I think I’d have to write it to find out more definitely. This one just sort of started emerging about an hour ago and left me blinking in the starlight, so to speak.

    Best way. Don’t overthink it. 

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Another lovely vision, Andrew.

    • #11
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Mind that if you stitch the stories together into a longer work, that you pay attention to the details.

    People have been asking “who killed the chauffeur” for 81 years now.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):

    Mind that if you stitch the stories together into a longer work, that you pay attention to the details.

    People have been asking “who killed the chauffeur” for 81 years now.

    An elephant crossed with a rhinoceros.

    • #13
  14. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Another lovely vision, Andrew.

    Thank you. Hope you enjoyed it.

    • #14
  15. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    Percival (View Comment):

    Mind that if you stitch the stories together into a longer work, that you pay attention to the details.

    […]

    Thank you, I’ll try and keep that in mind.

    • #15
  16. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You’re writing is something special, Andrew. I know it would take me 20 pages to get that much story into a story.

    Thank you, Judge. I really appreciate that right now. (Although in fairness, if I recall rightly, in the most recent part of Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel I think it did take me the full 20 pages. But that was a bad day on the fairway, you understand. Maybe if I use a niblick?)*

    *: I always did like Wodehouse’s golf stories. And I’m not even sure what a niblick looks like.

    A nine iron.

    That doesn’t help . . . 

    • #16
  17. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Mind that if you stitch the stories together into a longer work, that you pay attention to the details.

    […]

    Thank you, I’ll try and keep that in mind.

    On the other hand, if you do write something as good as Chandler’s The Big Sleep, it won’t matter much. When Howard Hawks who was directing the movie based on the book asked that very question, Chandler responded “hell if I know.”

    I love that story.

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    You’re writing is something special, Andrew. I know it would take me 20 pages to get that much story into a story.

    Thank you, Judge. I really appreciate that right now. (Although in fairness, if I recall rightly, in the most recent part of Once Upon a Spinning-Wheel I think it did take me the full 20 pages. But that was a bad day on the fairway, you understand. Maybe if I use a niblick?)*

    *: I always did like Wodehouse’s golf stories. And I’m not even sure what a niblick looks like.

    A nine iron.

    That doesn’t help . . .

    • #18
  19. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    Lovely story! Leaves much scope for the imagination.

    • #19
  20. OldDanRhody's speakeasy Member
    OldDanRhody's speakeasy
    @OldDanRhody

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    that was a bad day on the fairway, you understand. Maybe if I use a niblick?)*

    *: I always did like Wodehouse’s golf stories. And I’m not even sure what a niblick looks like. 

    I’ve been considering making a little pitch-and-putt course  behind my house.  I’ll need a niblick and a putting cleek, but I don’t want to have to buy a whole set of clubs just to get those two.

    Intriguing story, by the by.

    • #20
  21. Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito
    @HankRhody

    Percival (View Comment):
    The nature of time ghosts. The identity of the repairman. If you repair rifts in time, do you charge by the hour?

    Of course they charge by the hour. The union wouldn’t have it otherwise.

    • #21
  22. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Very interesting indeed, as usual for Andrew’s writing.

    • #22
  23. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    OK, I said “interesting”, because I was, well, somewhat floored by the beauty of the writing but had no immediate way to define what I liked so much. Here’s a metaphor: there are two main themes to The Twilight Zone.

    The one we all know and can hum, on strings and bongo drums, is by French experimental composer Marius Constant. And that’s not the one I’m comparing Andrew’s time travel story to. 

    The other theme is the first season’s, by famous film composer Bernard Herrmann. It’s not easily hum-able, so it’s harder to remember, but it was captivating, subtle and mysterious. That’s why it reminds me of Andrew’s writing. You could look it up on YouTube. 

    • #23
  24. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    You could look it up on YouTube. 

    • #24
  25. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Percival (View Comment):

    Very good again, Andrew. Questions to be answered later.

    … but …

    “rip a whole in the fabric of causality?” I read on trying to figure out if that was intentional or not. Maybe you did rip a whole.

    Eddies in the time-space continuum.

    • #25
  26. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    The nature of time ghosts. The identity of the repairman. If you repair rifts in time, do you charge by the hour?

    Of course they charge by the hour. The union wouldn’t have it otherwise.

    I’m not sure what manner of union employee others imagine when they think of someone fixing time but I like to imagine a plumber. That might be because I find the idea of time-plungers and time-snakes to be amusing.

    • #26
  27. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Very good again, Andrew. Questions to be answered later.

    … but …

    “rip a whole in the fabric of causality?” I read on trying to figure out if that was intentional or not. Maybe you did rip a whole.

    Eddies in the time-space continuum.

    Wait … whut?

    • #27
  28. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    The nature of time ghosts. The identity of the repairman. If you repair rifts in time, do you charge by the hour?

    Of course they charge by the hour. The union wouldn’t have it otherwise.

    I’m not sure what manner of union employee others imagine when they think of someone fixing time but I like to imagine a plumber. That might be because I find the idea of time-plungers and time-snakes to be amusing.

    Captures the “flow of time”, too.

    And time reclamation plants — time being limited as it is.

    • #28
  29. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Do you happen to know if Yevgeny Zamyatin picked up any of his scene-setting techniques from you? It would have required a working time-travel mechanism, of course.   (I’m currently finishing up his novel, “We.”)

     

    • #29
  30. Andrew Miller Member
    Andrew Miller
    @AndrewMiller

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Do you happen to know if Yevgeny Zamyatin picked up any of his scene-setting techniques from you? It would have required a working time-travel mechanism, of course.

    “Is your openings, friend Andrew, something’s got to be done about your openings! Quick, get in time vehicle, no time to explain!”

    (Aside from blushing I don’t know quite why, I hadn’t heard of that writer before. Maybe people I’ve liked have read him, though, and something’s sort of filtered through. Or maybe there’s just something in the starlit air. Never know.) 

    • #30