Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
I look up as Anthony strides in, closing the door behind him.
“You closed the door. What’s gone wrong?”
He grins, then hands me a metallic tube. I turn it over. A courier tube, used for documents too precious for digital transmission. I spin my chair to bring it under the light. It’s pitted and scarred, abraded through age and exposure.
“A mystery! An artefact of modern creation tarnished like a relic.”
“That’s the problem. This came out of the autofind from Deep Sixteen.”
“That chunk of Pangaea hasn’t been above sea level since the mid-Triassic!”
Anthony leans in: “Still isn’t. It’s just outside Davy Jones’ Locker and likely to remain there for a while to come.”
“You’re not telling me something.”
He pivots to land in the armchair by my desk: “I thought it was a practical joke until I looked inside.”
“Inside? You did that-”
“Under controlled circumstances. It was encrusted with centuries of crud. But the contents? Go ahead. Look. You won’t believe me if I tell you.”
I unscrew the end of the tube and peer inside. There’s some kind of flimsy. Pulling it out, I unfold it and peer through the thin piece of transparent plastic at Anthony.
“Wait for it. It needs to pick up a charge.”
There are words appearing on the sheet. Glowing words. As they form sentences, I feel my mouth drop open.
My name is Tristan Mokolan. I lived in Bellsringham, London. I have been marooned in the Triassic era long enough to know that I will die here. My time manipulation technology has been stolen by my former partner, Bertrand Hallsey. He knocked me out and dumped me here as a cruel way to ensure my disappearance.
I don’t care about his reasons. I just want my Anna to know that I was coming to her with the ring she said she’d wear. I didn’t desert her or Sharna, her daughter. I intended to be the husband and father they trusted me to be.
The small sheet is filled with words. There isn’t room for more, no matter how much I will it.
“Good gods.” I put the sheet down and the message fades out.
Anthony hands me the other glass of vodka he’s poured: “And several devils.”
“It’s a recently proposed thirty-third borough, comprising a chunk of northwest Bromley.”
“So, this is a 235-million-year-old message in a bottle from a genius who lives in a place that doesn’t yet exist about a perfect crime that hasn’t happened?”
“Then how did a metal tube survive that long?”
His expression turns serious: “It’s a ceramic-plastic-metallic alloy and I can’t even imagine the technology needed to make the technology that actually made it.”
“And this flimsy?”
“Didn’t dare mess with it.”
Anthony looks at me: “What now?”
We’ve already come to an unspoken agreement: we have to try.
“When we get home tonight, we set up clauses in our wills that hand a sealed copy of the message down through the generations until a borough called Bellsringham exists and a scientist by the name of Tristan Mokolan lives there.”
Anthony grins: “We’ll never know. I can live with that.”
Everything lurches, like reality tripped over a kerb. I grab the wastebin and puke into it. Anthony is clutching the arms of the chair in a white-knuckle grip. On the table is a plain white card with the words ‘Thank you’ written on it. The tube and flimsy are gone.
While we stare at each other, shaking in wide-eyed shock, the card hisses as it evaporates.