Author: Phil Temples
“Centre for Metropolitan History,” Ross Livingston speaking.”
The youthful historian answered his desk phone with all of the authority he could muster given the fact it was only his second day on the job at the prestigious institution, situated in Senate House at the University of London in Bloomsbury.
There was a brief burst of static on the line. The quality of the line was quite poor and Livingston assumed that he was receiving an international call from a third-world country. He repeated his greeting once more. Finally, after a considerable delay, an echoic voice responded.
“Is this… is this Sir Ross?”
“I beg your pardon?”
/He thinks I’m knighted? Sidney must have set someone up to prank me./
This is Dr. Ross Livingston. How may I help you?”
“Yes—yes, quite right. Hello! I’m wondering if you might be of assistance. We’re looking for information about a certain political figure, a City councillor who served the constituents of Ward 5. Her name was Ms. Ruth Whitley.”
“Whitley… Whitley… let me see…”
As Livingston typed the name into the search field of his computer, another burst of static came across the line. It made him even more curious to know where the party was calling from. The accent belonging to the voice on the other end didn’t sound like that of a foreigner; instead, it was crisp, proper English diction spoken by someone of upper-class stature. It also contained a slight lilt that he couldn’t quite identify.
“I’m very sorry, sir. I can’t seem to find any reference to a politician by that surname. Can you tell me the approximate dates she served in government?”
“Certainly. It would have been sometime between February 2024 to October 2027.”
Livingston was starting to get annoyed.
“Look, did my roommate Sidney Harris put you up to this?”
“Um. Excuse me, Sir Ross… I mean… Dr. Livingston. I don’t know this Sidney Harris person. You’ll have to forgive me. Ah… say, what date are you at right now?”
“Look, I’m beginning to… Okay, I’ll play along. It’s November 2, 2021.”
There was a momentary pause on the other end of the line.
“Oh. I’m terribly sorry! You see, most of the records of London’s governance were lost in the data crash of 2128 and I thought that someone from your period might be able to… Well, I guess I made a wee bit of a mistake. This was supposed to be a call placed to Sir Ross Livingston in the year 2065. Please—just forget all about our little conversation, okay? I’ll call the other you in forty-four years. But if I may say, Sir Ross, it’s a genuine honor! Your distinguished monographs on time-history dilation are—or rather, will—become standard reading for generations of researchers. Cheers.”
That made me smile. Well done.