The Clerk

He is sitting in his cube. His eyes are half on his PC glossing through the document open and half checking out the pretty girl in the next cube. A lowly clerk in his division, and one of the lowest in the food-chain, very few people even knew his name. He hated his job which was to proof read first drafts.

“What horrible grammar! Why don’t these people first attend a basic course in English before doing all this heavy duty stuff. Will make my job much easier.”

“Hey you! We don’t pay you to ogle at girls! Get back to your work.”

He quickly proof-read the document and forwarded it to his manager and went on to the next one. He thought about how he couldn’t care less if the distance between two legs of a transistor was in the picometer range, or if a circuit less than a pinhead’s size could arbitrate between a thousand antennae. Cutting edge technology they say. Breakthrough inventions they say. Never before seen they say. Boring he says.

His manager came up to him suddenly.

“You, there is a crackpot downstairs claiming some major breakthrough and wanting to see me. I don’t have time for this nonsense. You can go and pretend to be me. Throw some polysyllabic words around and see if he gets scared. Get rid of him somehow.”

He reaches the lobby. A well-dressed gentleman is sitting composedly on a settee. He is surprised therefore when the security guard took him up to him and told him that the gentleman is the one who insisted on seeing him.

“How can I help you sir?”

“Thank you sir for meeting me. Can we go somewhere private and talk. It is not safe if we are overheard.”

“Of course Mr …”

“Smith, John Smith. You might have realised that it is actually a pseudonym. I can’t compromise myself or the organisation I am representing.”

Though not particularly bothered about any organisation, he did not say anything to dampen Smith’s enthusiasm.

“Of course, we can go outside, there is a cafe nearby where we can have a private chat.”

They proceed to a rather shady looking cafe adjacent to the office they had just exited. Finding a quiet seat in the corner, they begin their discussion.

“So Mr. Smith, why this top-secret meeting and what is this invention you want to talk to me about?”

“Two words – time travel.”

“Time travel eh? Seen a lot of that. As far as I know, no one has managed a practical solution to traveling through subatomic ether first. Send your plans to my secretary and he will verify your claims. Then we can talk.”

“With all due respect, it is way above your pay grade and way above your education level.”

“Oh so you know a lot about me eh?”

“I know for a fact that you are just a clerk impersonating your manager but you are exactly the person we wanted to see. Details of this meeting won’t go any further because let us face it, no one would believe a no mark like you. We have means of knowing your whereabouts too just in case you aren’t clear about your predicament yet.”

“But why me?”

“Oh for that you need to know what happened. Here we go, in simple terms, we discovered that whenever we do any form of time travel, we go to a parallel universe. We made several such trips. The trips were quite enlightening; in one journey we found that though the era was same, they are not as technologically advanced as us and are still struggling with concepts that children in our universe learn in kindergarten itself. Just as an experiment, we then did something that will change their universe forever. We will be observing their progress every once in a while using an anchor we created with which we can go directly to that universe rather than random ones.”

“What did you do?”

“We told your good self from that universe, something that will change the course of their history.”

A morbid curiosity grips him and he asks, “What did I learn in that universe?”

“Let me put it to you this way, Mr Einstein, in that universe, patent clerks from Switzerland are sure to be looked on with respect.”

Inspired by http://xkcd.com/1067/

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4 comments

  1. One of those short stories where the whole punch of the entire short story is packed in the last paragraph which is hardly more than a single-liner. Loved it. Possibly your best till date.

  2. My word, anna. What a top class story. I can’t believe I am reading it only now.

    Agreeing with Firdous. Your best work till date.

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