Short Story Time

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/

The Midnight Flight

The light above the front-door started flickering and then went off without a fuss.

“Not again! Why does this happen every time I am in a hurry?” cursed Hari. He tried opening the door with the key and ran through the entire bunch before finding the fitting one.

“Unbelievable, if I had started at the other end, it would still have been the last key.”

It was pitch dark inside and so he began searching the pockets of his jacket for a torch he was sure that he had. He promptly found a screwdriver, three screws, a chewing gum and even the key to his previous car but not the candle. Shaking his fist at the spectre of Murphy gloating malevolently over him, he resigned himself to his fate and began using his mobile to navigate around the house.

“Let there be light”, he muttered sardonically while switching on the mobile light. He peeked a glance at his watch. He was quite behind schedule. He had a midnight flight out of the country to catch and the car was coming in less than fifteen minutes. In that time he had to pack everything as well as clean up. Remembering the spate of robberies in that neighbourhood he made a mental note to not leave anything valuable behind.

He went into the bedroom and started checking the various almirahs and drawers to see if he had missed anything. She had told him to clean up the place before he left. He hated the cleaning but knew that she will give him trouble if he did not follow what she said. He shuddered slightly remembering the last time such a thing had happened. He felt a faint tingle remembering the lashings that he received.

“Women! No point arguing with them. As somebody wise told, a man has got to do what a woman has told him to do. Or was that something different? Who cares.”

While cleaning up, his mind started wandering and he began thinking about his job. Years of experience had lent a mechanical bent to it. Truth be told, he was quite fed up with his work and wanted to start afresh somewhere. He had almost quit several times but financial difficulties as well as the fact that he was not much good at anything else always brought him back.

“Beggars can’t be choosers and at least I am better off than some of my ex-colleagues”, he consoled himself. Finishing everything, he took a quick glance to ensure that everything was fine and walked out.

“Shit, I forgot to call her. She will be livid. And where is that bloody car? It was supposed to be here five minutes back.”

The car came almost at that moment and identifying himself, he got into it. And the car drove off. He took out his phone and dialled her number.

“Ma’am, I have done everything you told me. I am going to the airport and will be out of the loop for some time while I enjoy that well-earned holiday.” His tone belied how intimidated he was by his boss.

He threw his phone out and taking off the mask and gloves which were stifling him, he began enjoying the wind blowing in through the open windows of his getaway car.