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On the Travelator of Time

By Allen, L. and Allen, F.

By Hannah MoorePublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 14 min read
On the Travelator of Time
Photo by Klara Kovacsics Suszterne on Unsplash


Two days ago, on Sunday, the 26th of February, 2023, I was eating breakfast, when a book appeared. By which I mean that an orange A5 notebook coalesced in my wife’s cornflakes. You would think, wouldn’t you, that such a thing would cause you to leap to your feet and exclaim “What the gubbins!” before the milk had landed in your lap. But it never ceases to surprise me how little attention “freeze” gets when we think about fight and flight. My wife and I sat absolutely still, spoons midway between now gawping mouths and the polka dot breakfast bowls my parents had brought us back from the souks of Marrakesh last spring, and stared at the book. After some seconds Lucy – that’s my wife – looked at me, and I looked at her, and taking courage from one another’s need of it, we rose to our feet in order to bend down and look more closely at the interloping volume.

Tentatively, I touched a forefinger to the card cover. Finding myself uninjured thus far, I swiftly pulled the book from the cereal, and let it flop semi-soggily onto the mandala printed plastic table cloth my parents had brought us back from Kerala the last autumn. At this point, in common with educated minds the world over when faced with a crisis, my scientific training took over, and, though my breath came fast and my heart raced, I leapt into action.

“Stand back Lucy” I said to my wife, “Fetch a camera and a notebook.” Lucy went quickly through to the study to fetch the equipment I had asked for and I began to think about how best to accurately document this extraordinary phenomenon. First, I thought, I must photograph it accurately, from every angle. Then, I should write a description of it. Thoroughly. Only then, and using as little contact as possible, would I open it and repeat the process.

I was just forming my initial hypotheses when Lucy returned, handing me my digital camera, and a clean orange notebook. I thanked her, then passed her the camera. “Lucy, we need photographs from every angle. You can use the zoom, to keep from getting too close, but make sure you get all sides. I shall make some notes.”

Now, I think it’s important to remember that the greatest minds of our time - Einstein, Aristotle, Freud - have all been at times so consumed with mental machinations of a higher plane, that they may, occasionally, have made small, trifling oversights that the lesser mind, reaching for hand holds by which to tear down the greatness of others, may have laughed at. It is a right of passage, I have heard it said, amongst professors at Oxford, to overhear oneself being mocked for the kind of minor infractions that are only made ridiculous by their incongruity with the genius which otherwise lies within. And so I feel no shame in saying that it was at this moment, as I opened my notebook and prepared to write, that I recognised that the notebook which had so abruptly put paid to a peaceful breakfast, was in fact mine.

“Oh.” I said. “Lucy, it’s mine, look, it’s one of mine”, and I opened, unafraid now, the front cover, to reveal my own dense script beneath. “Quickly! A towel!”

Lucy swiftly scurried to the kitchen, returning with the cottage covered tea towel my parents had just the previous weekend brought us back from the Cotswolds, and began dabbing the pages, soaking up milk and brushing away cornflake crumbs. Meanwhile, my own mind was a-whirr. Could it be? Could it actually be?


My name is Francis Allen. You may have heard of me, though I expect not. I have always been a discreet man. My motivation is the greater good, and any aggrandisement I am subject to is merely an unfortunate by-product of the importance of the role that I play. Let me explain my work. I have been blessed, in my career, to hold great sway in the corridors of power, bringing scientific insight and understanding to the decision making which paves the way for our great nation to move forward at the forefront of global progress. Indeed, this was the title of my most recent report – “Moving forward at the forefront of global progress” – a report which landed on the desk of the chief scientific advisor to the government, no less. My area of special interest is esoteric, shall we say, and I will come to it later, however my job is to synthesise meta-analytic advisory guidance on various scientific advances where such advances intersect directly with the business of the government. I have been instrumental in the consideration of regulatory processes surrounding the use of automated border control technologies (see “The use of artificial intelligences in national defence strategy”, Baker, E.M, Ali, S, L.D., Whittington, F., Myers, R.D and Allen, F.B, 2019) and my work was critical in the decision making around fracking (“Public attitudes to Fracking in areas of outstanding natural beauty”, Collins, D.M., White, P.D., Gabriel, L., Abraham, A. and Allen, F.B., 2018). I have always been very proud of the work I do in my public life, but it is the scientific enquiries I pursue whilst Westminster sleeps which ignite my passions.

Like the alchemists of old, my true life’s work takes place behind closed doors and drawn curtains. And I have had more success here, it seems, than I could ever have dreamed. But I had no idea, until my notebook appeared in my wife’s breakfast two days ago.


Diary entry 21st February 2023

Today I have made good progress. I have honed the technique such that I can now make an object disappear and reappear reasonably intact, travelling around one metre in less than a second. Teleportation is a real possibility now! Lucy says this is a breakthrough that could change the world, and I am inclined to believe her, but for now, I must continue to iron out the imperfections. The mug with the donkey wearing a sombrero which my parents brought us back from Spain in Summer 2018 looked more akin to the Picasso mug they gifted us from Paris the summer before, and I hesitate to pass anything more complex through the process before it can be made more accurate.

Diary entry 24th February 2023

I have had a breakthrough. Inspired by Lucy’s flippant speculation that perhaps a donkey is subject to less resistance than a sombrero, I began to wonder whether by briefly disrupting the flow of time I might force the fractured matter into a parallel dimension, thus minimising the drag caused by the passage of time, such that fewer particles are incomplete on reassembly. It has worked! Today I passed the egg cup with the Kiwi on it, the one my parents brought me from New Zealand in 2020, through the process, and when it was reassembled at the other side of the table, it was completely intact! I am ready for the next stage!

Diary entry 26th February 2023

Today is the day. My excitement has been such that it is only now that I realise what I sacrifice I make. To leave Lucy and the life we have made together is my greatest sadness, and I am comforted only by the knowledge that she will have never known me, and will not, therefore, know of all she has missed. I cannot imagine a world where we two do not meet and fall into our lives together, and perhaps it can be my privilege to hold her for the first time a second time. If my plan works, and this book is returned to me, at last I shall know that I had that privilege. But I do not yet know how many times I must ask her to say goodbye before I achieve my aim.


I do not like to boast, but for the purposes of this story, it must be acknowledged that my intellectual capacity is probably far in excess of yours, or indeed most people’s. I do not place myself in the same category as, say, Newton or Galileo, but history will be my judge, it is not for me to supress the incredible things I have done for the comfort of my own modesty. In the end, it was a simple paradigm shift which enabled me to travel in time.

Where most of my predecessors conceptualised time travel as the movement of themselves through time, I recognised that it was in the movement of time itself that the future of time travel had lain. Think of it like a travellator. My esteemed colleagues wasted years in investigating how they might run up and down the travellator even as the travellator continued on, despite the fact their shoes were stuck fast to the metal panel on which they stood. This was evidently impossible, I could see, and even Lucy commented to me that a person clearly cannot exist in two places at once within the same dimension. After that conversation I had the brilliant idea that a person can only exist once, at any time, and began to work on enabling him to relocate himself at will not by running on the moving travellator, but by altering the speed and direction of the travellator.

I will spare you, for now the intricacies of how this can be done. Even for a mind like my own, being able to first understand and to then operationalise this, has taken, I suspect, over four decades of endeavour. However, suffice it to say that I believe, in theory, that I am at this very moment able to reverse time – that’s right, to travel in time and to do so at will.

There are, however, difficulties. The first is that when one reverses time, one obviously creates a situation where the present simply hasn’t happened yet. Let us say, for example, I would like to go back to 1973 and experience again the joy of receiving the gift of a carved wooded camel my father brought back for me after his first business trip to Egypt. On arrival in 1973, I would be ten years old. I would have had none of the experiences or thoughts of the last forty years, and therefore no evidence that I had returned from the future. So, you see, I would be completely unable to experience that joy again, because I would never yet have experienced it before.

This renders time travel of somewhat limited use.


18th September 2014

It is my belief that I have cracked it. My equations, which I copy here as backup, cannot be faulted. My theory has been interrogated and interrogated again, and no hole has been found. And yet, I must hesitate. To reverse time for me means to reverse time for all mankind, which would mean the loss of all of my work from the chosen date onwards. Surely this cannot be the situation I find myself in? By putting to use this scientific breakthrough, perhaps the most significant breakthrough in the history of humanity and beyond, I will obliterate it. I am in despair. I do not know how to proceed. Lucy does her best to comfort me, but it is impossible not to feel that it has all been for nothing.

29th June 2015

I was strolling in the garden yesterday with Lucy, inspecting our roses for greenfly, when an incredibly unsettling thought occurred to me. Lucy had said something to me about us really having no clue whether we had already reversed time and were living this all again more or less the same as before, and this simple idea, under the gaze of my larger intellect, grew into the question “what if I have already travelled in time and, with the advantage of a modest leaning towards genius, have been able to devise time travel all over again?” How would I know?

1st March 2016

I am wondering if deja-vu is my doing.

9th October 2018

I have an idea. I must work now on finding some means by which I might leave a trace of myself in the present, which might remain even after time is re-passed. In this way, I may be able to confirm that time travel has succeeded, at least.

8th May 2019

I have made no progress. Lucy says that if there were some means of taking something out of the world for the moment it would take to re-set time, then it would surely re-enter the world at more or less the same time as it left, even if ten years had passed in between. Sometimes I wonder at her mind. Such simplicity. Like a child unburdened by the weight of understanding.

December 2019

I fear that my work on time travel and my work on internationally important matters of state must now be brought together as one. I have been hesitant to use the traveling with time protocol due to the high toll this would extract from the world, however, it seems the time has come. A decision was made, based on the faulty reasoning of my colleagues, to withdraw confidential British involvement in important work being undertaken on animal borne pathogens in Wuhan, China, due to the political implications of being seen by the Americans to be working with the Chinese. That my name is on that paper is hardly fair given my minimal role in providing the supporting documents regarding the potential implications of the withdrawal, but now it is a source of shame, for the worst has happened, and a novel coronavirus has been reported in humans linked to the lab.


The arrival of the notebook has changed everything. Here, at last, I have proof! It is funny to think that I was on the cusp of working out how to thrust matter out of this dimension for the split second it takes to pull that travelator out of its trajectory and take time backwards, and then have it return just moments later, in this point in time in this dimension, regardless of how long it took the rest of us to get back here. The notebook has filled in a few gaps for me, but I was nearly there. It is funny to think this is the second time around, at least, and that this time, my work is just a few days or weeks of progress away from where it was last time. I wonder what slowed me down this time. Perhaps we should not have taken that holiday to Hastings. But then, it could have been catching the flu in 1982 and missing three days of lectures in my second year of university. Or maybe the day I took Lucy to dinner and she fell and broke her foot and we had to wait nine hours in the hospital. Clearly I had some unknown time advantage previously. I will never know, but what this tells me is that it works!

Obviously, I have been back once already. It is evident from my notebook that I have changed the world, but I have not left myself any reminder of how – how I achieved it, how many repetitions it took. Lucy says that maybe I had confidence that I would work it out again, if I had worked it out once. But I think perhaps I wanted to seal off changes I didn’t want to risk undoing. I wonder if I omitted those details on the fleeting chance that I might not get to this point once again. This is my thinking. The evidence is clear that I, with all my enormous capacity for thought, can only think my way down the same path, over and over again. What hope other people have I don’t know. I imagine poor old Lucy was probably wearing exactly the same blouse on this day the last time she lived it! My parents probably gifted us the same tartan tea cosy from their trip to Scotland for Hogmanay 2022 the first time around! So it is clear that intelligence alone cannot change history. That, I believe, we must leave to chance!

In 2017, my department and I were given two projects to report on, and split into two groups. The first was to be a projection of the possible role of artificial intelligence in issues of defence, and the other, an analysis of the utility of continued investment in overseas animal borne pathogen research. Both team leads wanted the AI project. Lucy says I was destined to get that one, because they need minds powerful enough to keep up with the computers, but nobody got the choice. We flipped a coin for it.


29th April 2020

My mother has the coronavirus. She has been taken to hospital, but she is very sick, and I cant go to see her at all. Lucy says thank goodness for Facetime, but its scant comfort, really. My father is unwell at home and I am worried he is not looking after himself. I feel responsible. So many people are dying, and I have failed to stop it. Lucy says I cannot take all of this on myself, I have done my best throughout, but I always thought my best was better than this. Theoretically, I should be able to go back in time, and if I can go back in time, surely I can change this?

2nd May 2020

My mother died today. My father is on a ventilator. Lucy says why not keep trying.

Sci Fi

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  • Kendall Defoe3 months ago

    Impressive...and sad and brilliant at the right moments. Keep writing! ;)

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