The following account was found on my desk here a little while ago,
written out in a hurried longhand on the back of a slightly crumpled
A4-sized booklet. The room had been locked since I had left it, and there
was no indication of how the message came to be there. The only possible
clue was a slight static charge lingering in the air, and a faint but
unmistakable smell of burning. Both faded rapidly.
I've converted the account to the third person for your edification and
entertainment, but it is otherwise unaltered. It describes events which
are apparently to take place many hours into the future from my
perspective, and details the closing of the saga of Bob & Wendy.
Bob walked back into Jim’s bar, feeling a bit better after having stood
out in the evening air for the past few minutes. The evening was wearing
on all too rapidly, and he knew that before long the dreaded moment
would arrive: the Goodbye for the Summer. Pausing just inside the doorway,
he allowed his gaze to rest on Wendy, sitting across the room with the
various other 3rd year CS students, and his mind drifted back to his train
of thought as it had been earlier in the afternoon.
Chris Johnson’s athletic pacing up and down the Bute Hall had gone mostly
unnoticed by Bob, who had finished the exam with plenty of time to spare.
The natural exhilaration of having completed the final exam of the year
had never really taken hold; his mind was too focused on Wendy. Despite
the strength of his feelings, and even despite the inter-dimensional sword
concealed in his bag, he had to admit that it just wasn’t going to work
out between them.
She was clearly devoted to Hans, who wasn’t really such a bad guy when
not portrayed as a Die Hard-style technicolor villain. She’d been with him
for this long, and that surely had to count for something. Also, she was
just about to walk (or rather, drive) out of his life for more than three
months, during which they’d not even be in the same country. Certainly not
the ideal setting for a budding relationship. “No matter how truly
acecore it would have been”, he muttered to himself, drawing a sharp glare
from Rob “Mc” Sutherland who was also patrolling the exam hall.
Now, hours later as he looked across the bar at her, a grim acceptance began
to form. He’d simply have to accept this and try to move on as best he could.
She glanced up, somehow aware of being watched, but he had already averted
his eyes and resumed his course towards one of the other tables in the cluster
which had been occupied by increasingly drunken would-be computing scientists.
Had he made eye-contact with her at that point, he would have found her
Time ran both quickly and slowly, as it does on occasions which are both a
beginning and an ending, and finally, from the corner of his eye, he saw
her rise from her chair. In retrospect, the lurch his stomach executed on cue
wasn’t quite as bad as he might earlier have predicted. This, then, was it.
At length, having said her goodbyes to almost everyone else, she finally
reached the table where he sat with his few closest friends. He stood up, and
set his face in a well-practised and hopefully breezy smile. She was saying
something now, but it was scarcely registering. Perhaps a thank-you for
revision help during the exams, or best wishes for the holiday period.
He managed to respond almost automatically. He hoped she’d have a great summer
too. Yes, he’d certainly stay in touch. Of course she’d be back for 4th year.
And so on.
The pleasantries drew to a close, and she began to turn to leave. Without
being aware of having thought about it, he kissed her on the cheek; the
gesture of a friend. Innocuous. Reasonable. She smiled. He thought that
that might just be enough.
Then she was gone, and time resumed its normal pace. The environment
regained its suddenly brash and somehow crass loudness and vibrance. In the
ages-old tradition observed in such situations, he ordered another drink.
The evening passed quickly after that. More drinks, food, dancing at the
Shack (if he could ever justifiably be accused of dancing, anyway), and
at last he was alone, having split off from the last stragglers of the CS
group ostensibly to try to catch the final bus. Thankfully no-one else was
in much of a state of realise that any bus service must surely have finished
several hours before.
It was always surprising how quickly the streets quietened once you’d moved
away from the city centre, and it wasn’t at all long before he found himself
entirely alone and unobserved. He stopped, resting for a moment on a low wall,
lost in thought. Seeming to come to a decision, he reached into his bag and
took out a pen and the IS3 exam paper from earlier that day, turning it over
to the blank back page. Pausing only intermittently, he wrote until almost
the entire page was covered in dense scrawl. Satisfied, he returned the pen
to his bag, and drew out a very different object.
The inter-dimensional sword barely reflected the ugly glare of the sodium
streetlamps, which was perhaps for the best in case anyone watched him at
that moment from any of the countless darkened windows above and all around.
Nor was he particularly concerned about that possibility. It wasn’t like the
police would believe such wild stories anyway, even if they had nothing better
to do on a Friday night in the city.
The blade whispered as it flew through the air, tearing open the fabric of
reality with almost no resistance at all, and the street was briefly
illuminated far more brightly than it had been a moment before. Then, all
was normal once again, except that the young man who had stood there was now
nowhere to be found. Had anyone passed by immediately afterwards, they might
have remarked upon a lingering static charge in the atmosphere around a low
wall by the side of the street, or a faint odour of smoke and ash, but at
that hour the streets away from the city centre are quiet and mostly deserted.
No-one passed that way for many hours, by which time no trace of anything
at all unusual could be found.
Many miles away, Wendy had arrived home hours before, and had spent the
evening with Hans. She occasionally wondered if anything particularly
noteworthy had happened on the CS crowd’s night out, but her curiosity wasn’t
particularly strong. They were great folk, but they were also computing
scientists, she smiled warmly to herself as she began to drift off to sleep.
And as everyone knew, computing scientists of all people aren’t renowned
for being surrounded with high drama, intrigue or adventure. A compiler
error is usually the talking point of any given day, and a Java-related
chat-up line is plain outrageous. No, she was pretty sure that whilst it
would no doubt have been a great evening, in the grand scheme of things
Friday the 4th of June 2004 was surely nothing at all out of the ordinary.
That's all he wrote. God knows where good old Bob will be when Saturday arrives,
but personally I feel better having heard in advance how this thing will all pan
out. I was going to write up some crappy story-style ending, but thanks to finding
the note I've had time to revise some of Chris Johnson's notes for the IS3 exam
tomorrow. So, thanks in advance, Bob. Much appreciated dude.
Strange to think that less than a day and a half from now he'll be gone, out of
time and space to Somewhere Else. Kind of fucks with your head really. That's
assuming that it'll happen that way at all, and that I've not somehow altered
the future timeline by just <em>posting</em> this stuff. Man. I think I could probably
do with a beer at this point.
There's one thing I am sure of, though: even if it does all finish up the way
the note describes, that won't be the end. I know Bob pretty well, and take it
from me: Bob <em>will</em> return.