The bonnet of the car was open and Nigel was hip-deep inside the belly of the beige Ford Cortina, “a true classic” as he always insisted no matter how many times his friends called it “a colossal pile of shit”. He’d owned her for nearly 18 years now and had spent more time underneath than he had driving her. “Essential repairs are just that on a model this old”, he’d said to anyone unfortunate enough to listen.
But for the last few years he’d barely left his beloved’s side. The Cortina was different. It didn’t purr like an engine should more roared like a waterfall. It’s dials didn’t tick the right way and, most bizarrely of all for an ‘80s Ford, there was thing on it that was always perfectly reliable. The clock.
Leofrick wiped his dirty hands on his trousers. It did little to clean them due to how much grime was ingrained on the fabric, but it made him feel cleaner even if it did nothing else. He leant on his tiller. It had been quite the uneventful day. The sun beat down, the ground got worked, time carried on. He spied the inn just over the way and licked his lips. Best part of the job, he thought, half pay in cider. Off in the distance a church bell chimed 4 times. 2 hours to go.
Nigel had taken it apart on more than one occasion to see why this clock was so special, and every time the workings had been different. When he’d first taken the face away it had been constructed of delicate brass cogs and gears, all ticking away in perfect, mechanical rhythm. Months later, when he wanted to rescue the contraption from it’s otherwise knackered home, the gubbins had evolved, somehow. Microchips, cables, solder and quartz hummed from the dashboard, an ultramodern, ultrasmooth motion that wasn’t there before. Nigel had pondered this for days, probing his wife (stop it) as to whether she’d updated the car as a birthday present. Her response was that he needed to get a life and a job.
Finally, when curiosity had gotten the better of him once more, he prized by the latch and took a look inside the workings. This time, he got the biggest shock of all.
Leo wondered to the edge of the field. His day’s work was done, and now he could relax.
And then there came about a rather peculiar noise…
A small, blue, swirling vortex yawned open before him, only a few inches wide and it’s terrible beauty ached in his heart. A light wind whipped up around him as the span, a perfect cyclone inside the small metal casing of the clock. A small bolts of lightning arced through the mysterious spinning cloud and met his hand. He yelped and dropped the clock to the ground, the lighting continuing to shower out of the face and connecting with the body of his car. The room buzzed with a faint hiss of static electricity as the lightning dissipated.
He picked the clock up again, studying it’s mysterious workings. In for a penny, he thought, and extended a finger towards the spinning mass. As the digit pushed through the swirling smoke and haze, it felt welcoming, warm, like being slowly lowered into a warm bath. There was no friction, no feeling, just a warm glow. He dove further, his whole hand, now up to the wrist, the elbow. The mouth of the chasm grew as he pushed further inside. It was at this moment he felt a breeze on the other side, could sense his fingers blindly running through grass. He pulled his arm free. And hatched an idea.
Since that moment he’d worked on nothing else. He’d tried different methods of widening the vortex as far as he could, had tinkered with ways of channelling the blue lightning away from the ‘wormhole’ and leaving it open for traversing.
He didn’t want to simply walk through this new gateway, he wanted to arrive in style.
He slammed the bonnet shut of the Cortina. She was working perfectly, the engine quietly ticked over with such grace and pomp you could well be within your right to assume she’s just rolled off the production line, but only if you forgot that this was made in the ‘80s at Longbridge where ‘being new’ was no guarantee that it would work properly.
Nigel got behind the wheel. His heart was racing as he flicked the switch on the seat next to him. With a bright flash the wall of the shed ripple and span, papers and manuals on the shelving were whipped up and thrown across the way, as the vortex burst into life.
It doesn’t take much energy to depress an accelerator, but it took everything Nigel had to press down on that pedal, pausing only to start his camera.
“This is it,” he whispered, “after all this time, this is it…”
The tiller looked up in confusion. A low, thunderous growl was coming from somewhere, but it’s origin was either hidden or very small, far too small to make such a great cacophony of noise. He lifted a foot. Nope, he pondered, not comin’ from there.
A sudden blinding light had Leofrick throwing his hands to his face, trying to desperately shield his eyes from this unnatural glow! He cried out and fell backwards in panic, scrabbling in the dirt to get away, the roar of the beast growing as it got closer, and closer. And then…
“It worked! Oh wow, it worked!” Nigel hit the bonnet of his car with glee. He caught sight of Leofrick on the ground, the colour drained from his face. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you, please let me help you up!” Nigel ran to aide his fallen friend, and bundled him to his feet.
“Thank you, sir. That was quite the entrance.”
“No need for thanks! It works, I’m just so glad it work!” Nigel embraced the still visibly confused farmer, who simply stood there unflinching. “I do have a question for you though…. I’m sorry I don’t know you’re name?”
“Well Leo Leofrick, I have a simple question for you. Where are we?”
“You’re stood about a 3 mile walk east of Paddington”, Leo gestured behind him, “and another 5 miles over that rise is the famous city of London.”
Nigel’s mouth fell open. Then he laughed. “London? You’re joking!”
“No one jokes about London, sir.”
“But where are the buildings? The trains? The roads for pete’s sake!?”
And then a penny dropped in Nigel’s head. “What year is this?”
Leo put his head in his hands. All he wanted was a simple evenings walk home and a stiff drink, but now he was dealing with a congenital idiot. “It’s the year of our Lord AD 1714, black Death is on the decline, and the sun is still burning nice and hot”
Nigel dramatically fell against the side of his car. “Fuck off! It travels in time too!”
Leo looked at the car and started noticing a few things he recognised.
“Sir, your cart? Where is the horse?”
“Oh this, it’s not a cart it’s a car.”
Leo stared at Nigel blankly.
“A horseless carriage. We all have them ‘when’ I’m from. “ Nigel giggled, “but mine is special. This travels in time, apparently!” And Nigel burst into uproarious laughter. But Leo was completely transfixed by the Cortina.
“So this moves? On its own? No horse or man to push it? That’s incredible!”
Nigel’s laughter tailed off. “Well, yes? I guess. But you don’t get it – it also travels in time’
“Well obviously. I can see that. But there’s no horse?! How!”
Nigel was starting to get angry. “I know you don’t understand, but this doesn’t just move. It also-”
“Yeah, yeah, time travel. But you clearly can’t get back” Leo said, touching the metal of the bonnet and smelling the exhaust fumes in the air.
“What?” Nigel squeaked.
“Well, it’s quite apparent you can’t go back. Otherwise everyone would be travelling through time willy-nilly and we’d have seen loads of you in these ‘cars’, was it? And yours is the first I’ve ever seen.”
“…yes…” The truth was starting to dawn.
“So you obviously can’t get back to tell anyone, can you? It’s just logical.” Leo didn’t even look up as he spoke, he was too busy tapping the ticking radiator grill.
“I’m…I’m stuck here?”
“Seem to be,” Leo said cheerfully “unless…”
Nigel shot toward Leo. “Yes what? Unless what?”
Leo stood up tall, tapping a long index finger on the blue Ford badge. “There’s really no horse?! That’s amazing!” he exclaimed, smiling ear to ear in amazement.
Nigel’s vision became spotted with large, black smudges, as he keeled over, fainting. He was out.
Leo shrugged, and opened the door. Sitting in the driver’s seat he moaned quietly – the interiors springs making this the comfiest chair in the universe.