“What time does it all kick off?” my sister asks me. At least I think that’s what she’s saying. She’s calling from another dimension, in another time.
“I can barely hear you, Amelia,” I say. “You sound very far away.”
“I am,” she says. “Further than I’ve ever been before. You should see the Kens in this place!”
“Ha, sure,” I say. “Glad you’re not getting distracted. Listen, this is a biggie. Are you still planning on popping up exactly where you said, to make an entrance? The ceremony starts at eight, okay?”
“Hey bruv,” she says. “You know Amelia always gets there early.”
And she’s right, to be fair. She’s not Earth’s greatest time hopper for nothing.
Amelia always gets there early.
I don’t like to admit how long it takes me to buzz Amelia the coordinates after she hangs up. I add a note telling her the delay is due to a weak signal in this epoch, but she knows as well as I do that twelve-dimensional numerals have never been my strong point. There’s a reason she’s the one they’re making such a fanfare about.
Ribbons and big screens are going up in the town square now. National news stations are gathering. They’re setting up their cameras and mics to try and get dibs on Amelia’s first interview since the one next century. There’s a real buzz around the place. A reporter from the local radio station beckons me over for a quick sound bite before it all kicks off in an hour’s time. I play it cool, but I must admit it’s nice to be caught up in my sister’s slipstream for once.
“Yeah, Amelia and I made time machines from cardboard boxes like all the other kids,” I’m saying. “I guess hers worked and mine didn’t!”
“And our listeners might make out the sound of the crane winching up the big bronze statue now,” the reporter says. “Quite a magnificent sight, isn’t she?”
“Wait, isn’t the statue going up at eight? That’s when Amelia is supposed to be getting here, right?”
“Well, that’s what was announced,” says the reporter. “The mayor thought it’d be fitting to put it up early, to try and beat her at her own game. After all, Amelia always gets there early, amirite?”
“Oh no. No, no, no. No!”
One visit from a time hopper and now this little backwater town thinks it’s qualified to start playing around with time too? Seriously?
I sprint through the expectant crowd, over to the plinth. The crane has lowered the statue, and another machine is drilling down the bolts.
“Take it off, take it off!” I scream.
There’s a purple flash, only it happens so fast you’d think you imagined it.
Then I hear Amelia’s voice. I can barely hear her. But she’s definitely talking to me from this dimension, in this time. She sounds very near.
“Get me out of here!” she’s saying. “Hit me with some fresh co-ords for this place, quick!”
I fumble with my pocket timepiece, turning the green light on and off and then starting a stopwatch running, before finally finding the button that sends twelve-dimensional coordinates. My fingers are sweaty and the dials are fiddly, and as I begin tuning them I realise I don’t know the coordinates for anywhere other than the plinth. I don’t have them all memorised like the professional landers. I had to access the public library just to find these ones.
“I don’t have any,” I say to the bronze statue of Amelia.
“What do you mean?” she says. “Get me out of here, I’m starting to hyperventilate.”
I hate to admit this next bit to her.
“I don’t know any other co-ords, Amelia. I never passed the final.”
There’s a sound like someone banging their head against the inside of a bronze statue of themselves.
“Look, you’re going to just have to squeeze down a bit,” I say, coming up with a plan.
“I can’t squeeze time here, I don’t have my scaleometer,” Amelia says.
“No, inside the statue. Duck your head.”
I hunt about near the crane and, sure enough, find what I need. I may have failed the final on co-ords, but I sure as hell passed the one on welding.
“Shout if I get too near,” I tell Amelia, as I fire up the blowtorch.
Ten minutes later, Amelia’s big bronze head clangs to the ground. The crane winches her out like it’s unloading cargo down at the dock, and it dumps her next to me, a little ruffled and singed, but alive and well.
A couple of hours after that, she’s negotiated fifteen interviews and signed even more pocket timepieces, and the crowd has finally begun to disperse.
We’re admiring the headless statue together that will soon be on all the front pages. Or already has been, depending on what date your timepiece says.
“I look like a toppled dictator,” Amelia says. “And not one of the good ones.”
We hoist the big head onto our shoulders and carry it away with us like a trophy.
“Hey bruv, if you fancy a trip forward with me, I could do with someone taking a look at my chronocab. There’s a couple of dents in the bumper from an incident next year.”
“Sure thing,” I say. We put the head down for a breather. “Listen, have you ever considered taking things a little slower? Maybe, you know, turning up when people are expecting you?”
But I already know the answer. She’s already punching in the co-ords for her home epoch.
“Hey bruv,” she says. “Amelia always gets there early.”
“Amelia the Headless,” I say. “The hopper who was early to her own funera—”
Before I can finish, there’s a purple flash that you’d miss if you blinked, and we’re gone.
Jude Ellery spends most of his working days on the phone to tradesmen with bad signals. They sound like they’re in a bathtub, are calling from another galaxy, or have turned into a Dalek. This got him wondering what the signal from a different time or place would really be like, and how the conversation might go.
Happy New Year from all of us at Every Day Fiction!