THE TEST OF TIME • by Frank Roger

“Mr. Stephenson is ready to see you now. Please follow me.” The red-haired secretary shot him a professional smile.

Oliver rose to his feet and followed the girl into Stephenson’s office. This was incredible! On the spur of the moment he had decided to come over here the day before his appointment, and not only had they accepted that, but they hadn’t even made him wait for longer than a few minutes. Would this be his lucky day?

Stephenson looked up and invited him to take a seat.

“Good morning,” he started off. “My name is Oliver Wells. I’d like to sign up for the training course for aspiring time travellers your company is offering. Actually, I had an appointment for tomorrow, but I decided to come early. I hope that’s not too much of a problem.”

“Not at all,” Stephenson replied. “Quite on the contrary. As you may know, there are lots of candidates for our time travel training course, and only the most promising students are selected. Candidates must prove they have a certain potential, a flexible sense of time, a knack for handling the shifts in time such travelling will entail. And, my friend, you just passed the preliminary test with flying colours. By coming over here the day before your scheduled time slot, you proved you are the kind of person we’re looking for. Congratulations!”

Oliver beamed with satisfaction. This was quite incredible. It had been a good idea to trust his gut feeling.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” he said.

“The next step is the main selection test,” Stephenson continued.

“So when do I present myself for that one?” he asked eagerly.

“Yesterday,” Stephenson replied dryly.

“Yesterday?” Oliver repeated, baffled.

“Yes, yesterday. Do you think you can make that?”

Oliver shook his head. He had a sinking feeling.

Stephenson spread his hands. “I’m terribly sorry. As I said, only the best candidates make it. You failed, but you got closer than most. You’re promising, but not quite enough. There’s still some work to be done on your sense of time and your temporal attitudes. Good luck, Mr. Wells.”

“Thank you, Mr. Stephenson.”

Oliver left the office and went back home in despair. Damn, he thought. I should have prepared my move better and come earlier.

Frank Roger  was born in 1957 in Ghent, Belgium. His first story appeared in 1975. Since then his stories have appeared in an increasing number of languages in all sorts of magazines, anthologies and other venues, and since 2000, story collections have been published, also in various languages. Apart from fiction, he also produces collages and graphic work in a surrealist and satirical tradition. By now he has more than 500 short story publications (including a few short novels) to his credit in 24 languages. Critics describe his work as a blend of genres and styles: fantasy, satire, surrealism, science fiction and black humour.

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