So Gregory has followed the bag lady’s trail and is now caught up in a small mystery regarding the brain of one of history’s greatest scientists. Thank you to everyone who voted for what should happen next. The winning choice, with 36% of the vote, was ‘a Gatecrasher arrives’. I liked this ‘Other’ suggestion; ‘They fall through the floor into a science laboratory’, but then I saw this one; ‘Temporal Paradox involving a time machine and a future Gregory,’ which ties in nicely with a Gatecrasher arriving…
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Gregory helps himself out of one hole and into another one.
“Let me get this straight,” Gregory began shakily. “That… that lady was given Albert Einstein’s brain as a child…”
“Correct,” the bag replied with a nod.
“But she was never happy having it?”
“And she wants her own brain back?”
“Well how on earth am I meant to do that?”
“Easy!” the bag said. “Go back in time and stop the swap from happening.”
“Don’t be stupid!” Gregory threw his hands up in despair. “That’s impossible!”
“Is it?” the bag asked with irritating sniff.
“Of course!” said Gregory impatiently. “If time travel was possible then someone from the future would have done it and come back and told us by now. It would be all over the news and everything!”
“Unless only one person did it and kept it a secret,” the bag said with a shrug. Then, before Gregory could persist further, the bag said cantankerously, “Well then? What are we going to do?”
“Well… we could …” Gregory gave a cough and wiped his nose. “We could go to the cemetery and dig up a recently buried coffin and take out the person’s brain and…” He trailed off and blushed.
The bag was shaking his head with disgust. Even Darren looked at him as though he had lost it.
“Alright, alright…” Gregory waved a hand and tried to think again. “We could make a brain out of polystyrene…” He stopped and shook his head. It was a ludicrous idea. Nothing he could think of made any sense at all. It was all daft. Like a special noodle hat that stops you from eating your own hair.
“Fine!” Gregory snapped. “It’s all stupid. I have no idea what to do or what’s going to happen. I should have just gone home!” He stormed out of the little hut, shoving the bag aside as he went.
“Oi!” the bag yelled back. “That hurt, Idiot!”
Gregory turned to say something careless in reply. But before he could do so there was a sudden crack in the air followed by a mighty rumbling. The ground seemed to shudder and shake under their feet and the air in front of them grew thick with dust. Darren gave a yelp and ran to Gregory for safety. The bag covered its ears and trembled. It sounded as though something was climbing out of the ground nearby. Gregory rubbed his eyes in terror as the dust cleared.
There in front of them stood a thin middle aged man. He looked a bit like Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys except that he wore grey spectacles and had a thin orange moustache. “Goodness!” the man said, brushing dirt off his trousers and peering around. “This takes me back a bit! Hello boys!” He rubbed Darren’s belly and then turned towards the bag.
Before the man could pat him, the bag growled and snapped, “Don’t touch!”
“Ah of course!” The man laughed. “You don’t recognise me!” He turned to Gregory and exhaled deeply. “Blimey,” he said with a grin. “I forgot how miserable I looked!”
“What?” Gregory eyed the intruder with affronted confusion.
The man simply smiled. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Professor Gregory J. Bedcarrots, inventor of the time machine and winner of the 2040 Nobel Prize for Physics.”
“What?” Gregory repeated dumbly.
“To put it bluntly,” said the man, “I am you. From the future.”
The bag burst into raucous laughter. “Told you!” he cried to Gregory. “Told you time travel was possible! You said it wasn’t but you’ve done it yourself! Hahaha!” He rolled wildly in the grass.
“And if you need me to prove it;” the man continued smoothly, “You have a birthmark on your right foot, you’re afraid of The Cat in the Hat, you have a small unexplained and exceedingly terrifying crush on your neighbour Penny, and you once got lost in a cinema and cried loudly through the wrong film… Need I continue?” He gave a toothy grin and straightened his tie. Then, before Gregory could reply, he turned to the hole from which he’d arrived and started to mumble something about needing a new pair of shoes.
Gregory’s jaw almost hit the ground. To think this cool, sophisticated gentleman was himself from the future! He started to feel a little bit tongue tied. What should he say to himself? “I like your moustache.” Too daft. “How do I become cool?” Too desperate. “Can I have your autograph?” Too perverse. In the end, Gregory simply stood and stared. The older Gregory began to walk up and down, muttering to himself and stopping every now and then to wipe his spectacles. The bag eyed him with mild suspicion, glancing backwards and forwards from the original bumbling Gregory to the older intellectual one as if to say, “Pull the other one!” Darren, however, embraced the gatecrasher fondly and trotted after him, weaving affectionately in and out of his legs. The older Gregory leant down to tickle the dinosaur and chortled gaily as Darren rolled over and purred.
“So…” Gregory said eventually, feeling incredibly small and stupid. “Time travel is possible?”
“Of course!” the older Gregory said with a grin. “The old lady left you all the information.” He gestured towards the exam papers in Gregory’s hand. “But I remember I was never any good at maths or science.”
“No…” Gregory looked at himself in confusion. He was about to ask how the future him had become so intelligent but then a more pressing question came to mind, “If the bag lady knows how to go back in time, then why does she need me to do it for her?”
“Ah, precautions!” The older Gregory gave a small smile. “If she went back in time within her own lifetime, then there would be two of her in the same place at the same time. Research has shown that this is incredibly dangerous. If two of the same person ever come into contact then something awful is sure to happen.”
Gregory looked at himself in shock. “Then what’s going to happen to us?” he asked fretfully.
“Oh, we’ll be fine,” the older Gregory assured him. “I’m not staying very long. Just don’t touch me.”
Gregory took a step back in fright.
“Now then…” The older Gregory took something small and wriggly from his pocket and placed it on the ground in front of Gregory. It was a worm. “This is a time worm,” he said simply. “Write your destination in the dirt and he will start to chew a hole into the ground. When the hole is big enough you’ll be able to slip through.”
Gregory raised a baffled eyebrow.
“It’s a wormhole,” the older Gregory continued with a shrug.
“But that’s so…” Gregory trailed off in confusion.
“Simple?” the older Gregory suggested. “It is rather. But hey ho, the best things usually are!” He reached deeper into his pocket and retrieved a handful of worms. “You shouldn’t need them all,” he said, placing them all on the ground. “But I’d hate for me, I mean you, to get lost somewhere.”
(Incidentally, DO NOT put ‘Worm’ into Google image search. I just did it in order to find a nice picture to illustrate the scene but it wasn’t really a very good idea.)
“Right then,” the older Gregory said plainly. “Here’s what you need to do. Go back in time to Princeton Orphanage, 19th April 1955. You’ll find a young girl alone in the hall. In a nearby room a scientist will be making negotiations with the director to adopt a child. His bag contains Einstein’s brain which he removed without permission that very morning. Take the girl through to the kitchen and put her out of sight in the pantry. When the director goes to look for the girl, go to the scientist and pretend to be the child that he’s been allocated. You’ll leave together and he’ll take you straight to the laboratory. This is where Darren will come in handy! Grab Einstein’s brain and bring it to me in the future, let’s say right back here on the 19th April 2030.”
“Bring the brain to you in 2030?” Gregory repeated in a muddle.
“Of course!” the older Gregory said slyly. “With a little bit of study and a few neuron implants I’ll, I mean you’ll, be a genius by the time you’re 40!” The older Gregory tapped his own head smugly.
“How old are you?” Gregory asked in bewilderment.
“Me? I’m 45.”
“Yes, yes! You brought me the brain many years ago. I’m just here to remind you to do it.” The older Gregory eyed his younger self up and down and then said, “Oh what the heck, I’d better do this bit for you…” He leant over and wrote Gregory’s destination in the dirt. Then he placed one of the worms on the letters and smiled at Gregory as the worm rapidly began to chew through the dirt. Within a few moments there was a sizeable hole. “There you go!” the older Gregory said courteously. “In you get!”
Gregory blinked at him in bewilderment. His head had begun to spin. He felt utterly lost and in great need of a hug. He clamoured senselessly into the hole, taking hold of an eager Darren and reluctant bag as he did so.
“One thing to remember,” the older Gregory said quickly. “Keep it a secret. Got that?”
Gregory rubbed his eyes and attempted a nod.
“Good!” the older Gregory stepped back into the hole that his own worm had made. “See you in the future then!”
“Wait!” Gregory cried frantically. Everything was moving much too fast for him. He had so many questions and far too many reservations.
“Yes?” The older Gregory poked his head up from his own wormhole.
“Erm…” Gregory fought wildly for something meaningful to ask but his mind was far too agitated. The future him seemed so calm and collected. He wanted to trust himself and make himself proud. “Erm,” he repeated foolishly. “In the future, who’s winning the Championship?”
“Apple pie,” the older Gregory replied.
“Oh,” said Gregory in confusion. “Er… Thanks.”
The older Gregory simply smiled and waved.
In the next instant, there was a brilliant whooshing noise as the ground beneath them gave way and Gregory, Darren and the bag found themselves sinking deeper and deeper into their own hole and into intense darkness.
“Idiot!” the bag scolded furiously as everything faded to black. “You should have asked him how Darren is magical!”