Tag Archives: time travel

Story Soup 1.21

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Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for what the bag pulls out of his pouch. ‘Other’ suggestions included a ‘tiny tin penguin’, a ‘lucky penny’ and a ‘memory wiper or time stopping device’. But with 44% of the vote the winning choice was an Umbilical cord.

The next instalment will be posted very soon, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots: the truth is out of the Bag.

If you have ever woken up in the middle of a dream and wondered where you are, you will understand a little of how Gregory was beginning to feel. He rubbed his aching head and pinched himself as he watched the bag pull out nothing less than a grey slimy umbilical cord from his pouch. At the sight of the living bag, Mrs Bedcarrots let out a scream and Mr Bedcarrots reached for a spade. Penny’s mother fainted and her father began to swear. The policepeople, who were most comfortable dealing with pesky youths and speeding motorists, had no idea how to respond to a talking armadillo bag with an umbilical cord and simply took off their hats and scratched their heads. Penny did her best to appease the grown ups by saying sensible things like, “We can explain,” and, “Don’t jump to conclusions!” But this just served to make the grown ups more irate.

“Is this meant to be a joke?” Mr Bedcarrots exclaimed in fury, sparks of spit flying off his tongue.

“Who’s controlling that bloody puppet?” Mr Parsnip demanded, pointing an angry finger at the bag.

“Is he holding a snake?” muttered P.C Henry, the former bag lady.

“This isn’t good for my nerves,” Mrs Bedcarrots whimpered, sinking miserably to the ground.

With a shriek of frustration, Penny ran between them and stomped her foot. “This is all getting rather out of hand,” she said sternly. “Now then, unless any of you think yourself clever enough to deal with talking bags and time worms and the brain of a dead scientist, I think you all had better calm down and listen to me.”

The grown ups exchanged affronted looks but none of them were brave or foolish enough to protest further. With disgruntled snorts they fell silent and gathered round Penny.

With the grown ups temporarily at bay, Gregory turned to the bag in horror and indicated the shiny umbilical cord. “What is that?” he muttered.

“It’s yours,” the bag said slyly. “Well, mine now.”

“What do you mean?” Gregory asked in confusion.

“I got it on the day of your birth.” The bag gave a strange grin.

“Don’t be stupid,” Gregory said irritably. “I was there. You wouldn’t even look, you were so scared.”

“I don’t mean then,” the bag said with a chuckle. “I went back another day.” He started to fumble deeper into his pouch and then let out a smug “Ta da!” as he flashed a handful of time worms.

“Where did you get them?” Gregory demanded.

“Oh, you know,” the bag gave an airy sigh. “I had to find something to do during all those long days in the summer when I was cooped up in your room with nothing but the playstation…” He unzipped another compartment from inside himself and tipped the contents onto the ground.

Gregory’s jaw hung in shock. “Those are my first shoes!” he said, nudging a pair of pale blue booties with his foot.

“Yes,” said the bag with a nod. “And this is your first tooth… And your first pencil…” He pawed through his peculiar treasures, naming each item, much to Gregory’s shock and revulsion. “This is from your ninth birthday,” said the bag, waving a yellow candle. “And this is a lock of your wife’s hair.”

“Wife?” Gregory went white with shock. “You’ve seen my future?”

“Oh yes!” the bag gave a chortle.

Penny looked up from her lecture with the parents, a look of fright etched upon her face at the mention of Gregory’s wife.

This made the bag chuckle even more.

“This isn’t right!” Gregory said angrily. “How dare you go through my life like this!”

But the bag ignored him and handed him a piece of brown wood. “Now this is special,” he said with an eerie whisper. “This is from your coffin.”

Gregory dropped the wood in fright.

“Strange isn’t it,” the bag said with a shrug. “What is life but fleeting moments in which we prepare to die? And oh, how we might live differently if we could see it all in a flash…” He gave a deep sigh and itched one of his polyester feet. Then he reached deep into himself and pulled out Einstein’s brain. “Gee, this thing is really getting on my nerves. Not as exciting as Shakespeare’s brain, I can assure you!” He reached into himself once more and pulled out a second shrivelled brain.

“Where did you get that from?” Gregory asked, aghast.

“Oh, just on my travels,” the bag replied nonchalantly.

Gregory looked at him in confusion. “Who are you?” he muttered.

The bag said nothing for a moment and then gave a cough as he began to stretch the umbilical cord between his fingers. “Watch this,” he said to Gregory with a grin.

As the cord was pulled and stretched, Gregory felt his stomach churning inside him. He rubbed his eyes in dismay, gazing in confusion as the garden appeared to bend and distort before his very eyes. “Stop that!” he snapped angrily.

The bag stopped abruptly and then began to pluck the cord instead. “Look at them,” he whispered, cocking his head towards Penny and the others.

Gregory turned and gasped. At the striking of the umbilical cord, Penny had begun to shrink, their parents were growing older and older by the second, and the three policepeople had turned into stone.

“What are you doing?” Gregory hissed.

“It’s not my fault,” the bag said with a shrug. “The whispers of time are going to their heads.”

Within seconds Penny was the size of a hamster and their parents were so old and wrinkly that they had almost turned inside out.

“Stop it please!” Gregory begged, shaking from head to toe. To see his parents disintegrate so rapidly was highly distressing, not least because they themselves seemed not to have noticed a change.

“A bit nippy today, isn’t it?” the elderly Mrs Bedcarrots was heard to remark nonchalantly to her husband.

“Is that a mouse?” the frail old Mr Bedcarrots remarked in reply, swiping for the miniature Penny who began to sob.

“Please!” Gregory appealed to the bag. “Who are you? What are you doing?”

The bag gave a smug sniff, pulled Gregory’s blue baby booties onto his polyester feet, shoved Gregory’s first tooth into his threaded mouth and swung the umbilical cord over his shoulder. Then he closed his eyes, muttered something under his breath, and clicked his scratchy fingers together. In an instant he began to grow and stretch. His button eyes fell off, making way for real dark human ones, and orange hair began to grow where brown stitching had been. Gregory gawped in horror as the bag transformed into a half bag half ginger human hybrid before his very eyes. When fully transformed, the bag man gave a twirl and let out a satisfied sigh. “Well, aren’t I handsome!” he said with a chuckle.

“Who are you?” Gregory repeated dumbly.

“I’m anyone I want to be,” the bag man replied. “In any place and any time. Right now, I am a little bit bag and a little bit you.” He patted Gregory’s umbilical cord and grinned.

“Wh-what?” Gregory spluttered. “Who, I mean, how—? I thought you said the bag lady made you?”

“She did,” the bag man said with a grin. “She made me in the middle of a wormhole. It had broken down somewhere between Athens 5BC and New York 2050, and she used the opportunity to experiment with threads of time from the wormhole. But seeing as I was created outside of time and space my fate does not hinge on hers. I simply exist. I am not tainted by time like you mere mortals!” The bag man paused for dramatic effect, but Gregory was far too stunned to speak and said nothing, so the bag man continued mournfully, “My only regret has always been that the daft old bat made me a bag and not a human; whoever wanted to be a bag? So when you and Penny temporarily abandoned your mission in favour of selling alien pencils to the tourists, I took advantage of all the spare time worms sitting unused in your desk drawer and set about putting things right. I began collecting bits of your life in the hope that I might be able to form an identity as a man. Humans have certain privileges that bags cannot enjoy— housing benefit and free health care for example. Now that I am a man, I can be truly free!” He gave a delighted cackle and then added flippantly, “Oh and Gregory, I hope you don’t mind but I intend to call myself the Right Honourable Lord Greg B. Carrots. What do you think?”

Gregory fell to the floor, clutching his head in confusion as he began to cry.

“Wait,” the bag man’s voice sounded softer. “Don’t be frightened, Gregory.”

“But, but,” Gregory began to stammer. “What’s going on? What will you do to me?”

The bag man said nothing for a moment, and then gave a smile. With all the audacity of a street rat on a flying carpet, he held out his hand and said softly, “Do you trust me?”

Story Soup 1.18

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Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for what Gregory and Penny should do next. 38% of you had ‘Other’ ideas. I quite liked the suggestion that they should ‘harness all the Darrens to a sleigh like Santa does with reindeer’, but then I noticed that two different voters had suggested that they ask Henry to ask the Darrens what they want to do… so since they have the majority, we’ll go with that!

The next instalment will be posted in the next week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots; feeling snubbed.

Gregory, who was incredibly tired, stood with the prefect expression of vacant gormlessness.

“We should have just stayed at home,” he said dumbly.

“Yeah, smart thinking, Idiot!” the bag said wryly. He began to chuckle and then stopped as he caught sight of the multitude of Darrens surrounding them. “Blimey! What happened?” he asked in shock.

Penny and Gregory filled him in on all that had happened whilst he was laying in pieces on the floor. When they got to the bit about Professor Harvey’s plan to exchange their brains for those belonging to monkeys, the bag guffawed and said, “Would have been an improvement if you ask me!”

“Actually it was really frightening!” Penny said hotly.

“Ooh!” teased the bag, “Afraid of a little surgery are you?” He whipped out his sewing needles and waved them menacingly.

Penny glared at him and turned to Gregory. “What are we going to do?” she asked impatiently. “We can’t exactly take all these dinosaurs home!”

But Gregory did not answer. He was watching Henry very curiously. “Are they still speaking to you?” he enquired.

“Oh yes…” Henry said dreamily. “Wisdom more precious than rubies…”

“Oh good! That’s nice, isn’t it!” Gregory tried to sound cheery but the truth was he felt a little bit hurt that it was this strange man who could hear the Darrens and not him.

“Gregory!” Penny came over and waved a hand in front of Gregory’s face. “I said; what are we going to do?”

Gregory looked at her, gave a sigh, and said, “I don’t know.” Then, rather grudgingly, he added, “Maybe we should ask Henry to ask the Darrens what they want.”

“Good idea!” Penny said brightly.

Gregory gave a half hearted shrug and said, “Henry, could you please ask the Darrens if they want anything.”

Henry gave a solemn nod and then addressed the Darrens. “Dear friends,” he said seriously. “We would like to know whether you want anything.” He listened for a moment and then smiled.

“Well?” asked Gregory, rather tetchily.

“They would like to go to the Congo,” Henry said.

“The Congo?” repeated Gregory in bewilderment. “Why do they want to go there?”

Henry posed the question, listened and then smiled once more. “It is their home,” he said finally.

Gregory looked at him in disbelief and then looked at the crowd of Darrens. At the mention of the Congo they had begun to dance with glee. If only Gregory and Penny could hear them, they would have heard them bursting into delightful song. Henry heard it and was moved to tears.

“So they want us to take them back in time to the Congo…” began Penny slowly.

“No, no!” Henry said dreamily. “The Congo in your present day, they say.”

Gregory raised an eyebrow and Penny scratched her head but there was no denying the enthusiasm of the Darrens who were now bouncing up and down in wild excitement.

“Well if that’s where they want to go…” Gregory conceded softly. He was feeling rather wounded as he had secretly hoped that the Darrens might have insisted on coming home with them.

He hoped that at the very least they would be telling Henry nice things about Penny and himself, but all Henry kept repeating was, “The Congo. They seem very happy about going to the Congo…”

It seemed that Darren wasn’t as attached to Gregory as Gregory had grown towards him. Gregory gave a cough and said firmly, “Come on then, let’s go outside and make a wormhole.”

But at this, the bag gave a great howl of fury. “No!” he said petulantly, stamping its polyester foot. “No more adventures!”

“Oh come on,” Penny pleaded. “The Darrens really want to go there, and if it wasn’t for them you’d still be lying in a heap on the floor.”

“I don’t care,” the bag said priggishly. “Somewhere called Congo is bound to be horrendous. There’ll be insects and alligators and all sorts…” He began a spirited rant on the many treacherous and mysterious creatures they might face in such a place as the Congo.

“Trust me,” he concluded vehemently. “Only an idiot would venture somewhere so unknown! Are you an idiot?”

Gregory turned to him wearily. “I think I preferred you when you were torn to pieces,” he said nastily.

At this, the bag gave a gasp and then snapped back, “I wish that professor had succeeded in ripping your smelly brain out. If he was here I’d shake his hand!”

Gregory opened his mouth to reply but Penny put a hand on his shoulder and said wisely, “Don’t listen to him. He’s just a bag.”

The bag, who seemed rougher round the edges following his near death experience, spat some stuffing onto the floor and muttered, “Stupid monkeys.”

With a huff of annoyance, Penny ran to the far side of the room and retrieved Einstein’s brain.

“Oh!” the bag cried in protest. “Keep that thing away from me! It hurts my head! It’s like being suffocated with smog, watching paint dry, wearing socks on a beach, eating nothing but sprouts and sprouting nothing but—”

But before he could protest further Penny yanked his zip open and thrust the brain inside.

The bag gave a little shake and a swift nod. “Marvellous,” he said jovially. “Now look here comrades, I don’t see why persons with such high calibres as ours couldn’t have a jolly old time in the Congo! Now, I’m game if you are?”

“Yes,” Penny said, stifling a giggle. “We’re game!”

Henry (prodded by Gregory) led the way out of the laboratory and into the open air. Dreary clouds hung overhead and the bag murmured something about rain coming soon.

Gregory found a nice clean patch of soil and said, “This will do. Let’s get out of this place!”

Penny (being the better speller) wrote their destination in the soil; The Congo, 2010, and everybody watched in silence as Gregory retrieved a time worm from his pocket and placed it on the ground. The worm began to chew through the soil and when the hole was big enough they all jumped in. (Again, Henry needed a bit of prodding, fretting over whether he was about to be buried alive; but eventually one of the Darrens told him sternly to take heart and not be frightened, and he took a deep breath and followed the others in.) It was a little bit squashed in the wormhole what with three sweaty humans, one serious bag and one hundred smiling dinosaurs all jostling for space, but spirits were high and everybody was reasonably content, so the time passed quickly.

Within minutes they felt the humidity rising as a flash of tropical sun burst through the wormhole and sooner than you could say Um Bongo, Um Bongo, They drink it in the Congo, they found that they had arrived.

Story Soup 1.12

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Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for where in the orphanage Gregory and his gang arrive. ‘Other’ suggestions included, ‘The angry orphanage manager’s under desk cabinet’ and ‘A laboratory in which 12 dinosaurs like Darren are lined up on a shelf’, but the winning choice, with 42% of the vote was in the Laundry room…

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory’s first trip abroad.

“Are we there?” Gregory asked anxiously. “Is this the right place?”

They were surrounded by piles of white towels, creased sheets and clean pyjamas.

“I don’t know,” Penny replied, picking a pair of pants off her head.

The room was very small and smelt of soap. It was probable that it was usually kept quite tidy, but their arrival had caused quite a disruption as many of the shelves had collapsed, leaving the contents in a disorderly heap on the small white floor. The bag was stuck under a pile of dirty pillow cases and was crying out for assistance. Gregory ran to his aid, though he soon wished he hadn’t when the bag snapped ungratefully, “Thanks for nothing, Idiot!”

Gregory sniffed and went to retrieve Darren who had landed in a box of pegs. “Are you alright?” he asked the dinosaur tenderly, unhooking a peg off his tail.

Darren purred and closed his eyes.

“I want to go home!” moaned the bag, twisting awkwardly to look at his limbs. “I think I’ve pulled a stitch!”

Gregory ignored him and took a deep breath, looking round at the piles of laundry that surrounded them.

Penny was clearing boxes of washing powder from the window sill in an attempt to peer through the window. “I can’t see anything,” she muttered in frustration.

Gregory caught sight of a tag sewn into a nearby towel. He picked it up and read, “Princeton Orphanage.” He shot Penny a wide grin. “We’re here!”

Penny beamed at him and then began to rifle through some clothes on the floor. “This is nice!” she said, holding up a long flowing skirt. She pulled it on over her trousers and did a little spin.

“What are you doing?” Gregory cried in exasperation. He knew that Penny, like most girls, was rather fond of clothes, but surely there were more pressing matters at hand.

“Put this on,” Penny suggested, thrusting a t-shirt into Gregory’s hands.

“Penny, be serious!” Gregory snapped in frustration.

“I am being serious!” Penny said, affronted. “I just meant it might help us look like we belong. We can’t walk through in our own clothes; we’ll look strange to them. It’s the fifties! They’ll have no idea what Star Wars is!” She pointed to the logo on Gregory’s shirt.

Gregory looked down at his own clothes and realised she was right. “All right,” he said. “But you’ll need to hide your earphones. And your High School Musical bracelet.” He looked her up and down. “And your crocs,” he added pointing to her feet.

Penny gave a squeak of fury. “I should have thought of this before we left!” she scolded herself. She started to rummage more urgently through the clothes, holding dresses and shirts up to herself and asking Gregory to vote for which ones suited her most.

Gregory shrugged in a most unhelpful manner as he pulled on the nearest clean shirt. “Just pick something,” he said impatiently.

“Alright, I am…” Penny tried on a dress and then decided it made her look ‘too frumpy’. The next top ‘didn’t quite fit right’ and the shirt after that was ‘too orange’. She found herself quite smitten with a pale pink scarf and insisted on wearing it even though Gregory (quite rightly) asserted that it made her seem like she was trying too hard to look older than she truly was. She then couldn’t decide between a white poodle skirt and a pair of black peddle pushers and ended up wearing them both. To top it off, she wore a loose pink shirt and tied it in a knot at the waist, stating firmly that, “All girls wore clothes like this in the fifties.” Eventually she undid the plaits in her hair and swept it back into a half ponytail, keeping the loose hair in place with a clothes peg. “How do I look?”

Gregory looked her over and said nothing.

“Would I fit in?” Penny begged him urgently.

Finally Gregory gave a long, slow nod.

“Good! Then let’s go!” said Penny. “Oh, and one more thing: We’re in America so we’d better speak in American accents.”

Gregory shot her a flabbergasted look and followed her nervously out of the laundry room. They crept along an empty corridor, sticking close together and muttering incoherently as they attempted American accents under their breath.

Penny carried the bag under her arm and he too was muttering incoherently, though he wasn’t as much practising an accent as heaping bitter curses as he grumbled about his withdrawals from Mario Kart.

Darren sat snugly in one of Gregory’s pockets while the bag lady’s key was wedged safely amongst the time worms in the other. Every now and then Gregory felt to make sure they were all still there. “We need to get to the hallway,” he told Penny, racking his brains as he tried to remember what the older him had said so many weeks ago. “A little girl should be there— Alberta, I mean. We need to get her out of the way so I can pretend to be the child the scientist has been allocated.”

Penny nodded and said in an appalling American accent, “Sure thing Buddy!”

Gregory grimaced and pointed towards some stairs. “Let’s go down there.”

They ventured carefully down the stairs, slightly disturbed by how empty and quiet the orphanage appeared to be. As it was, it was lunchtime and most of the children were on the other side of the building waiting to be fed in the dining room. But of course, they weren’t to know this. As they neared the bottom, Penny shook Gregory’s arm in excitement. There, sitting on the bottom step was a little girl with her hair in pigtails. Gregory felt both sick and exhilarated at the same time as they ran the last few steps and stopped in front of the child.

For a moment, forget anything you may believe about the kind of person the bag lady is. At this point, she was a sweet and simple child of three or four, largely untainted by the stains of this world. She liked painting and animals and pretending to be a princess. At this moment in time she was dreaming of flying. Gregory could not help but feel a twinge of compassion for her. He nudged Penny, indicating that as a sensitive girl, she should do the talking.

“Hello,” Penny said to the girl in her raucous fake accent. “I’m Penny.”

The girl looked at her with wide eyes and gave a shy smile. “Wanna play with me?”

Gregory’s jaw dropped as Penny shot him triumphant grin. It was like taking candy from a baby. Or a nut from a squirrel.

“I’d love to!” Penny said sweetly. “Let’s go and play outside…” She led the girl down the hallway and through the front door, pausing at the doorway to mouth Gregory a swift good-luck.

Gregory forced a determined grin and took a deep breath as the door swung closed behind them.

Goodness knows how long Gregory sat there on the cold grey step. It felt to him like hours and hours and he soon began to lose heart completely. More than a couple of times he got to his feet and edged towards the door, running his hands through the time worms in his pocket as he contemplated grabbing Penny and insisting that they were leaving. But every time, he remembered the sweet face of the little girl and, much as he hated the bag lady for putting him in this position, he couldn’t find it within himself to leave her to her dire fate.

While he waited, Gregory tried fruitlessly to produce an American accent. He had never been to America before. In fact, this was his first ever time abroad. When he first realised this, he felt rather excited and wondered where in the world he and Penny should go next. But then he considered that from what he’d seen of it, America wasn’t much more exciting than England, and what with the ridiculous task he had ahead of him, he probably wasn’t so lucky after all.

At one point, the matron of the orphanage walked through the hallway and eyed Gregory suspiciously. “Are you alright?” she asked him.

Gregory looked at her in horror and nodded wildly.

“Are you sure?” She looked closer at him and then, realising that she didn’t recognise him, asked, “Are you new?”

Feeling as though his tongue was glued to his mouth, Gregory nodded quickly.

“When did you arrive?” she continued, putting her hands on her hips.

Gregory simply shrugged.

“Are you hungry?”

Afraid that she would continue to press him until he gave himself away, Gregory said quietly, “No,” and looked away, desperately hoping that just one little word wouldn’t reveal him to be an English boy.

The matron shook her head and muttered something about him needing to have manners beaten into him. But thankfully she left him then.

A few minutes later, Gregory heard the rattling of a nearby door. His heart leapt as he got to his feet.

“I’ll bring her to you now,” he heard a voice saying courteously.

“Good,” a second voice said civilly from inside the room.

Gregory pretended to be studying a plaque on the wall as an aging gentleman came out of a nearby office. He wore a dark brown suit and was clearly the director of the orphanage.

“Oh, where has she gone?” he muttered angrily to himself upon finding the stairs empty. He looked up and down the hallway, peered into a nearby room and then disappeared down a corridor, shouting angrily for the little girl.

Gregory bit his lip and let out a whimper. This was it. Without another thought, he forced himself to walk over to the director’s office, turn the handle on the door, and walk through to face his doom. The scientist (whose name was Professor Harvey) was stood by the window. He had a long grim face and smelt of cigars. His lip curled into a sneer as Gregory came in and stood before him.

Taking a deep breath, Gregory said in a garble, “I’m-the-child-you-waitin-for-!”

Professor Harvey raised his eyebrows, “Excuse me?” he said in a deep American drawl.

Gregory cleared his throat and tried again. “I’m the child… for you.”

The scientist shook his head and said firmly, “No, you’re not. I asked for a young one.” He turned his back on Gregory and started to stride around the director’s office.

Gregory bit his lip and took hold of the sideboard to steady his beating heart. There, beside the scientist’s chair, was a large brown bag. Gregory’s heart skipped a beat as he remembered the older Gregory’s words; His bag contains Einstein’s brain which he removed without permission that very morning.

A few minutes later, Professor Harvey checked his watch and tutted angrily. “I really can’t wait much longer,” he muttered. He turned to Gregory and demanded impatiently, “Is that old fellow bringing me a child or not?”

Story Soup 1.8

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Welcome to the newest instalment of Story Soup. If you are need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for where the wormhole should take Gregory and his gang! With 38% of the vote, there were some really great ‘Other’ suggestions, including ‘Back to his neighbours house 5 minutes after he had just stolen the pie’, ‘to a robot tea party in the future’, ‘to the border of Black’, ‘to Gregory’s birth’ and ‘to the birth of Darren’.

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Further sides to Gregory Bedcarrots.

I have used a picture to demonstrate what it was like inside the wormhole.

When they finally emerged they felt rather dizzy. They stood up and looked around. They were in a grey corridor.

“I can hear babies crying,” Gregory said. “We must be in the hall of the orphanage.”

The bag went to peer round the nearest doorway. It came back looking incredibly pale. “This isn’t an orphanage,” the bag said grimly. “It’s a hospital. That woman in there sounds like she’s being murdered.”

Shooting the bag a confused glance, Gregory went to have a look. Keeping low to the floor, he carefully pushed the door open and peered into the small room. The woman in the bed was screaming for drugs.

“What’s wrong with her?” Gregory whispered, thinking absentmindedly that she looked like a slightly younger version of his mother.

“Keep going,” a nurse was saying. “Baby’s nearly here!”

“Baby?” Gregory took a step back.

A man who looked somewhat like his father was slumped in a chair, mopping his brow as though he was finding the birth to be an incredibly tiring ordeal.

“Not long now!” a nurse was saying. “Have you thought of a name?”

“Gregory,” the mother said with a sickening whimper. “Gregory James Bedcarrots.”

Gregory’s jaw hit the ground. “It is my parents!” he said with a gasp.

What followed next was a few more minutes of screaming followed by the nurse encouraging Gregory’s mother to push really hard. With one last push and an anguished scream, the air filled with crying as a small ugly pink thing splattered onto the bed.

“That’s me!” Gregory whispered in awe.

“Yuck,” the bag replied with a sniff.

“This is crazy,” Gregory said in a whisper.

“Can we go?” begged the bag. “This is freaking me out.”

Gregory, who had never witnessed any birth before let alone his own, waved the bag away and watched with staggered curiosity as the nurse scooped up the baby and began to wipe him, weigh him and check him over. “Wow—” Gregory began. A disturbed silence followed as doctor came forward to deliver the placenta.

Eventually the bag hissed irritably, “As moving as this is, can we please leave before I gouge my own button eyes out.”

The birth, particularly the placenta bit, hadn’t been nearly as beautiful as Gregory had always imagined it to be. He gave a stunned nod and quietly closed the door behind them.

“He, I mean the older me, must have written the destination down wrong…” Gregory said, shaking his head.

“Let’s forget about this,” the bag said flippantly. “We’ve got a load of time worms. We can go anywhere! We could go to some robot tea party in the future or back to the very beginning of time!”

“No,” Gregory said firmly. “I (the future me) explicitly told myself to go to Princeton Orphanage, 19th April 1955, get the brain and bring it back to him (I mean the future me) so that’s what we’re going to do!”

“If the future you knew exactly what to do,” the bag said moodily, “why couldn’t he just do it himself?”

“I…” Gregory floundered for a second. “I don’t know,” he admitted finally. “But there must be a very good reason. I (the future me) sounded very sure of myself.”

“Well maybe you lied.”

“Why would I lie to myself?”

“Maybe you’re mean. Or really stupid.”

Gregory glared at the bag.

A terse silence followed which Darren tried to break by rolling over and blowing blue bubbles. Both Gregory and the bag ignored him.

“I’m in charge,” Gregory said finally.

“Why—?” the bag began defiantly.

“Because I’m the human,” he replied simply. “And you’re a polyester bag.” Without another word, he took hold of the bag and dragged him outside into an open patch of grass, Darren trotting dutifully after them.

“Ouch!” the bag screamed angrily. “You’re ripping the stitches on my feet!”

Gregory ignored him and wrote Princeton Orphanage, 19th April 1955 very neatly in the ground. Then he placed one of the time worms on he words and watched in trepidation as the worm began to chew through the dirt. When the hole was big enough, he put Darren on his shoulder, grabbed the bag (who was sulking) and jumped in.

This time they emerged covered in dirt in a vegetable patch. Gregory scrambled out of the wormhole and looked around. They were in his neighbour’s garden. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “The worms must be broken or something,” he muttered to himself in frustration.

Suddenly the front door of the house swung open and none other than Gregory himself came rushing out with some kind of apple or blackberry pie oozing out of his mouth. This new Gregory took one look at our Gregory and almost fainted in horror. He looked a bit like this except it was a pie, not a frog, which hung from his mouth.

The new Gregory opened his mouth to scream. Without a moment’s thought Gregory punched him and the pie-faced Gregory dropped to the floor.

“Why do I keep doing that?” Gregory cried furiously.

There was the sound of further footsteps so, in a blind panic, Gregory hastily pushed his other self into the wormhole and covered it with dirt. He patted the dirt down, picked up the bag, which was still not speaking to him, and turned to leave.

All of a sudden a shrill voice cried, “Can I have my pie back please Gregory?”

Gregory looked up in shock and found himself nose to nose with his next door neighbour, Penny.

“My pie.” Penny repeated. “I saw you take it.” She put her hands on her lips and pouted at him. Then she added with a teasing smirk, “What are you doing with that stuffed toy? I didn’t know you still played with teddies!”

“What?!” Gregory yelled in alarm, casting a quick glance at the bag who hung limply over his arm. “I don’t!” he muttered frantically, throwing the bag to the floor and making sure to give it a good stamp.

The bag grunted and narrowed its eyes, but Penny did not notice.

“I’m waiting, Gregory,” Penny said impatiently. “Either give me back the pie or show me your secret hiding place.”

Gregory opened his mouth and then shut it again. “What time is it?” he asked eventually.

Penny shot him a scornful stare. “I thought you said you had a new watch? Check the time yourself!” she snapped.

Gregory looked at the mound of earth which covered his old self. His heart leapt in delight. “He’s wearing Dad’s watch!” he said in excitement. “I haven’t dropped it yet, which means the bag lady hasn’t followed me yet… I haven’t knocked her out… She hasn’t sent me on the mission yet!” he gave a shriek of sheer joy.

“What are you on about?” Penny eyed him suspiciously.

“Er… Nothing,” Gregory said casually. “Look, I’m sorry about your pie. I’ll buy you a new one.” He turned away feeling rather elated, in a dizzy foolish sort of way. He would go home and pretend everything was normal. Then he would sneak back in the night, retrieve his father’s watch and go on with his life from here. He was feeling mighty proud of himself when a startling revelation dawned on him. If he wanted to go on as though nothing had happened he would need to somehow permanently dispose of his other self. “How on earth will I do that?” Gregory wondered with a shudder. Would he have to fight himself? Who would win in a fight with himself? And if the case came to trial, who would be entitled to be the true Gregory Bedcarrots? If you are quite happy being one person and then another one of you comes along, does it count as murder to kill the spare you?

Gregory started to feel a little bit sick. He picked up the bag, forced a brisk smile and started to hurry out of Penny’s garden.

“Hey Gregory!” Penny called after him. “What’s that little blue lizard on your shoulder?”

Story Soup 1.7

Standard

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…

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

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?”

“Never.”

“And she wants her own brain back?”

“Exactly.”

“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.”

“But then—?”

“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!”