The Invention of Time Travel - Mustard comedy magazine
The Invention of Time Travel

Writer's Block:
First Chapters From Unwritten Novels

#4: The Invention of Time Travel

It began in Cambridge, in the autumn of 1968. Young physics student Woodrow Maybee, scientific genius and social inept, had found himself at a particularly excruciating party. He had finally managed to pluck up the courage to talk to Emily Barrington, a classmate he'd long admired from afar.

Considering past performance, he was doing quite well. He'd managed to walk up to her and make eye contact without tripping, knocking a drink over her dress or headbutting her – so far, a personal best. He took a deep breath and launched into his well-rehearsed opening gambit: "Hello...".

At this point, Chad Moses, alpha-male captain of the local rowing team, strode past. "Careful Emily, he's only little!" commented Chad, loudly. "Trust me, we've seen him in the changing room!".

As the room erupted in laughter around him, Woodrow's super-analytical brain desperately searched for a reply, but none came. None came as he ran from the room, tears soaking his corduroy tank-top, none that sleepless night, nor the entire next day as he sat motionless on the edge of his bed, an untouched mug of Horlicks cooling slowly in his hand.

Gradually, a plan started to form in Woodrow Maybee's remarkable brain. It was an ambitious plan, certainly. Audacious, even. But extreme circumstances require extreme solutions.

Yes. He would invent a time machine. He would devote his life to creating a means to travel back to the moment of his humiliation, where he would reply to Chad's insult with a put-down of devastating wit and profundity. Sure, he hadn't actually come up with one yet, but inventing the time machine was bound to take a while; plenty of time to come up with something really cutting.

Thus, as so often in history, middle-class fear of embarrassment was the mother of invention.

Woodrow toiled day and night, filling notebooks, flipcharts, and eventually the walls of his tiny lodgings with intricate calculations, diagrams and theorems.

He barely slept, he barely ate. He dared not leave his room for fear of bumping into his future self, who would no doubt have arrived at the party immediately after his original departure, chastised Chad brilliantly and become the toast of the campus. By now, he reasoned, Future Woodrow would have ridden the wave of popularity to marry Emily, become Prime Minister and usher in a new era where war, poverty and competitive sport were a thing of the past.

And so the months, years and decades passed as Woodrow, locked away from the world, laboured at his task. Perhaps it was taking a little longer than he expected, but he would succeed. He had to. He was close now, he was sure of it.

Meanwhile, a few streets away, Emily Moses was once again regaling her children with the story of how she met their father. It had been a party back in the 60s, a night of strange occurrences. First, there'd been that weird young chap who'd run from the room crying. Then, through the opposing door, another figure had staggered in; a crazy-eyed old man with a bald head and toothless grin, grey whiskers reaching for the floor.

Waving a strange electronic device in the air, the old man had mumbled something unintelligible, cackled triumphantly, and dropped to the floor dead.

These events threw the party into disarray, but eventually an ambulance came to take the body away and future Olympic medallist Chad Moses suggested taking everyone's mind off it with a nice game of spin the bottle... and the rest was history.

~ A.M.

Illo: A.W.


More Stories & Characters »

The Complete Mustard

Mustard comedy magazine compendium
Mustard comedy magazine

Get the Mustard  Compendium: 
PDF  ·  Paperback

The complete 336-page collection of all 9¼ issues,
featuring new and updated funny stuff, plus expanded interviews.


Myth Management

Out now: Mustard's first spin-off novel

Myth Management: a Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel by Alex Musson
Myth Management: a Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel by Alex Musson

Paperback  £8.99  ·

Kindle  £2.99  ·