Spite - Short Story

The full short story Spite available for reading online.


by G. M. Worboys


First published August-2015

Copyright © 2015 G. M. Worboys

G. M. Worboys has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work.

This story may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes provided that the story remains in its complete original form.




I don’t like time very much, don’t suppose you do either. One of Stephen King’s books says prison time is slow time. I don’t think any of us are going to argue with that. But that’s not the thing I really hate. What really gives me the shits about time is that it’s not on my side. I intend to change that.

“You’re talking through your arse,” Frank says to me. “If brains were dynamite you couldn’t get off a good fart.”

As you can tell, Frank’s doesn’t even make it up to scratch as a moron. That might have been me before I got inspired. So I ignore his insights and ask him to hand me the soldering iron.

Some smart guy said you must know your enemy, can’t remember who, think he might have been Chinese. So I used slow time to learn about the enemy. There was lots to learn. The science and engineering stuff was necessary, you can’t get far without it, but I didn’t stop at that. I reckon that science is never going to get all the answer. I read and watched everything I could. There’s loads of the shit, seems like time is on a lot of people’s minds. But I had time, more than I wanted. I was inspired and had only Frank for company.

My first thought was time travel, it seemed an obvious way to get time onside.

“If it was me,” Frank says, “I’d go forward to be at Judge Hiney’s death bed. I’d pull faces and tell him all the ones he didn’t get me for.”

“Retrospective revenge is for idiots,” I tell him. I immediately see flaws in that, but I doubt if Frank will notice.

Anyone can go forward in time, you’re doing it as you read this, all it takes is patience. Urban legend has it that Walt Disney, that creator of Mickey Mouse theme parks – pun intended – had himself cryonically frozen, to be woken up again when the technology exists to fix him up. Uber crap, of course, but it makes a good story and shows that any bozo can go forward in time.

“Even better,” Frank continues, he hasn’t let me down, “I’d get together with his granddaughter first – you seen her? she’s hot! – and I’d have my hand on her arse as he tried to gasp out his objection. ‘d probably kill him early. That’d show him.”

Despite how he talks, Frank’s not really like that. He took a set against the judge for convicting Frank for one of the few things he didn’t actually do. I point out, “The judge might get killed in a car accident, Frank. Or a plane crash.”


Going forward is no fun, you don’t know what’s there – it could be the end of the world for all you know. Going backwards is where the real treasure lies. You know what’s back there, you can be ready for it. In the movie Galaxy Quest they even find a way to make use of travelling back just thirteen seconds! Imagine what you could do with an unlimited amount of time.

“Roll out that chicken wire, Frank.” Science would never have thought of the chicken wire.

So I read about the most obvious option, I call it “pretend time travel”. This is the one invented by Albert Einstein. We take advantage of his theory of relativity to go somewhere, it doesn’t matter where, at speeds approaching the speed of light. When you come back you find out lots of time has passed back at home, and you’re now a relic of a bygone era. Everyone else has moved on – or died. You have, sort of, travelled forward in time, but with all the downsides of wearing out-of-date clothes and not knowing what happened on last week’s episode of The Simpsons. And it doesn’t get me going backwards.

“If we go backwards, we could bet a bundle on the last game. We could be millionaires.” Frank grunts as he pushes the heavy roll of wire.

“Put the toolbox on the end to stop it rolling up behind you. Neither of us have had a job since we got out, Frank, we don’t have a bundle. What would we bet with?”

Another theory concerns wormholes that let you step through to some chosen time and place. Or there’s the Star Trek trick of taking a slingshot trip around the Sun – not sure how that one is supposed to work, but the Trekkies all believed it. These days they prefer vortexes and black holes and stuff. Whatever. If you’ve followed me this far you probably got to the same place that I did. If they can do this sort of stuff in the future then where the hell is everyone?

“Not the whole bloody lot, Frank! I only need about six metres.”

“About? Shouldn’t we be measuring in nanobots or something?”

“Nanometres, but it doesn’t matter. It’s just something for the field to focus on, it only has to be big enough to fit over me without touching.”

“Us. To go over us.”

“Sure, Frank. Us.” Sometimes Frank is not as thick as he looks – almost, but not quite. “You better make it seven metres.”

Has the last century been so boring that no one wants to come here? You might think that time travellers are under oath not to change the past. Since when has an oath stopped anyone from having a good time, or taking advantage? Maybe you think there have been time travellers but news has been suppressed by the “gubment”, and the evidence is being kept in secret basements, or America’s “Area 51”, along with all those alien visitors. Yeah, right.

“We could go back and get secrets. You know? Take pictures as proof of stuff they’ve been covering up. We could sell the pictures to the newspapers and use the money to place the bet.”

I think Frank and I have been together too long, sometimes it’s like he’s reading my thoughts. But Frank doesn’t read too good. “Hold that still while I join it. Watch your fingers. What if we got caught – again? The gaols of the past aren’t any better than what we got now, and some are damn sight worse.”

Anyone that believes the governments of the world have been keeping aliens, and maybe time travellers, secret for the last sixty years don’t seem to be paying attention. About the only ones that believe governments can keep secrets are the same ones that believe God created the Universe a few thousand years ago – complete with a fossil record and background radiation from some imaginary big bang in a non-existent past. Did He want to keep the doubters guessing? In court that would be called entrapment or something.

“Maybe we could go back and tell the cops where to find Butcher and his gang,” Frank says. “You know? When he first moved into that place on Tombs Road, but before he got it all decked out. We could collect the reward money, and then we could bet on the game.”

Frank can be like a terrier with bone about some things – gambling usually. “We could just hand ourselves in,” I offer as an alternative – it would be safer than having Butcher set his knife at us.

“I don’t think they give you the reward money for that,” Frank says seriously.

And who said Frank was stupid? “We need a few more pieces to make a roof for this thing,” I tell him.

“You sure we gonna both fit in that.” Frank looks dubiously at my circle of chicken wire.

“We shared a cell for years, Frank, a few minutes huddled close inside that is nothing.”

“So it’s gonna be fast then?”

I think of telling him to ask Einstein, but that isn’t likely to help much, so I just nod.

Back to the point. Does the lack of time travellers prove that it is impossible to travel backwards in time? Maybe. Or maybe not.

Einstein tells us that time is relative. I say that’s bullshit. I say there is such a thing as absolute time, it’s the concept we all carry around inside our heads. Where the scientists and engineers have let us down is not finding a way to actually measure it. All they can measure is this relative shit from Einstein. It’s time they did better – ha ha. Get it? I’m getting side tracked again, aren’t I?

“Aren’t we supposed to be inside it?”

“No, Frank, not while we’re building it.”

“But there’s no door. How’re we s’posed ta get in?”

“We’ll just lower it over top. It’s chicken wire, Frank, it’s not heavy.”

Some people see time as a single continuum, so if you do go back you have to be careful not to tread on the mosquito like Homer Simpson does, or when you come forward again it might be raining donuts. You see it in other shows too, with guys starting to fade out as their history changes. Some of the shows talk about the danger of meeting yourself in the past. According to Dr Who all sorts of bad things might happen – apparently the Universe doesn’t like paradox. But if that was the case it would have blown up the Tardis a long time ago (that’s another “ha ha”, in case you missed it). I don’t like this theory much, it doesn’t fit in with my plans.

“I’ve been thinking,” says Frank.

“Oh God,” I mutter under my breath.

“If this thing takes us back in time, it must have to take us somewhere. I mean here isn’t here in the past or in the future, is it? The whole shebang has moved.”

Now I really am surprised, he’s been listening to me! “That’s right, Frank.”

“So could you, like, take us to the inside of a bank? We can grab some cash and leave the same way we got in. Then we could place that bet.”

Even a terrier would have gotten sick of the bone by now. “This machine doesn’t work like that.”


A popular alternative theory is the parallel universes idea, where every decision results in a splitting of the universe. Terry Pratchett calls this the “trousers of time” in his Discworld novels. One version of you travels down the leg where one choice was made, and another version, having made a different choice, follows the other leg. Apparently some scientists have even come up with the maths to support this idea – you gotta love maths. This is the theory I’m working from.

“So I don’t get it,” Frank admits finally.

“Pop that up in the middle,” I tell him. “I don’t want to be rubbing my head against it at the wrong time.” As I tie down the roof of my small chicken coop, I ask, “What don’t you get?”

“You said we’re gonna be rich. How?”

“I’m going to steal it.”

“But if you can’t get us into the bank with it, then how does this contraption help?”

“I’m not going to rob a bank, Frank.”

Now if you think about Pratchett’s trousers of time for a bit, you’ll see what I saw. You really, really don’t want to be headed down the wrong trouser leg of a war veteran – the one that’s been folded up out of the way. Some trouser legs are better than others. The immediate question that arises is: how do I make sure I’m in a good one?

Frank is still puzzled. “So who we going to steal from?”


Back to time travel. Why would I want to travel in time just to split off a new reality that doesn’t do me any good? I could be back to where I started, or worse. No, the point of all this is to make sure me, the one I care about, is in the best possible leg of the trousers. That’s when I realised that I didn’t want to travel in time anyway. Who needs it? I’m going to sidestep the bastard, he’s never done me any favours.

“But you’re not rich.”

“Not here, I’m not. Help me get this thing in place.”

Together we lift the flimsy chicken wire coop over myself and the box of bits that will make all this work. It’s awkward having to huddle down over the box, but a bigger coop would require more support and be harder to deal with on my own.

“Shouldn’t I be in there too?” Frank asks.

“I’m not going anywhere yet. I’m just making sure it will work.”

There is some chance that pieces of the chicken wire may not make it through, in fact I’m not sure any of it will. But everywhere will have chicken wire, right? So I can always make a new one if I need to move on again.

“There’s not much room left. You sure we both gonna fit?”

“No problem. Look.” I push myself to one side to show much room is left. Not a lot. I glance across at my bag of essentials, things I may want to get my hands on quickly when I get there. I think there is enough space left.

After I worked out that I didn’t actually need to travel in time, a lot of impossibilities dropped right out of the picture. All I need to do is step between realities to the one where I made all the right choices. And, it turns out, switching realities is easy. How? Do some slow time of your own and figure it out.

“Frank, we’re going to need that list you made. Who won what, and so on?”

Frank’s eyes light up at the chance to finally place some winning bets. He turns to go and get the list, and then turns back, his expression worried. “You’re not going without me?”

There’s no point turning up somewhere as a second me. I’m not the sharing sort, so I’m not likely to welcome myself with open arms. If I want what he’s got then he can’t be there. Anyway, there’s some sort of conservation of mass thing going on with this thing. You can’t move to another reality without something from that reality moving back to this one. Simple. My problem becomes my solution. I move there and he comes back here. Some might call that spiteful, but he’s had all the lucky breaks, now it’s my turn.

“I’m not leaving yet, Frank. Here, help me get out. I’ll do some last minute checks while you get the list and anything else you want to take with you.”

Frank helps me out and grins at me, relieved that I’m not leaving him behind. He is pretty thick.

When Frank is gone I slide over my bag. With my bag, my little machine and the chicken wire, the conservation of mass thing means that some other bits will get switched back to here with my other self. Since he’s the lucky sort it might be stuff he treasures. Or it might not. Whatever, that’s his problem.

There’s room for the bag, even if there isn’t room for Frank. He can’t come with me, not even if I wanted him to. I doubt if any of the lucky versions of me are still stuck with Frank, and this thing focuses on the individual, not on the place. It will find me in those other realities, wherever I am. Frank would just confuse it and we’d never go anywhere.

I will miss Frank a bit, we’ve been together for years. I’m not sure whether I’ve done my other self a favour or not. On one hand I’m lumbering him with Frank, but on the other I’m giving him a ready made friend who is very loyal – not to mention gullible.

It won’t be long before Frank gets back, I have to hurry. The chicken wire is awkward to handle on my own, but as I told Frank, it’s not heavy. I make sure the wire is neatly settled all around me and that no part of myself is touching the wire. It’s not comfortable, but I’ve had worse.

To Frank it will appear to happen in an instant, if he’s back in time to see it, but I could be stuck in here for a while. If my theory is right, and my soldering accurate, my little machine will give me flickering glimpses of myself in alternate realities as I pass through – sort of like tuning a television set. When I find one that looks like he got all the luck, I just release the lever and we switch. If it turns out to be not so good, I just hop back in and try again until I find my perfect life.

“What are you doing?” Frank asks from the door.

“So long, Frank.” I don’t say I’ll be seeing him, because I won’t.


I press the lever.


# # #

gmw 4-Sept-2013

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