Dr. Harry Topper Ph.D., professor of Philosophy (retired), is annoyed with his lifelong friend, Dr. Jack Trask. It’s so unlike Jack, perhaps the most fastidious man on the planet, to be late—and so late! Twenty minutes he’s been waiting at their regular table in the diner! Something must be wrong.
The sight of Trask, when he shows up, reinforces the feeling that something is wrong. He’s grinning, but it’s a nervous grin. Jack apologizes for being late.
Topper rather ungraciously tells him to stop smiling. It’s making him uncomfortable.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, Harry, but I can tell you this is a big one. This one’s for real,” Trask tells his friend.
After some back and forth, Trask declares he’s come to understand the nature of time and demonstrates it by predicting some events in the diner. Topper discounts each incident, but he can’t help feeling ever more nervous.
Frankly, I didn’t see this ending coming, yet there were hints along the way. The conclusion is logical rather than a bait and switch. As a reader, I enjoy this sort of storytelling and respect writing that can pull it while making me laugh. This is it.
At the same time, the arguments between Topper and Trask ring hollow. Topper starts annoyed and only grows more irritated. He is stubborn. Their sniping and smirking gets tedious, but the payoff does arrive.
I couldn’t buy Trask’s description of the nature of time any more than did Topper, but the sense that all was not as it appeared rang true. It continued until the end.
Aside from some repetition in the argument between the two characters, I found this a fun little tale. I liked it.
According to his blurb, author Preston Dennett has worked more types of jobs than you’d care to shake a stick at, but his favorite is “writing speculative fiction stories and books about UFOs and the paranormal.” His work has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways, Black Treacle, Cast of Wonders, Daily Science Fiction, T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog, and many others. Additionally, he’s written twenty-six non-fiction books and more than one hundred articles.
He says he spends his days looking for new ways to pay his bills (I hear you, brother), and his nights exploring the farthest reaches of the Universe. He currently resides in a crowded suburb outside of Los Angeles, CA.
“The Nature of Time” can be read here.
Title: “The Nature of Time”
Author: Preston Dennett
First published: Theme of Absence, July 31, 2020