London 2045, a world where armed police officers patrol the streets; lethal injection is administered for committing murder; London Underground is called The Metro; you have be twenty one years old to vote in an election; Identity Cards are compulsory; and the National Health Service is a distant memory. A time when Parapsychology (that is the study and research of the paranormal and supernatural) is taught in schools and colleges.
I stepped off The Metro and made my way across the glass catwalk towards the exits. on the site that was once Guys Hospital stands The London College of Paranormal and Supernatural Research; and it was to that location I was headed. Being Fresher's Week, the beginning of term, the campus was swarming with nervous but excited students waiting at the administration's office and I took my place in the queue. After taking my details, the girl behind the counter wished me luck and handed me a mountain of paperwork. It was early so I took myself off to The Blue Cafe - situated on the ground floor of the main building - and settled into one of the comfy armchairs while I waited for my coffee and bacon sandwich. With "U2" on my ear chips, I read through some of the literature I was given: induction program; timetable; syllabus; book list; recommended websites; and flyers advertising everything from gigs to ghost hunts. Suddenly there was a bang on the table and I looked up to see a guy about seventeen or eighteen mouthing something I couldn't hear. "Sorry? What was that?" I asked as I took out my ear chips. "Is it alright if I sit here?", he asked, a steaming hot drink held tightly in his hand. I told him it was no problem and he took the chair immediately opposite me. I got the impression he was staring at me, but I avoided his gaze and returned to the page I was looking at. He asked me what it was and I explained it was the lecture schedule. "I doubt we'll have any lectures today; or this week, for that matter." "I haven't even glanced at that" he said. He wanted to know what music I was listening to. "U2, Staring At The Sun from 1997." He nodded. "What other music do you like, Jamie?" The mention of my name stopped me in my tracks, but I answered the question anyway. "I like Coldplay, Maroon 5 and Train. You?" "Britpop; Oasis, Blur, Pulp and the Manic Street Preachers." We sat in silence for a few minutes before I decided to make conversation. I didn't get very far. "You didn't tell me your name." " No, I didn't." He drank his coffee or Tea or whatever, his eyes never leaving me. My mind was racing, trying to work out how he knew my name. As far as I knew, we hadn't met before and I hadn't introduced myself. Then he hit me with... "So, what's on your mind, Jame Logan?" "I was just wondering how you know my name." "Let's just say, it's a hobbie of mine, finding things out about people." So I asked him what else he found out. "Mmm, where to start? " He picked up his mug, reclined in his seat and continued: "Your full name is Jamie Lynne Logan; you're seventeen years old; you live with your dad Ben, a postal worker, in Highgate Village; you won a scholarship here; your favourite subject is ghost hunting investigations; and you work part time in a book shop." I was speechless. How the hell did he know so much about me? He stood up, downed the remnants of his mug, checked the clock on the wall and told me we were going to be late for induction.
Our first port of call was the Derek Acorah room. My new friend sat next to me as we got our "Welcome To The London" talk, which included a brief history of the college and what was expected of it's almuni. There was coffee and biscuits and an opportunity to meet with the faculty before lunch. And in the afternoon we were given the grand tour of London Bridge campus. The induction process went on for another three days. We were shown around Westminster Bridge campus (formerly St Thomas' Hospital), issued with our library chips and introduced to our lecturers-who informed us how much work we needed to complete in each area of study. I discovered my new pal's name was Max, curtesy of Professor Evans; apparantly they knew each other from investigations they took part in. And on the final day of that week I met a girl called Gabriella Hart, a keen writer who was asking all the questions during a meeting with the college magazine editor. Though polar opposites, we seemed to click and had lunch together. We were joined by Derek, who was pretty cool, but Max didn't like either of them. When I did the introductions he grunted a polite hello and that was about it. That weekend passed without incident. On the Saturday I worked at the book shop and on Sunday I caught up with some household chores.
THE FIRST INVESTIGATION
It was Friday afternoon, the third week of term, and I was in the Reading Room - located on the top floor of the six storey library complex - going over some case notes and listening to Coldplay. Dr Brown had set us our first assignment, a 2500 word analysis on the paradoxes of supernatural time slips, and that's what I was working on when Gabriella arrived and offered to take me for a coffee. We rode the elevator down to the ground floor level, where the cafeteria was situated, and while she ordered our drinks, I found us a seat. A few minutes later we clinked mugs, said "cheers" in unison and downed the first sips of our caffeine fix. "I thought I'd find you in here." Although I knew the answer, I asked who told her. "Max. He told me you spent a lot of time in here." I explained the library was my church, my sanctuary; somewhere I could lose myself in books and study. "And listen to U2," she asked, trying to work out if that was the music I had on today. "Coldplay today; X Y from 2005." "I like them; my favourite is the one I can never pronounce from 2011." I smiled. "You should download the live versions of the tracks; much better than the originals," I suggested. "Have you seen them live?" I nodded. "They came here to do a gig, about five years ago; do you remember?" She shook her head, so I continued: "They were ace and really seemed to enjoy playing here." "I saw them perform at Live Aid Gold; did you go?" I felt the colour drain from my face and broke out in a cold sweat at the mention of that date. Gabriella must have noticed because she asked if I was alright. I wasn't sure what to tell her; how much to tell her. In the end I opted for the truth. "Gabriella, my mother disappeared without trace on Friday 13th of July 2035, the day of the Live Aid Gold concert." "I thought I'd touched a nerve." I apologised for acting wierd, but Gabriella didn't have a problem and suggested we change the subject. I asked her how she was finding the assignments. "I've nearly finished that Q A on alien abduction for Professor Williams. You?" "I didn't think it was that hard; Dr Brown's essay is much harder." "Is that what you were working on when I arrived?" "I was checking some case files; some are a waste of time. A lot of pranks or witnesses who are reluctant to discuss their experiences for fear of not being believed. It's difficult to write about time slips when those who have knowledge about them don't want to talk about it." "So you haven't had much luck with your research?" I was about to say there was one case which looked promising, but I didn't get the opportunity because Max interupted us. "Ladies, what's this? A coffee morning?" "Morning Max." "Morning Gabby." Gabriella and I exchanged looks. "It's Gabriella, actually." "Whatever!" Gabriella glanced at her watch, made her excuses and left. "How's Jamie?" "Fine," I replied, unconvincingly. "You don't look fine; you look like somebody who's been working too hard. Coffee?" I saw little point in resisting and took out a copy of the case file I was reading while he was up at the counter. Supernatural Time Slips are more common than people realise. Plenty of "travellers" say they found themselves in a different time dimension and profess they returned to the present to find hours and even days had passed. Of all the statements I'd pored over earlier, just one was deemed worthy of following up. I hoped the investigation would give me a head start with my paradox analysis; but of course, I had an ulterior motive. Max brought over the drinks and asked me what I was up to today. "I thought I might go and see John Kennedy." Max frowned, so I told him it would help us with the assignment: "You know we have to write about time slips and paradoxes for Dr Brown? Well, I was going over some case notes and apparantly Mr Kennedy has actually experienced a glitch in the space time continuum. He was reported missing and claims he was in the past for just a few hours, but when he returned a whole week had gone by." Max put down his cup, an agitated look on his face: "So, you're going to a total stranger's house to interview them about something that may not have even happened?" "You sound shocked, Max." "I think you're putting yourself in a dangerous situation," "It goes with the territory. Anyway, why so protective?" "You're my friend, I don't want you taking unneccessary risks." I leaned closer to him: "Max, I'm training to become an Investigator; risks are part of the package and when I'm qualified I'll be on call, sometimes at night; you have to accept I'll be heading into the unknown every day." He looked crestfallen so I suggested he came along to the interview with me. "Where does Mr Kennedy live?" I checked the file: "Highbury. Come on, we won't be there long; I just want to speak with him, take a few notes etc." Max raised his eyes to the ceiling, something he often did when losing an argument: "I don't suppose there's any point in trying to talk you out of it?" I shook my head: "it won't take us long to get there, not if we use The Metro." And it didn't. Mr Kennedy lived in a semi-detatched bungalow in a nice part of Highbury, but close to the station. He welcomed us into his home and while he made the coffee, I took out the relevant paperwork. Max had an indifferent expression on his face, which surprised me because this was an important assignment due in a fortnight. I waited for Mr Kennedy to settle before I started my Q A. "Right Mr Kennedy, I believe you were reported missing on Saturday 4th March this year by your employer." He nodded, so I continued: "And you were inteviewed by Sgt Riley on Weds 8th; is that right?" "Yes." "Can you tell us exactly what happened?" "It should be in the case file," he replied, defensively. "It doesn't go into too many details; just that you spent a few hours in the past and came back to find a week had gone. It was suggested you talk with a Paranormal Investigator; did you?" He shook his head and I asked him why not? "I wanted to forget about it; move on and pretend it didn't happen." "But you didn't mind talking to us?" It was the first time Max had spoken. "You said on the phone you were students at The London working on an assignment; I didn't see any harm in discussing it with you." "Can you tell us what happened on that day Mr Kennedy?" "How much do you want to know?" "Everything. Where you were; what you did in the past; how you got back; and who you interacted with, apart from the barrista." "The who?" "The Barrista in the coffee shop." He looked confused and a tad suspicious: "How did you know about the coffee shop?" I took out the copy of the receipt and showed it to him. "Did you tell the police about this?" He explained that he did tell Sgt Riley, but felt he wasn't believed. "I stopped off for a coffee to get my head together and.."It's alright, Mr Kennedy, I believe you, but you have to start at the beginning." He took a deep breath before starting his narrative.
Mr Kennedy's testimony took longer than anticipated, which meant I returned home just before dinner. Dad wasn't too pleased when I told him the reason and subsequently I received the silent treatment throughout the meal. Not that it bothered me too much because it gave me the opportunity to go over what Mr Kennedy had said. What he experienced dominated my thoughts over the course of that evening and the next day (a Saturday) I made a lot of mistakes at work in the book shop. The manager took me to one side and explained it might be a good idea to head home. Dad was out, so I went to my room, found my notes taken from the previous day and switched on the coffee machine. Once settled with a frothy cappuccino and a chicken sandwich, I flicked over the pages checking the facts. I didn't have reason to doubt the witness; he was a rational, articulate, personal tutor who had little to gain from making up a story. Granted, the receipt from the coffee shop hadn't been verified, but that's not to say it wasn't real. And if it happened once, who's to say it wouldn't occur again? I glanced at my watch 17:30; way too early to call it a night. I knew what I had to do, knew I had to try it for myself; and if it didn't work, then what did I have to lose? But if it did?
I rode The Metro to where the incident took place and hung around for ages, expecting something to happen-like I was going to be sent back in time by just loitering. I crossed the road several times, wandered up and down in both directions and killed some time counting the traffic and observing the goings on in and around the city. Feeling a bit thirsty, I decided to get a cold drink from the corner store. On the way back I felt a bit weird; disorientated; out of sync. For some reason the street was suddenly packed with people; they seemed to come out of nowhere. There hadn't been any customers in the shop and I couldn't understand why the area was so populated. Then I glanced in the direction of where I'd been sitting and that's when it dawned on me: I wasn't in the present anymore; I was in the past. It had worked.
FRIDAY 13TH JULY 2035
A lot of people were in London on the day of my mother's disappearance. The Live Aid Gold concert (celebrated exactly fifty years after the event in 1985) took place at Wembley and on the other side of the Thames, The London College Of Paranormal and Supernatural Research was officially opened by the King and Queen of England. It was early evening as I walked up the street, my heart pounding, my mind racing. I had to find out what happened to her. I knew where she would be at that point, where we both were, and if I got close enough I would see. But I was against the clock and still had to make my way to the big screen where my mother and seven year old counterpart were viewing the concert.
I arrived at Leicester Square and stood a few rows back from mum and younger me. It felt strange being there, like I was an intruder spying on a family; which, I suppose, that's exactly what I was. However, I doubt too many would condemn me for trying to find out what happened to my mother. The Kaiser Chiefs were nearing the end of their set when mum turned round. She looked directly at me and took in what I was wearing. Because I resemble her so much, she probably felt like she was looking in a mirror. But she could sense I'd been watching her and the younger version of me. She glanced at my younger counterpart, the program visible in her hand, and approached me. "Do you mind telling me what you're doing?" she asked, an angry expression on her face. I was stunned, so just said nothing. "Excuse me? Are you deaf or something? I asked what you were doing and why you were staring at my daughter?" But still I said nothing; just continued to look at my seven year old self, who was so enjoying the concert. "If you don't tell me why you've been looking at my family, I'll phone the police." I tried to explain that I was just watching the concert and not doing anything wrong, but my mother's patience was slowly running out. "Fine," she said. "consider yourself arrested." She was true to her word and I was getting into the patrol car when the cries of a panic stricken seven year old girl began. At the precinct I was searched by a female officer and my belongings (including my identity cards) were confiscated. The police were suspicious because I was claiming to be Jamie Lynne Logan of Station Road, Highgate Village; the very same Jamie Lynne Logan who had reported her mother missing that evening. To make matters worse, I had photographs and mum's watch, the same watch she was wearing when she disappeared that same night. But the real clincher: I was the last person to see Lynne Logan. My protestations about the time slip and going back to find out what happened to my mother cut absolutely no ice with the police, nor did my claim that I was a student at a college that had officially been opened that day. I didn't do myself too many favours the next day when I screamed at a bemused Ben Logan, who had been informed a teenage girl was being held in custody over the disappearance of his wife.
As I wait for my trial (on remand because I didn't get bail), I can't help but laugh at the irony of my predicament. How the hell did I land myself in this mess? I was researching case files for a time paradox assignment. I thought it would be a good idea to go back and see what happened to mum, why she went missing. I wasn't to know that I was probably the reason she disappeared. Something happened to her after that call to the police, the call she only made because of me. Dr Brown wanted us to investigate and analyse the paradoxes and consequences of supernatural time slips? Well, being locked up in the past, with no way of returning to the present you know and wondering if you might be stuck in a time loop, is definitely the most serious consequence and one that can be analysed in three simple words: leave well alone.
(story continues in Psyche School Case Files: Gabriella's Investigation)