‘I think there’s a Change coming,’ said Grandpa
‘What do you mean?’ I asked
‘It happened before Jimmy, when I was around your age. I was born during revision 1972. One day everything seemed to stop and we all went to sleep. When we woke up the world was different, it had Changed. You see how the grass is green and the cows are black and white?’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘My grandpa used to tell me that, when he was young, everything was black and white. Not just the cows but the grass and everything else as well.’
‘That’s amazing, but how do you know there is one coming, Grandpa?’
‘Look across that meadow there, Jimmy. You see the cows eating the grass? Now look further away to the Black Rock Mountains on the horizon. Can you see it? It’s the first time I’ve seen this in this revision.’
He was right. The cows looked normal but the mountains looked sort of funny. They seemed to have faded and there were no longer any hard edges where they met the sky.
‘What can we do, can we stop it?’
‘Now don’t you be worrying about it, young Jimmy. It won’t hurt any of us, it is just that it is better if you know what is coming. The white coats have tried to understand what causes it but they haven’t been able to work it out so far. All they know is that the world will look different when we wake up. No one gets hurt, except for those who are doing silly things when it happens, like parachute jumping! ‘Why don’t you count the cows in the meadow and see if there are the same number after The Change?’
I did what Grandpa said and started counting them. I got to thirty three, then I woke up, on the floor, fully dressed. Grandpa was still sitting in the armchair, where he was slowly coming back to life.
‘How many cows are there, Jimmy?’ he asked.
I looked out of the window. The cows and the meadow had gone, there was now a housing estate outside the window.
‘It has all changed Grandpa,’ I replied. ‘Come and look, it is all houses now.’
‘How do the mountains look now?’
‘They are back as they used to be, the hard edges are strong against the sky.’
‘That is the Change, Jimmy. It is probably the last one I’ll see. We must be in revision 2037 now, I wonder how many more revisions you will see in your life?’
It was an exciting time. We were packing for our holiday.
‘How long will it take to get there, Dad?’
‘The same time as last time you asked me Jimmy. We are going by Fast Link so it should take about five hours.’
‘How long would it take us by Superfast Link?’
‘It would only take two minutes but is ten times as expensive and we cannot afford for the four of us to go that way.’
‘Can’t we leave my sister behind, that would save some money?’
Claire swotted my ears with a newspaper and said, ‘it would be better if we left you behind Jimmy, we would also have a more peaceful holiday. Who needs brothers anyway?’
‘OK, stop it now,’ said Mum. ‘No one is being left behind, we’re all going together. The five hours it takes to get there is part of our holiday and it will be more fun for you enjoying the travel.
‘But why is it called Fast Link when it is so slow?’
‘It is a marketing ploy so that they can keep the prices high, if they called it Slow Link, people wouldn’t pay the price. It is the same as when you go into a coffee shop like ‘Planet Dollars’. They ask you if you want a regular, medium or large. There is no such size as small, that way they can keep the prices higher and make more profit.
‘How can they make Superfast link one hundred and fifty times as fast as Fast Link? How does it work? Do they have bigger engines?’
‘I think you’ll be an engineer when you are older,’ laughed Dad. ‘You ask so many questions. It doesn’t work like that. Fast Link is what they used to call trains in the olden days while Superfast Link uses a completely different principle. What happens is that they temporarily fold space through one hundred and eighty degrees along a line at right angles to the direction you want to travel. The start and finish places of the journey are then only a few metres apart so you can just walk down the corridor between the two places. This means that the actual travel time is minimal. The main cost of the system is the space folding equipment and the energy required to fold space. This is very high the first time but once the route has been used a few times, the folding gets easier and so the energy required is reduced.’
‘But don’t you fall down through the gaps as if you keep folding space, eventually it will crack?’
‘I don’t thinks that’s a problem, it hasn’t happened yet anyway,’ laughed Dad.’ It is not normal space, it is called Tau space, so perhaps that type doesn’t crack so easily.’
The five hours passed quickly. I was really excited by the whole experience and only quarrelled with Claire a couple of times. We had to wait at the interchange and go through the Ordnance Survey transfer formalities just north of Nottingham as we changed from the 129 to the 120 sheet. I spent the time having a look at the Tau Terminals and pestering the duty engineer to show me round, which he did, probably to get some peace – that’s what Mum said, anyway.
We had to change again and go through the same formalities at Sheffield to get on to the 111 sheet. Dad grumbled about this. ‘Why can’t they come up with a national digital Geographic Information System ( GIS ) to save all this train hopping?’
Mum calmed him down by sending me off to buy him a cup of tea.
‘If I grumble, will you give me the money for an ice cream, Mum?’
She laughed. ‘Here you are then, get one for Claire as well and I’ll have a cup of tea then perhaps everyone will stop grumbling.’
‘Yes Jimmy, what’s wrong now?
‘Nothing’s wrong, I’ve just got a question.’
‘OK, go on then, ask away.’
‘What would happen if we kept on going even if there weren’t any more sheets?’
‘There are several possible answers to that. Firstly there isn’t anything past the last sheet so you just cannot go there. That is what most people think.
Secondly, some people think that you could just carry on but you would never be able to find your way back.
Thirdly, a few crazy scientists think there are other maps out there so it would be a case of trying to find out their sheet numbers and then they would link up with our sheet system.’
‘Wow, that’s amazing Dad. I want to be a mapponaut when I grow up. Then I’ll develop the Superfast system so that I can get onto any map in the Universe in a few minutes.’
‘That sounds like a great idea, Jimmy but I think you mean that you want to be a cartographer. Now can I get back to my snooze?’
‘Yes Jimmy, what’s wrong now?
‘Nothing’s wrong, I’ve just got another question.’
‘OK, go on then, ask away.’
‘Why do people only live on the maps and why are they called Triggers and are there any other people and are the maps flat?’
‘That sounds like four question, to me.’
‘I’ve got lots of questions, Dad.’
‘You certainly have Jimmy but I will try to answer them all. We think we are the only people and we live on the maps because we cannot get off them into Tau space at the moment. As far as we know, there are no other people but there may be and we hope to contact them as our science gets better. We are called Triggers after the original cartographers who drew the maps and so created our world. They used trigonometrical datum points to measure the distances and heights. The people who looked after those concrete datum pillars on hill tops were called Triggers. Is that all your questions answered then?’
‘No, you forgot, ‘Are the maps flat’?’
‘Yes, of course they are, except when they are folded for someone to travel by Superfast of course.’
‘Peter, in my class at school, says his Dad says that some people think they are round because the lines of latitude are curved.’
‘Yes, there is a group called “The Round Map Society or ‘Globers,’ but most people think they are nutters. Can I sleep now?’
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
My Kindle books are on Amazon – Here