by Harriet Lowe
Simultaneously, the students awoke from their dreams. All the students had the same dream- a white void,
an overwhelming sense of blankness, a refreshing purity of mind, followed by distant memories. Memories
of a time that was theirs, but inaccessible. It made them feel sad, to have no knowledge of their past, and
yet to be so close to it. Only one did not sleep. He was always too hungry. Instead, he settled for extremely
This was the Big Day. Each of them rose, shook their head and began to dress. Student quarters were
minimalist to the point of mysticism. Plain white walls and a soothing daylight bulb.
The only furniture was a bed, a clock and a wind chime. The students were allowed to add their own
possessions, from the first day that they had left their homes. Many had forgotten the significance of these-
one student, for instance, owned only a handheld computer game, a pot plant and a poyozo doll. Another
owned several animal skins and a collection of ruby jewelry. To even the students who remembered what
they were supposed to do with their possessions, life was incredibly simple. Simple to the point of
confusion, Time did not seem to pass at all. But today was the big Day. Today, of all the days in the
Universe, was different.
* * *
A man of indeterminate age leaned, reflected in the light of the antique lamppost. Blowing a large pink
bubble from his chewing gum, he watched it pop with detached interest. There were important things on his
mind, very important things that just happened to occur today. In his brown leather briefcase were
documents that reflected just how important these things were. Involuntarily, his hand shot to the catch of
his briefcase. One more check. The spelling, grammar and, most importantly, the maths had to be
absolutely precise in such an important document. The door, annoyingly, distracted him from his
proofreading. It opened.
"Oh, for Doolos' sake, call me Master Guru!" he snapped, glaring from beneath his hat, "You're a bad
example for the students!"
The Kilwala gulped, shocked by his boss' outburst. It was difficult to tell whether he felt guilty or not. A
Kilwala was a creature that looked like a monkey wearing a sheep costume. It was difficult to imagine this
comical creature being known as Spekkio, the Master of Warfare. He never took his true form in battle.
"Talking of students, Master Guru." he emphasized the title sarcastically, "They've arrived."
"Well let them in then!"
"Master Guru... do you mind if I... you know.." he made a strange Kilwala-gesture, one that Gaspar had
learnt from experience.
"Oh, okay, but only three... and choose wisely!" warned the old man.
"You're not the only one who knows how to teach, you old goat!" complained the Kilwala. Grumbling to
himself, he left through the same door as he came in. Gaspar looked at his watch. It had stopped again.
"Oh, well." He mused, winding it up, "That's what you get for living in the year infinite."
He could hear footsteps and excited whispers. Yes, it was the Big Day. It would be interesting to see how
the students behaved, he thought to himself. Very interesting. What kind of adults will they become? I
erased all knowledge of their previous time zones, so that they would not suffer from time-shock here in the
End of Time. I can't remember where most of them are from myself. Maybe Spekkio is right, and I'm losing
my memory. A condition forgivable in an infinite-year-old man.
* * *
Whispering among themselves, the students poured into the Meeting Place. They sat in order of rank. The
new initiates, nervously adjusting their white robes, sat in front. Behind them were those who had mastered
the First Order of Understanding, and wore green robes. The Second Order wore blue robes, and the Third
Order wore what the hell they liked, because they were too big to tell what to do. One student, Gaspar,
noticed, was unconscious, and was being dragged in by two helpful friends. Had he fainted from suspense?
Gaspar made a mental note to take an interest in that student.
"Students!" he began, thumping his lamppost. Instantly, they all woke up. "Today is a big day for all of us.
As you probably know, it is the day for newcomers to be welcomed among us. I hope you have already
shown them around and introduced them to Spekkio. It is also the day when some of you will learn that
they have progressed to the next Order!"
Instantly, excited student banter filled Gaspar's ears, languages from all over the world, spatially and
temporally. Some had decided they were going to pass, others that they would fail, others stated confidently
that a) they were all going to turn into bananas and b) they were the prophetesses of Nu.
"Third Order students!" he continued, raising his voice, "For some of you, this will be a great day indeed.
Today, you will find out whether you have completed your education."
* * *
"Welcome to the Academy of Time." Gaspar addressed his audience of wide-eyed acolytes; "This is a place
of learning, a place of understanding. It may seem strange to some. Even our oldest students feel odd
sometimes. You will not remember your past. Do not worry, this is normal. You volunteered to come here
with prior warning of this. Possibly, one of your relatives is a pupil or ex-pupil here."
"You will be given the best education, a school life that will never be dull for a moment. I will train you
mentally, and Spekkio will train you physically. You will pass through the Orders of Understanding, which
will require more than just good study skills. You will need to unlock every area of your mind. You will
need to understand the true nature of time. Some of you will not pass your exams, but do not see this as a
failure. Your mind is simply insufficiently prepared to reach the next level of understanding. You can
retake the exam. If at any time you wish to return to your home, I will return you. Whatever stage you
reach, you will have attained knowledge far beyond the comprehension of your time period. You will be
able to impress people with your knowledge. Those who pass... may become the next guardians and
caretakers of time itself.
"If you would prefer a more practical education, sign on with Spekkio. He is known as the Master of
Warfare, and wants to teach the ancient arts of combat. You will also learn how to use your skills
responsibly, in self-defense or dungeoneering. He does not wish to turn you into killers, but protectors of
the weak and battle-mates of imps and goblins. Do you have any questions?"
"What are these things in my bag?" asked a particularly brave girl.
"Those are your most treasured possessions. You chose to take them with you when you left your home.
They are proof that I am not lying when I promise to return you to your home."
The questions began one after the other, as a stream of youngster suddenly found the courage to speak of
the things that were worrying them about this bewildering place. When they finally left the room, Gaspar
gave the next batch of students a quick ceremony and finally got down to the important business.
* * *
"Realize now that only the most gifted among you will undergo the Transition. Not everyone has even
opted in for this... you may end up somewhere where you can't access your home again. It is fate that a few
are drawn to, from the Beginning of Time itself, deep within the primordial source code of the Universe. If
you are chosen, I will speak your name, and you will come forward and accept my judgement of your
character. It will determine which time zone you are given responsibility for."
With a wild cry of 'BOBONGA!', the teenage girl in question leapt into the air, a few seconds ahead of the
announcement, and swung by her feet from the lamppost. She was tall and lithe, with electrifyingly
luminous orange hair.
"You are an untamed force of nature." the teacher told her, "You are, though wild and impulsive, cunning
and physically undefeatable. These qualities will suit you most in prehistoric times."
With a whoop of delight, the potential cave-girl stopped to pose in front of the boys and propelled herself
through the waiting time-gate.
Rising from his seat, the handsome boy with the hint of a golden moustache walked across the room,
somehow managing to look regal and modest at the same time. He bowed respectfully before his tutor.
"You have won many a girl's heart with your deep sense of chivalry and honor. Cynics call you a
traditionalist and label you obsolete, but your stories of dragons and knights still leave them spellbound.
You would have a great contribution to make in 600 AD, the Middle Ages."
Bowing again, the boy bid his classmates farewell and left through a time gate.
"Doki Pen Dolf."
Cheers erupted from a gang of dark-skinned youths. They patted their friend on the back and hugged him.
Grinning, he strode proudly across the room.
"You have an astounding business sense. You even tried to bribe me during a certain exam resit." The boy
blushed at Gaspar's stern words, "There is a society, called 'capitalist' by those that inhabit it, where trade
means everything. Even the king is not as rich or influential as a successful merchant could be. It exists in
1000 AD, and because it included the first working time machine, I call it the 'Present'."
The room began to darken as young Pen Dolf left the room. It shouldn't. There is no such thing as day and
night in a timeless realm. A shiver ran down Gaspar's spine. The next few announcements were going to be
* * *
His cynical eyes mocked the other students as he stood with a dramatic sweep of his blue cloak. As far as
they were concerned, he was nobody's friend, and as far as he was concerned, they were less important than
a frog. At least you can experiment on a frog. He dismissed them with a toss of his soft, flowing purple
"You are a powerful mage." Gaspar flinched as the dark soul watched him in amusement, "In the time zone
I have chosen for you, powerful mages are respected and feared. Your magic, shadow magic, is seen as
evil, though. You will be an outcast, though a powerful outcast."
"It matters not. I am an outcast anyway." the boy told him, "Where am I bound?"
"Known as the Dark Ages." Magus finished softly. Stretching out his arms, he poured of all his
concentration into making a time himself, and floated through it. Shuddering, Gaspar distracted himself
from his fears by announcing the next candidate.
As far as Gaspar could remember, the boy didn't have a surname. The old man tried to spot him in the
crowd. Finally, he emerged, wrapped in his tattered brown clothes. He had packed his bags. Inside his
travelworn brown rucksack were his three possessions, along with a week's worth of food (seven dead rats)
and, hopefully, his homework. He brushed his straggly brown hair from eyes and fixed the teacher an
"You going to throw me out." he inquired, "Give us some food first."
"No, Doan, you are not going to be expelled." Gaspar sighed patiently. He had expected a conversation
along these lines. Discreetly, he rummaged around in his pockets for some food for the lad, while
explaining to him why he was stood there.
"I imagine a boy of your intelligence has already worked out where you're going. It's a special place, Doan.
A place that only a person like you could make a lot of difference to. Among all the students here... all the
wondrous places they come from, the miracles we've seen. It all means nothing if we can't understand that
place. This world I dying, but it's spirit is strong enough to keep it alive... maybe a better quality of life than
"Oh." A light shone in Doan's eyes, but was quickly extinguished again. "Is there much food there?"
"Not much, but there won't be many people around to share it with." Gaspar laughed, but his humor was
wasted on the blank face, "But seriously, you can survive. That's partly why I chose you. The only thing
that can kill you is this despair that follows you around. Also, you're no stranger to the kind of life you can
A faint smile seemed to appear on his face, "What's this place called?"
"Its' the Future."
Doan nodded. From the look of wonder in his eyes, the tutor knew that he was thinking deeply, thoughts
that Gaspar would never understand.
The clock stopped again.
There was one further announcement, and Gaspar suddenly realized who it was that had fainted.
* * *
Before, he had felt like a quiz show host giving out prizes to contestants. Now, he felt like he was
performing a funereal rite. The healers had managed to resuscitate the poor boy, who stared at his teacher,
eyes wide with terror. Normally, Frank was quite a plain, nondescript boy, whom nobody really noticed.
His only remarkable characteristic was his fascination with Doan. He shared his food with the boy, quoted
him in essays, wore a more intact version of his clothes and told the other students that they were brothers.
Frank, at twenty years old, was really a man. To Gaspar, who was as old as time, everyone was a child.
Now, his face frozen in a white mask, Frank looked more like a ghost.
"Come on, Frankie, it okay." soothed a friend, one of Pen Dolf's gang. He felt the boy shiver.
"NO!" pleaded Frank as he forced himself, with all his will, to stand before the podium. The teacher placed
a hand upon the boy's shoulder.
"I am sorry." Gaspar told him sincerely, "This is too much to bear. I wish I could have given the role to
someone like Doan." Doan wouldn't have cared even if the old man had thrown him in a black hole. "But
he's got a life waiting for him in the Future. You're the only one, Frank. There are some things even I have
no control over. A computer does it- a computer with much more authority than me. The computer IS time,
like a universal clock. There'll be a good reason... but I understand that I can't justify it to you."
"I'll die!" yelled the boy.
"No, Frank, you won't die. Not that way, anyway. You'll die if you don't eat or breathe, just like every other
human. Time won't kill you. It needs you."
Stepping from behind his podium, Gaspar put an arm around the boy and led him to the waiting time gate,
green and slightly unstable due to the sheer magnitude of the resistance, gaping like the mouth of some
huge beast. The students couldn't really tell, but a few of them thought they could hear Gaspar whispering
something in Frank's ear.
"Beyond this door is 1999 AD" he told the boy, "Otherwise known as... the Apocalypse."
* * *
"What were you whispering to that student?" asked Spekkio, dancing a happy Kilwala-dance around the
room, "It sounded like something you haven't told me yet, and you know you're not allowed to keep secrets
"Oh, I just told him to expect visits from the Future." The Guru of Time told him cryptically.
"Is this something the Computer predicted? Is it?" Spekkio jumped up and down. He loved hearing stories
from the Computer.
"Yes. But it's possible, if you think about it." Gaspar said, "They have all the time in the world to play in
the ruins of laboratories, and every reason to do it. They're going to be very scientifically advanced, and
very fast. Time travel... is definitely a possibility we cannot rule out."
"Yes, my brother lives there somewhere. I wouldn't put it past him to make a time machine." He laughed, "I
hope he pays me a visit."
"But why would they want to visit the Apocalypse, of all places?" Spekkio scratched his head in confusion.
"I don't know. I guess their history books don't take them back much further."
Gaspar laughed and fell asleep, leaving Spekkio to ponder the real answer to the question by himself. He
was glad he chose to live here, even though the Stone Age looked fun. There was so much he had yet to
understand, and he needed infinite years to think about it.
* * *