Mad genius is an old, oxymoronic description, but in old Doolan’s case it was perfect. At 72 years old he was still overloaded with brains but was nuttier than a health shop. His ability to construct the most elaborate electronic equipment from salvaged TV’s, computers and mobile phones was extraordinary. His car and house were equipped with an amazing array of security, communication and robotic devices, all designed and assembled by him using the above-mentioned gear discarded by a wasteful society. That was the genius part. The mad part was his unswerving belief in the possibility of a time machine that would enable him to travel back and forth through the ages. His few friends regularly regaled him with the usual arguments concerning the impossibility of the concept, usually raising the “Grandfather Paradox”. If you could go back in time and shoot your grandfather, then you would never come into existence, and thus could not have gone back and shot your grandfather. All to no avail. Doolan persisted with his dreams of time travel. Then he awoke one night with a brilliant idea. Dragging on a dressing gown, he strode purposely into his basement workshop and began assembling various components from shelves, drawers and boxes.
For the next few days he spent practically the whole time working, grudgingly stopping to eat and sometimes falling asleep at the bench. Finally the machine was finished and he considered how to test it. He stood and looked at the conglomeration of printed circuit boards, wires, batteries, flashing LED’s surrounding a plastic garden chair. He turned and went upstairs to the kitchen and prepared a scrappy meal while thinking of the problem. While thoughtfully chewing on a bowl of baked beans and sardines he heard a noise like a paper bag being burst. It had come from the direction of his workshop. Jumping up from the table he scurried down the stairs and was confronted with an amazing sight. There on the seat of the chair was a small wire cage containing a white mouse and beside it a newspaper. He picked up the newspaper and read the date. It was tomorrow’s! It was possible to send things into the past, and most importantly, living things that could survive the trip. His joy at his success was overpowering but only for a while. He quickly gathered his thoughts and worked out what he needed to do. Obviously he had sent the mouse and paper back from the future, so he had to go and get a mouse. This he did and the next day placed the animal in its cage alongside the newspaper on the seat. He then keyed in the time co-ordinates on the antiquated Wang computer and pressed the large red button secured to the arm of the chair. The machine hummed, the LED’s flashed and the mouse and paper vanished with discernible “pop”.
All the while he had been considering the way of testing the machine he had also been recalling the good natured jibes of his friends, particularly the “Grandfather” part. Now was his chance to show how wrong they were. He knew his grandfather had lived in this very town when it was a small collection of houses beside a railway. He knew where the house was and how it was still in good condition after over a hundred years. He went upstairs, pulled out a rifle from behind a wardrobe, loaded it and returned to the workshop. He sat down in the seat, placed the rifle across his knees, tapped in the time co-ordinates and then pressed the button. For the briefest of moments he experienced a faint tremor and was then aware that the temperature was distinctly lower. It was dark but above he could see the stars. Good; it was night, which suited his plan admirably. He set of in the direction of the railway and thence his grandfather’s house. He found the place easily and slowly approached, holding the rifle at the ready. A dog in the house next door commenced to bark.
Inside the house his grandfather, at this time a man in his late twenties, was reading a book by the feeble light of a candle. It was very quiet and so he easily heard the dog. He also knew the dog and that it was usually a very quiet animal. Something or somebody was disturbing him. He rose and went into the hall, cautiously opened the door a crack and peered out. What he saw caused an immediate automatic reaction. Thieves were rare but not unknown in this frontier country. He reached behind the door, grabbed his shotgun and let fly at the individual carrying a rifle creeping towards the house. They were right, you can’t go back and shoot your grandfather, but on the other hand…….?