I admit it, I'm running slightly late today. It's actually 24 minutes into Day 12 - although I can persuade myself that, since it's still Day 11 in many parts of the world - I have not failed. And yes, I know, I am rather easily persuaded in such circumstances...
So, without further ado, a tiny little story that tackles today's challenge - A point in history...
A Point in History
Professor Alfred J Pollock had never been, by any stretch of the imagination, what one could call popular.
He liked to blame poor genetics for his failings; after all, nature had chosen to endow him with a squeaky voice, myopic vision, a height of 5’ 2” and, by the age of only 15, male pattern baldness. However, the truth behind Professor Alfred J Pollock’s distinct lack of popularity was actually far simpler and it was a truth that he would never ever admit to himself. The truth was, Professor Alfred J Pollock was unpopular because he was a thoroughly obnoxious individual.
The research assistants in the laboratory were all well aware of Professor Pollock’s mean streak (that could, they sniggered behind his back, be measured in parsecs) and did their level best to avoid him as much as possible. If he was in a good mood, he would attempt humour so painfully bad that it made you physically wince; if he was in a bad mood, he would make your life a living hell in ways that may have been somehow cathartic for him.
Today, the research assistants knew that Professor Pollock would be in an even more apocalyptically bad mood than ever since the Trinsmann Committee had, for the fifth year running, turned him down for their award in Applied Physics. The research assistants knew this because they had en masse, over a Bunsen burner and boiling test tube, carefully steamed the Trinsmann Committee’s letter open and read the results. Consequently, Professor Pollock arrived at the laboratory to find that all nine of his research assistants had simultaneously fallen ill with food poisoning and had to go home.
Many people might have been discouraged by this but Professor Pollock was actually rather pleased as it would give him the opportunity to try out an experiment he had been putting together in secret for the last year. An application of quantum field theories and electro magnetism, he was certain that his temporal displacement field generator would be the invention that would finally allow him to put his name on the map. His intellect would finally overcome the inadequacies of his genes and he would finally be recognised for the genius that he truly was. Popularity would, he was sure, not be far behind. All he needed to do was to use the device to travel back to a point in history where his immense knowledge would allow him to have an unfair advantage of everyone around him.
He locked the laboratory door and took the device, which to the uninitiated eye may have resembled a rather ugly automatic coffee machine, and switched it on. There was a dull hum and a crackle of static in the air. The hum began to build in strength.
Professor Pollock happened to notice the letter while the machine was warming up and, as he read it, he felt a rage gather itself in his chest, spreading upwards to pulsate in his temples. How dare they attempt to belittle his genius? How dare they be so small minded that they couldn’t realise the towering significance of his accomplishments? How could these puerile, vacuous simpletons even begin to hope to grasp the magnificence of his intellect?
He’d show them, he thought. He had enough knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology to alter the very course of civilization and that was just what he would do. He’d go back far enough that he could his extensive knowledge to establish an empire, a glittering empire that would last for millennia. The name of Alfed J Pollock would become enshrined in myth and legend. Yes, he just needed to go back far enough. The Roman Empire should do it, he thought. He had no doubt that he would seem almost godly to them
The device buzzed and hummed in readiness. Alfred J Pollock smiled as he pressed the button, let them doubt his genius now.
* * *
Centurion Cornelius Asiaticus was standing guard, thoughts drifting off to the gladiators he watched a few days earlier when he felt an impossibly sudden weight descend upon the spear in his hand. He stumbled to one side, letting go of the spear, which was now somehow neatly dissecting the body of a small man with no hair and ridiculous looking clothing. The man looked rather surprised, staggered two paces and fell over in a bloody heap.
* * *
Professor Alfred J Pollock, hands feebly scrabbling against the rough wooden shaft of the spear that was firmly embedded in his lower abdomen, lay in the dirt and had just time enough time before he died to reflect, with some irony, that this was not quite the point in history he had had in mind…