The Time Traveller

One of my favorite stories. What if the people in an insane asylum weren’t really insane?


The pen scratching across the paper was the only noise in the room. The light came in slanted rays through the window as the sun slowly raised its head for the first time that day. The windows, when opened, would swing out if not for the bars blocking their way. For now, the window stayed cracked, in order to let as much spring air as possible into the cold, stuffy room.
“I am trapped here, in your time. It doesn’t matter what I find here, I can never go back to my home. It’s not like this is a huge surprise for me, being a social-historian. I guess… well, I guess my priorities had changed once I came here. Before, I thought only of the glory and thirst for knowledge, but now… now I see that my earlier ambitions hold no sway over the desire to return home. I suppose you think I’m weak.”

“I think no such thing. Please, carry on.”

“You may wonder what it is to be a social-historian. It is a magnificent position; one that is very sought after. Only the top of their class may have the chance to test for such a prestigious job. And the test… well, only those who are considered experts in History, Social Studies and Time Travel Theories have any chance at passing those. And here you have me.”

“And what is it do you do?”

“Why, I travel back in time to study your societies, of course! What else would we do? We look at your people, your cultures, your practices… And what magnificent cultures you have! So many identities wrapped up into one country! I’ve never seen anything like it!” 

“What is your purpose for doing such?”

“Why, to prevent ourselves from making your mistakes, of course!”


“Yes. So many mistakes… So many flaws that can be seen in the way you treat each other. Your treatment of other…What do you call them here? When another man’s skin is different from your own?”

“You mean race?”

“Yes, Race. Exactly. The abuse and neglect that I’ve seen here based solely on this factor is appalling. You treat each other like enemies because their skin is lighter or darker than your own!”

“And how do you solve this in your time?”

“With the Way of Life Act. But you haven’t even gotten to that point in time yet, have you?”

“No, we have no such law.”

“Well, Britain hasn’t imperialized the world yet either, and it’s crucial they do this before removing the nationalities of the planet.”

“Britain takes over the World? You think that’s what happens? “

A knock at the door.

“I’m in session.” 

The sound of a lock being turned filled the room. The man stopped the interview to look up expectantly; a hint of annoyance flashed in his eyes.

“Dr. Janska?” The door opened to reveal a bent old man, his hair white with age. 

“I said I’m in session.”

“This will be quick, I promise.” The old man walked into the room, and only then did Dr. Janska take notice of the young woman behind him. “I wanted to introduce you to our new doctor. She will be sitting in on a lot of your sessions with, I’m sorry… what do you call him again?”

“He is known as Mr. Carhill,” came Dr. Janska’s terse reply. 

“Ah, yes. Mr. Carhill. How pleasant…” he quickly cleared his throat before continuing. “Anyway, this is Dr. Valentine. Look to her as your protégé, as there is much I’m sure you can teach her in the coming weeks.”

Dr. Valentine stepped into the room, making sure to maintain eye contact with the doctor before her. He had been her hero, the reason she worked so hard to get where she is now. To finally get the chance to meet him … that had always been her dream. Seeing him now, she guessed she expected too much. Much more than this disheveled man before her. She smiled at him.

“It is a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to learning all I can from your techniques.”

“Yes,” replied Dr, Janska. “I imagine you would. Tell me, Miss Valentine, have you ever worked with schizophrenia?”

Doctor Valentine looked to the superintendant before answering. “I’ve studied it but have never dealt with it firsthand.”

“That is less than satisfactory but we’ll make do. I can see already that there is a lot that you can learn from me.” 

She paused. “Yes, I can see that as well. I look forward to working with you.”

The superintendant led the young doctor out the door. “I just have some last minute in processing to do with Dr. Valentine and then she’ll be ready to start with you.”

“Then be quick about it.” Dr. Janska immediately moved his attention away from the two intruders. He heard the door shut, and the lock turn again. He sat for a moment in silence, enjoying the solitude. Then, with nothing else to do, he curled up and went to sleep.