Caught in Time-7

by Aditya Sengupta

The story so far (see Caught in Time!Caught in Time-2Caught in Time-3Caught in Time-4, Caught in Time-5 and Caught in Time-6): Eleven year-old Ajay starts out for school in Kolkata and boards a bus that takes him to World War II France. Forced to train as a German pilot, he is hit by a RAF Hurricane on his maiden flight and crashes into Ancient Greece in the eve of the ‘Wooden Horse of Troy’ episode. Caught and imprisoned by Trojan soldiers in an ante-chamber inside the wooden horse, Ajay finds himself  at the foot of a pyramid in ancient Egypt. Negotiating the murderous defense mechanisms of the ancient pharoahs inside the pyramid, he is taken prisoner and pushed into a room where a poisonous gas is released. Choking, he blacks out  … 

Chapter 7: The Lord of Time

Ajay opened his eyes. Not slowly, but rapidly, within one second. He arrived at the conclusion that he had not been sleeping–or at least, he had not been sleeping normally.

He sat up and looked around. He appeared to be on the peak of a mountain. He was not wearing warm clothes, but he did not feel cold at all. Looking around he saw a middle-aged-looking man standing nearby.

“Where am I?” asked Ajay, bewildered. He remembered the time-warps. “When am I?”

“You are currently on top of Mount Olympus, but time has no meaning here,” was the reply. “Everest may be the highest peak in the world, but Mount Olympus exceeds it, as it is here that time begins and ends. It is probably the most important place on the surface of the earth.”

“But who are you?”

“Aristotle.”

“What? The ancient Greek philosopher? How –”

“Were you going to ask how I am alive now? I already told you, time has no meaning here. After my death, I was made the Lord of Time. And since time has no meaning here, it seemed the ideal place to rule over it.”

“Time-warps surround it on all sides. To the gods in other places, like lower on this mountain, I have been Lord of Time for two thousand years. It is a very important position.” said Aristotle.

“So, if you’re the Lord of Time, you would have seen what happened to me.” said Ajay.

“Of course. A boy going backwards through history is very interesting.”

“So can you explain what happened to me?”

“Yes, I can.” Aristotle sat down on a chair that had not been there a minute before and began his explanation.

“Time-warps occur in two situations. Either you are trapped in a place with no sense of time, or you are in an object that is moving at extremely fast speeds, such as the bus or the fighter plane.”

“You travelled much further back in time on the second occasion because the rate of time travel, which is the ratio of real time to amount of time you go forward or back, depends on the speed of the object. A falling plane would travel much faster than the bus. An object that is the medium of a time-warp is also invisible. That is why there was no news of an extremely fast bus in Kolkata,” said Aristotle.

“Not many people would have seen it anyway. It was 5 a.m.” said Ajay. “But tell me, why wasn’t I time-warped in the pyramid? And another thing–in the wooden horse, I examined everything very carefully; yet, one of the men still managed to find a small room which was definitely not there before. How did that happen?”

“You weren’t time-warped in the pyramid as there you were concentrating on reaching a time-warp, not entering one,” replied Aristotle. “Even if you had reached a time-warp, you would just have been transported somewhere else”.

“Once you are in a time-warp cycle, the only way to get out of it (if you’re not a god) is to die,” explained Aristotle. “You would then be brought here. As for the small room, I create time portals for the gods to travel through time–the one thing that they cannot do naturally. You must have been wishing that a time-warp would appear at the time.”

“By the way, I must also thank you. You created two key time-warps which had completely slipped my mind, even after more than two thousand years of thinking. Gods can be quite absent-minded, you know. Despite our divine powers, we still haven’t been able to create a mechanism for remembering things!” Aristotle chuckled.

“Being the Lord of Time sounds like a difficult job.”

“It is. And now, I’m sure you would like to go back to your own home, in your own time. You will be transported to your school, to five minutes before your History test. You will be in your school uniform and all the contents of your school bag will be with you.”

Ajay was about to mention that the History test was next week, when he decided against it. He didn’t like Maths and would gladly miss a test.

On Aristotle’s instructions, Ajay walked through a gate and was time-warped.

***

The teacher was handing out test papers as Ajay arrived. Nobody seemed to notice Ajay’s arrival, appearing from thin air. He took his paper and sat down.

The first few questions were:

Q1. Describe the flight techniques of the pilots of the Luftwaffe.

Q2. How were the Trojans tricked by the Greeks using a wooden horse?

Q3. What sort of defense mechanisms did Egyptian pharaohs use?

Ajay took out his pen (which was with him, like Aristotle had said) and began to write.

***

Aditya Sengupta is 11 years old and a student of class VII in New Delhi, India. He loves reading, writing, music and watching cricket.

Caught in Time-6

by Aditya Sengupta

The story so far (see Caught in Time!, Caught in Time-2, Caught in Time-3, Caught in Time-4 and Caught in Time-5): Eleven year-old Ajay starts out for school in Kolkata and boards a bus that takes him to World War II France. Forced to train as a German pilot, he is hit by a RAF Hurricane on his maiden flight and crashes into Ancient Greece in the eve of the ‘Wooden Horse of Troy’ episode. Caught and imprisoned by Trojan soldiers in an ante-chamber inside the wooden horse, Ajay finds himself in yet another time warp … 

Chapter  6: Perils inside the Pyramid

After two time-warps in the strangest ways possible, Ajay was not exactly surprised to have gone through a third. He appeared to be in an area near the equator, as the sun was still rising, yet the weather was quite warm. It did not look like India, though it had a river flowing through it. It might be some other ancient civilization, like Egypt.

Ajay walked further away from the rising sun, heading west. The sight of a pyramid confirmed his suspicion that he was in Egypt. Ajay decided to enter the pyramid, hoping to find another time-warp that would (if he were lucky) end the bizzare cycle.

Ajay did not really expect a door to be wide open for him to walk through; however, there was a wall which had a hole near the bottom, just wide enough for a man to crawl through. Being an eleven-year old, Ajay managed to climb through quite easily.

He found himself in a long hallway. He felt strangely uneasy, but had no option but to go on. He took three cautious steps forward. Nothing happened. He took another step.

An arrow flew from an opening in one wall, glided over Ajay’s head and bounced off the other wall, landing on the floor. Ajay thought rapidly. This defense mechanism would have been designed to stop full-grown burglars, who would be taller than him. So, he had the advantage in terms of height, but even so, he would have to proceed with even greater caution.

The next arrow was very low, and Ajay avoid it in the nick of time by dropping flat and pressing his body to the ground very quickly. A larger person would have been shot in his right leg.

He had to avoid ten more arrows. Some were fired simultaneously, and Ajay had to step back to avoid them, but not too far back, or he might have triggered another arrow. Reaching the other end, miraculously unscathed, Ajay paused to rest for a minute.

He then looked at his next obstacle: four doors, all alike. There was some dust, and footprints around them. Someone seemed to have tried all four doors, and no footsteps had returned from the second door from the left. Either that was the right door, or it was the wrong one. Either way, what choice did he have but to continue?

He opened the door and found himself at a fork: one road went left, and one went right. Ajay chose the right fork and found himself on a long path, at the end of which was a wall made of stone, with no convenient holes in it to go through.

He went back to the fork and chose the left one. This lead to another long pathway, with two doors at the end. He chose the left door and went through it.

His third obstacle was a stone pathway that seemed to be suspended in mid-air. Some of the stones looked as if they were very precariously balanced and might give way at the lightest touch. Ajay stepped carefully, avoiding all unstable stones. After a while, he saw the exit, and was so relieved that he accidentally stepped backwards dislodged a stone. The whole floor fell, and Ajay with it.

Fortunately, he was still alive. He made his way down another hall, thankfully arrow-free, and reached a door. He walked through it and saw a very short man, dressed in black clothes.

Unlike the soldiers at Troy, this man clearly knew exactly what to do. He was brandishing a very sharp knife and led Ajay, at its point, into a large room. He was also very careful to lock the door as he left Ajay there.

As soon as the man left, some gas was released into the room. Ajay tried not to inhale it, but was unsuccessful. He had been poisoned…the whole room started spinning … he would not survive …

To be continued …

Aditya Sengupta is 11 years old and a student of class VII in New Delhi, India. He enjoys reading, writing, music and watching cricket.

Caught in Time-5

by Aditya Sengupta

The story so far (see Caught in Time!Caught in Time-2, Caught in Time-3 and Caught in Time-4):

Eleven year-old Ajay starts out for school in Kolkata and boards a bus that takes him to World War II France where he escapes bombing to find himself in a German Air Force base in charge of a crackpot Commandant who has him trained to fly a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt plane. Ajay’s plane is bombed by RAF Hurricanes a few minutes into his maiden flight and his plane, instead of crashing, is suspended a few meters above the ground for thirteen hours. When it finally reaches the ground, Ajay finds himself in Ancient Greece, on the eve of the battle, when the Greek soldiers are preparing the wooden horse for a surprise attack on the Trojans. Ajay, hoping for a sticky situation that might convert into another time warp and take him back to Kolkata, stows away inside the horse, and as the Greek ships make a pretense of sailing away, the horse is wheeled into the city by the unsuspecting Trojans…

Trouble in Troy

As the soldiers inside the horse prepared to creep out into the dead of night, Ajay heard excited voices whispering in Greek. But these whispered conversations would not have been audible to anyone standing outside the wooden horse, on the streets of Troy.

All the soldiers inside the horse had known each other for at least three years. Only the best troops had been chosen for this secret operation–they all had at least fifteen years of military experience. They were also confident that they were the only people on board the wooden horse. Nobody else could possibly be there–especially not a child!

Whoever heard of a child sneaking on board a wooden horse, late at night, with an entire army near them?

***

Ajay had sneaked on board the wooden horse, late at night, with an entire army near him. After crashing down from the sky, and finding himself in Ancient Greece at the time of the famous wooden horse plot for Greek troops to enter Troy, he had managed to enter the wooden horse unnoticed, in order to  find another time warp, to get back to Kolkata in 2011. He could only wait and hope that his next time warp would not take him even further back in time.

Silence fell as the soldiers started climbing out of the wooden horse. Ajay wondered whether he should follow them outside. He decided he should do so if he really wanted a sticky situation that might become a time warp. He waited for all the soldiers to get out, and then, cautiously made his way to the exit.

By now, the Trojans had realized that they had been tricked. Now they were not taking any chances by assuming that there were no more troops. There could be five times more soldiers inside the wooden horse!

They decided to search the interior of the wooden horse. And so it happened, that just as Ajay was climbing down, a posse of Trojan soldiers arrived at the base of the colossal wooden horse. One of them, clearly the leader, said something and pointed up to the horse’s head. The meaning was clear. He wanted Ajay to go back up the horse.

Five minutes later, Ajay was surrounded by the men. They discussed things in a language which Ajay did not understand. Ajay could tell that they were surprised to find a child. Ajay was hoping that a time warp would appear for him to get away when the men finally reached a decision.

One of the men opened the door to a rather small room inside the horse which Ajay had not noticed earlier. Ajay looked hesitantly at the dark room when a man pushed him inside.

Ajay waited for half an hour for the men to leave. He tried to open the door. To his surprise, it had not been locked, and opened easily. Ajay thankfully climbed down to the bottom of the horse and found himself in a different place again!

He groaned–it was another time warp all right, but it hadn’t taken him back to Kolkata 2011! So, where and when was he this time?

To be continued …

Aditya Sengupta is 11 years old and a student of class VII in New Delhi, India. He enjoys reading, music and watching cricket.

Caught in Time-4

by Aditya Sengupta

The story so far (see Caught in Time!, Caught in Time-2 and Caught in Time-3):

Eleven year-old Ajay starts out for school in Kolkata and boards a bus that takes him to World War II France where he escapes bombing to find himself in a German Air Force base in charge of a crackpot Commandant who has him trained to fly a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt plane. Ajay’s plane is bombed by RAF Hurricanes a few minutes into his maiden flight and his plane, instead of crashing, is suspended a few meters above the ground for thirteen hours. When it finally reaches the ground, Ajay finds himself on a beach …

The Iliad or the Odyssey?

Ajay stood up, rubbing his forehead. He did not want to get stuck in another time when he had just got used to the first one. He looked at the place where he had crashed–actually, crashed was not such a good description, as his plane had been hovering above the ground for thirteen hours before the so-called ‘crash’. The wrecked plane had vanished!

This was not Ajay’s first strange experience in recent times (or what seemed like recent times). He had got onto a bus and been transported to World War II, he had become the youngest pilot of the war thanks to the insanity of a commanding officer, he had been shot down after minutes in the air above France, he had been in a plane that was suspended just above the ground for over twelve hours, and now that plane had disappeared!

And even though he was no longer in the middle of World War II, Ajay was far from reassured. This place looked like Ancient Greece. Well, if he was in Greece, at least he was moving closer to India!

When Ajay had fallen from the sky, it was mid-afternoon. Now twilight had fallen–a sure sign of a time warp.

Ajay walked a bit and reached some tents. There was one that was much bigger than the others. He approached it and heard voices speaking in a strange language, which he rather thought might be Greek.

Though he obviously did not know ancient Greek, he knew it had some common elements with English, and by concentrating hard he could understand a few words in the conversation that was going on inside that tent. He understood the word Troy, for instance.

That confirmed his suspicion that he was in ancient Greece! He managed to understand that some sort of attack was about to take place. He also heard the word ‘horse’. Looking beyond the tent, he saw a grand, large city. Looking behind him, he saw a large wooden horse.

He suddenly understood that he had been taken back to the famous siege of Troy, when the Greeks had sent a wooden horse into the city for the Trojans, with soldiers inside it.

Ajay’s bizzare experiences so far had taught him that when in a time-warped zone, getting  into a difficult situation generally got you out of it–and one never knew–he might find himself back in India the next time (at least he hoped so)!

Well, he would not get into difficult predicaments if he just stayed where he was. Ajay saw soldiers climbing into the wooden horse. He knew how to escape this time-warp zone now.

***

One hour later, Ajay was hiding in the wooden horse.

Some soldiers were outside, pushing the horse to the gates of Troy. This sounded impossible, but the horse had wheels and the soldiers were strong. The soldiers did not notice Ajay entering the wooden horse and hiding in a corner. They were either too excited or too apprehensive–Ajay couldn’t tell which.

The gates were opened and the wooden horse entered Troy. All of the soldiers were elated at the idea of invading the enemy’s territory–a job that was already half done. Now all they had to do was wait…

until midnight…

To be continued …

Aditya Sengupta is 11 years old and a student of class VII in New Delhi, India. He enjoys reading, music and watching cricket.

Caught in Time-3

by Aditya Sengupta

The story so far (see Caught in Time! and Caught in Time-2):

Eleven year-old Ajay starts out for school in Kolkata and boards a bus that takes him to central France in the throes of World War II. Narrowly escaping death by bombing, by jumping into the river Seine, Ajay trudges fifty miles to find himself at a German Air Force base where, not knowing any German, he unwittingly volunteers to become a fighter pilot … 

The Youngest Pilot in World War II

About five hundred metres up in the air, an eleven-year-old boy was flying a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt. Although flying was certainly enjoyable, Ajay was constantly afraid of an enemy plane shooting at him.

Just a day before – or it may have been sixty years into the future – Ajay had been worried about his Maths exam. Now – whenever now was – he was just a few minutes away from death, and this was not like video games, where you got infinite lives. This was real death. If Ajay was shot down, he would be very lucky to live. He had already been lucky once, when a plane had released a bomb very close by, not more than five metres away from him.

His commanding officer Oberstleutnant Eberhardt’s voice crackled into life through Ajay’s communication device.

Ajay had had to learn German in a week without anyone teaching him, while also learning how to fly a plane. Eberhardt told him in German that enemy planes were approaching him — well, maybe what Eberhardt regarded as enemy planes: Ajay hadn’t chosen which side he was on. If he’d had a choice, he wouldn’t have joined World War II at all!

Ajay reflected with some amusement that if he survived, he would get full marks in next week’s History test.

Through the mist, a few RAF Hurricanes became visible. They started shooting at Ajay’s Messerschmitt. Ajay tried to dodge their attacks, but one destroyed the left wing. His plane was falling with rapidly increasing speed…

***

Inside the Hurricane whose pilot had shot down Ajay, there was a conversation going on over the pilots’ wireless system:

Smith: Did you see the pilot you shot down?

Wesson: No, who was it? An eighty-year-old man?

Smith: Actually, it was a kid! About ten years old.

Wesson: Have the Germans been inspired by Alex Rider? Have they decided to change a fourteen-year-old spy into a ten-year-old pilot?

Smith: My dear Wesson, don’t you know that Alex Rider won’t be invented for fifty years?

Wesson would have probably replied if more Messerschmitts, with adult pilots this time, had not appeared.

***

While all of this was going on, Ajay was still falling  at a speed he would have thought was impossible to reach. He had been falling for a minute when the Messerschmitt suddenly stopped. He was suspended in mid–air, barely ten metres from the ground.

As he appeared to be stuck where he was, Ajay decided to sleep. This might seem like a strange thing to do, but for the past two weeks Ajay had been functioning on barely  four and a half hours of sleep per night, due to flight training, practicing German and feeling scared of the upcoming battle.

He slept for a full thirteen hours by the dashboard clock, and when he woke up he was still suspended in mid-air. He shouted at the plane, telling it to finish falling to the ground. Strangely, it appeared to listen to Ajay and obligingly crashed to the ground.

Ajay climbed out of his Messerschmitt when it hit the ground. After thirteen hours of being suspended in mid-air, the plane’s speed had been reduced to near-zero, and he did not die, or even suffer minor injury.

However, looking around him, he saw that he was no longer in France. This place looked like a Hollywood movie set of ancient Greece. He saw a large wooden structure approaching him.

To be continued…

Aditya Sengupta is 11 years old and a student of class VII in New Delhi, India. He enjoys reading, music and watching cricket.

Caught in Time–2

by Aditya Sengupta

The story so far: Eleven year-old Ajay starts off for school but boards a bus that takes him to a strange place and time where a Luftwaffe airplane drops a bomb a few miles away. A second Luftwaffe is directly overhead and the pilot pushes the bomb release button …

Chapter 2: Surviving in a Strange Time

Ajay knew he might have only seconds to live—before he died in a strange, unknown place. He had always imagined … well, he hadn’t really imagined anything about his own death, apart from a wish to know where he would be when he died. He ran for the nearest cover, which was a small cottage by a river. He realized that there was only one thing that he could do to save his life.

He took a deep breath and jumped into the river.

The water was not particularly cold. Ajay felt the power of the bomb a few seconds later and realized that he was lucky to be alive. He forced himself to stay underwater for as long as he could, in case another Luftwaffe arrived. His head broke the surface after at least fifty seconds underwater. Gasping, he made his way to the ruined cottage. It had clearly been destroyed in the bomb blast.

An old lady lay on the floor, dead. Trying not to look at the body, Ajay searched the ruined cottage. He found a map and some bread. He found a bag to carry the bread in—he had a feeling he was going to need it.

He came out of the cottage and consulted the map. There was a large red dot marked on it, which Ajay took to be his present location. A good part of his extended family lived in Paris, and having spent most of his holidays with his cousins there, Ajay knew a little French. He immediately recognized the Seine, the river that flowed through Paris. He had almost fallen into it once when he was younger. Now, that same river had saved his life.

He was apparently in a rural area in central France. The nearest village was not for fifty miles and judging by the position of the sun, it was mid-afternoon. Ajay started walking away from the ruined cottage.

***

Ajay walked for the rest of the day and the whole of the night. He ate all of the bread that he had taken from the cottage. In the small hours of the morning he reached an Air Force base. He had no choice but to ask for shelter there. However, nobody could understand what he was saying, in English, French or in any of the other languages he knew. He recognized the sounds of German, although he couldn’t understand what was being said.

The conversation between the two senior-most officers at the camp, Oberstleutnant (Group Captain) Eberhardt and Major (Wing Commander) Bauer:

Bauer: “We lost Dresdner in the last attack on Paris, and they haven’t sent anyone else.”

Eberhardt (musingly): “I wonder if this boy knows how to fly a plane?”

Bauer: “He’s just a child, Oberstleutnant! He can’t be much more than ten years old.”

Eberhardt: “Still, we can teach him how to fly in a week. We need to man that Luftwaffe and, as you say, they haven’t sent anyone else.”

Bauer: “It’s impossible to teach him so quickly!”

At this point, Eberhardt asked Ajay whether he would be willing to fly a plane.

Ajay, who did not know any German, and thought that Eberhardt was asking him whether he wanted shelter, nodded eagerly.

Eberhardt clapped his hands. “Excellent! Operation Kadella begins in two weeks. He can be ready for that”.

Well, Eberhardt was clearly mad—sending a child in a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt with only two weeks of training sounded like insanity to Bauer, but unfortunately, Eberhardt was his senior, so he had to be obeyed.

***

Two weeks later

Ajay was nervous. He had been at the German base for two weeks. He had soon figured out that he had, unwittingly, said that he was willing to become a pilot. Well, flying a plane had certainly been on the list of things that Ajay had aspired to do, but not in a war zone!

He received the order to take off in German. He had managed to pick up some phrases while he was being taught to fly.

He took off as he had been instructed, and soon his plane was high up in the sky.

To be continued …

Aditya Sengupta is 11 years old. He is a student of Class VII in New Delhi, India. He enjoys reading, music and watching cricket.

Caught in Time!

by Aditya Sengupta

Ajay was an ordinary eleven year-old boy. He went to school; he did homework; he watched TV and generally led a normal life.

But one day, he found something that meant two things:

First, that he would never fail a History test.

And second, that he might never see his own home again.

***

Kolkata, India
May 9, 2011
5:30 am

It was Monday morning. Ajay had a Maths exam, and he was not looking forward to it. Mondays were bad enough on their own, the beginning of another round of waking up early every day, going to school before the sun rose, and listening, writing—and worst of all, in Ajay’s opinion—memorizing! He could hardly wait for the school bell at the end of the day!

Ajay started walking down the stairs, towards the bus stop. He reached it and waited. None of his friends came, even after half an hour. Eventually, he saw the bus, and it was empty. He got on without hesitation. If he had known what awaited him, he would have walked to school.

Suddenly, the bus started speeding up, at what seemed a speed of ten thousand miles per second—and that was no exaggeration. Ajay waited for just over a minute, and then, when he could take it no longer, he shouted, “Stop!”

The bus stopped. Bewildered, Ajay climbed out of the bus. It zoomed into the distance, leaving Ajay behind, all alone, in a place that was definitely not Kolkata…

***

Ajay started thinking. This place that he was in did not look like anywhere in India. It looked more like what a foreign country would have looked years ago.

He looked up as the shadow of a Luftwaffe airplane passing overhead flitted past him. He recognized it as he was studying the Second World War in school. The thought of school made him think about his Maths exam. It was probably going on at that very minute.

Wait a minute, he thought. That plane meant that he was no longer in 2011. Luftwaffe airplanes didn’t pass over Kolkata, so that confirmed his theory that he was somewhere else. Was it possible that the bus had not only taken him to a completely different place, but also to a different time? It seemed unlikely, but Ajay always kept an open mind to every possibility.

Ajay suddenly looked up as he heard a loud noise. It was a bomb that had fallen, barely a few miles away! If he accepted the fact that he was in a different time, then the question was which time? Well, there would be time enough to think about that when he was safe from bombs, and possibly, invading armies. He ran to the nearest house. There was a chance that it had a bomb shelter. However, the next airplane flew directly overhead.

***

The Airplane

The pilot did not really want to bomb this peaceful town. However, orders were orders, and he might be killed if he did not obey them.

His finger rested on the button that would release the bomb. Although the pilot did not know it, Ajay was directly underneath his plane, and would most likely be killed if he pressed the button. He had to obey orders, though, so he pressed the button.

To be continued…

Aditya Sengupta is 11 years old. He is a student of Class VII in New Delhi, India. He enjoys reading, music and watching cricket. 

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