Short Stories 366:145 — “The Sneeze,” by Anna Castle

coverThe stories in Crime Travel (an anthology of crime stories centred around the theme of time travel) have thus far taken a “scientific” approach to time travel (in that machines are involved, usually). Then Anna Castle came along and decided ‘Meh, what-evs, my character starts to time travel when she sneezes‘ and folks, I am totally down for this approach. Here we meet a young woman who is writing her thesis on a lesser-known Victorian English pamphleteer and not feeling super-confident about it. She has a cold, too, which doesn’t help, and then comes the sneeze.

Finding oneself in the wrong time period is daunting no matter how it happens, but the dawning realization of the power of the sneeze is an amusing side-plot in this story, and as she realizes not only can she hop back and forth (again, using sneezes) but that she’s arrived at precisely the right point to shore up her thesis with some first-hand discussion with her subject, it seems like everything is aligning to make things great for her. Until she accidentally sets something in motion, her subject is accused of murder, and when she goes back to the present most of her source material is gone because, y’know, accusations of murder tend to derail things.

Trying to time-travel to (a) fix a terrible mistake of a crime that also (b) helps with your thesis is just such a great combination I was chuckling my way through the story. I love how harried and just-not-ready for this she is (brings back my early days in Literary academia, for sure, before I decided it wasn’t for me), and even moreso as she decides the way to fix this is bribery, confronting the real criminal (because research in the present lets her know who really did the deed) and maybe some flirting with her thesis topic. I mean, he’s hot. What are you gonna do?

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