It is not advisable to most persons recently subjected to a two-mile plummet from the heavens to be walking quickly away from the site of their death.
Percival knew this but didn’t care. He was immortal, literally “preserved in time”. He was not-unpleasantly surprised to find that his heart wasn’t beating and he didn’t have to breathe in order to live. He didn’t feel anything, which was a slight disadvantage. If someone decided to club him over the head right about now, his body would only speed up a little as it fell and the intended killer would go sadly unpunished. It was an interesting state of being, immortality of the past. He realized how much he depended on his body to tell him things, like when to eat. When he had stepped into the time machine centuries later, he had had a hankering for stuffed turkey and tomato soup with chunks of unidentifiable meat floating around in it. Now, he felt nothing. He remembered hunger—he remembered thirst—but there was none of that now.
Then it struck him. Why hadn’t he thought of this before? It was so obvious!
This would be a great time to sweep the Sahara desert for that backpack he had lost on a safari! It had contained some interesting things. No thirst, no hunger… Why, he could go out with no supplies, no need for a tent, no fear of potentially fatal injuries, no fear of anything!
And then there was the laptop he had lost on Mount Everest. He would be as hardy as a Sherpa in the state he was in! Perhaps the Sherpas were even time travelers as well. It would make sense.
Percival snapped out of his daydream as he walked into a tree. Not that he felt it, of course, but he couldn’t move any farther and it kind of bothered him. He stepped to the left and continued on.
The fact that his heart actually wasn’t beating didn’t really bother him. Once the urge to grab an automatic external defibrillator had passed (at one and a half miles above the surface of the earth) he had gotten used to it. And anyway, the pocket of his greatcoat where he kept his AED had been out of reach.
As he had fallen, the wind had forced his eyes shut. Also, he was getting rather disconcerted by the idea that he might be seriously injured when he landed, so he closed his eyes to the problem and enjoyed the ride. Unfortunately, since he had no sense of feeling anywhere in his body, the feeling was more like that of lying completely still on a featherbed. No movement, no feeling, nothing. He could hear wind whistling past his ears, but he was almost convinced that it was a high-quality surround-sound system. Then the wind stopped. A very piercing scream. And another. And another. Eventually, he opened his eyes a crack and saw people bending over him. He waited for them to disperse a little bit, then got up and walked quickly away. His entrance had attracted attention, and attention was something he didn’t want at the present.
He pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and checked it. As he expected: no service. Well, it might not be much use except as a small club. He sighed and pocketed it again. It would have been helpful to contact the future Phils, but with time travel the way he and Liam had expected, he hadn’t had much hope for it.
Suddenly his view of the world was upside down. He didn’t feel anything, of course, but he sensed that something was amiss when the floor became blue and his head was inches from the green and brown sky. He looked down the length of his body and saw a rope tied to his ankle, hoisting him up into a tree.
He cursed under his breath. This wouldn’t do. He didn’t know where it came from, but he had a sense in the back of his mind that he couldn’t stay still for too long or his own time would claim him back. He started swinging himself back and forth on the rope, keeping himself moving. Eventually he attempted a sit-up to reach the rope, and was surprised to find that it worked. Muscles must work differently here in the past.
He landed on his head, but he didn’t mind since he didn’t even feel it. His neck wasn’t even bent out of shape, either. Immortality seemed really fun.
He continued on his way, watching more carefully for more snares. It seemed to be a wood populous with the suitable creatures. He kept an eye out for wild gophers, just in case.
As he walked, he tried to figure out what country he was in. He could be anywhere. From the clothing of the people who had found him on the ground, he guessed that the time machine had dumped him in the incorrect time period. He had tried for the nineteenth century, and had dressed accordingly. From the accents and the general clothing, it seemed that he was over a thousand years early. But he was in England, as he had calculated in the Castle Under the Cloud. That day seemed so long ago, and it was hard to believe that it was over a thousand years in the future. Percival smiled. He loved time paradoxes.
He was startled almost out of his greatcoat when he saw movement ahead of him, too high for a ground animal and too slow for a bird or tree animal. As the form moved closer, he realized that it was human. He ducked behind a tree quickly.
Percival couldn’t feel anything, so the tap on his shoulder was rather ineffective. He didn’t notice until the person behind him pushed him forward. He turned quickly, even more startled.
“Who are you?” asked the man. It sounded like a Welsh accent, but thicker than a modern accent.
“Percival Tospockingtonham, Phil.”
“My name isn’t Phil.”
“Neither is mine. It’s my title.”
“Oh. I haven’t seen you around the conferences.”
“You’re a Phil too?”
“Yup. And proud of it. I should take you to the Head Phil, however…”
Percival nodded. He had found the Phils.