[00:00:06] Pioneers of The Continuum.
[00:00:08] A story for English learners.
[00:00:10] Episode three, "A Family of Lies", starring Lindsey McMahon from All Ears English.
[00:00:19] You can find the interactive transcript, subtitles and vocabulary for this episode for free at leonardoenglish.com
[00:00:27] After the last time travel adventure where Bobby “the Greek” went on patrol with a group of Romans and almost got himself killed, everyone was happy to send me on a nice, safe trip just twenty-seven years into the past.
[00:00:44] There would be no Hitler, no Caesar, just a happy family reunion.
[00:00:49] I would get to see my father, who died before I was born. In fact, I was planning to make sure that he didn’t die.
[00:00:56] You see, my father was a trainee astronaut for one of the first private space companies. He never got to go to space - he died in a simulator during training, leaving my mother heartbroken and alone.
[00:01:11] And she was pregnant at the time, with me.
[00:01:14] “Why not visit ancient Egypt, Marcie?” asked Bobby, his finger over the launch button. “You’re going to do something as uneventful as going back three decades? It seems like all you want to do is make up your own soap opera!”
[00:01:30] “Shut it, you idiot!” I told him, half playfully.
[00:01:33] See, Bobby was actually my closest friend in the group. I thought he might even have a bit of a thing for me…
[00:01:40] “You got to do your thing; now I get to do mine. Push the button. Let’s get this show on the road”, I told him.
[00:01:47] Smiling, Bobby pressed the button.
[00:01:56] On TV, when you travel through time, you fall through a swirling tunnel of colours.
[00:02:01] For us, it wasn’t like that at all.
[00:02:04] One world disappeared and another instantly appeared in its place.
[00:02:09] I was in a very familiar place, my old bedroom, the bedroom I grew up in!
[00:02:15] But this was before I was born and it was a guest bedroom, filled with boxes and unwanted clothes.
[00:02:22] I opened the door and walked softly downstairs. The smell of coffee brewing came to me from the kitchen.
[00:02:28] Entering the living room, I noticed that the sofa had blankets and pillows on it, as if someone had been sleeping there.
[00:02:37] Strange! I sat down.
[00:02:39] The sofa looked brand new. It was almost thirty years old when I last sat on it.
[00:02:46] “Hello!” I called out.
[00:02:47] My mother appeared in the kitchen doorway, a look of shock on her face. She looked young, beautiful, with flowing locks of red hair, just like the pictures.
[00:02:58] Obviously, she was somewhat surprised to see me.
[00:03:02] “Who are you? How did you get in here?”
[00:03:05] I smiled at her. I may as well just come out with it and tell her the truth. “Mom, I’m your daughter. I travelled here from the future.”
[00:03:14] There was silence. I could hear the clock ticking on the wall.
[00:03:19] She was staring right at me, looking at me like I was mad but clearly something had clicked. After all, I did look a lot like her. I figured I’d tell her something nobody else would know.
[00:03:34] “You’re pregnant, right? About 8 weeks by now?”
[00:03:37] My mother’s jaw dropped in shock. “How did you…? I haven’t told…”
[00:03:43] “You’re not showing yet, but that’s me in there.”
[00:03:46] I stepped forward and placed my hand gently on her stomach. She flinched a little.
[00:03:52] “That’s me! Imagine that! There are two of me in the room right now. Isn’t that cool?”
[00:03:58] Mom sat down on the sofa, processing what I was saying. I knew she had always believed in wacky and weird things - aliens, ghosts, government conspiracies. I was hoping that this would help her to accept my story.
[00:04:13] As soon as she opened her mouth, I realised I was wrong.
[00:04:18] “Okay, you somehow got into my house and you somehow know about my baby, but you’re not from the future. You’re trying to trick me; do you think I was born yesterday? You had better explain yourself and fast or else I’m calling the police. And my husband will be back from work any minute now.”
[00:04:38] Damnit. Time for Plan B.
[00:04:40] “Here’s the proof,” I said, rolling up my sleeves.
[00:04:44] I activated the touch screen on my arm and began to project images on a nearby blank wall. Images of my mum holding me as a baby. Images of my mum taking me to school. Images of my mum at my fifth birthday party. I was hoping the device would convince her that I really was from the future. Hopefully, it was ‘futuristic’ enough.
[00:05:07] After all, it was only 2012. Even the “iPhone” was quite new back then!
[00:05:12] “Should I keep going?”, I asked, not sure that my mum would want to see pictures of herself getting older.
[00:05:19] Mum was thinking hard. I needed her to believe me. But she seemed somehow distracted, something else was on her mind.
[00:05:28] “David isn’t in any of the photos. Your…er…father, I mean.”
[00:05:34] I took my mother’s hand in mine. “That’s why I’m here. I know you love David - Dad - very much; you’ve told me so many times how happy you were and how proud you were of his space programme.
[00:05:47] “You also told me how you argued with him that the programme wasn’t safe. Well, you were right and he was wrong. He’s leaving for training tomorrow and - in my memory - he dies a week from now in a training accident. In a simulator. He never goes to space.”
[00:06:04] My mother’s face was unreadable. I looked for signs of sadness, but saw none.
[00:06:10] “That’s why I’m here. We can fix it, I can fix it for you. I’ve thought it through. We can ask him to refuse to go in the simulator until they’ve done further checks. He won’t die and perhaps he can go into space and fulfill his dreams. I’ll grow up with a father.”
[00:06:27] She paused, looking blankly at the wall.
[00:06:31] “He dies in a simulator…” Mum repeated. “ That’s… convenient.”
[00:06:38] She whispered the last word so that I could barely hear it.
[00:06:42] “Convenient?” I cried. “What do you mean? It doesn’t sound convenient to me…”
[00:06:47] “Listen,” my mum said, brushing my hair with her hand, “I do believe you. My beautiful daughter! You’re lovely, by the way. But, isn’t it dangerous to come back here and change things? Won’t it… mess things up for you when you get back?”
[00:07:03] “That’s not how it works. I’ll be fine.” Our team had agreed that we could reveal ourselves as time travellers, but we would keep secret the part about parallel universes. This was a different timeline and whatever happened here would have no effect on our own.
[00:07:21] “Just now, what did you mean by ‘convenient’?” I asked again.
[00:07:25] Mum let out a long sigh.
[00:07:28] “There are things you don’t know. Yes, you might have all the fancy gadgets in the world, but there are still things you don’t know. It seems that I haven’t been - or won’t be - truthful with you. Perhaps it’s time to come clean and tell the real story.
[00:07:45] “For weeks I had suspected that David, your father, was being unfaithful, that he was cheating on me. Three days ago, I caught him with his secretary. In the drawer over there are divorce papers. I’m planning to get him to sign them when he gets home tonight.”
[00:08:03] “Ohhh…” I said. Like jigsaw puzzle pieces locking into place, a picture began to form.
[00:08:12] The blankets and pillows on the sofa. Dad must have been sleeping down here after a big fight.
[00:08:19] It would be ‘convenient’ if he died in a training accident. Rather than face the shame of a messy divorce and an unfaithful husband, Mum could always claim to be the victim of a romantic tragedy.
[00:08:32] Yes, she argued with Dad before he left for training, but not about how dangerous the mission was. The argument was about whether or not to divorce.
[00:08:43] Bobby’s words came back to me: making up your own soap opera.
[00:08:48] What this woman was going to do was what my own mother had already done! The version of my family history that I knew was a lie.
[00:08:58] Sitting there in the living room, I didn’t even know whether to talk about it in the past or the future.
[00:09:06] I looked up to see tears streaming down my mother’s face. She was crying.
[00:09:11] “If he… if he…” she sobbed, “If he dies a week from now…”
[00:09:16] “Mum, no! We have to tell him. We have to do the correct thing.”
[00:09:20] “If he dies a week from now, I won’t need to go through with the termination.”
[00:09:25] I sat in stunned silence. Termination. She had been planning to get rid of the baby, of me! The final piece of the puzzle fell into place, the picture fully formed.
[00:09:39] I thought of the times I had watched television with my mum. She hated romantic movies, especially the ones where someone cheated and was later forgiven.
[00:09:50] One of our neighbours, Michelle, forgave her husband for an affair and later had a daughter with him. My mum had called it disgusting. You should only ever conceive a child in love, she said. Like me, she said, I had been conceived in love.
[00:10:06] But that was a fantasy, a lie.
[00:10:09] The accident had changed my mother’s mind about the abortion, about me. I suppose the divorce was never finalised either. She never told a soul.
[00:10:19] God, she wanted her husband to die in an accident so she could live her life her way. Her story.
[00:10:26] Talk about making up your own soap opera.
[00:10:29] I felt disgusted. I shouldn’t have come here. I shouldn’t have meddled.
[00:10:34] “Young lady. You never told me your name.” Mum was still sobbing.
[00:10:39] “Marcie. It’s short for Marcella. You named me after Grandma, your mother.” “But my mother’s name isn’t Marcella.”
[00:10:49] Damn! I forgot that this timeline might have some differences from my own. Now she might go back to thinking that I was trying to fool her.
[00:10:58] But I was saved by the sound of a car pulling up outside. I looked out of the window to see a blue Audi in the driveway. I recognised it from old photos, but in my timeline it was yellow.
[00:11:12] Dad entered the house and paused when he saw me. It was the first time I had ever met him in person, of course. He was strikingly handsome. A handsome young astronaut. A handsome young cheating astronaut.
[00:11:26] “You have a guest…” he said sheepishly to my mum. I guess he had expected to come home to more fights and arguments about his affair.
[00:11:35] Thinking quickly, I rose to my feet and offered my hand for him to shake. I thought of a plan.
[00:11:43] “Mr Welles? My name is Marcella. You don’t know me, but I know you.”
[00:11:48] “Um...okay…” he said, shaking my hand. He could see that Mum had been crying.
[00:11:55] “I’m involved in the Aris project, like you. Or at least I was. I’m… a whistleblower.”
[00:12:00] “A whistleblower?”, he repeated
[00:12:02] “I was fired from the Aris project for raising safety concerns. You know how quickly the project has moved. I know you really want to go into space; you must be looking forward to your training next week. But I’m here to warn you… safety standards are terrible, even with the simulators. There’s a high chance of an accident. A very high chance.
[00:12:25] “I’m taking this to the authorities, of course. But I also wanted to come and warn you in person.”
[00:12:31] Dad looked from me to Mum then back to me, in disbelief.
[00:12:36] “Anyway, I’ve said what I wanted to say and I’ve discussed it with your wife. Whether you continue or not is up to you. You can discuss it with your wife and decide on the best course of action together. Good day.”
[00:12:48] I walked out of the living room, opened the front door and stepped outside without looking back. I readied my chronotrigger.
[00:12:57] Did I do the right thing? I left it to them to decide. But to do so, I had to lie.
[00:13:03] My mother lied to me my entire life. My father lied when he had an affair. And now I was a liar, too. Just one part of a family of lies.
[00:13:13] I pressed the button.
[00:13:16] I was back in my own time. The team were all waiting for me. Later, I’d have to consider how to face my mother back in this timeline.
[00:13:28] “How was your soap opera?” asked Bobby.
[00:13:31] “You were right,” I told him. “Maybe I should have gone to ancient Egypt.”
[00:13:40] Pioneers of The Continuum was a Leonardo English production.
[00:13:44] The story was written by Emile Dodds and me, Alastair Budge
[00:13:49] Marcie was played by Lindsay McMahon from All Ears English.
[00:13:55] Make sure to subscribe and follow the podcast to get the next episode straight into your favourite podcast app.