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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Morrison

‘The Earth in parallel universe 675/A10 appears to have developed in an identical fashion to our own, until 1762,’ David concluded, scanning the reports from agents who had recently returned. ‘Development then slowed to the extent that even now, in 2011, they’ve not even invented powered flight.’

‘What happened?’ I asked.

‘We don’t know,’ David replied. ‘That’s why I want you to go there, through the portal.’

‘The portal will take me to Earth 675/A10,’ I noted, ‘but it won’t take me back in time.’

‘You’ll have to study the relevant history from the records they kept,’ instructed David. ‘Good luck.’


I wandered though the London streets of 2011 on Earth 675/A10, though they were nothing like the London streets with which I was familiar. Crude, horse-drawn carts travelled along cobbled roads. The scene was consistent with the 19th century on the Earth that I knew.

I needed a plan to track down the event that had all but halted progress in the mid eighteenth century of this parallel world. However, transportation through the portal always made me hungry, so I decided to start by tracking down lunch. This was not a difficult task as it seemed to me that almost every other building was some form of well patronised eating establishment.

‘Good afternoon, sir,’ said a serving wench as I sat down in a small ale house. ‘Can I get you some food and beer?’

‘I’ll just have a cheese sandwich, please,’ I answered.

‘We have the finest cheese, good sir,’ she replied, ‘but what, pray, is a sandwich?’

I looked at her with surprise. ‘Well, it’s what you get if you put the cheese between two slices of bread,’ I said.

‘Why would anyone do such a thing?’ She looked puzzled.

‘It makes the food quick and easy to eat, and you don’t get your hands greasy,’ I explained.

She thought for several moments, then gasped. ‘Why, kind sir, that’s brilliant!’ she cried in astonishment. 'It's genius of the most inspired kind.'

She rushed excitedly to speak with a man I presumed to be the owner. He thoughtfully considered her words. He then reached for a loaf, cut two slices and laid one upon a platter. A thick segment of cheese was placed atop this slice. Hands now shaking, he finally positioned the second slice of bread upon the cheese to complete the dish. He then raised it to his mouth and prepared to take a bite.

I had been so captivated by this scene that I had neglected to notice the silence that had descended upon the ale house as all the other patrons viewed this unique creative act in stunned and speechless amazement. As the owner bit into the bread-cheese-bread combination, those assembled cheered and spontaneously broke into rapturous applause.

The serving wenches were soon swamped with orders for this new dish.

‘Thank you so much Mr, eh…,’ said the owner to me as I left the ale house.

‘Morrison,’ I said. ‘Swan Morrison.’

‘Thank you so much, Mr Morrison,’ he continued. ‘This is an outstanding breakthrough for lunchtime cuisine.’

A thought suddenly occurred to me, and I hurried along the road towards the central library. As I went, I noted people running from one food establishment to the next. I could tell by their enthusiastic and animated gestures that they were relaying the news of the new way to eat lunch.

I withdrew a reference book from the library shelves and looked up the entry for John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

Although the Earl disliked being interrupted from card gambling, he had such an excellent cook that he always paused his games to indulge in extended luncheons.


‘So that was the explanation,’ I said to David when back in his office. ‘The sandwich had never been invented, and so people took hugely longer over lunch. That meant they didn’t put in the working hours needed to develop science and the arts to the extent that we have. I guess progress might speed up now,’ I speculated with some embarrassment, ‘since I accidently let slip the secret of the sandwich.’

‘I expect it will,’ he sighed, reflecting on the Prime Directive of non-intervention in parallel-world cultures, 'since you achieved the most spectacular breach of the Prime Directive in the history of our department by revealing the technology of the sandwich,' he paused and sighed again, 'or the morrison as they now call it on Earth 675/A10.’