Missing Apocalypse

An essay by Jason Cartwright and Timothy Cartwright, as provided by D. M. Allan
Photograph by Dawn Vogel

Dear Peter,

I read the obituary you wrote for my grandfather and I really appreciate what you said about him. I know he wasn’t everyone’s favourite philosopher but he deserved recognition and you gave him that without overdoing it.

I’ve been trying to organise his papers. Among them, tucked into his journal for 1957, I found a very strange manuscript. There’s no doubt it’s in his handwriting–there are plenty examples of it.

I’m sure you remember that television interview when he upset most of the literary establishment by stating that all fiction, and in particular speculative fiction, was a product of overactive and possibly deranged imaginations. I’ve heard him say similar things often enough that I can’t imagine him writing anything like this. But if it’s not fiction it doesn’t make sense. I’ve included a copy. Please let me know what you think of it.

All the best,

Tim Cartwright.


The room was exactly what you would expect if you told an unimaginative set designer to produce a professor’s study. Bookcases covered two of the walls. The third had a fireplace with a portrait of Rupert Johnstone-Jenkins in full academic regalia gazing into the middle distance hanging over it. In front of the window there was a big desk with a swivel chair upholstered in green leather and there were two matching upright chairs facing it.

I didn’t have any choice about where to sit. One of the chairs was occupied by a large ginger and white cat who lifted his head, contemplated me for a moment and put his head down again as if it was too heavy to hold up for any length of time.

“Don’t mind Isambard, Mr Cartwright. He has a low opinion of everyone unless they’re about to feed him. Have a seat.” The professor followed me into the room, sat down in the swivel chair and rocked it gently from side to side while looking at me.

The portrait flattered him. He was a tall, gangling man with enormous hands, big ears, and a mass of nondescript brown hair. After studying me for a bit he seemed to come to a decision. He reached into one of the desk drawers and produced two glasses and a bottle of whisky.

“Do you drink whisky, Mr Cartwright? Or doesn’t the stereotype of the hard drinking reporter apply to someone from the student magazine?”

“Thank you, Professor. I wouldn’t describe myself as hard drinking but I do like whisky.”

He poured a hefty dose into each of the glasses, passed one to me and took a mouthful from his own. “Try that,” he said. “I don’t suppose you often get a chance to taste a really good single malt like this. I just hope it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of lesser varieties.”

I took a sniff and a sip, then I felt my eyebrows go up. It wasn’t just good, it was superb. I mentally thanked my father for teaching me to appreciate whisky. “Ardbeg,” I said confidently, “probably twenty years old.” That may have been the only time I impressed the professor.

“Correct. I am surprised. I didn’t expect you to be a connoisseur. But you didn’t come here to talk whisky. What do you want to know?”

“Well, Professor …”

“Call me JJ. Everybody does.”

The interruption threw me for a moment. He had just put the interview on a more personal basis than I had anticipated. Rupert Johnstone-Jenkins had been appointed to a personal chair in Applied Mechanics, one of the three new professors at Oxford that year. The student magazine always published interviews with new professors. None of us on what might loosely be described as the staff of the magazine were keen on doing the interviewing. We had drawn lots and I was one of the losers. I knew nothing about his subject and I had no idea how to start but, thankfully, he took pity on me.

“I wasn’t at all sure about giving an interview at first,” he said, “but something has happened recently that changed my mind. I’m going to tell you things that aren’t public knowledge. I’m not sure you’ll ever be able to use it but I’ll tell you anyway.”

I sat up straighter. This sounded as if it might be interesting after all.

Missing Apocalypse

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013 collection.

Timothy Cartwright was born in southwest London. He went to Oxford where he obtained a first class degree in politics, philosophy and economics and also played cricket for the University team. Following graduation, he worked first of all as a journalist. Then he joined the editorial staff of a small publishing company and eventually became its chief editor. When this company was swallowed by a larger company he made a successful move into broadcasting. He believes that his most important contribution was collating and editing the work of his grandfather, the poet and Rationalist philosopher Jason Cartwright.

D. M. Allan was born and raised in Edinburgh. He also went to Edinburgh University where he studied medicine. After graduation he chose to specialise in radiology and obtained his postgraduate qualification while working in Oxford. Following his retirement he has pursued other interests, obtaining an MA in archaeology and another in creative writing. He enjoys watching rugby, cricket and American football and he is a keen scuba diver and underwater photographer. At present he lives on a houseboat on the river Thames.

Dawn Vogel has been published as a short fiction author and an editor of both fiction and non-fiction. Although art is not her strongest suit, she’s happy to contribute occasional art to Mad Scientist Journal. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business and tries to find time for writing. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. For more of Dawn’s work visit http://historythatneverwas.com/

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2 Responses to Missing Apocalypse

  1. Susan Oke says:

    Really enjoyed this. Loved the dinosaur twist!

  2. Dan Hart says:

    Great story, and a wonderful ending.

Comments are closed.