Fiction: Smudge

An essay by the daughter of Hershel Conway, as provided by Jane Abbott
Art by Luke Spooner

My father was called a crazy man. More than that–a mad scientist. Although I considered such terms to be insults, I admittedly never protested their validity. I never found the heart to blame anyone to think of him as such. Father always had ludicrous ideas and theories, and he was never afraid to share them with anyone–not even those who didn’t possess the genius intellect to understand him.

Seeing that I was one such girl of average intelligence, Father spent hours on end thinking of how to explain his fantasies to a child. He often succeeded in doing so. Every lesson became a story that drew me further and further into the fantastic realm of science. These tales were mostly focused around astrophysics, a topic that sounded infinitely more drab and dull when coming out of the mouth of anyone else. Father was a genius in this regard, a master of entertainment. I enjoyed every lecture except one: the time travel demonstration.

It began on a warm July’s day. I was reading a picture book about insects. My left elbow had been scraped badly due to a combination of poor balance and a bicycle that lacked training wheels. Father had patched me up, made me a peanut butter sandwich, and set the book in front of my face to dry my tears. About a half hour later, when the sandwich had been eaten and I had made my way to page 36, Father rushed to my side with a jar of water and a piece of paper. Seeing the smile on his face, I followed protocol and put my book down.

“How do you travel through time?” he asked. I blinked in confusion before answering:

“I don’t know.”

“Think simply. Just guess.”

“You … build a machine?”

“Exactly!” Father took a seat to my right. He lay the paper on the counter. Then he plucked a large paintbrush from his coat pocket, as well as a red pen. “You could call it a machine, but I’d call it more of an invention. I’ve named it Chronomorphium. It’s a tool that will allow us to move forward in time. Isn’t it neat?”

Illustration of someone in a white dress walking past a dark house with strange swirls in the sky overhead.

From my window, I watched in horror as the houses I grew up playing around crumbled down into nothingness, then the buildings nestled in the heart of the city, then the rest of the world.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2019 collection.

Hershel Conway was born the evening of July 8, 2045, in Glasgow, Scotland. A man with endless curiosity and unlimited genius, he quickly became an icon of science to the rest of the world. His first invention, the “Manipulator,” which solidified small quantities of dark matter into tangible substance, landed him as a household name for generations to come. Though Conway’s life was one of exploration and accomplishment, it wasn’t without its grimmer moments. Conway’s wife of four years, Sherri Blake, filed for divorce in 2071, leaving her heartbroken ex-husband to care for their young daughter. Rumors speculate that the stress of being left on his own to care for the child whose mother no longer loved him drove Conway to more macabre areas of interest, such as his expedition to revive animal subjects by “resuscitating their brain matter, segregating it from the dead flesh, and connecting it to an interface that could record any signs of intelligence.” His request for a grant was immediately denied. He then moved on to less heavier subjects such as the possibility to travel forward in time. Conway’s discovery of what he called Chronomorphium landed him once again in a positive light. Some scientists did little to contain their excitement at his approved plan for testing it, while others worried for his safety. The first experiment involving human life will take place on April 11, 2083. Only time will tell if this trial gives humanity a new way to travel through the universe.

Jane Abbott was born in 1999. Since an early age, she’s lived in Spokane, Washington. This is the first of a hopefully long list of publications for her. Her love of science-fiction was heavily inspired by video games like the Metroid series and the Alien movie franchise. Jane currently attends Spokane Falls Community College and hopes to become an author as well as a creative writing teacher.

Luke Spooner, a.k.a. ‘Carrion House,’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree, he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales, his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy, or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility, as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

“Smudge” is © 2019 Jane Abbott
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Luke Spooner

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