Time-Travel Adventure: The Greatest Gift by @kenbalneaves (excerpt)

The Greatest Gift

By Ken Balneaves


Richard Harper, a scholar and top athlete, had always believed that his grandfather, Professor Stuart Harper, had died when he was a child. When Richard discovers, however, that the scientist has been incarcerated in a care home for years, he seeks out the truth - and finds a lot more than he bargained for!

Stuart Harper, was a brilliant scientist before he was struck down by motor neurone disease. Locked in the cruel solitary confinement of his own mind he was left with no form of communication with the outside world. But his grand-son changes all that. He finds the key to let his grandfather speak once again. And speak he does, his brilliant mind as sharp as ever, returning to the world with great scientific acclaim.

Following Stuart’s death in 2012, however, Richard discovers a computer file generated by his grandfather. And what is on this file will change the universe forever. A file generated by Professor Harper after his own death!

The Greatest Gift, a science fiction novel, opens in Cambridge in 2001. And ends somewhere beyond our wildest dreams.


He had never met his grandfather. In fact no one in the family ever talked about him until his paternal grandmother, on her deathbed, told Richard the sad details of the events that had occurred in his grandfather’s life some twenty-three years before.

With enormous pride, his grandmother quietly told that her husband Stuart had been quite an athlete when he was young, a middle distance runner. Her eyes glistened with tears as she spoke affectionately about her husband. Richard listened intently to this, all the while wondering why no one in his family had ever before discussed this with him. Very soon however, he was to learn of his family’s dark secret.

“Your grandfather was an extremely handsome man,” his grandmother whispered, smiling as she talked, “full of enthusiasm for life, which is why what happened to him, was so terribly tragic’ but he made us all promise never to talk about him from the day he left us. It was his choice, not mine,” she continued.

“I don’t understand,” Richard said, thinking that, ‘the day he left us’ was his grandmother’s way of saying, the day he had died.

“Of course, I did see him again you know” said the old woman, completely ignoring Richard’s question. “Yes, I did, several times in fact.”

Richard was confused by this but permitted her to carry on without his interruption. She spoke more of her husband saying that he had graduated from Cambridge with a first in Mathematics. Later, he had worked at Oxford University where he lectured in Cosmology achieving much acclaim at the time as an assistant to a well-known and accomplished Cosmologist. However, unbeknown to nearly everyone except his wife, many of the papers published by his mentor were in fact Stuart’s own work. This career however was relatively short lived as Stuart decided after a few years that lecturing was not for him after all. He decided this because funding for research in his chosen field was so scarce that he felt he could not do the subject justice and so he made the decision to leave. The old lady continued, telling Richard how Stuart’s ill health went undiagnosed by a number of specialists and doctors. Richard also learnt that following the brief spell of ill health, Stuart had started a business in pharmaceuticals, in 1970.

On hearing this, Richard realised that this was now his dad’s and uncle John’s business. Until then, he had never known or thought to ask how or when the business began. Richard leant across, touched his grandmother’s hand and quietly asked her,

“What was wrong with grandfather?”

“No one could tell.”

“What were the symptoms then?” he persisted.

The old woman took a deep breath and explained, a tear rolling down one of the creases in her old wrinkled face just like the first rains in a dry riverbed of the Kalahari. “He sometimes had difficulty breathing and occasionally had to sit down to recover,” she said slowly. “They told him he was overdoing the fitness training.”

“What was it that actually killed him?” Richard asked rather untactfully.

“My dear, dear boy,” she said smiling, looking at him for the first time, “he’s not dead, he’s merely sleeping.” Her voice raising a note at the end of the sentence. At this Richard pulled back slightly and raised an eyebrow. He couldn’t make up his mind whether she was telling the truth or she was delusional. As if for confirmation, he glanced across the bed at his mother, who had been silent until then. She had a look of disbelief on her face, however it was not disbelief of what the old lady had said, but that she had said it at all.

“Is this true Mother?” he asked.

“Yes dear, yes it is,” she replied hesitantly, adding rather sheepishly, “but I think you should let your Grandmother rest now dear.”