A collection of intriguing stories: 

  • A fire in a drug factory and an ancient lamp combine to enable a pharmaceutical researcher to travel back in time, and change the course of history.
  • In 1881, a young man journeys to the far west of New South Wales to become a teacher – but a very different career awaits.
  • Appropriate behaviour for a female teacher in a country town, in 1885, comes under scrutiny, with potentially disastrous consequences for a promising career.
  • A battle for the survival of a regional high school rages between the parents and the Education Department.
  • Spreading the word of God in outback New South Wales leads a dedicated clergyman to ‘plant churches’ wherever he goes.
  • A chance find by a bushwalker uncovers a life lived over a century before.

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ISBN: 978-1-922229-65-6   
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:194
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Author: John Lambert
Zeus Publications

Date Published: 2014
Language: English



John Lambert is a teacher of history. He believes history not only shows how we became what we are but that it brings the present to life, demonstrating the best, and the worst, in human achievement.

John has written several works of historical fiction and ventured also into science fiction. The Lamp is a story of historical science fiction, involving time travel.

To seek beyond the known

To achieve beyond all standards







Tsbtk Tabas was bored.

It was now two days since the fire in the laboratory. Two days since the firemen had dragged him out unconscious and the ambulance had raced him through the streets of western Sydney to the hospital at Penrith.

Two days, less four hours, since the hospital staff had removed the oxygen support because he seemed to be back to normal and to have suffered no adverse effects from the fumes he had inhaled in such vast quantities.

Two days since he had dragged two of the lab staff into the open air before going back for the third. He had not been able to find Felicea; the smoke had been too dense. All he could remember was collapsing at her desk and wondering where she could have gone. The hospital doctor had told him when he regained consciousness that she had escaped through the back door. All the lab staff were unhurt and he was the only one taken to hospital. A couple of days’ rest was what he needed, said the doctor, just to make sure there were no complications. Then the doctor departed and left Tsbtk in the tender care of the nurses.

‘I’ll be back on Monday to check you over,’ he said cheerily as he moved towards the door. ‘The nurses will call me if you suddenly develop any nasty side-effects.’

That had been Friday and it was now Sunday afternoon. By Saturday afternoon Tsbtk was refusing to stay in bed and, donning a gown, had transferred his abode to the chair beside the bed. He had watched television till he was completely sick of sport, travel documentaries and films of muscle men and beautiful women – all performing acts of incredible daring and violence, without ever being hurt. He became more interested during the sexy bits but, on hospital television, even these seemed to have been well censored.

Felicea had come in to see him on both Saturday and Sunday mornings and life took on a brighter aspect while she was there. But she had been gone five hours and wouldn’t be back till Monday morning; she had promised to call in on the way to work. Presumably, George Pratt, the CEO of Tabas Industries, would find work for the lab staff in other sections of the plant while the lab was demolished and rebuilt. At least he assumed it would be rebuilt! The research Tsbtk had been doing was too promising not to keep going.

He mused for a while on the future of that research. Tabas Industries was a small, but highly profitable pharmaceutical company, which provided new, limited availability drugs to hospitals, especially Westmead, for use by specialist physicians. It had been started ten years earlier by his father who had died only a few months later. The company had retained the name but was now operated by a board. It manufactured most of its products under licence from multi-national firms but also had a research and testing capacity with a well-equipped laboratory.

Tsbtk was in charge of that laboratory. At George’s suggestion, Tsbtk had, six months ago, begun to experiment with antidotes to the latest hallucinatory drug, Phantasma, which had swept the youth market. Phantasma was sold as a small pill through the youth black market. One pill, taken with any form of liquid, produced, after a five-minute gestation period, the most vivid dreams, perceived by the user in brilliant colour, and lasting for up to two or three minutes, which was a long time for a drug-induced dream.

The subject matter of the dreams invariably came from the user’s own past but with a vividness which made them seem real. The dreams also seemed to draw on material with which the users would probably have come into contact at that time in the past to which the dream related, but which had never before been part of their conscious memory – or so they said when questioned after an ‘experience’. Presumably, this additional material was somehow in their subconscious memory and was released by the drug – or was there some other explanation? Phantasma, at least so far, appeared to have only one serious side-effect. It produced a period, generally lasting about two minutes, of extreme dizziness that forced the ‘patient’ to collapse on the ground, or any other convenient support, in a state of complete helplessness. To make matters worse, the dizziness could come at any time during the 24 hours after taking the drug. If it came at a ‘convenient’ time, it could be handled safely but if it came when the person was driving a car, for example, the results were catastrophic. Needless to say, health agencies were trying to stop supplies of the drug reaching its market, while its potential users were even more determined to obtain it. Users saw the side-effect as being a very mild disadvantage, compared to the extravagance of the experience.

Tsbtk’s research sought to prevent the dizziness, and another pill, taken with Phantasma, seemed a bright prospect. He believed he knew the ingredients but that was the easy part. There had, of course, been quantities of many other substances in the storeroom but, as the room was supposed to be fireproof, he hoped they had not been destroyed. The supplies of Phantasma had been consumed entirely in the fire and the smoke he had inhaled was a mixture of the two, probably in roughly the proportions of the drugs stored in the lab. He had several times wondered what the effects of mixing the two would be but had not yet attempted the task.

Felicea had an interest in antiquities, an interest which he shared. In fact, this interest had been a reason, among others, for their friendship blossoming so rapidly. She had that morning brought him a clay oil lamp, of Roman origin, found on one of the Aegean islands, according to the dealer, and dating from the first century BC. The lamp rested on the shelf next to his hospital bed. Tsbtk had that morning watched on TV the colour extravaganza Antony and Cleopatra and it was probable that the lamp came from the same period. He idly speculated on the chances of it actually being linked in some way to Antony and decided the odds would be greater than winning the NSW lottery.

His boredom returned. For want of anything better to do, he picked up the lamp and began to examine it in detail. It had obviously been frequently used, for the small hole where the wick would have burnt was well blackened. It was carefully decorated with lines all emanating from the second, larger hole in the middle of the top surface, the hole into which the oil was poured. There was a chip halfway along the rim and from this spread a crack which looked as if it would cause the lamp to split in two if it were knocked again. Part of the handle was missing. What might have been the cause of the damage, he wondered, and did it happen two thousand years ago? Perhaps Aladdin would appear if he held the lamp more tightly, but that was nonsense!

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