Thankfully all was now still and peaceful once again, relief took him over. The sky was blue and the fields were green all about, above his head a stone archway reached from side to side of the small cutting he still knelt within. Mac took a deep breath and filled his lungs.

In a copse of trees on the banking a crow bellowed out and somewhere out of sight a dog barked annoyance at an unwelcome visitor. His senses adjusted rapidly confirming all was well and his ordeal was finished with.

This was his momentary first insight, a second or two of respite from the turmoil just experienced. Two seconds or so was all it lasted, before he realised.

He was still kneeling, on a track, but a track which actually carried a pair of railway lines. Shiny and long they ran on and on to a bend in the line half a mile ahead. That though was not the half of it, for to make things infinitely worse, coming around the bend was a train heading his way, and at some speed. For a split second he was transfixed like a rabbit caught in headlights.

Quickly he tried to move out of the way but his legs were rooted to the spot, numbed by his crouched position. The rolling stock approaching him sounded a blast from it’s horn. Mac stumbled to one side in an attempt to move and rolled over and over from off of the track down a small pebble embankment as the locomotive screamed by, its horn changing pitch as it left him in its wake.

“Be back by one” he had said to Sal on so many times on leaving for his walks.

“Ok hun” her usual endearing reply. She was often engaged in her sawing hobby or tending the garden in the mornings while he had a walk out. “Be sure to pick up spuds from the farm” her additional comment this morning.

Would there be a farm he thought, for it’s layout in the fields was dependent on the track now given over to a railway. What was he thinking?Why was he even having to imagine this scenario? Why had he just jumped out the way of a hurtling noisy train?

Fear gripped him once again, for about thirty seconds while adrenalin rushed through his bloodstream he brought frightening ideas to the forefront of his mind. He had died and this was the afterlife? Or this was his real world and the one just left a dream state?He had lost his memory and suddenly found it? He had had an accident some time ago and all his imaginings were because he was actually in a coma? Gradually the fright subsided and his pulse rate lowered back to something like normal.

Where he now lay, in a ditch, a discarded drinks can stuck into his back. That was odd to say the least, litter was not a commonplace nuisance where he lived. He rolled over and removed it then sat up on the side of the verge finding more comfort with the grass turf than the stones.

Looking about and feeling comparatively safer, now was the time to take stock he concluded. Here he was, sitting on the bank of a railway line, overlooking a scene in the valley below which was not the usual one. The river was there all right, winding its way through the valley, but where the meadow should be was an extensive estate of houses cruelly positioned all along the river bank so as to obliterate the pastoral landscape he usually enjoyed.

Mac pinched his thigh. Now the dream had turned, or so he hoped. It must be time to finish with it and greet a new morn. It wasn’t. The pain he could inflict on his muscle confirmed to him the strange truth of his predicament. He was awake. He was alive, in a location he knew not where, in fact didn’t know at all. Behind him a railway track ran along the walkway he had known all of his life, in the valley his meadow replaced by concrete and brick. Glancing at his wristwatch and a time of eleven o’clock, he calculated that the hour was what he expected, and the date too. He had left the house at a quarter to so whatever had happened to him had not lasted all that long. Possibly only seconds in fact. He had half expected the date to be different though, so it was a relief when it wasn’t.

On the horizon the overall topography of the area seemed identical. Hills were still hills, their elevation and escarpments in the same geographic position he was used to seeing. The valleys wound the same sinusoidal pattern he had followed many times before, however it was obvious that it was not the home town he knew and loved.

“So it’s no dream” He whispered under his breath, his face grimacing with the worried realisation. A frightened thought crossing his mind skittled his senses. “I’m having a nervous breakdown!” The words came out by accident and he did not want to own them, but what other explanation was there.

What to do? This question reverberated around his mind like a marble in a jar. “Need to get back home.” This idea filled him with a sense of sanctuary, a feeling of all will be well once back in this haven. Once home he could evaluate what had happened to him within the security of familiar surroundings.

Standing up and reassuring himself everything would be okay he made a beeline for his garden gate, keeping off of the railway but walking along an obvious grass trampled path to the side. It took him in the right direction at least. “This is a dog walking path by the looks” he told himself.

Sitting at his mother’s breakfast bar on a tall stool on occasions in the past, her words spoken to him then now came back. “It takes time love, but you will come out of it stronger, and it will probably be the last time.”

“It’s not nice though, while you’re going through it” his remembered reply to her concern.

“I had no more bouts of it after 30.” He wasn’t sure if the previous time they had had the same conversation she had said 25 on that occasion, but he could not be sure. When he fell into one of these episodes some memories were so very hard to recall whilst others were as vivid forever after has at the time. Like when he had walked for half a mile in one direction and then returned in the same hour in a desperate attempt to get back to his normal self.

The path took him past the cemetery, in more or less the same place as the one he knew. But it wasn’t the same one, and a detour to its grounds confirmed the fact. There were no headstones familiar to him and worse still no graves marked with his family name.

One other very odd thing also struck him. Many of the monuments were not upright, instead their headstones were pushed over, lying flat on top of the plots. “Not the way to remember your loved ones.” The wretched opinion and the way he expressed it was quite alien to him, but that he felt that way at all satisfied him and reassured him with an understanding that he was behaving quite normal under the estranged circumstances. So again the question came about him. “What the hell is happening?”

A church clock came into view, not his church clock, but a church clock all the same, so that came as a relief to him also. Unfortunately it was only visible above the gables of another estate of brick built houses, their position this time where his allotment should be. The hands displayed a time of half past two. “That clock’s stopped.”he grumbled, though there was no one about to hear him. Oddly he had an inkling there had been something missing on his walk back but up to that point he had been unable to put his finger on it. Now it was made obvious by the stopped clock, there had been no church bells chiming out the quarter hour as he walked towards the town. “Why would you not keep the towns clock wound up? His grumbling took him to the back of the families property

As he feared there was no metal gate, no access to a garden that ought to be his. Instead a tall wooden fence hiding whatever was behind it. Probably a garden, the tops of a number of pine trees betrayed that fact, but what exactly occupied the space was not obvious.

Now he really did need to think, his hopes of some sort of normality returning to his life was ever quicker ebbing away, like water down a stream. Mac stared at the ten foot high fence, it’s odeur of sun-kissed wood wrenching memories from his childhood, days spent in his grans garden playing happily with her dogs. Taking them for walks to the pond and back and them chasing the ducks but never catching them.

Turning around he sat on a tree stump and stared in the other direction. Across the railway network was a town he did not know, with a church he had never attended in a world he could not recall. Time for reflection was at hand so he just stared and thought, and thought some more.