On the walk back to his adopted hideout one observation puzzled him. When leaving the churchyard he had passed a group of teenagers gathered together, sat on what could only be described as two wheeled motor bikes. The lads seemed bent on creating a nuisance by taking up the middle of the road come bus stop with their charges and revving the engines in turn or unison to see which could make the most noise.

To add to the congestion a car was also involved, with two male occupants leaning out of the windows egging on the symphony. A few of the gang had the rolled up paper pastime between their lips, and smoke billowed from mouths every so often. The paper sticks could only be some kind of recreational drug he had concluded, and one obviously not endorsed by the government if the messages on empty packets discarded everywhere were anything to be believed.

“Why would you do that?” he discussed with the diary, “why kill yourself for the pleasure of whatever it gave? Also the bikes! Why disrupt traffic and anger people with obstinate behaviour and down right awkwardness?” He had no time to worry on the event however at that moment, for the countywide beckoned with its beautiful evening sunset and still warm air.

The revving of the engines finally dispersed once he was half way up the hill, the longest shadows of evening accompanying him across the fields, casting elongated projections of trees and walls across an otherwise illuminated green landscape, almost fluorescent in its glow. Finally the guttural engine sound was replaced by something more rural, church bells peeling up practise. Just like home. A tear rolled down his cheek.

Once back at the granite crag, and thinking ahead to breakfast Mac set to and fashioned a snare with some twine and sticks seemingly discarded there just for his purpose. He wondered if someone was actually looking out for him for he did keep coming across items of use in his survival. Was there some higher power playing with him, teasing him. Was all of what had happened some kind of a game he was a pawn within, played out by some being looking on. He wondered for a moment. What had happened to him was fanciful enough, but the last thought was a bit far fetched he decided. Still the idea stayed a while.

An obvious rabbit run, spotted earlier at the base of the rock was the target for the prepared device. He slipped a knot and suspended the string between two twigs over a beat. It was not his preferred method of hunting, but he remembered the technique from childhood camping trips with the ventures.

“Always make sure you are fed and watered,” the instruction he recalled from the leader all those years ago. This idyllic memory swept over him and transported a troubled mind back to its early development.

How the group had enjoyed those trips to the wildwoods, camping for weeks on end, fending for themselves without support of family or the authority. The rows of tents came into focus, nestled beneath old oaks and elm, pitched up by the banks of a rivers bend, with Mayfly on the wing, released from their two years of lava status in the silt beds of the stream, only to take to the air for one day of life. Their obvious delight of hovering in the reflection of the clear water masked any knowledge of their inevitable demise.

One particular memory inspired him on. He recalled the night a few of the pack had gone out to observe beavers maintaining their
lodge, and the industry each animal adopted to cut down trunk after trunk to obtain wood for the purpose. The moonlight had betrayed the whole scene to a hidden set of human onlookers. For two or three hours they had watched, has gradually the wood was toppled, cut and taken by way of the river to where it was used to repair and strengthen the dwelling.

This instinct to survive, to maintain a life crept back to him once again, and reaching under a stone on the bed of the stream he found the remains of the cooked pheasant, wrapped in a plastic bag, dry and cool owing to its method if storage. “Supper was the finest meal if the day!” his grandfather always said. Opening the bottle of water Mac toasted his lost family but did not dwell on the situation. He was tiring and after ripping meat from bone was going to tidy out the hut and sleep. The sun was on the wain now so walking to and fixing up the shelter could be done under cover of the dark.
It was first moon so once the sun set over the hill he would make a move.

An uneventful twilight passed into night and by the time half a dozen bats had navigated silently about the crags and enjoyed their fill Mac was safely inhabiting the makeshift shelter. All the debris now filled the open doorway to discourage any unwelcome visitors and as a sort of intruder alarm if anyone did attempt to venture in.

In tidying the floor he had come across all types of rubbish, newspapers, empty paint cans, old decaying bits of carpet, smashed crockery, broken bottles and very oddly a hypodermic needle or two, one of which had stuck right in the flesh of his right palm. It was not attached to a syringe, but why the vet had not disposed of them properly was just another one of the many new found mysteries. He was coming to the understanding that nothing was beyond surprise in this upturned world which imprisoned him.

The remains from off the carcass and a bottle of refreshing water had served to fill him, not a barbecue, but in settling his hunger the meal had brought on a tiredness. Just as well, because there was absolutely nothing to do whatsoever. The inside of the hut was as black as the fire back and outside the night had taken command. There was no illumination of any sort and he did not want to play on his handheld in case the light attracted attention. It was so definitely dark that even a shimmer might be seen miles away. He did however set a few quiet music tracks to lull him off, but only fifteen minutes worth for the battery was nearly down and he had forgotten to sol charge it, so that was one priority for the morning.

There was an odour about the place, one of compost and debris, but it was clearing now the dust had settled. So it was with hopeful anticipation of the following morning that he curled up in one corner of the concrete floor, a cardboard pillow under his head and fairly rot free rug for a blanket.

Outside the hut a warm unseasonal air held nature in a safe grasp, as it tended lamb and calf alike, no expense spared in the never ending duty of nurture and nourishment. Punctuating the silence a mother sheep would reassure her offspring with a bleat, while farther afield cattle did their best with their newborn.

There was no breeze. All was still and at peace, even the dull humming sound of the day had subsided. No wind in the branches to whisper of nights passed or days to come, even the streams trickle of clear water was out of earshot, masked as it was with the intervening crag. Nothing to disturb the awakened or asleep. A night like countless many before and as many to come, perfect in creation and lacking nothing in wonder.

In the undergrowth surrounding the hideaway a rustling of a hedgehog or rodent disturbed the silence as it foraged for supper. After a minute a snort or two betrayed its true identity. When the small creature had passed by only the ever so slow passage of stars across the heavens gave testament to any observable sign of nature.

3

A gentle ruffling of his hair stirred him. Opening one enquiring eye at a time he saw the smiling freckled face of Sal standing over the bed, a cup of morning tea in her hand. “You gettin up Mac, it’s half eight?”

“Mornin luv,”he could not believe it, finally he had awakened.

“You’ve been having a fun time,”she went on, “half the night you kept me awake with odd ramblings, the other half young junior here kicked and turned!” She rubbed her belly as she spoke.

Across his face the broadest smile ever told of his relief.”I have had the weirdest of dreams.” He rubbed a helping hand across her bump as well.

“The bacon is on, so come and tell us over breakfast.” She kissed him on the lips and then headed off back down the stairs, her lilac dressing gown flapping as she went.

The opening of the bedroom door confirmed her description of the meal, for the smell from the grill wafted into the room. Mac took a deep intake of breath, and blew it out slowly. Just to slay any fear he opened the curtains to look on the stream and waterwheel down in the garden. There it was slowly turning, providing power for the cooking meal in the kitchen.

The next hour was taken up with the usual morning enterprise, and the conversation over the table kept the families attention. Sal, Mum, Dad and Grandma listened intently to the facts of Macs dream.

“Your Grandad could tell you stories told him by his elders of times like those, in the urbans long ago,” Grandma told them. Grandad was already out looking to the sheep, one had lambed in the early hours and had not taken to the new arrival. “One of the tales sounds just like your dream, with no one caring for anyone and the selfishness of folk.” There was that word again Mac thought.

“Yes your right Mum,” Macs mother added. ” It’s the theme running through the histories if you think on it. We never have to dwell in it do we, but that’s how it was.”

“It was like it I believe before something called the backlash,” the silver haired, smartly dressed grandmother of three added. “If you ask Grandpa he’ll tell you. Let him wake first though, he was up till six with the lambs.”

Across the garden lawn Mac could see the crimson curtains of Grandpas bedroom still closed, a smile crossed his face as the realisation set in of the horrible nightmare being only just that. He did wonder though whether he dare go for a morning walk, had the dream been in any way a warning of some impending catastrophe. Breakfast finished with a tidying of the pots, then Mac took to the garden, the sun was out again.

“You going to feed the chickens Mac?” his mother shouted from the kitchen door. “I’ll take the eggs to town.”

“I’ll come too Mac.” Sal had her jeans and sweater on by now. “The bending might ease my backache a bit.” Walking towards the gate into the hen run she had both her hands pressed to the small of her back trying to ease the strain of the pregnancy and the effect it was having on her own body.

The dozen or so hens kept by the family in the free range run of grass and huts was about the norm. Not every household had them, that would be over-productive. No, the balance between supply and demand was important, too few or too many and the system would fail. Like all produce the equilibrium was kept in place with the cooperation of the household, the local council and the authority. From eggs to meat, veg to milk, and much more besides, every effort was maintained to keep the status quo. What would be the point in a surplus when some other commodity could be chosen instead and why waste valuable time keeping an imbalance when it could be used more usefully.

Eggs collected and packaged Mum set off to walk the half mile to market, heading off up the garden. A cheeky robin darted from branch to branch all the way along the purple rhododendron borders, tilting its head sideways whenever she looked at it. “There’s bread on the table,” she told him. The red breasted bird must have understand for it left her side and made its way to the very place where yesterdays loaf was placed. From the dovecote a cooing of courtship echoed around the buildings, to be heard by all at work or play.

Mac decided to do the former. He had an assignment to finish for the graphic design house he worked for. The morning was warm enough to work at the outside table, so there he sat. If the brief could be finalised and emailed to the client for approval, he might then go for a walk, but after eleven o’clock. He thought the irrational worry stupid, but nevertheless felt better waiting till the afternoon, just today anyway.

By the side of the wooden decked patio a pink flowering cherry hung blossom partly over the makeshift desk, around the tree’s trunk a variegated green ivy wrapped its long spindly growth. A water fall cascading down some stones next to where Mac worked still held some bubbles from its encounter with the wheel a few yards back up the garden. It was the ideal place for creativity so Mac opened up his laptop and pulled the document to the desktop.

Sal came and sat with him, her fiery red hair stood out against her black sweater as it caught the morning rays of sunshine. Placing her second cup of coffee of the day down, she sat on a bench, put her feet up on a spare whicker chair and looked at her husband. “You ok Mac, that dream bothered ya didn’t it?”

“Just a bit, the worst thing was not being able to tell you what had happened, I was trapped, and you being on your own. It was horrible.”

“Wonder what made you dream it?”

“Perhaps just the waiting for bump there to appear'” The raised corners if his mouth told her he was feeling better.

“Don’t rush him, he’s still cooking,” Sal joked. “There’s a time for him to come and it’s not yet. Besides don’t I look fetching enough like this?”

Mac leaned across the table and planted a kiss on her lips that spoke more than words. “Soon be finished with this.”

All the rest of the morning the sun continued to shine on the small enclave of the garden, and by noon Sal had put the parasol up to shade the two of them. Music from the laptop had kept her entertained while Mac put the finishing touches to his work and by the time lunch was ready Grandad was back, Grandpa was up and they all sat and enjoyed the cold trout salad prepared by Mum and Dad. It had been caught yesterday downstream by one of the neighbours, who had gifted it to them in return for the help with putting up his broken fence during the winter months.

Mac was hungry, he always was. On picking up his knife though he felt a pain, a pinprick of a sensation as the cold steel rested in the palm of his hand. Looking to the spot, there was a wound in the same place as the needle which had pierced him in the dream. A cold shiver ran down his spine, dragging with it all the blood it could from his head and neck.

“You all right lad?” Macs father did not like the look of his eldest. “He gone a bit pale all of a sudden Sal.” He reached into his green cardigan pocket to find a sugar lump usually kept for the horses. “Take this Mac, it might sweeten ya up a bit.”

Sal put her hand out in a nurse like fashion to take the temperature of his face. “He’s a little hot, aren’t you darling?”

“Probably a chill,” his mother added. “I’ll fetch you some honey and lemon.”

A bead of sweat trickled from his forehead, down the side of his cheek and made it’s way under his chin. “It’s ok honest, it was just a thought,” Mac answered the concerned onlookers. The arteries in his neck drummed out a fast throbbing beat echoing in both ears. “I can’t seem to shake that dream off that’s all.” Mum was having none of it. She was on the way to the kitchen to make her concoction.

He looked at his hand again. The small bruise in the palm could have been done when collecting the eggs he reassured himself. Of course it could, but it would have hurt when it happened, surely, unless there had been a distraction, like Sal. That was it, Sal had been teasing to cheer him up. Calm returned to avail him of the wonderful day on offer. Once Mum and Macs complexion had returned the lunch was eaten with much frivolity and myrrh and Mac forgot the worries of the night before.

The sun had moved around to the rear of the patio after lunch so those left at the table, Mac, Sal and his mum lazed about for half an hour to let the meal settle. The rest had gone to take up their slotted tasks in the kitchen, workstation or out in the fields. On watching Sal fall over the edge of sleep Mac followed suit. Above him a flock of cranes passing over cast shadows of large wings across the ground as tiredness took him in its hold. Somewhere out of view that humming sound of his dream crept back to the fore.

He woke with a jolt. The hard floor had taken its toll on muscle and bone as he found himself back in the deserted hut. Like an old man would do, he slowly exercised each limb one by one to shake away the cramp and pain the cold stone floor had inflicted during the dark of night. Through the open doorway the dawn’s early glow told of a new day. He checked his handheld. Five minutes to six.

The despair of knowing he was still in the hut and all the things that meant hit home within a minute. Was the only way he would ever see his family again to be in a dream. What if he forgot what they looked like, forgot how they felt, how they spoke. What if he never saw them again in real life.

This rush of fear lasted a shorter time than before, for he quickly took control and locked it away in a deep recess. Besides there were other matters to attend to. The handheld needed a charge, there might be rabbit for breakfast and he had an appointment with a bridge at eleven.

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