His evening and twilight were spent ‘playing out’ as he and Sal called it, for though his family were never far from his thoughts he realised that to keep emotions at bay time must be used normally, in this odd sense of the phrase, and not passed in brooding and fixating on the tragic consequences of the situation. So, to that end he had ‘played’ at mountain climbing up the smooth, cracked and creviced granite rock face of his hideaway to the very top where he then sat for the evening overlooking the dale. Like some ancient ancestor he rested there, cross legged, for a good hour casting a gaze over the landscape ahead of the rocky outcrop.

The waining sun had played its part with the scenery on offer by blanketing the view with such a rosy glow that he longingly envied the dog walkers crisscrossing the paths and fields. If he were back home that would be him. To his pleasant surprise though, he actually caught one of them wave a gesture towards him, as if they knew who he was. Obviously they thought they did, but the distance between had played its deceiving part. Even so he waved back to acknowledge the greeting and not let them down, after all it had been such an enthusiastic gesture to begin with, and if the truth be known he actually liked the idea of a friend, even a misinformed one.

For the time of year the temperature still held up, even as moonlight became the illuminator of his lonely walk back along the track at the field’s edge which led on to his bed. For a second night he was forced into occupying that hovel of a hut. At least tonight it should smell less of debris and more of fresh air.

Body and nature followed the same routine of the previous night. An owl hooted from a far off perch whilst small animals which may well be destined to be its prey shifted noisily through the dark and still vegetation. Mac settled to think and mull over what facts had been learnt so far, how different this world was and what his future held. Thankfully with a fuller stomach than last supper time it was not long before a darker veil drew across his sense of disbelief and longing.

Within what seemed like an eye-blink he was suddenly and unsuccessfully struggling to explain to a public house proprietor and prospective employer why he had no identification. He should not have revealed that he was not from this country either he realised. What a stupid mistake. “You speak good English to say you’re not from here!” the portly, grey bearded publican commented. “And you say the last bar you were in never asked you for even a name?”

That was also a bit of an outlandish statement Mac conceded to himself, but more pressing was how to mend the situation. “It was only a three day stint at a festival in the middle of a field.” That ought to do it.

“What do you think Jack?” The landlord was now inviting one of his regulars into the conversation. “Jacks a police officer,” he explained. “A fella here wanting a job but no I.D. whatsoever, not even a bank card!”

The ruddy face of law enforcement looked Mac up and down with a disbelieving stare. “Not get paid without any I.D. mate, you lost it?”

“No, I am lost actually. I have completely lost my memory.” Mac grimaced. He knew he should not have gone down this path as soon as the statement had left his lips. Why had he admitted that fact was a complete mystery? His mind did not seem to be his own.

“Dementia.” The local nodded to his host in a somewhat sympathetic but also mocking fashion. “Poor sod,” he added. “Come on son let’s get you down to the station. I’ll deal with this Malc.” The bald head and beard nodded in appreciation.

“No thank you all the same. I’ll be on my way.” Mac was frantic, how would he explain his extraordinary predicament to the police. Presumably they were the equivalent of the authority of order. Dominoes fell one by one in his minds eye as hormones sky dived his senses.

“Not so quick sir.” The off duty constable had him by the arm. “It’s for you’re own benefit I need to get you back where you belong.”

That will be a tall order Mac thought as he was almost frog marched passed the gaming machines towards an illuminated exit silhouetting a few patrons stood in the doorway puffing on those sticks. Reeling from the uncontrollable chemical assault on muscle, blood vessel and neurone he was just a hairs breadth away from throwing up when he slipped his captors grip. Mac ran for his life.

Once outside, the sound of doves cooing from their high-street perches surprisingly relaxed his racing mind and spurred him on. With a hasty move he turned and skittled down a very narrow ginnel between the inn and the next stone building of a chemist shop. Echoing footsteps of himself and the law jumped from one tall wall to the other along the longish alleyway, these intermingled with calls of those doves again. The end of the snicket could not come quick enough, he knew that once it did he would be able to stride out faster and definitely evade recapture. Strangely it seemed never to come, the end of the alley and sunlight. Always another half dozen steps away.

The cooing from the doves stirred him again. This time to awaken. His head in both hands he was slumbering on the patio table where both Sal and he had obviously fallen fast asleep in the lazy sunshine of the beautiful spring day. The white doves sang again and brought him to all senses.

Looking up skyward the cranes were just disappearing out of view over the tops of the next door neighbours trees. He must only have dozed off for a moment or so, or perhaps they were on a subsequent circuit of the area, anyhow that was no matter. He was awake from the silly nightmare and must come to terms with it all again and try to fathom out why such dreams were haunting him. What had triggered these unthinkable scenarios.

The laptop was closed. He must have shut it. In sleep mode, the indicator flashed orange and reminded him of the finished piece that needed sending. Then there was the conference in a little under two hours according to the wrought iron garden clock.

Everyone except the sleepy pair seemed to be away on tasks, no one answered his calls as he circumnavigated the shale courtyard bounded by log barn, potting shed, garage, stables and greenhouse. Only the two horses acknowledged him by poking their heads out over their green stable doors. As he passed each one of them they welcomed a rub of their foreheads with a nod of their heads and a snort or two to return the affection. “Nobody about Pepper,” he confided to one, the grey mare. “Where are they all?”

Sal came through the stone archway between the laundry and barn and into the enclave to join him. She had heard his shouts also as she stirred from her siesta. “They’ve all gone to cheer on Ben at the school, they told us yesterday. Don’t you remember?” Ben was the teenage son of Donald and Sylvia next door but one.

“Oh!” He did not recall, and that was strange, he never forgot things.

“The rugger tournament?” Sal continued to explain.

“Must’ve slipped by me Hun.” He pondered further.

Sal had a quizzical look across her face. “You not going down again are you Mac?” He nodded sideways affirming the negative. “So you feel ok love?” This question changed his head movement to one in the vertical plane, though he did not say a word. He simply could not remember the conversation about the families trip out this afternoon and it really bothered him.

A slight pain in his palm reminded of the injury inflicted somehow the day before. He had not given it any thought of late, but it came as if to bring him an aura of the dream he had of the hut and that other world.

“C’mon we’ll go and join them. It’s always a good game when Ben’s playing.” Sal wanted to bring him out of himself. He looked self indulged in her eyes and she had seen those signs before.

The rugby match was just the tonic. Ben, although only fourteen was strong for a teenager and played to win, as did all the team. The local delight from the massive turnout of the result over the neighbouring parish reminded Mac if his own school life. ‘A decade of absolute enjoyment in education’, the authority described these formative years and not one student passing through was ever let down or disappointed.

The campus of education, leisure and administration was more than a place of learning. Second only to the Meeting Hall, it was the place where all the community came together for secular events, and even some of the larger religious festivals. The local colloquialism attributed to it was ‘the forum’. This not only described its function but also its architecture. Set in the round the massive central open area of stadium proportions was enclosed by palisades of stone archways leading to many a mews of buildings which comprised the hub of the locality as well as its seat of learning.

A well mannered procession of sporting victory around the perimeter ended the afternoon’s match but this was to be followed by a local folk artist in concert continuing the proceedings of the day. Mac had been at school with her and knew her work very well. She was a local and national celebrity of some fame and standing. Mum had packed a picnic to eat at the tables. “Shall we grab a bite and stay on?” he asked taking consensus from the family. After deliberation the younger stayed, but the elders made a way back home to settle and eat there.

All in all the al fresco meal and impromptu concert took up the rest of the day. It went by in what seemed like a moment, as things do when they are so enjoyable Mac acknowledged to Sal, Mum and Dad as they all walked arm in arm down the hill through the park to home.

“Wait till you get older you two,” his mum answered, “time passes even more quickly then.”

“And when you get to my age!” Gramps added with a wry smile as he hop, skipped and jumped along the path.

Mac caught him up by a similar method which involved a cartwheel as well. That foolish additional movement though brought on a nausea which stopped him momentarily, though he did not let on. He gathered himself again.

“Such a lovely day.” The remark was whispered to Sal, and it was accompanied by a squeeze of her hand in his.

Laid in bed after supper, Sal already asleep beside him, Mac concentrated on the dream once more. The railway incident had started it all. But events leading to that incident appeared to be the last time he had full clarity of his home life. A full recollection of his self and the passage of time here in his town. What was bothering him above all other aspect was the absence of any memory of walking to the forum today. Granted the game and concert and so on were crystal clear but there appeared to be vacant episodes to the day. Times missing from the continuity of events. Such as the walk there, but also if he put his mind to it, no interval in the concert, and the massive picnic. How had mum brought all that food to the forum?

The conference call! At four o’clock. He had missed it, and what is worse had not given it a second thought after gazing at the garden clock earlier. How could that be? Was he off on a roll again? Not possible. In actual fact apart from the shiver of the dreams which plagued and invaded both shoulders every so often, and the natural panicked reactions to the
events in his dreams he felt on top of the game. So why forget about the conference? Worse still, why did it not bother him?

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