Thursday came and went, as did the days after, in fact by the time he owned a day properly, today, it was the anniversary of his second week. Stood on the bridge at ten minutes to the hour this should be the time, his time, to return to the family. He dare not imagine it would happen, and if the truth be told had only come to the bridge with what he stood up in, forgetting till a half hour ago that this could be the day. The handheld was forgotten though, left in the secure position behind the bath panel. Mac daydreamed for a minute or two, looking over the bridge, wondering on if it happened, and today it probably would, being that the device was left behind, what he would tell the family having no proof, and what eventually people here would say on discovering the hiding place of the diary some surprising time in the future.

There was a mist this morning, it had hung about since the cock crowed, sneaking about here and there at just one narrow altitude, a precise altitude, so that it was possible to escape its clutches and rise above it if taking to the slightly higher ground, and also get below it by heading further into the vale. It was a clinging mist, one that mentioned times gone by as it enveloped you, masking out any clear perspective of scene or belonging whilst captured in its breath. Down by the rail side it was at its thickest, concentrated by the cutting and stonework no doubt, making it feel more menacing here than anywhere. It was unmovable, uncomfortable to be within.

Mac kicked at the stone archway of the bridge in annoyance, anger at his lack of organisation, why had he not thought on the days importance when leaving the farmhouse this dawn. Then the sound of the approaching train announced its imminent arrival on the scene. Standing on the rails the vibration came through his boots. It was time.

Moving off, one slow step after the other, left foot, right, approaching the pending appointment, left foot, right, could this be the time and day? Down the track the locomotive came nearer, coming off the bend it’s horn sounded. Somehow the driver had seen him in the searching fog lights. A squeal of metal brakes dinted the air, ripping the eerie quiet of the morning. The mist remained, clinging to all it touched. Left foot again, right again and then ……. peace.

No train to hear, no rails to feel, no mist to blind, in fact a nice hazy day. Left foot forward once more, right foot again bringing the outside of the bridge, the appearance of a familiar landscape which could be home, it certainly was not the one from seconds ago at any direction. Was it where he wanted to be though, where he belonged. There was no blossom to the trees now, fallen off now its function fulfilled, the daffodils were on the wain too, making way for later attractive blooms, the trackway was definitely recognisable though. It had worked. Thank the Lady for that. Now all he needed to do was get back to the house.

Turning quickly about to walk the reverse direction offered a flaw to the proceedings. It meant going back through the fateful stone structure. Mac stopped short, pulling up before making it’s shadow, a worry crossed his mind that returning under the arch might find the other world once more, so climbing quickly up the embankment, following a familiar rabbit run through the ferns and bluebells now in full show led to another path, another known path, one which passed by the cemetery, and there it was, twenty yards further on, the graveyard of his town.

The monument to the family crypt, gilt scrolls and alabaster pillars marking the entrance to the tomb, sparkled with light reflecting back from here and there as he walked passed. At the small, stone entranceway shrine to The Lady, decorated with fresh bluebells he stalled for a minute and picked a few of his own from the kerbside entrance to place with the rest.

“Gracious Mata, Mother Nature, thank you for my safe return.” Mouthing the incantation and reverently placing the flowers in the ceramic receptacle, itself having a depiction of bluebells and buttercups upon it, made for a thanksgiving, a celebration of which had only just begun. That done he turned for home. Home? Well, would it be there? If it was not that would be no more a surprise than if it was. If one lesson had been hardest learnt these past weeks, the one on expect nothing and gather no disappointment was top of the syllabus.

“Go with the flow Mac,” he lectured himself, gathering pace along the track, the all too familiar and hopefully true path that ought to pass the black metal garden gate he knew so well. So far everything appeared normal, it was the world kept from him these past two weeks. In the dale was Devan’s herd of cows grazing the meadow by the canal, and rippling across this valley bottom a slight breeze brushed the wild flowers making a wave of colour pulsate to the ebb and flow of the eddies.

A hopeful congratulations left his lips. “Home indeed, you lucky fella Mac.” Smiling uncontrollably, uncomfortably in fact, and skipping along a little, the excitement unfortunately marred by the lack of any record to his journey, one emotion fought another for the upper hand. Of all the scenarios, to get home and have no proof was the ultimate irony. For the time being however that was of no major concern. He was home, and that was all that mattered. Now, on the reverse side of the coin was another question. What to tell the family?

To the right of the trail the allotment was in full swing as well, with many a hand raised in acknowledgment of a passers by whereabouts. None were near enough to own him for certain as if they did there would be enquiries. There were none.

Two hundred yards further and the gate was there, his garden gate. Mac gave more praise out loud. “Thank the Lady.”After pausing for a moment of reflection the sneck lifted to a familiar clang and home was found.

His own garden steps, yet going down them was a most difficult exercise to take on and not in the physical sense. What was the reaction to be on reaching the family, how would they take his reappearance? He needed to tread carefully and not create panic especially for Sal. Goodness knows what effect it would have on her.

A sensible speech came to mind. “Hi Mum, hi Sal. Now don’t panic, let me tell you where I’ve been.” Would that be a good start to making them believe the fanciful story. Soon find out.

Mum was at the door. She had spotted him coming across the lawn. “You’re back soon Mac, I thought you were going over the tops?”

Strange comment under the circumstances but more pressing information was needed. “Where’s Sal Mum?”

“She’s gone to feed the ducks with Ella and Charlie.” Charlie was the two year old toddler of
Sal’s best friend Ella. The two girls had been friends since childhood. Sal had joked with her that she needed bringing up to speed with the haunts of mums and mums to be so she could be well prepared when their little one arrived. Today was their first maternal fact finding mission.

Mac smiled at her. “Oh yes, I remember, Charlie was asking Sal to save some bread.” That was two weeks ago though surely!

“What’s the matter Mac, you look a bit distant again, you forgot something? You’re walking stick is here if ya want it. I shouted after you but you mustn’t have heard me.”

“No it’s not that.” If only she knew. He had the strangest incline though that she may not need to. “What time is it Mum?”

“Quarter to twelve.”

Mac’s mind went into overdrive, calculating a few facts and spitting out a realisation. Mum had not missed him in the slightest.

“Yes I’ll take my stick please. I didn’t get far, don’t know why I didn’t pick it up.” Relief took the helm. Oddly it was the same day as when he left, the same morning in fact. Although a fortnight had been spent in the other world, here barely an hour had ticked away. How could that be? How could any aspect of what had happened be sensible in the first place, it was not everyone’s experience to have traversed a divide, a crack in reality to venture from one domain to another and this one kept getting stranger and stranger.

The babbling stream played with the waterwheel and sang out a subtle song of home, a familiar song, one which told of security and history. It had been a backtrack to his whole life and was as much a part of him as his name and presence. From the dovecote up the garden, it’s inhabitants cooed, competing with a blackbird or two bathing in the birdbath, fighting off a group of sparrows with an explanation to them that size took precedence.

Mum passed the stick and kissed him on the cheek. “Go on get your walk in before it’s lunchtime.” A smile only given by a mother crossed her face, a smile of understanding and love, one saying everything is all right and there was nothing to worry about.

Mac took hold of her hand and took the stick. She held onto him for that one extra second. then returned inside the house Retracing his steps back up to the trail, he had a mumble to himself. “What do ya think to that then fella, you’ve not even been missed!” A wry expression crossed both lips, but was short lived.

The whisper had washed up on the ears of Aunt Bessie, coming bounding up the steps behind him as if she was still in her teens. She was shouting as well, not too loudly but enough to make sure he went no further.

“Mac, Mac! Wait up a minute.” Ushering him away from the gate, sneaking searches behind her to make sure no one else had heard, it was obvious something bothered her. “Let me talk to you dear boy, just for a while,” she began.

“Aunt Bessie! I’m glad to see you.” Mac stepped through the gate and quickly, away from the pathway before being pushed by Aunt Bessie, if he had not made way she would have certainly moved him.

“Oh yes, and me you dear boy.” Gasping out the words she grabbed for him giving the biggest of hugs. “I wanted to see you before you left if you remember, to explain, I know all about it.”

“You mean it was you in my…”

Bessie interrupted. “…dreams, yes dear boy it is. I always know where you are because I’ve been there too, amongst many other places.” The last few words were spoken quickly but barely audible. “We need to talk,” she added, “while there’s time.”

He had never seen Aunt Bessie so perplexed, always appearing the most level headed of woman, a refraction of her sensible dress sense and get on with it attitude to life, a dogma adopted by the entire family, particularly her niece in law, Macs mother, she never bothered about anything. In fact she was every bit a laid back yet so quietly driven individual, a dichotomy managed and mastered very well. Today though, at this very particular moment, she was not herself.

On a bench seat opposite Bill’s willow tree Bessie sat down, and tapping the empty space invited her half nephew and family prodigy to take the place, a vacant place which in more ways than the obvious was in need of filling.

Beginning to speak, furtively at first, Bessie searched for the correct words. “You’ve been chosen my dear boy…..just like I was many years ago….. and like my Gramp’s Papa was before me. We are the travelling. You have no idea what a privalage has been bestowed upon you Mac.” She took his hand in hers. “We are the travelling ones, those who can traverse the membranes, navigate the times.”

“But I don’t understand Aunt. Chosen, why me, how do you know?”

“I was on my way to invite you, remember my call, the decision had been made.”

“Decision? By who?”

“By the council. Our genetic lines are enabled….. to move between worlds. My time is coming to a close in a decade or so and you are the next to take, if you so desire, but the council enabling the protocol, and you being under the bridge, well that’s how it happened.”

“But what…”

Bessie interrupted. “It is a privilege Mac, please believe me. You will be able to make such a difference. You are the next generation.”

“What about Sal?”

“No one can ever know.” She spoke now with authority, gone the cordiality for the moment. “Where do you imagine I dissapear to every now and then, for weeks on end?”

“But !”

“When you went missing, the rules were being written for your entitlement. It was not expected that you should happen upon a drift.”

“Drift Aunt Bessie? You speak as if it’s something quite normal, just one of those everyday things.” Shuffling uncontrollably, fidgeting like an awkward schoolboy about to be told their fate by the headmaster was not like Mac, but the discussion felt just like that, in fact, sitting outside the headmasters office for some misdemeanor to be tried might be more comfortable.

“Oh no! It’s far from normal dear boy,” his Aunt replied, “but it is the latter to those who know.”

“Know what?”

“How to traverse, drift between membranes, domains.” Her excitement was bubbling over, she had waited a millennia to tell someone of her triumphs, secrets, and now finally Mac was that one.

“Mum doesn’t know I’ve been away!” That fact was a puzzlement to him. Could Aunt Bessie answer that question as well.

Unfortunately she could. “Oh dear! You haven’t realised have you Mac. This is a dream, you don’t know that do you. I am in your dream again Mac. You have not come home yet.”

“But, it’s so……they are all so real.”

She smiled sympathetically. “A dream Mac, I’m sorry.”

“How do I know when I wake up that I didn’t just dream you up then.”

“Because it was me at the gate last Sunday night in that dream, I know you have visited the charity shop in town, I know of Margaret.”

“Yes but that could still be my knowledge bringing that information to this dream.”

“OK, I know you hid the handheld behind ….. Ah yes that won’t do either. OK, have you been outside the town yet?”

“Not yet, why do you ask?”

“In the cathedral city of the borough is a street, High Street. It is a pedestrianised walkway. At the top of the street is a fountain, a dolphin fountain that never works. Ask Margaret or better still go see, then you will know I am telling the truth Mac. I always will know where you are dear boy.”

Now he was beguiled, and desperate. “What about my Sal Aunt Bessie?”

“Don’t worry Mac, Sal thinks your away on business, the whole family do. There’s no need to fret yourself.”

“Business? What sort of….”

“No need to fret, take a look at the fountain Mac, in the meantime the protocols are being finalised and then we….”

Wood and hard plastic make poor a combination for silence when brought forcibly together, such as when a handheld falls from a bed and lands on a floor below. Mac had been putting some facts to record before falling to sleep and in the same bedcovers the device had then laid, silent as its owner, until halfway through the night when pushed to the very edge of soft support had fallen over onto devastatingly firmer ground. The clatter brought the darkened room to life, and it’s occupant.

On his breath was that stale taste of ale, the taste telling of too much imbibition, partnered, as it always is, by an odour that hung about the room uninvited, a second hand aroma of quaffed beer, garlic snacks and the like. A magnificent sigh of displeasure amplified the two sensations.

Mac’s concerns immediately racked themselves up for scrutiny. Firstly the noise itself, easily explained on assumption and investigation over the side of the bed, then what if the device was damaged, that worry dispelled on examination, and finally, but worst of all, the dream, being just and only that, another dream.

“So vivid though,” he argued, with a photo of Sal on the handheld. “What has Aunt Bessie to do with all of this?” Then he remembered her instructions. “The fountain, in the city.” Only having read up superficially on the area, and never visited this city, he trawled through the very recent of memories to bring any relevance to what she had said. There was nothing, so if the fountain turned out to be barren, and occupy the site as described, then? “Well, establish the facts first eh Mac,” was a summing up on the twilight diary entry. Turning over to find more rest sleep took over once again.

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