Margaret went much better than a sandwich. She had put the men’s favourite meal, beef stew, to a slow cook a lot earlier, when she first awoke, and the evening meal was met with much delight, surprise and approval when the three of them came together not half an hour after the day trippers return.

The last ewes to lamb had done just that, and without any problem Walt reported at the oak kitchen table, now taken over for dining purposes. Being next to the range it offered a more welcoming and far warmer place to sit and eat, the heat from the huge black appliance radiating pleasure to flesh and constitution. Over the steaming hot dinner, Walt also instructing the two youngsters to follow his example of turning in early for a change. They all had done so well over the past few weeks and it was time to rest on their laurels for a while, get back to a more normal routine, whatever that was in farming he laughed.

Praise and laughter, from her father, laughter! “That was a long time coming.” Margaret gladly admitted, reaching over the old oak table and taking his bony hand in her own.

Walt looked at her with those inset eyes, ones with, what for the first time in a long while, appeared to have a slight glint about them. Even the wrinkled corners of his thin, off pink lips and crows feet at the edge of his temples seemed less severe tonight, less defined than of late.

“What ?” Walt replied, the smiling expression just on the wain as he took a last spoonful of meat and potatoes.

“That lively laugh and smile, it brings back memories of when we were all together, you were happy and mum was here,” his daughter explained.

“Mum’s still here love, don’t you worry about that. She’s always looking out for us.” No swearing, in fact it had been that way for almost a week now.

Mac realising the two of them needed a piece of family time faked a huge yawn. “I’m off to get an early night you two, I’m shattered,” he said, blowing a kiss at Margaret while putting his plate in the washing up bowl to soak. She looked surprised, it was the first time he had done so, but she pursed a kiss of her lips secretly back at him, Walt was staring at their own two hands still clasped together on the wooden table top and saw nothing of the exchange.

Walking to the door, the family of two still holding hands and looking like a heart to heart might be imminent Mac bid a goodnight and left them to it. The room fell silent for a moment, only the battering of the rain on the farmhouse windows disturbing the peace, but strangely the sound comforted the space within the building, as if feeding the individuals listening, supplying as much relief as if it had been drank greedily after a thirst. Walking passed a fresh piece of peeling paint he made his mind up to ask tomorrow if they should decorate and wondered on what the upstairs was like. What kind of condition was the upper landing in. Was it pristine like the lounge, surely it was, or was it ramshackle like the parlour.

Once across the divide Mac settled, an evening of catching up with the diary, while at the same time, and most importantly of all, becoming acquainted once again with what he had missed most the past few weeks, namely his bed at night. Laying on top of the covers, the soft duvet wrapped around so comfortably, he was like a pig in clover. Stretching limbs this way and that to drive out the tiredness from an overworked and under cared for body of late, a pampering of which, within a hot bath of fragrant lavender bubbles had already taken first place after finding the solace of what was becoming his own room. He turned on one side then the other revelling in the prospect of a decent night of sleep. Natures tune, on his own window now, played like a lullaby, eased his troubled mind. Relaxed and warm Mac set about his diary.

Reporting on the fountain was a difficult task, because of what it meant, the significance of the fact being true brought so much to bare on his plight that he hardly dare think on it. Still, being the truth did furnish some hope as well, Aunt Bessie would be working tirelessly to facilitate a return on his behalf.

Suddenly the handheld bleeped a tone he recognised. A welcome tone, one of untold availability and enterprise. A flashing icon on the top left of the screen confirmed the fact, there was a connection to some source or other which back home would allow access to the ether. Was there a possibility of some sort, an opportunity at last to plug into the information needed? Mac quickly touched the ether icon on the screen as if his life depended on it. Unfortunately it did.

A couple of seconds passed, it seemed an age, nothing happened, nothing at all. Why would it tease him so. Surely the handheld sound was not a betrayal, a ruse, giving hope in one breath and taking it away with the next. Then, thankfully a page unfolded before his searching, longing eyes, a piercing stare that was willing the handheld to perform and spark into life, bringing forward fortunes beyond compare, information of such importance, information that would make this new life so much easier to comprehend.

The page had a banner in the top portion of it, running horizontal. It read ‘GOOGLE’. Across the very top of the page, several categories, web, images, places, news and more, and across the middle of the page another blank banner obviously for the insertion of text. The page belonged a search engine, a familiar concept. Would it be compatible with the device? For half a minute he stared at the empty oblong box and the flashing cursor, afraid to put anything to it in case an enquiry was not answered, returned, provided no result whatsoever. That would destroy him, any answer at all was simply something he required, desired, more than anything. What to type, what could he type, would typing fetch any data at all to this alien handheld? Only one option would answer that dilemma. He typed, N e w s, very slowly, methodically, checking each and every letter as it appeared in the blank banner.

The screen turned over to grey, did nothing then froze. Grasping at straws and muttering for help, none came forward, for an age. “C’mon!” he gasped. “C’mon, light up and give me a break, c’mon Lady Mama give me a breakthrough.” Slowly the small display rolled over once again, returning a page full of results. It was working. The handheld was connecting. Joy of joys.

Mac, elated at the text on show whispered under his breath as if betraying the great reveal.

“It must be using Walt’s equipment in the lounge. Margaret must’ve turned it on.”

Why had he not thought to look before? The little, primitive box of electronics that connected this worlds computers to the ether actually paired with his handheld.

Heading the results page was a line offering a link for BBC News, described it as trusted world and UK news. The UK part of the sentence was familiar as the name of the country he was now a part of, as was the BBC, it was one of the television channels. Mac tapped on the line belonging the item.

Again seconds dripped slowly by, one drip after another, the rain now pelted the glass, it was turning up a notch and the sky was looking much heavier. Finally another page returned a result, this time for a BBC homepage of news. Enthralled with the lucky find he quickly sat up, cross legged on the bed and began to read and digest. At long last here there was an untapped fountain for knowledge.

One article caught his immediate attention forcing the headline out of his mouth, spoke aloud with incredulity.

“Council prayer’s ruled unlawful!”

The explanation which followed the broad text intro he lipped in silence, slowly, not once, but twice, not being able to make any sense of the topic.

“Prayers are no longer being allowed to be said by order of the elected chamber, prayers that have always been said within that same elected chamber, now outlawed has counter productive and marginalising those with no faith at all.”

How could such a ruling, or more seriously, even before the ruling, how could the scenario be dreamt up in the first place worried him. What in all that was good had happened to fetch him up on such a desolate shore. Over by the window the rainwater was gathering on the inside ledge and a drip was starting up onto the floorboards.

For the good part if an hour he read and navigating many articles relating to wars, commerce and celebrity, each in turn compounding facts gleamed from the newspapers in the library days before and snippets since then. The words continually jumped off the pages and upset and worried him once again, now as before, fetching the horrid realisation to the fore that he truly was in trouble. If the truth be known, whilst not being reminded of the tragedy he could spend most days unbothered, unfettered by any concern, but reading on it again the stress built up inside, and exponentially with each story found. Economic woes, starvation, civil unrest, what was he going to do?

Sleep seemed to be one option, the sensible option, so turning off the handheld he laid down to try and escape the reality, now he knew there could be contact with the ether, tiredness was winning over enquiry and was asking for rest as the prize.

Five minutes of turning about the bed, first one side then the other found no solace. Why the bridge was not offering a way home was bothering him. He needed Aunt Bessie to come to him and explain, even better, if she could do what she claimed, why not come and fetch him back. Perhaps the dreaming was only just that and the facts portrayed there sub consciously learned since he arrived but not acknowledged. Still he turned, onto his front this time, both legs twitching out the apprehension of a troubled mind. A thought came to him. Reaching to the bedside table, and retrieving the handheld he turned it on once again.

“See if the satnav works?” The question was an excited one, and one which after a second or two was answered, the device rewarding again, this time with a map of his estranged position.

The screen settled to the farms locale, which on enlarging the ariel view showed the very buildings perched on the hillside, a hillside which on zooming out became part of a long elevated chain of geography identified as the Pennines. These ran in a North South direction like a backbone to this new country of captivity, England.

A birds eye view of the area confirmed an opinion fashioned since arriving and advanced today on the trip to the city. There was no familiar patchwork of field systems in operation anywhere about the vicinity, borough or indeed further removed. No regular, chequered pattern of one crop then the other, pasture then orchard, fallow then grazing. There was evidence of agriculture, but on a much grander scale, enlarged boundaries given over to one crop only, arable usage on a massive scale, unhindered by wall or hedge. Family patronage of the land appeared to be few and far between instances, and domestic growth unaccounted. As well as this, if that was not enough of a blow, the evidence on the screen also confirmed the urbanisation of the population into massive metropolises, the one visited today on show to the east, and these with huge satellites surrounding them. Nowhere could he see the ordered township borough system of land supporting populace, the norm for his own world. The self sufficient economy that each and every country employed to manage the land and commerce in an efficient but ecological model, land feeding mouth and muscle feeding land, industry on a managed level serviced by a local population in production of commodities needed for that region, manafactured and purchased by an immediate catchfall to eliminate movement down to a minimum, movement of both goods and workforce. No starvation, no over production and no profit for anyone but the belly and earth. Granted there were the larger manufacturing hubs, but these were located near the hydro stations, did not impinge on inhabited zones and were a lot more aesthetic than the ones on show on this initial examination of the facts.

He had seen enough, but before shutting off the source again took some screen shots and saved them to the diary. That done, the handheld hidden once again, Mac took to the comfy mattress to find peace and tranquility, a harbour from the ever present storm he begged shelter from.

“Please come forward Aunt Bessie.” The words were mouthed silently a few times, almost as prayer, an incantation to summon up an answer to his plight.

Outside the weather would keep him company, and a towel placed to catch the dropping water would stop that torment. He brokered for sleep.

Sal’s fiery red hair came to mind, her smiling face and tender embrace. What in the world would she be going through, the result of this incarceration of her husband and father to her child. Aunt Bessie said no one else could ever know, how unfair was that, how cruel, surely she must have put her own families minds at rest and not left them in limbo. There he was again, he scolded himself at assuming there was a truth to the dreaming. Most probably it was all fantasy, his own mind playing tricks, taking advantage of a susceptibility not before encountered.

Outside the window, curtains drawn off, the stars began their reply, their comforting, age long story, of consistency and support, ever present, ever shining light from time now gone, connecting him to the very soul of life itself, the exact source of life, nurtured from the beginning of time, awaiting its awakening so patiently for all those millennia, now born and still so fragile in its infancy. What had happened to him was part of that human evolution, the continuum ever marching, mutating and shifting balance to favour survival. On those imaginings he fell off the edge.