So here he was, the appointed time, well eleven o’clock seemed to be as good a one as any on this fateful Monday. Aunt Bessie had not specified a time so again the hour of his arrival seemed appropriate, the next ten minutes would tell. Monday, the second day of what ought to be any other week, but it was far from that.

It was not raining but neither was it a bright morning, just nondescript really in weather outlook, drab some would call it but Mac preferred a label of overcast. Drab seemed too awful a word to describe anything really let alone a morning in which nature was about her business and life was present upon the planet.

Full of fear and trepidation he stood atop the bridge once again. This stone bridge, not special in any way, shape or form to anyone else, but a lifeline to him. This bridge of stone, stood here above this leafy cutting since formed centuries ago, in this place it spanned a pair of railway tracks, in his own a walkway and bridle path. This time he had everything in hand and was ready to leave.

To tell the truth he had not visited here for some time now, obsessively wanting to believe that Aunt Bessie’s instructions were going to prove to be correct, not daring to tempt any negativity by attending too early, in some way influence the spell she had cast by appearing there at any other inopportune moment. What if he put some kind of a reversal on the prophecy by coming on the wrong day. He had even made a point lately of not walking this one country lane he had come to know and cherish, the one that led by the bridge, giving the entire vicinity a wide birth until this his hour of reckoning.

There would have been a time when other compulsions might have come into play too, these a means of making sure of his own preservation and well being; when he was younger he felt a need not to tread on any cracks between the pavement slabs for fear of upsetting his own equilibrium. Along the causeway he would skip, seripticously planting every tread within a whole stone, not crossing his sole on any edge for fear of the consequences. So good was he at this that no one ever knew there was any enforced pattern to his behaviour at all. He would also only go down a single step using his right foot and always rise one on his left keeping the heart side of his body on the positive gauge of an imagined change in energy level. These compulsions he had thought at one time would keep him stable and not bring any harm into his life. If it were not for his fight with them and many other obsessions too he could gladly have employed any, no all of them today on his walk to this fateful place, but no, now much older and wiser and to be truthful more sensible he would let the Morrigan take the part of arbiter and set his future to her safe keeping and plan.

She the weaver of fate, the Morrigan, this Phantom Queen, associated with the Fairie Queens themselves who Mab herself belonged amongst, was a powerful member of the Tuatha De Danann, the children of the goddess Danann, Herself the consort of the thunder god Dagda. Let the Morrigan be his guide and only what was rightfully his would befall him. Her manifestation called to him now from a nest far up in the tallest green leafed trees of the cemetery. A cawing of such lament that the story told seemed just nearly of his own tongue if only he could make out the words a little more clearly.

“Come on home, come on home,” the crowing seemed to say.

Why he should think so when he awoke, after a fitful night of sleep it should be said, was still bothering him. Why he should think on whether to go home or not that is. The answer was obvious. He had to go back but still that thought on not doing had occurred to him. There had been no dream of Aunt Bessie, during his supposed last sleep in this world, and that worried him too, no confirmation to accompany him through the long, long night, one in which he had turned this way then that, trying desperately not to disturb Margaret slumbering peacefully beside him. In actual fact, if it had not been a call from Professor Smith after breakfast he might not be here at all he reminded himself. This earlier indecision truly worried with him and toyed with his sense of worth.

“Of course you would,” he argued with his conscience, shaking his head from side to side. His hair, now a little longer than he liked swayed this way then that about his forehead. “You’d’ve been here and be raring to go.”

The profs call had brought the obvious and expected news. It could be nothing else. “The results are just the same,” he had reported.

That is what had finally made him his mind up, to leave, divorce himself from this landscape for a while. But why was that, the conversation with the prof aside he should be yearning for home anyway. What was it about Margaret’s world that held some attraction for him? Anyway the proverbial muck was truly going to hit the wall now with the news from the lab and with no hiding place to speak of and soon a baying crowd of media hungry reporters tracking his every move it was best he escape, the results were bound to be up for auction by someone on the team supposedly caring for him.

“Ya off then?” came a voice in parallel with the bird’s speech. These words made him start. For a moment no one was obvious. Then a brown and cream spaniel came into view from around the edge of the bridge wall. “Come t’ see ya off we ‘ave ain’t we Toby?” It was the old man and his dog met on his first hour here.

Mac looked bewildered. “But…. how do……. what do you mean?”

“Don’t fear me young Mac Arthur, and don’t think any more on it. Now be off wi ya down there and take tha rightful path. T’hour’s almost due so don’t dally any longer.”

“But!……… you’ve known all along? …… how could you…….”

The elder was having none of this questioning. He lifted his walking stick and gestured for silence. “All’ll become clear lad. Now, be off.” The stick now motioned in the direction of the railway track at the bottom of the cutting. Mac checked his watch. “Yeh! Five minutes only,” the elder added, anticipation in his voice. “Ask no questions but accept ya fate lad.”

Mac looked him up and down in disbelief, this elder of some years, a man not out of the ordinary in any respect, flat cap on his head and dark grey wooly pullover he would not stand out in any crowd. Not out of the ordinary in any way, shape of form, apart from one thing that was. Mac suddenly caught site of the top end of his stick as it was being waved about. It had a metal hilt which pulsed with that same odd luminescence of Aunt Bessie’s ankle bracelet.

The elder Mac’s wide eyed stare. “Don’t think on any concern lad, c’mon now jump that wall.”

Mac did as he was told and set off to scale down the banking side. He lost his footing once or twice as stones escaped their position under the turf. From the train station back in town a whistle blew, the whistle of the three minutes to eleven about to depart. It was on the way.

The arch looked no different to all the other times he had seen it. All those past failed attempts came suddenly to haunt him, remind him of the idiocy he was about to involve himself in. Would this attempt turn out to be the same. The rails began to vibrate under his feet, only slightly at first, but within ten seconds there was more disturbance.

“Don’t let the train frighten ya lad,” the old man shouted down to him from the perch above, “just keep walking.”

So that is just what he did. Kept walking. Keeping a steady course, and nerve, he slowly placed one foot in front of the other and found the middle of the bridge as the train whistle blew again. This time there was an urgency in the call, shrill and at some length it gave out a warning. The driver had seen him.

Undeterred Mac took another step, a very slow but defined step this time, his mind willing the travel to work, start up, initiate. The whistle blew a third time.The ground under him shook some more. Then a squeal of metal on metal cut through the air. The driver had applied the brakes. The sound ripped through both the air and bridge itself taring it apart, actually ripping the bridge apart. It had begun!

Stonework, the fabric of the bridge flew away in all directions, skimming over the top of his head, their velocity catapulting them into the distance, but what distance. Suddenly that was gone! So had the sound of the train brakes, the shrill of that whistle. Any sound, of everything had gone. Everywhere was quiet, silent. Everywhere? Nowhere actually! That was where he was again, nowhere. He ought to have expected it. Perhaps he had. Held up on whatever was under him, he could no sooner see what that was either, nor imagine what was happening, his head and body felt at such disease.

Ahead, to each side and, if he stretched to look behind him, there was nothing, nothing at all. It was grey that was for certain, this nothing, whatever it was, but it was neither obvious or suggestive of anything. It did not swirl about like a cloud would, in fact it did not appear to flow or eddy or actually perform any movement at all. It was not comprised of any substantial material. It was just grey, and there, and all about him, a part of him yet apart of him.

His stomach did a cartwheel while his mouth wet itself in readiness. Here it came. Sickness and retching. He hated this more than anything in his life, lives! Here it came alright, there could be no stopping it, a swallow of spittle had no effect, a deep breath inwards did not calm, no here it came. He spewed a stream of green bilious vomit into the nowhere. To accompany that distraction, as if that was not enough, his body began to ache, a violated kind of an ache, like he had been injured or harmed. Both his temples throbbed, pulsing out a beat in time to his heart working to come to terms with the avalanche of adrenaline coursing through his bloodstream and the melancholic memories attempting to entrench themselves deep within his psyche.

Then without warning movement. Not nice movement either, a falling. He began to drop through the grey, slowly at first as if it offered him a resistance somehow, but then faster, picking up a little speed until beneath it, the cloud, for it was a cloud of some making, and he had fallen through it now, he began to really drop, falling, falling into nowhere again, but this time the nowhere was clear and went on for miles and miles, forever in fact. It went on forever, to the left of him forever, to the right forever and worse still forever down below him, down there, the direction he was falling went on forever. Only above was there evidence of any material substance of some description, this the fog, mist, cloud or whatever it was.

Still he fell, faster, faster until suddenly, thankfully, of maybe not, there was water, an ocean of it below him. No sooner had he seen it than he plunged straight in, its cold but not freezing, cold and salty depths caressed him with a bitter sweet greeting. It was instinctive that he had taken a sharp intake of breath as his body broke the surface, for now below it and by some distance there was none to be had.

The boundary between water and atmosphere shimmered as Mac frantically wriggled every limb to produce some upward movement back toward whatever light source danced about in the motion of the waves on the surface. Slowly but surely his depth lessened. Was he was going to make the surface before he drowned. It seemed an eternity, waiting, wanting, hoping for life giving atmosphere to be his once more. Finally oxygen, the reward for all his effort. He took a huge gulp of it. For a moment or two physics had the casting vote allowing him to float and catch his breath.

It was only a moment though, a second or two of comparative normality, because without warning the massive sea began to eddy and flow, a funnel of water rising vertically in the distance. Like a snake being charmed by its master it danced this way then that deciding which direction to take. The plume like the ocean twisted in a clockwise direction and opted to venture towards him at some speed. Any attempt to out-swim it would be a futile gesture and even though he did try within ten stokes it had him in its grasp taking him mistward once again.

Around and around he was carried, his head out the side of this alien body of water, allowing an unenviable but panoramic view of the nothingness again. Around and around and around the column of water transported him around and ever upwards. As if some benefactor’s gentle and helping hand though the tentacles of water did have control of his care and after several more rotations he was laid back down within the cloud of grey. Then all liquid withdrew from his presence, melting away through the mist which supported him once again.

Now melancholy returned rearing its ugly ugly head. It came back up from the deepest blackness of his mind. It had probably never diminished to tell the truth but the last few minutes of flight and fancy had rendered any depressive overtures null and numb. But despair found its target, as it always does, throwing his mind down a vast bottomless pit and with it all hope and joy. He felt terrible, wretched, distraught. Why had he chosen to take this invitation again. For what he could remember of the last time it was not as bad an emotional rollercoaster as this one upon him now, why had he not stayed put. When was this travel going to end. Would it, end!

The mist cleared, as if it had never been there at all. It disappeared without any trace. He was now sat amongst a field of wild flowers, poppies, daisies, buttercups and the like with a natural scenery of wooded hillsides and meandering vale offering some respite to his troubles, a helping hand to counteract his black bile. It was not home but better than had previously been on offer.

A calmness installed itself within him, momentarily before he was off again. Firstly the bridge reappeared, though one massively overgrown under its arch with tree and shrub alike. He somehow stood amongst these, under this bridge, still not of his own time. Correct archway yes, but not his place. No matter though, because it did not last that long either, being cruelly replaced in two blinks of an eye by a shimmering shifting sea of sand moving snake like across the hot surface. In the distance an oasis of palm almost appeared, went away then reappeared again as the warming breeze changed direction whipping up the particles of mineral and blasting them on one side of his face then the other, stinging each cheek in turn with their heat and velocity.

The mirage wavered about its roots one more time then vanished. As was the desert. Vanishing! Before his very eyes it was vanishing. Why was he surprised? It was being replaced by a mile high sheet of sheer ice advancing towards him faster than anyone would be able to run away from it. The white and glistening wall that stretched either side as far as he could see creaked and moaned as it approached, like cracking timbers or torn apart joints the eerie sound grew louder and louder.

“It’ll stop short,” he reassured himself.

But it did not. Louder and louder the noise built, second upon second till doom was met. The frozen mass enveloped him in its path. He was helpless to resist, or comprehend. An entire weight of such awful magnitude laid heavy on his upright yet immovable body. All he could do was observe the advancing edge now retreating ahead of him, for he had turned away from it in defence if his life as it struck. It moved with still the same speed, and as it did Mac’s world became duller and duller and duller. He held his breath. Frankly he had no other choice. Would this be it. His demise? All he could bring to mind was Sal and Margaret and what a mess would be left behind.

He held his breath still longer, he was beginning to feel feint. This was to be the last few seconds of him, he knew it, in his own world, Margaret’s, any world in fact. Oddly enough he found some acceptance of the fact, a surreal calm of whatever had to be washed in on him. Trying to mouth a lament to all he loved, the solid ice made it impossible really but still he tried, no words came out but instead vibrated around his teeth and palate.

“Please, please Lady help me stay alive for the sake of Sal and Margaret. Mum and Dad still need me too……”

All of a sudden the ice around him began to crack, a ripping so loud the noise hurt his ears. Then it shattered into more than a thousand pieces which in turn all began to melt away. These then formed into a torrent of foaming water so angry that it was some wonder he was not carried with it. Oddly he was firmly rooted on a small island in the middle of two of the many gushing rivers, one flowing south the other south west though how he knew that fact was a mystery also. The whole experience was a mystery actually, obviously, that was without question, but why he had an idea of where the compass pointed seemed beyond imagining, reason and sense.

For his own involvement, that seemed to be calming down somewhat. Gone was the nausea and desperation and a headache which had threatened to erupt when he was held within the frozen tomb had separated its clutch from within his skull. Even his heart beat was steady, beating in time to an even more important pacemaker, that of Mater Herself. The rush of the rivers either side of him seemed to echo a pulse of time immemorial, nature’s life blood itself carrying memory and future together as one as it wended its way irreversibly onwards, omnidirectional linking gone with that to come, what has been with what will, ever present, forever needed for without Her life would not be even begun never mind sustained.

“Give my regards to Bessie will ya Mac Arthur.” The voice came out of the sky, no from above the bridge. He was once again beneath it. Mac looked behind him. No one was to be seen, it was the voice of the elder though, the one with the dog he knew that much even though he was not present. No one was. Neither were the rails of the track. No they were gone as well.

“Come on home!” Another voice! Mac turned about one more time. “Come on home.” It was Aunt Bessie, as large as life itself, stood there in the gaping aperture that was more than an archway of a bridge. It was all too much for him. He fainted on the spot falling to the ground in a heap of crumpled adult limbs and torso.

Aunt Bessie was also the first person he caught the eye of when he woke up in bed. She was standing behind the other members of the family in attendance at his bedside. Mum, Dad, Gramps and Sal were all looking at him with concern and sympathy on their faces. This particular elder though held his attention momentarily, this kenning woman, this drawer down of the moon, worker of the five elements was motioning him not to say anything by putting her left index finger up to her lips. She was pretending to scratch below her nose but he knew what she was about. In her other hand she toyed with her silver pendant, a pentagram of some inch across its diameter. Mac had never thought on it before but Bessie had always had this talisman, the moon metal strung about her neck on a beautiful thin chain of the same, yes it had always hung there for as long as he could remember.

“Mac, Mac, what happened?” Sal blurted out. It was obvious she had been crying.

“I don’t know,” His answer was somewhat wary.

Bessie butted into the conversation. “One hour your talking to me on the handheld Mac and the next I come across ya unconscious on the trail.”

“What time is it?” he asked.

“Three thirty three,” mum answered him.

Again Bessie added her slant to the question. “You’ve been out cold for a couple of hours Mac. What time did he leave this morning Sal?” He was beginning to understand the drift of her conversation.

“About eleven.” It was Mum who answered again.

“You looked a bit pale early doors Mac,” Sal added.

“I felt ok, nothing to put me in bed anyway.”

“There’s nothing showing up in your medreadings,” Sal told him. She had already dropped a nanobot into his mouth with a pipette of water while he was out of it. “The readout is good Mac.”

“Don’t know then,” he said, the unanswered question written across his face, “but I ought to be up. How did I get home?”

“Aunt Bessie called us and we fetched you on the buggy, now you rest a bit longer,” Mum insisted.

Mac edged close up to Sal and cuddled both her and their unborn, closed his eyes and nudged a recess in his pillow with the side of his head. He could not help thinking about Margaret and when there would be a chance to talk to Aunt Bessie but for now everything had to appear a version of normal, whatever that was.

“You go to sleep hun,” his wife insisted and taking his arm around hers laid down beside him. The rest of the family filed out of the bedroom. With one open eye Mac spied Bessie leaving the last of all. As she made the doorway she pulled at her garnet red dress to reveal her ankle and the object of his desire, the bracelet. She said nothing and made no attempt to turn around to him.

For the next hour Mac pretended to sleep. He worked through the ramifications in his head, all the evidence, turning his body slightly every so often, snorting a breath and mumbling some gibberish to make Sal think he was fast on. She made no effort to disturb him. Gradually he collated all the evidence, sifted and sorted through it all and concluded some findings. He was home, back in his own bed with his wife by his side. Goodness knows how, but he was. He needed to talk to Aunt Bessie. As far as was known he had only been out of the house since this morning. This very morning! However that was remained a complete and utter mystery.

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