All of a sudden his handheld, laid on the bedside table where Sal must have put it, vibrated causing a purring noise to sound out. Sal was fast asleep. He could see her bonny face showing no care in the world. She had her man beside her in their bed and an infant nurturing inside her womb and not one thing more did she crave. A warmth inside him furnished his own face with a satisfying smile. The handheld purred again. Mac picked it up so it would not disturb his wife.

It was a mail from his Aunt. ‘Hope you are feeling better Mac. Mail back.’

Slowly and carefully he removed his other arm from under Sal’s pillow and quietly tapped out a reply. ‘When can we meet I need to talk to you.’

‘I’m down in the park now feeding the ducks if you can come out!’

‘I’ll try. Stay there a while.’ While he replied he felt like a naughty schoolboy would, secretly planning a rendezvous with his friends, removing himself carefully whilst out of sight and mind of concerned parents or siblings alike.

Inch by inch he slithered out from under the covers and poured himself over the edge of the bed and onto the carpet. Sal made no move whatsoever. A month or so ago he would not ever have thought of such a thing, let alone done it, go behind his wife’s back, not tell her what he was up to but now it all seemed so easy, uncompromising and of no significance. Whether that was a good state of mind to be in still remained to be seen.

He had been put to bed in his clothes, the ones he had returned in, fortunately the ones he had left in months ago, no this morning he reminded himself with a gentle shake of his head, only to stop doing so when the pain about his brain reminded him it was still there. Choosing them back in Margaret’s world had been more than good luck. His boots would more than likely be under the radiator in the kitchen, in a row of several pairs belonging the rest of his family. He began tiptoeing downstairs to retrieve them. As he passed the white painted balustrade a thought crossed his mind to tap at it three times. Sensibly he declined the memory.

Mum and Gramps were talking in the lounge, he could here their welcome voices. He would have to be especially quiet, but if one of them had full view of the back door out the kitchen and the radiator itself he would be stumped. He made no sound, making each footstep count for nothing as he placed one after the other on successive steps. There were thirteen in all. He had counted them long ago, long, long ago as an infant, and also as a child and many times later as a teenager and adult. Thirteen steps up and the same number down. When Dad had been out all night tending the flock or some other nocturnal necessity when The twins were younger it had been the practise of the pair to move about these steps, and the rest of the house for that matter, very quietly so has not to disturb the father they loved and idolised. It would have been so unfair to have awoken a man dedicated to his family and their way of life. On the many occasion when silence had been the order of the day he had learned to move stealthily and without noise, an accomplishment unfortunately never realised by his sister so she had usually remained confined to certain rooms of the home on such days as was called for. That well remembered practise now stood him in good stead as without making any sound at all he found the bottom of the floral papered staircase and the lower landing. Holding the brass handle in a firm grip he moved it very slowly downwards to open the door. If anyone would see him emerge they would also now notice this door open. He waited with baited breath. The conversation between Mum and Gramps continued without interruption.

“Mac will be fine love, you know he will.” Gramps’ soothing tone was reassuring to both his mother and Mac too. He listened a moment more while picking up his footwear and tiptoeing to the outer door.

“I know Dad but to pass out like that. Imagine if he’d fallen in a ditch somewhere. I never even felt anything!”

“Well he didn’t love did he, and once bitten eh!”

Mac gripped the kitchen door handle now, even tighter this time, this sneck sometimes made a clatter if it was not opened in just the right manner.

“I do hope he’s not going down again.”

He moved the handle slightly down then back up just a little in the sequence he knew would not betray him. The mechanism engaged quietly. He then pressed down again, slowly ever so slowly.

“Well if he is we’re all here for him aren’t we.”

The door opened, his escape was complete. Sun beams met and greeted him, cascading in a rapture of illumination through the trees and fence alike, throwing shadows here and there from the intervening wood both living and cut. Once outside Mac slipped on his boots and made for the river. He took the high path though so as not to be seen from the living room bay widows. Picking out the handheld from his trouser pocket he messaged Aunt Bessie. ‘On my way.’ A hundred steps later there was no reply.

No reply on the route down the dale either and even walking through the park, his own beautiful and much longed for park there was no reply from her. No connection either. Where was she? Rounding the second meander of the river, one which boasted the tallest tree for a mile around, a huge oak, his adopted heartwood of youth, he expected her to be sat by the waters edge, bread in hand, a badelynge of ducks in attendance. But no. No Aunt Bessie anywhere to be seen.

Mac sat under the canopy of his own heart of oak, taking up position in a well worn recess between two of her roots. Although he called her his own he knew many more people also sat in this same spot, more than likely enjoying the same comfort she offered him, that and the feeling of belonging brought from out of this ancient; unconditional security, a feeling of protection and support, conjoined flesh to nature.

Although Bessie absence was obvious this did nothing to bother him. How could it. He had all he wanted and could still not believe his good fortune. To be returned home, back to the bosom of his family, safe and sound. He was as happy as the larks, apart from the nagging of that headache which would not lift from the back of his neck and crowned his skull with a pain that tightened every so often like a band of steel, but that aside he did not appear to be any the worse for wear. Better still he had not been away for more than half a day either, a fact which continued to please him immensely and brought another wry smile across his full lips. It was a smile short lived though, as it quickly became tainted with a nagging, that sense of doubt which, as before always seemed to come a calling at the most unsuspecting time to catch him off guard. What had he done? The worry tried to climb upon his back, weigh him down, penetrate under his skin and scratch at his spine from the inside.

Staring through the clear river water, and listening to its song, Margaret’s world came into his mind. Now he had another dilemma to worry over. Margaret, and their unborn baby. How could he have been so stupid? Why had he not believed Aunt Bessie and simply waited for this day to arrive, kept Margaret at arms length. But no, he had acted before thinking and now must face the consequences. Like it or not the fact was he had another life now, or did he? Should he just forget all that now. Margaret’s world was not his own, and certainly did not share the values of his home time, so him disappearing and not returning would not be out of the ordinary. Margaret would be able to continue with her life, perhaps she would be better off without him anyway. Besides she always knew the possible consequences of their relationship, and knowing that still pursued her endeavour to the conclusion that had occurred, if anything she was more to blame for the outcome than him. The aura tried now to sit about his shoulders but could not find comfort, instead it dispersed, a little to begin with, but then thankfully not able to keep a hold, establish a grip on him it slipped off. Maybe his Mother’s words were true after all. Maybe last time was just that. He shook his head ever so gently, the last remnant of despair, that cold and creepy shoulders feeling vanished entirely. His headache though was still another matter altogether.

“Where are you Aunt Bessie?”

Why was she not here feeding these ducks now his own river side companions.

“Sorry but I’ve no bread today,” he explained, holding out two empty hands.

The sentence brought forward some cheer within him, memories of childhood, coming down to the river for the first time on his own, being allowed that privilege when old enough to look after himself. That first time, bread in his little wicker basket to feed the ducks, he felt so grown up, so trusted and loved. These ducks were having none of his excuses. They returned to the river and paddled upstream.

“I’ll fetch some later,” he shouted after them apologetically but they carried on regardless.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, peering around the side of a tree across on the other bank was something that caught Mac’s sight. A figure, not adult, not even child, but a figure all the same. He looked again. Nothing. It must have been his imagination playing tricks. No! There it was again. Animate but strangely not. Mac knew its identity, and had thought he saw it by the deer shelter in his dream of the flood a month or so ago, but was not absolutely sure then. Here however he was sure, for here it was, a Golem, this figure fashioned from earth and debris, standing only three feet tall, featureless but roughly human in outline, the colour of soil and soil alone.

Within its excuse for a mouth was no piece of paper, neither was anything obvious written upon its forehead of mud, rendering it with an annoying inability to communicate verbally, Mac knew the poor thing needed either of these to be able to speak. Newly formed it could not yet raise an arm either, for the two were still one with its body. Who was in command of this entity? Whatever power was abroad in this endeavour to attract his attention was surely not his Aunt. She had much better means at her disposal than the employment of a Golem if what he thought he knew about her was the truth. So why was this husk of a being in his company?

In fact, and for all the world, it appeared that the Golem was actually evolving before his very eyes, growing larger by the inch with every second that passed. Taller, more defined now, with limbs straightening out and a kind of face now, dark misshapen pits for eyes and a rudimentary nose and chin. There must be someone close at hand who was in charge of its development, some priest or other charged with its contract, some magician of clay who it would obey, every command answered to the letter without question, not privy to any intelligence of its own, its only purpose a servile one.

A curious red breast hopped from tree branch to stump of wood then back again all the time facing towards this ever growing creature of the earth itself, who, gaining some sight now by the nature of its response, tilted its head in amazement and stared back in awe at the impressive beauty it beheld, a gaping slit for a mouth expressing wonder and delight. There was no malice about this Golem whatsoever, as would be expected, the norm, and that was plain to see from its manner, compassion was written all over its excuse for a face. Even now it continued to grow, taller and taller. Where was Bessie?

The farmhouse kitchen, and Walt came to remind him again of that other time, and tea bags for some reason. Those strange bags of tea leaves the two of them used to make a hot drink. It was always too strong because they made the drink in a mug and not a tea pot, and there could be no measure of strength because the bags were sealed when bought. Did he miss those little idiosyncrasies of Margaret’s world or was he glad to be shut of them? He could not decide.

The Golem had moved, but where to? He had taken his eye off it only for a moment and in had gone. Mac looked frantically to the left then right, behind him then back across the river again. No Golem. The river continued to play her soothing lullaby and the redbreast was now singing to him from a branch of his oak. He sat back down to wait on Bessie or the Golem, whoever came to him the first and listened to what nature had to tell him, the oak wrapping him in her arms providing him comfort and rest.

“Mac Hun, you ok?” There was Sal, laid in bed beside him. “You been dreaming love? You’ve been twitching like I don’t know what.”