Category: Bridge


Bridge Newton Richards

The title is Bridge. The author is Newton Richards. I’ve switched off wordpress for the time being because the last rewrite is for the book and it has a lot of changes to the plot.

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Well that’s done it now. I’ve published the first part of Bridge. It’s available on the kindle store.

Cunning folk

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.

Not so standing stones

Day passed day for the remainder of the week, hopscotching towards Sunday and a welcome rest from duties of labour. What with the new tests he attended midweek, Walt’s preoccupation with recovering his losses and Margaret’s upset stomach he had been kept very busy indeed and had no time to worry over Monday, though it had always been at the back of his mind.

Laid in the field adjoining the farmhouse early Sunday morning, Margaret was in the parlour milking the herd, he realised that today might be the last in her company, at least for a while. Mulling over the options and trying to formulate a future there were a few thoughts to put to the diary. He laid belly down and faced a direction in which he could see anyone approaching and whispering into his hands began.

“Tomorrow I could be home Sal, goodness knows I long for ya but who knows what Aunt Bessie’s words might mean. Have I just been dreaming of her, has she really visited me in those dreams? I hope so. I hope it’s all true. I’ve made a lot of friends here, and caused a lot of interest I can tell ya. I guess I’m just putting these words down in case I don’t make it through alive and this handheld does. Tomorrow if I do get back we’ll go to the river and have a picnic…..” Now he was really clutching at straws.

A tear formed in the corner of his eyes; his thoughts had wandered to the river down in the park, the slow cascade of the water as it tumbled ever so gently over the fall rippling through every part of him. By now all the fields to the west would be carpeted with red poppies. Maybe tomorrow they would be able to walk through them, these blazon red fields, his wife and he, their hands caressed by a multitude of soft flower petals, walk hand in hand, husband and wife once again.

This time of the year would often find him sat on that river’s bank for an hour or so, watching the water’s current eddying back and forth, it even ventured back upstream in places returning from where it came. Leaves removed from the trees by the nesting birds in the canopy as they went about their daily routine would float here and there held upon the boundary between water and air.

Now these same bird’s came into mind, their twittering to each other across the watery divide. There would always be one group of them more vocal than the rest, perhaps defining some territory or calling out for partners. The long grasses on the banking side swaying ever so gently, caught by a welcome breeze making its way along the length of the river would reflect from the mirror like surface and whisper a note to accompany the birdsong, brushing his face and arms if he sat close enough.

Once in a while a trout would come up to the surface to feed. With a gulp of air it would take the unsuspecting meal into its mouth and cause ripples of excitement to its surface of confinement. Every so often too, some bird or other, asking the river’s bounty to offer something up for a meal, would fly down unaccompanied and skim the river, its wings almost dipping into the wet as it did so.

What would he give right now not to here that awful sound, a motorised bicycle engine somewhere in the distance. The guttural resonance echoed an annoyance to everyone between where it began and himself he was sure. There was no peace in this land as far as he could find, no sanctuary where only natures voice commanded. Almost everyone seemed to be competing for attention all the time. From music blaring out from open vehicle windows to machinery telling everyone of an occupation now in progress even the slightest tasks here seemed to be accompanied by some sort of noise.

The dance of the rivers water came back to mind. Those leaves blown like sails with any slight breeze across the water, moving them any way it liked, even in the direction opposing the current, tacking this way then that only to be returned back downstream when the energy used in their offset manoeuvre subsided. And from a tree a heavy flap of a wing, some larger bird taking flight, a wood pigeon perhaps, a reflection of both sound and vision evident as it set off upstream.

“There’s a lot I need to explain and a lot I am afraid to tell you to be honest,” he went on still in a whisper. “You won’t believe half the stuff that’s happened to me.” Best leave it at that for the moment he thought. If he did not make it through then there was no point in upsetting her. “The tests haven’t come in yet either, and to be honest I’m not waiting here to find out. But I do need to come back I to this world sometime I think if I do get home. There’s some unfinished business I need to try an sort out though how I’m not sure yet.” He told Sal of Walt’s money worries and tried to explain how it had come about. “If I can take advantage of this gift, if that’s what it proves to be, and help Walt then all this will not have been in vain. Perhaps that’s even the reason I’m here in the first place.”

The field gate clinked to. It was Margaret.

“Hi Mac. All finished at last.” She had the broadest of smiles on her face. “A day to ourselves eh! We deserve it luv don’t we.” She ran the last two yards to join him. He hid the handheld under the picnic blanket.

“You look better for getting up, you’re colour’s back.” She had looked somewhat pale on rising, that was for sure, not her usual self. If she had been, her usual self, then the morning would have began the way most other Sundays had, with an early morning romp around the bedroom. This morning that certainly had not happened.

“I feel a hundred times better luv.” Her grin was from cheek to cheek now. “We’re gonna have a nice day let me tell ya.”

“Let’s hope so, and let’s keep out the way o’ them pesky reporters.”

“I’ve not seen any yet.”

“Good Let’s hope it stays that way.”

“There’s still no sign of anybody telling of who you are either,” she went on.

Mac thought for a moment. That was a strange sentence to come from Margaret. “I know,” he replied unsure, “I don’t know what’ll happen, do you?”

“No. I thought we’d get them tests back first n’then I’m sure we can put everything behind us, think about making a fresh start without all them press eh! What d’ya think?”

“Sounds good to me.” It did actually, and if he had to stay here that is what he would want.

Laying down beside him prompted a thought of what he had missed out on this morning. Margaret was always so sexy in the way she behaved, not that she meant to, but she did have that quality about her no matter what she was doing.

“What if nobody ever did come forward. What are we going to do?” she went on, again pressing forward with concern not really broached before.

“There’s nothing can be done love really is there.”

She was pushing for something, and even though he knew that what she was seeking could never be the case, or at least thought it would never be, he just needed to keep his wits about him until tomorrow and play the game out however it came to pass.

“I know I’m probably speaking out of turn Mac,” she continued, “but I wouldn’t care if nobody came to find you. I want you to myself.” She sealed the truth of what she said with a kiss to his lips, one of those kisses that shrouded the day from any other thoughts than what was meant by it. It lasted half a minute.

“I can’t imagine that anybody who loves me in this world would not have found me by now,” he said in between her petting, trying to pacify her a little with talk rather than actions, they were out in the open field after all. “So what my past is here I cannot even imagine. All I know is I’m a good person and that what’s happened to me shouldn’t’ve happened to anyone.”

“Perhaps it was fate to bring us together Mac.” Another kiss, and a fumble about his jean’s pocket as if searching for some coin or other, though that was not her intention.

Mac gasped at an intake of air and tried to bring a modicum of civility back to the impromptu sunbathing fiasco. “You could be right there Margaret, yes it could have been fate, stranger things’ve happened.”

“So I hope you’re not angry when I have something to tell ya that you ought to know.”

Before she spoke any more he finally realised what she was about. The strikingly obvious hit home. The knowing not being there had for the most part been put to the back of his mind, forgotten about, out of sight out of mind as the saying went he had not thought for one instance about it either. But it would certainly have been useful with Margaret of late. If only he would have thought, remembered its absence then perhaps he would have guessed. Now all those mornings of sickness and upset stomach, her tiredness but yet the way she looked so well, it could be nothing else. Before he could even whisper the words to her she blurted them out.

“I’m pregnant!”

Mac’s face was all a delight. Taking her by the arm he pulled her even closer. “So that’s why you’ve been off it in the morning,” he began,”We’re having a baby, that’s wonderful Margaret.”

“A new start.”

What to say. He tried a particular route. “Who knows? All that’s happened’s probably been leading to this, yeh I see it now.”

She let out a sigh. “I’m so relieved Mac. I thought it might not be what ya wanted at this time.”

“It’s absolutely everything I want, I couldn’t be more happy,” he insisted.

“I wasn’t quite sure until the last hour, I bought several tests and it’s confirmed. We’re having a baby Mac!”

By now he was returned to laying on the picnic rug staring up at the blue sky, amazement plastered all over his face. He pulled Margaret down on the rug beside him and she adopted a similar horizontal pose. For a few minutes they both lay there, hand holding, no squeezing hand, staring at the blue wonder of the day. One of them was relieved, the other bewildered.

Why had he not realised he chastised himself. It was not as if he did not know all the signs. Why had he relied on his implant for their contraception. He should have also realised that would not be pulse stimulated in this new world either. Under his breath and disguised by a huge grin he cursed himself inwardly at his naivety. And why was Margaret not taking precautions anyway? Too late for that discussion now he told himself. All the time he was thinking his adopted carefree and happy expression never slipped. Squeezing at Margaret’s hand more tightly he turned and gave her a kiss.

“A baby,” he repeated, “well that’s great news love,”

“I know. I didn’t think coming off the pill would mean catchin on so fast.”

Mac held his breath, and refrained from making any comment. For a half minute no words passed between them.

Eostre came a visiting in the guise of a creamy white messenger. Mac saw Her, Margaret did not for the time being. She jumped into view through Her hole in the bottom third of the drystone wall and ceremoniously hopped here and there about the field boundary a couple of yards away from the recently appointed parents.

Margaret finally broke the silence. “Mac. You ok? Have I done something wrong?”

The time had allowed him to reach a conclusion. “Of course not love, as we said, a new begining.”

“I was going to tell you…. to see what ya thought…… coming off the pill an all that.”

What was done was done. No use crying over spilt milk. He smiled at his analogy and put her mind at rest. “It’s wonderful, believe me I’m really so glad. I just worry bout my other life ya know, if I have one. What might turn up.”

Margaret nodded in agreement and rubbed her belly gently. “I know Mac. Let’s cross that bridge if we have to though eh?”

Mac thought a moment. “Yeh, live for the present eh!”

“I do love you Mac I hope you know that.” She said it as if she thought he was unaware if her feelings.

“I do love,” he insisted. “And I love you too, very very much.”

Margaret finally caught sight of the ‘bunny rabbit’ as she named her and squealed quietly with delight at her antics. All through her dance around the grass tufts Eostre kept one wary eye or the other pointed in their direction. Mac knew her significance, Margaret was simply happy to be a part of it all. They watched her for long enough, a leap one way then a scurry the other nibbling at the grass every so often in between.

“I’ll remember you for the rest of my life,” Margaret finally told the rabbit. She turned to Mac to explain. “The day we sealed our future Mac.”

“We’re just as much a part of the schemes of Mother Nature as She,” he replied. “Just go with the flow Margaret there’s nothing to it then.”

Wow! What a surprise he told himself over and over again. What was he going to do now though was the uppermost thought which cried out for entertainment at the moment, what was he going to do, about tomorrow?

A crow’s call from the tall oak tree behind them sent Eostre in search of Her exit from all their company and She disappeared in two hops and a jump. The crow flew down and landed on top of the wall then walked the distance of the toppings as if in search of Her. From the roof of the farmhouse a dove cooed a blissful lament while a small flock of blackbirds argued with each other as they played with some scraps Walt had put out early doors. What was he going to do!

They talked a little more and decided not to tell Walt until a month or so just in case anything went wrong with the pregnancy. Mac was unaware that anything could go wrong, but pretending that pregnancy was not his best subject he agreed with all Margaret had to say on the matter and promised to remain silent until she said the time was right.

So that is how their Sunday passed by, lazing about the fields and out of sight of the reporters. Margaret did see them coming along the lane after a lunchtime picnic she fetched from the kitchen but they had no idea as to the whereabouts of the couple. Hiding away made them both immensely satisfied. To know they were only just the other side of two walls, some distance apart mind but yet the clan knew nothing, pleased them for many a hour.

Towards late afternoon the two of them sneaked away from the farm and had a walk over the higher ground, almost the same route Mac had taken on that fateful day months ago. It reminded him of his destiny. Tomorrow he would find out! What was in store for him? They passed another hour maybe, hand in hand, just walking and talking, happy with each other company, and the day. Mac did have other items to think about however, and when he would finally be able to concentrate and form a plan did irritate him a little. It was of paramount importance now and becoming more so with every hour that was left. He simply had to tell Margaret something about why he may not be around. Or should he leave it just in case there was no magic under the arch at eleven tomorrow morning. He needed the handheld too. Remembering back to the dream of him not having it with him he felt about his back trouser pocket to make sure it was not lost.

Maybe a letter! Would that be in order? Then if he did disappear Margaret could read it and know he would be back, one day anyway. These thoughts and many others competed with Margaret’s conversation on baby care and friends she had who were already mothers. Same topics the world over Mac thought smiling at her enthusiasm. Worlds over actually he corrected himself, worlds over not world. He was after all a part of two now.

“My mum would be so happy” Margaret confessed late afternoon “She loved children.” They were now on the lane back to the farmhouse.

“It’s such a pity she can’t be here to join in,” Mac replied. “But who knows how many grandparents our baby will have in the end. At the moment there’s only one. You’re Dad.”

By four o’clock they were safely returned to the property, forced into a game of sneak around the outhouses to gain access, a fun game of hide from the reporters. Like a couple of children out at play they hid and ran and hid some more in order to find safety without being seen. Making it through the open door they fell about the hallway laughing uproariously knowing they had been successful.

Walt ought to have been caught up in the joviality but he kept a sullen expression. Sat at the black pot stove he reminded Mac of the first time they had met.

Margaret was the first to ask. “What’s up Dad?”

“I’ve found out where them bastards are ‘n when I get to em I’m gonna let em frickin ‘ave it.”

Margaret looked at him sternly, worried with his resolve. “Just let the police sort it Dad,” she insisted.

“Police!” Walt spat venom as he spoke. “Police! They can’t do a frickin thing. Say that it’s ongoing investigation. I’ll be lucky to get even a tenth back. If I were a younger man……”

Mac wondered if that comment was addressed to him but what could he do? Nothing for the time being that was for certain. Maybe if, when, he came back, if he managed to leave in the first place that was, then perhaps he could chase these people down and confront them but for now he was helpless to move. His head was spinning with the uncertainty, the not knowing was really bothering him now and he could not wait until eleven o’clock tomorrow.

“Where are they anyway?” Margaret asked.

“Salisbury.”

“Where’s that then? Mac asked.

“Down south, Wiltshire I think,” Margaret answered. She turned back to her father. “How did ya find that out then?”

“Police called this aft.”

“Well then they’re getting somewhere aren’t they?”

“Not really it’s only a paper trail so far. Address they fon as no one at apparently.”

Mac kept quiet not wanting to become drawn in. There was a danger Walt was going to ask him to help and he knew that was impossible at the moment.

Margaret continued her positive feedback. “Well at least they got an address, now lets eat eh!”

All through dinner, beef curry, Walt kept up with his complaining. Sentence after sentence he grumbled and grumbled, cursing one topic then another. Sadly the swearing was back, but perhaps this time Walt could be excused it. He had cause, that much was true, but Mac really wished the subject could be changed, and with an agreement between the three of them here and there and a resolve every so often it calmed down a little on the understanding that the issue would eventually be sorted out one way or the other. The taste of the meal never had a chance to establish and by the time dinner was finished and the three of them were settled, if that was the correct word, settled, for in truth settlement was a mile away from any description Mac would label the evening, they were sat in the lounge watching the evening news. Walt was gradually reigning in his temper and settling into his well fitting chair.

Suddenly Mac’s eyes became transfixed to the television, like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an approaching vehicle he looked upon the screen, his jaw drooping and mouth open.

Finally he managed to speak. “Central Stones!”

“Stonehenge?” Margaret replied somewhat quizzically.

“Wiltshire,” Walt added very quickly rewinding the programme to bring up the monument again.

Mac regained composure and stuttered a little as he spoke. “Stone henge, yes it’s beautiful there.” The sad truth was though this one was far from it, beautiful. In a state of dilapidation the circle was incomplete with stones missing in places and fallen in others.

“It is aint it,” Margaret agreed. Then she realised, and do did he. “Mac! You recognise it!”

“I do, yes!”

“That’s great, anything else?” she asked.

Mac thought a moment. “I just know I recognise it… and I have been there, it feels like lots of times too. So perhaps that’s where I come from eh?” He had an excuse hatching for his absence of tomorrow.

Walt was not that far behind him. “Ya think tha might hail from there then lad?”

“Perhaps, yeh. I might.”

Walt jumped up from the chair, more animated than of late and made for a drawer in the sideboard. Taking out his wallet he withdrew quite a few pound notes. “That’s settled then,” he said turning to the pair of them. “Mac ought go down and find out for himsen.”

Margaret looked to her father, then her partner to be. Her face wanted to show concern but knowing that was impossible held onto her emotions and gave the strangest of expressions in the process. Her attitude though had to portray one of support so she agreed with her father. “Yeh! I can manage the farm a few days till ya get back.”

Walt was very enthusiastic by now. “As long as it takes lad, as long as it takes,” he went on. Margaret nodded an agreement, she had to really. Walt handed over a wad of notes. “You’ll need this lad.”

Mac withdrew his hand. “I can’t possibly Walt.”

“Yes ya can.” Walt pushed his hand further forward reaching out to make sure Mac took hold this time or drop the notes. Mac, backed up against the occasional table could retreat no further so reluctantly took the money. Now came the hidden agenda. Mac had been expecting it. “You could do a bit of legwork on yon lot too while ya down there Mac. In Salisbury. What d’ya think?” A long lost smile cracked across Walt’s thin bluish pink lips.

It was perfect timing. Mac could not have engineered it better himself. The perfect opportunity and proper excuse to allow time away from them and give a hopeful return without them being any the wiser.

He jumped at the suggestion. “Kill two birds with one stone eh Walt?”

“Perhaps get us both a solution lad.”

Of mice and men

Next morning Mac’s task found him in the stone outbuilding of the cowshed, forking apart some fragrant straw bales, fresh bedding for the pens in readiness to take the pregnant cows. He mused over the impact todays news article would bring. The sweet aroma released from the golden grass reminded him of his own stables and thoughts of the horses and courtyard took him away to the safety and security of home for a little while. The trust and faith people had for each other there brought a welcome comfort, where doors could be left unlocked and no one wished anyone harm. Here he had to have his own door key because when Walt was not on duty at the stove the farmhouse was always kept secure, a truly sad state of affairs really, having to lock up your possessions for fear of others stealing them.

That was it! A realisation, inspiration. It flashed across the right hemisphere of his brain and deposited itself within consciousness. A reason for something which had been a puzzlement for weeks. It was the mistrust inherent in this world, caused by people bent on wreaking havoc that was the reason for those plastic seals on the red and brown sauce bottles, underneath the screw tops. It was to prevent the contents being tampered with. To prevent some crackpot or another introducing something harmful into the bottles of condiment.

“How sad,” were the only two words he could muster up, and these he barely spared breath on.

Taking another bale apart with the fork he spread it over to the far corner of pen three and breathed in the scent. Home, Sal and security, the empirical formula of the blissful smell again released from within. A small grey field mouse scurried away from its undone nest and took to the edge of the interior wall to search out a means of escape. Mac recognised the omen immediately. It was not a good one. He jumped the pen wall and took back the bedding to deposit it outside the building. Although it was not the exact true meaning of the portent, that a mouse nesting in a mattress was a sure sign of the death of the person using it, he wanted no harm to come to the animal or unborn which would soon find itself in that pen.

The previous evening returned into focus and jolted him back to the article. Having put right the bad omen Nigel’s story gained the upper hand once again. Would it enhance his profile as he had suggested or would it have a detrimental effect? If he had learned one an only one thing about this new world it was this, anyone out of the ordinary seemed to be singled out and not always for the better. These people revelled in ridicule and controversy, much to the expense of what was actually the truth in the first place. There was no love lost or quarter given if any inconsistency or irregularity, non conformist or out of the ordinary suspicion surfaced about someone or another. The media stirred it up and the people bayed for more and more, a feeding frenzy of visual, audio and written bytes, non joined up and often rudimentary in both delivery and understanding.

The last of the bales undid with ease prompted to do so by the careful action of the metal prongs. Wisps of fine dry pieces danced in the air caught by the brighter light coming in through the open barn door. They produced a hazy mist of the sun’s energy incarnate as organic material. It floated up to the eaves to where a pair of house martins were busy tending their nest, answering the calls of a number of offspring with frantic flight to an fro through a hole in the blue slate roof.

The time was almost ten twenty. The article would have hit the streets by now. Should they have gone with the title Nigel Tyas had suggested? Would a more watered down, less ambiguous headline have been more favourable. Did ‘The Man whose fell on Earth’, a play on two aspects of the sentence, one, the word ‘earth’ and its connotation to farming, and two Mac’s apparent unexplained history being similar to a character in a film by a celebrity named David Bow or some similar name, together produce the impact desired. Would that headline give the impression they wanted?

The pitch fork ripped at the twine holding together the new bedding and released the bound up mattress. Mac hauled it over the dividing wall and tossed it into the final compartment. More fragments of dried stalks took to the air. The taste on his tongue was one reminiscent of a herbal remedy his mother gave for relaxation during pregnancy.

The press release was worrying. He wished he had some of Mum’s amber liquid with him now to allay the stress of the wait. What was more worrying though was a figure in the lane. He had walked up the hill some minutes ago. Nothing strange in that, but now had walked down again, doing so in a somewhat forced attempt at an inconspicuous manner, a not in any way out of the ordinary kind of a look. He had not being successful in its execution. A tall figure of a man, not recognised the first time half an hour ago, but now, even though dressed differently today, in green wax overcoat and rubber boots to match, in brown checked wool trousers and hat to match, a man who even at the twenty or so yards that separated him from the cowshed at the nearest point on the lane was recognisable. The man who had travelled into town with Mac on the train, had travelled back again for that matter. The man he also thought, but was not sure, had even been there in the vicinity of the radio station. Yes, that man, ginger bearded man, tall, straight backed, ginger bearded man.

So why was he here now, in this green leafy lane belonging the farm, this idyllic rut marked lane with the clear brook running alongside it, sometimes even running across it. Why was he here at all now behaving in this strange fashion, walking in one direction away from the farmhouse then returning, up the muddy track then back down it. What was he about?

The man stood still for a moment and leant against the dry stone wall offering a view towards the herd grazing in the field beyond. It was definitely him. Even though his actions had turned his back to the cattle shed a wisp of that gingerish beard was still discernible. What was he doing, here in this lane? Had it not been for his attendance before today then his exploits this morning could be ignored as eccentricity but there was something about him now and it did not sit comfortable.

People did look and stare over this wall, and many times in one week, the vista was a panorama of geology and landscape, the signature wedge shaped inclines of many a hillside and sharp falling escarpment characteristic of the local Pennine chain of hills. Back home they were known as Mother Earth’s Backbone, running as they do, both here and there along the middle third of the landmass known to Margaret and Walt as England. Back home his own country went by the title of Albion, white land, pure as the driven snows of winter, strong as the white cliffs which make up part of her southern most aspect, chalk cliffs liable to erosion and fracture bit by piece but always renewed, standing as a natural monument to times gone by and those to come.

The man in the lane turned away from the wall but still kept his face hidden from the farm by positioning himself behind the huge oak. He shuffled off back up the way, his hands in his coat pockets and head slightly drooped. He knew he had been spotted, that much was obvious by his progress, mundane in execution. He knew, oh yes he knew he had already given himself up to recognition, and that was the reason for his swaying gait, uncomfortable, awkward, plodding footsteps, one carefully placed after the other, every now and then a loss of grip on the slippery surface underfoot forcing a balancing act of flailing arms to bring him back to the vertical. This man was definitely not used to rubber boots and muddy pathways that was for sure. So what was he about?

As if this one stranger in the lane was not enough, there then appeared a host of them, from nowhere, as if suddenly sprouted from the land itself. Men, women, almost a dozen or so although they were hard to count for all of their jostling and pushing. Had ginger beard man led them here? Whether he had or not was of no matter, for here they were, cameras in hand, long lenses and all, snapping whatever opportunities they could of their quarry, who unfortunately was Mac. The article must be in circulation. These sudden newcomers behaving like a pack of hounds, shouting instructions and questions at him from across the yard had obvious knowledge of it.

“Hey! Mr Hammerton. Turn this way please.”

“Have you any comment as to why your genetic make up is different?”

“Are you any nearer finding your true identity Mr Hamilton?” That question made him laugh inwardly. The portly, balding inquisitor had not even bothered to learn of his correct name.

“Can we have a photograph of you stood by the barn door please,” another one pleaded, shouting to be heard over the din.

“Hey! Mac look over here please, look this way,” yet another.

It all made for a very upsetting spectacle. Sadness and embarrassment overwhelmed him. To think that he was part of such goings-on was his embarrassment, caught within this shawl of Fleshfish his sadness, all of them wanting a bite of him, a piece for their own benefit and satisfaction. It turned his stomach over and nausea scented out from both nostrils. He was going to be ill, an influx of saliva in his mouth told of the same prospect.

“Please Mr Hammerton let us have one photo opportunity please!” The rabble were nothing if not persistent.

Why they asked anyway evaded him for the cameras were flickering and twitching constantly in an attempt to capture his every movement, pose. They were taking liberties and it annoyed him. Taking the large barn door in his free hand he slammed it closed. The sound echoed around the cowshed. A decade of dust and debris fell from off the rafters and the door frame itself. Even this act courted a flash of camera action.

The nausea increased its hold. Sickness, a sweat, light headedness. There was a crescendo rising somewhere inside his head, his brain wanted more time to cope, to escape, be at rest. Nervous electricity was building and building, up and up, on and on without the capacity within to be accommodated. It rendered him unable to move, function, exist. Here it was again. That feeling. The only sensation he could appreciate was a fact that a hand, his own hand was still held tightly to the inside of the huge stable door. Such an awful debilitating aura percolated throughout him, one not allowing passage or movement of any sort. Not any normal anxiousness, no something far far worse, something heralding tragedy was the fear that came to the forefront of a massive dearth of any other else. He had however been here before.

Screwing both eyes as tightly together as would ever seem possible, an attempt to try and alleviate the ever growing storm, he let go of the door and holding tightly to each side of his head, at the temples, with his two shaking hands fell to his knees on the cold concrete floor.

“Please Mother, let me live!”

His words escaped under a breath feared may be a last as he rolled over to take advantage of the new bedding and await the horrible sickness welling up inside. The outcome would be here soon. There he lay, curled up, both knees held to belly level by two encircled arms. Deep, deep breaths, in then out cooled him a little, both in body and mind, and moving thoughts about to configure what he was aware of at the present brought an incantation from out his mouth, an offering to Mother in return for some sort of normality, some view and realisation that there would be a reconciliation with that needy place faraway from all of this extraordinary behaviour. Closing both eyes home came back into view, but a strange concept of it.

He was sat on an auto bus, a coach, of a type from Margaret’s world though, here in his. A shabbily off brown upholstered affair of torn, smelly seats and dirty windows. Not so dirty though that he could not see out at the familiar shrine dedicated to Mab which stood at the well across the street. Margaret was with him, and that was odd too. She was not sat down though but sprawled across the seat in front of him, a seat which had its backrest lowered to the horizontal. There she lay smiling sweetly as, facing him her legs bent at the knees, allowed her feet to tap out an excited rhythm by means of the heels of her black patent leather shoes.

The coach was not full of its passengers yet and the engine was silent. Some people had taken to their seats but there was still a lot of space left. Where were they going? Margaret certainly looked excited, and her conversation said as much. She jabbered away confirming their picnic was packed and coffee was in the flask. Had he remembered the rug she asked. Mac nodded in the positive but was more concerned with an oddly attired girl just clambering up the aisle. Her body lurched from seat to seat though why that would be was not altogether clear. Not one person seated cared to obstruct or question her but to a woman and man they all turned to look the other way and involve themselves in any other activity but the one which needed addressing.

Her offensively red dyed hair, unkempt and tied in a pony tail, though it was askew in its position, crowned a head adorned with even brighter makeup, whilst dangling from each earlobe and two or three from out of the hair itself fell plumes of feathers and the like mixed with beads and charms. She fell about several times more and on reaching Margaret laid herself down ever so gently beside her on the collapsed seat, her tie dyed kaftan of purples and blues roaming about the two women’s bodies like the shifting sands of the Desert Centrale. A smell of alcohol now pervaded the back of the coach.

Margaret looked shocked, and was about to push the teenager away when the girl began to whisper in her ear. Mac leaned forward and continued what Margaret should have finished. He was having none of it, especially seeing the concern and fright on Margaret’s face. It was obvious she did not know this girl and what is more did not want to.

“Go away,” he said, bringing his face within inches of hers. He spit it out with such an air of authority that he surprised himself with its delivery.

A helping push from both of them tipped her ever so gently from off the seat, landing her on the floor of the coach crouching on her knees. She looked offended, but at the same time completely oblivious to the actions she was undertaking. Without much more ado she upped herself onto both feet and meandered slowly back down the aisle.

Another less savoury character, if that were at all possible, appeared at the front of the coach. This one was male, dressed in unwashed denims and a creased, off white t shirt that looked as if it had not seen a laundry since the day it was put on. His fair hair was a mass of plaits that fell every way but which would describe a style. At the end of a couple of these plaits he sported the same garb of beads and objects as his girlfriend, for girlfriend she was.

She fell up against him and whispered something in his ear. This prompted a look from him over her shoulder towards the rear of the coach, their own direction. By now Margaret had sat up and accidentally catching the eye of the youth quickly turned her stare away and out the window.

Mac realised her worry. “What’s the matter?”

“Don’t like the look of em that’s all,” she replied timidly. She looked concerned.

The male of the two preened at his hair a little and pushed out his tongue in a rolled up manner from between his lips to demonstrate a piercing. Then without no more interaction he retired down the steps of the vehicle and out of sight. His associate followed suit.

Mac held a sigh of relief deep inside, not wanting to let on how much the incident had also upset him. Staring out the coach window it did not look as if it was over. Three or four more teenagers had now joined the other two outside on the coach park. These newcomers were busy riding around on bicycles, dodging here and there about the broken queue of patrons waiting to board the various vehicles, making a nuisance of themselves by riding one way and then the other, performing stunts with their bicycles and generally behaving outlandish and irresponsible to say there were elderly and young about the square.

The bicycles also made for oddities. One had no saddle at all and two of the other three were of a size that was far too small for the rider, making for some welcome amusement on Mac’s part, though no one else seemed to see the irony. These louts given such a long leash by their tormented looked so ridiculous and stupid that if anyone from out of the crowd should take a moment to reflect on the actual banality and precarious nature the balancing acts portrayed any slight push ought to dislodge and interrupt the manic flow of behaviour.

The lad from the coach appeared to be the one the rest looked to for direction. Leaning up against the square’s black railings, the rest of them kept gathering around both him and his girlfriend every minute or so, riding around in circles and then returning for further instruction. After a few circuits one of them broke away from the manoeuvres and rode the length of the coach kicking at some instrument panel at the front wheel arch as he passed it. A metallic ring sounded out down the front of the vehicle, like a bell sounding for dinner time.

“The bastards!” The driver finally broke silence, but still he made no move.

Mac was gathering anger now. “What did she say to you?” he asked. Margaret had said nothing on that subject.

“I have no idea,” she replied. “She was slurring her words and it made no sense anyway.”

“None?”

“None at all love, she’s out of it ain’t she?”

“Well the drop to the floor brought her round.”

“Yeh! Lets hope we don’t pay for it though.”

Mac was baffled, it showed in his expression. Why were those commuters out on the pavement not sticking up for themselves? Why was Margaret so scared of catching the eye of that teenage boy, and as for that why were any of them on the coach so scared, for scared they were. Worse still why was he scared? He was. Scared! He suddenly realised it. Scared, and in his own world too. He could never ever remember experiencing the emotion in his own world. But why? It made no sense, especially here back home. The act of removing the girl had certainly caused some sudden intakes of breath by the few people who had dared to observe it five minutes ago though no comment had been passed either then or since.

Mac had had enough. Of the antics outside, the aggravation of the queue and now the wanton damage to the vehicle. He stood to move.

Margaret pulled him back by the belt of his jeans. “Don’t be silly Mac, they’ll be off in a minute or two, when they’re bored of it all.” She pleaded with him to stay in his seat.

He was having none of it and taking her hand in his to allay her concern took to his feet again, smiled and after giving her a kiss on the lips headed off down the coach.

“There waiting for a photo to come through on their phones,” one silver haired lady explained as he passed by her. “Don’t do anything yet.”

Mac looked perplexed. “A photo?”

“To see who to target,” she went on.

Mac ignored her and continued about his mission. The unruly youths were now huddled in a scrum at the far end of the coach stop. Gathered around their leader they were looking at something or other. As Mac approached it became obvious what it was. The first lad’s handheld. They were all looking at his handheld. They could also see him approaching and this made them even more frantic to grab a view of the handset. One by one they looked at it and then cast their gaze at him. Within twenty seconds he was upon them and about to start his reprimand when the hair plaited youth took to the front of the tribe and looked Mac straight in the eyes. A cold look, an almost hateful stare. No, in fact it was, hate, there looking back at him from within this unruly teenager’s soul. Hate, and loathing. How could any youngster, not yet fully grown be privy to such an emotion. What had happened to him to warrant such a reaction. Not the pushing of his girlfriend surely.

“You shouldn’t’ve dun that,” he grumbled, “pushed our Ellie like that.”

He turned his handheld around to show it to Mac. On it was a profile photograph of Mac. On the lad’s face now was a satisfied smile. The gang began to circle around, like a hunting pack of primates they jostled to enclose their leader and Mac, to fence them both in within their ranks. Every one of them had the same sinister look about them.

Someone somewhere must be mowing their lawn was the only thought that came to mind. There was a smell of cut grass in the air. A strange thing to be thinking but a defence in itself presumably.

“It’s you!” the lad insisted hissing out the scathing words of venom.

One of the group grabbed Mac from behind fixing him to the spot. The action made him jump with fright. What were they going to do with him? He had no means of escaping their clutches. The leader brought his face really close to Mac’s, so close that his stale and putrid breath aired around Mac’s nostrils. What an utter foul individual this lad was. Now Mac was truly scared. With no means of escape it seemed as if there was no alternative but to succumb to whatever was going to happen. The youth reached to his rear jeans pocket for something. Was it going to be a weapon. Mac reeled with fright. With a shocked catch up of his breathing he awoke.

Dance away

The old and creaky two person lift cranked and rumbled noisily into action, all four foot square of wooden floor space with eight foot tall mahogany walled interior. With a repetitive mechanical squeak and laboured grind it began the descent to the lower floors. Having only a concertina metal bar gate for safety, which closed noisily and all but properly, the internal off cream coloured wall of the lift shaft alternating with the external metal doors of the passing floors were uncomfortably on show as Mac moved away from what was at one time his ancestors top floor apartment of Burdett Hall. A flickering green glass directional navigator lens, positioned within the shiny brass baseplate of the selector attempted to tell of this downward travel.

He did not like this lift. As a child he had once visited the country house with his mother for some reason or another and had, as children do, in exploring his surroundings found the lift too inviting an opportunity to miss. Nothing like any modern elevator, its construction and workings enthralled him. The sound of the pulleys straining to complete their task and the smell of hot grease produced by them doing so introduced an element of question as to whether or not the chosen destination could be achieved. Combine that with the floor selector not being true to its purpose and the young age of his first solo outing within its closet all reminded him of why he still viewed the apparatus with apprehension and respect and if the truth be known, even at his mature age, a slight amount of trepidation and fear.

“Don’t be so silly,” he scolded himself on realising the effect the confined space was having on him once again.

It had taken him what seemed like an eternity to find his mother again all those many years past. Every floor he had chosen the lift seemed to disregard until every opening had seemed not to be the correct one. If it had not been for her racing down the accompanying sparse stairwell once used by the staff of the house, to find his location and hold open the lift door at the second floor he would certainly have endured the torment much longer. A shiver went through his body thinking back to it. So when the lowest floor was reached with a sudden stop that forced a bounce of the cubicle Mac collapsed the metal gate with some force and noise, then pushed at the sturdy, metal outer door to reveal the back parlour area of the old house, one still not taken over to general public use. That done he was more than happy to make a welcome exit giving the cables one more bounce as he jumped out to safety.

The very large kitchen table, a bleached oak affair, centrally placed within the room of wall cabinets and shelves full to the brim with every copper utensil imagined, once seated twenty people with ease, sadly now there only remained half a dozen of the sturdy chairs scattered here and there at the extremities of the once bustling workplace leaving the grand piece of worked wood looking somewhat forlorn with its lack of company.

He was taking the opportunity to explore the house again while Sal and Aunt Bessie caught up with the past few months of her pregnancy. Bessie had been away and wanted all the details. Did she travel to other dimensions like those dreams had told of Mac wondered. It all seemed too far fetched in the cold light of day, and what a cold light, the reflection of the grey sky from off the receding rainwater in the park out the parlour’s leaded lights held no cheer whatsoever. It had stopped raining now at least and the water level had began to retreat a little but why such a flood had occurred was quite worrying.

The dreams he had been having of late also worried him. What in the world were they all about. That farmstead on the hill he kept imagining, and the romance he was having with Margaret. Why did the dream feel so real. It seemed to be that it was the only dream he had of late. Perhaps because of Sal being pregnant and all the change happening and that to come, maybe sub consciously all of that was playing with his mind a little. It should not, but it did even though the two of them were organised and ready for parenthood, they, he really could not wait for the next weeks to pass. Maybe that was it, parenthood, perhaps he was more wary than he cared to consider.

Through the kitchen door and into a long vaulted corridor, a long case clock, lovingly polished mahogany shining back at him tick tocked the seconds away. Deep guttural ticks, of time counted for so many decades, centuries even, seconds observed and passed but none forgotten, recorded and remembered, each and every single one of them. Within the body of the timepiece the pendulum, a round brass circular weight with his family crest emblazoned on it in porcelain, hung at the end of an elaborate brass rod. It swung left then right then left then right again, slowly, surely as if any future depended upon its beat. Even out of sight its metronomic call echoed softly and deliberately through the dark panelled walls of every ground floor room, as much a part of the woodwork as the grain itself. Even the darkest of oak furniture seemed to revel in this recording of time, counted out as it was, regular, rhythmic almost hypnotic, played out as it had been day after day, month on month for all those many, many, many years gone by. Mac walked in time to the ticking, captured by its beat.

At the far end of the kitchen a connecting passage of historical busts, alabaster heads and shoulders, figures of his own ancestors standing sentry either side of the sandstone floor led on into the library of massive bookcases heaving to their brim with tomes old and new. Mac took to one of the many floral, purple patterned settees to wait for the two ladies to appear, this their prearranged meeting point.

The settee was a mass of comfort, the upholstery almost enveloping his thighs in a delight of cushion. Mac settled back to look out the bay window and wait. The water line had receded another foot or two down the park revealing one of the lower paths under the ash grove. It still had a long way to go.

Margaret came to mind once again. Who was this woman, this doppelgänger of his own wife. Why did she keep appearing in his dreams. Also Aunt Bessie. His own Aunt Bessie. She was the common factor in all of this, the connection between his dreaming and real life. She was a traveller in time in his dreams, should he tell her about the fact. Maybe not. She would no doubt find it all too far fetched. Still there would be no harm in testing the water. Testing the water! That was a laugh. Looking out the window he could barely keep his eyes open to look on it the settee was so comfortable.

As usual it was not easy to find a parking space that was free and required no charge, They had driven around for a good ten minutes now and Margaret was beginning to get exasperated with the town’s layout. Finally Mac saw a chance, a precinct actually free of vehicles, free of pedestrians too for that matter. The area was being repaved courtesy of a workforce in yellow high visibility jackets and white hard hats at the far end of the street. They were some fifty yards away and did not seem interested in who might be parking up. The entire area looked like a building site anyway so what would be the harm? The Landrover could be parked up against a whitewashed shop window out of sight from prying eyes and no one would be any the wiser.

The two of them got out and walked a few yards before Mac turned to look at the one and only obvious vehicle in the vicinity, then he turned to Margaret. She was doing the same.

“Better not eh!” she said, a worried look to match the concern, “don’t want clamping.”

“You’re right, c’mon. There’s plenty of time, we’ll find somewhere else.” Sheepishly they returned to open up the Land rover, start up the engine and turned the vehicle around. Not one of the workmen took any notice whatsoever. Maybe they would have been alright leaving it there after all.

As look would have it just around the next corner was space galore, a massive rectangular area free from yellow lines.

“That far corner,” Margaret quickly pointed out, “let’s take that.”

Mac drove across the tarmac precinct. Then the realisation dawned on him, on them both actually, and at exactly the same time.

“It’s a bus station!” Mac called out in annoyance. No buses, but the layout was obvious, given away actually by the faded white lines marking the kerbsides. If they had noticed these in the first place then the function would have been clear.

“There’s not going to be time,” Margaret whimpered disappointedly.

“There is love, I’ll drop you off here and go find somewhere, we’ll meet at that bank on the corner in an hour, yes?”

She smiled back at him sweetly. Needing to be off to her task she agreed and with a huge excited kiss on the lips left him to find a more suitable parking spot, a free one of course. Mac turned the Land-rover about again and headed out of the open space back into the traffic wondering exactly what Margaret was up to. Why did she need to be in town today? She was so adamant of coming, and at such a short notice but had not said why. The time of day was important too, and usually she was not really ruled by that, the hour of the day. Maybe she was buying his birthday present. What was she up to?

Fifteen minutes later he had found a lonely residential side street, parked up and was now aimlessly wandering from street to street still wondering over what Margaret was about. The town itself held no interest for him, no interest at all, shop after store,merchandising mediocre goods displayed haphazard and uncaringly, shoddily in some cases. Shabby outlets within an even more shabbier shopping centre, business after business apparently intent on gaining maximum capital for minimal outlay.

Then, on turning a corner he came across a pleasant surprise. A town square of all things. Tall trees at the far side with a dancing troupe rehearsing on a makeshift stage under long reaching branches. There was a crowd gathered to watch whatever was going on. Mac could not resist.

The participants were almost but not naked. Dressed in revealing leotards with bodies coloured with bright paint their appearance was captivating, tasteful, enchanting even. Mac found himself drawn closer to the performance, thirsty for knowledge of what it was. By the advertisement on the placards it was all in aid of some charity or other, a worldwide event aptly named Art across Area.

A charismatic and muscular director come dancer, not young but well toned was obviously in charge of the freshly painted faces and bodies, all of them trying to follow his instruction in order to perform as one, dancing about one an other in what could be described as a quite erotic fashion if it was not done so tasteful and matter of fact. His commands were whispered loudly as he swayed his own six foot stature left then right in time to the music playing out through several large speakers either side of the stage.

Mac was mesmerised, caught in the headlights, seduced by the beauty on offer, completely captivated and lost in the magic, that was until he caught the eye of someone. A woman, who looked like Margaret, at the very back of the stage. She was trying to keep out of sight. No, it could not possibly be her, could it? No, it was so not her, this kind of a thing, or was it? Sadly with all of the dancers coalescing into one visual extravaganza of paint and cloth he lost sight of her and the next time someone he thought was the same dancer showed up, at the front this time, it was obvious he was mistaken. Still he watched for another ten minutes and even though that face did not appear again the rhythms and choreography kept his imagination, even though he could not fathom the storyline that was no matter. The dance was the entertainment.

Time was moving on. He needed to find the place they were to meet, the bank in the town centre, he did not know how near it was.

Turning around he left the rest of the crowd to their entertainment and retraced his steps. A faster than normal pace for him as well. Why? He was still worried about if it was Margaret, on that stage. He could not shake it. Perhaps because of the male company she was keeping if it was her. Would she like any one of those handsome dancers, maybe go with them, be unfaithful? He knew her libido, and it was not one easily satisfied. Should he trust her? It was her, surely! It looked so much like her, she clearly wanted to hide though. Was it her?

“It’s my birthday soon.” he consoled himself. “Some present that would be if she was involved with some photo shoot or something, there was a bloke taking pics to capture it all. Maybe?”

A tap on the shoulder brought him away from his suspicions. It was Philip, in town to look at some jewellery for his mother’s silver wedding anniversary. The carrier bag gave away the place of purchase and Philip’s wife the item. Mac told them of the dance troupe, suggesting they should go see for themselves, maybe find out what it was all about for him. He had to meet up with Margaret he explained.

Philip had an idea. “There’s a live webcam to this event I think,” he said, taking out a handheld tablet from his woollen overcoat. “I heard about it yesterday. It’s an event to be staged across continents. They’re making much prized artwork worth lots of money as well as performing the dancing. These pictures of the dancers in body paint, body art and movement, the chemistry between all of ’em, taken in various locations by this artist could fetch thousands for charity they hope.”

The webcam came up, and after several seconds of watching Mac could not see anything of Margaret amongst the dancers, how could he? She was quietly stood behind him having spotted them all huddled over the ten inch screen in the middle of the pavement on her way to meet up with her lover.

The feel of someone secretively touching his behind brought Mac a moment of concerned pleasure mixed with frightful anticipation. He turned around slowly. Thankfully it was Margaret. She had his present in her other hand, and a long, long kiss for his lips. Had she been with those dancers? He was sure it was her face he had seen. Had she been with any of them? She looked ravishing, hungry, and her kiss said more than hello so most likely she had not strayed.

After a few words with Philip and his wife the two pairs split up to go about their separate day. Walking hand in hand and somewhat in a rush Margaret teased Mac over his present. It was in a purple box of velvet, and although it was not yet the actual day she insisted he open it up. At first he wanted to wait but she would have none of it, urging him, pleading with him to open it.

So reluctantly he took of the lid to find a plush velvet interior full of elaborate jewellery, theatrical jewellery actually. A bold purple flower, a necklace, long drop earrings. pirate like almost but more burlesque. One of the earring’s long joined pieces had come apart. Mac picked it up out the box.

“Is it meant to be like this?” he asked, totally confused now.

“Yes it makes up to different lengths babe,” she explained taking it off him to put it back together. “It’s all for you to wear to impress at that rehearsal you were just watching. I’ve managed to get through the audition and have asked if you can join. We can travel the world hun, please say yes, they’re all waiting to meet you.” She was jumping up and down like an excited child.

Also inside the box was an envelope which on opening held an invitation scribbled on a small business card headed ‘Dance the World’. It read ‘Please join us!’

“It was you then!” he asked, bewildered at the revelation.

“Yes it was, c’mon you must meet ’em, now,” she insisted, “there still in town. Impress ’em and we can travel the world hun. Quick put these on and I’ll get some face paint for ya.” She clipped on the earrings, one to each ear and placed the flower behind his jacket lapel. Then she tied the necklace around him and without much more of a chance to argue she had him running through an alleyway between two stores to the place of the rehearsal, the dancing now finished thank goodness. What was he going to do to impress them? He was no artist by any stretch of the imagination. It was an absurd idea. What was Margaret about. Had she lost her mind!

“I’ve never danced before in my life,” he reminded her as they neared the gathering, all stood now in front of the empty stage.

“Just go along with my lead,” she whispered, “trust me. Sylvian this is Mac, the one I told you about.”

Sylvian was still in face paint, a white mask and clown lips, happy at the eyes but sad around the mouth. His single shoulder strap black leotard left no one in any doubt about his musculature and manhood.

“Mac, dear boy,”he began. “I understand you can feed an army at the drop of a hat.”

“I told Sylvian the troupe could all come back to the farm for a barbecue hun.”

Mac felt bewildered but tried not to show it. Go along with her lead she had said. Well, here goes he decided.

“Yep no problem Sylvian. We have no charcoal lighters though, but I’ve plenty of mutton fat off the sheep carcasses to provide a light. It’ll be burning in no time. Sausage, burgers and chicken.” He hoped the answer was eccentric enough a reply.

There was an awkward silence. A pin dropping silence, one of those dig a hole and climb into it moments. What had he said, done, intimated? Margaret looked to him, her jaw open in amazement, no disappointment, utter and complete disappointment. What had he done to upset the conversation so much, the mutton fat? He used it back home. Surely not that.

Margaret’s face said it all. He had let her down, let himself down. There could be no climbing back up from this position. He would never be taken on now by the troupe of dancers. What was he to do, to try and redeem the situation?

“Mac!” Another tap on the shoulder. This time breaking him free of the idiotic situation. It was Sal. She and Aunt Bessie had finished there girly chat and had come to join him.

“Thank goodness,” he murmured, “I was just……” He rubbed the sleep from out if his eyes.

“What ya say hun?” Sal asked.

“Just a stupid daydream, nothing to worry about.”

“No go on love, dreams are to keep away the bad, what was yours?”

“Just a stupid dream about a dance competition you and me were auditioning for in the middle of town.”

“You! Dancing!”

“Yes I know. Goodness knows where it came from. Where’s Aunt Bessie?”

“She’s just gone to renew her bracelet she says, upstairs with the hierarchy. She’s off somewhere new next week.” Mac looked confused. Sal saw it in his face. “I know I didn’t understand what she was on about either.”

Mac did, unfortunately.

Aunt Bessie came to sit beside him. “Are you sure it was Sal, and not Margaret!” She had overheard the previous conversation on coming down the grand staircase.

Sal was the one now looking confused. “Whose Margaret?”

Mac looked at Bessie. “Dreaming again?”

Bessie nodded in agreement. But before any further discussion could take place Margaret’s voice came fro outbid nowhere.

“Mac! Mac! It’s breakfast time. Take a look at this hun. I’ve an email from Nigel.”

Blowin in the wind

Blow in it certainly did! A whirlwind in fact, plucking him from off of terra firma and embroiling him in a frenzy of attention and mystique. More unwanted invitations from one newspaper then another, unsolicited mobile calls from local and national media outlets alike, letters from men’s magazines, woman’s magazines, obscure periodicals, all of them wanting to help in any way they could, though for that statement read increase their sales figures. He had been in this land for long enough now and was no fool, no fool whatsoever. He realised the only string to any of their bows was one playing profit as a theme tune. Thankfully though he now had the same instrument in his possession.

It began the day after the encounter in the field, the one with the three journalist, Nigel Tyas being one of them, Nigel Tyas, the person Mac had finally decided on to contact that same evening. The reporter came over to the farm “sometime after six o’clock” of the following day, as Mac had put it, actually no sooner had the hour turned than he was there on the doorstep, knocking on the woodwork with great intention. Now dressed more in keeping with the geography of the story he was chasing he had obviously bought some new green rubber boots which buckled at the calves. These he wore proudly on his feet, for it was obvious that he had fashioned them with some muck from the yard. Accompanying these was an all together more satisfactory black hooded coat with toggles for fasteners which offered more comfort and protection than his apparel of the day before. He needed it. On top of the hill the farmstead was not enjoying the gale spewing down between the hilly geography to the north west. A cutting wind carrying a little sleet within it funnelled along the valley torn between high escarpments at either side.

On Mac’s invitation he came through to the lounge where over the next few hours he enjoyed an evening of hospitality Walt style, the elder farmer sat bolt upright in his comfy red leather chair, both bare thin, bony arms resting on the upholstery of the three piece. He was like a king in his court, a wise expression filling a healthier, fuller face, a do not mess with my family expression, one that Nigel Tyas must have recognised, and no doubt would have seen before in his role as gatherer of information for he tried not to involve Walt too much in any of the conversation as he plied his trade.

Mac and Margaret sat on the couch holding hands, support and solidarity needed to be portrayed, as Nigel Tyas went through his paces gathering sound bytes and making notes as answers to his investigative journalism came back to his apparently haphazard but nevertheless seeking conversation of questions.

Mac went over the same old ground, as if bored by the repetition it brought to him, Margaret every now and again having to slow him down a little so the story could be detailed. Loss of memory, anxiety over where he actually hailed from, family left unknowing of where he was all took the upper case, but Nigel seemed to want another slant on the story, a less clinical telling of the facts.

“So what d’ya think of this new lady in your life?” the reporter enquired. Should they have been holding hands!

The two of them relaxed their grip, an obvious awkward move really on both their parts, but they had already rehearsed this answer and it was Margaret who delivered it.

“Mac and me are just good friends, there’s nothing romantic between us. I just think we’re so lucky to have him find us and us find him.”

Nigel looked at their hands now placed each on their own knees. “No romance whatsoever?” He had a cheeky glint in his eyes.

“None at all,” Mac replied. “I don’t know who I belong to yet, I’m like a lost dog waiting to be found.”

Margaret added her few pence worth. “For all we know Mac could have a wife and children waiting for him.”

Nigel Tyas looked to Mac’s hands again, this time his left one. “No ring though, so who can say.”

Mac flinched a little, the observation confusing him. What was Nigel Tyas inferring? An awkward moment or two ensued, no conversation or explanation coming from anywhere. How was he to escape this dearth of knowledge. A ring, jewellery?Must be some kind of symbolism when a partner was taken. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

Finally Walt saw a way into the conversation. He leaned forward and placing his white mug of tea on the rustic occasional table, unbeknowningly came to Mac’s rescue in his own inimitable style.

“Rings! What t’ hell d’ they mean t’day fella! Yung uns these days dunt tie t’knot wi a ring, they lucky if they tie knot at all so a lack a one means nowt!”

“Dad!” Margaret interrupted his rant. “This is Mac we’re talking about here.”

Walt adopted a sheepish expression. “Present company excepted,” he added in a reprimanded manner, his voice much quieter than the earlier part of his acclamation.

Nigel Tyas ran the fingers of both his hands through a well groomed left hand parted hairstyle, in an attempt to hide a little embarrassed at the outcome of his enquiry. He went no further with it and instead changed tack to add an element of fate to the story. The two parties being lucky to have met and all the benefits each was receiving from the other. This storyline took shape over the remaining hour until nine o’clock came around and Walt announced he was off to bed. Although it was probably not meant as a cue, Nigel Tyas took it that way and made his excuse to leave at the same time, thanking them all for their time and reiterating in no uncertain manner of the importance of his paper being the only one able to run the story. That way he could assure Mac of his payment. Both Mac and Margaret agreed there would be no other interviews for the time being.

“But I do want results,” Mac added, acting the desperate party.

“And so you will Mac I’m sure,” the journalist reassured him. “This story could make you famous when I’ve finished with it, never mind find you your relatives. Our readers love a fighter, and much more than that a happy ending. So get ready for it.”

Mac looked pensive. “I’m not sure I want a fuss.” Of course he was lying. The more fuss the better. That way his plight could reap in more and more cash for Walt and Margaret.

“You may well end up a celebrity Mac!” Margaret chirped up squeezing his waistline with both hands to tickle him.

“Not sure I want that either,” he added. This time he was not lying.

With his new all be them muddy boots back on his feet Nigel Tyas bid them good night at the farmhouse door and added, “I will e-mail Margaret a copy of the article on for your approval Mac before it goes to press. We want it in the weekend edition and if my editor approves and you like the article, so that’s the timeline we’re running on.”

With that he took his leave slipping a couple of times on his way across the muddy yard as he headed for the gate. Although he did not fall to the ground it was obvious from his acrobatics that his feet were not conversant with such a betraying surface.

Margaret looked at Mac and him at her, both of them trying not to giggle at the antics of the journalist. After he closed the gate they did the same to the outside door and then took time to have indulge a huge cuddle of relief, finishing the squeeze of with a long awaited kiss. Margaret had that gleam in her eyes again, that naughty gleam which along with the slight quiver of a pout at the right hand corner of her mouth told of unfettered passion on offer. The subterfuge had excited her, not letting on to Nigel Tyas that the two of them were a pair had done the trick, and it was now boiling up into a volcano of sexual promise. From the closeness of their embrace she knew the same was within Mac as well.

“C’mon lets lock up,” she mumbled between tongues and teeth. “Dad’s already gone up.” She pushed herself against him and wriggled her waist a little too and fro. It was all the invitation he needed.

Perspiration stood between his pectoral muscles, clinging within a mass of chest hair as he lay flat on his back staring at the white ceiling of his own, no, now it was the two of them’s bedroom. Margaret was fast asleep, a spent force, her tide come in and now waned. Mac was in seventh heaven, revelling at the memory of the last two hours, proud as punch at his own prowess and more than happy with his lot for the moment. It needed no spoiling, no questioning or rebuke. Time now had been at work and healed a little his wounds of separation, allowing him a more rosy retrospect on the bedroom menu just enjoyed.

Should he get up and wash? The truth was he did not have either the inclination or indeed the strength to move out from under the duvet. So there he stayed, smiling contentedly to himself and staring at shadows produced between the dark oak beams, shadows driven by the branches of the trees outside. ‘A pig in clover.’ The saying came into his mind, a saying Walt was fond of repeating when lazing in his own comfy red leather chair in the lounge by the side of the fire.

“A pig in clover indeed!” The words, only mouthed, held no weight so did not disturb Margaret.

Moving between the shadows a long legged spider played amongst the beams, suspended by a single thread which was caught by the shadows and reflected moonlight coming from somewhere or other, the window ledge probably, yes the window ledge it was, it took a few moments to work out the angles but it was the window ledge responsible for the webs illumination.

Suddenly the thread broke from one attachment leaving the spider to swing to and fro a number of times at the end of its own spun life line before climbing back up it to take a commanding place at one corner’s edge of a web constructed for capturing the next unsuspecting meal.

Did the spider realise it was being observed Mac wondered? Did it care if it was? Nonsense, it knew no more about him than he knew about his own estranged predicament. Was someone observing him though, just as he was this spider? This nagging thought troubled him once again to recognise its significance. Surely not. Surely he was no creature of interest himself, the object of some higher intelligences entertainment and whim. No, he was not, how could he be. A twitch in his right index finger announced a natural narcosis, his cue to turn on one side, find a soft and cooler place in the pillow which also gave him a view of Mater before she went out of sight, who immediately took over the proceedings for no sooner was this comfort established than much more found his wanting.

Broc a brick

As the three men disappeared over the far grassy hill brow he made his way back down the field to continue with the mending of the wall. The early morning mist had dispersed now for the most part, only holding on in a few small pockets in the very lowest aspects of the vale, the river’s course, elsewhere the rising sun had bid it a fond farewell for the day in every place met. Once by the tumble of architecture strewn about the farm’s side of the once uninterrupted border another few stones found their rightful place, carefully positioned so has the grain of the stone ran with the wall and not into it so has to prevent moisture seeping inwards when the recovered structure was complete. Looking about the choice and another found home, then another, the wall was almost rebuilding itself.

How to play it, his apparent problem, how to ensure that this card inside his pocket represented the ticket to Margaret and Walt’s happier future. The question hung in mid air, held up by an invisible thread, force, stamina, call it whatever, but there it was, confronting, tempting, aggravating which ever way he cared to turn. The opportunity presenting itself was a chance to take, surely, an opportunity that should not be denied, but the underlying fact remained, perched on the very shoulder of his conscience, deceit, it was just not in his vocabulary. If he was to proceed it would have to be with the ultimate of caution.

Fifty yards along the wall to his left a black and white striped head of fur poked itself through a lunky hole, pointed its long snout skyward and took in a few sniffs of what this side of the the stones had to offer. Broc, perseverance personified, patience and persistence itself was in attendance. His earthy wisdom of self-reliance and determination, his willingness to work at a problem and not let it go told Mac how he must proceed, he could have had no better advice had it come from one of the Brocan themselves. Let the matter come to him, allow fate a hand in the making and everything would work out. After a moment of contemplation he emerged fully through the gap and set off up the way, his silvery grey coat resplendently crowned by a plume of black, it all shimmered in the morning light as he kept to a run that shadowed the direction of the wall itself, till both animal and mineral disappearing out of view in the far corner of the field, the place which was to be Mac’s next point of call after this repair was complete.

“Such a tragic shame!” he murmured to himself with a shake of his head as he saw him reappear and carefully pick at a way to hop over the fallen stones then melt into the habitat that was his domain. Mac was reminded, by seeing Broc he was reminded, a news article read a week or so back. On occasions since he had wondered about its content, but lately other criteria had taken precedent. Now the report came back to him with a renewed sadness. Over the next few days to come, and the date was now imminent, the fortunes of this magnificent animal and fellow inhabitant of the countryside were in jeopardy. There was to be a cull, a cull of badgers of all things, and the mournful day for its beginning was drawing ever nearer. He had not yet been able to fathom out the sense behind the reasoning, and now seeing the animal in all its magnificence brought to him once again the futility of the up and coming event, an extermination, as one news presenter had described it, in order to eradicate seventy, yes seventy percent of the badger population, a government campaign as well, afoot to eradicate certain geographic locations to this lamentable amount, seventy percent of their number. The reason? They still carried Tuberculosis in this world, a disease long since forgotten in his. “Why not just vaccinate?” he added with his next breath, recalling his social history. “Who in all above came to this decision?” The only answer the hammer gave was one of metal on mineral, a dull thud as the next stone was altered slightly to fit its resting place.

The morning soon past, what with everything that was his thoughts and the satisfaction of the wall taking shape, as in fact nearly did lunch time. If it had not been for his new pink handheld vibrating in his pocket he would have been late for the table.

It was Margaret, who else could it be! Walt would not call, he had no mobile phone and refused to pay the price for connecting from the landline handset, and Mac had certainly not let on to anyone else that he was in procession of this device wanting to remain as anonymous as was at all possible. Unfortunately that desire was about to be rudely overturned. Smiling back at Margaret’s photo she had put against her number he took the call.

“Hiya,” he began.

“Hiya Mac, it’s lunchtime luv, you need to get back up here, you’re all over the national news!”

“How d’ya mean!” He dropped the next stone and turned his back on the work in progress.

“You’re memory loss, every channel’s running the story.”

“Can they do that?” He was about to say without his permission, but then thought how silly that would sound. He ought to be grateful, that everyone was coming to his aid, taking such an interest, so that should be the emotion to portray. “Wow! I’m on my way.”

“It’ll bring someone forward surely. They’ve also got hold of your dna results.”

He quickened pace somewhat. “What! How can that be?”

“Don’t know hun, perhaps they’ve been talking to the hospital, or they released the information.”

“Well they shouldn’t have.”

“Might ave come out in conversation Mac.”

“But that’s my personal business, surely I have to give permission.”

“Maybe they thought it would help. The article’s very good hun, it’ll not be long now I’m sure.” Margaret’s voice held a certain trepidation.

He was running now, up the steepest gradient of the climb, his breath panting condensation before him as he spoke, “but they shouldn’t…..it’s private information……they can’t release that sort of stuff……..without asking me first.”

“Perhaps they think it’ll help luv,” she repeated, “don’t worry, get back quick as ya can, I’ve recorded it all for ya, the soups ready.”

“That’s good, I’m starving. It’s cold out here today.” He needed to sound normal.

“Hurry up then luv, the kitchen’s nice and warm, I’ve just stoked up the range.”

“I’m here now.” The words left his lips as he opened the recently painted farmhouse door. It looked ten times more a welcoming threshold of late, but not today, the olive green did no more soothe than alarm as he threw of his boots and rushed through the hallway, snagging the thick woollen sock of his left foot on the torn linoleum in his panic.

Walt was sat by the pot belly stove, the same place the two had first encountered each other all those many days ago.

“Soups up lad, what’s all this bout ya being special, they dunna need science to tell em that, I could’ve told em.” Kind words, but no help.

“Can I see the news first please Walt?”

“Yep, if ya like lad, it’s not everyday we’ve a celebrity in t’house.”

Margaret ran the bulletin once more. Mac thought carefully on where they had gleaned the information from, and how could they betray his data protection? The three of them stood and watched the television, Walt resting his meagre frame against the open door, Mac holding Margaret close in his arms as if she was the one who needed reassurance.

In any other circumstance the item sounded all helpful, all for Mac’s benefit, but this implication of his inexplicable genetics could have ramifications only he knew. The two professors had thought, no realised they were onto something, but only he knew. His heart was racing and needed to be brought to a pace which was down a level or two. Was the news broadcast as bad as he had feared? He tried to relax.

“Let’s watch again,”

“You just like all the attention,” Margaret joked with him. Mac feigned excitement in a twitch or two of his hold on her.

On the second run through, the article which really almost copied the local one of the other day did not seem so sensational, the fact of his odd genetic makeup incorporated into the story almost as an explanation of how data can be difficult to interpret when achievements are sort. But the idea of him being different was now undeniably out there, and however matter of fact it had been reported it was now public knowledge. If the data was to be believed, and this particular line of the story followed up then trouble was truly on the horizon. This fear increased his pulse still further, so much for relaxing. He felt light headed, perhaps it was the hunger. The photograph released by the police was also the same one as the other day, as was a statement read out by the presenter as to the amnesiacs plight, but the final twist was undoubtedly new, this odd data coming from the tests. How could the news agencies be privy to this information, who could possibly think this would help him be found, what relevance did it have to his problem? None was the answer to those questions. The presenter concluded again stating that repeated tests were being carried out, he had misheard that sentence the first time. At least that fact gave a breathing space, a chance of hope, perhaps their would be no follow up. The feint receded.

Fast thoughts flitted from one to the other, and not realising just how tightly he was now holding Margaret, she had to pinch his arm slightly to ask him to release her a little. She turned and gave him a kiss to reassure him. It did not have the desired affect though he let on it had. Complicated scenarios of what the coming days might hold blew about his mind. How he was going to ride out the storm should it begin? Go to ground perhaps, grow a beard and dye his hair, hideaway in the barn? Walt and Margaret would help him surely. But on the other hand what if he milked the story for all it was worth. That analogy brought a smile to his face. Milking! Ironic a thought really. Debra came to mind and her role in the great scheme of things calming the storm within.

There was no doubting the information must have come out of the hospital and someone had released it. The game was certainly on, being played, this money for story game, and by more than just himself. Anyhow he kept quiet, still holding on to Margaret, more tightly again to his body as the three of them watched his two minutes of fame for one last time, the two local farmers hoping for a positive outcome and Mac knowing what might ensue during the coming days.

Mix up

Wednesday’s session with Professor Smith came around faster than could be imagined. Sat back in his comfy leather chair, the clinicians feet were up once again on the upturned paper bin, was it always upside down Mac wondered, more a foot rest than receptacle for waste. The professor had an expression on his face, the cat who had pinched the best bits of fish from off his masters plate, a satisfied expression, did he have good news. They had shaken hands, dispensed with the formalities of patient and doctor and taken up respective positions ready to begin.

“All the tests are back Mac,” he was explaining, “and I am happy to report that there is no indication of any disease process which could be the root cause of your loss of memory.”

Mac knew that. No one else could. He heard the diagnosis but for a moment in time he was lost, brooding over his predicament. Why had there been no dream of Aunt Bessie recently, why had the bridge not delivered her promise? It would not be long before the suggested timescale would pass, the touching membranes, his theoretical passage home. It was not for the lack of endeavour either, to rid this enforced presence herein, goodness knows he had visited the appointed site more times than were comfortable to dare over the past few days, odd times and all, in an effort not to be found out. None had given any hint of change. No aura, no ground movement, no time shift, not even a pinch of any change in reality, though that idea now brought him back to that odd experience the last time he had occupied the professors uninteresting cream coloured office, this very room.

That claustrophobic sense of the walls closing in, an otherworldly sensation of reality, no the exact opposite of reality in fact, imaginings, dreamlike, call it what you will but definitely do not attribute a tag of reality to it. The experience had also happened again in the comfort of the farmstead lounge, accompanied by a physical, no mental, or whatever it was, a sinking feeling, one of unavoidable dilemma, manifest in the apparent alteration of structure itself, the walls, window moving to encage, the floor dropping like a circus ring removing to let in water for the aquatic part of the act. But all this at the same instant as the television and indeed Margaret herself, sat next to him, not showing any alteration or evidence of being involved. Strange was a word he had come to think on a lot lately, and this word certainly fit the bill for these moments.

“Oh, right, that’s good then isn’t it,” the patient finally answered, playing with the white drawstrings of a new hooded garment, a navy blue, zip front cardigan type of top with a flag of this new country emblazoned on the back. “So where from here then Professor?”

“We’re just completing some more data this morning, just for clarification.”

Mac puzzled for a few seconds, searching for a meaning, could not find one so asked, “data, what kind of clarification?”

The yellow shirt and even yellower bow tie worn by Professor Smith illuminated his face and especially his chin and neckline. Mac wondered if he liked butter, he certainly ought to.

“Another dna analysis is just being redone, the first set was inconclusive,” Smith explained. The bow tie danced a little as he spoke.

As a child Mac always had a problem with dizziness, feeling the room was falling in, claustrophobia some had it down as, others hypotension because of his height. This returned, room shrinking sensation reminded him of those early years, the worry of going to junior school because he occasionally felt that frightening feint sneak upon him, in morning assembly, in what to a small boy suddenly felt like a huge expanse of a meeting hall, or during class singalong, in particular in class singalong. The words, tune, would begin to echo around the walls, brightly coloured walls decorated with the classes work, very relaxing and comforting for most of the time, but in these episodes awfully frightening and unable to offer any recompense. Then everything, sound, vision, perception would resonate about the inside of his head, blurring the definition between voice and piano, one noise, non descript in its recognition, colours jumped out at him from off the painted posters and his head would spin like the top his father jokingly bought him as an only present one birthday. While all this was going on the rest of the class, world, carried on regardless, unaware of the turmoil he was in.

One teacher, year two, a dragon of a lady some would say, but the best for controlling boisterous six and seven year olds, mentoring them to achieve their best, took him under her wing. Whenever he felt the dizziness coming on she would sit with him momentarily. Mrs Farrow invented a cure, putting his head between both his knees until the feeling passed, a diversion of sorts even if it had no therapeutic effect. Maybe it had, it always did the trick.

Dna results? This thought now filtered down and, now recognised interrupted the daydream. He returned to the job in hand. “So no match to any history then?”

“None whatsoever with the first batch, but we are wondering whether or not it may have been contaminated with some other sample, so we just need a rerun to obtain another set.”

The professor was edging a little, speaking in too lack of a matter of fact for his position, a does not matter kind of an approach that did not reflect his medical standing. Why?

Mac was suddenly concerned. “Contaminated?”

“Absolutely nothing to be bothered with Mac, it sometimes happens with these tests. We’ll know more today.” Still unrevealing, no more of a proper answer, but still that know something smile across his face. What was the professor up to?

Mac pursued his goal. “So no family match on the data base, no medical history?” Could that be it, had they found his contemporary?

“None whatsoever, but a rerun may be more fruitful.” There was absolutely no doubt in it, the professor was holding something back for sure, something of interest.

“And the sample could be contaminated?” If his dna matched someone else, surely that could be put down to a twins scenario, what was this information being kept a secret?

“It does happen on rare occasions, a strange result, anomalies, let’s wait for the next set, they will be here within the hour.”

“Anomalies, what on earth does that mean?” Mac was chomping at the bit now, and pretending to be shocked, “am I a freak or something?” He realised he could be, nothing was the surer.

The clinician in the professor returned to nurse his patient. “Not at all Mac, listen you must not become stressed, it’s not good for your condition, now just calm and let’s continue our session, yes?” He stood up and walked over to Mac’s easy chair and patted him on the shoulder. “You must not worry over any of this Mac, it will all come out in the wash. Let’s get started eh?”

“Ok if you think it’ll help.” How could it? It could no sooner help than the fictitious man in the moon the people of this new world once marvelled over, still play along a while he decided, at least until these second results came in, then he would have first hand knowledge of what had been found.

So for the next hour Professor Smith carried through his treatment plan, questions about Mac’s predicament, had he felt any improvement, had any more memories returned? In between were staged certain tasks, games call them, either on paper or with the aid of apparatus, building blocks, picture boards, most very rudimentary, then computer aided tests, slightly more interesting if the software had not kept crashing.

The minutes ticked by, the digital glow from the clock’s red numerals announcing one minute then the next. Boring was not an adequate word to describe the session, though to keep the Professor on board Mac intimated of another scene coming to him, an allotment and people working the soil. That was a good result for the time being the professor insisted, Mac kept up his pretence and worried they were not making much progress.

“Another memory is not what I would describe as not making progress,” the professor insisted. Suddenly Smith pulled up short and took a phone from out his trouser pocket. He looked to the identity of the caller then answered.

“Yes…..good……what came up this time then?” A pause to listen, then, “so no change, the same as before.” He scratched at his temple and looked over the table to his patient. “No doubt whatsoever then?” Another moments silence accompanied by a most interested squint of the clinicians eyes, a search for rationale almost by the looks of it, or disbelief. “Bring me paper copies please, you know I hate all this techy presentation….. five minutes, that’ll be fine.”

“Good news?”

Professor Smith’s satisfied expression did not alter as he answered. “Very interesting information if it is true Mac, though I need to see the evidence myself, and have it explained to me before I accept it.”

Mac stood to straighten his legs, he was becoming restless, anxious if the truth be known. Why had he taken up this appointment today, why not just keep trying the bridge? All of this was taking up valuable time, time he could not afford to lose. Chances were that with all he had read about this nations health service, the results would be mixed up anyway, or messed up altogether, so why worry over it? No, the priority was to keep trying the bridge. He walked over to take another look at the computer screen and sat at that seat for a change. “What did it come up with then?” he finally asked.

“Prof Bramley is bringing the printout of data to show us. If it is correct you have quite a unique dna sequence, let’s wait while she arrives though to discuss her findings.”

“And that will shed some light on my problem?”

Professor Smith adjusted his bow tie, it had slipped and was tickling his chin. “I’m not sure of that yet Mac,” he answered, “but Prof Bramley is an expert in this field so if anyone knows she certainly will.”

No sooner had the sentence been delivered than there was a loud knock to the office door, followed by an exuberant entrance without waiting any invitation from inside.

“This sequence is astonishing I tell you Philip,” the newcomer began without a thought for the expression across her colleagues face. “I ran a double lot to make sure and I tell you if this is true we are on to something…..” Mac bent his head and shoulders from around the computer screen to allow this scientist the realisation of the full compliment of company she now kept, “quite interesting.” These concluding words were delivered with much less excitement.

If this was Bramley, she looked on somewhat at a loss, surprised. Mac was too. Far, far more so, extremely so in fact. The blood drained from his head and neck. He must look ashen, pale in the face. He hoped his disbelief would be interpreted as belonging the sentence just delivered. It was not just for that however. Oh no! Something far stranger than his own dna profile now presented itself, herself!

Stood in front of him, this new member of the medical team running his treatment was a carbon copy of Pastour Beck back home. Knowledgable face under a mop of natural blonde hair non betraying of her sixty years, this woman of six foot and athletic build was without doubt the second person in this time who Mac could recognise as someone met before. The recently arrived on the other hand had no idea of any of it.

Professor Smith nodded in their patients direction. “This is Mr Hammerton, and this is Professor Bramley,” he said by means of an introduction, an emphasis on the word is indicating by its delivery that some cat may be out of the bag, but which cat and was it a cat Mac was not meant to be privy to.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance Mr Hammerton.” Bramley extended a grey, fine check bloused arm and tanned hand in greeting. “Are you ok?”

Smith had noticed too. “Mac, are you alright?”

“A little overwhelmed that’s all. Quite interesting, what do you mean by that?” Mac asked.

“This data Mr Hammerton, quite unusual it is!”

Bramley, Beck, whoever she now was had put the evidence on the desk for Smith to look over. Reaching for his flimsy spectacles and balancing them on the end of his pock marked nose he ran an index finger across the paper printouts. Now a poker face expression gave nothing away but the frantic movement of his finger from one piece of paper to the next betrayed an enthusiasm bottled up inside.

Bramley skirted the edge of the desk to take up a position on the clinicians side. “So you see!” she whispered in a musical tone of voice, “very interesting indeed, would you not agree?”

“This?” Smith asked, pointing at one piece of information.

“Well just compare the two, or combine them, the same sequences we would expect in say……in an hybrid twenty thousand years ago. She was whispering, but Mac heard the gist of it. “Look at the genome maps, the graphical prints, look at this hapmap, it shows variations in the genome indicative of what we would expect if….”

“If what?” Mac, his composure and colour returned was showing much more concern now. Pastour Beck’s doppelgänger or no, her identity was of no paramount importance at the moment, though his eyes did keep wandering back to wherever she was standing in the room, as if checking she was still of the same appearance.

“You seem to have a very odd, if not unique genetic make up Mr Hammerton,” Bramley retorted.

Smith’s expression was now one of do not become too concerned Mac, we two phycisions are in full control, there is no need to trouble yourself over this finding. Clearly there was, for these two also betrayed a more seripticous side to their meeting, findings. The ramifications were obvious.

Mac was up to speed, he knew. “So how unique?”

“Very.”

“Extremely,” Bramley added. “These results show you to have a genetic makeup like no other I ever seen Mr Hammerton, if it was not so far fetched I would even go as far as to say these results say you have some other ancient human about you, an admixture with another branch of human evolution, the neanderthals, I’m sure you’ve heard of them. If it is true you are certainly a very special individual though I cannot explain how this has come about.” She paused a moment on what had just been said, took another look at the data then confirmed it. “Yes, there is certainly reason by this data at least to suggest that this be the case.”

Mac needed a defence. “That’s absurd,” he began in earnest, “there must be some mistake.”

“That’s exactly what I said,” Smith added.

“And me too, but my team have repeated these findings and the results are the same. For whatever reason I am going to take another swab, if you will allow me, to be absolutely safe and sure but I am certainly in no doubt of the present data even if I do not comprehend it. Let’s do one more run with a fresh sample eh?”

“It’s all a silly mistake Professor Bramley, it simply must be.” Mac complained bitterly, he needed to make a stand. “How can I be a unique specimen among the population?”

“How indeed?” Smith butted in.

“Take another swab please, let’s have this all resolved, I’m sure the next lot will be different,” The room was beginning to fold in again, he had not eaten since breakfast. “And can we finish this quickly please, I need some lunch,” An annoyance in this request emphasised the stupidity he attributed to the results and sort of burst the two professors bubble. They clearly thought they were on to something, but judging by their patients outburst were left a little unsure now.

The swab taken Mac took his leave and left them to it. They seemed more than happy to let him go anyway so they could continue with their discussion. Of course it could be true, the data, obviously it could. From a different universe the chance was more likely than not. His head was all over the place, and it needed clearing before finding the Land Rover and Margaret in the car park. Slowly walking the perimeter of the mass of many vehicles he took a few minutes to compose his thoughts, reduce the bewilderment to acceptance. He was different and that was the end of it. Why did these people put so much emphasis and finance into owning these myriad of cars was the next thought that came to mind, bringing him to some sense of normality.

“Not different back home though eh Mac?” These words comforted him somewhat as Margaret waved over to him. She was standing at the door to the Land Rover. He made a dash one way then the other over to her. The clouds were just rolling back replacing a slate grey sky with inviting blue. At least the day was turning out for the better.

“Good session?” she asked when he came in earshot.

“Not bad, though I’ve some weird dna readout by all accounts!”

“Which means?” Margaret climbed back into the cab.

“Who knows, I didn’t understand half of it. I had another memory though, of an allotment, Prof Smith seemed to think that was good.”

“It is love,” Margaret insisted.

The engine, after complaining a couple of times started up and was now running. They were on the way home.

“Just doesn’t seem to be much.”

“Any recall is good, remember what we found on t’internet, they’ll, could, come back slowly…… remember?”

Mac pretended to worry. “Slowly is certainly the word though ain’t it?”

The debrief continued as they left the hospital grounds and just for once Mac was glad of the chocolate bar collection kept stashed in the glove compartment. Normally he would have packed some fruit but had forgotten this morning, what with sneaking off to the bridge. One bar then a second satisfied his hunger and put a stop to the noises coming from his belly.

The two held hands most the way home, discussed the tests and made other idle conversation about the farm workload. Margaret always managed to ease his mind with her concern and care, treading carefully between banter and discussion she guided his thoughts to those of a more relaxed agenda, a true soulmate if ever there was one. And why not, of course she was.

But what of Bramley? That was a surprise to say the least! In all the turmoil he had not come to terms with that revelation yet, of seeing his towns religious cleric transported as it was, in like for like appearance, even more similar than Margaret was to Sal. At least Margaret had a slightly thinner frame, and most certainly at the moment, not being pregnant. As well her hair was a different style and colour, but Bramley? She was Beck through and through. Same letter initialing their surnames too he mused, how strange could that be? But that was not even the half of it. Her hair, body, gait and mannerisms all mimicked those of Pastour Beck back home. Only Bramley’s suspicious attitude to the results and her subterfuge with Smith singled her out as a completely different individual.

Green trees and greener fields replaced the urban sprawl and displaced the botheration. Countryside, sunshine, Margaret, a home in all but name. Would any other traveller have been as fortunate? Or was it all prearranged? Was all this meant to be, was it organised for him to find, a life to become involved in and take up in this other time and place? He still wondered.

Sal? It was an effort to put her to the back of his mind and constantly keep her there. When she resurfaced it always took a toll. How would she be looking? The baby will have grown a lot by now and Sal’s belly must be big. What could she be doing about his absence. Aunt Bessie had better have put her mind to rest.

The remainder of the afternoon passed by with better therapy, tending the potato fields, another visit to the bridge and over dinner Walt’s mid week catch up of how the farm was performing interspersed with checking up on Mac’s health and progress at the hospital.

If one person in this world gave Mac a reason to believe in change, then Walt Helliwell was he. Nothing in any wildest dream, and he was definitely having some of them, could have prepared for the change in attitude, outlook and concern this elder would exhibit over the short time since their first encounter over the farm gate. Having taken Mac into his home Walt had also taken him into his family and heart. Joking on occasions now, of Mac not needing to worry, for if no memories did come back he had nothing to be afraid of, he, Walt, regarded Mac as a son of his own now anyway, and tonight added another gem of a comment.

“If yor two yungsters decide to tie knot, then no father on earth could be any prouder.”

That melodic comment hit Mac for a six. Margaret blushed.

The two lovers looked over the empty dinner plates to each others embarrassed faces. One thought it could be a possibility, the other could not think on it at all. Both smiled. Walt grinned so much he revealed a missing premolar. Mac had never noticed it before so knew it was the widest smile he had seen so far from him.

“Well ya can’t keep living over brush!” he added. “Can ya?”

“Dad!” Margaret objected with giggle and shriek all rolled into one.

“Only sayin lass, ya knows me. Ses what I think, never gets mixed up then.”

“Yes, well, that be as it may dad. Let’s get Mac on the road to recovery the first eh?”

Walt considered himself told off so took his leave to the lounge, having to have the last word as usual as he went. “Grand lad that mind, don’t be losing him.” He stole a smile at Mac as he passed, adding “grand lass too Mac.”

“No need to tell me that Walt, you have a lovely daughter.”

“I knows that lad I does. Truly blessed, yes truly blessed.” That comment saw him to his easy chair and the local news programme on television. Walt’s day had finished. It was down to them now to wash and clear the dishes.

Whether the storm.

If it was not so laughable it would be sad, to imagine that there could be some truth in the accusations had this world been his own. Thank good fortune it was not. But what of the people whose world it was, these unlucky folk who struggled day in day out in the passage of their lives, their time spent eaking out an existence of sorts, nothing special in the vast scheme of things by what he had seen so far, a very wealthy minority to be sure, and shamefully so, but a massive number of poverty stricken as well, unable to make ends meet, unable in the worst cases to make a meal to feed themselves and their children, and in between a working population grinding away at toils to keep the economy going, how could this be a way to manage a community, an ecosystem, an environment. Could there be a way to somehow let them know there was a better way?

The professors next question interrupted Mac’s imaginings. “Can you remember a favourite book? What do you like to read?” His tone had mellowed. Did he realise he had upset his patient. He tapped his pen on the notepad in front of him in anticipation.

“Nothing springs to mind.” Macs answer was curt and to the point.

“Where is your favourite holiday place? Do you like fishing, swimming, football?” Yes, his approach was certainly less intimidating, as he adopted a posture of sitting well back in his leather chair and stretching out both legs to rest on an upturned waste paper basket, yes it now felt a lot more friendlier an encounter.

Mac reciprocated. “I feel I should like fishing.” Perhaps a morsel of improvement would not go a miss. “Professor Smith, how can I know how to fish when I don’t even know if I like to?”

“The mind is a strange and wonderful place Mr Hammerton.” Professor Smith now stood to his feet, and arms behind his back pulled slightly on the buttons of his striped pink shirt, whose material would not at all look amiss if it were used for a pair of pyjamas. He looked to find a book out of all the collection on his two shelves. “I’ve had the privilege of being alive and practising in an age when we have learnt so much, but it’s true to say we still do not know everything.” Mac just sat and listened. The professors attitude appeared to be a summing up of his findings, almost in lecture mode, striding slowly from one end of the book shelf to the other, then back again, turning on occasions to look Mac’s way. “I have known it before,” he concluded, “and I am sure it will pass. We will manage your needs and evaluate your progress. Now you say you would rather be staying at this farm?”

This was Macs first opportunity to speak on that matter to the professor and he acknowledged the suggestion leaving nothing ambiguous.
“Yes please, I really feel at home there, and I feel I need to be active and forget what’s happened. Then hopefully it will all come back.”

Surprisingly the clinician’s investigation changed tack, and his whereabouts too, heading back over to the desk once more to pick up his spectacles, no book being found, perhaps he could not read the titles. “When is your birthday?” The question was asked as if it was just for confirmation of a previous answer.

Mac knew he had never given one and so thought for a moment. “I have no idea, but summer comes to mind, is that a stupid thing to say?”

“Not at all.” More note taking, then, “what about your parents house, your childhood home?”

“Again nothing I can recall, though I do think it’s a farm of some kind. How stupid does that sound?” Mac pretended to be exasperated.

Note taking again, then, and totally out of the blue. “Ok! I believe that’s enough for our first session Mr Hammerton. Today we have already ruled out a stroke, and epilepsy, thrombosis or aneurysm, the lumbar puncture will I am sure rule out any viral encephalitis.” Professor Smith glanced at his pad. “We don’t really understand the physiology of this complaint Mr Hammerton. There may be changes in the blood supply to the temporal lobes, the part of your brain that deals with your memory, or electrochemical changes similar to those that cause migraine, but we will endeavour to fix you of that you can be sure.”

“I do hope so, I feel so vulnerable all of a sudden.” The cream walls of the room seemed to creep up on him. A weird feeling, imagining, like the special effect on a movie screen, but this not make believe, this real, and happening, to him, right now. The truth of the matter not known, never to be known actually, to the professor, was his patient was feeling vulnerable, though not for the reason down on his file.

Professor Smith lectured again. “You were in denial Mr Hammerton, and now you have come to realise your circumstances….”

“It’s all hit home.”

“Exactly.” The professor nodded in agreement, then an unexpected final announcement concluded the appointment. “Let’s make a date for a few days time shall we? I’ll send in my secretary and she will sort it out for you.” A look at his watch and that was it. With a shake of hands Professor Smith was off out the beige coloured door, leaving it ajar for a view on the corridor outside.

It was three thirty three by the digital clock’s red readout on top of the rooms only filing cabinet, a scratched grey metal affair that had seen better days. Mac was exhausted. Slumped in the easy chair he thought the best course of action might be none at all. Just sit. What in all the world was Margaret going to make of all of it? Maybe he should just make a run and dissapear back to his proper time without any explanation. If only Margaret was not Sal in this universe he may even do that, but to leave without any explanation would not be fair, or correct. What was she going to say?

He had to come clean, tell her and then make for home. Returning back here would be an option if Aunt Bessie was to be believed, though all that could still prove to be imaginings, and if it was then there was no going home anyway! Was this place his home, maybe this loss of memory was not too far from the truth, was it his own minds way of dealing with some impact upon it? Where was that secretary with his appointment so he could escape? On the other hand why did he not just leave any way, never to return? Once home he would have that bracelet and so be more in control, able to travel more accurately. He shook his head in an attempt to dispel the ever mounting options, or lack of them as the case may be. Where was this secretary, or even Aunt Bessie?

“I’ll come and find you.” he repeated her words mockingly to himself, then felt bad for doing so. “Come on Mac.” These last words seethed with remorse, ” this is not you and you know it.”

So, if or when he did return, what had he learned? The time waiting offered a moment to think seriously on the subject.

“This world is a lot different from home,” he whispered under his breath, “a greedy, segregated world.” He spit out the words. “On economic, racial and religious grounds just to begin with. There’s just no harmony in people’s lives, or peace for that matter, they’re always trying to better themselves at the expense of others. It’s like a massive worldwide competition, which causes conflict, at the worst war, poverty, misery and even death. Those scenes on tv the other night? Agh!” A brain in free fall attempted to collate and construct sense out of all it stored. “They haven’t learned yet, to be at peace.”

Who would believe all this, Aunt Bessie for sure, but who else? Sal was going to know, of that there was no doubt, if he could not tell her then this fantastic opportunity of a life more travelled he would gladly relinquish, and every opportunity that came with it for that matter, hierarchy or not this was not a question up for debate. Who were they anyway, why had no one heard them mentioned before? Fancy his own Aunt keeping such a secret all her life, or at the least since the privilege had been bestowed upon her, a member of his own family involved in such seripticous behaviour.

People did not keep things hidden where he came from, there was no need, it was unnecessary, what would be the point. What was the point? There was no spite or competition in his world, no hidden agendas, no winning at any cost, everyone worked for the common good. One religion, one hierarchy, one nation, different countries yes, but one people all paying forward, an altruistic society pulling together and not against.

“They just don’t care for each other,” he went on, “they’re so inpatient, rushing here there and everywhere. I bet their years just pass by without knowing themselves or anybody around them, all in an effort to be better than their neighbour. It’s sad really.”

The door to the professors office creaked open, the secretary must be here with the appointment. Mac turned around. No secretary, but Margaret instead, stood in the open doorway. Dressed in Sunday best, smart black jeans and blue sweater she had been crying by the look of her face, slightly swollen underneath her eyes, both of them red where they should be that marvellous striking white.

“Darling, what’s happened?” she began, rushing over to kneel by the chair and hug him tightly. “I’ve been worried sick, have been to tell the truth. How are you, what’s happening? Dad tells me you’ve been taken to the police station for something and nothing, then there’s an announcement on local radio, a man who’s lost his memory, says his name is Mac Hammerton! I went frantic, rushed down the station, they tell me you’ve come here, no one would let me know where you are ’till I could prove who I was, are you ok love?”

“I’m just the same bloke you knew last time you saw me Margaret, the very same,” he began, “Mac Hammerton.” There were tears in his eyes now.

Margaret squeezed him even tighter, he her. Then she planted a huge kiss on his cheek, then his lips, it said everything was all alright.

“So what’s all this about,” she whispered in his ear, “lost your memory, are you just making it up to get out of the railway charge, they won’t wear it you know that don’t you?” She wore a hopeful expression now, attempting to overtake the one of worry.

Ok no lies. Off he went, looking her straight in the eyes to unburden the secret locked up for so long a time. “I am Mac Hammerton,” he began, “I know that for sure, but I seem to be missing a lot of facts that relate to my past life.”

Margaret hugged him again. “Well we’ll get you better I promise.”

“I don’t remember much, nothing really, I’m pretty sure my folks have a smallholding, though I can’t say where.”

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“It all sounds so pathetic, so far fetched, I might as well be from another world I know that little of this one.”

“Well we’ll get you better, don’t worry on it. What have the docs said, they wouldn’t tell me a thing?”

Desperate to make it all alright he knew it was impossible, so carried on the deception. “I’ve had so many tests Margaret, scans, blood, interviews. Everyone says it will pass but they can’t say when.”

“Don’t you have any ideas at all then?”

“Like I say, I honestly do know my name is Mac Hammerton, at least I think it is, I am not from around here, well you know that don’t ya, I found myself here and then found you…”

“And that was a blessing…”

“And the rest you know.”

“What about Whitby?”

He felt embarrassed now. “That I made up……from an article in a newspaper.”

“So you don’t know where you live?”

“I’ve no memory of anywhere around here to be honest.”

Another hug and kiss was interrupted, by presumably Professor Smith’s secretary, a woman at any rate, coming through the doorway to hand over the required information needed for his discharge. She certainly dressed secretarial, a formal grey two piece, jacket and skirt, and when she spoke it was slow, and to both of them, as if they were hard of understanding.

There was not long to wait, next Wednesday according to the card, but to be honest he should not need the meeting everything else being equal. Without much more ceremony the bringer of information but little interaction turned about, bid them good afternoon and left, leaving the door wide open, an obvious invitation to vacate the professors office.

Outside the rain had stopped, dried up in fact, not though Margaret’s concern and questions. On the way to the car park and then on the way back to the farm she carefully and considerately posed one enquiry then another, an aid she thought, by the manner in which she asked them, to help her lover overcome the situation he found himself in. Was he aware of any town names, could he remember his job, did he own a car, holidays, pets, did he have any children, that question slipped in as just a matter of fact though they both knew it held far reaching connotations, nevertheless it was sneaked into the discussion, did he have a sister, brother?

“I just need to get home Margaret and get back to work, relax and let things pass,” he finally confided, a tired expression topping a wilting body. For one day he had had enough, game or no and as soon as was possible he needed to get to the bridge.

Margaret immediately realised enough was enough. “Oh I’m so sorry babes, listen at me going on.”

“I do appreciate it love, but I guess it’ll come back when it wants. No one can force it.”

She joked now trying to make light of the dilemma. “And keep that phone charged up, so you can call me, and me you,”

Mac acknowledged her reprimand adding, “why aren’t you mad at me?”

“What for?”

“Not telling you.”

“It doesn’t matter, that, what matters is getting you better.” She picked up his hand in hers and gave a gentle squeeze.

“But what if ……..”

Margaret interrupted. “Let’s cross that bridge when it comes.” A bitter sweet smile, hope mixed with fear let loose her fear. She knew that she might loose him but wished for the opposite outcome. The next few weeks would make or break them.

The journey home held no surprises, debris here and there, the odd branch half way across the carriageway, grit and soil washed from the fields at the edge and sometimes across the tarmac, water standing everywhere, road and verge undefinable in places, flood after flood occupying lower levels of the route, sometimes only a yard or so, other times a quarter of a mile, river replacing highway. No match for a blue grey Land Rover though, any of the obstacles, and the two recently estranged companions made the farm gate with no hindrance or diversion, but water coming into the footwell at one stage had them both laughing with a hint of concern in case the engine did take a turn for the worse.

Times secretly not forgotten

The interview rooms themselves were situated in some single storey annexe to the original stone built police property. Larger windows and lower ceilings it was obviously a different era of construction. As they waited for Murphy to return, Miss Peters sat patiently wondering what to say, quite clearly the situation was one she was not comfortable with. Mac paced out the perimeter of the square room, slowly, one step after the other, wondering if he had said the right thing. In the panic of the moment it was the only explanation that came to mind. Now the horse had bolted and there was no turning back, so what was he going to tell Margaret and Walt? Would he need to, could he get home soon? That would not be fair though, especially to Margaret. Why had he become so involved with her? It would have been much better if he had resisted her advances. “And that’s another horse,’ he joked under his breath.

Outside the weather had taken a drastic turn for the worse. A cloud burst was hammering upon the flat roof which separated them from the elements. Like a legion of drummers the falling rain beat out a warning of what force it held, and what a force it was. That dream of Burdett Hall came to his mind, the water running from off the extension and falling past the one large window made secure by the addition of steel bars no further apart than would allow a leg through and opening on to an untidy back yard, reminding him of the deer shelter.

Miss Peters came over to join him. “I didn’t see a forecast for today did you?” she asked, raising her voice a little to be sure he heard.

“No I didn’t catch it this morning. Does it do this a lot?” His false predicament now offered the ability to enquire without being found out.

“Just lately, the past few years we seem to be getting these worse storms, and flooding of lower ground levels. It’s global warming they say but I don’t buy it.”

There was that phrase again, global warming, he knew it and had done some research on it. “It’s the crops that’ll suffer.”

“You can bet prices will go up, any excuse.”

Mac smiled understandingly but offered no further input on that subject, his opinions on the matter would be too outrageous for Miss Peters’ world view anyway. Besides there was a suggestion of anxiety beginning to creep across his shoulders, taking in the nape of his neck and the back of his head as well. A feeling of stretched skin burnt by the afternoon sun on a day at the beach, but with more to it. There was that edgy dread of doubt which accompanied it, holding hands to find home, seek shelter and establish parity with sensibility and well being.

“Do you not have any recollection at all then Mac?” It was obvious from the weak delivery of this question she had finally plucked up the courage to ask. Her head tilted slightly also betrayed the fact that it was not an enquiry she wanted to make but felt duty bound to attempt.

“Not one bit, although….” Mac thought for a moment. Should he throw in a morsel to keep them occupied. Why not. He shrugged both shoulders in an attempt to dislodge the grasp of his tormentor.

“Yes go on, no matter how little it could be important Mac.”

Oh ok. Maybe he was wrong. Perhaps it was just her juvenile posture again that gave incorrect messages of her naivety.

There was the ringing sound again, but not in his ears, more of the mind. Talking would take his perception off it. “I just had a thought of a shelter, I was under it in another storm, it was in a park belonging a huge mansion, something Hall it was called.”

Miss Peters took the bait again, and although he did not like leading this intelligent woman along another addidge from that first library visit came back once again. Any port in a storm was the wording. Well there was certainly a storm for sure, and Miss Peters’ served as a welcome port for his predicament unfortunately.

“I’m almost sure it began with a b,” he continued, “the name of the house”

This was the way the next minutes passed, a guessing memory game, too and fro between the two of them, played out above the din from the roof, Miss Peters suggesting names, Mac unsure of any.

A desperate thought of making it back home as soon as he was allowed his freedom also flooded in. Images of Sal and his family, his home and the beautiful event coming up in only a month now. Only a month! He had missed Sal’s last trimester, what would she be thinking, would she be still in the dark over where he was? She had better not! Where was Aunt Bessie? She said she would come and fetch him.

This unusual anger playing about inside allowed him to take back the ground fought over with fright and, accompanied by the concentration on what precisely to disclose began to send the episodic spasm of creeping skin and dull awareness back from where it was born..

When after a good half hour of leaving, Murphy returned, a duty doctor in tow. Doctor Rai began with his own introduction and then some general note taking, performed with some effort, drowned out as it was by the noise. He was very considerate, thoughtful and patient, and because of his well spoken diction Mac was able to acknowledge and answer each question in spite of the weather.

A small man carrying some weight, though oddly not looking fat, he had a shiny bald head which reflected the spot lighting from the ceiling on occasions. He asked all the questions that a phycision should to establish the facts, and Mac answered as before. If not tapping on his handheld the replies given, the doctor played with his horn rimmed spectacles off from his face, only to observe and then replace them before his next question. Perhaps they were new to him Mac thought, he enjoyed them so much.

A dozen enquiries noted and the doctor stood up and walked around the table to where Mac sat. “May I examine your head Mr Hammerton?”

A nod of approval saw Doctor Rai take out a flattened paper bag from the inside breast pocket of his brown jacket and proceed to tear it apart revealing a pair of thin rubber gloves. These he put on before investigating further. Obviously there was nothing to find. Mac was starting to worry though over whether he should have taken this route, and what with the worry his heart seemed to be beating fast still. although the anxiety had gone, the ringing in his head remained as a reminder of his fragility. He wondered on whether it was always there but only obvious when he noticed it in times of stress. Would the doctor take his pulse? He tried to calm himself, breathing as deeply as was not obvious.

Doctor Rai confirmed his findings. “No sign of any trauma there. So to recap then, you say the first thing you remember of late is being under the railway bridge?” Doctor Rai snapped the gloves from off his hands and retook his seat.

“Yes.”

“Do you remember having a headache?”

“No, just a bit fuzzy that’s all.”

“And walking through this town, in a daze you say, bewildered because you didn’t recognise anything or any person….”

Mac interrupted. “Yes, it wasn’t my home town at all, or rather I didn’t recognise it as anywhere I knew.”

Sat on the desk Murphy made another quick scribble on his pad. “Nothing is familiar Mr Hammerton?” he confirmed with a squint of his left eye.

“No, not at all.” Mac turned back to the doctor. “I didn’t want to panic too much, I suppose….. I was in the here and now, not sure where that was though, not sure what to think…. lost but alive and something just kept telling me to keep calm, keep searching, I can’t explain the feeling I simply don’t know why but I just …..” he pretended not to find the words.

The doctor rescued him speaking sympathetically. “And so you slept out a couple of nights?”

“Yes, in that hut,” Mac sighed in relief of supposedly unburdening the weight from off his shoulders, “and then found this lovely farming family, the Helliwell’s who took me in.”

“By then you had made up a new identity, but for what purpose?” His spectacles were off again and under scrutiny. Perhaps they were smeared and not giving a clear vision.

“Again I don’t know, I can’t explain, I just wanted to be normal I suppose, didn’t want to admit anything was wrong, didn’t want a fuss, felt it would all turn out all right. It just seemed to be the correct way to go.”

Murphy scribbled again. “And you chose Whitby because you’d read the name in a paper in the library?”

“Yes. Sounds pathetic doesn’t it.”

“Obviously we need to manage this situation without any more stress to yourself Mr Hammerton.” Doctor Rai had his diagnosis and his spectacles back in their place. “It is my opinion that we need to get you admitted for further tests and take it from there. Is that alright with you?”

Mac looked shocked. “Can’t I just wait for things to get back to normal myself. I’ve settled in at Walt Helliwells now.” he suggested, hoping the idea might suffice. He needed to play the next move just right or else the consequences may take over too rapidly for him to be able to parry, feeling himself in check already he did not want it to be mate, better to get a draw than loose everything. “Perhaps I could have the tests then come back?”

“We certainly need to establish what has happened to you Mr Hammerton, and yes you shouldn’t be under any stress, so I will suggest that your case be managed from here, but lets get the process underway first, blood tests and a scan I think.”

Murphy was still thinking, it was betrayed on his face, that disbelieving grimace so annoying and immovable. Sat on the corner of the desk, his feet dangling a foot above the floor, he scribbled another note, then bit at the plastic end of the pen. The next question welled up and came out in an incredulous manner. “So what do ya think’s up with him Doctor?”

Doctor Rai thought a moment then answered. “Oh Mr Hammerton is telling the truth Inspector. Severe retrograde amnesia I would say, though these further tests are needed.” Mac feigned a worried look. On the roof another band of heavier rain introduced itself. Doctor Rai raised his voice to explain. “You have completely lost your memory, this is obvious, a pretty severe case of it too I would say, but that’s nothing to be afraid of, it will return. We will help you. I would guess you had a fall and banged your head.”

Mac played along. “I can’t remember.”

“You will have been concussed, unconscious even for a time, not necessarily on the railway itself though. You were very lucky being on that track not to get hurt,” Doctor Rai paused momentarily, “or worse even than that Mr Hammerton.”

Mac looked grateful. “So what next then?”

“I’ll take you to hospital and we will organise some blood tests, an e.e.g. to test your brain function and an m.r.i. scan to take a look at it, see if we can find a reason for all of this.

Murphy shuffled on the tables edge and added his help at long last, writing down a memo as he spoke, “I will release a statement asking for anyone to come forward with information of who you are Mr Hammerton. One thing’s for sure you don’t have any criminal record to draw on.” Was he coming around Mac wondered, difficult to tell really with the way the Inspector twitched his nose and screwed up his face whether or not his apparent conversion was sincere.

“And we should know by later today if you have any medical history of this happening before,” the doctor added.

Miss Peters had listened throughout the interview, there to help if necessary but not finding she needed to, standing on the periphery of the room and the proceedings, looking out the open window every now and then to capture the natural event unfolding outside. Having abated a time or two the deluge was now back once again, and at its worst. In one corner of the confinement chamber a patch of wet had appeared on two of the off white polystyrene ceiling tiles. Older stains on these told their own story. The flat roof had given up the struggle. Mac wished he could trade places with the legal representative and be free of the questioning, or even be out there in the rain. A heavy storm would be much better a place to be bothered with than what was happening inside.

She finally broke her silence. “Tell the doctor of your memory Mac.”

“What’s that then? ” Murphy butted in.

“Did you have a recall Mr Hammerton? Please tell me,” the doctor insisted the snippet of information be told him.

Mac explained again, as before, but still could not bring up the name of the hall. He sighed, somewhat at a loss.

Doctor Rai was more confident. “Well it’s a start, and as I said you will get your memory back, of that I am sure, so if we can proceed Inspector?”

“I’ll be off then Mr Hammerton,” Miss Peters instructed, walking across the room to him, and offering a hand to shake gave a card with the other. “If you need any help in the coming days or weeks just give me a call.” A sweet smile betrayed more than her sentence. Miss Peters did believe him and appeared to know something else, something that bothered her and by her expression ought to bother him if he was in his right mind, which his fake predicament would preclude. But not being so her concern did register. What was it she worried over? Her hand shake added more, a little longer than was necessary it amplified her words, suggesting he beware, keep in touch and be careful.

There was rain and then there was whatever this storm was. On route to the hospital, courtesy of the good doctor, one surprise after the other brought home its severity. As if the torrential downpour was not enough the roads were awash with water, fountains sprouting and spurting up from manhole covers, some of the heavy metal castings actually absent, removed by the pressure from the drains. Doctor Rai had to drive with caution to navigate both the debris brought out from the fields and the gaping holes left by the covers. At one point he was forced to turn around his black shooting break from the valley bottom route because the road was flooded by a good four foot of waters depth and take to a higher hillside direction into the city.

It was here, up above the valley, that the greatest indication of the ferocity of the storm became apparent. Even though high up the hill side, water was gathering so much that at one point it was streaming over a stone wall like a waterfall, flowing from off the higher banked field on the far side. Rushing across the land it dropped over the three foot high stone boundary for a width of some ten feet, only then to make its way down the road in a torrent of destruction, observing nothing in its path. There were areas of road surface ripped apart and tossed to one side, thin, six foot strips of tarmac torn up and carried in the current of what was at times best described as a river occupying the highway, and still it rained. Down the gradient it swept, no respect for property or person. Open doorways of houses in the waters path just let the flow pass through to continue on its gravitational journey to the basin below. Some residents had been prepared and placed sandbags at the perimeter of their properties but water being what it was had in most cases found another passage through.

“The land is soddened wet through.” Doctor Rai dealt in accurate statements, being a medical man there was no grey areas for him, just black and white. “This will mean trouble further down river believe you me.”

“Think what it’ll do just further down the hill,” Mac added.

“I dread to imagine, and it’s not the first time.”

“No, Miss Peters’ was telling me.”

“We seem to be getting it more and more, the gulf streams too far south you see, drags cold air down from the north, keeps us British very wet and bedraggled it does.” Then the doctor pulled himself up and paused for a moment. “I’m so sorry Mr Hammerton, I should be more worried about you than this, please accept my apologies.”

Mac laughed out loud. “I would rather be treated that way Doctor Rai, believe me. I don’t want any fuss, I’m sure I’ll mend myself, in fact I seem to have an inclin that the big house in that flashback was called Burdett Hall or something similar, so that must mean something is getting done in here.” Mac tapped a finger on the side of his head.

The doctor smiled, a knowing smile telling of education and knowledge. “Very clever, the human brain Mr Hammerton, very clever indeed. I have no doubt you will be back to your self within a month.”

That sentiment struck a chord, though not the obvious one. “I hope it’ll be half that time Doctor Rai!”

“Let’s hope so then young man.”

Another more than interesting discovery also plied for attention driving along this high route. Over a valley Mac had not seen before was a plateaux of countryside that offered a hope of sorts. On it stood two rows of wind turbines slowly turned by a prevailing wind from the north east. One to eight he slowly counted them, and then noticed construction of two or three new ones, these half as big again as the ones currently employed. Hope indeed then for the world he now new, the first indication of a resource captured back home for such a long time, and here it was apparently in its infancy. Nowadays with the advent of osmosis turbines there was nit that many back home but the power of the wind was still not overlooked. Maybe Margaret’s world was coming to its senses.

“Been a lot of controversy over those.” Doctor Rai said, seeing Mac looking their way. “People just don’t want them, spoil the view.”

Mac had his own opinion. Should he voice it? Why not. “No more than them ugly monstrosities.”

The Doctor looked confused.

“Those, carrying the wire across valley after valley.”

“The pylons,” the doctor added. “Yep, if the same hoo ha had gone up when they were put up, them mist of these protestors would not have any electricity.”

“I find the turning very soothing,”

“I’ve started to have lunch up here and get away from it all I must admit,”

“And it adds to the view, don’t ya think.”

“Yes I do, but don’t quote me,” the doctor laughed.

More and more rain led them on to the city and an appointment telephoned ahead by the good doctor on his handheld, routed through a system of communication in his vehicle. Mac kept quiet while it was organised hoping to pick up some snippet of information if what was to come. None was forthcoming. Sal and the farmyard came to his minds eye and brought about a rest if sorts. Hopefully he would be in her company within the day.

The hospital visit was nothing like expected. Although not the clinic of home it did boast some computerised
gadgetry, especially the magnetic resonance imaging scanner which although quite crude did produce a representation of the inside of his skull and all its contents. Nanotechnology it was not, but it did provide the confirmation that there was no pathology to be found.

There was no explanation for his circumstances the clinicians in white coats concluded, sat three at a time at various screens directing effort towards a prognosis. Even when he had been asked to try and bring to mind more memories of Burdett Hall the correct areas of his brain were recorded he was shown afterwards.

“Quite a normal picture ,” one was heard to remark to another.

“So whatever the problem is does not find its aetiology within an organic matrix,” the elderly consultant in yellow shirt and purple tie explained, to his patient as well as the medical staff. Where they being trained?

The multiple vials of blood taken would return their results, some within a few hours and others in days to come another explained as the last sample of blood was drawn. One specimen at a time, it took too long and again Mac thought it an archaic method of investigation but that was the matter of it and there was nothing else for it but to accept the treatment plan and play along with the scenario.

The absolute worst experience in all his born days though was when he was asked to lay on his side curled up in the foetal position to allow another cilinician to take some spinal fluid from out his lumbar region. The theatre greens seemed reasonable when offered, but the procedure was not. Words came to mind when the needle was being inserted, words that had been learned since arriving in this place of imprisonment many weeks ago, and although none were spoken the perspiration which stood on his face and shoulders betrayed the pain of the procedure. Apologies and bed side manner took none of the sting out of the aspiration and when it was over the feint that almost took him to the operating theatre floor when finally allowed to stand won a cup of coffee with a spoonful of sugar.

By mid afternoon the tests were complete. Now what to tell Margaret and Walt? He worried over this for long enough, sat in a long beige corridor, seat after seat lining the way, beige paint and same colour flooring. Why that colour had been chosen seemed beyond sense. The walls held a record of past fingermarks at various heights and size, while the floor was beyond redemption, scuffed, scoured and stained as it was with evidence of overuse.

Fortunately the mobile phone Margaret had given him had run the battery flat, a blessing in disguise. She probable knew something was afoot by now, he would have missed lunch. Not unusual in itself that, but with communication down and her fathers report of Officer Simpson coming to fetch him, well that was sure to have set alarm bells ringing. Go along with this ruse or tell her the absolute truth? That was the dilemma now. This current ploy would be the more convincing of the two, naturally. There was the decision then, a lost memory but happy in his lot. The lies though, she would not like, who would? The fact that all she knew about him was fictitious, but it was better than the truth at any rate, and that was the bottom line, better to lie than tell the honest truth. He had betrayed her though, telling any lie was a betrayal, of confidence if not of love, so how to appease that fact,well only time could tell.

“Mr Hammerton?” A feminine voice shouted down the corridor. “Professor Smith will see you now.” His case had ratcheted up a notch. Now the upper echelon wanted a look at him, professor indeed, and of psychiatry at that.

More beige walls, hardly calming or beneficial to a patient under stress Mac thought. “Professor Smith,” he began offering a hand to the phycision.

The professor stood from his leather swivel chair and leant over a heavy wooden desk, leather inset to match, and offered a hand in return. “Mr Hammerton, how nice to meet you, I am sorry you are having some trouble but we are going to try and sort that out for you,” he replied.

“Good, and thank you…..very much.”

What followed was what could only be described as an assessment of his mental state, and although he was sort of prepared for one to take place there were a couple of times when the questioning came close to bringing an angry response to the table. Information was supposed to be sparse anyway but suggestions of the event being triggered by violence, either given out or received, did not lie well with Mac. How dare this complete stranger look over his half moon shaped spectacles, fiddle with such a stupid looking shape of a beard, it only surrounded his mouth and nowhere else, and imply that he could be running away from some sort of traumatic episode, and the only sure way to rid himself of the memory was to shut it out altogether. Another line of suggestion supposed he might be involved in taking some illegal substance or other, whatever they might be, and be suffering effects of a psychotic nature.

Dry stone wet day

By dinner time the farming diary was back on track, the potatoes all sprayed, Mac had even had the time to run across the fields to retrieve the handheld from its deposit under the thick tree root and rock back at the cuttings edge.

Walt and Margaret, sat patiently to the kitchen table, he had seen them and knocked on the window on passing, had no more idea about the mid day fiasco than the beast out to pasture, one of which was waiting for her new friend by the boundary wall with the yard. Mac obliged her with a pat on the head, a word or two and some longer grass from her unreachable side of the divide.

“Sorry to keep ya,” he shouted from the one hallway clothes peg at the outside doorway, hanging up a newish wax jacket bought recently from his most visited store, “Debra was at the wall wanting to see me, I gave her some of her favourite.”

Margaret was the first to reply. “She’s really taken a shine to ya Mac. She was at that wall as soon as I’d let em all out the parlour.”

“That lad’s a way wi animals,” Walt was admitting as Mac took his place at the window end of the place settings.

He truly had been accepted as part of the household, and indeed the farm itself. Feet under the table, jeans hanging over the creel to air above the heat given out by the range, a nourishing meal considerately prepared by someone who loved him very much, he was aware of the impact his arrival had on the farmstead, and scared of the unfortunate consequences his disappearance would herald.

Margaret kissed him on the lips to welcome him home “You hungry love?” she asked.

“I am, what we having?”

“Corned beef ash.” She lifted the lid.

Steam rising from the terracotta casserole pot gave off such an aroma, reminding him, and all of a sudden, that he had not actually taken any lunch. In the turmoil that had been noon the opportunity had passed by, and afterwards he had quite simply forgotten to eat. Now a stomach devoid of satisfaction rolled a couple of times as Margaret shared up the meal. Mac picked up the last knife and fork from off the table and began to tuck in. They all did, quietly at first, all effort going to satisfying appetite and not discourse.

A broad affectionate smile rested with the cook for long enough as she watched her lover devour the fruit of her labour, not one dish passed his lips, but two. He was not the only one however, all three of them had very good appetites, the combination of healthy eating and plenty of exercise though no recipe for weight gain, for the two youngsters at least.

Margaret as usual looked her beautiful self, that raven black hair dispersed about a face untouched by the sun, her come to bed eyes glinting with promise and anticipation, and the manner in which she carried her tall thin frame, always straight back and shoulders, never a slouch, giving her a graceful gait, prim and proper some would say, elegant others. If only her father knew. Perhaps he did.

Mac if anything had lost a few pounds, nothing to do with the cuisine, more the turmoil and argument ever running on a loop in the far back reaches of his mind. Emotional, mental energy, continually on the boil needs feeding, and in being satisfied had taken a little from his waist and face. He was comfortable with the difference and thought, if anything, that it made him look better, younger, and anyway there was no one with any true reference point to compare so a pound or two here and there would not be missed and could be easily replenished when finally home.

Walt, if any of them was the one beneficiary in poundage. Gone was that malnourished sunken look below his cheek bones and around his forearms a slight tightening of his always pale skin that before had hung from elbow to wrist. A man now at one with his lot and thankful of a reduced working day he had began to recapture some age dissipated over the years since his wife’s death. Still a long road to travel he was taking the correct route now and enjoying himself again, a fact made obvious in both body and soul. It showed the most in his less troubled facial expression, crows feet at the corner of each eye less pronounced now, as were the furrows on his brow.

The evening conversation as usual took the course of Walt’s enquiries on the day. The lambs, the piglets, the milk yield and such. After the reporting it was tonight to be Margaret who steered the talk off subject.

“I wonder why we don’t have a May pole and festival dad, we really enjoyed it yesterday didn’t we Mac?”

Mac nodded in approval.

“They used ta, me an ya nan went most years,” the elder revealed to his only daughter, slightly misty eyed at the memory his answer evoked. A few grey hairs stood up on the back of his arms.

Margaret enjoyed the emotion in him. “Did you dance then dad?” she asked.

“I’m not afraid t’ say I did. We all did.” Walt took another ladle of food and added his favourite condiment to it, brown sauce, and plenty of it.

The sauce bottles had been a permanent feature of the kitchen table ever since the three of them had started back eating next to the warm black range. Red and brown as well as mint, plus vinegar, mustard and horseradish, Walt could not manage a meal without some accompaniment or other added to his plate. He even put vinegar in his mash some days and to cap it all off was not adverse to scooping any left over gravy from his plate into rice pudding if that was on the menu. Mac had laughed inwardly on first seeing the strange bowl but by now had become used to this elders endearing antics.

“It would be good for the town I reckon, to get one going again,” Margaret went on.

“I really enjoyed it,” Mac added, “but if you remember, there weren’t many teenagers and our age there. Mainly families with children and the older end, but it’s youth which keeps tradition afloat and if their not interested….”

“Their ta busy playin yon tinternet games or hung oer from sat’day to be bothered bowt owt such as that.” Walt was now on his second favourite subject, and one which took the three of them into the lounge accompanied by a bottle of red wine to share in more comfortable surroundings. Couch potatoes were mentioned along the next sixty minutes, as well as fat waistlines, lazy good for nothing’s, hoodies, riots and benefit cheats. Mac kept up very well, it was not the first time the topics had been broached.

The taste of the red grape loosened tongues even further but as evening turned to night the fireplace attracted more attention than any spoken word. The only source of illumination once daylight fled, the rainbow of flames dancing about the black fire back cast subtle shades of warmth all about the room.

Mac and Margaret, cuddled together on the sheepskin rug by the hearth, and Walt in his chair with both feet up resting on his red leather pouffe, all had their eyes fixed to the glow. Like rabbits caught in headlights the spectacle weaved a spell of ancient times, hypnotising on occasions, exciting at others, as every so often two or three spurs coalesced to form one long tongue licking at the soot on the bricks of the chimney, filling the lounge with a hazy, lazy glow, there for a second, gone the next, not bright enough to see the contents within clearly, but enough to bestow them with a misty hue of presence.

“Love you Mac Hammerton,” Margaret whispered in his ear.

“And me you,” he replied squeezing at her waist and fitting his body to hers. The closeness brought a flash of an image of Sal within the flames.

What in all that was good was he doing, laid down on this pelt with someone not his wife? The dilemma did not flow, mixed up somewhat with the wine it did not own the usual viscosity of late doubts and just melted back into the surface from where it sprang.

Walt fell to sleep leaving the two lovers to their courtship, seripticously played out, a silent kiss here, a subtle touch there, Margaret’s teasing ways matched by Mac”s flirtatious movements. He had grown quite amorous in the past few weeks, the fresh air and liberty the farm had offered a foil for the entwining of his emotions with those of Margaret.

They played on one another’s appetite, quietly teasing the other until an ember spit onto the red brick hearth threatened to rekindle in the draw of the fire. Margaret, now facing away from the heat jumped slightly at the noise, but Mac leaning over her to grasp the brass tongues on the companion introduced a distraction of another kind by his closeness. It was time to take themselves to bed.

No sooner had Margaret left for the dawn milk than Mac was out and down at the bridge. Realising a need to visit at odd times now for fear of being caught again, even this hour had proved useless. If he was not careful the bridge would be the undoing of him but what alternative was there, a way must present where necessity commands.

The bottom field kept him occupied after breakfast, dry stone walling an excellent therapy for a troubled mind. It takes a certain kind of eye to build a dry stone wall and Mac had it. He had had it since the first few times his Gramps had taken him along to build or repair there own or even neighbours boundaries in the warm summer months of school vacations,

“You have the knack few have,” Gramps told him, of looking at a stone and knowing straight away whether it is the correct one. It is no good asking what kind of stone is available, the stone wanted is the one that is going to fit and it is always there, rarely in need of adjustment, ready to take its rightful place.

Gramps? how he missed him. The patriarch of their family he was so supportive and learned that the whole clan looked to him for advice and instruction, but above all to Mac he was his Gramps and that title could not wander outside.

“We’ll mend this stretch for Mr Perkins eh Mac Arthur?” The memory had joined him in the field. “He asked me last week, He has half a beast to put our way. I’ll watch while you build, I know you can do it.”

Mac was twelve at the time and revelled in the trust and confidence placed upon him. It took him but half that day to restore his first rebuild and when he had finished and stood back to observe, well words could not describe to a twelve year old the satisfaction and pride at his achievement.

Every dry stone wall is actually two separate but interlocking walls, tied at regular intervals by longer through or tie stones, and a middle filled with a mass of smaller rocks and pebbles. While caught up in the pleasure of building Mac had imagined an analogy of his developing work to the two universes he could now occupy, each and both dependent on the other, bonded together with craft and care, interlinked and present for all time unless broken by some external force of nature. In the case of this wall it was the cattle in the field, goodness knows what it was that was playing with the membranes of the universes.

The tool he used was Walt’s, a well smoothed, well worn wooden handle and steel hammer head it was now too much of an instrument and an occupation for the elder to undertake. Mac had, unbeknowingly to begin with, become its owner, the job of wall repairer now bestowed on the much younger, stronger man.

If it was not for the sudden downpour he may even have placed the last metre of coping stones, but as had been the norm of late the sky turned leaden without warning and forced him indoors for dry clothes and a break. Pondering on the bridge, while laid on the bed and listening to the pitter patter on the slates, he knew somehow that there would be a way back, and before this fourteen days were up. That was his comfort, one which he was enjoying until a knock came on his door.

It could not be Margaret, she had no need whatsoever to announce her arrival of late. It would not be Walt. He did not like to negotiate the stone steps after rain, betraying as they were when wet. So who was it.

Opening the door, not only let in a breeze carrying more rain on its back, but also bitter disappointment. Greybeard, his captor from yesterday, stood, helmet in hand, at the top of the steps, police business in mind and further hassle no doubt.

“Mr Hammerton,” he began, “there’s a few irregularities with your statement that need clarification. I’d be grateful if you’d accompany me back to the station.” Again the sentence left no room for manoeuvre, no availability of decline, put as it was, every word, thoughtfully chosen stood its ground, no exchange of significance possible.

“What ya up ta wi my new farmhand young Simpson?” Walt’s voice was not amused, he was calling from the yard as he made way across the divide.

“Police business Mr Helliwell,” young Simpson replied, not so young actually, but compared to Walt the title was well placed.

“Well y’all not be needing him then, he’s not bin ere but a week or two, get ye sen some proper policing dun an catch some thieves an the like.” Walt was working up a sweat and frenzy in defence of his daughters new found partner.

“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen Mr Helliwell, Mr Hammerton’s needed at the station,” police officer Simpson explained in a most respectful tone of voice.

“He’s bahn nowhere till ya tell me wat he’s dun”

Mac interrupted, before Walt burst a blood vessel, besides it would strengthen his own case too. “It’s ok Walt. I’ve done a stupid thing, crossing the railway tracks at the cemetery bridge, it’s quicker than going over. It’s all got to be cleared up that’s all.”

Walt calmed a little. “Well see as ya not ta long wi him. There’s work a plenty needs attending, an Margaret ‘ll be nun too happy I can tell ya.”

“I’ll be as quick as is possible rest assured,” the officer informed this elder who he quite obviously knew and by his own attitude did look up to and care for what opinion he held.

“I’ll not be long Walt,” Mac added, following step after greybeard Simpson to a waiting police Land Rover evident in the lane adjoining the farm.

“So you’re telling me Mr Hammerton that you’ve made the address up because you don’t know who you are?” Murphy had met Simpson at the duty desk and taken over the proceedings. “You’ve lost your memory and not being too concerned about it are simply waiting around here for it to return.”

The interview room was the same, even down to the attendance of Miss Peters, now showing a thoughtful concern for her charge. Audio recorder operational, cardboard cups of coffee, times three this time, and the same stark clinical atmosphere of a room you would rather not be within.

“Has it happened before?” the dutiful legal representative enquired.

“Possibly,” Mac answered, trying to make light of the situation, “I honestly can’t remember.”

“Of course, I’m sorry.” Miss Peters had swallowed hook line and sinker, which was more than could be said for Murphy.

He was having none of it and it showed on his face. Screwing up his nose, a protruberence exaggerated even more by the lack of any substantial jaw and chin underneath, he appeared even more shrew like, wincing his whole visage in disbelief. As he walked purposefully about the table, his fine pin stripe suit flapped about him. The material gave the appearance of being borrowed from someone a couple of sizes larger than its wearer. A child in grown up cloth was all this man portrayed to Mac. Quite frankly he could neither stomach him or for that matter take him seriously, an emotion which he was not used to employing.

“You have no i.d., driving licence, bank cards, don’t know a national insurance number and the address you gave in Whitby does not exist.”
Murphy’s squeaky voice went into overtime. “For all we know you could be a terrorist Mr Hammerton, travelling through, here to do some damage?”

Miss Peters came to Macs defence. “That’s outrageous and you know it.”

“No identification, a made up story of amnesia….”

“But it’s not made up,” Mac jumped in, both feet first. “The first thing I remember about this town is that bridge you caught me at. Why do you think I’ve been seen there so often, I’ve been looking for clues, retracing my steps.”

Murphy had a satisfied, supercilious grin stuck to his face now. He sang out with his high pitched tone. “Aghh! so you lied as well then about that Mr Hammerton, and in a statement, you have been on the railway more than the once.”

Miss Peters closed up her tablet device, stood up and straightened her back out, the stripes of her own blue suit befitting a better tailor.

“Clearly my client does not need this Inspector Murphy,” she said after a cough to clear her throat and the atmosphere, a stifling warmth within the interview suite, “and in view of this recent information I believe medical rather than legal representation would be the most appropriate avenue to proceed down don’t you?”

“Interview concluded at eleven thirty two.” Murphy hit the stop button of the recording equipment and turned to open the door, walked out the first and left them to sit. “I’ll go send for the duty doctor,” he called back into the room, “but until we get this cleared up Mr Hammerton’s not going anywhere.”

Dripping Dropping

The next week passed by quickly with hard work and play at the helm. Under an ever changing sky and bedcovers the two youngsters satisfied the needs of the farm and each other, passion not interfering with commitment and most certainly work not interfering with desire. The fields took a soaking of nutrients, both organised and natural, the weather, in Walt’s words, frickin typical of an ever changing Pennine late spring.

“If ya want to see yon weather change round here lad, just take two breaths,” the elders voice bellowed up the grassy lane from where he watched out over his domain, leaning out of a bedroom window, a wry expression on the thin pale skin which covered his face this day.

The new farmhand was trudging through puddles and mud in an effort to get to the dryness of the fragrant hay barn floor and out of the sudden downpour. He had been finishing off castrating the last of the newborn in the bottom field by the stream when the first drops began to fall, pitter patter at first on the slow flowing crystal clear water of the brook. Then it began to fall heavier than was tolerable and having only a light canvas weatherproof, not at all suitable for the deceptive change in the weather, he had very quickly become soaked to the skin.

The hay barn was half way from the back field’s wooden gate to his own room up the steps but the rain was so nasty atop the hill, the driving wind at its worst up here, that the intervening yards seemed even a few paces too far for the moment. Mac and Margaret had used it’s rustic interior of nature for quite a different purpose one night in the week, but stood there now, wretched and cold, rainwater dripping from his chin as well as the blocked gutters of the building, that escapade seemed an eternity away.

“Red sky in the morn,” Mac spitted, chastising himself for not heeding the omen. Even so the storm did come from nowhere. One quarter the hour and the sky was blue with whisps of cloud, the next oppressive with as many shades of grey as could be imagined, and with these greys came the inevitable.

Over the past days Mac had searched his soul after all that had happened, Margaret and everything, and was still reconciled with the wormhole idea of his abduction. As ludicrous as it sounded he had unfortunately come across one and ended up here, at this moment taking shelter in this stone built barn with its creaking oak beams and blue slate roof. Whether all the dream related issues were true was far from conclusive, the imaginings may have some other explanation he was not quite aware of, after all switching universes was enough to comprehend at the present. Anyhow that is where he lye, a bed now partly of his own making, a bitter sweet bed of emotions and fantasies, Margaret, a saviour of his sanity in this world, Sal, his lost first love back in his own.

“A passage back might never be possible fella, all that dreaming of Aunt Bessie might never see ya walk down our garden path ever again.”

His emotion fell to the stone floor, made no bounce and stayed there, the correct place to banish all and any negativity, dropped and brushed away to the far corner of reality. Another thought came rushing back, a positive one this time, of why he had taken the decision to create a new life, identity and relationship here. Aunt Bessie in his dreaming might just be that, a dream.

Sat on a loose hay bail he licked at the moisture on his top lip, salty with tears mingled in with the rain and stared out the open barn door at the heavy drops falling into the puddles out in the yard, the ripples playing with each other as they danced across the surface, some enhancing where they met others cancelling one another out.

“Is it raining back home Sal?” he mumbled into wet hands, now holding a weary head by chin and a damp neck.

Fine, warm sunny weather was always a bonus in Mac’s life, it provided inspiration and encouraged activity, but come the dull and dismal day and that would occasionally find him wanting, searching, out of sorts if there was nothing to occupy his mind. It was not a melancholy but it had to be challenged nevertheless, confronted whenever it manifested. No good to man or beast subdued and introverted
he stood and wiped his face, shook the rain from out of his hair and made a dash across the slippery moss covered cobbles of the garth for the comfort of some dry clothes.

Tomorrow was Sunday. The Sunday. The one that mattered, the Sunday Aunt Bessie talked about. Today may be the last in Margaret’s company for a while. Perhaps that was the reason for his change in mood. Not visiting the bridge in well over a week had sort of put destiny far away from thought if that was at all possible, out of sight out of mind almost, and if it ought be attached a label of any description then perhaps idiocy would best describe the idea of going to the stonework tomorrow to walk under an arch in the anticipation of flitting universes. Even so he would still go down there and try.

Perhaps the life he had back with Sal was only an imagining, make believe, a twisted, cruel memory of his own minds eye, a torment for purpose of reminding him of a life less well spent, forgotten even. No, the wormhole was the thing, surely, the truth, the route out.

“Soon find out tomorrow lad,” he whispered under an exhale of breath. The rain caught him again, colder this time if that was at all possible.

If tomorrow was to happen, should he go without saying anything to Margaret? It was not his way of doing things, to not be honest. What should he do? Tell her! Oh yes that would certainly be an interesting conversation. “Margaret, I’m off back home for a while, sorry but you can’t come love, it’s in another universe and you won’t be able to get through the portal.” It was nothing to laugh about but he found himself doing so anyway. “Yes I’m a traveller of time and place Margaret, it’s my first ever travel, to here, I came by mistake but I’m told by my Aunt who I’m dreaming about that when I get back home I am to be given a bracelet to let me move between worlds, so I will be back.” Another laugh! Tomorrow was another day he decided, so enjoy this one and see what happens. More than likely nothing would.

Peeling off the t shirt, stuck to his body with the wet, that dream of the flood came back. Sal, the walk around Burdett Hall gardens. For a moment he recalled that thought as the last time he was as soaked as much as this, but then remembered it was a dream. A more careful thought brought back a memory from childhood, the time when the gang went canoeing and he capsized.

They had fashioned some canoes, well at that age that is what they called them. In reality they were no more than wooden rafts, but the summer holiday campaign of constructing the armada and the subsequent trip down the river to the old viaduct which used to carry the railway was at the time a massive undertaking. Anyhow Mac’s raft came apart because the rope had not been tied properly resulting in a ducking in the shallow river and a valuable lesson in preparation learnt. Dry at last and sat on the edge of the bed the memory of that long hot summer flooded his mind and warmed his soul.

The bedroom door creaked slightly, opened slowly and Margaret came into his room, a mischievous smile on her face. Though her raven black hair stuck to her face she looked every bit as beautiful as always.

“It’s not going to stop this afternoon by the looks,” she said, taking off wet boots to avoid spreading the field about his floorboards.

Now ought to be the ideal opportunity to talk about what the future might hold, and though attempting to start, the words choked at his throat. “I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring Margaret.”

“The same as today love,” she answered, “I’ve just looked at the forecast.” She had no idea what he was actually talking about and continued with a suggestion. “What about a drive to see the maypole dancers I showed ya if it does fine up?”

He owed her an answer. “Ok, yes that’ll be nice, I need to nip down and get some razors first thing though, it’s a ten o’clock open tomorrow ain’t it?”

Margaret nodded, asking, “I tried texting ya, to tell ya some family were coming over, is you’re phone dead?”

It was, again, he just could not get used to the plugging things in idea of finding electricity, back home it was all delivered wirelessly or charged by the sun.

“Sorry, yes it is,” he admitted wondering what the afternoon might bring. “Do you want me to do my own thing while your folks are over!”

Margaret, took off a wet chequered shirt, which quite frankly looked fabulous stuck to her body in all the right places, and as miserable the day looked outside it appeared to be on the up in the little bedroom.

She looked offended by his last comment. “Of course not Mac, you’re coming too. You’re part of my family now I hope, they’ll want to see ya.”

His attempt at an explanation felt lost now, and as the afternoon ebbed to evening, what with Margaret’s persuasive ways and the rain beating the window pane five o’clock came greeting without another opportunity to steer the conversation.

Feminine frivolity gave way to a surprise afternoon tea to celebrate some public holiday or other, Spring Bank he thought Margaret mentioned, but could not be sure, anyway it introduced Walt’s brother and sister, Alec and Maureen. They were both younger than him but no less opinionated about the state of the country and farming in particular. Mac had to place his subject on the back burner and not broach it again.

Silver in their hair and gold in their hearts Margaret’s Uncle and Aunt loved her to pieces and had obviously doted on her since always. Neither of them had any children of their own so they always showered Margaret with praises and affection by all accounts. Today both relations were more than thankful of her decision to stay at home with their brother as well as revelling in the new love she had found.

Both of them farmed the land, on separate smallholdings, one in the next valley, one in another town some five miles away. The youngest, and by some twenty years, Alec, was sorry to report that he may be off his land in a few years hence. He rented the farm from the local council, a satisfactory arrangement for many a decade, both for him and their uncle before, but now the authority was after selling off the asset for a lump sum rather than collect tenancy so as to fund the cutbacks and deficit the local government had encountered of late. The value of the property was far above his wealth so he could not afford to buy it. All this was his reveal as he sat gazing into the open hearth, a radiant blaze ripping through wood and coal alike and reddening Alec’s face on the left side as the flames danced and played about the black fire back.

The brother could not be any more different from Walt, a full head of mouse brown hair, portly midriff and amiable demeanour, although the latter had been in evidence of late in Walt himself, and Mac could see now what sort of a happy person Walt could become if Alec was anything to go by. Even faced with his inevitable eviction this man was still able to look to the future and not let it bother him.

Maureen too was a breath of fresh air. A rugged looking woman in who hard work had taken its price over some forty odd years of toil. For a woman she was quite muscular in frame but a sweet homely face nevertheless, crowned by a curly mop of auburn hair. Mo as she was nicknamed enjoyed some standing in the local community, having a seat on the council under the banner of independent issues, being a governor of the primary school and also a part time volunteer in the charity shop in town, where both she and Mac now realised they had already met, but up to this afternoon had no idea either was associated with Margaret. Her impression given off was that of a woman not to be messed with, her opinions were definitely her own but there were occasions when she thought they ought to be others too.

Mo’s own farm was not under any such threat as that of her brothers but she did wonder how long her husband could ‘cling on’ as she described it with the problem of supermarkets continually driving down the price paid them for milk. Milk was their main produce, and they struggled to get a decent pay now from the processors themselves.

“We used to have a big milk round Mac,” she explained, looking out the window of the lounge at a leaden sky and fog creeping up from the vale, “but now that’s been whittled away and we can’t produce it any cheaper than what we get for it. They’re knocking off two more pence in June and that gives us just twenty seven pence a litre. It costs us that to produce it.”

“Why the reduction?” Mac asked.

“There’s a surplus apparently.”

“Surplus!” Mac was off, then thought better of any further comment.

Mo turned around from the window. “The buyers claim to be building long-term relationships with us and customers alike, and they demand high standards to match their commitments, yet when an opportunity to cut farmers’ milk prices presents itself, it seems this all means nothing. I reckon around one in twenty, maybe more of us will finish in the next few years.”

Mac felt more than sympathy for Mo, her plight symbolised what he thought was wrong with their world, greed itself. There was an anger in his voice when he spoke. “Why a surplus? Milk is one of the staples. Everyone needs milk.”

“Well we’ll lose ’bout twenty thousand pound a year if they cut the price, and I think they will.”

Walt had been sat quietly, the patriach of the family, listening to and presiding over the clan meeting, nodding his head here and murmering some agreeable mutter there, unusual for him, to keep opinions to himself. Finally he snapped, slapping both hands on the leather chair arms, “I’m glad my working days are nearly done, then t’state can look after me in my dotage.”

Mo let out a belly laugh. “Eh! you’ll be lucky, they’ll take the farm to pay for any care ya ought know that.”

“Not this one.” Walt had a grin from ear to ear, a satisfactory grin, like the cream fed black feline asleep on the hearth.

Alec pricked up his ears. “Why what ya done Walt? How can ya be so sure?”

Walt told them all. “It’s all in Margaret’s name, bin like it sin’ ‘er mum passed.”

A reverent silence descended for a moment over the lounge, Walt broke it with further information. “I put it all over to Margaret, an’ she agreed. Just in case owt appens to me. So the bastards can’t get a penny.”

Mo was elated. “Good for you Walt, but I hope it’s airtight, for if yon lot in Westminster can get there thieving hands on it, they will lad.”

“Yon solicitor reckons on it being safe.”

Mo quipped in response.”That wa when he were taking ya money tho.”

“Well if he don’t know no beggar else does.”

“If they want to get some tax of ya lad they’ll change the laws again mark my words, there’s more than you ploughing that furrow,” Alec added. “They tax ya to die off these days haven’t ya heard?”

The family get together provided more learned information, a lot more than he would have liked. The elders’ opinion on central government
as well as local left a lot to be desired and suddenly kicked Mac’s own life into perspective. Having looked through rose tinted spectacles of late, opinions on the economy, politics and wealth within these new separate nations troubled him and if anything rekindled his lust for home. Perhaps tomorrow was going to provide a bonus after all.

Twinning of times.

Sal was sitting up in the bed, two fluffed up navy blue pillows behind her back for comfort. The video wall showed the subtle purple clock screensaver superimposed over a an album of last years holiday snaps on repeat loop. The time showed six fifteen. The illumination hardly affected the bedroom ambience at all in comparison with morning’s offering of daybreak coming through the open blinds which were set to pull off at first light.

“Sorry hun, did I wake you, I’ve had the strangest of dreams,” Sal began, “I dreamt we were in Rose Brier Wood, at the Ash, Aunt Bessie was there too. I had a sister called Margaret, a sister and my twin as well, imagine that.”

Mac listened intently as his wife retold the strange story of her dream, his own dream. He did not let on. As she spoke she ran her right hand through a few curls of ginger hair starting to form in the length of it, a habit she often employed when something was bothering. She sat to Mac’s left, on her side of the bed as she called it, always the left side of the bed, they did not fit together the same in a cuddle if they occupied the other sides she often joked, and so it had always been since the first time they slept together, him on the right hand side and her on the left.

“So what does it mean Mac, does it make any sense to you?” she asked on finishing the vivid description. The dream had clearly bothered her, that was obvious from her concerned enquiry.

“Makes no sense at all to me love,” he replied in a somewhat sleepy in tone. The less he cared the better he thought, not wanted to add any credence to the story.

Sal went on. “You’ve no plans to go away with the office, like the short notice of last time have you?”

“None that I know of,” he insisted. “Why a sister, are you missing Penny do you think?”

Penny was Sal’s best friend from school days. She had taken a year long contract to go teach on a small equatorial island as part of a cultural exchange programme employed by the authorities and had totally missed Sal’s pregnancy. The two girls were very close and although keeping in touch by virtual vid on a regular basis Sal often complained it was not the same as seeing her friend in person,

Moving slowly but surely down the bed to rejoin her husband and lay her head on his chest the two of them snuggled together, bump and all. The dream was still a trouble
by the feel of her. She stirred one way then the other, fidgeting, gently kicking at the checked blue duvet, not like Sal at all.

“Relax hun will you, I promise there is no work will take me away from you at the moment, besides they wouldn’t ask now would they.”

She had not thought on that. Of course they would not ask, not at this stage of the pregnancy. “Good, cause I need you here with me.” she confided. There was finally a satisfaction in her voice, a telling of security and happiness, a knowledge she was cared for and loved.

“And I’ll be here hun, don’t you worry. I’m not going anywhere.”

The words were honestly spoken but in his mind was a nagging doubt, something was missing, something he should know, be aware of, but could not quite put a finger on. There was an inexplicable void and it kept him wondering for long enough while Sal fell back to sleep. Eventually so did he. Listening to the new born chirruping outside in their nests within the branches wanting an early breakfast, found a desirable sleep take him back, wrapping her touch around his fatigued mind, drawing a welcome veil of slumber.

All of a sudden he was back in Rose Brier Wood, stepping through the Ash in the direction taken by Aunt Bessie, following Margaret’s lead, who, hold of his hand was pulling him after her. When they were both emerged from within its timber body Margaret led him further into the brier, then planted a huge kiss upon his lips, hugging him to her own slender curvature at the same time. She felt good, soft to the touch. Mac moved his hands over her slim waist.

“You can love me Mac, both Sal and Aunt Bessie agree, so don’t worry on it,” she whispered in his ear, teasing the lobe with slight nips of her teeth.

“I do love you Margaret, you know I do, but to betray Sal…”

“Why don’t you ask her then?” Margaret whispered again, this time in the other ear she had set to work on.

Sal was on her way past the thicket, more than likely on route to Aunt Bessie’s. On catching sight of the two of them, stood there embraced as they were, she waved a gesture of approval with both hands coming together in a silent clapping motion, on her face a smile of contentment and pleasure. With no other worry and without saying a word she continued her walk along the glade of forest colours, her own black garments standing out, making every movement obvious for some distance as Margaret continued her practised tease of Mac’s neck and torso.

He was helpless to argue, her movement so persuasive, before either of them knew it, well perhaps Margaret did, the inevitable happened, al fresco passion at its most intense, the tangled thicket providing both backdrop and camouflage for the assignation, subtle sounds of woodland life, a rustle of last years fallen dried leaves here, a rasp of twig on twig there, all no doubt instigated by a small feathered or furred creature as they went on the forage all played in the background as the lovers took their fill.

Margaret’s gasps of ecstasy added to this natural symphony, an instrument of humankind, trumpeting joy and rapture, not a loud few bars written on the stave of life, no, a quiet, emotional solo piece dedicated to love and absolute, pure pleasure, a finale that would match the closing movement of any composers masterpiece, gentle, played to perfection, kept in time and effortlessly let go like a dove on the wing free to soar and live.

Gliding on the still, reflected surface of the stream a stones throw away, on the far side of the woodland path was a swan, pure white, graceful in stature and inquisitive in manner. She looked directly to the new lovers clumsily but humorously emerging from their nuptial woodland bed.

“That could be Anu herself,” Mac suggested, mindfully casting a reverent nod toward the bird. Margaret did not hear the comment, or if she did took no notice. She was skipping along the path as happy as could be. The swan simply replied with a twist of her slender neck and a wag of white tail feathers, as if to confirm his suspicion. Patron of springs and fountains, love and fertility Mac wondered why she had appeared at this very moment. Perhaps it was just coincidence, perhaps it was just a swan.

Margaret shouted after him to catch up. She was through the Ash once more and on the route which led back to the Green. Mac jumped through the cleft and ran on to find her gone, nowhere to be seen, the only life ahead of him a red deer, obvious by the betrayal of a pair of antlers bobbing about a small copse of Elm up on the hill side.

Seeing Mac the proud stag turned to flee, with a muscular manoeuvre and a kick of its hind legs it was off further up the hill. The speed it moved took his own eyes off the path, so much so that following the animals progress resulted in a trip over a fallen branch of Elder. Dropping to the floor, placing both hands out to brace for the collapse he awoke with a jolt.

Inside his bedroom was Margaret, bending over the bed, an open neck, black blouse revealing a small tattoo on her left breast, a tattoo depicting a small red human looking creature, two horns sprouting from its head though and holding a pitchfork or the like.

She looked beautiful, truly beautiful, and after the dreams just encountered Mac wondered whether or not she was all part of a plan, to be there, at that particular moment, a plan he was not in any shadow of a doubt able to influence, at least so far.

“Just going to go fetch the herd to the parlour Mac, it’s gone six, you ok?”

“I’m fine Margaret, you?” He was far from fine actually, but not wanting to admit as much smiled sweetly, a smile returned multiplied many fold.

“Do you want a hand?” Was that the reason for her being there, at the side of his bed, him under the covers without a stitch on, or did she have some other motive.

“No ta, you sleep in another more hour, I just wanted to see you. Dad will have breakfast ready by seven I reckon this mornin. He wants the spuds spraying, remember?”

“Oh yes, I should get that done today. It still looks dry out there.”

There was a yearning, an ask, a want to invite her into bed. He ought to really. Here she was, in his room, more than likely feeling the same way he did, yet it still, despite the dream, and the message therein, did not feel like the correct thing to do. So he waited, a second or two, maybe more, waited to see what she would do. The inevitable awkward moment ensued, neither of them flinching a muscle to move, Mac looked into Margaret’s eyes, she into his. Then she lent over a little closer, touched lips and invited him to kiss her. Her mouth was so soft, full of promise and expectation, and his was not much different. The dream had given him a passion that needed satisfying, and this seemed to be the way of doing just that. The kiss was just what he desired, and judging by her breathing Margaret too, she lapped him up deftly playing with every area of his mouth while begining an exploriation under the duvet, kneeling on the bed to give him access to her clothing.

“Is Mac awake Margaret?” Walt’s voice echoed across from the farmhouse door.

Margaret pulled away for a moment, a beaming expression of delight on her face, that twinned with a look of being found out for doing something she should not.

“Yep,” she shouted back, “he’s awake dad, wants to come and help with the milking but I’ve just reminded him of the potatoes.”

“Ok love, thanks,” came across the yard, a mellowness about the tone. Their conversation of last evening must have been worthwhile.

The two of them stared into each others eyes again knowing now that before too long something was going to happen, unfortunately not this morning but very soon. For a good quarter minute they were lost, before somewhat regretfully Margaret broke the magic of the moment and the silence. Like a game of stare it out someone had eventually to give in and she was the one.

“Right, the cows’ll be waiting, they can’t open the gate, unfortunately. We’ll meet up later eh?”

“Sure, I’ll see you at breakfast, yes?”

“Yep, ok, look forward to that.”

“Me too, and maybe tonight we can go out again?” he suggested.

“Great idea Mac, ooh that’s got me excited,” she giggled, “very excited in fact.” A tease of a kiss left her lips. There was that naughty streak in her again, he recognised it, an alluring yet naive feminine wickedness about her.

“Mmmmm! Me too,” he admitted, “so let’s see what the day brings eh?”

“And the evening eh?”

“That too,” A knowing smile crossed his face this time as she opened the bedroom door and left letting a small amount of early morning sunshine into his day.

There was a lot to report to the diary. The handheld! It connected last night he remembered. In all the excitement he had firgotten. Quickly he retrieved it from the small bathroom and jumped back under the duvet. Disappointment burst his bubble. No signal this morning. What a shame,

“It has to be that box, it must be turned off again. If I ask Margaret to keep it switched on though she’ll know I’ve got you won’t she.”

No connection whatsoever, such a shame, still there was all his dreams to talk about, Rose Brier Wood, the encounter with his Aunt and what she had revealed, the intermingling scenarios between Margaret and Sal that, to be honest had him quite confused, so much so that when he awoke not ten minutes ago he had mistaken Margaret for his wife for a second or two, her tattoo the only thing quickly bringing him to some sense.

Dictating to the handheld Mac put down the entries, between each recollection he thought on the missed opportunity just now. Why had he not just pulled her under the sheets, any other red blooded male would have, why not him. The escaped chance annoyed him and kept any further sleep from visiting, all he could do was chastise himself under his breath and record some more entries.

After a quarter hour the archive was up to date so he
listened back to a few recordings done the past weeks, one caught more attention than the others.

“So there they all were,” the note concluded, “row upon row, running, walking, jogging, all in pristine sports wear, behind glass, a huge picture window preventing fresh air or sunshine contacting any of them. They looked so comical on this gym equipment Sal I can tell you, moving in unison one step then another, almost like a balet it was, their arms beating out a rhythm, and all with such a seriousness. Why they didn’t get out in the open air and go for a run through some park is beyond me, but there you have it.”

The fitness club had been just on the perimeter of the city they had visited for Margaret’s bank a few weeks ago and he had forgotten the amusement the keep fitters had caused them both while stuck in the traffic, stationed at the light system waiting permission to proceed. Thinking back he had to laugh once again.

“This is really an upside down world I have come to Sal,” he concluded, adding an edit to the article, “the people here have such a weird way of going about things. My handheld connects now by the way, if that box thing is on in the farmhouse. I’m going to learn as much as I can before I come home. There’s a huge argument about putting up wind powered turbines going on here. There are posters by the side of the road in opposition to them. Yet the main sources of power generation is causing pollution and harming their environment. They don’t want the turbines because of what the countryside will look like, a sentiment I can share Sal, but the landscape already has these huge metal frames carrying wires across the scenery. I think they just like to argue a lot and take pleasure in it to be honest.”

Smiles over breakfast were abundant, and not just from the two twenty somethings. Walt had a serenity about him the like of which Mac had never seen. An ease with his station seemed to be growing within the elder, nurturing a desire to spend the coming years in a more peaceful and tranquil place than of late. Margaret certainly noticed, and rejoiced in her father returned to her, clearly in her opinion a result of Mac arriving on the scene.

Her awkward question came up again though on finishing the last piece of fried bread from the centre of the table. “Have you not got your mobile fixed yet Mac?”

This time he knew why she asked, it was written all over her face. She wanted to text him, tease him through the day, continue the new direction their relationship was taking.

He had to let her down. “I haven’t yet Margaret, no, sorry.” He meant it this time, not like before, this time he wished the handheld did connect in this world.

Margaret’s face suddenly lit up like a light bulb switched on in the evening twilight. “Wait here a mo,” she announced with excitement, jumping up in a hurry and leaving the breakfast table to the two men.

Walt looked across the empty plates and sauce bottles, evidence of the breakfast just eaten, for some kind of explanation as to his daughter’s quick exit.

Mac had no idea. “Search me,” was all he could offer.

“She’s always bin impulsive,” her father proffered. “Her mind’s always ten steps ahead o’ me I can tell ya.”

“Me too,” Mac joked. “Do you know if she had any sisters, before you adopted her?” The enquiry came out without a thought. Would he regret it.

“She’d a twin, but it died three months after birth, I remember our lass telling me bout it, a girl I think, but she doesn’t think much on it Mac. Ssshh.”

Back she came, a small pink handheld in her procession, quite pink actually, she had even changed her t-shirt to match its colour. “Try this Mac.” She presented the device to him, already set up, switched on and ready to go.

Pressing a button on her own mobile the pair of them waited expectantly. A vibration within the device now in his hand told of an incoming alert, not a call but when pressing the obvious key brought up a message to the screen. It read ‘I love you Mac’.

Somewhat taken aback and pretending it said something quite mundane he hit the return key and typed a reply, ‘and me you’.

“Frickin phones,” Walt piped up, the first swear word in a long while but this time in correct context. “What ya youngsters see in em beats me. I saw three girls sat on yon wall in t’playfield other day, all on mobiles, texting away they were, not a word to one another in the time it took me to walk across the way. We used to talk to each other when we were out lakin, share stuff an that, what we’d bin up to day afore. Now it’s all on them frickin things. No ones got a word to say.”

Margaret cut his rant short, taking hold of his hand to show she understood. “Well I’ll keep it out of sight to please you Paps.” Her father was not the one she wanted to contact after all.

“And me too,” Mac added. Turning to Margaret he stated the obvious, but just wanted to say something to her, some words to engage her in conversation. “I’d better get to work now.” As soon as he had said it it felt like a stupid statement, unnecessary, awkward in the presence of Walt, the father of the woman he now had designs on. He rose up from the table and finishing off a pot of tea, winked at the woman in question then went off to the fields and a days work, left hand on the pink handset Margaret had furnished him with solely for the purpose of telephonic tryst and courtship.

The day could not pass quickly enough for either of them, every text messages Margaret sent more suggestive than the one before. Not one for subscribing to such an open firm of seduction it took Mac an hour or so to get into the spirit of the exchange but once he had taken the plunge there was no stopping him.

Mixed with this distraction of his working day was the prospect of last nights dream. Was there a way back as Aunt Bessie had described? Could that Sunday find him home? Goodness knows he had visited the trackside far too often of late and it was putting him in danger of being found out. Only the other day someone had called out from atop the bridge. If it were true, the portal back, then surely the other was also the truth as well. According to the dream he did have permission to start a relationship with Margaret, one truth inevitably led to the next. So if he did manage to get home, he would also have no regret about whatever was going to happen now, here in Margaret’s world simply because permission was there. On the other hand if it all was just make believe, the dream that is, because no amount of deliberation could explain being here a dream, he was stuck here, and that was undeniable, then falling in love with Margaret was definitely not to be shunned. And if Aunt Bessie was to be believed, again in his dream, then this place would be accessible again anyway, as well as other places besides. Whoever the hierarchy was in this new found role forced upon him there was going have to be a reckoning done, hard negotiations if he was to take up the mantle. He wanted all his loved ones to know exactly what had been thrust upon him, for there own peace of mind as well as his own. On top of all of this was also the added bonus of the handheld now able to connect to the ether. Things were at least looking up of sorts.

It seemed the most obvious of things to have happened when it had, the following morning, Margaret laid beside him in bed, naked the pair of them, clothes strewn all about the wood floorboards. The sun may have played a part, and the spring season too but there was no denying that it was a natural and under the estranged circumstances, the right way to take. Margaret had got ever do slightly drunk and had opened her heart, telling of how she felt, but at the same time admitting the let downs before in relationships she had. She also said something which did ease his conscience when putting a proposition of, in her own words, there need be no strings attached, an explanation of which he had to ask for. What brought her to that conclusion was just another idiosyncrasy of the time he found himself in he realised, but he agreed the terms being slightly the worse for alcohol himself and realising it could release him the shackles of her world if a push came to shove.

So here she was, they were, in each others company, arms in fact, all fear of the unknown banished, a future of some sorts ahead of them, whatever that was he was prepared for now, resigned to, if need be leading a strange coexistence in this, his own and whichever, if it were true, worlds that came his way. For the first time of late he felt at one.

Margaret stirred and opened her eyes, dark sultry come to bed eyes, I love you eyes. “Mornin lover, your a dark horse for sure,” she said, pulling his head gently towards hers for an early morning kiss. “I’ve not had that much fun and attention before I can tell you.”

By the expression on her face she was expecting a reply. “I loved every minute, didn’t you? Ar’nt we good together?”

“That’s for sure Mac, I’m totally knacked,”

“What about your dad, what’s he going to say if he finds out?”

“He knows already, it was him who told me to get ya, before you got away,” she laughed.

Mac looked shocked, with an amusement across his face at the same time. “Well that’s praise in itself, I was a bit worried of what he’d have to say.”

“Well don’t be, don’t say anything at breakfast, just act as if nothing happened, he’ll probably say something anyway and try to wind us up I’ll bet,”

Walt did just that, welcoming Mac into the family as if the nights activity had been some coming of age ceremony or passage of rights to allow him access to an inner sanctum. The truth was obvious, the elder was happy with the outcome.

“Don’t let ya work suffer though the pair of ya do ya ere?” he added, fork in one hand, knife in the other and a huge piece of bacon in his mouth.

Margaret blushed slightly. “I think we’re grown up enough to take it all in a days work dad,” she replied, reaching across the table for her new lovers support.

“We’ll not do that Walt,” Mac added somewhat reprimanded, like being told off by a teacher for running through the school corridor.

“And see as yet don’t let her down Mac, or I’ll have ya frickin cobblers on a stick on yon gate post.” This statement was not said jokingly. Walt meant it. “And the same goes for you lass, make a go of it this time eh?”

Now Margaret did colour up, for whatever reason did not get mentioned but her father’s words had struck some chord. She changed the subject very quickly. “Right then, there’s the last of the lambs to tail Mac and we need to move them from the silage field to get it fertilised.” To save her further embarrassment he made a move to start the days workload while Walt tidied the pots from off of the table.

“Thought that’d get ya moving,” he said, tickling his only daughter under her chin as she stood to start her day too. It was such an affectionate gesture, and one carried out so proudly that no other confirmation of the impact Mac had made to this household was needed whatsoever.

Willow and crows

The age old and huge weeping willow on the green in the centre of town had been there all of his life. At least eight times taller than any who stood by it, and providing a canopy of lush foliage, umbrella like, over an area the size of a racket court, the tree conjured up a metaphor for breath itself. Every limb of vibrant, cascading greenery punctured the air, extracting life from the surroundings, an exchange resulting in the beauty on show, a continuation, a statement of perpetuation, energy absorbed from star and planet alike, converted and put to use in branch and root.

Mac could not remember the leaves looking ever more beautiful as they did this morn, even in his childhood years when brought here by Gramps for a summer dawning, a walk before school, there was no more colour to the ancient tree even then.

Mrs Timmin passed by him, in something of a fluster. “The donkey got out again,” she explained, looking back and gesturing to her muddy farm boots and wax coat.

“Do you want some help?” he shouted after her, ready to increase pace to catch her up.

“Oh no thanks,” she replied, “I’ve got him back now. He was only down the lane at the waters edge. Thanks anyway Art.”

Mrs Timmin always called him Art, Arthur, his middle name, the name his Gramps had preferred and given him at naming day. Of late though he had chosen to use Mac, a shortened version of Mackenzie, his third name. Mrs Timmin smiled and bid him a good day as she left the green to go about her delayed itinerary. Mac guessed she would be on route to the herb and vegetable gardens.

This particular tree, like all willows, growing and thriving close to water, reflected the reverence entwined within its legend and mystique. Associated with Mater, and Her influence over the movement of tide and river, being intimately bound up with, and affected by Her domain, its presence stood testament to mystery and myth. The friendly tree’s ability to quickly regrow after coppicing, putting on several feet in one season, or the ease with which a new sapling could grow, merely by pushing a healthy cutting into the soil, even upside down, demonstrated its reverent symbolism of renewal, growth, vitality.

Within its shadow and also not, wooden bench seats and tables, dotted here and there provided the townsfolk with a meeting place, a more personal focal point than the barn or central forum. This place of the willow, as the green was also known, offered an enclave to share a game of counters or throwball, to take a picnic or open a coffee flask, and the tree was even more than all that. Having served the community in this capacity for hundreds of years, stoic in stance, emblematic of mother nature herself and comforting in times of pain and fever it brought Mab into the very heart of the town itself, and the folk therein, Her presence here as well as there delivering them of all their dreams and aspirations.

Mac thought on the people in the new town he now inhabited. Ah! The terrible fact came to mind at last, there was again the unwelcome truth. This was dreaming again. He realised it now, sadly, and reconciled himself to the fact, then thought some more of those inhabitants of that new town, his hopeful temporary place of residence, who, in his opinion would benefit a visit from Mab herself, to show them visions of their past, present, and most importantly future. A past and present characterised, in his own opinion, by oppression, injustice, misery, and suffering, caused, if the facts were not to be ignored, by hierarchy, commerce, and religion. Mab could show them a future, and what a future, when there condition would improve and a better life could emerge, death no longer feared, a future of perfectibility, humanity and nature reconciled, working in unison and harmony, not against one another.

Within the place of willow a few groups of people sat, some stood, conversing, drinking morning beverage, playing checkers. All acknowledged Mac for the grown man they had known since his childhood, his playtime jaunts, some in this very spot. Around one table sat his own generation, Sam, Bart and Will sharing a conversation and breaking their fast, around another table elders played board games.

Sam’s long ginger curly locks bobbed about his forehead as he shouted over to his friend. “Now then Mac, where’ve you been of late?”

“Oh! here and there, been off the mark for a week or two,” Mac answered.

Sam threw a catchball over the ten yard between them. “You going be up for the cricket this season fella? The nets start next week,” he asked, rolling his blue denim sleeves up to the elbow and egging Mac on to throw the ball back hard and low.

Mac obliged, tempting the town’s wicket keeper and putting him to the test. Sam was having nothing if it, he dived for the soft ball and caught it left handed, hitting the grass lengthways as he did so.

Mac applauded while Bart and Will cheered at the acrobatics, prompting several other onlookers to follow suit. Such was a typical scene missed fervently. It was all too good to be true.

It was not, true that is, for under the willow, on a circular seat which went about the striated brown and grey bark of its thickset trunk, sat Aunt Bessie beckoning him over. She stood up to greet her nephew, a primrose floral dress of some length, which matched a floppy fabric hat sat to one side, fluttering about her tall figure as she spoke.

“Hello dear boy, so sorry I haven’t been in touch,” she began, “but the membranes are not close at present so I didn’t want to raise your hopes.”

Blue harebells, yellow spring messenger with its heart shaped leaves and archangel, its leaves of mint flavour and red medicinal flower, carpeted the banking side and untrodden areas of the green. They painted a tranquil spring backdrop of colour. Mac strode the last few steps across the grass and white daisies, made even more beautiful by the early morning sunshine illuminating at an acute angle.

In his walk was a purpose of some intent, a determination which on seeing his Aunt’s beaming smile melted away to nothing. Aunt Bessie always had a calming demeanour about her and today was no exception.

“Aunt Bessie,” he began, “when can I come home, what are Sal and them all doing, do they know….”

Aunt Bessie cut him short. “Sal is fine Mac, they’re all fine. I take it you now believe me then. You went to the fountain?”

Mac took her outstretched hand. “I don’t know how it’s possible, but yes I believe you. When can I come home, what do they think’s happened?” His words tripped over each other as he spoke.

The two related sat down on the well worn wooden seat, hand still in hand. Aunt Bessie tried to ease her nephews concern.

“They don’t know what to believe to be honest Mac, I have told them you needed some space and are in contact with me. They think you are having one of your downs and have gone to the coast. Can I tell Sal something from you to reassure her?”

Mac thought for a second or two while two crows flitted from branch to branch above his head. Appreciating their significance he found an ease to his frustration flow into mind.

“Tell her I still love her and will be back soon. I will won’t I Aunt Bessie?” he pleaded with her to sort out his plight.

“Not be too long now Mac.” Aunt Bessie’s expression was now one of compassion and sincerity. She had authority in her word, it was all he had to hold on to. Her face helped him to make peace with that fact

“Also tell her that I like the name I chose at the start, for our baby, it was Walter. She will know then that you’ve been speaking with me.”

A flap or two of wings saw the black birds fly from under cover to take to the air in search of food for their newly born, a number unknown, who called a hungry message from a hidden nest somewhere high up in the willow’s branches.

“Ok, I’ll tell her that. Now, listen dear boy, once the acceptance is in place, probably in another week you can come home. You can also travel elsewhere too once you have your bearings. I want you to try and navigate the portal starting Sunday two weeks hence. The membranes are proximal for a fortnight starting then, so travel is possible. If I don’t see your return I will come to you.”

“And what do I need to do, to get through?”

“The bridge will accept your endeavour. When you get home I will furnish you with a gift, a bracelet like mine.”

Aunt Bessie pulled her dress, slightly above the ankle to reveal a bracelet of metal, not gold or silver, but a metal just as elegant, with a hue to it best described as intermittent, slightly blue, purple but at the same time green tinged with a yellow. On further examination it was none of these. A metal not of known composition, or colour for that matter, at least to Mac, a metal yearning for attention and giving up of its beauty without question or asking.

“What will this allow?” Mac enquired. The bracelet had an inexplicable presence he found himself in awe of.

“This little trinket acts as a beacon,” Aunt Bessie explained, “to establish the conduit, the passageway, call it what you will. It warms and resonates and glimmers whenever a portal is near, and that portal always leads to the same place and time, and returns to home, but only when the membranes meet.”

Mac needed confirmation. “So when will the portal be active?”

“From the Sunday two weeks next.”

“And all I have to do is walk through the bridge?”

“That’s all dear boy, and I will tell Sal you will be back soon. I have to leave you now.”

As she spoke Aunt Bessie melted into the surroundings leaving Mac on his own, sat on the bench. Not one person about took any notice or thought the event strange, and that confirmed it once and for all, it was another dream, evidence was now certainly met, there would be a time coming soon to wake up.

The two birds robed in black now sat on a lower branch, looking to him for some reason or another, their heads to one side then the other in order to spy him in good focus. As they swapped eyes, first left then right they brought a smile to both who looked on.

Mac marvelled over their message, kept secret. They looked him up and down, their colour, black, symbolic of pure potential, their own being situated in proximity to higher energies within the universe, as heavenly, divine oracles, messengers, prophets of survival. He knew they would never come to anyone not equipped to read the deeper meanings behind their presence. If Mac did not already have all the answers, he would not have had this encounter, and that settled him immensely.

New

The weather broke very early Sunday, rain pounding on the window pane disturbed Mac from his slumbers. “Potato field needs ploughing tomorrow.” Walts words repeated in his mind. Or were they Walts? In fact not. They were Gramps’ words after all. Semi conscious, he remembered the request at last evenings family dinner table. “Want to help out Mac?” Grabbing the moonlit, monochrome checked pattern of his bedroom curtains and still seeing them with shut lids he turned over, cuddled up to Sal and wandered back off to dream. He would be up early so needed all the rest on offer. Sal snuggled into the curves of his body fitting to him like a piece of jigsaw.

Outside the storm was brewing. It blew bursts of wind through the trees in the garden next to the couples bedroom. Mac, semi aware of the noise was not troubled enough to care. He was used to the swirling, rustling and sometimes frantic passage of the air as it played about the branches. He had occupied this bedroom since out of nursery and so had come to know, even enjoy this tune between wood and wind. In fact the whole symphony gave him a feeling of security, of pleasure in the fact that here he was, all tucked up, warm and out of harms way while nature unleashed her breath on her ever forgiving domain.

Over the next few hours both of them stirred a couple of times but neither surfaced properly until daybreak when first light combined with a rattle of hailstones nudged Mac to come to.

“That field will have to wait, it’ll not harm to put it back till a better day.” Sal was awake too and figured on a lazy lay in bed with company.

The house itself was quiet, everyone else had obviously come to a similar conclusion. There was no sound of mum or dad downstairs in the kitchen, no breakfast banter around the table, not even a dog or cat curled up on the sheepskin rug at the entrance to their room. Peace indeed, at least indoors, and after all it was a Sunday, so why not?

“Another hour and then see what the day brings eh!” Mac replied, and with a teasing tickle of Sals ribs added, “besides you’ll be hungry much before then.”

Leaving the awakened to their chores, wherever they were, struggling in the terrible turmoil outside, the two of them cuddled and talked, watched the morning news then fell back to sleep. It was not until a much later hour that Mum knocked on the bedroom door and brought in breakfast. Mac had just finished counting the church clock chimes and to his disbelief at the number ever increasing over eight had already made a decision to rise. “What’s the time?” He was not sure how many tolls had passed.

Mum was dressed for her Sunday morning horse ride. “Eleven, did you here the rain in the night you two? It’s baited now thank goodness and the short term is good.” Poached eggs on toast and a huge pot of coffee were in full view once the tray they occupied was placed on the huge magnolia duvet. “I’m going to ride Jasper to noon meeting,” she went on, “I told Aunty Bessie I would be there.”

Sal turned over to see her. “Oh thats lovely, thanks for brecky Mum, I’ll stack the pots after. You get off and give my love to Aunt Bessie.” Sal comfied herself and tucked in, “I’ll do dinner as well, for six, shall I?”

Mum smiled at the invitation and nodded to her son. “There’s a chicken to pluck Mac?” Mac acknowledging her request as she closed the door. He cut the yellow yolk sac to let its contents run across his toast then added a scoop of brown sauce and went on to break his fast.

Every other Sunday at mid day all the elders, that is all those over seventy could meet at the forum if they so desired, and many did. Anyone else was also welcome to attend, but it was primarily the elders day. It was to here that Mum and Jasper were heading.

The event gave an opportunity for conversation and entertainment, exchanging views face to face instead of over the ether, swapping commodities be they objects or offers of help, but most of all the aim was to have a good time and enjoy.

Mac switched the video-wall to the outside camera and rotated the lens housing looking over the garden. “The stream’s flowing fast, it must have put some down,” he reported to Sal busy examining her bump.

“I never heard a thing. Slept like a log.”

“Gramps is off to noon meeting too.” Gramps seeing the camera move waved through the lens to him. “He’ll be trying to get further up the ladder you can bet.”

Gramps played bowls on the lush crown green, it was all for fun but there was a competition and he would be trying to climb the ladder higher than he achieved last season. For a few hours his father would be sat in attendance at the Board. He was not yet Chair Man but was actually the next in line, being the second oldest resident now in the town. When finished with the business of the day he would no doubt join his son and play a few ends himself.

At the Board twenty elected elders sat as a council to insure the parish was well represented and understood in the borough. All aspects of produce, trade, community and exchequer came under their jurisdiction and they answered up the hierarchy and received direction down to pass on to their catchment. This system of independent, self styled local government worked extremely well and efficiently and had done so for many a century. They sat in one of the ornate chambers inside the granite town hall, a room lavishly decorated in carved oak and colourful tapestry hangings. The mosaic marble floor and fine plaster ceilings were the original designs, going back to the second era when artistic expression was the order of the day.

Sal wiped her plate clean with the last remaining piece of toast leaving the pottery spotless. She turned to the window where Mac was standing. “Call mum Mac, see if Aunt Bessie wants to come for dinner. It’ll be nice to see her. I didn’t know she was back in town.”

“Me neither honey.” He picked up his handheld. “Call mum.” The device responded.

Aunt Bessie was Mac’s father’s Aunt in actual fact. A fine, bolt upright figure of a woman, she was the historian of the family and archivist of their tree. It was her knowledge and exuberant care of the past that had rubbed off on Mac and given him his thirst for all things historical and ancient. Goodness knows how, but Aunt Bessie knew all that was worth knowing about times gone by and even some information forgotten by the elders. Some facts were researchable but others were not, and people did say she had a sixth sense to be able to recall all that she could. Bessie had never denied or confirmed the fact but had confided in Mac telling him he also had the same gift though he had never perceived it. The dreams he had been having of late though did make him wonder.

Stories of ages before, times long ago were retold by Bessie as if she had actually taken part. She was something of a celebrity locally as well as throughout the nation, her online status progressing over the years from blogger to full blown web site presence. “Not bad for a rural girl,” was her favourite saying whenever she was embarrassed into admitting how influential her work had become within the faculty of history.

“Yes Mac?” Mums voice came on the handheld. Mac passed Sals message on to be arranged. “I will, but you know how busy she can be” she replied adding, “there’s a beautiful mist along the river Mac, you two ought to get out and take a look, it’s magical.”

As far as Mac’s family history was concerned Bessie had done much research there too. She had traced it back to ancestors who were local landowners and some, in fact many, had held titles of Manorial standing. The family had been a part of the landscape, and indeed helped shape the very same for some eleven hundred years, acquiring estates and building reputations throughout that time which made the present incumbents proud to say the least. Not that the titles were theirs today. Unfortunately, as often happens a black sheep had foolishly lost the whole estate and substantial properties including the Manor Hall on the toss of a coin two hundred and thirty years ago. Nevertheless the archive was still theirs, not that they could use the privilege if it was still bestowed upon them. In modern times there was altogether a more fairer, altruistic society, run by the populace for the good of the community. Titles of land and wealth were now woven into societies fabric merely as historical remembrance, any office held by an individual nowadays was earned by respect and driven by democracy.
Mac was wondering out loud. “When did we last see Aunt Bessie? It must be a month ago.”

“The snow was still on the ground cause she stayed the night. Do you remember? She told us stories of those wars that even Paps didn’t know about.”

“Yes. I do remember now. He said she must have dreamt it”

The Hall belonging the families ancestors still stood, not extended or altered in any way. Built of very pale sandstone, three storeys high, it was crowned with rooftop buttresses and an oval, green lead dome. On its front aspect six stone columns held up a porch which ran along the middle third of the facade. It was as magnificent a museum now as it must have been a home all those many years ago. Mac loved to visit the grounds and house, now in the ownership and upkeep of the council. Mention of Aunt Bessie had given him an appetite to rekindle his fascination with the place. “Fancy a first of the year walk around Burdett Hall gardens?” He looked to the sky above the tree-line. “The weather has cleared up Sal.”

“Why not. We can take some stale bread for the ducks. That mad mallard might worry you again, remember him last fall?”

Mac chuckled at the memory of the greedy bird harassing them for food, waddling too and fro to attract attention. It even jumped onto the bench beside him in an attempt to pinch bread from their bag. The ducks belonged to the same flock that inhabited the town, a better fed and kept group could not be found in all the borough.

Sals exit from under the bed covers was much slower than her partners these days, she had a much bigger load to elevate in her present condition and it needed a somewhat learned manoeuvre now involving elbows and shuffles. Slowly she emerged, stretching and bending to prepare her body for the day ahead.

“If it stays warm we can walk the bridges.” Mac suggested. This was a riverside pathway taking in several crossings of the water over ornate cast iron walkways. It was a favourite route of theirs especially when just on their own. Her eyes glistened with anticipation. “I’ll go dress the chicken while you do the same to yourself.” Smiling at his humour he turned to leave.

“Ah ah!” Sal returned the expression and gave him a loving kiss on the cheek as he passed on route to the kitchen.

Burdett Hall still stood in acres of grounds, some areas given over to public recreation others to growing and cultivating traditional herbs and vegetables. It also held the repository for native lavenders and boasted a working distillery which produced perfumes, soaps and many more sundry items. Row upon row, in many a field the fragrant plant grew and blossomed into a sea of purple. By harvest time the scent from the crop filled the dale with such an aroma that people came from far and wide just to sit out the lazy warm afternoons and be entertained with nothing more than sight and smell.

The hoverbus dropped them off at the entrance to the brick walled kitchen garden belonging the estate, a shelter from the wind whatever direction it blew. By the fish pond they both sat, hand in hand, trying to imagine how life was going to be in a few months time. “I’ll be a lot thinner that’s for sure.” Sal sighed and grabbed at the thickness of her legs.

“I love you whatever your shape” he insisted squeezing her hand reassuringly. He did, and she knew it. “Besides it’s only due to the baby, your keeping him nourished.” Mac was thinking of the girth of the people he had encountered in his dreams. “You know it will all go.”

Sal returned the squeeze and smiled. “I’m just not used to being so tired love.”

No fish were to be seen amongst the mass of pond vegetation in front of them. They had both looked so intently over the past half hour to be the first to spot one. Disappointed Sal stood up from the bench seat. “Let’s walk a bit Mac before those clouds come over,” She was looking at a grim horizon towards the other side of the valley.

Taking the southern path out of the enclave through a brick archway, their walk began with a weaving in and out of beds of rhododendrons. Huge, bushy specimens of overgrown proportion. For all their gigantism they put on such a display of blooms later in the year that none would suggest pruning them back for fear of losing the spectacle. This winding grove led to a small wooden style and over this onto the walk proper. Down the hill to the riverside the two lovers strolled, hand in hand, at one with the world.

The park in summer would be full of people picnicking, or dog walking, but today only half a dozen were obvious. Surprisingly, two of these were their old science teachers William Lofthouse and his wife Ella, coming over the first of the bridges, a narrow footbridge decorated with elaborate wrought ironwork and painted all shades of green. The two mentors never seemed to age and looked just the same as they did ten years ago, even down to the corduroy suit and checked twin piece under their long brown coats. Sal smiled and spoke first. “Hello! You had the same idea then Bill.”

Mac was very pleased to see his favourite form master. He extended an arm in friendship. “Isn’t it a strange day, doesn’t know what to do does it?”

“We should get around ok,” Bill replied, taking Macs hand and shaking it with some exuberance. “I see you two have been busy since we saw you last alumni.”

Mrs Lofthouse hugged Sal with care not to squeeze so hard. “It’s wonderful Sal, you look so radiant,” she whispered in her ear, loud enough for all to hear. Mac and Sal replied together, him agreeing but her complaining of how tired she felt of late. “It’s only natural Sal, the baby is growing.” Mrs Lofthouse added. With excitement at the coming reply she went on, “do you know if a boy or girl?”

Very excitedly they both answered”Boy.”

Mr Lofthouse added his embrace to the mother to be. “You’ll both make fine parents I am convinced, it couldn’t happen to a nicer couple. Before you know it he’ll be in our classrooms.”

“Do you have a name for him yet?” Mrs Lofthouse asked.

Mac looked at Sal, she at him. They had still not made a final decision. Their embarrassment showed, but Mac made light of it. “We don’t really know yet, we may call him William.”

“Good choice,” Bill replied, “he will go far with that name.”

The four of them spoke a little longer on the joys of parenthood offset with sleepless nights and worry about infants and then parted to continue about the landscape of spring awakening. The fresh leaves on trees, unfurling ferns, buds on branches all mirrored the new growth in evidence within the happy pair.

Once across the swollen river, rushing faster than usual and taking plant debris in its angry flow they took the right turn back towards the house, a riverside path lined with tall sycamore. They walked in and out of the trees still trying to decide on a name for junior. Mac was favouring Ben today, but Sal wanted James. “We will know when we see him I think,” this her usual comment to close up the dilemma, “shall we go get a coffee and watch out these black clouds before we get wet?”

Unfortunately the weather had other plans for them. A slight drizzle of rain began, which only a dozen or so steps later turned into a torrent. It came from out of nowhere. Wherever the purple and black storm clouds had suddenly materialised from was anyones guess, but here they were, unleashing such a storm and with such ferocity.

Mac thought quickly. He had to shout to be heard. “We had better make for the deer shelter.” It was just visible through in the distance at the edge of the park, not too far away, far enough though in the worsening conditions. The rain did not seem to be falling evenly either, or steadily, but in haphazard lashings, sheets of water blown one way then the other. They had dressed for a change in the weather, but wax jackets are not sou’westers and what should be waterproof seams immediately let in at shoulder and elbow stitches.

The next bridge was yards away. They crossed back over the river. It had risen in level. By treading purposely across what had quickly turned into boggy ground their leather boots gathered water becoming wet through in seconds. Still the rain fell, almost not falling at times but travelling in a sideways motion never quite reaching the ground and sometimes even appearing to rise upwards. Tree branches bent at awkward angles and a few lost the battle and gave way, the pain of the torn wood sounding a forlorn rasp as it ripped.

He dare not rush them, not wanting Sal to slip, but they needed to get to the higher ground and the shelter as quickly as possible. The riverside was fast becoming waterlogged threatening to cut them off. Small streams were appearing where none were before. Sal crossed some running water not bothering how deep her boots sank under, she held onto Mac like her life depended on it, and if not hers certainly the life she had inside her. The largest ancient trees offered no shelter, the downpour so hard that branch or trunk presented no obstacle whatsoever. The rain curled around the bark speeding on as if no obstacle was there. It continued to pour and pour and if it at all possible was becoming worse.

They made the shelter, a wooden, open fronted porch and stone barn. Thankfully it had no occupants, deer or otherwise. “This is crazy.” Mac complained as he took of his coat to allow removal of the other wet garments underneath. He looked to where they had come. “It’s so dark, just look at the horizon.”

Sal was doing the same, struggling to pull her arms from out her coat. “That’s a one off to be sure Mac. I’m wet through to my skin.”

“There’s a glimmer of light just over by the cricket ground, but that seems to be heading by us. It must have put a months worth down already, and it’s not letting up.”

“Let’s hope mum and Jasper weren’t out in it, you know how he hates the rain, and this is not just rain!” Sal stood at the back of the grassed lodge sporting a state of undress that brought back certain memories. They looked at each other knowingly, amorously, humorously.

For all that the storm delivered, coldness took no part, in fact it was muggy, that kind of humidity usually associated with foreign climes and holiday escapades, so temperature favoured the brave. Should they take a chance? It was an exciting prospect and they certainly had nowhere to go at present. But what if someone else came looking for shelter. They had took similar chances before, even in this very porch, but pregnancy had bestowed a sense of maturity on them that seemed to pour scorn on such liaisons.

A flash of sheet lightening illuminated the bedraggled pair casting shadows on the rear stone wall of the shelter reminiscent of an horror movie. That sort of elongated and tortured shadow which usually heralded something dastardly was about to happen. It did. A loud crack of thunder. It shook the building, both occupants and the immediate vicinity so completely that Sal was sure her eardrums would burst. She plugged each ear with a finger to prevent any harm. Mac held her tight as the tortured rumble negotiated the park, as if looking for an exit. After about ten seconds it must have found one, it dissipated in strength and headed in the direction of the local church. More rain cascaded onto the roof above them, running down and off like a stream in full flow.

Another flash, Mac began to count in Sals ear.”One,” Thunder ripped the atmosphere again. “It’s right overhead, it’ll soon pass,” Sals face betrayed fear. She was looking over his shoulder out of the building as the rumble faded. Mac repeated himself to console her, “it’ll pass love don’t worry.”

“Look,” was all she could manage to blurt out, motioning with her head towards the open front of the building and the park.

Mac turned on his heels to see. There in front of him was her concern. A lake of water occupying the park they had just walked across. The level was rising steadily, coming up to join them. “The rivers burst its banks, we’d better get dressed and make for the house, if it reaches there we are all in trouble.”

Scampering about the lodge, pushing limbs into wet sleeves and legs, squelching feet into soaked boots they soon recovered dignity and then made for the outside and the howling gale. The lake of water had already advanced a metre or two nearer. It was filling the vale with a fast and frightening ease.

A hundred yards away was the tarmac path up to the house. The ground in between was now drenched and treacherous to walk on. They chose their steps very carefully, Mac holding Sal to him with interlocked arms.

Sal shouted at the top of her voice. “This is crazy Mac, I’m frightened now?” The floodwater began lapped up to their position forcing them further up the grassy slope. “This can’t be happening, what if anybody is trapped down the valley?”

He did not know the answer to that question, only that they would be in trouble. Reaching the tarmac the two were able to retreat faster up the hill, fighting a driving wind and its cargo of rain as they went. Up they trudged, one heavy footstep after the other leaning into the wind at a very odd angle to allow movement in the direction they wanted to go.

Stood in the stone porch of Burdett Hall a figure in long green waterproof coat and wellingtons beckoned frantically to them, their arms making huge circles in the air to attract the coupled attention. This side of the building was shaded from the storm. Mac led the way and they took grateful refuge along the concourse quickly heading towards a woman who for all the world looked like Aunt Bessie. Tall with silver grey hair tied up in a bun and held with an obvious butterfly hairpin she could be her double, but was not. Not her double that is, because she was Aunt Bessie.

Mac questioned her immediately. “What you doing here Aunt Bessie? We thought you would be at noon meeting.”

Bessie replied with a huge smile across her face. “I’ve been my dear boy but knew I would be needed here to greet you.”

He did not ask the obvious, the fact she was here was of no surprise to him, it demonstrated one of the fascinating aspects about her. “Did you know it was going to do this, rain so much?”

“I had an inclination yes. Sally my dear sit in here, come both of you.” Bessie ushered them into the great hallway of alabaster sculptures and ancestral portraits. Up the centre of this room rose a red mahogany staircase dividing at its top into two landings. “You need to understand something,” she went on looking at her nephew.

Sal took the weight off her feet and sank on to the second to bottom stair. Mac helped her off with her coat. “What is that Aunt Bessie?” He had a puzzled expression as he replied.

“Wherever you may go I know what is happening to you remember that, it has taken me time to find you but I always know where you are.”

Sal looked perplexed, she did not know what to make of the comment, but Mac did. Somewhat disappointed at its true connotation he knew precisely what it meant. “Can you tell them I’m ok?”

Bessie took him by both hands, kissed him on the forehead and spoke. “They will soon know dear boy, take care. This is not the last you will see of me.”

“How do I come back?” Another louder roll of thunder interrupted his questioning. Sal, Bessie and all their surroundings began to fade. The second time he shouted. “How do I come back?” Too late. The thunder awakened him.

White walls, blue sheets, no Sal. He was back in the outbuilding. Water was dripping from the corner of the windowsill onto the wooden floorboards and disappearing down between the cracks. A long sigh of exasperation left his dry mouth. “Frick!” He was not one to swear. This seemed like a good time to start. “Aunt Bessie?” He blurted out the words in disbelief. What should he think? “Did that dream mean anything?”

Mac gets a job

A cock crowing was the next thing he heard. Where was he? The outbuilding of the farm. He remembered. It was not home by any stretch of the imagination but at least the room was cheerful. Clean white walls, blue linen, oak floor all made for a better awakening, a pleasant return from sleep. Outside the sash window it was daylight, but was it five minutes since he drifted off or a new day? He could not tell. Had he only enjoyed a cat nap or had a whole night passed him by without any remembered dreams?

The handheld told him. Six nineteen in the morning. The comfort of the double bed had blessed him with ten hours sleep, he must have needed it. He had needed it, the hard concrete surface of the hut had been a place to lay but not to sleep soundly upon. It probably contributed to those vivid dreams of home too.

“I’ll have some bacon ready for ya.” The old farmers words came back to him. Mac jumped up quickly out of the bed. “He said for six, better go and see.” The words had no sooner left his lips than a bellow from the cook drifted across the yard. Mac rushed down the eight or so stone steps like a chastised child, hurrying so as not to be shouted again.

The call was not the only item on the air. An aroma of bacon leached from an open, downstairs window competing for attention with cow-muck and morning dew. He found himself rushing across the yard in somewhat of a panic, picking a route carefully as he trod. What was he doing, why rush so? The answer was inside the farmhouse and it silenced his questioning. He needed this work, it brought money. For all the worry of not being late though, he felt a taste of adventure at large, something to be positive about, a new dawn in more ways than the rosy glow which tinted the horizon framing the building in front of him.

There was no greeting as such as he entered the hallway. “Need t’get yon frickin field ready for barley tday. You know what to do?” Melody again conflicted with such a stern statement of voice.

“Sure do. Disks, harrow.” Mac sat to the grey plastic breakfast table and tucked in to a plate of splendour already deposited there.

“They’re in yon field.” The elder pointed out of the window to where the implements stood, Mac could just see the top of them over a somewhat dilapidated field boundary wall. The farmer had on him a fresh, green pair of overalls, but his cap was the same, and at that same odd angle. His withered facial features looked no better for the intervening hours. “You’d be better wi sum o’ these I recon too.” He offered up a pair of grey Wellingtons. Kindness or practicality? Mac could not make his mind up, but favoured, and hoped for the former. “And them if ya wants em,” he added, tossing a new pair of blue overalls on to the table top. “I recon em your size.”

Mac unfolded them. “Thanks, yes they’ll do nicely. I didn’t catch your name yesterday? Mine is Mac.”

“Didn’t frickin give it, that’s why.” An awkward silence fell for what seemed an age. Mac ate a piece of sausage dipped in the gloriously yellow free range yolk of his fried egg. “Name’s Helliwell, Walter Helliwell, you can call me Mr Helliwell, or Walt, whichever ya frickin likes.”

“Walt would be easier, its my fathers name.” That was a lie, but fire needed fighting with fire, and if he was ever going to survive in this new life of his he would need to harden up and give as good as he was given.

“Never liked the frickin name meself.” Walt admitted. “I was called after me grandad.”

Now then, what was that? Conversation of sorts? What could he say. “Oh! Thats a shame!” What! He felt himself shrivel up at such a weak response. What stranglehold did this old mans attitude have on the proceedings? He felt powerless to bring any bearing on the discourse. “Still its not a name that defines a man.” He shrivelled again on realising too late that once started he was going to have to finish off the saying and the old man would not appreciate its message. To his relief though Walt Helliwell walked into the kitchen not listening at all to what was being said.

Mac quietly finished his hearty platter of fried bacon, eggs, sausage and dip-bread, drank a huge mug of tea and was just about to leave the table when Mags, if that is who the herdswoman of last evening was, came through the door. He sat back down eager to make her acquaintance.

She hung up her long wax coat on the one peg by the door, a garment far too warming for this unseasonal spring morning. He was correct in the assumption made yesterday from his secret window. She had little weight on her six foot frame although that did not detract from her figure. Every curve of blue denim and red t shirt was in the correct proportion, and to top off what some would describe as a lanky frame, a mass of long flowing black hair waved from side to side masking her appearance for a moment. When she finally brushed it aside her true beauty was revealed. What a lovely face she had. A gorgeous freckled face. Sal’s face!

A shiver started up, on his shoulders at first, then it slowly spread down each arm. It was not a cold shiver but the one heralding anxiety, the one that emptied blood from above the neck and rendered him unable to rationalise any thought. He felt his jaw almost hit the table. Mags did not see his expression, she was carefully scanning the doorways for someone else. Quickly he recovered his posture. “Mornin!” He spoke first, a little awkwardly, trying to force out the word from a mind with no vocabulary.

“Mac?” she enquired. Her voice matched her figure, unobtrusive and slight. She seemed bothered about something, but strangely it was not him.

“Mags?” He answered with the same intonation in his voice, quiet and unassuming, trying to reassure her that whatever was worrying her, he was no threat to add.

“That’s what Dad calls me, I prefer Margaret.” She surrendered a timid nature toward her parent. “Dad told me of ya last night, says you’re after sum work.” She absolutely and without question did not own him and somewhere behind a foggy veil that contained his emptying self he found that fascinating, bewildering, for if he recognised her, or Sal in her, then why was the same not reciprocated. By now the muscles of his legs had received the shiver, it moved his limbs awkwardly to disperse the adrenaline rush. He had to retreat, but how?

“Breakfast here Mags.” Walt appeared through the kitchen door, plate in one hand, cup of tea in the other. As he walked it was obvious to all that his early morning joints were the same age as his face. Mac’s thoughts focussed a moment. What a dichotomy this hard worked man presented. For all his bombastic control he seemed to have a caring, helpful side competing for the upper hand. Was it these two extremes, bitter and sweet that had rendered him so withered a figure.

He made a decision. “I’ll get to it then.” Giving up the only chair for the new arrival and in case of chastisement for loitering from her father, whose grimacing face seemed to instruct without the need for words, he left them to it. He needed to remove himself from the equation and give himself time to think, to formulate what to do. What to take on board as matter of fact and what to dismiss altogether. A faintness overtook him for the outer, grey door but he withstood it and moved one heavy leg then the other over the cracked flooring. Now he had more than the field to contend with, he had a woman who was, but was not his Sal as an employer and that was going to take some rationalising. Maybe by eleven o’clock he would not have the bother of it at all. Eleven! Of course. “I’ll take a break at eleven if that’s ok, break the day up a bit,” he called back down the hall on reaching its exit.

“May rain tomorrow so see how far ya can get.” Mags added. It was the only parting remark from the farming pair so he left to dress for the part, under each arm he carried his newly acquired work attire.

Once outside and away from the crazy bewilderment a kind of understanding slowly returned to his day sponsored by the panoramic view of green wandering countryside beyond the farmyard. Out of sight, out of mind almost, though what to make of what he had just witnessed was totally beyond him at the moment. Thankfully he had a task to fulfil and needed to get on with it.

Farming was second nature to his family, and although not his own occupation he knew exactly what the coming day called for. In fact, if a stick came to a lift he could run the entire farm of rolling hills and stream filled vales, with some help of course. There was a milk herd to husband and arable land to manage by the looks of it, but apart from the machinery, the general farming day seemed to be identical to his Gramps’. Why would it be any different? Beast were beast, farmland was just that and crops followed the same cycle, planting, growth, tending and harvest. He changed into the overalls, donned his new wellies and emerged from the bedroom annexe, hopping down the steps to attend the tractor.

A morning of disking was accompanied by an ever moving sun, a disturbed hare or two and a flock of sheep over the dry stone wall. Their black and white faces warily eyed him every time he approached but none were scared enough to instigate a run. A few of the new mothers called to their newborn but he could not hear them over the noise the tractor made.

By quarter to eleven half the field was prepared and he was on his way, a different path, but one he knew for its foxgloves and potholes. “Is it any use walking to this bridge again today?” Needing to put some thoughts down he talked to his diary. “Perhaps I should leave it ’till a week has passed, I really miss you Sal.”

Should he tell her of Margaret? He ought to. What if he never made it back alive but the story did. “There’s a woman here called Margaret,” he began, a little hesitant at first, “her dad calls her Mags, who, for all the world looks just like you, I am not joking either Sal, her face is the spitting image of you, in fact I would say she is you but in this world, a bit thinner, but your height and everything. This place gets weirder and weirder Sal. What am I going to do?”

A dark storm cloud hit his mind with a panic, it reflected in his voice. “If you’re here, what if I meet myself? Heaven above Sal. It must work today. I’ve got to make it back to you.” He ran the last quarter mile of neighbouring fields and stoney tracks and came to the bridge five minutes early.

No one was about. He leaned over the bridge wall and looked down. Two parallel tracks of steel ran in a west east direction, they cut a swaithe through both the countryside and his life. A slight wind rushing through the trees kept him company while his anxiety ebbed and flowed to the metronomic sway of the branches. Several deep breaths of fresh air replaced fear with longing, a hope of resolving the situation and finding his family. Eleven o’clock, Mum would be taking eggs to market not two hundred yards away from where he stood. Two hundred yards, but further than anyone could ever imagine.

Going through the same proceedings as before he slipped down the gravel banking side at a minute to the hour and ventured under the stoney archway. Nothing. What was he expecting? “Don’t be stupid Mac,” he chastised himself, “you came through that way. Dark flow must have something to do with this. What can I do?” Still nothing as he frantically walked back and forth.

A noise! The train was coming. He hid behind the bridge and it rattled passed. He jumped down to the track again and repeated his ritual. Nothing. Desperate and disappointed he made a slow return to the field, taking a slight detour to the supermarket to buy some fruit and biscuits for lunch. What else could he do? He was stuck, marooned in time in a place not chosen by him but by some other. Was there a reason for him being here or was it all just a fluke of nature?

The rain held off for the rest of the day, as it did the next, the barley was planted and by the weekend Mac had kind of settled into his new found role and routine. Breakfast at dawn, full days work and evening meal to finish. Walt paid him forty pounds with each dinner, at the same time making sure, in no uncertain terms, and in his own belligerent manner, that Mac knew what the following days workload was. Margaret had not crossed his path again as yet, though he had seen her from his bedroom window and she had waved to him. He had so many questions to put to her but was relieved the opportunity had not presented. What should he ask, or should he not bother? The truth was he was intrigued to find out about her. How she had grown up, her childhood. He had known Sal since school so he wanted a comparison of their lives. Or did he? The dilemma had kept him company most hours and no matter what rationale he applied to it the fact remained this woman was another version of his Sal. She could have the answer to why he was here, even though she was blissfully unaware of it.

New

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?

Well I’ve updated it all

Ok so it’s all been updated and altered slightly. Mac is now in need of a job because he is stuck.

‘Desperate times, desperate measures, there are some bad people in this world.’ These two sentences kept him company all the way to a stone stile half way distant from the town to the crag. It was a nice place to sit and put the finishing touches to his story and record the ideas in case he forgot any small part of them in the future.

So far the day had been one of beauty and warmth once again, and as he sat thinking of summer days back home could not help wondering whether the temperature of the time of day and season was unusual. For both days spent in this new environment he had never needed his jumper. Apart from the evening and night it had been tied around his waist. Perhaps in going through the time-slip, and even though the dates matched, perhaps the spring season back in his own time and this spring occupied different parts of the year, say a two month shift or so. At any rate he was thankful for the warmer conditions and thought once again on how even in such a devastating turmoil he was lucky to have this help, or call it what you will. The other explanation of course could be his own temperature being elevated, but testing at his forehead dispensed with that argument, and besides he felt so well, under the circumstances.

“So, my name is Mac Hammerton, nothing new there,” he began. “I come from a seaside town called Whitby to the East and I am walking part of the Transpennine Trail. Last year I finished education at Southampton University and am taking some time out to travel the country for a while.”

In command of the fields in front of him was a dozen or so swifts, swooping to catch the afternoon abundance of midges and flies. Their acrobatic display won attention over the task in hand. Marvelling at their prowess and ease of flight he thought on how they fledged the nest and remained on the wing, some for two years, without touching land, they even slept in the air. A couple of them came his way, darting across the green divide likes stones skimmed across water. Just before the boundary wall they looped skyward before returning to the throng in the dale which the stile, stream and grassland occupied.

If the truth would have it he was actually enjoying himself. Making up a story and a new identity was like being a kid again playing at being grown up and pretending to be someone you are not. He set the handheld recording again. “I qualified in graphic design and have not found the work I want yet. My family are farmers, mainly milk, but are finding times hard with the supermarkets controlling prices and such.” Another swift flew past his head. “Two years, without touching land! Hope I’m not that long before I touch mine.” The last comment also went down on record.

The scenery around him could almost be back home, except for the lack of crops growing and the train just passing on the embankment half a mile away. It clattered along with a metallic rhythm but was soon out of earshot. “You wouldn’t hear that where I come from,” he explained to a bee, busy at work collecting nectar from the purple flower of a foxglove. “The trains where I come from are very quiet, as are most things actually.” The additional remark was spoken with a desperate whisper, a longing for a more peaceful way of life he was used to living, not this chaotic haphazard struggle now enveloping him.

What in the world would they be doing now, the family? No word from him for twenty four hours. “They’ll be desperate, Sal won’t have slept.” A rush of fright hit his mind paralysing both legs and arms. The lush green valley took on an aura of not involving him in it, of unbelonging and loneliness. Green seemed greener and blue was brighter in the sky, almost blinding. Even so the colours held some sort of magic about them, strangely hypnotic, trancelike. The display about him held his mind in a vice like grip, every shade vibrating too and fro, he even understood the crackling sound of the growing corn with its greeting for all to hear.

He had read about elders of the old, medicine men who had visions and visited places no one else could, or dare, perhaps this is how they felt. But they employed drugs to get them there, and only rabbit had passed his lips, and fresh water, so he was not about to visit the Gods of old unless they wanted him so badly they were forcing into his mind? Perhaps they were trying to come across and offer rescue?

Mac held tight to the stones he was sat on, his handheld fallen out of his grip into the grass. If he did not he would fall to the ground also. A crescendo of birdsong and that incessant humming sound played with his hearing, he held on more tightly. “Snap out of it.” The words forced a deep intake of breath, filling a body that was about to collapse, saving it from doing so by the very act itself. “Get a grip Mac, come on, otherwise you’ll never get back.”

Otherworldly turned to normal again and a racing pulse from a heart almost off its hanger slowed to something more tolerable. Gradually the minute hand slowed to proper and the scene in view returned to being just as it should. He rolled his head from shoulder to shoulder and front to back in order to abolish the experience and fetch back the day. The movement took effect and a body lost for a time was his once again. Letting go of the granite his white knuckles regained their colour and jumping down from the stile searched the long grass for the handheld.

It was there, but not on its own. Next to it was a tightly folded piece of paper. Mac picked them both up. Unfolding the item brought on a happy and contented moment and a forgetting of the panic minutes earlier. It was currency, twenty pounds to be precise, whatever that was. He knew it was on reading its lettering, but the amount could be worthless, why would someone loose it otherwise. At any rate fortune had favoured the brave, and what fortune, for him to have dropped his unit into the grass at that point. No one would ever have come across the lost item otherwise, not ever. It would more than likely have stayed hidden till it rotted away.

Was someone playing with him? The thought came to him again. Why would he drop his handheld and it land right next to a note of currency? Quickly, but feeling somewhat foolish, he looked around in all directions. No one who could engineer all what had happened so far would be in view anyhow, so what was the point of that endeavour he scolded himself. No, just be grateful for small mercies and get on with it. His Mothers voice came to mind again.

Turning to the task one more time he began to record again. “So I’ve found twenty pounds, going to go and see what it’s worth, hopefully it’ll buy me some food, and perhaps even a bed for the night. Welcome to the economy Mac, let’s see then if we can try and find some better place to stay, the huts ok but if the weather changes it won’t be as comfy I bet.”

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