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Carpe Diem

"How much do you really know about our myths and legends?"
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Author's Notes

"This is a tale of time-travel, magic, loss, sorrow, and love, with a tiny dose of the absurd thrown in for good measure. You might also find the odd reference/homage to other works of time-travel! I hope you enjoy it."

Dear Reader,

Nobody believed our story. But the events I relate to you below really happened. It may seem fantastic, but they do say that truth is always stranger than fiction.

You can make up your own mind — I only want to set the record straight before — well, you’ll see…

Our journey started one inauspicious evening almost six years ago; the seven of us unaware, as we embarked on our incredible adventure, that nothing would ever be the same again.

ooOoo

Date: 21 October 2015

Location: Frederick Blunden College of Science and Sorcery, Arthur’s Dent, Nottinghamshire.

Occasion: Meeting of the Time Travellers Club.

I was running late as usual — I’d stopped off at the Tannen café, and time just seemed to disappear. Which was ironic, really, given what we were planning.

“Sorry, everyone — I come bearing gifts!”

“Dougie — finally!” said Emmett with a hint of exasperation. “Are those for us?”

“Of course — why do you think I’m late?” I handed out the very welcome drinks and doughnuts.

“Ah — what would we do without Buford’s!” he added, taking a sip and eying me forgivingly.

“Spend less money on coffee?”

“True.”

A huge grin broke out on Emmett’s face.

“Guess what?”

“No way! It’s really finished?”

“Yep! Jules and I have been tinkering all day. We’re good to go!”

“When?”

“Tonight.”

“Wow! So soon?”

“Absolutely.”

“But — what about field tests?”

“Well, that’s what we’ll be doing!”

“Yes, but…”

“No buts, Dougie. Seize the day, my friend! Seize the day,” he said, clapping me firmly on the shoulder.

I swallowed, suddenly unsure. It was a pretty big thing that we were contemplating. Monumental, even.

“Right! Let’s call this meeting of the club to order! Roll call.”

Everyone groaned.

“We all know we’re here, Em,” called Gina. “Let’s crack on, before it gets too late.”

“Don’t be silly — it won’t get too late — he’s built a fucking time machine for Christ’s sake!” joked Marion.

“Just let him get on with it!” sighed Marlene.

“Okay, okay — keep your hair on!”

“Alright — you know the drill!” said Emmett.

I looked around at my fellow travellers with affection as Emmett called out their names.

“Jules?”

“Here!”

Juliette was our engineering genius. Quiet and thoughtful, she’d helped Emmett with our project from the very beginning. She was French, and here on a scholarship. She was beautiful as only the French managed to be, and I was pretty sure she and Emmett had something going — thought they were keeping it pretty quiet.

“Gina?”

“Here, Doc!”

Gina was the wild one, with her short, spiky red hair, green eyes and pale, freckled skin. Georgina was actually her middle name, which she preferred to Harriet. I had a huge crush on her, and was still working up the courage to ask her out.

“Gwen?”

“Here,” she said quietly.

The strongest woman I’d ever met, Gwen was six feet two, and broad shouldered. She was here with her brother, Marion (yeah, I know—don’t ask!). Gwen loved fencing and kenjutsu — she was a whizz with any kind of sword — and had represented England in both disciplines. You messed with her at your peril!

“Marion?”

“Yep!”

Why his parents called him Marion, I don't know. Funnily enough, it seemed entirely appropriate in our little misfit group. Like Gwen, he knew sword fighting, but his main interest outside of this group was archery. He was two inches taller than his sister, and built like Arnie in The Terminator — only much better looking.

“Marlene?”

“Yes.”

Oh yes, indeed! What could I say about Marlene?

Well, for a start, she was a witch.

I mean that in the nicest possible sense. An advocate of alternative medicine, she had an incredible knowledge of plants and what they could do, was a student of Tai Chi and yoga, and very much interested in the eastern philosophies on healing.

And, of course, she studied witchcraft and sorcery—one of the specialities at this unusual school. She believed that magic only worked if you had faith in it, and that, historically, when people worshipped the old Gods, magic was in the very fabric of their lives, accepted and understood for what it was.

In other words, you had to believe in order for magic to work.

They say opposites attract. Marlene, tall and willowy, was Yin to Gwen’s Yang. They were a couple, and as passionate about each other as it is possible to be.

“Dougie?”

“Here.”

Yeah, that was me. The more boring, traditional one. I saw my role as trying to keep the others grounded in reality; I wasn’t very good at it. And it was especially ironic if you considered the audacity of what we were trying to do.

“And, of course, me.”

“Yeah, we know you’re here, Em!” quipped Marion.

Emmett was the cleverest of us all. A prodigy, with vision to match, though some of his ideas were a little off the wall. He occasionally needed reigning in, which was where I was supposed to come in. Hmm.

“Is that it over there?” asked Marion, indicating.

Emmett walked over to the apparatus in the corner.

“Yes, this is it. The Time Machine…” he said proudly.

“So — are you going to explain how it works?” asked Gina.

Em Cleared his throat. “Ah. Yes, of course,” he mumbled, looking slightly embarrassed.

He indicated the array of complicated controls and levers. It looked like something out of the 1960’s sci-fi show The Time Tunnel.

“As you know, I’ve based it on the principle of Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. This is the actual device,” he said, pointing, “and it remains here, in our present. When we travel, we stand on that platform over there — the launch pad, and when I push this lever, it will throw us back — or forward — in time, depending on how I set the parameters.

“Everything you are touching travels with you — the clothes you are wearing, fillings, contact lenses etcetera etcetera.

“More importantly, it transports what’s inside you!”

He reached into his pocket.

“I’ve prepared one of these for each of us.”

“What is it?” asked Marlene.

“It’s the key to getting you home again. A tiny capsule, containing some very clever little nanoprobes. These are the secret to time travel.”

“How does it — they— work?” asked Gina, frowning.

“I inject the contents of this syringe into you, where the carrier liquid slowly releases the nanoprobes into your bloodstream. After about four days, the nanoprobes will decay and stop functioning — we must be back by that point!”

“What do the nanoprobes do?”

“Imagine you’re attached to a piece of elastic. When you leave here, the elastic stretches. Then, each time you activate the nanoprobes, they communicate through space and time with the master control here, a time jump is initiated, and you snap back towards home.”

“And how are the nanoprobes activated?” Gwen asked.

Now Emmett looked incredibly sheepish, his face flushing an interesting hue of red.

“Ah, yes — that was the tricky bit. It was — challenging — figuring out how to trigger them.”

“And? How did you solve the problem?”

“They’re initiated by a — by a heightened emotional response.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, it essentially needs…”

“What? Spit it out!”

He hesitated.

“Now, don’t panic. But, to be honest, the most potent, and reliable example would be — erotic thoughts.”

“What!

“What did you say?”

“You’re joking!

“Erotic thoughts,” he repeated.

“Yes, we heard you—we just didn’t believe you!” said Marion.

“Wait — you built a time-machine — that’s triggered by orgasms!” I said incredulously.

“I said don’t panic!”

“You mean, in order for this to work, we each need to…?” asked Gwen.

“No, no, no — not exactly.”

“What then? Come on, Em — don’t keep us in suspense!”

“Well, just having intense erotic thoughts will probably be sufficient.” He paused. “And if you are touching someone else, they will also travel with you, and…”

“Yes?”

“The nanoprobes are actually linked, so if any one of us reaches the, ahh — appropriate emotional state, all the others within range will also be activated.”

“So — actually, only one of us needs to…” someone said — I didn’t register who.

There was silence whilst everyone absorbed what we would need to do to return home. I think we all shaken by his—explanation—of how the nanoprobes worked.

“So — is everybody ready?”

“Jeez,” someone whispered. No — of course not! I thought, still somewhat unsure whether to be shocked or bemused by his explanation.

Still dazed, we quietly formed a line and Jules efficiently injected each of us.

“Er — if everyone’s happy, I’ll set the temporal parameters.”

“Where — or rather, when — are we going?” asked Marlene quietly.

“Well — I thought into the past was probably best for a first trip — something we might recognise, rather than completely unknown.”

“How far are you thinking?” Jules spoke for the first time. She’d been quiet until now, knowing most of what Emmett had to tell us.

“Well, I could throw us all the way back to the stone age, however, first time out, I want to keep it closer to home.”

“Like what?”

“I was thinking about fifty years?”

“Makes sense — far enough to be different, but not too different…” mused Gina.

“Exactly!”

“Will we stay in the same location?”

Emmett looked hesitant.

“There might be some spatial displacement — but, like I explained with the elastic analogy, I think you will ultimately be pulled back towards the starting point.”

“You think?”

“Well, it isn’t an exact science — not yet, anyway.”

“So how accurate can you be with the date?”

“Well, I hope not to be too far out.”

“Great. So basically, we don’t really know,” Gina said under her breath. “Um, so, are we all up for this?” Gina asked the room.

“Well — you know what our motto is?”

“Carpe diem?”

“Exactly!”

“Okay, then — let us indeed ‘Seize the Day!’”

The seven of us slowly stepped onto the launch pad.

Emmett looked at us.

“Seven companions,” he said. “Henceforth, we shall be known as the Fellowship of the…”

“Stop it!”

“Shut up, Em!”

Shouted down, he grinned in surrender. “Alright — okay! Sorry — I got carried away! Ready for the final countdown?”

Nods, and a few lickings of lips — my own lips were particularly dry. I felt an urgent need to pee.

“Five, four, three, two, one…”

There was an incredibly bright light, and a sense of being yanked backwards — my stomach was being pulled through my spine, and I felt like I was being sucked into a space much too small for my body.

I was sinking; dizzy, my vision was starting to tunnel. It was like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Then a blackness started to close around me… It occurred to me that this was a bloody silly thing to be doing. Then everything faded as I lost consciousness.

----

Time: 483 AD

My body ached like it had been run over. I tried to open my eyes, but they were glued shut. Peripherally, I heard birds singing, and I could smell damp earth; something was sticking in my back. I finally managed to force my eyes open; I was lying on the ground with the sun shining directly into my eyes.

I rolled over and groaned. A wave of nausea washed over me and I desperately tried not to vomit. I could hear moaning all around me.

Squinting, I slowly pushed myself up and looked around.

Through the dappled light, I could see we were in a wooded glade. There was a large, moss-covered boulder close by. Confused, I wondered how we had got there.

There was a roaring in my head and I thought I was going to blackout again, before I realised that I was hearing the thunder of hooves.

I tried to stand up, and immediately fell down again, still disoriented.

Suddenly, we were surrounded by men on horses — Fifteen? Twenty? A rider tumbled out of his saddle and collided painfully with the boulder.

Swords were pointed at us.

“Who are you?”

The man who had fallen stood angrily, brushed dirt from himself and stomped towards us.

“Who are you?” he repeated. He was bareheaded, and wearing some sort of armour.

“Erm…” It was Marion speaking — only he, and his sister Gwen were on their feet.

“Are you Eloi?”

“What?” Like the rest of us, Marion was clearly still very discombobulated.

“They don’t look like Eloi!” said one of the other riders.

“What are you doing here?” the bareheaded man demanded.

“We — we’ve just arrived.”

“We saw a flash of light. Was that you?”

“Er, no…” Marion was clearly doing his best, but he didn’t sound remotely convincing.

“Hmm. Well, we need to sort this out. My name is Arthur. These are my warriors. That’s Percival, and Galahad,” he said, pointing.

Oh fuck — you had got to be kidding! Talk about a quantum leap! I thought about sitting down, putting my fingers in my ears and pretending this wasn’t happening.

“King Arthur?” asked Gina incredulously.

“What? King? Don’t be ridiculous. We’re warriors. Where’s my sword?”

“You dropped it when you fell, Arthur,” grinned the man called Galahad.

“The horse fell, not me — very important difference!” he said defensively.

“If you say so.”

“Hey, Arthur!”

“What is it, Percy?”

“Your sword — it’s somehow got stuck in this big rock over here!”

I thought I was going to pass out again. I heard a hysterical giggle and belatedly realised it was me. Get a grip, Dougie!

Arthur walked back to the boulder and tried pulling on his sword. Nothing happened.

“What the bloody hell has happened here?”

In frustration, he heaved on it again without success.

God, I felt like a stranger in a strange land! Or maybe we’d fallen down the rabbit hole?

Arthur kicked the rock and immediately yelled in pain.

I gave in, and fainted.

 

ooOoo

When I came to, Emmett, Gina and Marlene were sitting by me. There was a fire crackling close by, and people moving around, chatting.

“How are you, Dougie?” asked Gina, concern in her voice.

I groaned. “Okay, I think. What’s happening, Em...?”

“Um, well — we do rather appear to be in the fifth century, and that is, in fact, the Arthur of legend sitting over there with his knights.”

“So — we overshot a little bit then?”

“Just a little,” he admitted in embarrassment.

“What are you thinking?”

“I’m actually at a bit of a loss, to be honest.”

I think it’s wonderful,” said Marlene. “I can sense the magic in the air — feel it responding to me!”

“Really?”

“Absolutely! These woods are crackling with it! This is a very magical place. That boulder…” She eyed it hesitantly.

“What?”

“It’s got an aura that’s giving me goosebumps. It’s literally pulsing with energy. It’s important, somehow…”

“Well, it has got Arthur’s sword stuck in it,” grinned Gina.

“It’s difficult to explain, but since I’ve been here, I’ve felt — powerful! I’ve never been anywhere so enchanted!” She looked down, deep in contemplation. “Gwen feels drawn to this place too.”

Arthur wandered over and sat down.

“I see you have recovered. Your friends were concerned.”

I blushed. Apparently, I was the only one who had fainted again!

“Yes, much better, thank you.” I looked across at him, still not really believing my eyes.

“So — what are you and your men doing here?” I asked, unsure what I’d missed whilst unconscious.

“One of the northern tribes has been giving trouble out here on the fringe. The Morlocks have been coming down by night and raiding. The locals have asked for help. The Eloi don’t have many warriors — but what they do have is gold!”

“They’re paying you?” I said incredulously.

“They certainly are!” He looked at me like I wasn’t quite right in the head. Not an unreasonable thought given the circumstances.

I’d have to watch what I said. Hmm — It wasn’t exactly what I’d expected! Though what I had expected I didn’t really know.

 

ooOoo

Later that evening, when we were settling down to sleep, Gina lay down next to me.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah — it’s just a lot to absorb.”

“Too right it is!” she said with half a laugh.

There was a note of hysteria in her voice. I looked more closely at her. I very much wanted to take her hand.

“How about you? How are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m okay I guess. Like you, a bit unsettled.”

“I always thought you’d be fine with something like this.”

“Only in my dreams,” she laughed.

“So much for ‘Seize the Day!’”

I glanced around. Gwen and Marlene were cuddled up under a blanket on the far side of the fire. Emmett and Jules were whispering to each other next to them, and Marion was in deep conversation with Percival over by a huge oak tree.

“Doug…?”

“Yes?”

“Will you hold me?”

Startled I returned my gaze to Gina. She really was wonderful, her radiant green eyes ensnaring me with their incredible depth. Right now, though, she looked scared and vulnerable. I carefully wrapped my arms around her and pulled her towards me.

“What did you think about the whole — erotic thoughts — thing…?” she whispered uncertainly.

I smiled into her hair.

“Hmm — that was a surprise!”

She turned her head to look at me.

“Do you think… Do you think you and I could — you know…?”

I felt a sudden warmth inside.

“Yes, I think we could do that — only if you want to, of course?”

“I think it would be very nice.”

We went to sleep like that, wrapped in each other’s arms, fending off the uncertainty of the future with shared body warmth and soft kisses.

 

ooOoo

Sleeping on the ground is not comfortable! But, with Gina’s warm body nestled against me, it was, without a doubt, my best night ever!

A cool spring dawn crept in, with a clear sky, and a heavy dew. Slowly, we all stirred into life. A life of uncertainty and the unknown,

Arthur’s men spent the morning sparring.

“So — can any of you handle a sword?” asked Arthur interestedly, as we watched.

“Gwen can! And Marion,” volunteered Marlene.

“Gwain — The big woman?”

“I can handle a sword, yes,” Gwen said, responding to Arthur’s comment.

“Well, this I have to see! A woman who can fight! Percival — lend her your sword! Let’s see what she can do!”

It was a joy to watch. Gwen systematically beat each and every one of them, including both Galahad and Percival. Her skill and strength were obvious; Arthur was at first amazed, and then thoughtful, as he watched both Gwen, and then her brother defeat his best fighters.

Afterwards, he congratulated her.

“I’ve never seen anything like that. How would you like to serve with me?”

Gwen eyed him steadily. Then she looked across at us, her expression unreadable.

“I would be honoured to stay and serve with you, Arthur.”

Bloody Hell! Where did that come from?

Marlene stepped up beside Gwen.

“I’d like to serve with you too — though I’m not a soldier.”

“Gwen — no!” Marion cried, looking distraught.

“Marion — it feels right here! It — it’s like it was meant to be!”

Her look softened.

“I love you, brother — but look what a chance life has given me! Seize the day — remember? Ever since we arrived here, I’ve felt a — a pull — I can’t really explain it.

She sighed.

“We were always destined for different things. I’m sorry, Marion.”

“You would also be welcome, Marion — you fight like your sister — fast as a snake and with guile; you would be a worthy addition to our band,” offered Arthur.

“I — I can’t. I’m sorry, Sis. You’re right. There’s somewhere else I’m meant to be and — and it’s not here…”

 

ooOoo

The rest of the day passed quietly in reflection. The mood was subdued. A change was approaching for our peculiar little group, and I sensed something coming to an end. This wasn’t what we had intended at all. But we could all sense that there was something else at play here. For some reason, one hesitated to use the word destiny.

As night fell, Emmett came over.

“We need to move on,” he whispered. “We need to — you know — tonight.” He looked pointedly at Gina and me.

“What?”

“You know what.”

“What about you and Jules then?” I said slightly belligerently.

He looked embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, Em — I didn’t mean to intrude. I’m just a wee bit on edge.”

“Let’s call it belt and braces, then.”

A thought occurred to me.

“Wait — what about Gwen and Marlene? Won’t they — travel with us?”

“Marlene said not to worry — she said she wouldn't be much of a witch if she couldn't deal with a few nanoprobes.”

“Oh — okay, then.”

I reflected on Marlene. She had been altogether different since we had arrived here. At home. Yes — and something told me she had some important part to play here.

And so, we settled down for our second night in this mysterious otherworld. As before, Gina and I lay together. Emmett’s words echoed inside my head, telling me what we needed to do.

He needn’t have worried. Gina and I didn’t need to speak; we talked with our eyes, with our fingers, and with our lips.

Gina leaned down and tenderly kissed me. I didn’t think getting aroused would be a problem…

She tasted of heaven, did this peach of a girl; of sugar and spice, and all things nice. I held her in my arms and felt my ardour rising, joining hers. I could stay here forever…

I felt a sudden pull, my stomach contracted, and…

Oh no! I thought. No, no, no! Too bloody soon, you impatient bastards!

 

ooOoo

Time: 1192 AD

Dizzy; nauseous; breathless. Not as bad as last time, but still. Bugger! Talk about bad timing! I felt Gina slip out of my arms.

Raising myself, I cautiously looked around.

We were in a wooded glade. It was daylight. There was a moss-covered boulder…

“Weren’t we just here?” I whispered.

“I think so. That rock — it looks the same,” said Gina.

I caught sight of Emmett and Jules, a few feet away. Jules was retching noisily into the grass. I wasn’t feeling very sympathetic.

“Hellooo!”

“Who’s there?” croaked Jules, startled.

I suddenly realised that somebody was sitting on the boulder.

“Where did you appear from?” the man called.

“Erm…”

“Never mind. It’s not a good place to be hanging around right now, though. Especially in your condition.”

He eyed our dishevelled state meaningfully.

“What do you mean? Why?” asked Emmett.

“Bandits,” he said succinctly.

I glanced at Gina, who was just about managing to stand up.

“Erm — where are we exactly?” I asked.

“This area of the forest is known as Arthur’s Dent.”

“What?”

“Do you not know the story?”

“Er, no…”

“Legend has it that, centuries ago, King Arthur once travelled these woods with his sorceress, Merlene. He fell from his horse and smashed his head on this very rock, denting his helm.”

“Really?”

“Utter nonsense, of course. Arthur was never this far north.”

“No — of course not.”

“It’s funny — I always feel drawn to this place. I don’t know why — but it’s as if there’s something magical about it — like I'm linked to it somehow!”

As I looked at the boulder more closely, I realised it was different. It was smaller and looked like it had been — split open somehow.

“So, who are you?” asked Gina.

“I am Robin of Loxley — a village to the north. But for now, I am banished and live in the forest.”

“Oh, my God — you’re…”

“Yes?”

“Don’t you rob the rich and give to the poor?”

Robin was startled.

“Certainly not! Why on earth would I do that?”

He looked affronted. Then his expression morphed into one of thoughtfulness.

“Though, now that you mention it, perhaps it’s not that bad an idea.”

“Really?”

“Well, the poor do get it a bit rough — and the local sheriff really is a tyrant.”

He laughed wonderingly, then gave us a querying look.

“And what are your names?”

“Oh — I’m Gina.”

“Emmett.”

“Juliette — but call me Jules — everybody does.”

“Dougie.”

“And the quiet one? The handsome lad moping at the back?”

“That’s Marion.”

“He’s just lost his sister.”

“Oh — I’m sorry!”

I was conscious suddenly, that we were missing two of our numbers, and felt a sadness come over me. For better or worse, Gwen and Marlene would have lived out their lives by now.

There was a loud rustling in the trees, and suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

“Bandits!” Robin whispered urgently.

He jumped down from his perch and held out his hand to us.

Come with me if you want to live!”

Like a ghost, he quickly led the way into the trees.

“I know these woods like the back of my hand,” he whispered. “I’ll take you to my home — it’s deep in the forest!”

For several hours we followed silently, until we reached Robin’s hideout. It was a large wattle and daub structure, with a stone fireplace. Comfy for one, it was definitely a stretch for six, but he invited us inside without hesitation.

Robin chatted to us as we helped him prepare a simple supper.

“One of my ancestors was supposed to have been a powerful witch who lived hereabouts. I often wonder if the story is true.”

We looked at each other. Surely not…?

 

ooOoo

After we’d eaten, Robin said he was going to scout around to make sure everything was safe.

“I’ll come with you!” volunteered Marion.

“Alright.”

They stepped out of the door together, looking completely at ease with one another. Then Robin popped his head back through the doorway.

“Don’t worry — I’ll be back!” he laughed.

Once they’d gone, the four of us huddled together.

“We can’t afford to stay here tonight,” whispered Emmett. “We’re clearly being pulled back, but not quickly enough. We'll move on again after dark, and see where — or rather, when—we get to!”

“But we're with Robin Hood!" said Gina.

“Yes, well I just hope we haven’t interfered too much…”

“I think it’s a bit late for that, Emmett — look what we already did with Arthur,” I said.

“Maybe that’s how it was meant to be in the first place?” wondered Jules.

“Oh, God — thinking about that makes my head hurt!” mumbled Gina.

Robin and Marion returned soon after, though Marion was looking very troubled. I wondered what was on his mind. It can’t have been easy, leaving his sister like that.

We thanked Robin for his generosity, and settled down for the night. I watched Robin and Marion talking intimately in the corner. It was strange; they looked — meant for each other — like a couple!

I thought about our little band of time-travellers, and what we had experienced in so short a time. I thought about change, and commitment, and love.

Carpe diem…

As we snuggled down, I once more took Gina into my arms. Conscious of the people around us, I kissed her softly on the lips. The last few days had been a whirlwind, but I knew what I wanted now — old-fashioned though it seemed.

I gazed into Gina’s hypnotic eyes. My throat was hoarse; I could feel myself choking up. I swallowed, suddenly nervous.

“Harriet Georgina Wells, will you marry me?”

She gazed back at me wondrously. I watched her eyes glisten in the firelight.

“Yes!” she whispered, sounding exultant.

I kissed her soft, exquisite lips. My heart started to beat erratically with elation and I thought I was going to explode with happiness!

Oh God…

I felt my stomach pulling me away, my vision tunnelling again. Nooo!

 

ooOoo

Time: May 2020 AD

It was getting easier each time. Still not pleasant — not by any means, but…

We were in a park. Scattered trees cast fragments of shade across the worn grass.

There was a boulder, fractured, broken… I knew that boulder!

“Who triggered that?” Emmett sounded disgruntled — served him right! Dr Brown and Mademoiselle Verne would have other opportunities to satisfy their desire!

Gina and I looked at each other, eyes somewhat glazed and wild, still wrapped up in those last few moments.

“Guilty…” I said, flushing.

Gina giggled.

As we stood, we carefully looked around.

“So, when are we now?” Gina wondered.

“This is the park in Arthur’s Dent!”

“We must be home! That’s the high street!”

“Hey — where’s Tannen’s cafe?”

“It’s gone — I think that’s a restaurant, over there where it used to be…”

“What’s it called?”

“Mm — it’s hard to see. Milliways, I think.”

“Hmm, I wonder — remember the elastic analogy? I think we may have snapped back too far in the other direction. This feels like the future…” pondered Emmett.

“That restaurant looks closed. Actually — everything looks closed. I wonder why?”

“Actually — where’s Marion?” I asked.

We all looked at each other.

“I think — maybe — there is a stronger magic than Emmett’s nanoprobes at work here. Did you see how Marion and Robin were looking at each other?” Jules ventured.

Deep in thought, I walked towards the boulder. It looked very familiar, but I didn’t remember it being in the park.

Next to it, an old woman was sat on a park bench. Beside her was a cloth package.

As the other’s caught up, she smiled.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said.

Her voice was familiar; my eyes grew round. Surely it wasn’t… It couldn’t be! She would be…

“Oh, my God. Marlene?” Jules exclaimed.

A startled look crossed the woman’s face.

“It’s a long time since I’ve been called that,” she said with a chuckle.

“How — how is it that you’re alive — that you’re here?”

“Never mind that — I have something to show you.”

She lifted the package next to her and reverently unwrapped it.

It was a sword. Ancient, but pristine, it was adorned with a single, large, green gemstone, inlaid into the pommel, and had the letters XLII inscribed on the blade.

“Is that…?”

“Yes. The sword, and the stone within it were brought together by the magic contained within the very fabric of this rock. They carry both the power and the knowledge that will help you find the answers you need.”

“What answers?”

“Ah, too many questions!”

She coughed.

“I am old, and a plague is upon us; my time is drawing to a close. Yours, however, is just beginning. The sword belongs to you now.”

“Why?” whispered Gina.

“Because where you’re going, you’ll need more than just nanoprobes to help you. Use it well, and…”

She smiled.

“…Carpe diem.”

And then, right in front of our eyes, she slowly faded from existence.

 

ooOoo

I’m out of time now, so I will have to finish our story there.

Yes, you still have many questions, I know. I’m sorry I can’t answer them.

We did get back to our own time — for a while, at least.

We deeply miss our absent friends, and think of them every day. We toasted them at our wedding, and got very, very, drunk.

As for the sword — well, all I can tell you, is that it’s where it belongs.

I hope you enjoyed our tale — though, of course, I don’t expect you will believe it. Perhaps I will have another story to tell one day?

Dougie Adams,

12 August 2021

 

Published 
TheShyThespian

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