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Unearthing The Past

"Sometimes things are better left where they lie."
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Published 1 month ago

"Beep!"

A coke can.

"Beep!"

Rusty barbed wire.

Every time Derek got a response from his metal detector, it turned out to be another worthless item.

The farmer always gave him permission to check out his field after the autumn ploughing, and all day he had been working back and forth without a single meaningful find.

As dusk was approaching, Derek decided it was time to give up for the day and head home. But as he collected his gear, his machine gave off another much deeper beep. Intrigued Derek gingerly probed the soil with his trowel, and just below the surface he unearthed a dented metal object about four inches square, caked in clay.

When he got home, Derek very carefully cleaned off the soil with a soft brush and was astonished to find it was a silver cigarette case. On it was engraved the name "Flight Officer Roger Jackson RAF". After careful application of easing oil, he was eventually able to prise open the case enough to examine the contents. Inside were several decayed cigarettes and more interestingly, a black and white photo of a young woman. On the back of the photo was written: "To my dearest Roger, love Emily x."

Wanting to try and find out more about his find, Derek visited the farmer to see if he could help. All the farmer could tell him was that a plane had crashed in the top field during WW2, nothing more. But he did suggest that Derek have a word with old Mr Bennett, the village historian.

Checking through the archives, Mr Bennett was indeed able to confirm that a young RAF pilot named Jackson had indeed lost his life when his plane crashed on Friday, October 31st, 1941. What made the tale even sadder was that Roger Jackson was due to marry his childhood sweetheart Emily the very next day in the village church.

"Emily never really got over it," Mr Bennett added. “She never married and spent quite a reclusive life until she passed away a few years back.".

"Emily and Roger are buried next to each other in the churchyard, by the old yew tree".

Saddened by the tale he had heard, Derek returned home, poured himself a large brandy, and spent the evening reflecting on just what to do with his sad find.

Whether or not it was due to the worrying thoughts filling his mind, but Derek's sleep over the next few nights were very troubled. Each night he tossed and turned all night long. His fitful dreams full of a young pilot in uniform beckoning to him. Finally, he decided to seek out the local vicar to ask for spiritual advice. Father Simon sat quietly listening to Derek's tale, then contemplated his answer.

"I'm sorry Derek, but as your vicar, I can't really advise you on this. But speaking to you as your friend, it seems that you have only been troubled since you found the case. It may help if you can return the case in some way? Tomorrow is the anniversary of Roger Jackson's death, why don't you discreetly slip the case into the grave, it may give you closure in some way or other."

Derek gave it a little thought and then agreed to do it the following day at dusk when no one would be about.

The next day Derek quietly walked through the graveyard to the old yew tree. Checking that no one was about, he carefully dug a shallow hole in Roger Jackson's grave. As he slipped the case beneath the soil, he suddenly had the feeling he was being watched. A young couple were standing under the yew tree, silently observing him. A young man in RAF uniform stood arm in arm with a young woman. Although visibly shaken and unnerved by what he was seeing, Derek somehow found the courage to speak.

“I’m so sorry I dug up your case, I thought it best if I returned it.”

“That’s okay old boy, jolly decent of you,” the young pilot replied.

Then the young woman added, “Thank you so much, the case means a lot to us.”

Then, both smiling, the young couple turned and walked under the yew tree, slowly fading from Derek’s view.

Alone once more, Derek completed his task, happy in the knowledge that he had done the right thing.

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