Tuesday Tale – The Wrong Door

Today’s story follows on from this tiny tale, or you can read it as a stand alone story.

I should have been in the theatre with my husband watching that new comedy drama. Instead I was trapped in a drama that was not funny.

‘Madam, you are not registered with any sector in this bunker. Which bunker are you registered at?’

How had a trip to the Ladies at a Wetherspoon pub turned into a dystopian nightmare? I must have opened the wrong door…

‘Please tell me where I am and who you are, then I will tell you who I am.’

I was now in a strangely lit smaller room with half a dozen men and women all in the same uniform, all glaring at me.

‘Name and date of birth Madam.’

‘Lauren Smith, 8th February, 1983.’

There was a sharp intake of breath and mutterings.

‘You are just making things difficult for yourself, please show us you ID and current status.’

Shakily I opened my handbag and fumbled for my driver’s licence.

‘Very funny, what do you call this piece of historic plastic?’

Suddenly a woman pushed past the others to stand close to me.

‘It’s her, it must be, the prophecy…’

‘Billings, you are on duty, this is not the time for your ridiculous fantasies, have you taken your medication today?’

‘Please Sir, just let me talk to her, I mean look at what she’s wearing… Lauren, it’s okay, we don’t mean any harm, we’re just not used to strangers turning up here.  What is the date today?’

‘Tuesday 18th April.’

‘…and the year?’

‘2023 of course.’

‘It is her Sir, come to take us back to change things.’

‘For God’s sake Billings, the dawn of the 22nd century and you still believe in time travel and benevolent forces coming to save us.’

Some of my questions were being answered, but not the answers I wanted. Best case scenario I was being tricked and filmed for some ridiculous reality television show, but who would have arranged such a thing? Jay did not have the imagination and all he wanted was a romantic night away with me while his sister looked after the kids. And if this was real… the children. How would Jay explain to them I had gone missing, the last person to see me, they always suspect the husbands…’

‘Lauren, are you feeling okay, come with me to the calm zone and have a drink, you’re in shock.’

Mutterings among the others got louder and scarier.

‘She’s in trouble, not shock. Obviously a spy…  or a total nut case.’

Despite my terror I wondered how politically incorrect language had survived.

‘Billings, you are dismissed from duty, report to headquarters in the morning.’

I was about to lose my only hope.

‘No, please, I am not a spy and I do not have mental health issues, just let Billings show me the way I came in so I can leave.’

‘No one leaves the bunker till the all clear.’

A green light flashed on the wall.

‘All clear’ said Billings triumphantly ‘permission to escort the prisoner to the custody suite while you supervise the security checks.’

‘Ten minutes then report back to me.’

My new friend ushered me out of the room and into a dark corridor. Was she a friend or was worse to come?

‘I have to get back, my husband will be wondering where on earth I am.’

‘You are not how I always imagined, but then the prophecy says only a few will recognise her and to think it is me you have chosen to be your disciple.’

‘But I am just an ordinary person who hasn’t a clue what’s going on.’

‘But you will, that’s what the writings say and it’s my privilege to help you. Once I take you outside you will understand.’

‘Yes, outside, lets go before your boss changes his mind.’

A door, a door with chinks of light, she pulled a lever and it opened; but not onto a busy London street at twilight.

I closed my eyes against the brightness, a wonderful scent came to me, fresh air, air even fresher than during the Covid lockdown. The ground felt soft underfoot. I opened my eyes. I was surrounded by green; fields and trees as far as I could see. If I had time travelled I was surely in the past, unless I had died.

‘Is this real, it’s wonderful, where are we?’

‘In North London ward, April 18th 2099.’

‘But it can’t be. If we are really in the future it means the planet was saved.’

 I ran through the luxuriant grass like a child, hugged a tree.

Wait Lauren, it’s not safe, you must stay with me till you understand.’

‘Do you know how I can get back to 2023?’

‘No, you need to tell us how to get back so we can change things.’

‘But how and why, it’s beautiful, nature has reclaimed part of the city, how much is like this?’

‘All of it.’

‘Impossible, all of London?’

‘All of the world.’

‘How wonderful.’

‘Wonderful for the world and other creatures, but not for humans. It started in your time, most of you didn’t realise. I thought you would know all this as the wise woman who knew the past and the future.’

I was beginning to wonder if Billings should have taken her medication.

‘You don’t get it do you? I expect you have a lot to learn before you can help us. You turned everything off, no more polluting power stations and vehicles, no more exploiting the earth and the oceans. It didn’t happen overnight, but you weren’t prepared. People couldn’t get to work and many jobs ceased to exist. Food couldn’t get to shops, then food wasn’t being grown or caught. Only the ‘organics’ as they were called managed to support themselves, but they weren’t so smug if they got ill and realised hospitals could not function without power and medicine could not be manufactured.’

I couldn’t believe what she was saying, but wanted to defend my times.

‘But we all learned to live off the land eventually?’

‘The minority who were left in safe pockets.’

‘But you still have wars, the bunkers…’

‘No war, not on any scale. The bunkers are where we live most of the time. The outside is dangerous, most people did not know how to hunt, or at least hunt without being killed first. Farm animals left to their own devices turned out to be better than us at survival and provided good food for the carnivores to thrive.’

‘But if you could you go back how would you change things?’

‘That is for you to explain. You are a scientist as well as a seer…’

I was a teaching assistant in primary school, I didn’t even do A Level science or maths and certainly knew nothing about time travel. I clung to the tree with its spring leaves budding, it felt so solid and alive and real. I looked up at a host of birds calling and singing. Was this paradise? Suddenly all the birds took off from the branches in terror. I looked down to see a large creature slinking through the long grass. Billings’ voice and the sirens seemed faint as I heard my heart thumping.

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