Tuesday Tale – Outside

Today’s tale continues last week’s story.

I felt a rush of air and something or someone grabbing me, hoisting me, hoisting me up as huge claws and teeth were inches from my face.

A huge horse, a rider, my teenage fantasy. I was being hauled up behind the rider. In my fantasy I was lithe and young, rescued by the handsome hero to nestle safely in his arms and cling to the horse’s mane. In reality I was a forty year old mother who had been snatched away from reality into a dystopian future.

‘Hang on tight, I can’t stop’ ordered the rider.

Hang on to what? The man was encased in leather and straps and encumbered with weapons, so was the horse. Suddenly his arm swung up then down, there was a glint of steel followed by a primeval scream. I felt something warm splatter my face; before I instinctively closed my eyes I had seen the arc of blood. If I thought being in the bunker was a nightmare I now realised why Billings said the outside was dangerous.

It was getting dark, but there were lights ahead, a sign that this was a nightmare and I would wake up in my own bed?

The lights were not a return to normality, but flaming torches lining some sort of tunnel. I clung on tight to my rescuer; it was painfully uncomfortable, but better than being eaten by a strange beast. The tunnel sloped downwards and tiled walls were just discernible in the flickering light. Tiled walls that belonged to a civilised city, but where was the city? If I had only been propelled seventy seven years into the future it made no sense. The open wild land I had glimpsed so far had no signs of buildings. Buildings become ruins, they don’t disappear; London could not have disappeared.

I heard other voices, figures emerged from the gloom. We weren’t underground, but in a huge compound. Rugged walls, more torches and a couple of leather clad people with guard dogs.

‘What sort of hunting do you call this?’

A fierce looking chap stepped forward and grabbed the reins.

‘I have no idea who or what she is, but let Mazie take her to the hospitality room and get cleaned up and then I will be the one to question her.’

Hospitality sounded encouraging and two women sat me by a fire and put a bowl of warm water by me. With no mirror I could only guess what my face looked like; the rest of me was bloodied.

‘Do you have a name?’

Did I look so strange I might have been living in the wild, not on an evening out in London with my husband?

‘Lauren, Lauren Smith. I know who I am and where I come from, but I have no idea where I am now.’

‘You’re not from the bunkers?’

I shook my head.

‘Well you are certainly not one of us.’

‘Who are you please?’

‘Hunters of course, Survivors, not like them lot underground. You’ll have to strip off, we’ll burn your clothes, you can’t have the scent of blood on you, wouldn’t stand a chance out there.’

For a moment I thought they were going to send me back ‘out there’, then I felt an hysterical giggle rise in my throat. What would I wear to the theatre if they burnt all my clothes? They put me behind an animal skin screen, poured water into a tub of sorts and handed me a bundle of rough cloth which I had no idea how to put on. Shower gel was obviously not going to be an option.

The drink was welcome as I sat on a bench and saw the bearded face of my rescuer properly for the first time. He smiled, he could have been a chap on television presenting a living in the wilds programme, just a normal man a bit rough and ready.

‘Thanks, thanks so much for rescuing me. I know you won’t believe me if I did tell you who I am and how I got here, or at least I have no idea how I got here.’

‘You look so weird I would believe anything you told me, I mean what on earth were you wearing?’

‘Tell me first what year it is.’

‘2099 of course, can you believe we’re nearly at the end of the century, the strangest century in human history.’

‘I come from 2023, London. I was in a restaurant with my husband and I went through a door and ended up in the bunker.’

‘Okay, so I don’t believe you.’

‘In the bunker a woman declared I was a prophecy come true, come from the past to take you all back to change what happened.’

‘Streuth, of course, the holy book my mother keeps locked up. I never believed all that rubbish … have you come masquerading as Lauren of London to trick some of the gullible ones?’

‘I am not a saviour, just an ordinary person, but perhaps if I meet your mother she will realise I am not a prophecy.’

‘Well here she is, hey Mother, you didn’t waste any time coming to see the stranger.’

‘Of course not, great excitement out there, I guessed you would need my help. I hope you are treating her properly.’

‘Oh yes, I am very grateful to your son for saving my life and everyone has been very hospitable.’

I thought it best to keep on the right side of a mother who might be an important person in this strange community.

‘I have waited all my life for this moment Lauren of London.’

‘No you don’t understand. I am not a saviour, just an ordinary person who can’t believe she has been transported to the future, a future that makes no sense.’

‘Of course my dear, you don’t understand yet. We have a learning journey of months, maybe years, to go on before the great return. First we will open the Holy Book together.’

I was escorted royally to a wooden hut of sorts.

‘Welcome to my home Lauren.’

Inside she slid open a sort of hatch and produced a rudimentary key to unlock a small rectangular box out of which she took a book, kissed it reverentially then handed it to me. I nearly burst out laughing. It was a paperback book, yellowed with age, but I could still discern the lurid cover and guessed it was one of those romantic fantasy novels my sister loves reading.  

‘Do you have other books?’

‘Oh no, all gone and what need to do we have of books, just this precious one.’

‘Do you read it often?’

‘I can’t read, my mother used to read it to me when I was little till her eyesight failed; then she carried on telling the prophesy and I learnt it from her, even passed it on to some in the bunkers. Please read it to me.’

I looked at the cover, Door to the Future,  not a very original title… by J M Scribbletide, what sort of name was that for a novelist? I perused the first page to find a publishing date, 2028. I felt a chill, this was no holy book, but it was proof that it came from beyond my time. I turned a page and started reading it to the eager woman.

‘It was just an ordinary evening out with my other half, who would have imagined that ordinary me, Lauren Smith, was about to have her life changed beyond imagining…’

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.

Tuesday Tiny Tale 500 – Doors

‘Don’t be long, we’ll have to leave for the theatre in a few moments.’

‘Hmm, looks like the Ladies is downstairs, send out a search party if I’m not back in five ha ha.’

I was not surprised to find a choice of narrow corridors and dark doors at the bottom of the rickety stairs. We were in one of those large Wetherspoons in an old interesting rescued building, with cosy nooks and different levels. More fun than the minimalist, exorbitant restaurant Jay had wanted to try, even if the food was exactly the same as our local Wetherspoons back home. One of my hobbies was clocking up new Wetherspoons on our holidays and mid week breaks, especially if they had interesting toilets.

I ventured down the most likely corridor, past a kitchen, a door to a yard and several staff only signs. The very last door looked hopeful and I was not disappointed; a huge circular space with higgledy piggledy cubicles, sofas, vanity benches and fairy tale mirrors. There was no one else around so I sneaked out my phone and took a few pictures for my blog. I could also put some on that new blog, Tuesday Toilets.

It was the mirrors that confused me as I was blasted by the gothic hot air drier. Where was the door out? Where was the door I had come in? I opened the cleaner’s cupboard and baby changing. I looked at my watch and wondered if Jay would send down a search party.

Now I was beginning to panic. I tried to calm down and work my way round logically trying every door and all the mirrors. I hoped Jay would send a search party.

I nearly fell through a mirror, it must have swivelled. Thank goodness. But as it closed behind me I realised it was the wrong door. This was not the corridor I had come down, no sign of the stairs back up. This corridor sloped down, but at least if I followed it I would either end up in another kitchen and apologise or go out of the fire exit. I should phone Jay to tell him what was going on.

There was no signal on my phone. Then I heard a man’s voice.

‘Come on Luv, hurry up, we’ve got to get down to the bunker, didn’t you hear the sirens?

A man in a  strange uniform with a large torch appeared at my side and pushed me through a door I had not noticed. I was blinded by the light; a vast space that didn’t make sense. A new modern tube station, but there weren’t any new tube lines in this part of London.

‘Which sector Madam?’

‘I don’t know, I don’t know where I am. Is this the underground station?’

‘We should be so lucky, wouldn’t we all like a train out of here… happy days eh? Now tell me which sector you are registered with so we can get you swiped in. We need to make sure everyone is accounted for after what happened last week.’

Silly Saturday Special – Saturday Alive

Saturday Alive, the magazine programme to start your weekend with a lighter look at dark news and a darker look at light news.

Gourmets and health experts alike are welcoming new rules making it compulsory for warning labels to be put on vegan food. Carnivores and omnivores will be able to shop safely knowing what they are buying.

Anglers are reporting a serious shortage of maggots as the food industry embraces alternate sources of protein.

A strike by Boutique Indie Authors has gone totally unnoticed. The select group of writers put down their pens, turned off their computers, ignored their WIPs and refused to blog for the third day in a row. An anonymous spokes person said long writing hours and no pay or pension rights had led them to the drastic action.

WordPress denied reports that some bloggers were not human and were created by artificial intelligence, although an inside source was reported as saying they had no way of knowing if any of their bloggers were human.

April Fools’ Day is to be renamed as April Fun Day to avoid offending the Foolish Community. Traditionalists will be further irked to learn that jokes will be extended beyond noon till midnight.

Monday Meanderings

It’s never a good idea to wander through a writer’s mind, especially on a Monday.

Do you rush round cleaning and tidying when the in laws are coming, are you nervous when important visitors are expected? Spare a thought for President Macron who had to cancel the visit of King Charles III as the place was in too much of a mess…

Most of us worry about the cost of running our homes. This is nothing new. We are reading Jude the Obscure for our book club. Jude and Sue are going for a very long walk on the wild heathlands of Wessex and with no coffee shops in sight and poor Sue getting weary, they call at the only cottage for miles around. They end up sharing the mother and son’s dinner and staying the night. In conversation the cottager complained she will never get her roof fixed because the price of thatch has gone up so much.

Yes, I’ve been to the Giant gallery again.

I’ll leave readers to comment… while I take a wander down to the beach.

Tuesday Tiny Tale – Backstage

Charlotte was looking forward to open day at the Hambourne Theatre Royal. A rather grand name for a building that looked like it had seen better days. She had not seen inside, it was one of the places on her list as a new resident of Hambourne. Joining the Hambourne Players had not been on the list, but it seemed a good way to join a backstage tour of the theatre and get inspiration for another adventure for Lottie Lincoln, accidental crime investigator.

Mothering Sunday was best avoided this year and the open day sounded like a Mothers’ Day free zone. As she stepped into the foyer she hoped she would recognise at least one or two of the Hambourne Players and hopefully one or two of them might recognise her. If she ever progressed to an active role in the group they would soon find out she could not act, but hopefully she could paint some scenery, be the prompt or even contribute a few lines to the play they were hoping to write.

A man in a suit was herding people into groups; there was a good turnout and three tours were setting off at the same time. Charlotte sidled over when she heard Hambourne Players being called, she felt like the new girl at school again, especially when someone called out ‘Charlotte Charlington?’

Why did her parents have to ensure she was always going to end up being called Charley by everyone except her parents?

A few of the group stared, some didn’t even turn to look at the newcomer, but a few smiled.  She was relieved when the theatre manager started addressing their group and she could avoid having to talk to anyone or worse still have no one wanting to chat to her.

What a lovely theatre, all plush red and opulence from another age, but obviously in need of a lot of loving care, as the manager was quick to point out. She trotted along enthusiastically with the group as they passed through narrow doors and down steep steps. What to stars and theatre staff were narrow corridors and shabby small dressing rooms, were to Charlotte scenes of mystery and dark intrigue for her new novel.

Her excitement grew as they climbed up yet more narrow stairs and came out onto the stage. Real ropes and pulleys and strange equipment in dark spaces high above their heads. A technical chap was now explaining how ropes, weights and counter balances worked and the dangers that lurked in an environment deliciously free of health and safety.  Charlotte resisted the temptation to ask if they ever had any nasty accidents. It was then her phone emitted a jolly tune.

‘Mum, where on earth are you, looks like you’re on board a sailing boat.’

‘Shsh Maddy, you didn’t say you were going to Facetime this morning, thought you were going to spend all day in bed as it’s Mothers’ Day.’

Charlotte tried to become invisible and dodge behind some black curtains.

‘I am in bed Mum, they brought me breakfast and I am going to stay here allll… day till the roast beef is ready this evening.’

Charlotte resisted the temptation to say she never got a lie in when they were young, let alone languishing all day… but her main thought was to get her daughter off the phone.

‘Can we Facetime this evening…

‘Oh, okay, I thought you would be sad and lonely…’

Charlotte sighed, now Maddy was going to take umbrage.

‘…what are you doing and who’s that weird bloke talking?’

‘Shsh they’ll hear you, I’m on a theatre backstage tour…’

The technical chap was saying something about grand pianos and raising platforms as Charlotte hurriedly stuffed her phone back in her bag as if she had never taken it out in the first place. The stage floor felt rather uneven, very uneven, Charlotte felt herself go off balance as she heard someone say ‘SWITCH IT OFF.’

‘No I’m fine, just lost my balance for a moment.  No please don’t call the first aid officer… ’

Charlotte looked up at the bemused faces above her and cringed, but at the same time her mind retreated into the world of Lottie Lincoln, a night at the theatre, an actor on stage mysteriously disappearing…

Silly Saturday – Baz the Bad Blogger Bows Out.

Today is the last post I’m sharing with Baz the Bad Blogger, for this month at least… it is the first in depth interview he has given or at least promised to give. He has at last revealed what his front door looks like.

Congratulations to David who was the first to guess correctly that this is the only door Baz sees the inside of and it also keeps everybody else OUT. But Baz’s home is surprisingly small for such a big personality…

…though he still has room for his hobbies such as model railways..

I asked Baz what he liked best about blogging.

‘Reading the spam comments.’

And does he have any tips for bloggers and users of social media.

‘Yes, always be honest.’

A selection of Baz’s comments on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc perhaps best illustrate why he is so popular.

Your blog was two yards long, but at least I had something to read during my long wait in accident and emergency.

Your blog was mercifully short, but still the most boring blog I have ever read.

If my baby looked like that I certainly wouldn’t put its picture on Facebook.

If that is the cover of your book I dread to think what the words inside are like.

Yes, well Baz, perhaps we had better leave those comments where they belong. Thanks for being my guest, did you say you were off on holiday soon?

‘Yes, somewhere far away.’

Farewell Baz… I really enjoyed getting to know him better and my impression is that he is really just a big old softy who loves his teddies…

…and who will remember to send his mother a card on Mothering Sunday.

Friday Fun with Baz the Bad Blogger

Today we discover an unknown side to Baz, his artistic talent. Some have compared him to Banksy, others to Anthony Gormley, but nobody actually knows anything about Baz. His works vary from street art to installation pieces. Enjoy just some of the highlights of his prolific work.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s blog when Baz will hopefully reveal which door was his and some more insights into his life.