Tonight’s tale follows on from last week’s or you can read as a stand alone story.
The book had been locked away again; I had only read the opening lines of Door To The Future, published 2028, but enough to know the narrator shared my name and had also been propelled into the future. There must be many Lauren Smiths around, this book need not have anything to do with me, just a coincidence, though how many others of my namesake had gone through the wrong door?
How did it come to be written and if it was about me, was it reassuring proof that I returned to my own time? It was unlikely I had written it, I had no imagination, as my English teacher was always telling me. Before we had the children I worked in an office and wrote reports, dealt with finances. I liked that world of precision and writing a romantic fantasy novel would never have occurred to me. Someone else could have written it, but I knew no writers to tell my story to.
‘Lauren, Miss Smith, did you hear what I said dear, you must be tired, we must let you sleep.’
I had been so deep in thought I had lost track of what my rescuer and his mother were talking about.
‘No, I can’t sleep, I need to find out how this happened to me and how I can get back.’
‘No hurry dear, your time will stay the same, that’s what the book says.’
As they tried to explain their world I realised I could understand their past and my future better than they possibly could. I surmised Billings in the bunker had a better grasp of what had happened; my stomach churned as I wondered if she had made it safely back to the bunker or had she been eaten? I asked my rescuer what creature it was that attacked me.
‘A great cat, he wouldn’t eat you, got plenty of venison and beef out there, they just like to play with the weaker humans.’
The creature I glimpsed was a lot bigger than mythical black panthers spotted in the west country, it didn’t make sense.
As if she read my thoughts the mother spoke.
‘My mother told me strange creatures they had never seen escaped from the borytrees when everything stopped. Signtists made them from gentic earing. They mixed with other animals that went to the wild…’
It made sense, if normal society broke down the creatures we kept for our entertainment or experiment would escape, not just domestic dogs and cats, but wolf packs lovingly supervised in Scotland, animals in the zoo and wild boars that were already roaming some woodlands. I recalled Billings’ words that farm animals were much better at survival than humans, then there were large deer populations breeding happily with no natural predators.
‘How did everything stop?’
‘Pewters ran the world, then they turned off the cities.’
A simplistic explanation, but with no books and only stories passed down it must be hard for them to understand. When I worked in the office I was efficient, liked everything to be precise. If I had worked in pre computer days I would have kept immaculate ledger books and orderly filing cabinets; unless the office burnt down all that information would be safe and nothing would hold up our work. If the computers ‘went down’ in our office, or worse, the whole company’s computers were down it was a disaster, we were helpless and expected the tech people to sort it out. I Lauren Smith could not fix a computer let alone make them. If power started failing there would be no basic services or computers; society would grind to a halt.
‘But survivors, hunters… our people knew how to get food’ said my rescuer.
I would have been a bunker person, so would my friends. It was obvious who would survive, anyone who had been in the armed forces, knew how to use a gun, survive under tough conditions. Even those people we look down on who go out shooting grouse or culling deer and enjoying the stalking, they had the last laugh. Farmers, they deserved to survive, presumably they knew more about animals than the rest of us and probably had a shot gun handy and could kill a sheep or cow if need be. I knew little about life outside the city and now it seemed my lifestyle was pathetic when it came to awful disasters. But still there was a big question.
‘I don’t understand how the cities in my time could crumble, we have huge buildings everywhere, tall buildings, ancient stone buildings, where did they all go?’
‘There were wars, then the big destruction came. Weapons flew by themselves, even when the wars stopped. Weapons dropped out of the sky and flattened cities, my mother remembers even from the countryside where they had escaped they could see the fire and smoke on the far horizon. The city people who survived were hiding underground.’
In my cosy little world of the family and my teaching assistant job we watched the news, but still felt removed from all the awful events. Syria, Ukraine, it was possible for cities to be flattened under relentless attack and unmanned drones were a reality.
Even if I took the hunters and bunker people back to my time right now it was probably too late to unravel events already set in motion. I looked down at the uncomfortable rough cloth I was wrapped in and at the rough clothes of the man and his mother. Even if we could get back to 2023, who on earth would listen to us and our tale?