She recognises neither the place nor the time. The machine’s display, after emitting a blinding light, has gone black; she hopes this is where she meant to go.
There’s a knock. She unlatches the window and finds herself surrounded by crude petroleum-fuelled vehicles. Rightish time, it seems. But these people speak a language that doesn’t sound like any of the hundreds she’s learnt. She makes what she believes to be the universally understood sign for ‘I don’t understand’; they shrug.
Before she can stop them from destroying the planet, she’ll have to figure out a way to communicate with them.
This is the middle of nowhere. Murphy’s Law dictates the camper van break down here. We’re lucky we make it to the most bizarre car park: huge, empty but for a solitary bin, with no apparent reason for the provision of parking. If only we didn’t have more important stuff to worry about.
‘Do you have signal? Cos I don’t.’
‘Nope. We’ll have to stop another car and tell them to send a tow truck our way.’
Sounds good in theory.
But this is the middle of nowhere. We’ll have more than enough time to figure out this car park.
I understand what weeks are now and I know I have only been here three. I understand months, too. Do not wait six months.
I miss home.
I have had an answer since day three. Since then, I have verified my findings.
I want to come home.
Few and far between, I have found evidence of the greatness suggested by the pre-infiltration scans. They are capable of it. But they have to set aside their petty squabbles, their mean streaks, their small-mindedness and that, it seems, they will only achieve when they have a common enemy.
She caresses the battered book; I can practically see her thoughts forming. We’re seconds away from yet another eBooks make poor substitutes for real books argument when she freezes. Her squeal is followed by delighted hand-clapping. Meanwhile, I get shivers down my spine.
‘You won’t find hidden messages in an eBook, will you? Oh, yellow, curled parchment tucked into the lining – promising.’
‘What if it’s a hex?’ I’m trying to sound like I’m making a joke. The hairs on the back of my neck stand and I want to run.
Oozing attitude – don’t mess with us, mate –, the owls catch my eye. Judgmental lot.
I won’t return to this pub – terrible choice of wall decoration, puts punters off their beer when they go the loo. The owly death stares remind me of Rita. She’ll, no doubt, give me one of hers when I stumble in later.
On the return leg, I focus on the stag – doe-eyed like Melli. She’s waiting, no doubt – I said I’d come back to hers. But I catch another glimpse of the owls’ disapproval. Smug lot.