DR FRANK JACKSON, 59A, PRINCES ROAD, BRIGHTON, EAST SUSSEX BN2 3RH
Annie and Simon set a trap for their arch enemy, Doctor Wrist, but other problems follow. Annie’s precious possessions are destroyed, and they seek revenge. This is the start of a whole series of difficulties that they have to solve.
‘No-oooo!’ The anguished scream rang down the stairs. Simon and Morag immediately ran up the stairs, Morag following after Simon. They burst into Annie’s bedroom. Annie knelt sobbing on the floor. In front of her lay the fragments of her beloved Commedia Del’Arte figurines. They stared, aghast, at the broken figures.
‘Annie!’ her brother said. ‘I’ll fix this. I promise you’.
Annie gulped. ‘How?’
‘We both know a man who knows how’.
Annie gulped again. Simon put his arms round her, affectionately. Despite that they were on at each other’s throats, frequently, he loved his sister, and cared very deeply for her.
‘What are you doing, Simon?’ she asked, irately.
‘ Just trying to be nice to you! Simon said desperately.
‘What for? Get lost, Simon! I’m going down to see our mother and find out why she let that bastard Melrose in to smash up my things!’ Annie stormed out to confront her mother.
‘Now you see what I have to contend with!’ Simon said, resignedly.
‘She’s upset, and rightly so!’ Morag said, as peacefully as she could.
They could hear raised voices below as Annie berated her mother. Morag could hear their voices as she gathered up the fragments of the figures and placed them in the cardboard box that Simon had brought. She went downstairs into the kitchen. Christine was sitting in a chair, weeping. Simon was standing by her, looking helpless. ‘She’s impossible!’ Simon snapped. “It‘s all right, Mum. She’s just distraught about those wretched figurines of hers!’
‘I didn’t know!’ His mother wailed. ‘He came to the door and said he knew Annie, and said she had something for him. He showed me his identification card as well. I didn’t know!
‘It doesn’t matter now, Mum! ‘
‘Yes, it does’. Annie said behind him. She stood in the doorway, her face still tear-stained. ‘I’m sorry, Mum, but those wretched figurines meant so much to me. They were the last link to my childhood which I’ve lost. That bastard really knew how to get to me, didn’t he?
‘Annie, language!’ said her mother, scandalised.
‘Oh, shut up, Mum!’ Simon said irritably. He was in no mood for his mother’s chastisement. He was more concerned with Annie, whose eyes were red with crying. He felt for his sister whose childhood had been so cruelly snatched away from her.
‘Don’t worry, Annie’, Her brother replied. ‘Morag and I will sort this out’.
‘How!’ Annie snapped, ‘They’re all smashed!’
‘We’ll find a way. Trust me, Annie’.
She snorted, turned on her heel and walked out. They listened to her dull footsteps up the stairs. It seemed as if the life had gone from her. Simon turned to Morag. ‘Can you do me a favour? Can you give me a lift up to St. James Street?’
‘Yes, of course. But what for?’
‘There’s a man I want you to meet’.
‘That sounds promising’.
Shortly after, she reversed her small car out of the Wheeler’s driveway. Simon got in beside her, clutching the box of Annie’s broken figures. ‘We’re going to see a man, or rather faery, who’s got a shop in St. James Street’. He explained in answer to Morag’s unspoken question. ‘He’s a craftsman, who specialises in repairing broken things’.
‘You really love your sister, don’t you’.
‘Yes, I do. Only don’t tell her that’.
Morag smiled to herself. It was the first time that Simon had ever admitted it.
They threaded their way through the bustle of lower St. James Street, then up the road to the quieter area.
‘There it is, on the right’. Simon said, pointing.
Morag looked around. There was no other traffic about, so she performed a graceful, though illegal, U-turn and parked neatly outside Bill’s little shop. Simon looked at her, impressed
‘Once a copper, always a copper’.
‘Come and meet Bill’.
The bell jangled as Simon pushed the door open. It brought Bill hurrying down the stairs on the left of the showroom. Morag looked around with delight at the exquisite little bowls and vases in glass and silver displayed on the shelves around them, the result of Bill’s craftsmanship.
Bill, standing on the bottom step of the stairs, greeted them both. ‘Morag, this is Bill. He’s a faery like you. Bill, this is Morag, our new elder sister’.
‘I am happy to meet you, Morag. I knew your mother. She was a tutor to me, when I did not know my way. I am very grateful to her’.
‘So am I. My mother meant so much to me’.
‘I am not surprised. Come upstairs, both of you, and have some tea with us’.
They followed him upstairs, and entered the elegant little living-room on the right above the shop. Louise, Bill’s wife, rose up to greet them, cradling her daughter, Isabelle. Bill introduced them Her smile of welcome faded when she saw Morag.
‘What’s she doing here!’ she cried.
Simon was bewildered. How did these two know each other?
‘Hello, Louise’ Morag said very levelly. ‘I hope you’re clean now’.
‘Yes, I am. Ever since you put me in that rehabilitation unit. It’s where I met Bill’.
‘At least it’s better than going to jail. I’m really glad that you’re happy now’.
‘I am, PC Wren. That’s how I knew you, in the past’.
‘I know. No hard feelings, Louise?’
‘Oh, no. I remember that you were kind to me, not like some of the other plods! No, I don’t bear you any grudge. You were just doing your job. But I remember your kindness, I really do. This is our daughter, Isabelle’. Louise suddenly smiled warmly, as she presented her infant to Morag.
‘ She’s lovely, Louise’. She held out her finger to the infant, who immediately grabbed it and tried to put it in her mouth. Both women laughed, and in that moment all was forgotten between them. In that instant, the ex-addict and the ex-policewoman became friends.
Both Simon and Bill were watching with fascination.
‘I will go and make some tea’. Bill said, at last. He turned and went down the stairs to the small kitchen below. Simon followed him down.
‘I’m sorry about that, Bill. I didn’t know’.
‘It is no matter. Louise was in a state of crisis then, but that is in the past. Besides, if it were not for your sister, we might never have met. I owe her a debt of gratitude for that. She was kind to Louise, at a time when she needed it’.
‘Let’s go back upstairs and see how they’re getting on’. suggested Simon. He followed Bill up with the tea-tray.
Morag and Louise were kneeling on each side of the crib that Bill had made. The infant Isabelle was chortling and chuckling with all the attention she was getting. Bill put down the tray on the small table in the centre of the room. They sipped tea together, glad they were friends. Simon remembered what they had come to ask.
‘Bill, could you do anything with these?’ He gave the box of shattered figurines to him. ‘ Only they mean so much to Annie’.
Bill frowned as he looked in the box, and pulled out one of the shattered pieces. ‘It will be a long job. But since it is for Annie, I will do it’.
‘Oh, Bill, you must do it for Annie! Louise implored.
Morag came to the rescue. She knew that Simon had hardly any money. ‘I’ll pay for it. It’s all right, Simon, I have enough money from my marshal’s salary. Don’t worry about it’.
Simon gave Morag a grateful look.
‘It will be a long job’. Bill said, after he had examined the fragments. ‘It will take two or three weeks’.
‘It will cost a hundred pounds, but you do not have to pay me until the job is completed. Is that all right? You have my word as a faery’.
‘Done’. Said Morag. She felt pleased at helping Annie, and trusted Bill to do the work. She also felt pleased at having re-established a trust and friendship with Louise, who, despite their past, she had always genuinely liked.
They sipped their tea in silence. But Simon had an idea, that he would reveal later. Not now.
Later, they took their leave, with many fond compliments from Bill and Louise.
On the way back, Simon outlined his idea to Morag, She sat, her lips pursed in anger. ’I think it’s a despicable idea! And I’m surprised at you for even thinking of it!’
‘Turn off to the cemetery. I want to show you something’.
‘Just do it, Morag!’
She turned on to the Lewes road and then up the steep hill up to the cemetery. She turned right onto the road that led to to the crematorium. She parked outside the red-brick building, where a ceremony was going on, and followed Simon through the tumult of sculpted angels and ornately covered crosses that marked the graves of the rich dead. Birds were crying overhead. He led her to the back of the cemetery, where there were small plots each with a small headstone, in rows. It was a bleak place, exposed to the wind from across the sea.
Simon stopped before one of the little headstones, and stood looking down at it. ‘This is where she’s buried’. He said.
‘Annabelle. The young girl I told you about. She was killed over a hundred years ago. By the same man who murdered your mother, before he almost killed me’.
Morag remembered how sad Simon had been about this young girl’s death. She knelt down and looked closely at the headstone. It was badly weathered, but she could still see the name – Annabelle – at the top of the headstone. ‘How did she die?’ she asked quietly. She could tell that Simon was emotional. He was on the verge of tears.
‘What’s the matter, Simon?’
‘You can see for yourself! Annabelle was only a young girl, thirteen years old, who came to Brighton with hope and expectation, to try to make a new life for herself. Instead, she found only misery and pain! That bastard Wrist beat her and strangled her. He even boasted about it, before I killed him! Now do you see why I hate them so much! Do you? And it was the same bastard that killed your mother!’
Simon was almost choking on his own words. He went on more quietly.
‘We saw her pathetic little room, Morag, and the manacles, when we went into that awful house! No-one deserves to die like that! She may have died a hundred years ago, but I still care about her! Someone has to! Nobody did, a hundred years ago! She was just another statistic, to be tutted over, and then forgotten! I just didn’t want her to die alone and unnoticed. She deserves justice just as much as anyone else! Sorry, end of tirade’.
‘No, it does you credit, Simon. Not everyone would think of caring about a young girl all that time ago’.
Simon was on the edge of tears. Morag saw this and put her arm round his shoulders. ‘I mean it, Simon. You’ve got the same capacity for love as my mother had. I really admire you for that’.
‘What was that? A compliment? I do believe I haven’t had one of those for a while’. Simon muttered through his grief.
‘Oh, Simon! Come on, let’s go back’.
They walked back down to Morag’s car, parked outside the crematorium, their friendship and bond restored. ‘I understand now why you formed such a bond with that young girl’. Morag said softly. Simon didn’t answer. Morag drove them both back to their house, in time for lunch. Annie opened the front door. ‘Where have you two been? She snapped. She looked pale and bad-tempered.
‘On a mission of mercy’. Simon replied.
‘Oh, yeah! You’d better come and eat! We’d had to wait for you!’ They followed her meekly into the kitchen, where a delicious stew was bubbling. Annie was still seething.
‘What have you two been up to? Behind my back!’
Simon reacted at once. ‘Mind your own business! Shut up and clear off, if you can’t be civil! If you must know, I took Morag to see Annabelle’s grave. Satisfied?’
‘No, I’m not! Anne stormed out of the kitchen. They heard her stamping up the stairs. Morag put down her spoon, despairingly.
‘ I‘ll go and talk to her’. she said.
She went upstairs after Annie. She found her lying on her bed with her face buried in the pillow, sobbing. ‘Get up and look at me, Annie!’ Morag ordered. Annie turned over and sat up.
‘About time! I’ve about enough of your tantrums! Have you forgotten that your brother fought with you in that dreadful battle on Brighton beach, back to back! I know because the others told me! He was there for you and he always will be! So shut up and tell me what’s wrong’.
‘I’ll tell you. Those Commedia del’Arte figures didn’t just represent my childhood! They enabled me to make sense of life, and how people interacted with each other, and how society worked. Their emotions, their feelings, everything! That’s how important they were to me, Morag!’ Annie cried, tearfully.
Morag was silent for a few seconds, then said quietly, ‘We’ll make it right, Annie, your brother and I. Just wait and see’.
‘How?’ cried Annie, plaintively.
‘We will. Honestly, Annie, I can’t bear to see you so unhappy. We’ll find a way’.
‘I hope so. I feel so lost without them’.
‘We’ll find a way, Annie, I promise you’.
‘Not well. But she’ll be better soon’.
They both promised themselves that.
Shortly after, Annie came down to join them. Her eyes were puffy and swollen.
‘Annie! If it’s about the Commedia Del’Arte figures…..’
‘No, it’s not. It’s about how we should finish this once and for all. If Morag agrees’.
‘He’s no father of mine! He had my mother killed! Finish it. I don’t care how. Just finish it!’ Morag cried.
‘Here’s my idea. I don’t know if you’ll approve but you’ll have to tell me, Annie’.
Annie listened to him in silence. ‘I don’t like it. What if he comes armed? Louise will be in danger then! But if you and I are both there as well, I’m willing to take the risk. We haven’t got much choice, have we?’
‘No, we haven’t. It’s our only chance, Annie! We’ve got to lure him into Hyperborea, where we can deal with him! And the only way we can do that is through Louise’s child! He needs another child to create another Venoma! So that’s the idea’.
‘All right. But we’ll stay with Louise, whatever happens. You hear me! I’m not going to put her in danger!’
‘You can’t do this! You’re putting yourselves in danger as well!’
‘We’re used to that, Morag. Don’t worry about us’.
But Morag remained unconvinced. She felt the plan was far too full of risk, and she was unable to persuade her brother and sister otherwise. So she simply said, ‘You must have safeguards, so that if anything goes wrong, nobody will get hurt’.
‘We’ll do that. I’ll see Bill and Louise this afternoon to get their support’.
‘And I’ll make sure that Melrose receives the message about a new child’. Annie said. ‘ Let’s put this plan into operation’.
Morag still had deep misgivings about the plan. She considered it reckless. But she was carried away by their enthusiasm.
‘All right. But don’t put yourselves or anyone else in danger’.
‘It’s got to work. This is our only chance’.
Behind them, Bill and Louise rode together on a big brown horse, Louise riding in front with her swaddled daughter in her arms. ‘Oh, look, Bill, it’s exactly as I remembered it! There’s the palace!’ she exclaimed in delight, holding the infant Isabelle up to look on Elsace. But the infant just yawned and stretched. Annie looked at them both. Whatever happens, she thought, we must protect these two from any harm, no matter what the cost.
They all settled in to the palace rooms and waited for any word of Melrose. It was three days later that a faery rider rode in at a gallop, his horse lathered in sweat, and reported that a man who fitted Melrose’s description had just disembarked from one the incoming ships in Druard. ‘He has hired a carriage and he is on his way here’. The panting faery said. It was time for their final desperate plan.
They readied themselves, in Morag’s office. They had travelled back to the port of Druard, to await Melrose’s arrival. Louise was behind Morag’s desk. Annie and Simon were each side of her, their swords drawn. Annie looked at Louise. The was frightened and nervous, but she had screwed her courage up for this moment. They waited and waited, for what seemed like hours. Eventually, they heard footsteps outside, down the corridor. They clasped the swords even more tightly. Simon looked at Annie. ‘Ready?’ He asked quietly. Annie nodded, her heart pounding. The footsteps stopped. Suddenly, the door crashed open and there stood Melrose, otherwise known as Doctor Wrist, the self-styled Magi. He was dressed formally in a full overcoat, with a black suit underneath, with a smart regimental tie. He stared at Louise, still clutching her bundle.
‘ I want that child!’ he snarled.
Louise had never seen anyone so terrifying and fierce as this. She was frightened. He was holding a large black automatic pistol in his right hand, which he pointed at Annie, who stood protectively in front of Louise, her sword at the ready.
‘Give me the child!’
‘No! Get lost, you pig!’ Annie cried.
‘As you wish’.
Melrose, otherwise known as Doctor Wrist. fired two shots into Annie. The shots reverberated around the room. She cried out, and crumpled to the floor, the front of her tunic awash with crimson.
‘Annie!’ Simon cried frantically. In his horror, he slashed at Melrose with his sword. Melrose merely stepped back and shot Simon in the shoulder. The impact spun him around. He dropped on his hands and knees beside Annie, still groaning. In his pain, he hardly heard her, or what happened next.
Melrose pointed the gun at Louise. ‘Give me the child, now!’
Louise put the wrapped bundle on Morag’s desk. ‘Take her yourself’. She said bravely.
Melrose picked up the bundle and moved the swaddling clothes aside. His face contorted in fury, as he saw the features of Lucia the doll. He had been outwitted at last. He dashed the doll to the floor, in his fury.
‘Is this some kind of trick? Get me the real child, you little bitch, or I’ll kill you! He pointed the gun at her, its sharp black muzzle huge. It loomed over her, ominously. Louise did the only thing she could. She screamed loudly! This was the signal for the others next door to pour in behind Melrose, who turned, startled. Reaching him in less than two or three bounds, Bill’s sword ripped across Melrose’s chest, neatly severing his tie, causing a great swathe of blood to run down his neatly pressed white shirt-front. He fell to his knees.
Morag came in behind Bill. ‘You bloody bastard’ she screamed, as she saw Annie’s bleeding body cradled in the bloodied arms of her brother. She saw, too, Louise crouched in a corner, whimpering in fright. The faery bloodlust descended upon her. Her sword swung in a hissing arc. ‘This is for my mother!’
There was a dull thunk as her sword bit into Melrose’s unprotected neck. Afew seconds passed. His head rolled across the floor, finally coming to rest against a table leg, still with a contorted expression of fury and anger on his face. The sword fell from Morag’s agonised hand. She had never killed anyone before, not like this.
‘What have I done? What the hell have I done?’ she asked herself, inside. Then she looked down at Annie’s bleeding body, and came sharply back to reality. ‘Talismans! She called urgently. ‘Quickly!’ At least she could try to save Annie. She pressed Annie’s talisman against her wounds, then her own talisman. ‘Demos!’ she shouted. He came running over to her. ‘Give me your talisman!’ she ordered. Demos, unhesitantly, pulled the talisman from round his neck, breaking the small chain that held it there. He handed it to Morag. She pressed it against the gunshot wounds. A small slim figure appeared among them. ‘Take mine, too’ she cried, and pressed yet another talisman on Annie’s wounds. She recognised her as Jezuban, Gloriana’s daughter. Morag hoped that the combined strength of four talismans would be enough to save Annie. She looked down at Annie’s face and prayed. ‘Oh, Annie, please come back to us!’ She said aloud. At first nothing happened. Then she tested Annie’s pulse in her neck. To her joy, it had become strong and regular, and her wounds, before her very eyes, began to heal up, closing the black bullet-holes, until they were no more than slightly puckered skin and faint scars. Annie’s eyelids fluttered open. ‘Morag?’
‘Of course, where do you think I’ve been?’
‘I don’t know! You could have been anywhere!’
‘I’ve been in a dark place. Please look after me, Morag. Please!’
She gripped Morag’s arm tightly. She was like a small frightened child again, clinging to her mother in bewilderment.
‘I’m here for you, Annie, you know that. He won’t hurt you now’. But she gently turned Annie over and looked with horror at the two large gaping holes in her back. She immediately pressed the talismans against them, healing them, despite Annie’s convulsion of pain.
She turned to Simon. ‘Your turn, sonny boy’.
‘Oh hell, not those talismans again’. At least, Simon had not lost his sense of humour, even now.
Simon yelped and jerked as Morag pressed the talismans against his wound, which, like Annie’s, healed up immediately.
‘You’re a sadist, like my sister!’
‘Don’t call me that!’
She became aware that he was crying soundlessly. ‘I’ve killed my sister!’
‘No, you haven’t, Simon!’ She cried, and hugged him.
The door crashed open again and Thursday the physician stalked in. ‘Who has summoned me!’ He announced in a loud voice.
‘It’s Annie!’ Simon looked up at Thursday. ‘ She’s been shot!’
‘ Let me examine her’. Thursday said softly. He knelt down by Annie and inspected her wounds. At last, he was satisfied and stood up again. ‘She will make a full recovery. But she has lost a lot of blood. She will be weak for a few days. But she will recover. Now let me have a look at you’. He carefully inspected Simon’s wound too. ‘He too, they have both lost a lot of blood. They both need rest’. Simon looked down at Melrose’s body. At last, it really is over, he thought.
‘ I can walk’, He said crossly.
‘I can help you, Simon’. Ragimund said, by his side, carefully. ‘You are wounded. Let me help you. Please’. Simon knew how much it cost a faery to say “please”.
‘Thank you, Ragimund, I appreciate it’.
She smiled at him, and put her arm around his waist, to support him. They hobbled off to the hospice together. Gloriana watched them go, then turned to the faerys gathered around her. ‘What are you standing round here for? Get a litter for this poor child! And you’, pointing to the nearest faery, ‘Get rid of that thing!’ She kicked the gun towards him. ‘Throw it into the sea! I will not have it pollute my land! And you, Morag, what do you wish to do now?’
‘To look after Annie and Simon. They’re my brother and sister now’.
‘As you wish. Get this carcase out of here! I will not have it defiling my land!’ She kicked Melrose’s headless body viciously.
Morag thought it prudent to leave. She knew how volatile Gloriana could be, as a faery. She followed the two litter-bearers down the corridor to the hospice, where she saw Annie safely into bed. She was in the same room as her brother. Annie woke up again and clutched her arm. ‘Don’t leave me, Morag!’
‘I won’t, Annie. Simon’s here and Ragimund. You’re not alone’. Annie fell into sleep again, reassured. ‘Will you not come and sit beside me?’ Ragimund asked.
‘Of course’. She sat down on Simon’s bed beside Ragimund. ‘You’ve been very mysterious, Ragimund. What’s it about?’
‘I have had some good news about our archaeological findings’.
Morag waited. ‘Are you going to tell me?’
‘Please forgive me, Morag, but I need to verify this information first. I cannot afford to make any mistakes. When I have done that, I will come to your world and tell you and the others’.
‘You will be welcome, Ragimund’. Morag said softly.She looked down at Simon, sleeping soundly on his side, a sling wrapped around his left arm. He looked as peaceful as a child. She looked back at Annie, who was also sleeping quietly. At last, the nightmare’s over for these two, she thought. She turned to Ragimund again. ‘What is happening to those young girls that we rescued from the slavers?’
‘ We are returning them to their loved ones the day after tomorrow, in one of our triremes. We have sent word to meet us in a small harbour on the west coast of Circlassia, that will be safe. I do not think it wise to return to their main harbour after our attack there’.
‘Definitely not’. Morag said, remembering the havoc the faerys had caused.
‘Would you like to come, Morag?’
She thought of the poor beaten girl she had befriended, and the frightened faces of the others.
‘I should like to, very much’.
‘I will be glad of your company, Morag, as I am now’.
A deep companionable silence settled over them, as they continued their vigil. They sat side by side, each enjoying the other’s presence through the night, until the glimmer of dawn appeared through the shuttered windows next morning.
Morag peered through the early morning mist that hung over the sea. The trireme rowed steadily towards the small jetty of the small harbour that she could now see more clearly. It was thronged with people, all waving and calling to their daughters. The girls lined the trireme’s rail, squealing with delight, and waving back. She looked down at the young beaten girl, who had refused to leave her side throughout the voyage.
‘I don’t even know your name, love’. She said sadly. ‘Never mind. It’s worth it just to see you smile’.
The girl looked over to the jetty, then smiled up at Morag again with such an expression of joy that it seemed to light up her whole face.
‘That’s more like it’. Morag said approvingly. The girl suddenly threw her arms around Morag’s waist and hugged her. It was her way of saying the last goodbye. Morag watched her dejectedly, as she ran down the gangplank after the other girls. She watched as the girl embraced her parents, a tall dark-haired man and his wife, also dark-haired, who was crying with happiness. She turned away, suddenly miserable.
‘Morag!’ It was Ragimund. ‘What is the matter?’
‘She never even looked back at me. She just ran to her parents!’
‘Did you expect thanks? She cannot even speak your language!
‘Listen to me, Morag. You helped that young girl recover her lost life! Is that not worth it? She tried to express her thanks in the only way she knew how! Is that not enough?’
‘I suppose so’.
‘It is so! She cannot express her thanks in language at this time. As for her name, you will learn it in due course. Be patient, Morag’.
‘You’re right, Ragimund. I suppose I was expecting too much’.
‘You deserve it, Morag. But wait a little. You will see her again’.
Annie had been in a bad mood for days. Most of her temper was directed at her poor mother, Christine, who she, at times, had reduced to tears. Her foul temper had infected the rest of the household, who, in turn, avoided Annie as best they could. Morag sighed. She had returned with them from Hyperborea, to look after Simon and Annie who were still recovering from the gunshot wounds, which they had kept secret from their parents, but she was beginning to regret it. The atmosphere in the house was taut and electric with anger. She couldn’t blame Annie for behaving as she was. The destruction of her beloved Commedia Del’Arte figurines by the late Doctor Wrist, let into the house advertently by her mother, had been a terrible blow for her. The figurines had represented the last vestiges of her childhood, and the means of understanding human relationships and the world. Morag had heard her cry in her sleep for her loss.
The telephone rang in the hall. Simon rose up to answer it. He came back into the kitchen where Morag was comforting Christine after Annie’s latest tirade.
‘Can I have a quick word, Morag?’ He said quietly. She followed him out into the hall.
‘That was Bill!’ he said, excitedly. ‘He’s finished Annie’s figurines! But we’ll have to and pick them up. He can’t leave the shop’.
‘Then let’s go now. I can’t bear this mood of Annie’s’
Morag carefully reversed her car out and set out for Bill’ shop in St James Street. She stopped at a cashpoint and drew out a hundred pounds. ‘Thank you, Morag’. Simon said gratefully. She smiled. ‘So long as it makes Annie happy, it’s money well spent’.
She pulled up neatly outside the shop. Bill, this time, was inside the shop, serving another customer, a large, impatient woman in a fur coat. ‘I want this by Thursday!’ she said, imperiously, and stalked out. Bill sighed. ‘There are some customers I cannot bear. She is one of them. Here are your figurines’. He opened a large cardboard box on the counter, next to the old antique till. They both peered inside.
Inside, were the figurines, swaddled in layers of cotton wool. They all looked as fresh and clean as if they were new. Morag picked up the figure of Harlequin. His diamond-chequered costume in black and white had been newly painted, and she couldn’t see a single crack or any other evidence that he had recently been restored. Harlequin was poised on one foot, as if he was about to spin around. Both his arms were lifted above his head, a half-smile on his face beneath his black mask and three-cornered hat. She set Columbine next to him, a pretty young girl with very red lips, clutching her long skirts, in a dance of her own. Morag suddenly understood why these characters were so important to Annie. They were more than play things. She used them to represent complex human relationships, the very fabric of life.
‘These are wonderful, Bill. You’ve made them look as good as new!’
‘It was a joy to bring them to life again’.
After the death of evil, comes new life, she thought. I hope Annie realises that. They had all still to come to terms with the final death of the Wrist family, and a new beginning.
‘Let me pay you for them’. Morag counted out the banknotes on the top of the counter that Bill immediately rang up on his old till. ‘I shall make you out a receipt, Morag. In the meantime, would you like to go up and see Louise and Isabelle? I think Louise is rather lonely. I’m sure she would welcome visitors’.
‘Of course, Bill’.
They both trooped off up the stairs. Simon tapped on the wooden door on the right, at the top of the stairs, and called ‘Louise?’ They walked in. She was standing, looking out of the front window with the infant Isabelle in her arms. She turned as they came in, and smiled. ‘Simon! Morag! What brings you here?’
‘A social call, Louise. Why, do we have to present calling cards?’ Simon said mischievously.
‘Of course not! Louise said, laughing. ‘But I don’t get many visitors. In fact, I don’t get any at all. Let me make you some coffee’. She went into the small kitchen, leaving Isabelle in her small wooden crib. They heard the rattle of cups, and looked at each other. ‘She’s really lonely, Simon’. Morag said quietly.
‘I know. What can we do about it?
‘I’ve got some ideas’.
‘Well, I’ve got one’.
Louise returned with a tray of steaming mugs. She placed it on the low table and sat down on the chaise longue under the window. ‘You know, I still get nightmares about that man that you and Bill killed in Hyperborea’.
‘It was necessary. Both Bill and I were protecting you, and that man was responsible for having my mother murdered!’ Louise suddenly looked alarmed
‘Listen, Louise’, said Simon, quickly. ‘Why don’t you and Bill and little Isabelle come over to our place tomorrow evening for supper?
Louise beamed. ‘That would be lovely’.
They stayed for a short while, since Louise obviously enjoyed their company, At last they had to make their farewells. Louise accompanied them to the door. ‘Please do come again’. She said wistfully. ‘I’ve got no family to speak of, and no friends either. That’s what comes of being an ex-junkie’.
They went downstairs and said goodbye to Bill, who waved to them. He was dealing with another awkward customer.
‘What? What are you going to do?’
‘Find her some friends. I know a couple of self-help organisations of people of the same age as her, all with small children. Most of them are single parents. She’ll make new friends there’.
‘Another good deed for the day’. Simon remarked, dryly.
‘Yes, she deserves it, especially after what she did for us. Now let’s return Annie’s figurines’.
They were just in time to hear John, their father, scolding Annie.
‘Fine. I bloody well will!’ There was the slam of a door.
They found John sitting on the hall chair, his head in his hands. ‘That girl is just impossible!’ he muttered.
‘Don’t worry, Dad. Morag and I have found a way of restoring peace and tranquillity to our humble abode’.
‘I hope so’.
Simon nudged Morag. “Let’s give Annie a surprise’. She followed him up the stairs to Annie’s room. ‘Come on’. He said.
‘What are you doing in my room?’ Annie stood in the doorway, with a face like thunder.
‘Just replacing something you lost’. Simon said, gently.
Simon moved aside so that Annie could see the restored figures on the bedside table for the first time. Her shriek of joy echoed around the bedroom. She knelt beside the table and picked up one or two of the figures and examined them. ‘They’re just like the old ones!’
‘They are the old ones! Morag and I got Bill to restore them for you! And a “thank you” wouldn’t be out of order, either’.
‘You mean, you two were responsible for this? Oh, come here, both of you!’ She hugged them both tightly against her. ‘It’s the best present I’ve ever had. You’ve no idea what they mean to me. It’s not just about childhood. Each figure represents a cluster of emotions and feelings. Look’. She picked up one of the figures ’Harlequin. he’s known for his high spirits and cleverness. And Columbine, she’s rather fickle, but she’s in love with Harlequin. This one’s the Clown, who’s a bit of a fool. This is Pantaloon, Columbine’s father, who’s opposed to Harlequin. And this is Pierrot, a comic servant, but who’s a romantic at heart, a really tragic figure. And there are others, like Scaramouche here, a soldier who’s never fought any battles. And Pulcinella, who’s rather melancholic, a friend of Scaramouche. He’s a bit dreamy. Now do you see why they mean so much to me? I write plays for them in my head, and I swear I understand more about human nature from these figures than anywhere else. They’re a theatre of life’.
Annie paused. ‘I hope you understand what I’m saying. Each figure is a complex bundle of emotions and feelings and every time I put one figure against another, those feelings change in response to the other. I’ve learnt so much from my little figures’.
‘The world on a small stage’ she said.
‘I know. But I was so miserable, Morag! When I saw them all broken, I felt that part of my life had been torn away from me!’
‘But I still think that you’ve got make peace with your mother and father. They’ve been worried about you’.
‘I will. I promise’.
‘But at least you’ve got your childhood back’. She smiled at Annie, who smiled back. Morag loved to see Annie happy again. When Annie smiled, her face was lit by an inner glow, which made her truly beautiful. Her large dark eyes became almost luminous. Morag was delighted in the transformation in her.
They went down to lunch together. Christine was sitting at the kitchen table, having just set out the dishes. Annie stood behind her and put her arms around her. ‘I’m truly sorry, Mum. I’ve being a bloody-minded bitch. I’m sorry’.
‘Never mind. I’m just glad to have my daughter back’. She patted Annie’s hand. Annie kissed her mother’s neck, and all was forgotten. Lunch proceeded in peace and harmony. Afterwards, Simon and Morag went out for a walk together, and Annie settled down to a new play she had invented with her newly-founded Commedia Del’Arte.
But the age of miracles was not over yet.
Early next morning, Morag was already up. She was thirsty and went into the kitchen for a glass of water. As she was drinking it, she heard a series of sharp raps on the front door. She looked up at the kitchen clock. It was barely past seven in the morning.
‘Who the hell’s that, at this time in the morning? she grumbled. She opened the front door, forgetting that she wore only her night-dress and one of Annie’s dressing-gowns, and that she was barefoot.
Outside, on the door step, was a small skinny youth in baggy camouflage trousers, topped with a dirty T-shirt and a leather jacket that had seen better days. His nose and lips were studded with silver rings His hair stood up in spikes. ‘Who are you?’ she asked rather angrily.
‘Me names’s Cosmo. Cosmo Hermes. I’m a sort of messenger, you know? I’m looking for a Morag Wren. Got summat for her’.
‘I’m Morag Wren’. She said, wonderingly.
‘ ‘Ere you are then. Strictly against all the rules and regulations, but what the ‘ell’.
He pushed a rather battered white envelope into her hands. She looked down at it. It simply said “To Morag. “
She looked up again, but Cosmo had disappeared. She looked up and down the street. He had simply vanished. She sat down again on the front step, heedless of the cold stone under her bare feet, and tore the letter open. Her fingers were trembling. As she read the message inside, her eyes welled up with tears. By the time she had finished reading, she was sobbing, without sound. The letter lay on her lap.
‘Morag!’ She looked up as Annie sat down beside her on the front step. ‘What’s the matter, Morag? she said with concern.
‘This’. She indicated the letter lying on her lap. ‘It’s from my mother’.
‘How can that be? Your mother’s dead and gone, Morag!’
‘No, she’s not!’ Morag said furiously. ‘This is from my mother! I’d recognise her handwriting anywhere!’
‘Who brought it to you?’ Simon said, who had now joined them, sitting on the other side of Morag.
‘A little skinny punk kid. He said his name was Cosmo and that he was a messenger’.
‘Cosmo!’ they both exclaimed.
‘That makes sense’. Simon said. ‘Cosmo’s the one who took us to Purgatory and back. If anyone could smuggle out a letter from beyond the threshold of death, it would be him’.
‘What does the letter say, Morag?’ Annie asked.
‘Look. Read it for yourselves’.
Morag spread the letter out on her lap.
‘To my dearest daughter, Morag,
This will be the last letter you will ever receive from me. Venus and I are to be sent to a place called Paradise, wherever that is. I hope I shan’t be bored there. I’m sure I’ll find something useful to do. I’ve been thinking of you, and of all the things we used to do together. Do you remember me teaching you how to ride a bicycle? You kept falling off, grazing your knees and hands. But you wouldn’t give up, not until the final moment when you set off, precariously wobbling on your own! I was so proud of you that day! But the real purpose of this letter is to tell you that I love you very, very much and I always will, even beyond death. My greatest regret is not seeing you grow up. But I know that you will always do the right thing, with sympathy and compassion to those around you. I will always be there for you, in spirit if not in body.
Your loving mother, Moran.
They were all silent for a few moments. Morag wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her dressing-gown.
‘It’s a wonderful letter, Morag’. Annie said at last.
‘Yes, it is. And I will always treasure it!’
‘Go and get dressed, Morag. You’re freezing cold’. Simon said. Morag hauled herself up, leaning on their shoulders. She realised she was stiff and cold. She padded into the hallway and up the stairs.
Annie and Simon remained sitting on the front step.
‘You think she’s right about the letter?’
‘I’m sure of it. After all, Cosmo wouldn’t carry a fake, would he?’
‘No, I suppose not. Only, I don’t want Morag to get hurt’.
‘ You saw the letter. It looked genuine to me’.
‘I suppose so’.
‘Come on, Annie. We’ve met her mother in Purgatory. Would she send her daughter a false letter?’
‘No, she wouldn’t’.
‘No, I think you’re right’.
Annie sighed. The beast was dead, that had haunted them for so long. It was a time for rejoicing.
It was a convivial evening. Their friends Indira and Pei-Ying had come earlier, and Bill and Louise, together with the infant Isabelle had just arrived, much to the delight of Christine, who doted on young children. Christine had prepared one of what she called her ‘mega-casseroles’ in an enormous pot which her children laughingly called the ‘cauldron’. It was so big that it took two people to haul it out of the oven and transport it to the table that groaned under its weight. Baskets of newly-baked French bread covered the rest of the table. They had just settled down to eat when there was a sharp rapping on the front door. They put down their spoons and forks and listened. The rapping began again.
‘Who on earth can that be?’ Christine cried. ‘You haven’t invited anybody else, have you?’
They all shook their heads. ‘Go and see who it is, Simon’. Christine ordered. Simon dutifully got up and went to the front door. He saw three hooded figures on the front doorstep. He immediately recognised two of them. ‘Ragimund! Mariko!’ he cried in joy. ‘Simon!’ They embraced each other, and kissed in delight. The third figure stood motionless behind them. Simon noticed eventually. ‘Who are you?’
‘Do you not know me, Simon?’ The figure threw back its hood.
‘Demos! Morag will be thrilled to see you!’
‘She is here?’
‘Yes, and she’ll be very happy your’re here!’
He took their cloaks and weapons and hung them up in the hall. The swords, in their scabbards, he put in the umbrella stand. Then he led them into the kitchen. ‘We’ve got some more guests’. He announced. Everyone looked up as they came in, somewhat shyly.
‘Demos!’ Morag cried in delight. She started up, and in a few moments, she and Demos were locked in a passionate embrace. Christine smiled benevolently at them.
‘Christine, I am sorry that we did not tell you earlier about our arrival here. It’s just that our news was so urgent’.
Christine turned and smiled at Ragimund. ‘Please do not worry about it, my dear. You are always welcome here. Tell me, who is that young man that you came with, with whom Morag is so inextricably intertwined’.
‘His name is Demos. He is an archaeologist. He has been helping us with translating the scrolls. And he is Morag’s paramour’.
‘Her boyfriend, you mean. Well, I must say, she’s got very good taste. Now sit down, Ragimund, and have supper with us. Your news can wait until later, when we have all eaten’.
Ragimund gave up, and went to sit next to Simon. Christine looked around the table. There was something different. There was a happier, more exultant mood now, as if a weight had been lifted. She did not know that this was the result of the death of Doctor Wrist, and that a great threat had been lifted from them, or that she knew how closely her children had escaped death themselves. But she enjoyed these occasions, with her family and friends around her, both human and faery. It gladdened her, even though she had no idea of their previous activities.
When supper was over, and the cauldron and dishes had been cleared away, Demos stood up. ‘I have an announcement to make, but first I want to show you this’. He bent down to the long leather bag that he had carried with him, and pulled out a large scroll that he began to unroll. He put it down on the table, and shook it, so that it began to unroll along the whole length of the table. Simon stopped it at the far end, and weighted it down with cups and saucers. The scroll lay open on the table.
‘This large scroll is a copy of several of the later scrolls that we found in the library, put together. I have written it in the human language in order for you to read it yourselves’. They pushed the benches back and crowded around eagerly.
‘You see, from the text, they left hurriedly. The text says it quite clearly.
‘But why? said Annie. ‘And where did they go to? Why did they erase all trace of themselves before they left. And why did they leave?
‘I do not know, Annie. But read this text here’. Ragimund said, pointing to a piece of writing about halfway down the scroll.
Annie read it. It was a translation written on a piece of vellum, that covered the passage in the scroll itself.
By order of the Supreme Council, it is declared that our colony known as Hyperborea be bequeathed to the faery people, to be theirs for ever more, to till and govern as they see fit. This is with the full approval of the Council of the Ancient Ones. We wish them well in their endeavours.
‘That seems clear enough’. Remarked Simon. He put his arm around Ragimund, whose eyes had welled with tears after she had heard Annie speak the words aloud.
‘But if they are colonists, why establish a colony in Hyperborea? And where did they come from? It must have been somewhere near. Perhaps they were the victims of a deadly plague, so they decided to found a colony away from it to keep their race alive’. Annie said, her imagination running riot.
‘And then when the plague abated, they summoned their colonists back to help replenish the race! Either that or they had no use for it any more’. Simon’s imagination was keeping track with Annie’s.
‘All that is possible. But there is no evidence’. Demos said, sharply. ‘All this is conjecture. The one solid fact we have is the statement that you have just read. It means a great deal to both Ragimund and myself’.
‘It means our land is truly ours, bequeathed to us. That means more to me than anything else’. Ragimund broke in. ‘That is what I set out to establish!’
‘That is the one thing we have established. But there is still a great deal to be done. We do not know, for example, who the Ancient Ones are, or where they came from. Nor do we know why they effaced any sign of themselves. And even worse, nor do we know why that cave and the library was created, or why they left images of themselves for us to find. There is still a whole range of unsolved mysteries, to which, as yet, we have no answers to’. Demos said sadly. ‘The only thing we can do is to continue to try to translate the scrolls from the library, in the hope that they may lead us to the truth. But it might take months, even years, to do so. Who knows what the Ancient Ones thought?’
‘What can we do, Demos?’ Annie asked.
‘Nothing. Unless we find another cave and compare them’.
‘I shall do my best’. Ragimund said, determined.
‘You mean, all that scrabbling around in boxes and finding secret libraries was for nothing?’ Indira said.
‘No!’ Ragimund said fiercely. ‘At least we know now that our land is ours, and was given to us! That is hardly nothing’.
Indira wilted under her anger, but still said defiantly ‘But what about all the things we found? Aren’t they clues or something?’
‘The globe of Astraban? It might only be an astronomical instrument. We have no way of knowing’.
They all fell silent. There were still so many unsolved mysteries still to be answered. In the silence, Demos began to roll up the scroll on the table.
‘Right, sleeping arrangements!’ said Christine, briskly. She had not understood a word of what had been said, but she was determined to obey the laws of hospitality. Every guest, however unexpected, had a right to a comfortable bed and a good night’s sleep, in her opinion, and this was no exception.
Simon and Annie groaned. They knew that they would have to haul the spare mattresses out from the top of the house and make the beds. ‘Now’, said Christine officiously, ‘Bill and Louise and little Isabelle had better have the spare bedroom, which means that Ragimund, my dear, you and Mariko will have to sleep with Annie and the others, in Annie’s room’.
‘Do not be worried, Christine. We shall be glad of the company’.
‘I am happy. I enjoy Simon’s company’.
‘Good. That’s settled then’. Christine replied cheerfully. ‘Off you go’. she said to Simon and Annie. They reluctantly got up from the table.
‘I shall help you’. Demos said, after he had finished lacing up the bag he had brought. He had noticed how Annie had winced from her wounds, as she stood up.
‘And I shall too’. said Bill. He had seen Simon rubbing his still-sore shoulder.
Both faerys knew how seriously both the humans had been wounded, and they were willing to help.
Half an hour later, the mattresses were all in place. Annie was still busy making up the sheets and pillows. Christine and her husband, John, had retired to the living-room for a well-earned glass of brandy, leaving the others still talking in the kitchen. Louise listened, enthralled. She understood little, if what, they were discussing, but she still listened. Annie returned, looking tired.
‘Do you remember that battle at the West Wall, Annie?’ Indira asked in all innocence.
‘How could I forget it! It was slaughter!’
Then Annie’s tone softened.
‘I remember you and Pei-Ying sitting on each side of me after the battle was over, comforting me. You were like two angels watching over me. I’ll always remember that’.
‘You’d been crying, Annie. We’ll always remember that. We felt sympathy and compassion for you’. Pei-Ying said.
‘Do you remember the battle on Brighton Beach? What a scrap that was! Outnumbered ten to one, and we had to fight back to back to hold them off! exclaimed Indira.
‘Yes, I remember’. Annie said quietly. She certainly recalled seeing poor Mr Cuttle die, and the red-haired young faery, the girl in the photograph, who had survived her family, only to perish on the cold hard stones of the beach. She had closed her eyes for her. She got up suddenly. ‘Excuse me’. She ran upstairs to the bathroom, where she splashed cold water on her face. She hated talking about their exploits or their campaign against the Wrist family. It was over now.
She went downstairs again, determined to keep Indira quiet. She certainly did not want her parents to hear about the events of the last four years.
In the kitchen, Louise sat spellbound by the stories that Indira was relating. She had had no idea that these young men and women were fighting a war. She looked up as Annie came in.
‘Just shut up, Indira’.
‘You heard. I don’t want my mother and father overhearing you chattering on about the last four years!’
‘But, Annie, I didn’t mean to…….’
‘I know you didn’t, but you must remember that I don’t want my mother and father to know anything about what we’ve done. Got it? I love you dearly, Indira, but you do let your mouth run away with you sometimes’.
‘Don’t I know it? I’m sorry, Annie, I’ll keep it buttoned next time’.
‘Oh, Indira, you know I can’t be angry with you for long! You’re one of the kindest and most generous-hearted women I know’.
‘Thanks for the compliment, Annie’ Indira grinned up at her.
On impulse. Annie bent down and hugged her, out of a spirit of comradeship. They had been through a lot together, and she felt grateful to Indira, who had never complained about the hardships. At least, not that often.
‘Demos, I have an idea. Do you have any other scrolls with you?’ Simon asked.
‘Yes, I do. I brought some of the later ones with me’. Demos bent down and unlaced his bag. ‘Here. But what is your idea?’
Simon began to scan in the texts that Demos gave him. They were in Simon’s bedroom. ‘I’ve got a new programme which allows me to interpret scripts’, he explained. ‘Hopefully, it will interpret these scrolls’. He looked at the screen. He was thunderstruck. ‘ Demos, come and look at this!’ Demos padded over. wearing only his breeches. Like Simon, he gasped at the letters appearing before his eyes. ‘Simon, this is marvellous!’
‘We must tell the others, particularly Ragimund! She deserves to know more than anybody else!’ Simon ran down the landing in his dressing-gown and began hammering on Annie’s door. Annie appeared, tousle- haired and sleepy. ‘This had better be good!’ she growled.
‘It is! We’ve solved the riddle of the Ancient Ones!’
‘Come and look, now! All of you!’
They followed him, grumbling at having their sleep disturbed, in their dressing-gowns. Demos was still staring at the monitor, his mouth open. They gathered around the screen, even Ragimund, with her natural distrust of things technological.
‘We are being recalled to our home! There is a great plague there and many of our people are dying. I pray that my family will survive. We must abandon our colony here and must return as soon as possible. We cannot risk infecting this world. It is a great pity, because my grand-daughter, Oolita, was so happy here. But she and her friends will have to return with us.’
There followed a large gap, which the progamme could not read. Then the narrative resumed.
‘We must provide some evidence of who and what we were! We were once a great people, proud and fair. It is only right that those who come after us should know who we are, and what we have achieved! If the gods are willing, we shall leave behind us a library of our own scrolls to tell future generations of what has befallen us, so that they may have knowledge of our existence. The Council has bid us to erase our existence in this world, but I think this is wrong. Every generation that comes after us has a right to knowledge, I hereby bequeath this library, and all its contents, together with this land, to the faery people. May they fare well in it.
The governor of this colony, Demagan’.
They stood in silence around the monitor screen, shocked and saddened by this news from over three thousand years ago. Annie thought of Oolita, the young girl, so vibrant and happy, as the sculptor, Meridias had depicted her later, and tears pricked her eyes. Ragimund must have caught her feelings, because when she turned and looked, Ragimund’s eyes were also wet.
‘They sacrificed themselves so that we might know’. she muttered.
‘What a waste’, Indira said. ‘The odds are that they all went back and contracted this plague, or whatever it was, and died out’.
‘Well, I prefer to think they did survive, and went on to live long and happy lives’. Annie said, defiantly.
‘It still leaves some unanswered questions’. Demos replied. ‘What world did they come from, and why? And why did they leave this land to us?’
‘I think I know the answer to your last question, Demos’. Annie said, quietly. ‘What if the Ancient Ones are faery also? Wouldn’t that make them your ancestors?’
‘Yes! Yes!’ cried Ragimund, excitedly. ‘It would explain why they bequeathed our land to us! That makes absolute sense! That is why they left their images! So that we could look upon their faces and know them for who they are!’
Ragimund was happy that at least some of the mystery of the Ancient Ones had been solved. The others were happy that some good had come from their archaeological labours and their work had not been wasted. So the happy community retired to bed, content.
Next morning, Morag got up early. Taking care not to wake the others, she dressed and went down to the kitchen, where, to her surprise, she found Demos sitting at the table, having breakfast.
‘Can I do anything to help, Christine?’ Morag asked politely.
‘Oh, no, dear. I am the mistress of breakfast in this household. Would you like scrambled eggs and toast?’
‘Yes, please. I feel really hungry’.
She sat down beside Demos. He leant over and kissed her gently.
‘Demos, will you come and walk with me this morning?’ she asked, equally gently.
‘Of course, I will. Where are we going?’
‘To a place I’d like you to see. Please come with me, Demos’.
‘I will. As soon as you have finished your breakfast’.
They walked out shortly after, down the streets towards Preston Park, the large recreation ground to the west of the Fiveways district. Despite the early hour, children were playing on the swings in the playground. Morag walked hand in hand with Demos, glad that he was with her. She led him up to the northward end of the park towards Preston Manor, where they entered the enclosed garden to the west, past the pets’ gravestones to the left.
‘This is a beautiful place, Morag’.
‘Yes, but we’re not there yet’. She led him out of the side gate and alongside the southern lawn and down a little walk around the corner of the Manor towards the church of Saint Nicholas, into the small cemetery, with its grey lichen-encrusted graves and tombstones.
‘This is where Annie and Simon saw the skeletons dance. Somewhere there must be a symbol, a motif, that they gave them, to guarantee their safe passage to Purgatory, where they met my mother. I just want to find it, so I know it wasn’t just all a dream. I hope you don’t think I’m being silly’.
‘I do not think you are silly, but let us see if we can find this symbol, to set your mind at rest. It must be on one of the tombstones here’.
They set to work, examining the tombstones in the little graveyard. Morag felt guilty about bringing Demos here, but he did not seem to mind. A few minutes later, he stood up and shouted to her. ‘Here, Morag! I have found it!’
She hurried over. Demos pointed to the corner of a large stone tomb, which was half-sunken in the soil. She saw a figure of a man, his arms outstretched, crudely scratched on the stone.
‘So, it is true! Simon and Annie really did see the skeletons dance, and used this to get into Purgatory, where they met my mother! It really is true!’ Morag cried excitedly.
‘Did you doubt them?’
‘Yes, I did, but not any longer. I couldn’t believe they met my mother, when she was dead!’
‘She lives on in you, Morag. Shall we dance?’
‘What!’ Morag gasped. ‘Are you serious?’
‘What better place than here?’
She looked around. ‘All right’. she said.
They danced together, as they had done on her birthday, amongst the graves, in the garden of the dead. A shiver, almost a rumble of approval echoed through the little cemetery.
‘What was that?’ Morag asked, startled.
‘It is only the traffic on the main road, west of here’.
They continued to dance together, the living amidst the dead.
Frank Jackson – 19/ 02/2014 – Word Count - 10565