Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Over The Iron Desert (Part Three)

The end! Phew, I knew there was a reason I didn't do three parters often. I have just noticed that my entire previous blog entry is rendered untrue and pointless because the Blogspot timezone still pinpoints right now as January... But to me it's the 1st, so I shall be leaving it there :)

I hope you enjoy the final part anyway and as always, let me know if you spot any typos because I look and I look but a few alllllllways get through. Thanks a lot for reading! 

Over The Iron Desert (Part Three)

Anthony withheld his brother’s dying words from Jessica to give him plenty of time to ponder over them without her confusing the issue. They had made friends with Kevin, the man who lived next door. He expressed his sadness at Dennis’s death but acknowledged that Dennis had been out of his mind for a long time now. The allotments half a mile down the road had been cultivated again since all the destruction and Anthony and Jessica began working there in the daytime in exchange for vegetables and meat. He thought that if he wanted to he could ignore the book under the bed and just sort of persist in the doomed world without any hope of redeeming it and enjoying his simple but admittedly cosy life with Jessica. They had grown close and he often worried that whatever the next stage of his journey was that if it involved going on without her he would not want to do it. Still, the more he thought about it the more he realised that he was essentially exactly where he wanted, their only real problems were the spates of burglaries (which were now actually becoming less frequent due to the people living in the houses around theirs forming a sort of primitive ‘neighbourhood watch’) and what to do in times of boredom.

After a week or so he realised that it wouldn’t be long before he was asked questions about what was to come next, he was aware that Jessica would probably ask him sooner or later if there was a long term plan and to get around this he decided to try and follow his only clue and work one out, to that end he snuck out of their bedroom (his parent’s old room) in the middle of the night and crouching down under Dennis’s old bed he pulled out a very dusty looking tome.  It was falling apart and nearly completely empty, it looked like an old school exercise book, several pages in was a page filled with a scruffy handwritten letter in writing that was clearly Dennis’s.

“Ant, I don’t know what this is about but you went missing a few years ago now. Anyway a bunch of people in suits turned up and they’re looking for you. They seem to think that you’re instrumental in stopping all the madness that’s starting up and down the country, and in other countries too we’re informed. I don’t know what they mean really, if they expect you to pull off some James Bond shit, or something more political, or just that you’re a legendary dragon slayer. It’s not important, the only important thing is that they’re looking for you and I’m leaving this for you in case you ever come back, they have given me something that you’re supposed to burn to summon them. Burn the stuff in the back of the book in a public place and these agents will come and explain everything; these people turning up have offered us all hope that you’re still alive... I really hope that you are. Good luck man.


Sadness for his brother’s death again overwhelmed Anthony, but he thought his brother’s sanity seemed intact in the letter he had written here and therefore decided to see if his instructions lead to anything. He flipped through to the back of the book and stuck to the very back page was a small baggie of purple powder, frowning at the oddity of it all he pocketed the bag and went back to sleep. The next morning he showed Jessica the note (he told her he had simply found it while moving stuff around in the living room) and decided to build the fire just as instructed. “Do you think there’s any point to this, Anthony?” She asked him sadly.
“Maybe not, but he doesn’t seem unstable in his writing style and I don’t think that it could do any harm... so I’m going through with it.” He told her firmly. She seemed slightly put out and Anthony wondered whether he had gauged her willingness to simply enjoy doing nothing together wrongly, if she too was worried that whatever course of action was just around the corner it might force them apart in some way. However he knew that he had started down this path now and he would never rest easy if he had not attempted to follow it through. They both went off to work in the allotments for the day, although Anthony was roped into helping tend the livestock for a few hours because somebody hadn’t turned up. It seemed funny to him that after all the advances of technology, people were once again doing little more than basic farming to sustain themselves. That night when they arrived home the pair of them collected all the unnecessary wooden fixtures that were too badly rotted or damaged to ever use again from inside the house and piled them high in the back garden. They had procured matches that day from a trader and while the feeble little sticks were too flimsy to give a proper strike they eventually ignited and so the pair of them stood back to watch the burning mass.

“I suppose I should get that purple stuff”
“I suppose so.”

Anthony retrieved the small bag and brought it outside; with great trepidation he threw the entire lot upon the inferno and stood breathless for a moment. The sooty black smoke changed to an emerald green colour and while nothing else actually happened, the couple watched in amazement as plumes of the malachite smoke rose far into the sky.
After a couple of hours (and many people coming over to ask why their bonfire was giving out green smoke and being satisfied with the explanation of “No idea! Isn’t it beautiful though!?”) the couple decided that no magical explanation was about to present itself, they sloped back into their house and into bed where neither of them spoke, Anthony wondered if Jessica’s disappointment was as penetrating and absolute as his was.

The belief that nothing was going to come of their bonfire experiment was another contributing factor to why Anthony was so shocked the following morning when he opened his front door to find two men in suits standing on his front step, their hands raised. “We were about to knock.” Said the first man. “But you just saved us the hassle.” Said the second, and they walked into the hallway where Anthony let them in, almost struck dumb. The two men looked almost identical in that sort of corporate soulless way. They were middle aged and their calm faces barely betrayed any emotion, although if there was any hint of their plight hidden in their eyes Anthony would have guessed that they were excited and about to undertake something they had been building up to for a very long time.

“The girl” one of the men started, “is she here?”
“Yes, she’s still asleep, she’ll be following me in an hour or so”.
“That works to our advantage.”

There was a long silence and the two men walked stiffly over to the sofa and sat down. “You’ve done an admirable job cleaning the house up.” One of them said. “Thanks.” Anthony replied, nonplussed. The silence stretched out for another few seconds at which point he decided to just go ahead and ask; neither of the men appeared to be about to explain what was going on.

“Who are you and what do you want? I’m assuming this has to do with the bonfire?”
“You assume correctly. But the first thing you need to know is this: We do not know anything. We are from years past and it is common knowledge that you are key to stopping the destruction of civilisation as we know it. The nature of the downfall was political and we are unsure if your force is to be a legitimate one, of ascension through politics or if you discover how to breed dragons and quickly win the war resultant of the unrest. We simply do not know, but our technology has advanced massively and we are now able to make contact with you, as you stand, on a different plain of reality, you have no idea how monumental this is.”

If Anthony had ever heard a speech before about such nonsense he would have laughed it off and put it down to some sort of practical joke or the ramblings of insanity, however the fact remains that he had accidentally traversed one point in time to another and although he had no idea how it would be achieved he was certain that he was ready to fulfil what was expected of him and to change the shell of a wasteland that the earth had become.  “How do we get started?” he asked with some trepidation. “Our zeppelin has everything we need to cross time zones, we will pick you up at 6AM tomorrow morning and take you back to what you knew.” Although nothing was making any sense to Anthony, he felt that he was moving on to greater things and was itching to get moving. “Can’t we leave now?” he implored.
“Certainly we could, we extended this time-frame to you as a courtesy.”
“What kind of courtesy?”
“We were assuming that you would like to say goodbye?”

Anthony’s words failed him as he understood what they meant. The men still did not give off any immediate signs of emotion but a definite tenseness wrought the air. “We knew this bit would be uncomfortable...” one of them began. “You absolutely cannot take the girl with you” the other stated and after a moment of silence they exchanged awkward glances.


One of the men finally cracked and showed definite signs of blatant disbelief, but they did not say anything and after another moment his face slipped back into a passive arrangement. “So we will pick you up from the side of the cliff, by the benches, you know where we mean?” Anthony knew exactly where they meant, he used to loiter around the cliff-side benches when he was little, against his mother’s wishes when he was a small child and later in his adolescence he used to take books to read there. It was brief walk from the house and he had never quite gotten over the view of the sea stretching out before him.

“So just to clarify” he asked slowly
“I get on the zeppelin with whoever you send flying it, and using the technology onboard we go back to the world as it was when I disappeared, and I err... “save” it?”
“Yes” they both replied. “And all the technology is on this zeppelin? You keep it all hovering above the sea?”
“We do, it’s harder for any... undesirables to locate.”
“I see.”

The two men stood up and shook hands with Anthony. “We shall see you soon” they told him, “and remember, 6 am tomorrow you will be leaving, so say your goodbyes because there will be no going back once you have traversed the timeline.” Anthony nodded and the men left his house, leaving him all alone and without any idea of what to do next.

The scene later that day had not been pretty, Anthony’s explanation of what had happened to Jessica was a confused and jumbled mess and her beautiful eyes had welled up with tears as he crushed her fragile soul with the news he was leaving her. “You can’t” she cried endlessly and before he could master himself, he too was crying. “I have to go back to what matters” he had told her before wishing he had been a little more tactful with his choice of words. “Don’t I matter?” she had sobbed to him and it was only now as he slept on the sofa that his resolve in the matter had been shaken. He did not know what path to follow uncomfortably drifted off into an uneasy dose.

He jerked awake when his watch alarm went off around 5 in the morning. (It was only now at this moment that he appreciated the longevity and reliability of his wristwatch). He stood in the gloom for a few moments trying to work out if there was anything he should take with him; he had not thought to ask and had therefore only shoved a few warm clothes into his bag. He stepped outside into the grey front yard and looked again at his old house and wondered to himself how long it would be until he restored the family home he had once known. Without any control a few tears slipped out of his eyes and he found that once he had wrenched himself from his spot it was easy to keep moving. When he was close to the pickup spot he sat down on the cold mud and checked the time, could see the side of the cliff from where he was sitting, shivering, he had another fifteen or so minutes to wait. The fifteen minutes elongated itself in the tenseness of his wait and Anthony began to pay attention to the small details, noticing how the sun had not yet risen but if he exhaled in the general direction of where the sun was soon to rise he could see it slightly more clearly. He knew that it was he who had instructed Jessica to stay away and although he thought it would probably be worse for him if he had to say goodbye to her again he longed to touch her now, her absence was physically paining him and he felt ashamed for the way he had made her so miserable.

At several minutes to six a bulky entity from no identifiable location burgeoned into view, blocking out the sun and approaching the side of the cliff. Anthony stood himself up and walked towards it. It was a huge classic looking zeppelin painted an industrial looking grey colour. He stood and watched its progress trying to work out whether it was a magnificent feat of engineering or simply an ugly floating mass. Somebody he could not see threw down a rope-ladder onto the ground and after a moment of steadying his breath, Anthony began the slow ascent. When he reached the top he clambered on board and looked around, a small man was at the wheel who nodded at Anthony and said “Pleasure. Are you ready to go?” The man was another generic looking type of person, he could well have been one of the men from the previous morning in different attire, and Anthony had no real way of telling. Before there could be any response he heard a voice that shook his heart shouting from below, strained and broken. “Anthony!” He turned around slowly and looked down at the figure of Jessica, several feet below him standing on the gravel by the benches. He stood, torn. “Please don’t” she shouted and the man cut at the wheel cut across him and proclaimed:  

“We’re leaving now”
“You have the technology on board to return me home?”
“I do.”
“And if it was lost?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“If it became damaged what would happen?”
“The links would be cut and the world would be left forev

Anthony pulled out the pistol from a pocket on his coat and shot the man holding the wheel through the face. The ship immediately gave a violent lurch and began to spin out of control, he quickly climbed over the edge and as he began to rapidly lose altitude jumped and landed heavily on the gravel, completely winded but safely grounded. Jessica hurried over to him and helped him up, they embraced briefly and she helped him limp to the side of the cliff. The airship had glanced several times off the face of the cliff and there was grey coloured wood at various intervals on the rocks. It had landed in the water and was already beginning to sink.

Anthony was aware that his decision had most likely been an immeasurably selfish one, but as they enfolded each other again he thought that really, what was done was done and in the ruin of the universe he had found himself inhabiting he was happier than he had ever been. “What happens now?” she asked him. He didn’t reply, she understood his meaning however and for fear of having to move again, think about what they had done or what was to come next they simply stood grasping each other as the sun beamed into view, dazzling them and for the first time since he had got there, Anthony heard the birds burst into song. 

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