I would have laughed but for the fact the man who spoke to me did so with such an air of authority. His words were English, but the accent unusual. Not the lilt of Irish or the drawl of Australian, something altogether different.
The world seemed very still. I don’t mean things weren’t moving. The leaves on the trees on the other side of the tall grey stone wall rustled pleasingly. The man’s odd clothes moved with him. There seemed though, a space, a gap, where a sound ought to be. The air was crisp, his words distinct, birdsong soft and clear. It was as if some low buzzing ear worm had been removed from my ear, FM to digital. Crystal clear.
Though I had no idea where I was or how I had got there, I was certain I was trespassing. I noticed a movement some way behind. A woman, hurrying across the lawn. She came to a stop some twelve feet behind the man. She regarded me with amusement. As I looked at her she bobbed down and up again. Her eyes expressed some urgency. Finally I understood. I curtsied, feeling immensely foolish, expecting at any moment some T.V. hypnotist would appear. ‘And you’re asleep’.
Sunk into my obeisance I stole a glance upwards. A crowd was beginning to gather. Two burly men approached. The grass I half knelt on was wet. The air fresh upon my face. This was no dream and these men carried weapons. Would I wake? The man held up a hand. The heavies halted.
My clothes were commented upon. A long, white summer dress. They called it a ‘shift’. It was almost agreed that I should be locked away until a father, husband or brother could be found. Though my father is alive, I knew they would never find him here. Then the man paused mid sentence. He remarked on the whiteness of my dress; unusual for a wandering woman. She looks like an angel. Fallen from heaven.
Many months have passed now. The old world I remember seems more a dream now. I draw pictures of things the man thinks are absurd; trains, planes, cars. I miss my family. I miss tea. I miss freedom. But I am his angel and he paces, chewing his fingernails, pouring out fears and sins he would confess to no other. I am taken with him to war. I kneel silently next to him as he prays. His wife is dead, his son too. Two brothers. All gone. This is the last battle he will ever fight. His company want him to win, but as he steps out of the tent I know his only desire is to be with his wife and child.
Hours later I hear his death proclaimed. I close my eyes and am freed.
by Audrey Miles