What I dreamed last night - Page 4

"Yeah," agreed Daisy and Will, whilst I nodded and tried to look like a tough girl. The boy now writhing painfully at our feet was anything but a mister, a pseudo-adult, a collaborator with the authorities. I, on the other hand, had certainly been tending that way. I hurried on after Tom, the others hot on my heels. He'd stopped again beside a bridge leading to a very fancy building, one I didn't remember from my own time, a construct of glass-fields and laser beams and soft-metal set out into small, calm lake that seemed very out of place in the middle of the town. When we caught up with him, he gave us a brilliant grin and said, "That, boys and girls, is a building that will last for centuries. A very safe haven indeed." And he led us across the bridge, through an archway that scanned us, as the sign said, for weapons and drugs, and into the brightly sun-lit atrium of what seemed to be some kind of shop. In one corner, on plinths and pedestals, six or seven old-fashioned sofas had been arranged, along with four or five pianos. Facing these was a huge and gleaming kitchen done out in 21st-century colours, with equipment and appliances from the same period. Just next to the doors we'd entered by, was a three-walled space lined with bookshelves bearing ancient tomes, mostly (as far as I could see) from the 18th and 19th centuries. A classical-looking fountain poured out constantly in the middle of the room and I realised, with a shock, that this was a museum.

The reason I hadn't figured this out straight away, and the reason it was a shock to have worked it out now was that, straight in front of us where we stood, was a long rank of bright clothes on display, all rather similar to what I was wearing at the moment. Although I'd had no trouble believing Tom's statement that we were in the future, I'd managed not to accept one basic implication of the fact: that everything I'd ever known or understood was now in the past.

The lady at the front of the desk, who was in her fifties, smiled at us as we came in. "I love the outfits," she said to Tom, "it's just wonderful to see young people making an effort. Are you from the college?"
  "Oh, no, ma'am," said Tom, in very charming tones, "I just thought I'd take my nephews and nieces out to get a little bit of culture. Are there any special exhibits at the moment?"

"Well, there's a very nice little bit about the Industrial Revolution, upstairs, and, obviously, if you go just behind the clothes rack there's lots of information about State times. But it's nearly four o'clock already, and we close at half-past, this time of year." She looked at us with worried eyes, "Haven't you brought anything to change into? For the way home? I mean, if you go out like that after dark, I expect even the fogies will start in on you- people who were in prison during the State, you know. And the young people... anything strange, you see..." she bit her lip, and tailed off.
  "I'm sorry, ma'am," said our Major Tom smoothly, "but we had no idea things were this bad. We're from out-of-town, you see."

"Oh," she sighed, "country-folk. I see. I thought the accent wasn't quite... I'm a country girl myself, actually." She leant forward, like someone imparting a great secret, and said, with a mixture of pride and nervousness, "I never spent a day in jail, and nor did my parents, though they were young when they had me. We were proper old-fashioned folk." She sighed again. "But," she asked, pulling herself out of her own past, "can you get back before dark? You could leave now and visit another day." She was clearly terrified for us, and I wondered if perhaps the future by night was even worse than a prison in "State times".

But our Tom was laying on the puzzled charm as thick as he could spread it. "Well, no, ma'am, I doubt very much we'd be home before dark, time being what it is now. As I say, we just had not the faintest clue that it was all... Well, I just don't know what to do, now, being in a position of responsibility as I am for these young folks. Would you happen, ma'am, to know of any place abouts here we could take a night's rest? Or could we stay here the night, maybe?"

"Oh, no, no, I'm sorry, sir, that would be most improper. This is a public building, you see, and we close quite soon, and it's no hotel, and... I wouldn't think a hotel would be safe anyway... They're very jealous, you see. They always think you've got something, drugs or drink (thrills, they call them), always on at you to share. All their parents knew was being put away and put aside and having precious little of anything that was going, and the kids... have their own way of working. In the daytime, so many of them are asleep, you see, and they know some people have to work so that there’s food and everything, but at night... You'd best go try to make it home. There's fewer kids outside the city, anyway. You can't stay here."

 Site by Sian Hogan. Last updated on 1st June by Sian.