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       Andrew Weaver / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction
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Chapter Seven

Having got unpacked, I now freshened with a quick shower. I soon realised that I needed to get a few things from the local shop before I was able to settle down to enjoy what was left of the day.
I decided that I would walk to the shop as it was only about ten minutes away and, having spent so much time in the back of a car, I really could do with the exercise. As I began walking, I became aware that I still felt a little detached from everything. No, it wasn’t from ‘everything’ - it was this place. I somehow felt that I did not really belong. It was as if I had been away for weeks, if not months. It was all very strange. Still, I was sure that I would be just fine in a day or two once I had got back into my usual routine.
As I carried my shopping back home, an odd thought struck me. The last time I had walked into town was when I had been the other Martin. I could feel a shiver go through me; it was such an odd feeling. In fact, for just a moment there I was actually uncertain as to where I really was, and in fact did not recognise my own surroundings. It was as though I was in the wrong place. As I continued my walk home I desperately tried to remember where the other town was, I just could not recall its name. I then realised that I never did know its name at all as I never once saw it written anywhere, and it was never discussed at any point when I was the other Martin. The other town would have to remain a mystery. I was uncertain whether this was a good or a bad thing.
I spent the rest of the day reading and rounded off by watching some television. I found that it was really quite a pleasant way to finish the day. However, just as I was about to drop off to sleep, I began to wonder, would I wake up in yet another strange and unfamiliar place? I was too tired to care really, I just wanted to close my eyes and have a good nights sleep.
Waking to the sound of some distant farm machinery, I quickly opened my eyes and looked around the room. It was my own bedroom and I was still in Upper Monkham. What a relief! I looked at the time - it was half past nine. I must have slept for nearly nine hours. I was clearly a lot more tired than I had realised.
I got myself breakfasted and went for a jog. I reckon that I must have run for about six miles, although it was just a bit of a shame that it was drizzling slightly. Never mind, if anything was going to clear my head a good run was sure to do it! As I showered, I started to think about the day ahead. I had not got anything at all planned for today. I did not fancy doing anything much outside in the wet outside, so what was I going to do? Then it came to me - I would spend some time tinkering with my cars - yes that’s what I would do. At least it would be nice and dry in the garage.
With my overalls on, I made my way to the garage and now pulled up the large double door. There they were, my cars. Right in front of me was my pretty Lancia Monte Carlo. God, what a beautiful car, just a bit of a shame that it isn’t running at the moment. Should I or could I be bothered to work on this one today, or shall I just tinker with the Lotus? I moved to my left to give it a good look over, and there right at the front was the number plate, TOL 006. The moment I saw the number plate it immediately all came back to me, it was such a shock. It was like a slap in the face.
Once again I could feel a shiver going right through me. I could clearly recall frantically pointing at the picture in the magazine to a bewildered and frightened Caroline. Bloody Hell, what had I done? I was feeling so guilty about what had happened - the only thing I wanted to do was to explain and to apologise to her. If I was to meet her again, just what could I say to her? Anyway it was pretty much academic now, because how could I meet her again? I knew that to be impossible. The way I understood all of this was that should I agree to do the second run, then it would be virtually impossible to visit the same Martin, as they did not know where they sent me in the first place! The more I tried to reason it through, the more complicated it all became. I just had to face facts, what was done was done. I would never see Caroline ever again. I suppose on reflection that not to see her again could only be a good thing, for the both of us.
It’s a funny thing, I barely knew her during my visit and yet…I missed her in some way. I could not begin to understand why and after all, the last time I actually saw her, she had shouted at me and then stormed out of the house. An amusing thought crossed my mind, I have never been married and yet in another dimension I find myself married for a day and half, and in that short time I still managed to create utter chaos between us. Now I knew why I was still single!
My thoughts now returned to the car. As I looked at it, I could once again see it in the magazine. That had to be one of the strangest coincidences imaginable. In fact the more I thought about it, the more improbable it all seemed. Just what were the odds of going from one dimension to the other, buy one magazine specifically and when I open it, I find that it’s my car that’s actually in it? Surely the odds are astronomical? I could not begin to understand how it could have all come about. If I was now thinking about it, why then did nobody pick up on this strange fact in our meeting back at the complex? I really did not believe that they could have taken it all at face value, how could they?
I again started to feel a little paranoid. If they had not picked up on this bizarre but important fact, maybe it’s because they already knew about it, as it was they themselves that had created the dream sequence. But if indeed they had, for what purpose? The more I went down this avenue of thought, the more it seemed that I had been duped. They had already taken my photograph without my knowledge before I had even gone into the complex, so could they not have done the very same thing by photographing my car and then creating an article for me to then read as though it were real?
I stood back from the car and sighed. I had now got myself into a thoroughly confused state, and I was beginning to feel even more detached from the real world. I did not know what to believe any more, or who to trust for that matter. Did I even trust myself? I was not too sure on that one either.
This was not getting me anywhere at all. I realised that I desperately needed to do something that would get me thinking normally again. I made up my mind. I would change the brake discs of the Lancia, especially as I have had the parts for at least a month now. I knew that I could quite easily keep my mind from wandering simply by not having a lot of fun with rusty old bolts, ball joints, or worse!
So that’s how I spent the entire day - in my garage, only finishing past eight in the evening. Apart from a couple of cuts and some very sore fingers, I actually had a good day and was now ready to wind down for the evening. My earlier paranoia had left me and I felt pretty good.
I had just finished cleaning myself up, when the phone rang, it was Alistair. Our conversation was brief: he was just calling to find out if I was okay. He would be home on Wednesday and suggested that we meet up sometime on Thursday. I agreed and said that I would call him Thursday morning.
Now that I was sitting down for the first time today I realised that I was quite hungry, what was I to eat? I didn’t really fancy cooking. “I know” I thought, “I’ll order a Chinese takeaway, even though it’s not Friday”…what the hell was I thinking about? I don’t go in for Chinese food - I have never ordered Chinese before. Then I remembered - it was the other Martin, not me, that liked his Chinese food. He and Caroline would often get themselves a takeaway on a Friday.
Just who is it that is suffering from strange visions? Is it the other Martin, or is it really me? Maybe it’s both of us, or maybe we are one and the same. This was getting a little scary again.
I decided not to have any other complications tonight over my evening meal and warmed up a pizza in the microwave. Nice and simple - why couldn’t the rest of my life be as simple as this?
I sat down with my pizza and a beer. For a change, tonight was going to be satisfyingly healthy! With my meal out of the way, I decided to finish the evening with my book. I went in search of it. Just where had I put it? I picked up the book that was lying in the middle of the sofa. I looked at its cover ‘Ship in a Bottle’- no that’s not it, and I threw it back. So where had I put it then? I continued looking for about another minute and then remembered that, ‘Ship in a Bottle’ was in fact the book that I was looking for. What had I been thinking? I had been looking for the book ‘All That She Is?’ That’s very odd, I don’t recall reading that before…where on earth did I get that title from?
Puzzled, I took my book and opened it, and then it suddenly came back to me. ‘All That She Is?’ was the book that the other Martin was reading, not me. I now resigned myself to the unpalatable fact that the next few days were going to be very difficult, very difficult indeed. I never once imagined that I would end up suffering from some strange form of psychosis.
I put the book down beside me – there was no way that I would have been able to read in my current state of mind. I began to reason that if I could locate the town that I had visited as the other Martin, then the town itself must have some subtle differences to how I remembered it. It was surely impossible that all of the shops would be the same: some of them must be different. If that were indeed the case, then that would prove to me that I had travelled to another dimension. If on the other hand they were all the same, then that would mean that I had not been anywhere, but had instead remained in the chair with only a dream sequence for company. The bastards! I could not see that there was anything else I could do that would prove once and for all, what had really happened to me. There was just one small problem with my little theory - how on earth would I find that town?
I closed my eyes and pondered on the problem. Was there some way, any way, to know what the town was called? I could not really see how it would be possible. I now began to very deliberately re-trace my steps when I had gone into town as the other Martin. Were there any clues at all? I couldn’t even remember the names of the shops because, being a local, I did not need to read all the shop names and I already knew what they sold. This was all very frustrating, and then I realised that there was a shop that I had remembered.
Of course, the shop where I had bought the rafting weekend for Caroline. The rafting weekend! I know where that idea had come from…it’s the same present that I had bought for my sister Ruth online a couple of weeks ago - and to think that the other Martin went and bought it for Caroline! She was going to kill him! I knew that I shouldn’t, but I just had to chuckle to myself when I imagined Caroline discovering her birthday present. I just knew that she would not like it, at all! He was dead!
What was the name of the shop? I racked my brains and tried to conjure up a picture of it in my mind. Suddenly it came to me - ‘Gulliver’s Cabin.’ That was the name of the shop. All I had to do now was find out what town it was in. Spending only about five minutes on the Internet I found it. There was only one shop with that name that sold rafting holiday’s and it was in a place called Cornham Hall. I had heard of it before, but had never visited it. I dived into my road atlas. There it was, Cornham Hall. I reckoned it to be no more than an hour’s drive from here and, judging from the map, it was a reasonably sized place and that seemed to fit with what I could remember.
I determined to go there tomorrow, given the option I would have liked to go this very minute, but my day had run out and it was nearly dark now. Now I knew - the shop really did exist. What about the other shops and the rest of the town? I took a deep breath - I would find out for sure tomorrow.
I was actually feeling very pleased with myself. I was starting to believe that I was at long last getting back in control of my own life, and I now eagerly looked forward to tomorrow. I watched a little news on television, before finally going to my bed. I fell asleep very quickly.
I awoke to find the sun streaming into my bedroom and, glancing at my bedside clock, found it was nearly half seven. That was two nights in a row that I had managed to get a really good night’s sleep. I got up and immediately showered. I was desperately impatient to get off to Cornham Hall, and was out of the door the moment I was ready.
What a gorgeous day. I was not going to pass up the chance to take the Lotus. Not only had the car been on my mind for so long - it really did deserve a good run. It’s funny how you remember things. The moment I got into the car, I remembered in exact detail the article that had been written by that impostor, John Harper. I had no idea of what that upstart looked like, but I just hoped that he crossed the road in front of me so that I could run him down - several times!
In my eagerness to get to Cornham Hall, I had completely forgotten about the Monday morning rush hour, and consequently my trip took me nearly two hours. Never mind, I was here now and at least I had managed to park right in the centre of town. All I had to do now was spend some time exploring the place. First I decided to get my bearings. Where had I walked from when I was the other Martin? I looked around, and then I saw it. It was the road behind me that went right past the church. That’s where I would start. I would go back the way I came, before walking back into town as I had previously done. No not I, but as the other Martin had done. I was still getting very confused with what I was doing now, and what the other Martin had done. It was very difficult trying to keep a sense of perspective about it all.
Walking past the church I began to retrace my steps. I must have walked for around twenty-five minutes before I finally could no longer remember which road to follow next. As I had been walking, it did cross my mind that I might be able to locate the house where the other Martin had lived. Now that would feel odd! However I realised that was to be impossible, especially as I had no idea of the house number, or indeed the street name.
I turned back to see how much of my original journey I could remember and, more importantly, would I be able to detect any differences at all between what I now saw, and what I had experienced? Well, I was about to find out, and soon.
I began to realise that this was really good fun, I was enjoying this. I had absolutely no idea of where my new mini adventure would take me and right now I just didn’t care. It just felt good that no matter what, it would be me that would that would determine what was going on around me, not anybody from the project, and certainly none of those bloody wretched confusing dreams.
I walked back into town very slowly and deliberately, looking at everything around me, but was unable to see anything different. Had I really expected to see a difference? I didn’t know. I was back where I had started at the church and so far, everything was as I had remembered before. Nothing was different. I looked at my watch, only to find that I had forgotten to put it on this morning. I recalled that when I walked past the church there was a large clock in the paved square; in fact the other Martin had used it himself to check the time when he had visited the shops.
In less than a minute I was standing on the edge of the square. Something was not right here. I looked carefully around. This square was different, very different indeed. Where were all the trees? When I was here last, there were small poplar trees bordering the whole of the square, with the town clock at its centre, but there were no trees here. I now looked at the clock, yes that was the same…except that I knew, with or without my watch, it was definitely not twenty past four. It looked like this clock was not working, or if it was it had the wrong time. This town centre was very different and on the face of it, not as pleasant as the one I had seen before.
There was no getting away from it - this town was clearly different to the one I had visited before. There was only one conclusion to be drawn. This can only mean that I had indeed travelled to another dimension. There was no way that a fabricated dream sequence could have given me the experience that I had, as well as all of my new memories. So there we have it – everything that I had been experiencing over the last few days had really taken place and, more importantly, my memories were all real. That also meant that I really had been ‘somewhere’ else. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck rising as I began to fully accept and take in what had happened.
Composing myself, I went in search of the offending shop that sold poor Martin the rafting weekend. Remembering where it was located turned out to be very easy and I found it within a couple of minutes. Well, if I wasn’t convinced before that I had indeed been somewhere else - there was no doubting it now.
Gulliver’s Cabin was closed and boarded up. As I looked closely at what remained of the shop frontage, it was clear that this shop had been closed for a good couple of years. I immediately started to ponder as to why this shop had closed, and not the other one. I can clearly remember that the other shop was really busy; so on the face of it, it was pretty much a success. So what happened here? Maybe the proprietor had died…or maybe it was so successful it had relocated to larger premises. I found myself fascinated by the whole ‘what if’ concept, and my mind went into overdrive as I now constructed several different scenarios for what lay behind the shops closure.
I walked back into the square feeling quite smug that I had on my own terms been able to finally convince myself of what had been going on over these last few days. Although I had not originally planned it, there was one last thing that I wanted to do before I went off home. As it must be about lunchtime, I would take myself off to ‘The Cobblers’ which I could just see further down the road. I chuckled at the thought ‘just for old times sake!’ which rather amused me.
Walking into to the pub was a very strange experience, and one that I had had not expected at all. I had the very same sensation that I would when I walked into my own local. In fact I felt completely at home. This was very weird but I was nevertheless still enjoying it. As I carefully took in my surroundings I was sure that this pub was a little different to how I remembered it before, but I really could not make out exactly what the differences were. I ordered a drink as well as lunch and looked around to see where I should sit - and there it was, my usual table in the alcove. That’s where I would sit.
As I sat waiting for my food to arrive, I began to reflect on today’s events. Strange as this all was, it now all started to fall into place, and, as both Davila and Alistair had promised me, I was getting one hell of an adventure. I was pretty sure that they had not expected me to visit the very same town that I had when I was in another dimension. I was now itching to tell them about all of this – and this time it would be me that would surprise them!
Yes, today had been a good if rather strange day. I just hoped that the food here would be every bit as good as when I last had lunch with Colin…Colin, how was he doing I wondered, and just how did their evening meal go – the one that I missed out on?
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