International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes fiction
door shut behind him as he rushed across the bedroom reaching
into the back of the wardrobe for the screwed up kit bag located
at the bottom. He chucked it to the bed and hastily threw possessions
into it from around the room. The shouting from the other side
of the door had now stopped, replaced instead by the sound of
With the bag full
he zipped it up, chucked it over his shoulder, composed himself and
stepped back out of the door
she was there, in front of him, curled
up in a ball, barefoot, her tear damp hair masking her eyes
looked up in a final act of desperation but all her eyes were met with
was his back as he disappeared down the hall and out the front door.
The bustling street greeted him and it was then that he realised that
his plan to leave wasnt especially comprehensive, in fact, now
Thom was outside he realised he had no idea where he was gonna go or
what he was gonna do. He had to go somewhere, he worried that if he
stayed on the doorstep a second longer he would lose his nerve and go
back inside. This would undermine the last half hour of fighting so
he stepped out into the street and headed into town. The angry words
of the past 30 minutes echoed around the inside of his head as he wandered
amongst the crowds. He thought of who he could phone before realising
that his phone had bounced off the kitchen wall only minutes before.
With this setback in mind he felt that it was best to sit down and access
just what he had managed to salvage from the house. His conclusion was
swift and not especially pleasing. Yes he did have 5 pairs of boxers
and a couple of t-shirts, a sleeping bag and a selection of tat from
his desk. He did not have his phone wallet or many of the objects that
would generally aid a departure from your home. His pockets contained
a leaky pen, a lighter and some loose change.
The claustrophobia of the city was starting to get to him
winding streets felt narrower
he wanted to get out as fast as possible.
The bus depot presented the perfect answer for someone in his limited
financial situation, buying the ticket was a little more taxing, attempting
to convey to a tired and hot bus driver that you would like to get as
far as you can for £4.87 was a major hurdle.
So where exactly would you like to go sir?
Oh as far as possible with this (he dumps the contents of
his pocket in the tray)
Yes well that is all very well but you must want to go somewhere?
Oh anywhere will do, can you recommend?
Well Grantchester will get you out of the city, nice place this
time of year, punting
Thom wasnt really in the mood for punting but grabbed his ticket
and sat down all the same. He gazed idly out of the window as the familiar
buildings of the city trudged past him as the bus struggled through
the rush-hour traffic. Soon the University buildings and packs of cyclists
disappeared to be replaced by the flat fields and cows of East Anglia.
The bus driver smiled something between amusement and fear as he stepped
off onto the pavement.
The days tea-drinkers and holiday makers were all packing up and heading
a constant stream of cars pulling out of the tea-room car
exhausted children already asleep in the back. With no bus
and practically no money he decided that the best thing to do was to
walk. He looked back over his shoulder at the spires of the distant
city, turned 180 degrees and set off down the road, his thumb held at
his side in a half-arsed manner. He hoped that there were still enough
decent human beings left in the world that one would pick him up.
After an hours walking he decided there wasnt.
The sun was slipping lazily down the sky as the lights of a slowing
car illuminated the road ahead of him
casting his giant shadow
on the tarmac.
He waited for the car to reach a standstill before he bothered to turn
around; there had been too many false starts that day. The driver was
probably late 40s and wore a grey suit and his tie unbuttoned
and hanging down in that Im now free from work way
cleared the half-eaten McDonalds from the passenger seat.
The introductory chit-chat ceased as soon as the doors slammed and the
engine was started
they sat in silence staring at the approaching
white lines until Thom remembered that there was one of those un-written
laws that if you were picked up it was your job to entertain the driver.
As Thom supposed the man did indeed work in the city and was commuting
home to one of the surrounding villages and his wife and children. Thom
also discovered that the man was not especially happy with this arrangement
but needed to provide for his family so what can you do?
The man also failed to grasp exactly what Thom was doing hitchhiking
in the countryside.
Well I had a bit of a fight with my girlfriend, he began
See, shes a designer for a music magazine called Spun, have
you heard of it?
The man shook his head and continued to stare at the road.
Well, anyway, they are moving their office to London and she is
under the impression that were going with them, but I said that
I didnt want to live in a big city and then mentioned MY job,
but she said that my job was as a shop assistant so didnt really
count and I said that I was trying to get published but it was hard
and she said itd be easier in London
The man was beginning to show some interest, perhaps not due to the
quality of the story but perhaps more in alarm of the panicked manner
in which it was told,
and so said that maybe you she should go to London and that
I should stay here. Then I left. Dont really know what went wrong
The driver agreed that this was indeed and awkward situation to find
ones self in. he spoke at great length about his own family and the
difficulties of dealing with women and that sacrifices must be made
and by the end Thom was in no greater position to decide whether he
had done the right thing or not.
They drove into the half-light of a small village and Thom attempted
to explain that this would do just fine. Admittedly it was a completely
different village to the one he had named when he was picked up. But
once a couple of swift lies were told and a hand shook the matter was
cleared up and the man drove off. Perhaps rather happy to have gotten
rid of the excitable young man sooner than he had expected.
The village provided very little and even less for someone with no money.
A grocers (closed), a newsagent (closed) and a pub (open). Thom considered
the idea of sleeping in the graveyard but the years of horror films
and zombie movies tripped the paranoia switch in him and he decided
against it. A footpath led from the graveyard out into the surrounding
countryside and so with few other options he decided to follow it
had the means to light a fire to keep warm and a sleeping bag to kip
He walked the footpath away from the city, around fields and through
small patches of woodland
the birds were settling in for the night
as the sun finally set. This made navigation somewhat more difficult
but he wandered on promising to stop in the next suitable patch of trees.
A small thicket presented itself a few hundred metres ahead, it fitted
all of the criteria on Thoms list, sheltered, providing firewood
and most importantly not visible from any roads or houses. The one additional
feature that didnt make the list was the concept that maybe someone
was there before him. He saw the licking flames of the fire, as he got
It was decision time, did he attempt to sneak past un-noticed or did
he bite the bullet and risk meeting whatever man-of-the-woods dangerous
tramp figure may be there. The man was neither of these as Thom found
out as they shared the fire. The mans equipment and rucksack were
old and had a very used look about them, although not mistreated. Everything
seemed to fit exactly and the pots over the fire were spotlessly clean
despite the few dents. The man himself was elderly and wrinkled, perhaps
80 even. Thom did wonder if it was wise for a man of his age to be sleeping
out in the cold. The old man explained that he did this every 6 weeks
or in the summer, left his aged wife and their grown up children and
escaped out into the country. He said talking to the birds helped him
Thom calmed in the presence of this stranger, his anger and frustration
drifting to the sky alongside the wood smoke. For the second time that
day he recounted his tale to a stranger, although this time in a far
more calm and reflective way
the old man didnt say a word,
he simply sat looking into the fire, listening perfectly, taking in
every word and emotion. Emotions he too had felt at some point in his
Thom finished talking and they both sat looking into the embers, Thom
waiting for the old man to reply. None came.
So will I ever get it,
Get what the old man replied.
life, relationships and all that, will I ever work
it all out?
I was once like you the old man said I even had that
dark brown hair, but yes I was like you, eager to live, to learn, to
And have you learnt to understand, what is the answer? Thom
Do you really think that if I told you it would make you any happier?
Yes of course it would, it would certainly make my life a whole
lot easier, why wont you tell me?
Because you wouldnt understand,
I'm a Cambridge graduate and you dont think Ill understand?
The old man raised his dark eyes to meet Thoms. The young mans
burning with life and energy, the old mans radiating warmth and knowledge.
Well you have already proved that. The thing is, that there is
an important difference between being clever and being wise. You can
read all the books in the world and you may become very clever, but
it isn't until you have lived many, many years on this earth that you
start to become wise,
So you're telling me that you know... or not?
Im telling you that whether I know or not, or indeed will
tell you or not, will make very little difference, life is the greatest
With this the old mans eyes gently closed and Thom was left staring
into the dying fire alone.
Thom awoke the next morning to find the old man gone, his tent leaving
only a flattened patch of grass
the fire had left a dark ring of
dust and upon a log next to it lie a well used pen-knife with a post-it
the words good luck scrawled on the yellow
paper in blue biro.
© James Ryder April 2006
James is a Creative Arts Major at the University of Portsmouth
Stories in Dreamscapes
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