Here is Chapter 2 of my new book, Dreams and Shadows. To read the first chapter, click here.
I had planned on putting up the first three chapters, but under Amazon’s terms I can only offer about 10% of the novel, and as each chapter is about 6,000 words, two of them just about take me to my limit. The good news for those in Kindle Unlimited is that Dreams and Shadows will be included in that programme (at least initially), so you’ll be able to read the whole thing for free on Kindle.
In other news, the paperback version is nearly ready, too, and I’m hoping will also be available in June.
And with that preamble, here is Chapter 2. I hope you enjoy!
Shadows are curious things. If you ask a man of them, he will say that they are vague and lack definition. He will say that they are less than the thing from which they derive their existence. But is such a man correct in his thoughts? Though the sun be hidden, yet from its shadow the observant eye may still determine its place in the heavens. It is not from men that times and seasons are discovered, but from shadows. While it is true that a man may seek to use his shadow to deceive, often it is the shadow that reveals his sleight of hand. Even more, this dark reflection of his being imprints itself upon that which it touches, leaving traces for those who know how to see. Men may lie, but their shadows do not. We therefore must ask, which bears the greater truth: the man or his shadow? If we wish to know him, we must take care to gain knowledge of both. Then we may come to know him better than he knows himself, for a man rarely seeks to understand the truths found in his own shadow.
From the Wisdom of Ashael
Michael opened his eyes with a start, his heart pounding in his chest. The bell on his alarm clock was ringing. It took him a few seconds to realise that he was lying in his bed, and that it had all been a dream. The clock. The sword. The fog. The lightning… It had all been a dream. His pillow was wet with the tears he had shed, and his nightclothes damp with sweat. It had all been a dream.
It had been so vivid, so real. Even now he could remember the feel of the woman’s hand grasping him; the fear that had come with the intuitive knowledge that the alluring invitation had been a trap. The repeating picture of the Woodland Star was still clear in his mind. And the feeling of love that had emanated from the woman’s voice… the emotions that it had brought were still felt in his chest. But they were mixed with anguish knowing that it was untrue, that he had never known a mother’s love and that he never would.
In truth, Michael didn’t know why the absence of a mother was still so important to him. Sure, he had been abandoned. But that was years ago. He wasn’t the only child to have grown up without parents, and he was sure that other orphans didn’t dwell on it so much, especially not at his age. He hadn’t ever known any other orphans to discuss it with, so he knew that this was an assumption, but he was sure it was true. Only he, Michael, pitied himself over not having known his mother, and he considered himself pathetic for doing so.
Most of the time, he didn’t dwell on it, of course. But there were times in his life when, for some inexplicable reason, he couldn’t stop wondering what she must have been like, and he would try to imagine how such a love would feel. One time especially had stuck in his memory.
He had escaped his school building to have his lunch in the quiet of a nearby secret stream – not that most people would have called it a stream, the flowing water carrying empty plastic bottles, and with concrete walls for its banks. But hidden amongst the lifeless tower-blocks and grey overpasses, it was invisible to traffic and pedestrians alike, meaning Michael could sit in peace. There he could close his eyes, block out the noise of the traffic, and pretend he was by a mountain brook or meadow rill.
He had been especially angry and upset that day. He couldn’t remember why, but it was probably something another student had said to him. He knew he would find solitude next to the stream, so he had gone there to eat his lunch alone. Sitting in silence, chewing on his chicken sandwich, and throwing silent curses at the universe for his fate, he spotted for the first time a small plant growing from a crack in the concrete wall on the far side of the stream on which were scattered three small flowers. Each carried a triplet of blue petals, reaching out like trumpets, that deepened in colour as they approached the flowers’ centre. A large bumblebee was investigating each flower in turn, walking across the small petals to seek the pollen nestled inside their bright clothing.
He was suddenly struck by the remarkable plant that was not just growing, but was giving of itself despite its difficult life. As he stared at the flowers and the bee, his thoughts strangely turned again to his mother – a longing to know her almost bursting through his chest. As he lay in his bed this morning, he still remembered the feeling that had come over him that day, being filled with a sense that she had loved him beyond measure. He had wanted the feeling to last forever. And so he imagined the world around him stopping, allowing him to remain with his pretended moment of happiness unhindered by the march of time. He even thought that he could see the wings of the bee slow and then freeze perfectly still as the creature hung motionless in mid-air between two of the flowers.
But the universe hadn’t intended him to remain in that moment. Perhaps the chicken in his sandwich had been spoiled, as nausea suddenly overcame him, and he vomited. When he finished retching and looked up again at the flower, the bee was gone, but the feelings of that moment had remained with him. He had remembered it often; a comfort to him in times when he felt especially low.
The memory of that day quickly crossed his mind as he reached across to the alarm clock to silence it, slowly rising from his bed. There were so many lingering memories of his dream, and he wanted to leave his flat early to ensure that he had the time to consider them all on his way to the library.
He had a quick breakfast and showered, pulling on his jeans and a plain dark chocolate brown shirt that matched his eyes. A quick look outside confirmed that it was a bright sunny morning; the skies lighting on dry streets. It was nothing like his dream – there had been no thunderstorm overnight – and so he didn’t wear his jacket today. Although there would be a slight autumn chill in the air, the twenty minute walk to work would warm his body. Today’s walk would be a little longer, but no matter. He nearly forgot to grab his rucksack, but remembered just as he was about to walk out the door; quickly collecting it from next to the solitary armchair in his tiny living room. He would need it today for the books he would be bringing home.
He hurried down the three flights of stairs to the front doors of the flat block, taking two steps at a time, and threw his rucksack over his shoulder as he set off down the street.
“Good morning Michael,” called a voice from the alleyway next to his flat block.
“Hi Col,” Michael replied. “You okay this morning?”
Michael glanced over his left shoulder at the homeless man who had made the alley his home. Preoccupied by his dream, his smile was forced today, but was nonetheless warmly returned. As much as Michael was annoyed by those who considered fashion a statement of personal value, he enjoyed the company of those whose lives enforced a degree of humility. Within a couple of days of moving in to his small flat he had met Col, and every morning and evening since then they had greeted each other. He liked the honesty that he would get from this middle-aged man – a man who had held a responsible position working for a large utility firm, but who had lost everything, including his home and family, when he’d had a breakdown a few years ago.
Michael admired Col for his lack of bitterness. He had given so much through his life, and then when he experienced some tough times society didn’t just ignore him: it stripped him of everything; abandoning him to whatever oblivion he would choose. But Col didn’t choose oblivion. Despite it all, he found a way to be a happy man, always suggesting hope and optimism to his new young friend. Often when Michael had spare time in the morning they would stop and chat for a while, but Michael – although earlier than usual – was in a hurry today.
“You’re off early today,” called his friend. “Something important?”
Michael paused for a moment, not sure how to respond.
“Um, well. I don’t know really. Just some things I want to look at on the way to work I guess.” He hesitated for a moment, and then added, “If it’s interesting, I’ll tell you about it later.”
“Sounds exciting,” Col called back. “I’ll see you tonight then.” He waved and turned back to whatever he had been doing in his makeshift shelter.
As he resumed his walk, Michael reflected on just how much he liked his homeless friend. In all his life, he thought he probably only had known two friends – both of them homeless. The first was an old man who lived near the house he grew up in with Rob. Ever since he could remember, the old man lived in the nearby streets. Michael hadn’t ventured from the covers of whatever book he was ensconced in very often, but when he had, the old man was always nearby. Most people kept their distance from him, as if his homelessness made him contagious. But Michael found a strange comfort in being nearby, and though they rarely spoke, he imagined the man to look like a grandfather would, finding it more comforting to be near him than to anybody else.
When he had told Rob about his job at the library earlier in the year, Rob had looked relieved and told Michael that he could support himself, giving him two weeks to find somewhere else to live. It was an absurdly short timescale, but he found the place in which he now resided within a week. Rob gave him enough for the deposit, and while Michael knew he had only done so in order to get him out sooner, Michael didn’t care.
His new place was tiny: the living room was really no more than a short wide hallway large enough for only one armchair, and the kitchen could hold only one person. And it was in desperate need of a complete refurbishment: the wallpaper was peeling, the carpets were stained, and there were holes in the old kitchen lino. But he was happy to have a place on his own: a place where he wasn’t accompanied by someone conspicuous by their neglect of him. His solitary regret when he moved, however, was that he would no longer see the old man.
But Col had quickly filled the void, his tender watchfulness making him more of a father to him than he had ever known. There was something about him that made him seem familiar, a type of paternal soulmate. A day never passed that Col didn’t welcome a friendly discussion with him, making him sometimes wonder whether his homeless friend displayed such warmth to everyone, or whether he treated Michael with special attention. But he didn’t care. A quick chat would always lift his spirits – even today when his mind was preoccupied with other matters.
Michael’s walk was brisk as he reached the first brief stop on his day’s commute: the Church of St Peter. He paused in front of the corner of the building that housed the stained glass image of the Virgin Mary and her son. He didn’t need to go inside as he knew well the image, and a quick look confirmed that from the outside of the building it was impossible to see what picture the stained glass formed – certainly from the distance of the pavement where it had been so clear in his dream.
Thoughts of his unknown mother were already too near the surface and so he didn’t dwell outside the Church, but quickly started again to his next stop.
The morning rush hour had already begun, and so his journey slowed as he got nearer to the shopping precinct. Streets he needed to cross filled with cars, and travel on the pavement grew increasingly frustrated by the growing crowds of people. The knot in his stomach wouldn’t allow the urgency of his dream to fade, and the delays caused by the seething masses built an unwanted irritation within him – an annoyance that didn’t subside until he finally got to the shopping precinct and to the clock.
He paused a dozen paces from it, noticing carefully the hour hand pointing directly at the twelve. From where he stood, the minute hand was pointing to the five, but he began to walk around the outside of the clock and the minute hand appeared to move with him as the black tiles that were inlaid in the pavement aligned at one angle, and then at another, depending on where he stood: to six o’clock, seven o’clock, and so on as he slowly continued his circuit.
When he reached the far side, he walked to the middle of the clock face and stared at the twelve. The hour hand was still pointing there as he knew it would, but from this position none of the appointed tiles aligned to show a minute hand. And there was no scorch mark anywhere to be seen that would evidence lightning.
Okay, he thought, that’s the second one. He started to walk towards the alleyway that from his dream he knew would be directly in front of him, but stopped as soon as he gazed ahead. The alleyway was there, but there were no black gates. There were no gardens. He had been sure they would be there. The Church and clock were real, he thought to himself. Why not the gardens?
He stood staring for a moment, when he heard Beth, “What ya doin’ Michael?” she called, her Welsh lilt sounding like a song in the morning sunshine. “Stood here all alone like you’re lost.”
“Hi’ya Beth,” he called back. Beth worked with him in the library and would be on her way to work too. Michael was suddenly surprised at how long he must have been examining the clock if it was nearly time to start work, but a quick look at his watch told him that he still had a few minutes.
After a moment, he realised Beth had lived here for longer than he had and would know the area better. “Do you know what’s behind that alley?” he ventured, “Are there any gardens there, do you know?”.
He was still looking at the alley, so he didn’t see the surprise on her face as she replied, “How on earth would I know what’s behind an alley? What do you think I get up to at night that I would know about alleys, you silly boy?”
Her voice was more playful than annoyed, though, as she continued, “Anyway, you can see the roofs of the houses just down there, so there can’t be any gardens, can there?”
Michael realised Beth was right as he saw the orange roof tiles where there would have been treetops if his dream gardens had been real, and felt a twinge of disappointment that there would be no gates or trees he could examine; no sword or evidences of a Woodland Star.
“Come on.” Beth called, “We’re goin’ to be late if we don’t get a move on. And we don’t want Maggie gettin’ cross with us, do we?”
Maggie was the senior librarian. Short, in her mid fifties and carrying a perpetual scowl, she could be fierce when she wanted to be. Beth was right: they really didn’t want to get her angry at the start of the shift as it would make the rest of the day miserable for everyone. But as they set off together he tried to reply in a joking way to match Beth’s mood, “At least we’d be late together. Do you think that would confuse her if we were both late? Maybe she wouldn’t know who to get angry with.”
She laughed at that, “Yes, that would be funny wouldn’t it?” Then a mischievous grin crossed her face, “Can you imagine the gossip if we both arrived late – together?” She emphasised the last word. “A Monday morning and we’re both late. I know I’m late sometimes, but you never are. So if we both were late together that would get them all talkin’, wouldn’t it?”
Even three months ago Michael would have wondered whether Beth was flirting with him, but he knew that she was just being her normal playful self. Or at least her flirting wasn’t intended as anything other than some light fun.
He was sure it had been different when he had first started at the library, though. Michael was slightly taller than average, and with his dark hair and eyes most girls took a second or third glance at him. Not that he noticed, and when well-meaning adults had occasionally referred to his good looks over the years he would outwardly smile, while inwardly believing they were offering unwarranted compliments to boost his self-confidence. But Beth had given him more attention than most girls, and for a while he thought she probably had been attracted to him.
However, while he couldn’t completely ignore the response of his hormones to her tight-fitting blouses, or to her skirts that were just short enough to draw his eyes, she was far too interested in the gossip surrounding celebrities and the world of fashion for his liking.
And for her part, while she had thought him very attractive to look at, Beth had soon discovered that while books represented only a way to earn a salary for her, they were Michael’s life. She had unsuccessfully tried to lure him to a few parties using practised head tilts, flicks of her false blonde hair, and fluttering eyelashes. But she eventually gave up. He wasn’t interested and she realised that he really wasn’t her type. They could enjoy each other’s company at work, but they both knew that anything more than that would be a disaster.
And so they together headed off past the rest of the shops, round the corner and past the Guildhall to the library in companionable chat about their weekends; Michael avoiding all discussion of the dream that occupied his mind.
As his shift started, however, he found it impossible to ignore the images that kept returning to his mind. There have to be answers in the books here, he told himself; and whenever he had a moment to himself he searched for clues that would tell him what his dream meant.
Mid-morning Maggie caught Michael drawing and scolded him.
“I’m sorry Maggie,” he pleaded, “I really am. But can you tell me whether you’ve ever seen this?” He held up a sketch he had been attempting of the Woodland Star from his dream. “Maybe it’s in a book about some old pagan symbols or something?”
Maggie looked annoyed that her rebuke hadn’t led to the level of contrition she expected, but took a quick look at the drawing. “Hmm. No, I haven’t seen anything quite like it. It’s a hexagram of course, but I’ve not seen the interlocking lines or strange things on the points before. Where did you come across it?” she demanded.
“Oh, it’s just something that’s been on my mind.” He didn’t want to tell his boss that he was chasing dreams while at work, so he lied, “I don’t remember where I saw it.”
“Well,” Maggie continued, “Yes it could be a pagan symbol, but I’d also try some books on Judaism; or perhaps Hinduism or some of the eastern religions. Many of them used the hexagram too.”
Giving her sternest look, she rose to her full five foot stature and demanded, “But not in work time, young man. During your breaks or lunchtime. Do I make myself clear?” She waited for his affirmative reply before she left.
She caught him twice more during the day, browsing through books when he was supposed to be putting returned tomes back on their shelves, and each time he promised to be more conscientious, only to return to one last book as soon as she was out of sight. He felt no guilt over it, though; with nothing to go home to, he would often work late without pay, so he didn’t feel he was cheating anybody of his time.
He decided to try and be more careful to avoid the gaze of Maggie though as he didn’t want any more curses from her than necessary. He was sure that she had hired him only because of a government incentive of some description. He had been unemployed for nearly a year, and that combined with his age meant that when he had started at the library there was almost certain to be a bureaucrat somewhere moving the statistic that was Michael from a column that politicians found undesirable to one more favourable.
But he didn’t care. He loved working with books, and he wanted to keep his job – so he tried to be more discreet as he hunted through volumes of ancient symbols and medieval swords.
He secretly stashed a number of books he wanted to examine more thoroughly throughout the day so that Maggie didn’t think he was using his work time for personal things, and when his shift ended, he quickly went around and gathered them all up. He just managed to squeeze them into his rucksack, finding it heavier than expected when he lifted it for his journey home.
With the weight of the heavy tomes on his back, he was breathing heavily by the time he got back to his flat. He waved his usual greeting to Col.
“Did you see what you were looking for this morning?” his friend called to him.
“No,” Michael quickly replied. But then the thought occurred to him. Michael knew he must have seen the Woodland Star somewhere or it wouldn’t have appeared so clearly in his dream. Col was well educated, and perhaps he had come across it and would be able to help Michael’s search.
“I need to put these in my room,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder to his backpack, “But is it okay if I come back down after? I’d like to ask you something.”
“Of course,” came the reply, “I’m pretty sure I don’t have any prior engagements tonight.” Col smiled.
Michael usually walked up the stairs, but he took the lift today – his rucksack weighing him down. But as soon as he had dropped his cargo inside the front door to his flat he turned and ran back down the stairs.
“Wow, that was fast,” said his older friend when Michael appeared at this side. “You’re keen on something today, aren’t you?”
Michael smiled a bit nervously. Now that he was here, he wasn’t really sure how to ask about the image. He wanted to be honest with his friend, but worried that Col would think he was crazy. Oh well, he thought, just ask the question and see where it goes.
“Um,” he began, pulling his sketched image of the Woodland Star from his back pocket, “Have you ever seen something that looks kind of like this?” he asked, holding the piece of paper in front of him.
Col took it from him and examined it closely. After a few seconds, he turned away slightly. “Let me get some more light on it,” he said, holding it so that it caught the early evening sun.
After what seemed like an age – but was probably only about thirty seconds – Michael repeated his question, “Have you ever seen it before?”
“Where did you come across it?” asked his friend, still turned away from him, examining the image.
“That doesn’t really matter,” replied Michael, “Can you tell me if you’ve seen it? Please,” he implored.
Col lowered the drawing and turned back to face Michael again. With slightly raised eyebrows, he said, “You haven’t answered my question. Where did you come across the image?” There was certainly no anger in his voice, but his question was firm – something Michael wasn’t accustomed to from him.
“I asked you first, and you haven’t answered my question either,” he retorted, feeling a little irritable at his friend’s accusation.
That provoked a smile and short laugh. “Yes. Of course you’re right. And I’m sorry, Michael”. Returning to his normal demeanour, he continued, “I tell you what. I’ll answer your question first, if you promise to then answer mine. Deal?” he asked.
Knowing that it would mean revealing his dream, Michael was a little apprehensive, but his friend’s smile was genuine. He couldn’t imagine him throwing ridicule his way, so he agreed. “Deal”.
“Very well,” started Col. “The short answer is yes, I have seen the image before. It is quite definitely familiar to me.” Michael’s pulse raced, as his expectation of some kind of answer to this part of his dream grew within him. He was quickly disappointed, however. “Unfortunately, it must have been a very long time ago though, and I couldn’t possibly tell you where I saw it, or what it means.”
At that, Michael’s heart half sank. He had thought he would get an answer, but that hope vanished. At least he knew that the image must have come from somewhere, though, and that knowledge made him more determined to find its secret.
“Can I ask you a favour?” he asked. “Could you try and remember for me please? And if you do remember, will you promise to tell me?”
Col placed a gentle hand on his shoulder as he responded, “Well, you’ve gone from one question to three quite quickly, but yes. I promise that if there is anything I can think of that I can tell you about it, I will do so.” He smiled again, and then continued, “And now you promised to answer my question. Where did you see this image? And if I can be a little rude and make an observation: it seems to be important to you, this symbol. May I also ask why, when you don’t even know what it is?”
Shuffling a little, Michael tentatively asked, “Can we sit down?” He didn’t think it would be easy telling his friend of his dream, and thought it would be better if they were sat comfortably somewhere. In addition, Michael knew the few additional seconds it took them to find a place to sit would give him more time to think about what to say.
“Of course,” came the swift reply, and with a mock bow and wave of his arm he proclaimed, “Please follow me to my humble abode.”
His smile almost got the better of his nerves and Michael followed his friend a short way down the alley where, behind some large rubbish bins, was nestled a small shelter built of a mixture of cardboard, discarded newspapers, and old blankets.
As they crawled inside, Michael found it much more comfortable than he had imagined. The blankets were old and torn. But they were thick. And the cardboard walls and roof had been expertly fitted together, stilling the air and giving them privacy.
They sat side by side in silence for a couple of minutes, Col allowing his friend the time to speak when he was ready.
“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” Michael started cautiously.
But Col smiled, and replied, “Don’t you worry about that. I’m the expert on crazy here, remember? And anyway, there’s this phrase I heard a few years ago and I think it’s true: ‘Everybody is someone else’s weirdo’. I like to remember that – it stops me thinking other people are strange when they say or do things that I wouldn’t do.” He paused for a moment in thought, then added, “You know what I think Michael? I think crazy is in the eye of the beholder. And I promise you that I won’t think you are crazy.”
He was grateful for this man who was so kind to him, grateful that for the last six months of his life he had known someone who he could talk to. It wasn’t easy, after all his years of keeping his thoughts to himself, but he was comfortable with this gentle soul, and so he pressed ahead.
“It was in a dream… last night,” he said, peering cautiously up at his friend to check his face for a reaction. When he could see none, he looked back down at his hands and continued, “It was a really strange dream, but it felt so real. It still seems like something that really happened.”
His friend was looking at him carefully, and when Michael was silent for a couple of moments, prodded him, “Tell me about the dream Michael. I’d like to know, and it might help.”
Michael looked again at his friend’s face, noticing the first signs of grey in his dishevelled beard and hair. Turning to study one of the sheets of newspaper that lined the inside of their shelter, he again spoke, “Well, the whole thing was quite long, but the bits I really remember and feel important are that symbol I showed you, and a sword. The symbol was on the front of some gates into a park behind the shopping area – except the park doesn’t really exist,” he added, “that’s what I was checking this morning before work.
“And when I was in the park there was this sword stuck in the ground. It had some faces on the top of the handle, which was all made of gold. And right underneath the handle on the top of the blade was that symbol again.”
Michael wasn’t pausing now, and spoke quickly, as if he was in a hurry to get the words out. Somehow it seemed that speaking of it would ease the urgency he felt. “And then the clouds in the sky moved around and made the same symbol. I hadn’t been able to see the clouds up until then because there was really thick fog everywhere, but I looked up and saw it in the sky, just before the lightning.”
Part of him knew that this probably wasn’t making any sense, but Col had promised not to think he was crazy and he trusted him for that. “The lightning had hit the clock first – just before I went into the park. And then it hit the sword. And then, when I was looking up at the clouds,” Michael looked again at his friend, “well, then it hit me.
“That’s when I woke up,” said Michael as he concluded his short tale, “when the lightning hit me. I don’t know why it all seems really important, but it does. And you said that you had seen that symbol before, so it must be real, and mean something right? I got a load of books out of the library, and I’m going to look through them tonight to see if I can find it.”
Michael had finished relating his dream so just sat in silence now, Col doing likewise for a few minutes.
Finally Col spoke, “Well, that is a very curious dream isn’t it. I can understand why you want to learn more about it.” The affirmation gave Michael some comfort in his need to get some answers from the pictures in his head.
Col seemed to be struggling with his words now; strangely cautious, “Michael, most young people don’t like it when people more than twice their age try to give them advice – especially when it’s not been asked for. I’ve always tried to avoid giving you suggestions unless you’ve requested them. And you haven’t asked for my advice now, so I won’t say anything if you don’t want me to,” he said, watching Michael with eyes that suggested urgency, “but with your permission, there is something I would like to say.”
Col was right: Michael hated it when other people tried to tell him what to do or what to think. But he didn’t feel like that towards this friend, and he nodded his approval.
He seemed to be looking inside himself briefly, considering his words before he spoke again. “I think you are right to have a look through those books,” he said, “but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t find anything. I have a feeling that symbol is quite unique. And even though I can’t tell you anything about it, I have a feeling that you will learn what it means when you need to.” Before Michael could interject, he continued, “I know that sounds a bit cryptic. I’m not trying to be. It’s just…” he was trying to carefully choose his words. “Well, in my experience a dream that leaves such a strong impression probably isn’t meant to be fully understood straight away. You’ll probably slowly come to understand it – bit by bit.”
Michael didn’t like the thought of having to wait before he got answers to his questions, but something in what Col had said felt right to him, and slowly he nodded.
“There is one more thing; one more piece of advice if I may,” his confidant then said. “This dream has obviously made a very strong impression on you. I have… heard of people where a dream like that has come just before something important has happened.” His words startled Michael and as he looked intently into the deep blue eyes of his friend, he thought he could just detect a slight moistening in their corners.
He smiled, trying to reassure him. “That doesn’t necessarily mean anything is about to happen to you, of course, but I would ask you, Michael, to try to be very aware over the next few days. You do a lot of thinking, and that is very good – if only more people spent time thinking as you do I think we’d have a much better world – but please try to be more aware of what is happening around you. Just for the next couple of days. Just in case.”
Michael could tell that there was something else Col wanted to say, and waited quietly for him.
After a pause of a few seconds, he spoke again, “And if something does happen, Michael – and I’m not saying it will, but if it does – do something. Do what your heart tells you to do.”
They looked at each other for a moment, the warm smile returning to his older friend’s face, and then the two of them sat in silence for what seemed like a long time: each pondering the words they had shared with each other.
It was strange advice, Michael thought: don’t worry if I don’t find answers straight away, and if something happens then do something. Col had offered his counsel with a gravity that made it seem important, though, and so he would certainly think more about it – if only for his friend in whom he had confided.
Finally, Michael started to move, “Well, I want to start looking at those books, so I’ll head off now if that’s okay. Thanks Col,” he said, “it was really good to talk to you about it.” As he got to the exit of the shelter, he turned briefly, “I’ll see you in the morning?” he asked.
“You certainly will. Enjoy your reading Michael,” Col replied.
Michael paused briefly, then turned to face his friend again. “I really mean it,” he said, “Thanks. I can always talk to you. I’ve never had a father, but… well, thanks.” Without waiting for a reply, he turned and hurried back to his flat.
Col followed him out of his shelter. As Michael disappeared around the corner of the building, he finally allowed the tears to fall from his eyes. He had known this day would come, but hadn’t expected it to be quite like this, and he softly whispered to himself, “Never had a father…” He then turned back to his shelter and crawled inside to ponder more the discussion that had just taken place, and what would now be required of him.
Dreams and Shadows will be released on 5th June. You can pre-order a copy on Amazon.
© Copyright 2015, Jeffrey Collyer