J e p h r e y



Cartoon: phonebox on Dartmoor

Interlude Two: Lost in Dartmoor

I've been walking, for I know not how long, across uncultivated mountain peaks of dirt, heather and stone. Lots of stones, some of them stacked upon others. Clouds of mist come and go at the wind's whim. The air tastes of a chilled steam bath. I am confused. I do not know how I got here or why I am here. Indeed, I am having trouble remembering who I am.

I am Jephrey.

I hear something. I stop. It is the beat of a distant drum. I stare through the fog and sense movement. I walk towards the sound and movement until shadows form in front of me: shadows of a long line of people marching across this desolate landscape. At the front of the line is what seems to be an impossibly tall, skinny, long-necked being in a spacesuit. Behind this curious being march three drummers, each banging away with a military marching sort of beat. As I scan the long line of walkers, I see several similar tell, spacesuited figures marching along, like teachers overlooking pupils on a class trip. I approach the marchers. I see that the humans are all dressed in business clothes, albeit business clothes that are wrinkled, spattered with dirt and faded.

I catch up with the line of marching people, just behind the drummers, and ask a man, “what's going on here?”

“We are following out new leader,” he said.

“The guy in the spacesuit?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says.

I look to a woman walking next to him, but clearly not with him.

“Yes,” she says.

I jog to the front of the long line of marchers till I am beside the tall figure in the spacesuit. He or she must have been at least three meters tall, a half meter or more of which appeared to be neck.

“Hello,” I said.

The being, for it was not human, looks at me. His head is reminiscent of a giraffe's albeit with less of a snout and more intelligence in the eyes.

The being screeches at me like an angry crow and I feel compelled to fall back into the line, but I resist.

“Where are you taking these people?” I ask.

The creature screeches again and a moment later a hand gently takes my arms.

“Please move back into the queue,” says an elderly man with a gentle voice.

I fall back and begin walking with the people and I feel my mind fading into the march when I hear a telephone ring. It is not my mobile phone, which plays a the opening of Bach's fifth Brandenburg Concerto. Rather, it is the traditional double ring of a British land line telephone.

The ring is, I realise, my salvation. I must find the telephone or be condemned to march with these people for ages.

I look around the group and then to my right where I see a red phone box standing lonely amidst the heather. I feel compelled to follow the group, but I realise this feeling is neither natural nor in my best interests. Something is trying to force me to stay with the group.

I will not let it.

I pull away and walk towards the phone box. As I distance myself from the group, I feel a strong wind blow across my soul and then I am free. I no longer feel any need to follow the tall being. I smile, pull open the phone box door and answer.

“Never fear, Jephrey is here!” I say, with more meaning than usual.

“Do you never answer the phone differently?” asks a familiar voice.

“Wendy from CERN?”

“Yes, that's me. I'm calling to ask about the state of reality”

“How did you know to call me here?” I ask.

“What do you mean?” she asks.

“How did you know I was near this phone box?”

“Phone box?” she says in surprise. “You'd better explain.”

I tell her about the moor, the marching people, the alien and the red phone box in the middle of the moor.

“Wow,” she says. “It sounds like you are in the wrong reality.”

“Wrong reality?”

“Yes, that's bad.”

“Oh shit!”

“Don't worry. It's not bad for you, really. But it suggests that the borders of reality are not strong. That's not a good sign.”

“About this wrong reality I am in...”

“Yes, we'd best not leave you there. Hang on a second.” I hear the clatter of a keyboard followed by some humming.

“Okay. Got it.” she says.

“Good.”

“Do you have a compass on you?”

“Yes, my phone has a compass in it.”

“Good. Look directly south. Do you see a rocky hill about 300 meters behind you”

“Just a sec... Yes, I do.”

“Okay. Climb up the hill, stand near the centre and face north east. You should should see a metal hatch in the ground in front of you. It is probably covered with heather, so search a bit. There is a handle you can use to open it. If it's stuck, give it a kick. Then, slowly lower yourself into the hatchway. You won't see anything at first, so be careful, but don't worry. It's not dangerous. Have you got that?”

“I think so.”

“Why don't you repeat it to be sure.”

I do.

“Very good,” she says. “Some people say they get it when they don't. That can lead to disastrous mistakes.”

“I get that too.” I say.

Wendy laughs gently. “Good. I'll call back in a few minutes. If you cannot get through the hatch, come back to this phone.”

I climb up the hill, it's not particularly challenging, and soon find the hatch. It takes an effort to open it, but I eventually succeed. It's pitch back below and I confess I am a little nervous about lowering myself into something I cannot see. On the other hand, being stuck in the wrong reality where I am compelled to follow screechy aliens is hardly inviting. So, I very cautiously lower myself into the hatch.

My foot touches something soft. Suddenly, there is a burst of light. I lose my footing and fall into my own car, banging my butt on the gear shift lever. I look up to see I have just fallen through the sunroof of my car. I look around and see that I am in a car park in Dartmoor.

Memory floods back. I recall that I came here for a hike and soon was enveloped in a fog. Then, something happened to my memory. I forgot where I was and why I was there. That's where this story started.

Thank goodness for the phone call!

And, at that moment, my phone rings.

“Never fear, Jephrey is here.”

“And Wendy is here. How's reality?”

“I think it's back to normal.”

“That's great. But, I'll keep calling from time to time to check on it.”

“Thanks, I'd like that.”

“You're welcome,” she said, ringing off.

 

 

 

© 2018 Jeffrey Baumgartner