The Door In The Wall
I peeped around the door to find Silas awake, sitting up, eyes wide, features strained as he stared about him in disbelief.
He saw me. Eyes darted, fear flashed, his hands clutched the blankets, knuckles white.
‘Where am I?’ He asked in a rich brogue, eyes imploring.
I came into the room and sat on the edge of the bed, patting his hand, smiling. ‘It’s alright Silas,’ I murmured reassuringly, then dropped the bombshell. ‘You have been asleep for three hundred years.’
Silas could not grasp what had happened. Who could? Everything he had known and loved was gone. He had gone to sleep and woken up in a strange land.
I led him slowly through the novelty of his new world, allowing him time to come to terms with everything. He did not speak much, a clipped sentence here and there, but his expression said it all.
That first day was one of amusement as I watched him discover this modern world. I provided him with new clothes that he put on with a look of distaste. The fabrics obviously felt different on his flesh, but he tolerated them. I introduced him to the joys of internal plumbing, of hot water, the luxury of the indoor toilet, terror of a shower. I watched him playing with the taps, amazed at the water that flowed, repeatedly flushing the toilet and shaking his head.
Everything was a wonder; the coloured paint on the walls, the material of the curtains, the windows, doors, fitted carpet, furniture. He examined it all with an intensity that made me realise how much I took for granted.
‘It smells,’ Silas said, scrunching up his nose.
‘Chemical,’ he said, shaking his head.
He left me floundering as he turned away to investigate some other discovery – a photograph, a plastic ornament.
That first breakfast he stared in open astonishment at the flames from the hob as the bacon sizzled in the frying pan, kept flicking the lights on and off with childish delight, opening the fridge, touching the ice, taking out the jars and packages, studying the labels. Everything was to be amazed at. I laughed when he jumped as the toaster popped up.
Silas sat at the table, knife and fork in hand, eager. As soon as the full English was placed in front of him he tucked in, famished. He cut the bacon and loaded his fork with egg shovelling it into his mouth like he hadn’t eaten for months. He hadn’t.
Chewing and swallowing thoughtfully, face sour like he’d eaten lemons, he turned to me. ‘Tasteless.’ He continued to frown but worked through the meal mechanically tentatively tasting the beans, then forking them into his mouth with some enthusiasm.
Next, a mug of tea with two sugars. After three hundred years he deserved something sweet. He scowled, sipped hesitantly then drank with relish.
After our meal I led him to the television and watched with amusement as he stood dumbfounded. I gave him the remote and smiled as he clumsily pressed the buttons, changing channels with grunts of delight. I played him some music and he laughed gaily, bobbing his head.
Outside he admired the flowers in the garden but stared irritably at the houses crowding us. ‘Butterflies? He asked. ‘No bird song?’ Silas sniffed the air with a look of disgust. ‘Smells.’ He looked at me. ‘Where are the birds?’
In the road he kept prodding the tarmac with his shoe. The car was in the drive and he stared at it as if it was a spaceship, fearfully caressing the lines of its bodywork, peering in through the windows.
I wanted to show off all the wonders of this modern world. I urged him to take a seat. He was suspicious but falteringly climbed in, not knowing what to expect, disbelieving of my explanations. He sat, body stressed, eyes roving over the controls, the steering wheel, the displays, not understanding. I fixed his seatbelt and started up the engine. At the sound and vibration his face whitened, his body went rigid. With reassurance he gradually relaxed. I edged forward slowly and we made our way through the village but he remained clinging to the door handle.
Through his terror he tried to take it all in, the many houses, colourful shops, bicycles, tarmacked road – the people walking on the pavement. Gone were the dirt roads with their spaced out cottages, the horses and carts. Hard to understand. Hard to accept. Every time a car came towards us he flinched. No other planet could have been stranger to him, yet this was the very village he had grown up in.
At the top of the hill I stopped the car and we looked out over the oceans of fields. A huge harvester was at work. I thought he might be impressed at its efficiency.
Silas slowly surveyed the countryside spread out before us and shook his head in bewilderment.
‘The hedgerows? Trees? Ponds? The flowers? The birds? Surely not all gone?’ His face a picture of dismay. He blinked at the expanse of golden corn, a tear slipped from his eye.
He turned to me accusingly.
‘What have you done?’