Liberty Collins 2020
Time and Time Again
The wind whistled around my ears sending my hair into auburn spirals. The quiet rumbling of war murmured in the distance, children whimpered and cried into their parent's arms. A powerful thundering sound was heard from above, sending the kids into hysterical fits. People cried, sang and laughed nervously as everyone worried about their lives.
The roof was low above my head, a large slab of concrete. Honestly, it was daunting, the extended slab of brick protecting hundreds of people from the destruction of war. The humming child went silent, so did the sirens. The whispers picked up again, adults grabbed their child's hands and stood up. I exchanged eye contact with numerous hesitant adults. There was a cold breeze drifting through the place, sending shivers down everyone's spine. Everyone shuffled towards the door John's breathing was heavy, he was uncertain, I was too.
"Ruth? Do you think we go out?" He asked inaudibly.
"Follow the others," I replied calmly.
We scuffled over to the exit, looking around at all of the ghostly faces. John struggled in the crowd, his crutches getting shoved about by all the people and his working leg tripping over people's feet. Everyone funnelled out the door.
"The ring in the sky..." John said, astonished by the size of the dusty cloud of smoke.
The dusty mass was the mess of a bomb aftermath, John urged me to tell him what type of bomb it was.
"A Tsar Bomba" I responded.
We walked down the petrol stained road, towards the huge grey building that was the town 'centre for orphaned or abandoned children'. After that bombing, we were under strict conditions that we should be back from the bunker and in our rooms ten minutes after. It had been seventeen minutes, we were sure to be punished. Would it be Miss Wright with her piercing glare and her strained posture or would it be Miss Clowed with her harsh stare and flexed hand holding her whip? A large clock tower stood in the centre of the front courtyard. It towered towards the clouds and stood in the shadow of the orphanage. There was the recognisable sound of a sliding balcony door open, it's steel frame gliding on it's rails. This sound was familiar at this place, the sliding door on the highest balcony was different though, it would howl a monster of a screech. The last time that noise was heard last when one kid had grown tired of it all. I don't blame him this is a terrible place.
John swayed on his crutches as he looked up from where the noise had come from, it was one of the lower balconies that had made the noise. A head popped out of the door. John's blue eyes widened and he swore under his breath as he took a hobbled step back, I bet he could sense who it was. John and I were misfits for whatever reason we were not liked, some people could say we were bullied.
The guy looked at us, it was Ryder. His eyes narrowed, he recognised us. His dark eyes widened and a sneer crossed his face. He disappeared behind the door. I started to jog towards the clock tower beckoning John to follow. He limped over, his crutches scraping against the ground. He made it over to me, out of breath. He puffed as the guy reappeared on the balcony except now he was no longer alone.
"Sh*t sh*t sh*t." John murmured.
Ryder jumped down from the balcony (a good five meters), and his friends followed with the simple stunt. Ryder was a large guy that never skipped his daily workout. He was the orphanage bully and his friends? They were just as strong as he was. To add to that there must have been ten of them.
"Sh*t sh*t sh*t" John repeated.
I clapped a hand over his mouth.
"Come out, come out wherever you are." One of the boys shouted.
I removed my hand from his mouth and walked out of our hiding spot.
"Where's limpy?" One of the other guys asked in a not so reassuring voice.
"He got spotted by Miss Clowed." I tried to say as normally as possible.
"Somehow I don't believe that," Ryder said with a snarl.
"I bet limpy's behind the clock." One of the others growled.
They all slowly walked closer until I could feel the warmth of Ryder's breath, it sent a shiver down my spine but I wasn't afraid.
He made a glance at two of the other guys. Both walked around me, one started his way towards the clock tower while the other stood a few feet behind me, his brass knuckles glinting in the dull sunlight. I weighed my options but all ended with me getting a black eye.
Just before they got any closer to the clock I swung my arm and my fist united with his face.
The guy walking towards the clock ran back towards Ryder, a worried look on his face. Ryder took a stumbly step back with a dazed look on his face, stopping he looked at me, seething. His dark eyes filled with fury as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, blood smearing across his chin.
In a matter of seconds, my back screamed with pain, my legs going numb. I swayed where I stood, I reached behind my back only to feel the stickiness of blood. I could feel my arms being grabbed by a few of Ryder's guys, I was being dragged along the ground. Strong arms pushed me against the stone base of the clock tower. I could hear \John yelling, he was putting up a fight. Soon after a few deafening cracks, I could sense John being pushed up against the wall next to me. My eyes wandered in and out of focus.
"Shouldn't have done that". Ryder said, his hand holding my chin up.
I looked up at him, his jaw clenched and sweat beading on his forehead.
He took a step back, cracking his knuckles he looked at me with a smirk. I looked at him frustrated and spat at his feet. He raised his arm and...
I cautiously opened my eyes.
My head pounded as scenes flashed before my eyes. Babies, elders, flowers, graves, teens, first tooth, first steps, first date, marriage, first-child. First grave. The images blurred around my face, the colours and transformations making my stomach churn.
The familiar sound of planes buzzed overhead, but when I looked up to meet them with my gaze, what I saw was different, yes, they were planes but old fashioned. I looked around seeing people wearing weird dresses and suits. Women wearing flounces and frills, men wearing tweed suits and shined shoes. I studied the brick housing and stores.
I turned around at the mention of my name. It was John, thank god! We exchanged the same troubled look as he hobbled towards me.
"Where are we?" I questioned.
An eavesdropping woman gave us an odd expression.
"Where are you? Where do you think you are?" She said, astounded.
"Um..." John whispered giving me an anxious glance.
"Why, you're in Britain of course!" She chuckled.
John and I, of course, knew the history of our country but not for many years had it ever been labelled as Britain.
"What year is it?" I asked anxiously waiting for the answer.
The woman paused.
"Why would you ask her that?" John said pushing the end of one of his crutches into my toe.
The woman awoke from her dazed expression.
"It's 1941. Why are you asking?" She replied her voice slow and weary.
My stomach dropped and my palms became sweaty. The lady got nervous and walked away, clutching her basket of fruits by her side.
"It couldn't possibly be? Could it?" John asked. His face was fading to white as he went wobbly on his crutches.
"It's okay. We'll get back." I reassured. I steadied him by resting my hands on his shoulders.
I tried to piece the best possible plan together in my head.
"What's the most logical thing to do?" I racked my brain for the answer to my question.
"We came here by being punched against the clock tower," John said his voice slow and cracking.
"So, does that mean we should do it again?" I asked thinking whether it could be possible.
For hours we searched the foreign town for a clock tower, asking the occasional person for directions, that was until we saw an ad. An ad that said 'come visit the big ben'. John spotted it first.
"Ruth. The big ben! Do you think it could work?"
"Maybe?" I said, my mind filled with doubts. It took us a while by walking around and finding directions walking the streets like two stray cats.
The building towered towards the sky, it's pointed top almost piercing the clouds. A guard shouted and approached us.
My mind raced, I didn't know where I was, I didn't know what to do and I didn't know who these people were. That was when instinct took over. I kneed the innocent man in the stomach and as he crumpled in pain I ripped the gun out of his hand.
"What are you doing?" John cried.
"Improvising," I replied.
Soon a pack of armed men came from around the corner.
"Ruth, I don't want to do this," John whimpered. But my mind was in another place.
I looked down at the gun. Revolver, handgun, three bullets, vintage.
"Old school," I muttered.
The men had their guns pointed. I counted my competition as they came charging towards me. Twelve. I loaded the gun.
"Drop the gun!" One of the men shouted.
And at that note, I shot him square in the chest. I was instantly filled with regret, the men were furious. They all charged at me, one man firing bullets at me. With that I ran towards him, running in an uncoordinated pattern and with a sweep of the leg he fell back, his head, hitting the brick floor. I shot at two more men coming my way. I smacked a man in the head with the face of my pistol, disoriented he howled and dropped onto his knees, clutching his face. One man stood his ground, shooting with a surprisingly good aim. He took a minute or two to line up his gun then shot once again, he had a slow aiming method so I ran to him while he got his gun ready and shoved his arm to the side when he went to shoot me, he shot another man. With that, he let out a cry and as I twisted his gun around to face me he yelled.
I kicked him in the chest and he fell to the ground. My eyes welled up with tears as I collected the bullets from his pockets and shot the last five men.
"Ruth! Quick!" John yelled, overwhelmed by what I had just done.
We walked through a few gates and met with the base of the huge clock.
"Why?" John asked, his eyes red with fear.
"I, I don't know what came over me. I, I'm sorry John."
"Ruth, remember science in 3011?"
"Do remember what the topic was that year?"
"Ruth, we learnt about time travel."
"I know," my voice cracked, I know where this is going.
"What you did, it will change something."
"I know. But you won't know until you get there."
"Me? What about you?"
I knew that we needed to impact get against the clock to go back.
"Ruth? What about you?"
I got into a position behind John.
"It might change for the better, John. But you need to go home."
I took a running start and reached to push John against the clock, but he stepped aside and gave me a shove on the back. I was uncontrollably sent towards the wall.
"Ruth, it could be better or worse, one of us should go home but either way, I don't want that to be me."
Babies, elders, flowers, graves, teens, first tooth, first steps, first date, marriage, first-child. First grave.
Please listen to this song while reading.
I could feel sand between my fingers, its warmth both soothing and unsettling. I forced my eyes open to see my hand resting on a small hill of sand. My heart skipped a beat and I instantly sat up, my chest pounding with fear. I looked around trying to work out where I was. That was until in the distance I saw the small black flag of my country. My heart dropped as I remembered where that same flag used to fly. It once stood tall and proud in the middle of a bustling city square. My heart dropped as I denied to ask myself where the town square was, instead I thought why is the flag in this desert. I got onto my feet and ran to the flag, my heart pounding. I approached the flag to find rubble. My legs got weak and my head got heavy. How could this be? Couldn't it of been better? Faded outlines of roads were traces like a mase. I ran the streets, the houses getting slightly less damaged. Where was everyone?
I know I didn't like this place but everyone has a home. John was gone. I could never see him again. Would I see anyone again? I wish I could speak to him. One last time? To tell him how much I loved him by my side? Was he okay? The air was dusty and dry. I breathed it in accepting that I would be stuck here for a while. Was a while enough? I had done something bad. Killed innocent men. I had ruined the future for John or his future relatives. I felt lightheaded as the realisation of what I had done overwhelmed me and was dropped on me like a thousand limp bodies? How did I have the right to do what I did? I deserved this, but they didn't.
There it was, the jagged base of the clock tower, and the grey brick of a building they all called hell. I ran around, my stomach twisting into knots and a lump forming at the back of my throat. I reached a graveyard on the way to the bunker and that was when I caught a glimpse of it, in the corner of my eye I saw a gravestone carved with 'Here Rests John Wood, A good man, the best dad ____-2001.'