The note that I found slipped between the pages of my book (Agatha’s ‘They Do It With Mirrors’) gave me the terse message:
‘We are no further from the truth. 87a.’
I disposed of this slip of paper in the time-honoured way – I ate it – then set to thinking upon this latest ‘lack of’ development.
We had been passing messages this way for all of two months. I, receiving a thin strand of rice-paper with short missives; my counterpart having the benefit of my replies and questions in a similar form, attached to various items or concealed at random points where we knew each other to be. These destinations had been set up by the number/letter arrangement on the end of the message – ’87a’ meant I was to be at Henri’s Wednesday at 14:45. We had a series of locations, days and times that we had conceived as our drop-off codes; anytime we had a feeling that the code had been *infiltrated* we would use one of our ‘curtail’ keywords. We rarely met. The system in its simple way worked – though at the moment there seemed that there was little of anything for anybody to infiltrate.
Jack! Who’s he?
The steam rose from the surface of the water, like covering smoke from a destroyer in a World War 2 sea encounter.
Though this was an encounter with the prospects of a much better outcome for both involved parties.
Wrapped wIthin the clouds were Jack and his latest flame, Gil; condensating wine glasses were close to hand and the aroma of strawberries crept through the incorporeal whirls of vapour.
“This is the life!” commented Jack; accompanying this statement with more than just a sip of wine and a toast to an unseen provider of ‘The Good Life!’
“It’s not three bad!” replied Gil. “Beats a rub down with an oily rag.”
“That’s for afters!” laughed Jack.
“Just need to let the pores open up. Nothing like a soak and a steam to clear those pores.”
Gil was never effusive on topics. Jack did all the leg work in a conversation; Gil added some punctuation now and again; but, generally, just agreed.
The evening had been full of fine wining, dining; and, now, reclining in a pleasantly supportive jacuzzi. ‘Worth every penny, pound, and both missing limbs!’ had been Jack’s comment on the extravagance. Quite self-effacing as his humour often was; his joke being that the jacuzzi had cost him an arm and a leg; whereas in actual fact it had been an IED that a colleague had triggered back in ’07. ‘Double ‘0’ 7!’ Was Jack’s take on the year! It was amazing how his innate sense of humour had kept him afloat (excuse the term) through much that would have sunk (and again) others.
Gil was possessed with all limbs and had known Jack before the ‘Big Bang – for me!’ incident. Now they were lovers.
And the steam filled the night air above them as the music of the night played upon the scene.
A bead of sweat forms upon my brow
And is quickly akin to a torrent.
A heated breeze brings little respite
To my fatigued demeanour
And I close my eyes in such weariness…
When I awoke
There had been a distinct change in the weather
And my condition was such that I
Thought a fourth Ice-Age had descended.
This was not right.
How did I shiver here where once I had melted in the abnormal heat?
I seemed to be in the same place…
But, was this a different time?
There were no people
Just a vaguely familiar frozen landscape.
In fact, there seemed to be little chance of my living more than a few minutes in this bitterness.
I was shaking with the cold; surely my blood was freezing inside my veins.
Start moving, that was the thing; pump that blood and live a little longer – perhaps long enough for the survival instinct to kick in fully.
I hauled first one leg, then the other into a slow lumbering sequence of jerky movements. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a start.