Jo Young, Authour Hi, I am Jo. I have never done a writing course or won any awards, in fact I only just scraped through my English ‘O’ level back in the day, lol, but that has not stopped me from writing my story. My journey with the landscape and my own spirituality inspired me to get scribbling. Living in a rural setting,I have explored standing stones, ancient sites,found beautiful crystals and hiked the hills, which inspired me to write Finding The Way, my first fantasy novel. I believe that by expressing our lives through art, music, writing, singing, photography or anything that we are passionate about, we can uplift, effect and encourage each other. Through creativity we can discover balance and peace in an ever-increasing linear and restricting society. By journeying into our imagination we can unveil other dimensions and spaces we would not normally encounter. And the best thing about our imagination is that it is unique and free!
E Book Links
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A Mysterious Secret
An Exciting Adventure
A Race to Save The World
With the enemy hot on their tails can Ben and Ria find their way through the forests of Wales and the Wizards Maze to save the world?
Living in a small rural town Ben spends most of his time walking the hills and countryside enjoying the mysteries of Ancient Standing Stones and the Crystals he discovers there. But when Ria enters his life Ben’s world turns upside down as the pair embark on a crazy journey together. Pursued across dimensions by unlikely adversaries Ben and Ria must outwit and outrun them to survive.
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BELOW ARE THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS TO READ FOR FREE.
FINDING THE WAY
By Jo Young
Copyright 2019 Jo Young
Dedicated to my Aunty Gill
Ben stood up and peered round the wall. His breath came in short sharp gasps. He gulped for air as his chest heaved painfully. His calf muscles ached and burned, taut from over exertion. He wasn't sure how much more running he could manage. Had he lost them? It seemed like hours since this had all begun. Ben knew why they wanted him. What would they do if they caught him? Torture him? Kill him? How desperate were they? He had to think and fast. Dogs barked in the distance, and that was another thing. The thought of angry dog’s teeth ripping into his soft flesh wasn't very appealing. He had to lose them and now, but where? Think, think. Ben started running again, his feet pounding the hard ground. Running was all he could come up with; his brain was fit to burst. The veins in his temple pulsed loudly, making his head throb. Thrusting his hand into his jeans pocket, Ben checked that the crystal was still there. It was, nice and safe and warm. Good. The crystal was the last of the gems he needed to finish the secret project he was working on. Ben had been doing so well keeping silent about it, but then along came Ria and he couldn't help himself. She was so beautiful that he wanted to share everything in his life with her, including his secret project.
It was Ria's twenty seventh birthday, and Ben had chosen this special day to share his secret project with her. They had been dating for a year and Ben thought it was now safe to do so, he knew her pretty well. Funny how one little incident can change everything. Ben had it all planned. He was taking her to dinner first, then the surprise.
Ria knew he was hiding something from her, but she could never prize it out of him, no matter how hard she tried. And try she did, every time she saw him. But tonight was the night. Ben said he had a surprise to show her and Ria knew what it was straight away. A far away look washed over his thin unshaven face whenever this "thing" was mentioned. Ria had been curious about Ben's secret for months, but he was always elusive whenever she probed for more details. Now Ria couldn't contain her excitement, it had been bottled up inside her for so long.
Having picked Ria up, they arrived at the busy trendy restaurant early. It was Ria's favourite place to eat out. The large purple flashing neon sign above the door always captivated her imagination. 'Wonderland'. Every time Ria passed under that glow she hoped that wonderland would materialise on the other side, and that she would step into a strange and mysterious new world, away from the dreary town. But it never did. Ria found the small dull town she lived in claustrophobic, but she had never had the courage to leave and pursue her dream of becoming an airhostess. The idea of Wonderland was the only freedom she gave herself.
As their table wasn't quite ready they ordered drinks at the bar, both glad to calm their nerves. Perching on studded purple cushioned bar stools Ben observed Ria as she drank her favourite cocktail, a Strawberry Daiquiri, a mixture of rum, strawberries and sugar. Ben wished Ria had chosen somewhere quieter for them to eat, the loud boom boom boom of the bar music was intrusive, but it was her choice and her birthday so he made the best of it making silly jokes and laughing with her. Licking the sugar off the rim of her glass Ria giggled nervously, her long black hair cascading over her ice blue eyes. Ben loved the way she smiled, still infatuated with her every move and nuance. Finally their table was ready and the waiter, a sharp dressed man in a black suit and crisp white shirt, showed them to a small private booth in the corner of the restaurant, away from the noisy music. The booth seats were covered in purple leather and Ria found her bare legs sticking to it as she eased herself into the cubicle.
'I should have worn trousers.' She thought. The waiter left them with the menus. Feeling slightly tipsy already Ria tried to focus on the writing in front of her.
"Do you want me to order?" Ben asked, noticing Ria's condition. She nodded in response. The smells coming from the kitchen were heavenly. Ben caught aromas of strong cheeses, almonds and even a hint of caramelised pear. It was a strange combination. Their starter arrived, a mushroom pate with crusty granary slices served on delicate purple ceramic plates. The pair hardly touched their expensive starter and after nibbling their way through it realised they were not really hungry, but more excited for what came after. Deciding to leave and get onto the important part of the evening Ben settled up and the pair went out to his car. He helped Ria, who after three strong cocktails was rather drunk, into the passenger seat.
"We have to go out of town," Ben said as he jumped into the drivers side, "it'll take about forty five minutes to get there," he glanced over at her, "you still want to see?" Ria nodded even though part of her could have easily gone home to sleep off the nausea that was beginning to creep over her.
Ben started up his battered old white Citroen and left the purple glow of the restaurant behind. They drove in silence, both feeling nervous and apprehensive. Ben wondered if his project would impress her, and Ria didn't want to say anything at all in case she threw up, or Ben had a change of heart and turned around. This was going to be good. Leaving the rural town they had lived in all their lives, they drove steadily north, cruising narrow single-track lanes. Ria was starting to feel a little sick from all the twists and turns, and had to ask Ben to stop several times, so she could step out and inhale some cool night air. After what seemed forever, Ben slowed, turning sharply up into an un-gated bumpy forestry track, his small car straining as it climbed the steep hill. Tall dark pine trees loomed out over the track and rain began to fall. Ria became transfixed as the wipers squeaked back and forth across the wet windscreen. The forest made Ria uneasy and the deeper they drove the more her excitement waned. Ria had no idea where she was. Darkness enveloped everything.
"Where are we going Ben?" she managed to get out, fear suddenly sobering her up. Ria realised she was in the middle of no-where, at night and in the rain, without a jacket, torch, umbrella, anything. She hardly ever left the safety of town, and never in the middle of the night. The headlights highlighted the rainfall on the dark track, and as they sped along the car sprayed up small bits of gravel, worrying Ria more. Ben touched a small dial on his dash turning up the rattling heater, which blew out stale warm air onto the misty windscreen.
"Not far now," Ben said breaking the silence, "you are going to love this."
Ria could feel his excitement brewing.
"It has to be this far into the forest because of the lights, even the forestry commission haven't found me and I've been here a long time. Mad eh! Must be my destiny or something." He laughed, a grin spreading up his face to his kind hazel eyes, which sparkled brightly in the gloom.
As they rounded another bend, Ben pointed to a faint green glow far off through the trees.
"Look, see that light over there, that's where we're heading." Ria observed the glow through the wet foggy window and wondered what on earth it could be. The car carried on bouncing and twisting up the long pot holed forestry track.
'I'll find out soon enough,' Ria thought anxiety flooding through her. The green glow reminded her of some horror film she'd seen once, and she hoped Ben didn't turn out to be some deranged serial killer. She didn't think it likely, but Ria found she was getting decidedly paranoid.
“Are you going to kill me?” she joked half-heartedly.
“Of course I am.” Ben laughed, not realising Ria was serious.
She needed her wits about her, and Ria cursed herself for the amount of alcohol she had consumed, even if it was her birthday.
The green glow got brighter and Ria could now see other colours emerging through the pine trees, blues, reds, oranges, and yellows, a rainbow swirling through the trees, it looked amazing whatever it was. Driving in silence they passed a big Oak tree, then soon after Ben turned up a rougher muddier track, and within a few minutes pulled the car up in front of a large log cabin from where the colours were emanating. Even though there were no windows, the lights slipped out through small holes and cracks in the wood.
"They don't like being shut in." Ben said.
"Who doesn't?" Ria asked. What was he talking about? She was finding the whole experience rather bizarre.
"Not who, what. Come on lets go in and I'll explain." As Ben got out he produced a large black umbrella from under his seat and went round to the passenger door to help Ria out, who was glad to inhale another breath of cool night air. Unsteadily Ria tottered under the brolly next to Ben and cursed herself again for wearing high heels and a short skirt. She shivered as the rain pattered on the umbrella. Ben took her hand and walked towards a small porch that held the cabin door.
"What do you think of my cabin then?" he asked, "Took me a year to build before I could even start my real project. I still can't believe it hasn't been spotted yet, it's pretty far out."
"You can say that again." She cuddled up to him for warmth, not really believing Ben could have possibly built the wooden structure before her. Ben pulled a key out of his denim jacket pocket and slid it into a little keyhole. With a click the door opened and he led Ria inside.
He shook the brolly out, stood it by the door and waited for Ria's reaction. The coloured lights were intense and beautiful; they seemed to be everywhere and everything. The room was full of the most amazing shades and hues Ria had ever seen, from red to indigo, nearly the whole visible spectrum. She was stunned and speechless. All she could do was gape. She couldn't see the other side of the cabin as the colours intermingled, forming a dense fog that swirled all around filling every bit of space. The mist seemed to caress Ben, welcoming him into their world. Observing the mist she thought it was almost thick enough for her to touch. As she reached out her hand to test her theory the misty colours shied away from her. Ben watched the interaction.
"They haven't met anyone other than me," Ben said, "It looks like they are a bit shy
"What the colours?" Ria asked.
"Its most interesting, I've never seen them interact with anyone but me you see," he said rubbing his well-groomed stubble and monitoring the situation closely, "Come on let's go through."
He took her hand again and walked into the mist, which parted and then closed behind them.
"But what is it?" Ria said her curiosity piqued. She wanted information.
"I'll show you the crystals now," Ben replied.
In the middle of the cabin was an oval tubular black metal object, waist high and twelve inches across with seven egg shaped holders set neatly into the top, one underneath the other, forming a straight line. In six of the holders were various sized crystals, each one casting out a different colour mist from red to indigo, all infused with bright light.
"There are six at the moment. I still have one to find and then I’ll be ready to go. I know this sounds crazy but the crystals are alive. I found out how to activate them. For years we have thought that they were just cold bits of rock, but you feel how warm they are." He gestured for her to put her hand towards them, which she did. As her hand inched closer the crystals shut down saturating the cabin in darkness.
"Oh," Ben said, "They obviously respond to people in different ways. Weird. They've never done that before. Since I have activated them they have always been 'on', so to speak." Ria felt terrible and was glad Ben couldn't see her distraught expression. He was so laid back and patient; Ria wondered how he ever put up with her. She was the opposite, quite highly-strung and quick to assume the worst. If it were her project she would be hysterical by now.
"How did you activate them then?" Ria asked, pushing her guilty feelings aside, wanting to understand.
"Well I'd been captivated by crystals for a number of years, when I’d go out walking or hiking there they would be. I mean not in town, it was always when I was out roaming the hills or woods, you know places that are really real, no bullshit just badgers, those type of places. I started off finding small white pieces of quartz with a few tiny clear crystal points in, but as time passed the crystals that came to me became larger clearer and infused with the most amazing rainbows."
"Yeah, I remember you showing me some," Ria replied, still anxious that she might have broken Ben’s project.
They were still in darkness so Ben continued his explanation, not at all perturbed by the turn of events. He felt that whatever was taking place inside the crystals was what was meant to be, and believed all his hard work would not be in vain.
"Anyway I was messing about with some of my crystals one day, just making patterns and shapes on the floor and humming to myself. I can't remember exactly what I was singing, but it must have been in a certain frequency or tone. I happened to have a very pretty little crystal in my hand at the time, and it suddenly started emitting this peculiar green mist like you saw earlier. I inspected it further, but the mist was definitely coming from inside this little crystal. None of my other crystals had ever done anything so peculiar. I don’t know why but I was compelled to rummage around in my cupboard for an old keyboard I used to play. I plugged it in tapping all the keys and when I hit the note C the green mist became much denser, C resonates at 512hz
the heart chakra, which colour corresponds to green, hence the green mist. It filled my whole bedroom and my room isn't that small really, hence the big cabin. I thought the crystals might need all this space. The mist hasn't stopped since," he paused, "that is until tonight."
"Sorry," was all she could say. Ria really hoped that she had not done any lasting damage to his work, but what was done was done. She hated to feel guilty about anything.
'I must work on that and not be so hard on myself,' she pondered. As her positive thoughts unfolded the cabin burst back into colour and light. It was as though her energy had been scanned that very moment, triggering the response. Weird.
"Brilliant," Ben said sweeping his hand through the mist in an arc and feeling every colour. "Just brilliant, aren't they truly amazing?" Ria thanked her lucky stars, and sighed deeply.
"Yes, they truly are," she replied, "But I still don't know what it is."
"Don't rush me, I'm still on activation, its all been pretty intense." His mind wandered as the mist swept over him. Ben was morphing, each colour and hue surprising him with different sentiments, and that if he surrendered to it that emotion would engulf him completely. He was getting hypnotised. Managing to pull himself free and back to reality Ben looked at Ria who also seemed to be totally mesmerised. Sometimes he could be in the cabin for hours and it only seem like a few seconds had passed.
"Come on let's go, I'll finish my story on the way home." Coming back to herself, she nodded and the pair returned through the mist to the cabin door leaving the crystals behind.
"Brrr, chilly out here," Ben chattered, pulling the door open. Ria agreed, her bare legs shivering in the cold night air. The rain had stopped and the sky had cleared apart from a few wispy clouds that floated by.
"Look the moons up," said Ria glancing up at the sky. She bathed in its cool white light for a few minutes, letting an unfamiliar other worldly sensation wash over her. It was faint and fleeting, nothing Ria could comprehend so she let it go and went to the car. What was it about light tonight? Ben started the car and as Ria jumped into the passenger seat she could already feel the heater blowing warm air onto her cold legs.
"The crystals must be pretty warm, it wasn't at all cold in there," she stated.
"I've noticed that the actual colours give out varying amounts of heat, like reds are way hotter than the greens and when you get surrounded in it all it's like one big electric blanket, it's cool.” Ben put the car into reverse, spun around and started driving back out of the forest.
Ria craned her neck over the seat as they bounced along the track watching the glow in the trees disappearing until it was out of sight, and wondering if she had just dreamt the whole thing. Wrapped up in their own thoughts the pair drove in silence.
'Well, I still have no idea what it's for,' thought Ria, 'How are they alive? What is Ben doing?'
Her mind raced with a torrent of questions with as yet no answers. As for Ben, he was contemplating the last crystal; the others were getting impatient for it he was sure. He must find it. Ben knew the last crystal was special. It would finish off his project, sitting in the top crown chakra spot. He thought the crystal he was searching for might belong to a druid, Ben thought of Merlin the Enchanter, but he had no hard evidence to prove it one way or the other. It was just a feeling. A feeling that followed him throughout some peculiar dreams and visions that he’d been having since this crystal journey had begun. Ben wondered at the chain of events that had got him to this point, all the accidental discoveries he had made. Why he had been chosen for this journey he didn't know. Ben had always been a loner, preferring the company of the birds and woodland creatures rather than his fellow man. When he walked alone in the woods and hills or came across ancient standing stones and sacred sites, Ben almost felt he could be Merlin, influencing events in time. He laughed at the absurdity of the thought, bringing himself back to the present moment.
"So how did you find the other crystals then?" Ria asked, breaking the silence.
"Well, I didn't know what to do with this green crystal. I felt sure my whole apartment block must have been filling with green mist, so I found a small airtight tin and kept it in that. It seemed to do the trick. But I was so drawn to the little gem that I kept getting it out and holding it in my hand. Strange sensations filled my mind, like it was trying to communicate with me." Ben fell silent for a few moments.
"Go on, " Ria pushed, "I really want to know."
"When I say it out loud it just seems so silly, like has this really happened or is it just a dream."
"I understand, I thought I had just dreamt all that, but what I saw tonight was no illusion," she said, "And if it was then you're a bloody good magician, now go on." Ben laughed at that, thinking back to Merlin.
"Well I decided to go to sleep with the crystal under my pillow. I was compelled to leave it out of its tin and waited for the mist to fill my room. However, as I lay down the mist surrounded only me, enfolding me in a cocoon. I felt safe in the knowledge that my building would survive the night." He laughed out loud. "That night I had the most bizarre dream. I journeyed through a strange land, where I met an old man who told me to build the cabin. I was told that what I was going to do would be a major step for mankind and I had more crystals to find. I was told that I would need every bit of faith I could muster because I would not believe. When I woke up the next day I wrote it all down so I wouldn't forget."
Before they new it they were coming into the outskirts of town and nearing Ria's small two-bedroom house that she had inherited from her grandmother.
"You coming back to mine?" Ben asked as they neared the turning to her street.
"Yes I'll come to yours, I want the rest of this story. Stop at the shop and I'll get us a night-cap."
Before long Ben was parked in his allocated bay at his apartment building and the pair went up to his flat. The lift never worked, so they used the stairwell, gradually making their way up to the top floor where his flat was situated. It could have been worse considering the building was at the rough end of town, a block of run down flats filled with most of the town's undesirables, but he'd never had any trouble. Ben didn't like the place much and was glad of the cabin to escape to. There were three flats on the top floor, Bens was at the end of a small corridor. A brass number twenty-five was screwed to the door over a mute grey paint. Ben unlocked the door and they stepped into a warm cosy hallway.
After hanging up their coats they headed down the hallway to the tiny kitchen at the end. Finding a corkscrew, Ria opened the wine she had just purchased from the local Spar. She had bought a lightly sparkling rose, nothing to heavy these days. She couldn't take the hangovers any more, and after her birthday binge Ria thought it was probably the best option. She poured two glasses and handed one to Ben.
“Happy Birthday Ria,” Ben said brightly.
"Thanks," she replied raising her glass. After clinking glasses they went into the bedroom next door. A large room, consisting of a double bed, chest of drawers, large cupboard in the corner and a bedside table with a lamp on it. Thick rugs covered most of the floor concealing a tired cream carpet. Ria switched the lamp on. Above the chest of drawers, comic books, ancient history publications and a few new age paperbacks nestled together on a rather wonky bookshelf that looked like it might collapse at any time. Pictures and postcards of standing stones, landscapes and intricate and complicated geometric art covered the magnolia painted walls. There was a south-facing window with a cream blind hanging above it. Ben pulled it closed, sealing out the night and raised his eyebrows as he heard his neighbours below enter their flat. Ria smiled as the neighbours turned on some electronic music, laughing loudly.
'Its going to be one of those nights again,' Ben thought. Most of his neighbours were pretty much okay, but the ones below him either argued or played loud music. It seemed it was going to be the latter tonight, which he much preferred over the shouting. He was glad he was situated on the top floor with only two immediate neighbours, the ones beneath him and one to the side, a quiet young man who spoke very little and was harmless enough.
"Lets get into bed, it's much warmer," Ben said.
Getting under Ben's fluffy goose down duvet they snuggled up together, sipping their drinks. The taste of summer spread across Ria's tongue and down her throat as she swallowed the wine. After a few minutes she spoke, eager for the next instalment of Bens story.
"So what happened after the dream then? Did you start building the cabin?"
"No, I didn't start building the cabin for about three months, I wasn't ready. I didn't believe that dream straight away. It took having it over and over for me to realise that this was going to happen. I had the same dream twenty times, and then I got off my butt, went up the forestry, and hunted around different areas until I found the right spot."
"What, then you just started building? Weren't you scared somebody would find you?" Ria topped up their glasses; she couldn't believe Ben had gotten away with it for so long. He carried on.
"I was the most scared I've ever been. I didn't really know where to start, but start I did. I couldn't face the old man in my dream chiding me again. I painstakingly cleared the area and began collecting logs for the cabin. It was not easy, I can tell you. I hired some machinery to move the logs and start the build. That was the most intense time. The noise seemed so loud, what with chainsaws and engines revving all the time. Every time I went up there I was sure there would be someone waiting for me, asking me what the hell I thought I was doing, but not once have I seen or heard anybody, no one ever came; maybe the forestry boys thought the noise was other forestry loggers. Now I'm not bothered, as I know it's my destiny to finish this project. Thank god I still had some of my inheritance left else I wouldn't have been able to do much. It stopped by the way, the dream I mean, once I started building.
"So what exactly is the project?" she was desperate to know.
"I'm getting there," he replied, "I just want to tell you the events in order as they happened." She resigned herself to the fact that Ben would tell her in his own time and own way, so she lay back in his arms, finished up the wine and listened to his soothing voice.
"It feels really good to be sharing this with you," he said, "I've wanted to tell you since I first met you, but knew if I started blurting it all out you would of probably run like hell." Ria took his hand, holding it tight. "So it probably took about a year to build and throughout that whole time I didn't have one single dream. Nothing of any sort, and I didn't find one single crystal. Not one anywhere. I guess at that stage my faith was tested to the limit. I had nothing to push me or give me hope; my motivation was failing. If it hadn't been for the little green crystal I think I would have given up altogether. I had that crystal in my pocket the whole year and when I went to bed I would take it out of its tin and put it under my pillow. A few times I got so paranoid I thought it was emitting radiation. That’s how bad I got. No faith you see. Now of course I know better, but at the time it was as real a thought to me as the grass is green. A few times I felt like throwing the crystal away and getting on with my life, but this has become my life, it's my mission." Ben realised he was totally parched after all the talking, so went into the kitchen to grab a drink. The wine had dehydrated him so Ben delved into his fridge retrieving a cool carton of orange juice. With a grumbling stomach he searched his near empty cupboards and found himself a large packet of tangy cheese Doritos’s.
"Do you want anything while I'm up," he called to Ria.
"No thanks, just you in here will do."
He went into the bedroom and climbed back under the duvet. As he shared his crisps with Ria his thoughts turned to the future and how close he was to finishing the project. It gave him butterflies. He didn't know what was going to happen when he popped that last crystal into its slot and that’s what bothered him most, fear of the un-known. This wasn't a new experience for him, just another test of his faith. Damn, he thought he'd got the faith thing sussed.
"Penny for them," Ria said, "You off with the fairies again?"
"Something like that," he said, finishing the last mouthful of crumbs.
"Oh no, your getting crisps all in the bed, gross." There was nothing Ria detested more than crumbs in bed. They got everywhere. She jumped out of bed, brushing the sheet as best she could. Ria knew she would surely find more later. Glancing at the clock she thought it would still be fairly early, but to her surprise it was ten to four.
"We've been hours," she said, "I've got to get up soon, so Mr.Crystal lets get the rest of the story."
She started poking and tickling him before he drifted off to sleep.
“Oh no you don’t,” she laughed, “ your not getting out of it that easily.”
Ben propped himself up on the pillow running his hand through his scruffy dark brown hair and rubbed his eyes.
“Well,” he began again, “I’d pretty much go to the cabin everyday and do some building and slowly it started taking shape. Soon enough it seemed I had finished it.
Even though it was a year it felt like no time at all. When it was done I didn’t know what to do next, so I did nothing for a while. After about two weeks I started having dreams again and was told I had to make that machine you saw tonight. I was also told the whereabouts of five more crystals and when I found them the purpose of the machine would be revealed. Well that was it; there was no turning back. I was hooked.”
“So how long did it take to find the others?” Ria asked. She knew the climax of the story was getting close and her curiosity rose in anticipation.
“It took me a couple years to find the other crystals. All of them have been found at remote standing stones in Wales. Some were harder to find than others. I wasn’t given that much information to go on, mostly riddles to me. You know what dreams are like, pretty random most of the time. I’m not much good at riddles, that's why I think it took me so long to find them. As you saw tonight, each one is a different colour and activating them was easy after the first, a different note for each crystal. In between all this stomping around the countryside, I put together the machine. You know, there's nothing inside it. It's just a tubular metal casing with the holders on top. I don't really see how it's a machine or how it's supposed to work. Maybe it’s the shape, it baffles me. Every time I found a crystal I would pop it in the relevant holder and leave it.” Ben could feel himself sliding towards sleep, but decided that he must not keep Ria in suspense any longer. They had been awake half the night and Ben knew if he didn’t tell her now he might not want to once morning came around. His brain was starting to throb and Ben knew a headache was forming.
“So you’ve only got one crystal left to find?” Ria said, “For the something machine, that does something.” Her patience was getting low, but she was desperate for the outcome.
“Once I had the six crystals all set up, my dreams became somewhat intense. It was like I was in another dimension, it was so totally different to any other dreams I have ever had. I felt I was truly there. This place I have travelled to in my dreams is the most beautiful world that exists. The most amazing plants, trees, colours, the whole place has got a real euphoric feel, it’s so hard to describe. You can walk or fly to the most far out places. There are fruit trees like you would not believe, the flavours are exquisite. I don't even understand how I have the ability to taste anything in the dream state. The juice from this one fruit tasted like a combination of golden syrup and honey. It was beautiful. So many different things and all of them were, well the only word I can use to describe it is ecstasy, pure ecstasy."
He was drifting off into his thoughts and thinking of paradise, it was all so vivid, like he could reach out and touch it. He yearned for it like he had never yearned for anything. Even Ria, who he loved with all his heart, could not compete with paradise. He knew what the machine was going to do, he just didn’t know how and that’s what scared him.
“I was being prepared,” he continued, “You see that’s what the crystal machine is for. It will teleport me to paradise, my actual physical body. I will be transported to another dimension. Well, when I get the last crystal that is.” Ben stopped talking. There he’d told her and it felt good to get it off his chest. He had to admit it did sound a wee bit crazy.
‘I mean,’ he thought to himself, 'a device to change dimension. But why?'
Even Ben thought it sounded way too far-fetched, and he was the one doing it and living it. He waited for a response from Ria, but none was forthcoming.
“Well,” he prompted, “ What do you think?” Ria lay there in disbelief, always the sceptic.
“What I think,” she replied, “ Is that you are winding me up. All I wanted to know is what the machine is for. I mean come on Ben, a machine that is going to take you to some paradise in your dreams! It’s ridiculous, now are you going to tell me what its really for or not?” She couldn’t believe he wasn’t going to tell her after all this. She was dumbfounded and was starting to think that it was all a big joke.
“Ria,” Ben said, “Look at me will you.” She sat up and looked him right in the eyes.
“I know it sounds really farfetched. It even sounds that way to me, so it must sound ludicrous to you, but it is true. The machine is going to transport me when I get the last crystal. I don’t know how or when. All I know is what I’ve been told. It will happen.”
She stared into his hazel eyes, studying every little movement and expression he made. Ria knew him well enough to know if he was lying. It appeared to her that he was telling the truth. He really did believe this shit.
“Amazing, you really think that when you put the last crystal in the machine then that’s it off you pop.”
“Yes, I really do believe that” he replied.
“Presuming you find the last crystal.” Ria felt let down by it all somehow, the crystals in the cabin long forgotten. Already her rigid thought process and programming was blocking out what she had experienced only hours before, burying it in some far recess of her mind. It wasn’t what Ria had been expecting to hear even though she hadn’t been expecting anything. Maybe she was just tired; after all it was nearly five.
Ben felt let down too. He had shared his very essence with Ria tonight and she disbelieved him, thought it a big elaborate joke. He felt he could not say any more to convince her of his truth, and didn't want to. Ben knew in his heart that deep down Ria believed him. She just found the whole thing overwhelming.
‘I would have probably reacted the same way too.’ he thought.
Sighing, Ben turned the light out and snuggled down in bed. It had been a long night. He pulled Ria close to him and they lay there cuddling both once again wrapped up in their own thoughts. Ria lay awake for a long time watching the sky change from black, to blue, to a fuzzy grey colour.
‘Morning already,’ she thought as she drifted off into slumber, grateful for the few hours to rest. It had only taken Ben a short while to relax and let go. It was easier for him every time he turned the light out. He knew where he was going.
Ria was dreaming, not of paradise but of the sound of bells. It seemed as if they were getting louder and louder almost deafening her, and then she was awake, wide-awake and reaching over Ben to turn off the alarm. Ria did not like being wrenched from sleep in this manner. It was ten ‘o’ clock. She looked at the clock again to make sure her eyes had not deceived her.
“Shit, shit, shit,” she said, jumping quickly out of the warm bed, “I am seriously late.”
Ben was still sleeping so she threw on his bathrobe and scampered into the bathroom. She couldn’t believe she’d overslept. Searching the bathroom cabinet Ria found some painkillers for the hangover she felt forming behind her bloodshot eyes. Taking a glass off the sink and filling it with water she downed the tablets and the rest of the water, hoping it would stem the headache. As Ria ran a sinkful of hot water she glanced at herself in the mirror. Not Good. Her makeup had run and her hair was a mess. Luckily for Ria she kept some emergency supplies at Bens, and soon had moisturiser on a cotton ball to wipe the previous night's muck off her face. Satisfied, she ran a comb through her hair. After splashing warm water over her face Ria turned her attention to her clothes. Creeping quietly back into the bedroom she rummaged through the drawers, yanking out a pair of jeans, a tee shirt and a warm fleece. Shoving her hand to the back of the drawer Ria felt around for a pair of socks and briefs. She was thankful that her foresight kept extra clothes at the flat. Jostling the stiff drawer shut Ria retreated to the bathroom to dress. The bathroom was small containing a sink, toilet and shower cubicle. Sitting on the toilet seat Ria wrestled with her jeans ripping a nail as she struggled into them.
"Damn it," she cursed, sucking her finger. Happy that she was presentable Ria cursed herself again.
‘Why didn’t I check what time the alarm was set for?’
Ria was supposed to be at work by eight thirty, and was normally very punctual. She found rushing around to get herself in order was not good for a hangover. Her eyes were heavy through lack of sleep and her mind just didn’t want to function, protesting at even the smallest of tasks. Picking up her bag from the hallstand and slipping a pair of trainers on, Ria was out the door by twenty past ten. After racing down the stairwell and out into the grey morning light, she was at the main road by ten thirty. A woman with two young children pulled up in a cab with all their shopping. Ria managed to persuade the taxi driver to take her across town so by ten forty was on her way to work.
Ria cast her mind back to the events of the night before and all that Ben had told her. It really was outrageous.
‘I mean,’ she thought, ‘if it is true can he get back? Or is it only one way?’ Ria couldn’t believe she was even entertaining the idea that it was true. The cab dropped her off by the subway; she paid and ran under the bypass to where she worked.
Ria had been glad to get this job, there wasn't a lot of choice in the small town and many of her school friends had given up trying to get work, already settling down with spouses and children. Ria was the only one left from her school days without a husband, and due to their busy schedules of school runs and the like, Ria had lost touch with most of her friends. When the girls did manage to meet up for the occasional night out the conversation was uninspiring, just talk of nappies and lack of sleep. Ria understood, so focused on her job more than ever. She worked in a local research facility where they made mostly modern microchips for computers, but Ria knew other more exciting things went on upstairs. At the moment Ria worked on the assembly line on the factory floor, but was frequently asked to make tea for the researchers upstairs, which had now become a permanent fixture of her daily duties. She hoped in a few years to work her way up to the higher levels in the company. Having done some I.T. study at night school, Ria felt she was ready for the next step up the ladder and hoped when new promotions arose her name would be put forward for review. Making the tea was okay, nobody else wanted to be tea lady, and it got Ria away from the factory floor, and her bullying supervisor. Ria had big dreams and wanted to muscle in on the real work upstairs. It was all very secret on the upper levels of the research facility, and Ria only got to enter those special areas when she took in the tea trolley. Ever curious, she would try and glimpse what was happening, craning her neck to peek around tall screens that blocked her view. But most of the time there was someone waiting to take the tea and show her the door. Recounting her last visit to the upper levels to take tea up for a special conference, Ria remembered catching a glimpse of a green glow coming from one of the many research labs.
‘Like the one I saw last night,’ she thought, ‘no it couldn’t be the same thing could it?’ Nervous energy fluttered in Ria's stomach at the prospect.
Ria composed herself as she entered the main reception of the facility and quickly made her way to the employee's staff area, a large dull grey room full of rows of lockers and hard empty metal benches. Racing down the third aisle Ria came to her locker. Number 432. Cocking her head slightly Ria observed the number feeling she was somehow connected to it. She'd never really taken much notice of it, but today for some reason it stood out. Shrugging her shoulders Ria opened the locker, stashing her bag. She pulled out a blue boiler suit and hurriedly threw it on over her clothes. Banging her locker shut Ria ran to the factory floor, tying up her long hair as she went, hoping she could enter without being spotted, but her supervisor was lurking close by and spotted her. Glee spread across the supervisors face as she strode towards Ria.
“Sorry I’m late,” Ria said, “It won’t happen again.”
“Better not,” the supervisor Fran replied, “Don’t make a habit of it Ria, I've got my eye on you!” Ria ran down to her spot on the assembly line thankful she hadn't got a written warning for lateness and started work.
Ria’s mind was not really on the job as the conveyor belt moved sluggishly by, all she could think of was how to snoop around on the upper levels, to try and locate the green glow. Her clearance for tea making didn't give her much scope to manoeuvre. Robotically Ria soldered the chips as they came her way, but her vision kept faltering and she dared not think how many of the chips she had ruined because of her hangover. But no matter how ill she felt Ria was determined to find out what was making the green glow.
The day dragged by and Ria was glad when the horn blew signalling the end of shift. She took her time fussing about in her locker so she would be the last of the staff to leave. Her work colleges quickly departed the depressing facility, not wanting to spend any more time there than they had too. Ria was soon alone. Pulling her overalls off she formulated a plan. The researchers always seemed to work late, so Ria decided that tea making would be her best and only option to infiltrate and nose around, try to worm her way to the upper floors. Simple and easy. Even though she had made tea many times, Ria had never had an agenda. Following the dreary corridor from the staff area, Ria soon found herself at the bottom of a set of smooth concrete stairs that led up where she paused to listen. All was quiet. Taking a deep breath Ria anxiously made her way up.
The tea making room was situated on the second floor and she was soon standing in a long white sterile corridor that led to the classified areas. A secure glass door was situated at the end. Ria clipped her staff I.D. badge onto her jumper and walked towards it. Another opening appeared on her left that led to the tea-making cubicle and Ria quickly slipped un-noticed through the door. The tea-making cubicle was a little room much like a broom cupboard consisting of a sink, microwave, small fridge, kettle and all the necessary paraphernalia for tea and coffee making. Not being scheduled for tea making Ria wasn’t sure what to do next. She checked her watch, 6pm.
'Would anyone even want tea at this time? What if no ones here?' she thought feeling decidedly uncomfortable. Peering back out into the corridor she scanned the secure glass door at the end of the hallway. Each door on the upper levels had keypads, which wasn't the problem, Ria knew the combination to the first door but after that she would have to wing it. Shutting the door again Ria put the kettle on mulling the situation over. She was just putting some cups on a trolley when the door opened and in walked one of the lab technicians. A tall broad man with short blond hair and sharp dark eyes stared quizzically at Ria. He was in his early forties and wearing a white lab coat. Ria noticed he had an angry scar under his left eye.
“Oh hi,” he said, sniffing, "I wasn't expecting to find anyone in here." Ria had to think quickly.
“Oh, I’m doing a bit of overtime tonight,” she lied. Was he going to go for it? Ria's heart thumped wildly in her chest so she kept her eyes focused on the cups in front of her not wanting to make eye contact. “I can make some tea if you like.”
“Thanks, I was just going to do that.”
“Not a problem, I’ll bring it along to you. What room are you in?”
“440, down the hallway, round the corner and then third lab on the right." Ria glanced at him and smiled.
"Aren’t you the girl who normally brings the tea?”
“Yes I am, my name is Ria ‘the resident tea lady’.” He laughed obnoxiously.
“I thought I recognised you. Phil,” he replied holding out his hand. She shook it. It was cold and clammy reminding Ria of a toad. She found it repulsive.
"Right I'll leave you to it." He went back out and Ria wiped her hand on her jeans feeling a wave of relief sweep over her.
Composing herself Ria let the tea steep in an ugly brown ceramic pot. After arranging everything on the trolley Ria wheeled the wobbly cart to the glass door. Unclipping her badge she swiped it across the keypad and typed in a code. The keypad beeped as each number was pressed which echoed down the empty corridor and Ria wondered why there weren't more people around. The keypad light turned green and the glass door rolled back. She wheeled the trolley through and the door hissed shut behind her.
The upper levels of the facility were much more impressive than where Ria currently worked. Upstairs everything was super clean, white and metallic. Fluorescent strip lights glowed above the white tiled corridor floor, which gleamed brightly. Nothing was out of place. Shut numbered doors ran the length of the corridor and Ria still wondered at the lack of employees as she made her way to the end. Her trainers squeaked loudly on the buffed floor with every step she took. Remembering the green glow had been on the fifth floor, Ria realised she would have to sneak away once the tea had been delivered to Phil. Ria had no clearance for the fifth floor. The only reason she had been given access to the fifth floor at all in the first place was because there had been a special meeting that day. Ria had been escorted all the way to the conference room and back without any chance for stopping. She had been told to leave the tea trolley and go. How was she going to enter the upper levels?
Rounding the corner at the end of the corridor Ria easily found her way to Phil's lab; it was the only open door. She entered, pushing the rattling trolley in front of her and called out.
The lab was large and white with workbenches and stools running the length of the walls. No windows let in any light just more strip lights illuminated the large room. Computers and monitors whirred noiselessly on the benches and Phil sat in front of a bright screen deep in thought. He looked up when he heard the teacups rattling together on the trolley.
"Great, over here." He beckoned Ria over.
"What are you doing?" she asked as she came up with the trolley.
"I am trying to fathom out my theory."
"Theory?" Sniffing he turned on his stool to look at her.
"It's to do with dimension shifting and very complicated. I am not convinced it is even possible. But never mind about all that, how about this tea?" Ria poured him a luke warm cup and offered him sugar, milk and biscuits. A custard cream caught his attention and he enthusiastically picked three off the plate. He sniffed again.
“You got a cold?” Ria asked.
"Just a tickle up my nose, nothing much,” he replied, “Well thanks, I guess I better get back to it," he said turning away with his drink and dunking a biscuit.
Ria racked her brain trying to work out what she could do to get upstairs; she was running out of time. There was another member of staff at the far end of the lab so Ria pushed the trolley to them offering the refreshments. As she readied a cup Ria noticed a key card lying on the workbench. Holding her breath and manoeuvring herself in-between the lab tech and the card she nimbly flicked the card off the bench as she poured the tea. As she turned the trolley to leave she reached down and lifted the card off the floor, putting it in her back pocket. As Ria wheeled the trolley away she waited for a shout but nothing came, the lab tech was oblivious to the slight of hand and too engrossed in their work to notice. Before any repercussions Ria hurriedly left the lab and made her way to the end of the corridor where there was an elevator. Glancing behind her Ria swiped a keypad on the right with the technician’s card, which released the button mechanism for the lift. No code was needed so she pushed the button calling the lift. She fidgeted and rubbed her tired eyes while she waited, adrenaline pumping nervously through her veins. Ria knew if she was caught it would probably mean the sack but she was totally committed now. The elevator arrived and Ria didn't have time to think any more about it so pushed the trolley into the small space and pressed five on the keypad in front of her. Soppy music drifted from the elevator speakers but before Ria could decide whether she liked it or not the lift doors opened at floor five.
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