Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

This is the first page in the Philosophical Friday series, which will attempt to give a (very) simplistic account of the many philosophical views about the nature of time and other interesting concepts concerning the eccentricities of life, the world and the universe.

I am assuming that if you are reading this, you have already read The White Cuckoo. If you haven’t, all you need to do is click on the front cover image on the right-hand sidebar. It’s only 77p to download from Amazon, or alternatively you can buy a paperback copy.

The title of the prequel to The White Cuckoo is:-

FOR THEIR TOMORROW

Although taken from the words of John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 – 1958) and famously part of an epitaph for World War One,  the title sums up the thrust of the novel in telling Jessie and Harry’s story from 1911 until 1926 when we already know from The White Cuckoo that Jessie dies of Scarlet Fever.

As the novel unfolds, the reader will gradually understand the reason for giving it this title. The story, like The White Cuckoo, contains a paranormal theme centred around events that have happened in the past, what is happening in the present time and what will happen in the future. However, cause and effect and demarcation between the past, the present and the future is blurred and distorted.

To illustrate what I am trying to say, St Augustine’s thoughts were:

“How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time, but eternity.”

As promised here is the opening scene of the first draft of For Their Tomorrow. It is December 1911 and Harry and Jessie have been living with the vicar and his family for eighteen months. Until now, their whereabouts has not been discovered as they live their lives quietly and timelessly, nestled within the protective circle of the vicar’s family.

CHAPTER ONE

The tabby kitten sat, ears pricked, staring warily into the darkness. Finding itself separated from its mother and sleeping litter mates, it gave an instinctive thin squeak.

Lifted up into the air, its claws tensed against bare skin. It opened its mouth to protest, but was silenced as a hand encircled its tiny head and neck and it was cradled in the crook of an arm. The kitten stiffened as it sensed imminent danger. Simultaneously, fourteen-year-old Jessie Smith felt tiny hairs begin to prickle on the back of her neck, and a sudden premonition of impending menace buzzed in her ears as she held the kitten close to her. She stood perfectly still as if captured in a sepia photograph, while the cold winter wind whistled tunefully through the eaves of the vicarage and crispy, dead leaves swirled on the cracked, uneven paving outside the wooden potting shed.

Seconds later, her heart began to thump in her chest at an unexpected staccato sound of metal heeled boots walking along the cobbled pathway that ran along the back of the shed. The footsteps stopped abruptly. A metal latch was rattled and a gate creaked open before banging shut again as it was caught by the breeze.

The sound of the footsteps began again, slower this time, but much louder as the man approached the potting shed. Jessie melded herself into the dank timber slats of the shed wall, certain her thumping heart could be heard outside.  The footsteps did not belong to either Harry or the Reverend, of that she was certain. In any case, the back gate from the garden into the lane was always locked.  Why was it open? The lane was so rarely used, it could only be a burglar or vagrant who had forced the padlock, intent on some criminal act.

A match was struck, and seconds later the acrid smell of pipe tobacco hit the back of Jessie’s nose.  She pulled her shawl around the kitten as it settled in the security of her arms, willing it not to make another noise. The man breathed heavily, so close to her she could hear the accompanying rattle of his congested chest. When he coughed twice and cleared his throat, with a rush of terror she knew that the man was Mr Willoughby.

He began to whisper to himself, almost incoherently.

‘What have I done?’ he whispered in the slurred, thick voice of a drunken man. ‘Ye Gods, what have I done.’

Jessie blinked as tobacco smoke stung her eyes and she held her breath against the lethal white wisps that curled around the inside of the shed like feather-light fingers searching in the darkness. She fought against the surge of adrenaline that quickened her heart rate and urged her legs to run as quickly as she could away from a man who, even now, filled her sleeping hours with nightmares.  Just an inch or so of timber separated her from him. If she moved, or the kitten made a noise, she would be discovered.

Moonlight shot intermittently through gathering clouds, casting an eerie light over the vicarage gardens. A stiff breeze of chilled air caught the open door of the potting shed, blowing it open even wider with a desolate creak of rusty hinges. Jessie shivered, clenching her teeth firmly together to stop them chattering. The kitten began to purr as she scratched its tiny ear. In the corner of the shed its mother and two litter-mates watched, three pairs of eyes blinking in ominous luminescence. Jessie willed them not to move or make a noise, because if they did, Mr Willoughby would look into the shed, she would be discovered and every single nightmare she had endured since running away from Fawsden Hall last year would come true.

In the rickety wooden stable adjacent to the potting shed, Flossie the pony whinnied, snorting acrid, sweet breath into the midnight air, unsettled by the unscheduled and unfamiliar human intrusion. She stamped her foot to gain attention, puzzled because Jessie had not reappeared to give her a sugar cube or a piece of carrot, something that always happened just lately when one of the children crept down in the dark to fetch the tabby kitten they had been promised was theirs.

3 Comments

3 thoughts on “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

  1. Enjoyed this Anne, but got worried reading about the death from Scarlet Fever. I had this as a child and it was terrible, but I’d no idea I could’ve died! Enjoy your writing so much and always love to pop in to see what you are doing here. 🙂

  2. Thanks for popping by Jane. I rescued the local public health records from the end of the 1800s to the 1960s from a skip at the Council offices where I work. They now reside under my desk. They make fascinating reading, and yes, you could easily have died from scarlet fever in the 1920s although it was not so likely you would die from it 30 or more years later.

  3. I guess you are right. The drama queen in me came out then! I would love to see those records, what a thrill finding them there. I am surprised they weren’t burned or something. Anything confidential or were they in the Public Domain anyway? Love reading records of anything: the family historian in me I suppose. Enjoy your weekend.

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