Another Place: Where You Need To BebyStorm62©
"Maybe, I suppose." Kelly sighed. "Anyway, after I messed up, I found I couldn't do it any more. So the guide asked if I could help set up some administration to ease the processing, to speed up getting new arrivals to where they needed to be. For some reason I found it incredibly easy. Perhaps that's what he intended all along."
"What happened next?"
"Well for a very long time I just ran the administration for him, making the occasional suggestion that I thought would help things."
"The children's home for example. I'd noticed that there were an increasing number of unattached children arriving with problems and nowhere to go. I suggested that it might be good for them to all be together, where there could be someone specifically to help them. Generally they're not here long, their problems being easier to solve."
"What about the radio station?"
"Well, I had been thinking for a long time about the restorative qualities of music..."
"I know what you mean! The way a song can make you feel better when you hear it, even if you've heard it loads of times before."
"That wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but I did notice it happening quite often after we'd started broadcasting. The thing that had actually tipped it for me was the increasing number of new arrivals who asked what sort of music we had here. At that point we had none, so I worked out a proposal for the guide. He could see the benefits at once, so he asked me to set up the station."
"Why give up the admin job though?"
"To be honest I thought that radio controller would be a more fulfilling job, plus my assistant was champing at the bit to take over, so it wasn't that hard a decision."
"How did you settle on the sort of music? There is such a variety."
"Well, we just played the music that the DJ's liked really. I didn't impose any restrictions on them. To be honest, I would have liked some music from my era, but most of the people in the city are from much more recent times than me, so it was better to play tunes that they enjoyed."
"Why not play some stuff YOU like when you get back? You're the controller; you could slip in an hour of music you like once a week quite easily."
"I could I suppose." Kelly mused. "I'll think about it, thanks Brad."
By now they had set up the camp and got a fire going. Coffee was brewing once again and they settled down to drink it.
"Why are you so interested in me Brad?" Kelly asked, sipping from her cup.
"The guide." He answered, knowing that honesty was best in this case. "He said it would be worth my while getting to know you. He was right, I'm glad I've tried."
"The guide eh?" Kelly mused. "What is he up too now?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean he told me not to take you at face value, that you weren't the delinquent you appeared to be, that I should get to know you before I made any snap judgements."
"I think he sees more in us than we do ourselves."
"You may be right. We'll see how it goes then shall we?"
"Well, it's been interesting so far, why not?" The cheeky grin spread over his face again.
"Indeed. Time for me to turn in anyway."
Brad dutifully turned his back to let her remove her outer clothes and get into her sleeping bag.
"I'm glad we're coming up to a river." He said, looking down at the state his own garments were getting in. "Maybe I can wash these clothes."
Twelve hours later he was regretting those words. It had begun to rain for the first time not long after they had struck camp. That had been a gentle rain. Now as they followed the river it had become an incessant driving rain, soaking through their jackets and trousers, and beating into their faces. It made it difficult to keep their eyes open and watch where they were going. Out of the corner of his eye Brad spotted a protected spot where they could pitch the shelter he had been carrying but hadn't used yet. The side of the hill and a pair of large trees would keep much of the rain off. Although she hadn't complained, he could tell Kelly was starting to feel cold, he could hear her teeth chattering, and he thought the sooner they could get undercover the better. With that in mind Brad began to move away from the rivers edge towards the sheltered spot, taking his back pack off to get the small tent out.
What exactly happened next neither of them was sure. Kelly was protecting her face by looking down and didn't see that Brad wasn't leading her. Brad thought that Kelly was following him away from the river. As he put down his pack he heard a splash. He span around and couldn't see Kelly anywhere. Panicking a little he ran back to the riverbank and saw her thrashing about in the muddied waters below the spot where she had slipped off the bank. Without hesitation he jumped into the water and grabbed her unceremoniously under the arms, keeping her head up out of the overflowing river water. He pulled her to the muddy bank and out of the raging torrent. She spluttered and splashed her way soggily to where he had dropped his pack while he fished hers out of the water. Kelly was shivering uncontrollably as Brad came up to her.
"Miss Kelly, you've got to keep warm." He fished a dry blanket out of his pack. "Wrap this around yourself." She took it and sat down. Brad massaged her arms to get some warmth back into them. She looked at him blankly, but got the hint and continued to rub her hands up and down her arms as Brad erected the tent as quickly as he could. As soon as it was up, he bundled Kelly inside, telling her to get out of her wet things, find something dry in his pack and then get into a sleeping bag. He put his pack into the tent after her, as it contained the only dry sleeping bag and dry clothes they had. As she struggled to do as he ordered, Brad was creating a windbreak with the wet blankets so he could try and light a fire, but it was raining too much for that. His thoughts turned again to Kelly. "Kelly, are you all right?" He asked at the entrance to the tent. When he got no reply he stuck his head in. She had managed to take off her wet clothing and even replace them with his spare underthings, but crawling into the sleeping bag had exhausted her. She was curled up and shivering even worse than before. Brad realised what he was going to have to do to get her body temperature back up, and she was going to hate him for it. Sighing he kicked off his boots and got undercover. Inside he took off his wet outer clothing and then, hoping she would understand that this was the only way, slipped into the sleeping bag with her, wrapping his arms around her, to use his body heat to raise hers.
"W...What are you d...doing?" Kelly asked, through her chattering teeth.
"I have to get you warm Miss Kelly. This is the only way. The blankets are soaked, so are your clothes, I can't get a fire lit outside and I can't light one in here."
"O...okay. I g...get it." She was still shivering. Brad held her tightly to him, careful where he put his hands. "T...talk t...to me."
"What should I say?"
"A...anything. H...how d...did you g...get here?"
"I was young and stupid. I thought I could impress some friends by arriving at their party on my brother's motorbike, but I crashed into a tree going too fast around a bend."
"W...why d...did you end up h...here th...though?"
"I guess I had some unresolved issues."
"I'm not sure, that's probably why I'm still here." He could feel Kelly getting warmer. Her shivering was lessening and her teeth no longer chattered. "Are you feeling better?"
"Then I'd better get back outside and try the fire again."
"No. Hold me, at least until the rain eases."
"Are you sure Miss Kelly?"
"I'm sure Brad. At least for now."
"You had me worried for a while, I thought you might die or something."
"We can't die, we're already dead Brad."
"We can't die in the city, but out here? Who knows?"
"You're right." Kelly smiled. "I'm happy to have proved your worries needless."
"So am I. Just rest for now."
Kelly awoke with a start. The sound of the horrendous rain of the day before had gone. The only noise was that of the tent flapping in the breeze. She caught the smell of wood smoke and fresh coffee drifting on the air. She slid out of the sleeping bag and looked around for her clothes. The only things inside the tent were Brad's pack and his spare set of clothes with a note on them. She picked up the note to read it. It said; Wear these. She shrugged and pulled on the shirt and shorts, noting as she did that she was wearing his spare underwear. Memories of the previous day came rushing back. The sudden terrifying drop into the river. The shock of entering the ice cold water. Brad hauling her out of the swollen torrent. Him bundling her into the hastily erected tent with the command to put on his dry things and get into the sleeping bag. And the careful tender way he had held her close to him to warm her frozen body. Kelly smiled to herself as she opened the tent flap. He wasn't really the delinquent he tried to be after all.
She popped her head through the tent opening into glorious sunshine. It wasn't the sun that caused her to gasp though; it was the scene before her. Brad had managed to hang up every wet piece of clothing and equipment to dry out. It was all fluttering merrily in the sun-kissed breeze. With a start she realised that included all her underthings. She quickly scrambled out to see if they at least were dry. To her relief they were, so she hurriedly took them down, away from prying eyes.
"Good morning Miss Kelly." Brad called out brightly as he came back into the camp carrying some more wood for the drying fire. "Feeling better now?"
"Yes...Yes thank you." She said, attempting to hide the recently dry undergarments from his view.
"Why are you trying to hide those from me? It was me who hung them up."
"I...I realise that." Kelly felt foolish now. "It's just that I'm embarrassed that you've seen them." That sounded even sillier she thought.
"It's not like you're wearing them Miss Kelly." He smiled as he knelt by the fire with the wood he had collected.
"It's just...embarrassing." She tailed off. "Can we just leave it at that?"
"Sure. I won't mention it again."
"What about my other clothes?"
"Your spare set should be dry soon."
"What about the ones I was wearing?"
"I had to wash them properly earlier; they were caked with mud."
"How long until everything is dry then?"
"I think we're going to have to stay here today and start afresh in the morning. That way we should have got it all dry. That's if you agree?" He looked up at her questioningly.
"I don't mind. I could do with a bit of a rest anyway; I'm afraid I'm not as fit as you."
"Of course you are. You just don't realise it."
"Have it your way Brad. But can we get some of my clothes dry so that I can change?"
"If you like. Any reason for the rush?"
"I just feel strange wearing your clothes." Kelly shrugged.
"You look okay in them. But you'd rather have your own on?"
"Please Brad. It makes me feel like I'm imposing on you."
"I'd do anything for you Miss Kelly, even give up my clothes." He grinned. "But if you want your own back, your wish is my command." He began to arrange her clothes around the fire so that they dried more quickly. He turned to face her. "I'll only mention this now, never again, but you do know why I had to get into the bag with you last night don't you? I wouldn't want you to think I had any other intent than to keep you warm." He looked really worried. So worried that Kelly almost laughed.
"Yes, I know why. And it's sweet of you to worry about me." She took his hand. "You were right before, I have changed. In fact I think I'm still changing, hopefully for the better." She smiled to show she meant it. "Now, what is there to eat?"
They broke camp early the next morning, both eager to be on the move again. So eager that all they had to do was pack up the tent, everything else having been stowed the previous evening. As they took down the canvas shelter Kelly spoke.
"Brad, why did we never use the tent before?"
"I didn't think we needed too Miss Kelly. And you never mentioned it; it was in plain sight on my back pack all the time." His worried look returned.
"I'm not accusing you of anything Brad, I just thought that things might have been less embarrassing all round if I'd had the tent to change in." She smiled to show that she genuinely wasn't upset.
"A good point. I'm deeply sorry that I didn't think of it. We can put it up every night from now on if you want."
"I suspect that we're a bit past that point now Brad. We'll just use it on cold or wet nights."
"We? You're saying I can use the tent with you?"
"Of course, you silly. You're the one carrying it. Besides, like I said, I think that we, or rather, I, are beyond the embarrassment now." Her grin broadened to show she meant it.
"If you're sure Miss Kelly."
"I am." She nodded. "And you can leave off the 'Miss' now Brad. You've had your arms around me while I was nearly undressed." She reddened shyly.
But not as much as Brad.
"Thank you." He said. "But please don't keep reminding me."
"Brad! You're not embarrassed are you?"
"To be honest, more than a little."
"After all that talk about my bottom?"
"I'm all talk Miss Kelly." He hung his head. "That was the first time I've ever been so close to a girl."
"It was that horrible for you was it?"
"NO! No, it was incredibly nice, but it left me with feelings I don't know how to handle. Could...could you help me try?"
"Well, I'll give it a go Brad, but I'm not that experienced myself you know?" She paused, pursing her lips. "It's a pity Dave and Sue have gone. I'm sure they could have helped both of us." She sighed.
"We'll just have to work it out ourselves then." Brad said as he finished strapping the tent to his backpack. "Are we ready?" They both glanced around the little hollow, making sure they had picked everything up. "Let's get going then."
They spent the next day or so talking about their lives as they followed the meandering river. Sometime around the middle of the second day since the long stop Brad, who was leading, halted suddenly, Kelly walking into him.
"What's the matter?" She asked.
He was staring ahead.
"I think." He said. "That I can see smoke from a campfire beyond that forest." He pointed.
Kelly looked in the direction he was indicating, and then she saw it too, a thin wisp of smoke rising above the tree tops.
"Brad! We were right!! We've found someone!" She said excitedly. "Come on, let's find out who." Her eyes were shining with joy.
"It's at least a day away Kelly." Brad sounded dubious. "They might be mobile like us."
"But we should be able to sense them. Come on, concentrate."
They both closed their eyes and felt for the souls.
"There are only two or three of them." Brad said slowly.
"That's what I feel too, but it's a start."
They quickened their pace; Brad keeping a fix on their target, Kelly guiding them through the landscape. By that evening both of them felt that they were really close, but elected to halt and approach the camp in the morning. They spent a good deal of that night talking about what they were going to say when they met those lost souls, deciding eventually that the best thing to do was treat it like a normal collection as they had been trained.
The next morning they broke camp early and went to find the other encampment. It only took them ten or so minutes. With a look at each other for reassurance they strode in. By common agreement it was Kelly who spoke.
"Hello! Anybody here? We've been looking for you. Hello?"
Three men came out of a hastily erected shelter, looking at Brad and Kelly in a curious way.
"Why would base send a woman and a child to look for us? We were due back in two days." The tallest one said. He was dressed as an Edwardian sailor.
"We never said we came from your base. You know where the others are? How many?"
"There are about two hundred of us." The man frowned. "Look, who are you then?"
"We are your guides on this plane of existence."
"What sort of talk is that?"
"You are dead." Kelly said matter of factly. "We are to guide you to where you are supposed to be."
"A boy and a young woman? I don't believe you."
"It's true." Brad spoke for the first time.
"Be quiet! Children should be seen and not heard." The man snapped.
"Yeah, well things have changed since you died." Brad snapped back.
"Even if I accept that we are dead, I seriously doubt much has altered in three months."
"Sorry, but your ship sank over one hundred years ago." Kelly said sadly.
"A hundred years? I don't believe you. We've only been here for three months!"
"It's the truth, and it's my fault you were not picked up then. I was supposed to collect you that night, but I made a mess of it. By the time I arrived you had all become lost in the wastes of time." She hung her head.
"Collected? Like an angel?" One of the other men asked.
"I suppose. We have been given many names throughout time. Valkyries for example as well as angels. But the premise is the same; we guide the souls of the dead to a safe haven."
"Surely that is not a job for a woman and a child?" The big man asked, beginning to believe them.
"Don't keep calling me a child." Brad sounded a little exasperated.
"Everyone is equal in death." Kelly said, ignoring his outburst.
"Yes, both of us have already left the mortal plane. I before you, my young companion more recently."
For all his apparent bluster, the leader now sagged in despair.
"I knew deep down that we were dead, we all did, but we hoped otherwise." He straightened up. "What..? What happens next?"
"Well, if you take us to the others, we will guide you to where you are supposed to be, where I should have brought you a long time ago."
"All right. Base camp is about two days away. We follow the river." Kelly and Brad smiled at each other: They had been right about the direction then.
They found out that their three new companions were one of a number of foraging parties sent out to collect as much food as they could locate. Kelly wondered why there was such a large group of people together. The guide had said that the others had been arriving in much smaller bands, the largest being about twenty-five. From the sailor she found out that they were all those who were still on the ship when she sank which seemed to make some kind of sense. They had become lost in time in packets and this had been the largest one.
As they walked Brad and Kelly discussed how they were going to get such a large group to the city. Trekking back through the wilderness might be difficult with so many.
"Can't you transport them Kelly?" Brad asked.
"I don't think so. That was a worry for me back then too. How about you?"
"The numbers wouldn't be a problem, but I have problems with materialising in the right place. My spatial awareness seems to be off."
Kelly thought for a while.
"Maybe we could combine our skills." She said slowly. "I may be able to show you how to get them to the right place."
"And I can show you how to cope with more than one person. This could work Kelly."
"It might. I think we'd better ask them if they are prepared to take the risk of us messing up though."
"It is their future after all."
"When you put it like that... All right. We'll give them the choice."
As they entered the encampment Kelly looked around, appalled at the conditions, even more appalled that it was her error that had led these people to this. Brad tried to reassure her but couldn't, he himself feeling upset at the scene. It reminded him of the pictures he had seen from refugee camps. They made their way through the rough shelters until they found the ships captain, who had gone down with his ship. One look at his drawn and haggard face told Kelly that his would not be a quick journey to self-redemption. He had the same look in his eyes that she still got when she was feeling bad. He shook their hands.