By seven o'clock that evening I was restless and bored. The day was in danger of ending as dishearteningly lonely and quietly as it had begun. Everyone seemed to have something to do except me. I was too tired and it was too late to do any more work at Porter Farm, Rob still hadn't come back from wherever it was he'd gone to, Siobhan was visiting her parents and just about everyone else I could think of were at home with their families. Leaving the rat-race behind seemed to have had a strange and unexpected side-effect on my life in that I had become a misfit of sorts. Without the normality of a regular routine to base my life around I was free to stay up late or go to bed early or stay out all night or do pretty much anything I wanted to. Everyone else was still trapped by their responsibilities. Though I was delighted with my freedom and lack of restrictions at times like this I felt completely alone and out on a limb.
I decided to go for a walk. I started off wandering through the centre of the village but quickly got fed-up. The population was still artificially swollen by holidaymakers and alien-spotters alike. It was time to take myself away from it all for a while. If no-one wanted to be with me then I didn't want to be with anyone. It was time to be as antisocial as I was beginning to feel.
I walked away from Thatcham and soon found myself wandering along the rough coastal path that I often followed when I ran. I had allowed my training to slip recently and it had been almost two weeks since I'd been out running. I could have run tonight, I thought guiltily. Never mind. I would get up early tomorrow and run first thing. Well, that was the plan...
The sky above me was clear save for a few light speckles and bands of clouds on the edge of the horizon. The huge orange sun was just completing its steady daily descent from high, casting long, dragging shadows all around. I stopped walking and looked directly up and then down and out to sea, following in my mind the path that the alien ship had taken when I had watched it first arrive.
I silently walked on.
Along with the rest of the world I had now had over a month to get used to the idea of our playing host to visitors from another planet. Just about everyone else had, however, seemed to have taken to the role much better than I had. Everyone else had been caught up on an all consuming tidal wave of euphoria and excitement. So why did I feel like the only one still sitting on the beach paddling up to my ankles? Although all of the initial strangeness and uncertainty I had first associated with the presence of the aliens had quickly disappeared, I still felt distant and unconvinced. While the rest of the world welcomed the visitors into their homes with open arms, mine were still firmly crossed in front of me.
I stopped walking again. I sat down on the grassy hillside and stared out over the gently rippling ocean.
Perhaps I was being too hard on them? After all, it wasn't their fault they were stuck here, was it? They hadn't (as far as I was aware) done anything wrong. I remembered the alien I had spoken to in Dreighton earlier in the day. She had seemed genuinely sad and remorseful when she'd walked away from me. Who knows what she might have left behind to travel and work in space? I didn't know anything about their emotions, relationships, feelings and society and yet it had been clear to me from her words and her manner that the creature in the city needed her home and familiarity as much as I did. And I had to stop calling them creatures. Bloody hell, even the dumbest alien was probably a thousand times more intelligent than any human genius - how insulting and derogatory of me to use a word which made them sound base and uneducated.
But it still didn't feel right.
I had to go with my gut reaction, and that gut reaction was saying wait - bide your time - don't jump in with both feet.
I'm a strong believer in gut reaction, and have been ever since I met Siobhan. I can't imagine what my life would have been like without her. She was the one who pulled me out of the mire when we lost Mum and Dad. If it hadn't been for her strength, love and determination I would have crumbled - no question. I met her at a party that I hadn't wanted to go to. It was at a friend of a friend's house (who I couldn't stand) and I had decided not to go. It was only the promise of a free drink and quick exit after a few minutes that persuaded me to change my mind. And thank God I did. I remember very little about that night - just walking into the living room and meeting Siobhan. As soon as I walked into the room I focussed on her and didn't take my eyes off her all night. I can't remember what we did or said in the first few hours we were together, I just knew that it was right. The music, lights, drink, dancing and other distractions had faded into insignificance next to her. The fact that she had arrived at the party with another man meant nothing. I knew from the first second I saw her that we were going to be together. Gut reaction told me that we would.
One day soon I would finally pluck up the courage to ask her to marry me.
So what was my instinct saying to me tonight? I lay back on the grass and looked up into the light blue sky which was beginning to darken as night rapidly approached. I could see a thin crescent moon - almost translucent against the heavens and I stared at it for a while and tried to comprehend its incredible distance from me. The furthest distance I had ever run was thirteen miles. Hard to believe that the moon was over seven million times further away than that. At that moment in time I could completely understand why the alien in the village had seemed so low and disheartened. Even with the most advanced form of transport ever seen, they were still an inconceivable distance from everything that mattered to them.
I stood up and stretched. The wind had picked up and a few small waves had appeared on the otherwise still surface of the sea. I watched as small white splashes of foam were kicked up around the base of the Devil's Peak. Since I had arrived in Thatcham I had wanted to hire or even buy a little boat so that I could sail out there and wallow in the peace and isolation that I was sure I would find on the small rocky island. Joe Porter once told me that there was a small cove on the side of the island facing away from the mainland. He told me that he'd sailed out there with more than one girlfriend and shared many illicit moonlight rendezvous during his long and colourful past. The notion of being out there alone (or almost alone) was strangely romantic and appealing. Imagine being the only living creature for miles around...
The green and comfortable world around me suddenly seemed a much smaller place now that the aliens had arrived. They had shown us that the barriers keeping us confined to our world could be broken. But at the same time their arrival had made me think of myself from a new perspective. Although I remained at the centre of my own little world, I knew that I was a completely insignificant cog in an unimaginably huge and complex machine.
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