RoYds Part 16 - Crossing

New Year’s Eve 1938

“Uncle Archie? What are you doing in here? Hiding!”

Archibald Templeton pried his gaze away from the tortoise shell-framed photograph he was studying and diverted his attention to the young girl who had just entered the room.

“Nothing of the sort,” he said in mock annoyance. “I was just enjoying a G and T while remembering friends who are no longer with us.”

“Oh dear!" His niece Lydia exclaimed playfully, “Don’t tell me you are getting all maudlin again?”

“Cheeky madam! Where’s your respect for your elders and betters, eh? You’re not too grown up that a good spanking wouldn’t put you right!” Archie replied with a grin. “Tell you what... Why don’t you go back to the party and continue enjoying yourself? I’ll just finish up here and be with you in a mo.”

“Promise?” Lydia asked with a tone of seriousness creeping in.

“Promise!” he replied, smiling as she closed the door on her way out.

Archie picked up the photograph from where he had placed it and raised his other hand and glass in a toast, “Here’s to you, Stanley wherever you may be!” He emptied the glass with one gulp and poured himself another large gin from the glass decanter on the table beside him, then added just a touch of tonic.

“How long has it been now?” he asked aloud, although he knew to the day exactly how long it had been since the events of the Somme. “Miss you, old chum!” Another toast to an empty room.

Archie had experienced a very privileged life and yet he had always felt something was lacking until the day Stanley Birch walked into it. Coming from an aristocratic background, even if it was a virtually penniless one, had meant that most things came easily, but true friends had been something else. His school days had been an absolute nightmare spent mostly at the mercy of bullies, and this had carried on into his adult life, right up until the moment he met Stanley.

They had literally run into each other while taking part in an assault course shortly after enlisting, and they had hit it off straight away despite coming from different backgrounds. Stanley, although well educated and wealthy, had been the son of a family who had made their money through hard work, something Archie’s family frowned upon. The only thing Archie’s ancestors had worked at for the past seven hundred years had been drinking, whoring, gambling and breeding. It saddened him to remember that he had been a bitter disappointment to them in the latter department.

Married to the army for his entire adult life, his bravery had often been tested and to his eternal shame had been found wanting on occasion.

He reached for another drink and then decided not to bother when a feeling of nausea overcame him. Instead, he went over to the French windows and opened them slightly. He breathed deeply and exhaled slowly. The icy air calmed his stomach somewhat and he looked out in awe at the scene that greeted him. Freshly fallen snow on the house and gardens had created a true winter wonderland.

“Wouldn’t like to be out there on a night like this,” he thought to himself, while at the same time acknowledging his appreciation of the refreshing breeze in his face. Up until a few seconds earlier he had been feeling rather flushed and had experienced a strange trickling sensation across the right side of his scalp.

The walnut grandfather clock in the hall struck a quarter to the hour and Archie was reminded of the imminent New Year and the need to go and rejoin his guests. As he turned to make his way across the wooden panelled room towards the light shining from the rooms beyond, he noticed another person standing in the shadows to his left. At first, he thought Lydia had returned to chide him.

“No! It can’t be! Stanley!” he cried out. “My God, old boy, don’t tell me I'm going bloody loopy again? Not at my age!” He laughed, the sheer joy of seeing his old friend wiping away everything but happiness from his mind.

“Afraid you’re not going mad -– not that you ever were, Archie!” Stanley replied, smiling. “This time we’re both dead!”

***

New Year’s Day 1939

Stanley and Archie were sitting beside the glowing fireplace in the red reception room at RoYds.

“It's all about balance,” said Stanley. “There are those on the dark side who also desire the continuance of light. It is why the world of the Living is so attractive to them in the first place.”

“I see,” muttered Archie caressing his chin. “So who or what causes the problem?”

“There have always been those who wish for total darkness, not only in their own realm but also in that of the Living. They whisper dark words and thoughts. Poison and plague so that only darkness can be seen everywhere and in everything. We do our bit to ensure that the balance is maintained and in return hope that our actions will be... placed on account.”

“I see,” repeated Archie, his hand still rubbing his chin. “I always hoped that God would be forgiving...”

“Ah, but the crux of the matter is can we forgive ourselves!”

Stanley contemplated his interaction with Archie. Thinking back to the time of his own crossing, he remembered how difficult it was and how hard to accept that there was no going back to the old way of existence.

“Oh, no need to worry about that, old chap!” said Archie gaily. “There never was much of an old life for me, you know. I think that is why I delayed in the first place; I could well imagine what could possibly be waiting for me on the other side of the light, what with my track record!” He laughed nervously. “Then I saw you and my choice was made!”

Stanley laughed lightly. “That’s another thing I meant to tell you, but you will no doubt pick it all up as you go along. We have different abilities on this side. There are those who can read thoughts, others feelings. There are those who can do both and much more besides. It all goes to make life, or perhaps I should say delay, more fun!”

Archie gave a great big belly laugh and reached over to tap his old friend on the shoulder. “Can’t tell you how much I missed you, old pal! Good to have you back!”

“Same here!” replied Stanley before continuing in a more serious tone. “As you would expect there are downsides too. Although we can frequent the world of the Living, walk amongst them and interact as one of them, we cannot return to our old way of life. Apart from extremely rare occasions, we either appear as strangers to the ones we love or not at all.”

“I’m sorry, old chap! That way with Edwardina, was it? Must have been hard...” Archie lowered his eyes. Stanley knew Archie was aware of how deeply his old friend loved his wife.

For a while, both men remained silent and then Stanley announced, “There are others here too, Archie, those you may have only read or dreamed about.”

“Like what?” Archie enquired, sounding fearful.

“Ah! That would be telling,” sighed Stanley. “Tell you what, though. Why don’t you try to read my mind?”

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5 Comments:
  • At 24 October 2009 at 00:33, Blogger Bimbimbie said…

    I wasn't expecting that neat passing over, I was walking along back to the light of the party with Archie!

    I like this ...

    "There are those who can do both and much more besides. It all goes to make life, or perhaps I should say delay, more fun!”

     
  • At 25 October 2009 at 14:25, Blogger Melissa said…

    Hooray for Archie and Stanley! What a duo. :) I love how you write this scene and how you include children throughout the RoYds tale, their "sight" into things adds such a wonderful aspect to the story. The reader gets the feeling that Lydia is aware of Archie's near future, while Archie is totally unaware. I love the tingling in Archie's head, the snow and the bit of buzz from gin combined with the cool of the winter wind ... and was that relief when he passed?

    You convey some weighty elements of light, dark, and what lies beyond the veil without being heavy -- the conversation between Stanley and Archie tells so much to the reader, but in a way that is easily understood by the reader (and is both comforting and a little chilling all at once -- delicious!). I wonder what my gift will be at RoYds when I work there? ;)

    My favorite lines:

    “I always hoped that God would be forgiving...”

    “Ah, but the crux of the matter is can we forgive ourselves!”

     
  • At 25 October 2009 at 17:33, Anonymous Miladysa said…

    Bimbimbie - "I was walking along back to the light of the party with Archie!"

    That really makes me giggle :) I wish I had been a fly on the wall while you were reading! You never know... maybe I was ;)


    Melissa - You soooo *GET* RoYds and that always amazes me! I love it when you point these things out and I wish you could here me over here because I'm shouting aloud: "Yes! That's right! OMG! Yes :)" and it really spurs me on to write more!

    Can I ask a favour of you? One day... when you have time... would you please review RoYds over at the Web Fiction Guide or Muses Success or both ;)

    (you can always and past it from one to the other - no one minds.)

    Btw, the T-shirts are being designed & will be on sale soon - I'm sooo excited :)

     
  • At 29 October 2009 at 11:45, Blogger Vesper said…

    Ah, a chapter of many explanations... Excellent!

    “There are others here too, Archie, those you may have only read or dreamed about.” I like the ominous sound of these... others.

     
  • At 29 October 2009 at 19:21, Blogger Miladysa said…

    Vesper - *shiver* *giggle*

    Thank you :)

     

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Whituth's living can't see the dead but psychic Elizabeth Whyte can see everyone: living humans, delayed souls, fallen angels, vampires and fae. She helps maintain the fragile peace between light and darkness in her work with RoYds, an unworldly refuge. But that peace has suddenly become fragile. Whituth's carefully maintained balance is tipping toward darkness. Now Elizabeth and her angelic allies must discover who or what is threatening both town and refuge before balance is lost forever

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