Folly is the prompt for today’s #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. I saw pretty much straight away that this was the view from the other side of the Arch we had as the prompt a few weeks ago. Given what I wrote then, I couldn’t resist using that for a reversal of sorts. The whole thing jumped into my head more or less fully formed, and I couldn’t wait to write it down! It’s just under 1000 words.
Here’s the photo:
“Oh, it’s just like the photograph!” Rebecca grinned, and looked around at the pond, the bank, and back at the arched folly.
It was such a great adventure, her visit after all these years of e-mail, blog comments, and an occasional Zoom. After all the usual tourist haunts, I’d decided to surprise her with a visit to the setting for the Princelings stories. Starting with a new way in that I’d found, thanks to a photo online.
“Well, it’s the way to our destination,” I said. “The trouble is I don’t know whether there’s a difference between the right arch and the left.”
“That’s no problem.” Rebecca headed to the archway on the right. “You take the other one.”
From what I remembered, the trail on the other side lead over a crumbled wall to the arch. Rebecca probably had the right one.
We both stood, each with a half-smile. I wondered if she was thinking how stupid we were. I certainly was. It was a solid, or crumbling, stone arch.
“Count of three!” she called. “one, two…”
I stepped through the arch.
The wall on the other side must have been imagination: it was only a ruin. I glanced to my right: no Rebecca. I called to her, but no answer.
An adventure is an adventure. Go on or turn back? I clambered over the stones and found the path heading towards a meadow, and on through to the woods the other side. It was only a deer track really, but clear enough, for all that.
It came out at a path at the edge of the marsh. All’s well. There’s the lightning tree, and away on the right in the distance is a castle. I looked around more carefully. This was the marsh of my imagination. Modelled on real life, true, but… the castle was fiction. And if I was in my fictional world now, why hadn’t I seen George’s shack in the woods as I’d come to the end of the track?
I shrugged, and went south on the track, my tummy turning butterflies at the thought of meeting Fred and George in the flesh.
I didn’t have long to wait.
“Hello, what are you doing there?” I asked someone fiddling with some metal pieces spinning in the water below a bridge. I grinned as he looked at me. “Hello, Fred!”
He stared at me for a bit. “I’m sorry, have we met?”
When you’ve known someone all their lives, give or take a few weeks, that’s cutting.
“I’m Jemima. We have met, but maybe in another life. How’s George?”
“He’s fine. I was just checking these for him.”
“What are they?”
“Part of our power generation system. The big turbines, as he calls them, are down on the main river, but all the small ones have these spinners, all wired up to produce a lot of energy once it’s accumulated. Off all the streams of the marsh. Tidal, you know.”
I nodded. I did know, but I didn’t know why he’d need it. “What about wind power, and the fuel cells?”
“Yes, the windmills are doing their bit, but the tide is regular. Wind drops sometimes. What are fuel cells?”
“The ones George invented? Running on strawberry juice?”
“You must be mistaken. George has invented the tidal power system. We’re very proud of him. Been adopted all over the world.”
“That’s George for you.” What’s become of my world running on strawberry juice? “How’s Kira?”
I was stumped. Kira is his wife, his queen. “I was just going to visit the castle, is that okay with you?”
“Of course. Ludo’s off sailing in the race against the Hattanites. Started with a challenge from Mariusz of course. Continues it in his honour.”
I started teasing out the changes in here… “I thought Ludo was banished after the pirate incident?”
“Oh, no, that was just a misunderstanding. Been king for ages now. Decided to make me his steward after Vlad died, but makes sure I keep up the science side of things. Thanks to him we have the monopoly on the Wozna trade, and plenty of other useful things. Keeps our end up against Castle Wash, you know.”
Rivalry with Wash, not friendship? “So you closed the tunnel for the Wozna?”
“No need really, comes in useful sometimes, even if it does drain the energy still. We can offset it now, no trouble.”
“So, Ludo’s king, Mariusz exports his Wozna by ship, you never met Kira; is George doing any flying?”
“Flying? Like those chaps on the continent? No. He’s too busy designing the next race-winning ship! And it’s Willoughby in charge at Hattan, after Mariusz died.”
“Of course,” I murmur, thinking of the timeline. Willoughby never got trapped here, never told all his stories.
All the right people in the wrong places. I didn’t want to find out the rest.
“Well, it was nice catching up with you, Fred, give my love to George.” I stepped away, ready to return.
“I will do. Jemima, did you say?”
I nodded, smiled, and left.
It was not difficult to find my way back to the arch, but I was saddened by the alternative world I’d found. It seemed somehow less exciting than the one of my imagination. I wondered what Rebecca had found. Would she be back safe and sound?
I emerged into afternoon sun glistening on the small pond.
“Hi,” she said. “I’ve been back a while. Wondered where you’d got to. Was it good?”
“Yes, a bit different from what I expected though. You?”
“Oh, it was just perfect.” Rebecca lay back on the grass. “King Fred, Kira and Jasmine, all the other kids, George and his flying machines… everything was just as you’d said. I loved it. What a perfect day!”
My heart lifted, glad she found the right world. Mine was just a folly.
© J M Pett 2021