Sweets

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 06, 2018

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Submitted: August 06, 2018

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Boundary Park was resplendent in all its glory. Ben Sinclair couldn’t remember the sun shining quite so brightly or the birds singing that loudly since he began taking Toby for a walk before going to school. It was the kind of July morning his teacher Mrs Kent used to go on about during their environment awareness sessions. Mrs Kent, so rumour had it was a leading light in the local “Green Party” and was always banging on about respecting the environment and enjoying nature. Ben had never quite understood what she was talking about, despite the passion and enthusiasm she brought to her lessons. Over the top was Ben’s verdict; a view shared by most of class 3. Even the girls thought Mrs Kent was a bit of a nutter. But on this particular morning; perhaps for the first time in his life, Ben thought she might just have a point.

 

Toby was chasing squirrels, the birds were still singing and there was a gentle hum coming from the long grass that fringed Boundary Park. Ben’s thoughts inevitably drifted back to the strange sequence of events that so profoundly affected his life during the last six months.

You could say it all started with that idiot Basil Baskine, the school bully. He was in the fifth form; tall for his age and mean with it. When Ben had spoken to his father about Baskine he’d said, “Just avoid him he’s two sandwiches short of a picnic anyway”. Good advice Ben had thought but easier said than done; “he’s difficult to avoid when you’re both in the same playground”. “Well”, said Mr Sinclair, “if he comes near you leg it; stay out of his way”. “You’re one of the quickest players the school football team has got; you should have no problem outpacing that lumbering ox”. Why was it, Ben had thought parents always give you great advice, which is of no practical use whatever. It was only a couple of days after the conversation with his dad that Ben encountered the ox Baskine in the playground during the lunch break. Baskine had noticed Ben had a “snickers” bar among the items his mother had packed for lunch. “Give ‘us the snickers bar you weasel” said Baskine, “get off you big lug” said Ben’s friend Simon “or I’ll tell Mrs Kent”. “Shut your face you little worm,” said Baskine “or you’ll get one too”. Ben was not about to give his snickers bar to anybody so he jumped over a small wall dividing that part of the playground and proceeded to eat it just out of Baskine reach. Ben’s dad was actually right, there was no way the lumbering ox could catch Ben if it came to a race and Baskine knew it. Ben could only hope Baskine would remember and pick on someone else; but just as he turned away Baskine screamed at Ben “you malignant maggot I’ll get you next time”.

 

It was only a day later, in different circumstances that Baskine’s parting words came back to haunt Ben. He’d arrived home from school at the normal time and had just dumped his school satchel at the door. The house was quiet but he could sense his mother was in the kitchen. It struck Ben as odd that his mother had not called out when he came in. Usually it was a reminder to take his shoes off or at least wipe his feet but today silence. Ben pushed open the kitchen door and saw his mother standing by the window reading a letter and she was crying. Ben had never seen his Mum cry before, well not since his cousin’s wedding a year ago and then all the women were crying so that didn’t count. For the first time he noticed the sadness in his mum’s face and an unknown sense of dread flashed across his mind. In an instant all Ben’s thoughts turned to his mum. She was the happiest person he knew. Although she complained about being too busy she always got things done. Ben was secretly amazed at the way she seemed to combine effortlessly the washing, cooking, ironing, taking him to football, his sister swimming, helping with homework and running the local Brownie pack.

Mrs Sinclair was sporty too; she could beat Ben over a sixty-yard dash and during his sisters swimming gala had won the parents freestyle race. When the family had been on holiday at Disney World in Paris last year his mum had gone on all the rides, not like dad who said the big dipper made him sick. Ben actually liked his mum, so why was she crying? “Mum” said Ben “what’s wrong”? The words seemed to bring her back to reality, “nothing” she said self-consciously, quickly shoving the letter back in the envelope and wiping the tears with the back of her hand. “Go up and do your homework, your dad should be home soon and we can have dinner”.

Later that evening Ben over heard his parents talking. They were in the lounge and he was at the bottom of the stairs on his way to bed, he stopped and peeked round the door. His mum and dad were sitting on the sofa his dad had an arm round his mum’s shoulders. “Its malignant” he heard her say and her eyes welled up with tears, “I got the letter today and I have to go in on Wednesday next week”. Basil the ox’s words came echoing back.  “Malignant maggot”; what did malignant actually mean? Before he had a chance to answer his own question he heard his father say, “don’t worry lovely we can beat this”. Beat what thought Ben?

During the week that followed Ben’s father explained that his mum was ill and that she would need special intensive treatment if she were to be cured. “We must all be as helpful as possible, take as much pressure off your mum as we can. She works very hard and if she’s going to beat this she will need all the mental strength she can muster”. There it was again. “Beat what” Ben said to his father? His dad looked sad he paused for a couple of moments then said; “well; I’m afraid your mum has cancer”. Ben’s heart hit the floor, he felt tears welling up. That he did understand; everybody understands cancer. His mind went numb. “But I’m sure with a positive spirit and the excellent treatment she’s now receiving, your mum can beat it” Ben’s dad continued. Ben couldn’t remember the rest of what his dad said and for the next few days he was in a state of shock. Every time he saw his mum tears would well up and he would try to cuddle her. She told him “it was important he remain strong and look after his sister”. She needed to know the family was ok so that all her energy could be channelled into making a recovery. It was about this time that Ben’s dad had asked him to walk the dog before he went to school. It would save his mother going out and her treatment had now become tiring. Ben knew it was at least a positive contribution and at last he felt he would be doing something useful.

 

As he recalled, it was on the second day of dog walking that Ben noticed the stranger. It was in that corner of Boundary Park dominated by the large oak tree; you couldn’t miss it. Ben had often wondered how old the tree was, huge and imposing, and at twenty meters high it was certainly the biggest tree in the district. Ben had first noticed the woman standing close to the tree brushing herself down. As he approached she’d smiled and said good morning. Ben couldn’t help smiling in return and of course Toby had got into the act greeting the stranger like a long lost friend. “Come away” said Ben “the lady doesn’t need you fussing round”. “Oh that’s ok” said the woman “I quite like dogs, what breed is he”? Smiling to himself, Ben thought you may like dogs but you don’t know much about them. “He’s a “Bitsa” said Ben. “A Bitsa” said the lady “can’t say I’ve ever heard of that where do they come from”. “No, no”, said Ben patiently “I mean bits of this and bits of that”, “oh you mean he’s a mongrel” said the Lady laughing. At last thought Ben! It was at this point that Ben actually noticed the lady. She was tall and slender with an infectious smile and the bluest eyes Ben had ever seen. About as old as his mum with short red hair peeking out from under a wide brimmed hat. Her face and skin seemed to glow with health and there was strength about her. She could’ve been an athlete or perhaps a body builder thought Ben. She was wearing a light brown two- piece suit that looked to Ben slightly old fashioned and out of place, her shoes too looked odd. She was standing on the grass and Ben noticed her high heels, just like his mum used to wear if she was going out in the evening. Not very practical for walking on grass in the park Ben thought; and odder still they seemed to be made of metal, their colour matched her suit perfectly but defiantly metallic. The bag she was carrying slung over her right shoulder looked like a large satchel. It was light brown like her suit and strangely, looked to be made from the same material as her shoes. However what really caught Ben’s eye was the small i-pad she was carrying in her left hand. Ben had tried to talk his dad into buying him one for Christmas last year but his dad said they were too expensive. The one this lady carried was unknown to Ben but it looked top of the range, it was an odd grey colour, it almost glowed and Ben noticed a small green light slowly pulsating from one corner. “Can you tell me the way to the town said the lady shaking Ben out of his thought process. “Eh, yes” said Ben “you go down to the gate on the left turn right out of the park and keep going”. “Should take you about ten minuets to walk” said Ben. “Thank you” said the lady smiling “I shall enjoy the stroll, goodbye”.

That was the last Ben saw of her until the following day, she was standing close to the spot where they’d first met; only today she was dressed in a bright blue two- piece suite with matching satchel and shoes looking if anything more striking than on the previous day. As Ben got closer she looked up from the i-pad and said “oh good morning, do you walk the dog every day”?  “Yes most days” said Ben, thinking of his poor mum and the real reason he was there. At that moment there was a low humming sound from the i-pad, the lady looked at it hard tapped in an instruction and closed the lid. “Sorry about that” she said, “another beautiful morning”. “Having trouble” said Ben eyeing the i-pad enviously. “No, no” said the lady just trying to get some information from the office. “Did you find the town yesterday” Said Ben, “yes thanks” said the lady “but I had some difficulty with the shop’s that’s what I was contacting the office about”. “What went wrong” said Ben “well;” she replied, “there was no real problem, they just refused to accept this money” and she showed Ben a handful of white five pound notes. Ben knew what they were; he’d seen them at the Royal Mint Museum when they’d gone with the school last year. Large white sheets the size of a small paperback book with black “scrolly” writing. “Crikey” said Ben “I’m not surprised these must be at least fifty years old”. “Not sure when they went out of circulation but it was long before I was born and that’s over eleven years ago”. “Hmm”, said the lady “I suspected as much the researcher obviously made a mistake”. Ben didn’t know what she was talking about but before he could ask a question, the lady said, “Will these be accepted do you think”? She showed Ben a small wad of ten-pound notes, he certainly recognised them; his Nan had given him two on his birthday earlier in the year. “Yes they’re ok”, said Ben “you should have no trouble spending those”. “Oh that’s good,” said the lady and with that she turned and headed in the direction of the town. Ben stood there for a moment calling to Toby, who during his conversation had chased a squirrel into one of the gardens that adjoin the park. Why did she always dash off like that; before Ben could ask any questions?

It wasn’t until a few days later, when Ben was returning from school, that he remembered the recent encounter. He had taken a short cut though the park so that he could get home a bit earlier and help his mum with the shopping. There’d been quite a change in his mum’s condition recently, she was looking more tired her eyes had taken on a dull, red- rimmed look and she’d lost her sparkle. His dad told him it was all the treatment that caused her to be so tired.  Ben was concerned about her and felt he should try to do a little more around the house but for starters he could at least help with the shopping. He was jogging along the path on the north side of Boundary Park, trying to make up as much time as he could when he noticed at the edge of the long grass a small green pulsating light. Ben stopped. Somehow he knew immediately what he was looking at. He stooped to pick it up and sure enough it was the lady’s i-pad. Ben had never seen one quite like it. About seven inches square, made from metal or it could have been plastic, quite light, it felt warm but oddly there was no visible sign of an opening mechanism. He turned it over in his hands searching for a way to open it. He was sure she would have an address inside or perhaps on the screen if Ben could turn it on; but nothing. The closer he looked the more convinced he became that it was not a computer but a solid block of metal or plastic. He thought for a moment; he’d seen the lady tapping the keys and he’d noticed the small screen there must be a way to open it but Ben couldn’t see it. He even thought about trying to break it open but then decided against it; might do too much damage.

Perhaps the oddest thing of all, the green throbbing light had changed, pulses were slower and the light was not so bright. It was almost as if, thought Ben that the computer wanted to be found by someone, now it was actually in his hands, it knew! The light itself was strange and nothing like Ben had ever seen. One complete corner of the box throbbed; no bulb or glass cover the case itself glowed and pulsated. Nothing for it he thought but to take the thing home and see if he could find the lady in the morning. Ben helped his mother that night with the shopping and although she looked worn out she seemed pleased Ben was taking an interest and that he was being so thoughtful. Ben went to bed and forgot all about the i-pad

 

The following morning Ben was up early Toby was jumping around eager to be chasing squirrels when Ben remembered the i-pad. He went up and collected it from his room and noticed the green light was still pulsating slowly. Must have some amazing battery thought Ben as he tucked it into his jacket pocket. Almost as soon as he arrived in the park he saw the Lady. Today she was dressed in a bright yellow trouser suit with matching hat and satchel. She looked like a long yellow flower with her red hair forming a striking fringe underneath her hat. She seemed to be searching along the edge of the long grass on one side of the path; she had her back to Ben and didn’t hear him coming. “Lost something” said Ben, the lady rose with a start, she wasn’t smiling, her face looked worried and when she spoke her tone was anxious. “Yes I’ve lost my computer and it’s vital I find it”. “Is this what you’re looking for” asked Ben pulling the i-pad from his pocket. He felt her relief as he handed the small machine back. “Thank goodness,” said the lady “you have no idea what problems not to mention the possible consequences of loosing this device”. Ben smiled. “Look” said the Lady “I am very grateful for the return of my computer, we’ve met on two or three occasions now and I don’t even know your name”. “Ben Sinclair’s my name” he replied holding out his hand. “Well my name is Isis,” said the tall lady, “pleased to meet you”. As she took his hand Ben could feel the strength in her grip and her smile seemed to wash over him. “Walk round the park with me” said the lady “and we can talk”. Isis proved easy to talk to she asked Ben about his school his teachers and his family. She listened with great interest to all that Ben had to say and was particularly attentive when Ben explained that his mother was ill and that was really the reason he walked Toby round the park before going to school. Ben was so busy talking about himself that he almost forgot all the questions he had for Isis.

They’d been walking for some time and Ben hadn’t noticed they were approaching the park gate. “Listen” said Ben. What about you, “do you live around here”? “No” said Isis “I come from a long way away and only visit when I need to”. “What do you do” said Ben; “well”, replied Isis thoughtfully, “I’m an anthropologist and I have a small project running in this locality”. What’s an anthropologist said Ben.  “Oh we study the origins of mankind, physical characteristics, cultural institutions, religions and so on; all that kind of thing,” said Isis. “Sounds a bit boring to me,” said Ben; “yes it is sometimes” said Isis smiling. “Look I have to leave you now I am going into the town again this morning and I have a lot to do”. “But I have so many more questions said Ben”. “Sorry” said Isis “but I’m a bit late already”. Dashing off again thought Ben. Just as she was about to leave she opened her satchel and took out two small sweets, or they looked like sweets to Ben. “Give these to your mother,” said Isis “they will help”. “What are they” asked Ben looking curiously at the sweets. “Not sure what’s actually in them” said Isis, “I’m an anthropologist not a doctor but I know they will help”. Ben was not at all sure; his mum was ill and he didn’t want to make things worse. As if reading his mind, Isis said firmly “they will not harm her Ben and it is most important she has them, she must eat both of them”. “Thank you again for finding my computer,” and with that Isis turned and strode off in the direction of the town.

 

When Ben arrived home from school that evening his mum was sitting on the sofa reading a magazine and looking tired. Her eyes were puffy as though she’d been crying and the previously red rims were now almost purple. “Hello” she said, “have you had a good day”? “Yes thanks,” said Ben. “Mrs Kent went on a bit during the environmental lesson but apart from that just a normal boring day”. “Can I do anything for you mum” said Ben? “No thanks dear” came the reply “just finish your homework and dinner will be ready soon”. Ben couldn’t help thinking that although his mum was ill she still managed to get everything done and despite being tired could still make time to cook meals for him his dad and his sister.

He suddenly remembered the sweets Isis had given him. All day he’d been racking his brain to think of a way to give them to his mother without alarming her. After all, she had never seen Isis and it would sound just a bit silly if he told her the truth. A strange lady called Isis, who I met in the park, said these would do you good; Mum would think he was potty and would insist he throw them in the bin. Yet he had this strange feeling it was important his mother ate the sweets. “Mum” said Ben “I bought these great new sweets in the local shop today, they are the latest taste and I’ve saved the last two for you”. “That’s nice of you dear,” said his mum. “Very thoughtful; but to be honest since I started the latest treatment I don’t have much of an appetite”. “Go on,” said Ben “they really are good and it will cheer you up”. Reluctantly his mother took the first sweet and unwrapped it, “nice paper” she said absentmindedly. The sweets had been in his pocket all day but Ben hadn’t really noticed what they looked like. The first glimpse he got was when his mother held the contents of the wrapper between her fingers. It was spherical, translucent, bright blue with a small glowing pink dot right in the centre. Mrs Sinclair put it into her mouth and Ben watched apprehensively. “Hmm, it’s very good, nothing like it looks but very tasty; has a kind of nut and honey flavour”. “You say these are new,” “yes” lied Ben, “that’s what the man in the shop said”. When she’d finished Bens mum said; “did you say there was another one”? “They’re really quite morish”. Ben passed the second sweet to his mother who unwrapped it. Like the first it was spherical translucent but this time, orange with a pulsating black dot in the centre. “They’re certainly colourful,” said Ben’s mum as she popped the second strange confection into her mouth, “excellent” she murmured. Before he could ask her if she liked the second sweet Mrs Sinclair was fast asleep on the sofa.

Some time later his dad came home and with some help from Ben and his sister organised serving dinner. Ben’s dad had seen his wife asleep on the sofa when he came in and explained to the children that the treatment regime required their mum to have as much sleep as possible and that he would put her into bed later. For the next five days there was no sighting of Isis and Ben thought she must have gone home; wherever that was. It was on the sixth day that Ben’s dad sat his two children down and told them he had taken their mother into hospital that morning. There was nothing to worry about, she was in remission and that was a good thing but the doctors wanted to keep an eye on her. It was three weeks after that Ben learned his mum would make a full recovery. Mr Sinclair was so excited when he told Ben and his sister their mum would be home from hospital that day. Apparently, according to Ben’s dad the doctors were amazed at the way she had recovered. It was almost miraculous. They had put it down to her fighting spirit her fitness, the intensive treatment she’d received and the help and support of her family.

It was two days after his mums return from hospital that Ben spotted Isis in Boundary Park close to the tree where he had seen her on that first morning. She was wearing the same light brown suit and he recognised her immediately. “Good morning Ben”, she said smiling “are you well”. “Very well thanks.” said Ben “but I haven’t seen you in the park recently”. “No” said Isis, “been collating and writing up my project so I’ve been out of circulation; by the way how’s your mum”? “She’s made a full recovery,” said Ben “the doctors put it down to her fitness and the treatment she received”. “Good” said Isis smiling.

Ben thought for a moment looked at Isis then said “look, I know those sweets must have played some part in my mum’s recovery”. “Please tell me who you are and where you’re from”. Isis frowned; she looked round the park as if to make sure there was no one else around. “Well”, she said, “I’m from the future”. Ben looked amused yes pull the other one it’s got bells on he thought. “Quite true” said Isis quietly as if she could read his mind. “I come from the year 2318 and I have been here recording early 21st century culture and life style”. “I’m returning this morning and will not be coming back, the project has finished”. Ben’s mouth fell open; he still didn’t really believe her and yet there was something about Isis which made it seem possible. She just exuded authority. “Come on” said Ben determined to get to the bottom of what still seemed like a far-fetched story. “If you really are from the future how did you get here”? Isis smiled she pointed at the old oak tree “via the tree” she said. Ben looked incredulous now he knew she was joking. Still smiling at him and anticipating his thought, Isis said, “try to think of it this way; this oak tree lives on for another three hundred years”. “It exists in 2018 and in the year 2318 and of course all points in between, all one needs is a mechanism to use this ancient conduit”. “In fact she added just as a point to think about there are trees in North America which live for over 3000 years and they are even better for crossing the space time continuum”. “Long ago we learned to separate atoms and molecules; so creating a portal within the tree was simple”. “As I told you I’m an anthropologist not a scientist so I can’t explain the mechanics but I can tell you it works”. Ben’s face was a picture; he stood there gaping still trying to take in what Isis was saying. “Look Ben I really do have to go I am scheduled to pick up an artefact in 2130 on my way home”. “Thank you once again for all your help and for returning my computer”. “I’m very pleased your mother has recovered just keep looking after her”. With that she tapped an instruction into the i-pad and part of the tree trunk started to shimmer. As Ben looked it seemed a door shaped piece of the trunk turned to bright silver liquid. “Goodbye” said Isis as she stepped into the tree. There was a faint hum and she was gone. Within seconds Ben was left standing alone in the park and the tree looked perfectly normal.

 

In the weeks that followed Isis’s departure Ben often thought he had dreamed the whole thing but then he would look at his mother. She was beginning to take on that glowing, healthy appearance he had first noticed in Isis. He’d love to find out what was in those sweets. He also wondered how many other people knew what role trees might play in mankind’s future. Perhaps, he thought to himself, Mrs Kent was on the right track. Maybe there really was something in her environment awareness message; but the secret of the sweets he would keep to himself.

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Peter Piper. All rights reserved.

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