Bulldozer

Since Halloween, Mum and Dad have seen me a few times here in Winchester, and have spent the entirety of Christmas and New Year with me at home in Somerset. In that period, they have failed to notice one thing. Whilst it is inconspicuous enough to avoid attracting too much attention, it is unquestionably staring them in the face, sticking out like a sore thumb. There’s no denying it; my wheelchair is bent. The arm supporting its controls and the bag that hangs underneath is drooping downward, although I have done my best to straighten it and minimise the damage. As you may have guessed, I wouldn’t be mentioning this if there wasn’t a half-decent story behind it. Only a select group of people know it thus far – and they all agree that after keeping it under wraps for so long, it’s about time I told it…

The flat in which I spend most of my time at university is not my own (as some of you will know), but the one in which my friends live at the top of the block next door. As the end of October approached, it rapidly filled with various Halloween decorations. In the kitchen there was a neatly-carved pumpkin in the windowsill, numerous plastic spiders scattered around, a blood-spattered tablecloth and several balloons floating above the floor. Remember the last two – to be honest, I’m surprised they haven’t given me PTSD.

Picture this. It’s late on the evening of 31 October, and I am conversing casually with Lara, Nora and Ben when someone absent-mindedly begins throwing one of the balloons around. Let’s face it – what else are they good for? Very few people can resist batting them back and forth like Roger Federer on a Wimbledon winning streak, so it wasn’t long before we were all joining in. The strikes against the rubber became increasingly ferocious as we tried harder and harder to outdo each other, so the balloon quickly gathered speed. Nora passed it to Ben on her left. He shot left again towards Lara – and before I knew it, it had darted in my direction. It missed my hand. Engrossed in the ferocity of our competition, there was only one thing I could do as it fell beside me. In a flash, my seatbelt was off and I was diving head-first towards the balloon. Looking back, if I’d had any sense I would have made sure my chair was switched off. Needless to say, it wasn’t.

My entire bodyweight pushed the joystick forward as I dangled helplessly over my armrest, and the chair ploughed through the table before me like the world’s most pathetic bulldozer. Since I was hanging upside down throughout, those few seconds were a rapid blur, and I very quickly ended up in a miraculously uninjured heap on the floor. Nora and Lara were similarly lucky, since they narrowly missed being pinned against the wall, and their laptops likewise avoided an untimely end as they teetered on the edge of the table, mere centimetres from disaster. Ben was out of the danger zone, which meant he had a clear view of the whole thing, much to his considerable amusement. Even if he pictures it now, I think he still finds it funny! We could all laugh once we had established that no harm had been done, and we still do months later. We returned the table to its rightful position, straightened the laptops and got on with our evening, watching The Great British Bake Off. The only evidence that anything had happened came via a tear in the tablecloth and my chair’s bendy battle scar.

Oh, and Mum and Dad visited again last weekend. They didn’t notice then either.

Mason

Tech a Step Forward

The poetry project is coming along well, even if I do have the occasional crisis of faith in regards to their quality. The student bank account is officially open and all related numbers are in the process of being crunched. As I sit here writing this, I am simultaneously badgering Mum about the university “big shop” and when we’ll actually be going to do it – by next Christmas, I might have a definitive answer. The final preparations are therefore all progressing nicely, and one in particular has got me very excited, as last week – after a great deal of insistence from my family – I finally became a smartphone owner, acquiring a shiny new iPhone SE.

My previous phone, a white HTC Wildfire S, had served me well for almost seven years before its demise on the bathroom floor a couple of months ago. I had seen no point in changing my phone at all, hence why it lasted so long, but towards the end of its tenure the HTC was becoming increasingly tired and obsolete. Yes, it still called and texted as I wanted it to, but its limited memory meant that there was very little room for apps – indeed, the app store I originally got them from had been upgraded and no longer opened – and those I did have were of poor quality or did not work properly. I couldn’t see or use emojis in texts, weather updates were non-existent and on the outside, the phone appeared dirty and battle-worn. The time for change had finally come, so I was somewhat glad when the HTC was pronounced well and truly dead. It may have been considered smart in 2011, but it had been left far behind by its rivals in 2018. I now had to decide on a replacement – and in the meantime, Tesco would provide a temporary substitute.

This came in the form of a MobiWire (no, me neither), which – until Friday – I had been using since around mid-June. It was about as basic as phones get, and actually had buttons on it, but it would have to do for the time being. I had certainly forgotten how long it used to take to send texts before the advent of the smartphone – it may have been what you might call a “first world problem”, but having to select each individual letter from groups of three or four very quickly started to drive me round the bend. This annoyance was thankfully ended when I settled on the iPhone and the perfect contract deal that came with it. It was swiftly delivered the next day, and I gratefully extracted it from its box to set it up. Once this had been done, I thought about what I needed from it, keeping my Winchester future firmly in mind. My old phone number and contacts were all immediately swapped over, before my focus turned to the vast array of apps potentially at my disposal.

Excluding a couple of games, as well as Facebook and Twitter, I only have things that are relevant to university installed at the moment. There are two mobile banking apps, the recording software I will use in my lectures, a social network allowing me to connect with other students, a portal to various student discounts, and an app from my mobile network that will provide me with relevant updates. I think you’ll agree that as statements of intent, these initial additions are very mature – although I’m sure I’ll be seduced by the lure of mobile gaming at some point! I haven’t forgotten WordPress, in case you were wondering, since that has pride of place on my home screen too. University work may prove itself to be intense at times, but as long as I keep on top of things, nothing will get in the way of Third Time Enabled. You’ll be with me every step of the way!

Mason

 

The Pull, Part 8

I come home from my haircut. Louis has gone to work and the house is empty and tranquil. I am on my own, and I take a moment to soak up the peace, not only in my surroundings but also in my life. I have now finished work, which means that what had previously seemed so far away is almost here at last – I move to Winchester in just under seven weeks’ time. I enter the living room, where I see the delivery I received yesterday lying patiently on the sofa, waiting to be used. It is the audio notetaking software that will surely come in very useful when I have a new phone and laptop to accommodate it – and acquiring those things in good time is among my top priorities before September.

There are many other small things that need to be done in that time. There will most likely be a big shop, in which everything I will need at university will be purchased in one fell swoop, and I also need to ensure that I open a student bank account as soon as possible. At some point, a presentable photo of myself must be taken and uploaded for my Winchester student card. All of these things, among others, are close to the top of my list, and to some it may seem like a daunting one – but I am largely unfazed.

A number of people have asked me about the nerves I might be feeling ahead of this new adventure, but the honest truth is that I am still yet to feel any. I am under no illusions whatsoever that there may be tough times ahead, but overall I prefer to look at university as something utterly beautiful. The road to the future rumbles on for a few more miles until September, and so does “The Pull”. This particular series of posts will end once I am settled in Winchester, but there’s a little way to go just yet – so let’s just sit back and enjoy every last morsel of excitement, right through a truly great summer.

Mason

The Pull, Part 7

Well, July is now officially upon us, and as I sit here writing this I am just over three weeks away from the start of my summer holidays – and beyond that, my great Winchester adventure. In the meantime, however, there is still work to be done, and not just in my day job. There is also the small matter of my poetry project. The titles for my poems are all present and correct – you saw them in “Accordion” – but what form the accompanying material will take is still yet to be seen. I do have some rough opening lines for the first poem, “Time Off For Good Behaviour”, but those were mainly written as an excuse for me to open a new notebook and are therefore likely to change.

Beginning a new notebook of any kind is always a treat for the senses. Everything about it is something to be cherished – the spotless and totally unspoiled cover, the pristine pages that lie within, and every magical indentation your pen makes upon them. The notebook I am using for this particular project came from the University of Winchester itself, and I told myself that it would never go to waste playing host to half-finished ideas. It was therefore set aside for poetry, and that in turn meant that I could not start writing in it properly until yesterday. I will admit that it has been increasingly difficult to resist, sitting patiently on my bedside table, always lingering in the corner of my eye. No matter how big the temptation got, though, I told myself that the end reward would be well worth the wait. I only allowed myself to sign and date the first page, so that everything written in it could form a time capsule I can look back on with fondness in the future.

I wrote the first paragraph of this post yesterday, when I had not yet attempted to change the opening lines I had already composed. I subsequently opened the notebook – and, deciding once and for all that they simply did not work, I crossed them out and started again. The new lines that resulted from this flowed much better and felt less forced. I am planning to show the completed poems to my coursemates before you get to see them here, but I will give you little snippets along the way. Make of these what you will!

For a few precious months, the shackles are off. Lie down in your bed, or feast in your trough.

This freedom’s a nectar you simply can’t waste. Feel every last drop flow through you with haste.

Mason

 

 

A Long Way To Go

Whenever nature calls, wherever we are, we must answer it. This is obviously the case regardless of whether you are able-bodied or disabled, but as some of you will know from “The Sixpence Test” – which I wrote last year – I have had a number of wildly different experiences where toilets are concerned. When said experiences are not so good, I am sadly reminded that society still has so much more to do before it can be truly accessible to the disabled, and I was unfortunately faced with yet another one just last night. It came in a local restaurant, which I was eating at for the first time. I found it easy to get into, thanks to a ramp the staff folded out for me, and the meal was to die for. The establishment would, however, lose crucial marks when it came to me needing to spend a penny later in the evening.

Having been told by a fellow diner that the toilets were just around the corner from where we were sitting, I excused myself and left to look for them, confident that I would be able to cruise into the disabled cubicle with ease. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that there was no disabled toilet at all – and that neither of the others could accommodate my wheelchair. I initially wondered if there might be another one located elsewhere in the restaurant, but they promptly indicated that this was not the case. Hearing this both angered and frustrated me. I had assumed that it was a legal requirement for public places such as restaurants to provide such facilities for disabled customers, but it would seem that either I was wrong, or there is a loophole allowing proprietors to avoid including them. Either way, people like me were clearly going to be in for a nasty surprise if they wanted to do their business in this particular eatery.

The lack of a toilet did, of course, make the situation at hand more desperate for me. By the time we had established that there was definitely nowhere I could use in the restaurant, I really did need to go, and the only alternative was to do so in the pub across the road. Just getting to that involved a short detour, since there was no dropped kerb in front of the restaurant, and that meant another unwelcome prolonging of my discomfort. Having crossed safely, though, we got in, and I weaved through the throng of drinkers to reach the toilet door. I grabbed the handle and frantically tried to open it, but to no avail. It was locked, and we had to ask for the key at the bar. This seemed unnecessary to me, and in the circumstances it only annoyed me, but I still understood that it was most likely done to prevent misuse of the toilet by people who really did not need to be in there. In any case, whatever annoyance that made me feel was nothing compared to what I felt when I finally got in. Up to now, we had been inconvenienced to such an extent that I could only just hold it in when I was able to relieve myself, and the configuration of this toilet also did little to help me. I found it at the end of a small corridor, and whilst I had all the space necessary to manoeuvre my chair as I needed to, moving my actual body once out of it was less easy. The toilet was positioned between two walls, as you would expect – but they, and the rails bolted to them, were rather far away from it. That meant they were completely useless, since I was unable to lean on them, and was left with no choice but to perch awkwardly on the toilet seat when adjusting my trousers.

I was astounded that it had taken so long to do what other able-bodied patrons could do in no time at all, and upon emerging I was certain of two things – that I would relate my latest tricky experience to you here, and that as long as there is negligence and a relative lack of education regarding disability, daily life will continue to present many unnecessary challenges to the disabled. I am now wondering how such education might be made more prominent in society. Maybe I will use Third Time Enabled to let you know again, if I have any ideas. In the meantime, we still have a long way to go – in my case, literally!

Mason

 

The Pull, Part 6

The formalities separating me from the start of university are gradually diminishing day by day. Last week, I participated in an assessment arranged following my application for Disabled Students’ Allowance – something which proved to be very fruitful indeed. It answered more of the questions Mum and I had about the support I would be entitled to as a student, and at its end I was relieved that my pre-Winchester to-do list was one item shorter. She and I travelled with Louis to the offices of a company that I was subsequently told would collaborate with the university to work for my benefit; once there I met with a very helpful man who started to ask me about how cerebral palsy affects me in certain situations. Obviously, as you might expect, the questions mostly related to education and how I have coped within it.

Among other things, the man asked what I found difficult during my school years, and what I still find difficult now. He asked about the people and the resources I have had at my disposal to make things easier, and based on my feedback he was gradually able to recommend the support that would best suit my needs on my new course. As I had anticipated, there are many options open to me, and I intend to pursue a great deal of them – not least to acquisition of a piece of software to assist me in lectures. My handwriting is somewhat slower than that of others, making it hard to keep up when I need to jot down a series of notes. With this equipment, however, I would no longer have to worry about such an obstacle. It is compatible with a microphone that can record a single voice whilst excluding all other surrounding noise, meaning that every crucial piece of audio can be captured without a problem. On a computer, this audio can then appear along with the breaks in speech, allowing the user to isolate any given section – this can be especially helpful if a particular piece is more relevant to an essay than another. In addition, these sections can be colour-coded to help them stand out, and notes and photographs can be placed alongside them as further visual aids.

I saw this all demonstrated in my assessment, and was left absolutely sure that it could be beneficial to me once I am settled in Winchester. I expressed my enthusiasm and was told that I am entitled to four hours of tuition in the software’s use (although I don’t have to use all four of them). If I do go on to accept it properly, I will be very eager to see how it can help me, and it was very encouraging to hear about everything else that the company and the university could do for me. It just goes to show that anything is possible if you ask for it – and this positive mindset makes the prospect of requesting help at Winchester even less daunting. Very few questions remained before the assessment, and Mum and I were already highly enlightened on arrival. It is even better to know that we are now tantalisingly close to being fully knowledgeable about what lies ahead.

Mason

Good Medicine

Everyone says, very accurately, that laughter is the best medicine to help see us through difficult times. An equally effective antidote, however, can be found in that funny luminous orb which occasionally (but not often) decides to show its face in Britain. Sunday was thankfully one of those days, and although I have a difficult relationship with the more rural parts of the world – generally preferring somewhere more lively with people going about their business – I was happy to write in the garden with a cool drink. I had opened my notebook with thoughts of my summer poetry project – described in “Accordion” – firmly in my mind. I found myself once again needing to prove to myself that my poetry could be half-decent, especially if I was going to spend my summer focusing on it, so I gradually scribbled some verse while my family watched on. What did I use as inspiration? The sunshine, of course, and specifically how it was lifting my spirits with its warm embrace. You can read the poem below – just bear in mind that it was composed hurriedly and may not be of as high a quality as something more considered. This time I can’t hide behind the fact that it isn’t finished yet!

I hope you like it – it has certainly made me feel even more eager to begin the poems that lie ahead:

I never thought that much of you
Your green and pleasant land.
But then I see a different side
When I am in your hand.

I feel your rays within my veins
I feel your tender touch
Your beams do dance upon my skin
Loving me so much.

You let us share you with our friends
Unite our lives as one.
As we forget our small divides
To bask in summer sun.

And though you do go in again
The memories remain
Like bright and vivid Polaroids
Unblemished by rain.

And when you are not in the sky
I save you a place
In my mind so that you can
Still shine upon my face.

Mason

 

 

 

 

Accordion

May seems to be an unkind month in the world of Third Time Enabled. For the last two years I have only produced three posts in that 31-day period – two of the four we saw in 2016 were written by Will and Emily – perhaps due to the annual bout of writer’s block that apparently coincides with it. 2018 has thus far been no exception to the rule, and with the absence of any ideas for the continuation of Christopher’s story (sorry about that), I have been frantically searching for new sources of inspiration with no success. Until now, that is…

I owe this sudden burst of creativity to the somewhat unspectacular title you see before you as you read. As I came onto the blog to stare in vain at a blank page – which I often do in these situations – I spotted a draft post that featured nothing except for the word “accordion” at the top. I can only assume that it once bore some relevance to something I was planning to write, and that I jotted it down in a hurry with the intention of returning to it later – sadly, however, its original purpose is long forgotten. Upon seeing it for the second time, though, my mind turned to the excitement and intrigue I feel when selecting titles as a writer, and I decided to use these emotions as a basis for the new post. Readers do, of course, see the title of a work before they know anything about its content, so as its creator you can have a lot of fun tantalising their tastebuds with the names you choose. Some break the mould by being long-winded and conventional – and in stating the obvious – while others are brief mononyms that give absolutely nothing away. If you want to know what lies beneath its surface, you have to dive in.

I was faced with a new opportunity to devise some titles when one of the Creative Winch Buddies suggested we all tackle a new project over the summer, with a view to showing each other the results in September at university. A number of us responded positively to the idea, and the concept of “new beginnings” quickly arose as a possible destination for such a project, since we are obviously all facing one. I liked this, and decided to adopt it for my own – but beyond planning I cannot start writing it until July, so that means only titles currently exist. They will serve a collection of poems that act almost like a concept album, telling a story that begins during an uncertain period, progresses as the protagonist’s optimism increases and ends as they find themselves reinvigorated and content. Such is the positivity within my own life at the moment that I simply couldn’t have created any other kind of story – but I shouldn’t give too much away right now. What I will tell you, however, is that the titles I have so far are as follows (and they are subject to change):

  1. “Time Off For Good Behaviour”
  2. “The Spin Cycle”
  3. “Careers Advice”
  4. “The Motions”
  5. “Barren”
  6. “There’s a Storm Coming”
  7. “Rainbows And Unicorns”
  8. “Never Been Sweeter”
  9. “Spirit Of Adventure”
  10. “This Is All Mine”

The possibility of including an epilogue at the end is still being considered, but I’m obviously some way away from that point now. What lies ahead at the moment is an interesting period of discovery as I cobble the poems together – and not only will this process keep the creative juices flowing, but it will also keep me occupied during a long summer break. That can only be a good thing, and I’m excited to find out what develops from it!

Mason

 

 

 

 

Emerald Swathes, Part 2

Christopher crashed through the long grass and low branches, determined to look at this mysterious new cap more closely. They were unlikely to find anything in it aside from a label bearing a first name, but it would nevertheless be a useful clue as to the whereabouts of its owner. They reached it and froze, extending a somewhat hesitant arm towards it as though it were a venomous snake. Their fingers curled around its discoloured edge and they slowly plucked it from the ground. Bringing it nearer to their face, they shook it to ensure it was straightened. They narrowed their right eye while expanding their left like a fleshy magnifying glass – and just as they had suspected, the cap did bear a label on its inner stitching. The writing was very faint, but scribbled in what Christopher believed to be permanent marker was undoubtedly a name: “JIM”.

What Christopher initially failed to notice as they turned the cap over to look at this was a single playing card – the queen of hearts, to be precise – fluttering gently out of it, all the way down to their feet. They eventually caught sight of it just as it settled on the edge of one of their battered shoes, and it was the card – not the cap – that convinced them they’d definitely stumbled upon something fishy. Finding a piece of headgear on its own in a forest was feasible, but someone practising their magic tricks there, in total solitude, seemed much less likely. Christopher peered down their nose at the card in a way that was almost cautious, as though they expected it to come to life like a mysterious new species of insect. They bent down to retrieve it, and made sure to examine both sides for any further clues. Finding none, they pocketed it, and feeling more than a little disturbed by their initially soothing location they moved out – only to be confronted by yet another surprise.

Christopher was taking one gradual step after another, travelling deeper and deeper into the forest that lay on the other side of the idyllic opening. Just as before, very little light was let in by the tree canopies, but Christopher’s eyes had adjusted to such an extent that they could identify certain small details on the path ahead – if you could even call it a path. Christopher was the one forging a trail here, as twigs snapped and dry leaves rustled beneath their feet. Every so often they would kick away a discarded sweet wrapper or crisp packet, perhaps left by the last poor soul to find themselves lost here, with no clear view of any sort of horizon. These would roll away, carried gently by a soft Spring breeze of which Christopher could never quite trace the source. They would watch each piece of debris vanish into the shadows – everything really was deserting them, and seeing this happen reminded Christopher of exactly how isolated they were around here. They kept trying not to think about it, but seeing all of these things dance gracefully in mid-air proved to be more captivating than they had expected. For what seemed like mile after mile, they saw the same twig-leaf-wrapper cycle of objects, and the pattern became predictable and monotonous. Christopher was glazing over, and came to the point of switching off entirely before another playing card floated in front of their eyes – much to their sudden, spontaneous bewilderment.

If Christopher had been in any kind of doubt that the first card in the cap was a random countryside find, this definitely proved it wasn’t. Neither, when Christopher came across it, was the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth. By the time the sixth appeared, it occurred to them that there was a trail – and not a lazy, wildly scattered one either. This was unmistakably neat, and it followed the exact path of Christopher’s journey, one that whoever left these cards could not possibly have known was going to be made. As the trail went by, it occurred to Christopher that there were far more than 52 cards here, and that this person must have had a rather large deck. Or just several industrial decks. Whatever the case, they were definitely leading to somewhere, and sure enough, the last card soon hoved into view, marking the end of the trail.

Christopher couldn’t believe what they were seeing. In a much darker opening was another tree stump, but here it was being used almost as a makeshift poker table. Next to it sat a wheelchair-bound boy of around seventeen, with a mass of dishevelled curly hair on his head and yet another pack of cards in his hands. As Christopher looked on – open-mouthed in disbelief – the boy tried frantically to shuffle them, cursing to himself whenever he lost his grip and they tumbled into his lap. He kept on trying again, completely oblivious to Christopher’s presence, and he dropped and gathered his cards several times before noticing he was no longer alone. At last, his eyes darted up to meet Christopher’s. He froze, loosening his grip on his cards slightly as he surveyed his new companion from head to toe suspiciously. There was silence as he did so, since Christopher knew they were far too baffled to speak. It was down to the boy to break the ice, which he did after a few minutes, when he had completed his checks and a smile was gradually appearing on his face:

“My name is Jim,” he said calmly, before fanning the cards out with his fingers and leaning forward in Christopher’s direction. “Pick a card. Any card…”

To be continued…

Mason

Emerald Swathes

The following is the full first part of the story I began in my Winchester taster session, detailed in “The Pull, Part 4”

The protests gradually faded away as Christopher ran further and further into the forest, and all sound disappeared along with the daylight. There was only silence, darkness and accompanying danger within these trees, and the only reassurance came when rays of distant sunshine leaked through the web of branches for a split second every few metres. Not that Christopher cared much at this moment. What coursed through his veins as his feet pounded along the rough terrain was not fear – he’d had more than his fair share of that in recent years – but determination and strength that overrode the burning in his lungs as he gasped for air, or the fatigue rapidly spreading through his limbs. He was on autopilot, with his eyes firmly on the ultimate prize that lay ahead – his freedom.

The more Christopher thought about this, the faster he went. He sprinted and sprinted, trying to ignore the searing pain from the gash on his knee as each new bramble and thorn pricked at him. He knew that he had to focus only on escape, and that meant running and never looking back. Christopher would never have a better chance than this, and he was actually quite glad to have realised that – he’d forgotten what true hope felt like, and to feel it again reminded him of the man he used to be. Five years ago, at 16, he’d had the ambition and the confidence of someone twice his age. As a matter of fact, what he demonstrated was borderline arrogance, always swaggering around like he had to be seen and heard. When he was lost in his own importance, he thought nothing of it. He saw himself as a character, someone fun whose energy would be irresistible to those around him. He eventually gained the benefit of hindsight; in odd moments he would remember all the times people rolled their eyes or moved away, always when they thought he wasn’t looking. He believed that he was loved by all, but he had only succeeded in alienating every potential new friend.

Following this, Christopher realised that his life was meaningless without real companionship from others. He had plenty of money and affluence, and assumed they would set him up for the rest of his days, but he was mistaken. When he realised this, he turned to rebellion, making the wrong choices and falling into the wrong crowds. They all seemed like groups of kind strangers at first, people who related to what he was feeling and were quick to offer a shoulder to cry on. They did, initially. There was warmth and understanding aplenty, and the more Christopher was shown, the more ensnared he was by his new friends. They had him under their spell – he just didn’t know it yet. He was so blinded by a façade of concern that it was all too easy for them to introduce the drink and drugs. He was led to believe that they would block things out, or make his constant state of misery more bearable. The moment he was under the influence, though, he was a marionette, completely controlled by his new puppet masters. It made him a highly dependable modern-day slave.

At this point, Christopher temporarily removed himself from his train of thought, and was awakened once more to his dingy and unforgiving surroundings. There was little point in trying to recall anything more about the past few years, since they all passed – quite literally – in a hazy blur. Christopher knew that his captors preferred it that way, and that the only time he ever spoke a word was when he was begging them for his next dose. When lucidity finally did come, it only did so in a fleeting moment, when he decided that enough was enough and that he had to get away. He was kept in such isolation that he didn’t know how many other slaves, if any, he might have left behind – but he had chosen to cast any guilt about who he could have saved aside for the time being. He’d cross that bridge when he came to it.

Christopher was definitely getting somewhere in the dense woodland. A new spot of sunlight, which had appeared at the size of the eye of a needle at first, was gradually enlarging and welcoming him into its embrace ahead. It was brighter and warmer in colour than any of the light he’d already seen on his travels, and he took this as a welcome sign of positivity and encouragement, even though he didn’t know how long it would last or what it actually signified. He just knew that whatever lay ahead couldn’t possibly be any worse than what he had already endured. He was more than ready to persevere through some minor sunburn if it meant he’d be out in the open and free from claustrophobia. The patch of light was now big enough to hurt his eyes, causing him to squint, and he tentatively raised a hand to his forehead to shield them from it. The brightness continued to increase until there were no more trees to block it out, and Christopher was faced with a near-whiteout, unable to see a thing…

When it faded, and shapes began to form once again all around him, he found that he was in the midst of a breathtaking and lush green opening, with space aplenty. The undergrowth was thick, but rather than appearing dilapidated it was full of vitality, with small flowers blossoming on various bushes. Only a lone tree stump and faraway bursts of birdsong interrupted the swathes of soothing emerald vegetation. It would have taken a man more hardened than Christopher not to be overcome with calmness, and he duly stopped to savour this new pocket utopia while he could, exploring its perimeter and crouching down to examine some of the plant life. He was distracted by the beauty and serenity of this hidden gem for some time, but his focus on every one of its details was suddenly broken when he spotted a faded blue denim cap lying inside out and unclaimed in the undergrowth. Whilst he was surprised by its presence, he thought little of the object itself – people tended to lose things in the countryside all the time, after all – but could it mean that he wasn’t the first escapee to find this spot?

To be continued…

Mason