She had a memory of this world. Beth knew she had lived this life before at some time. As far as she knew, she had not ever visited this part of the country before. But so much of it was familiar to her from somewhere. She just seemed to know where she was going and where everything: the shops, the parks, the cinemas and art galleries, were. Not that she was much of one for cinemas and she’d never been to an art gallery or museum outside of compulsory school visits when she was a child.
Yet here she was, standing outside the town Museum, standing in front of a poster announcing an exhibition of local fossils. The only fossils Beth knew about were those celebrities from her parents’ era who presented the early evening TV shows on Saturdays.
However, she could, without even thinking name several of the species displayed on the poster and – stepping closer to read the smaller print – she saw she’d named them all correctly. That was if the strange spelling matched how she pronounced them.
Beth turned; the Museum itself was off the main street, just down a little way from all the shops she named. She could even name the shop that existed before its parent company went bankrupt. She could see it from here, the dirty shadow left around some of the letters of its name – Woolworth’s – on the shop front, half-hidden by the scaffolding put up by the shop fitters as they prepared it for its new owners and new opening.
Beth took a breath.
Someone had asked her directions to the local council offices in front of that shop, she’d turned pointed, explained without once stopping to ask herself how she knew.
Beth didn’t live here; she had never lived here and yet….
She walked back up to the corner and turned, looking around her at a place that looked like home, like the place she’d grown up and left and now, she had returned to it.
This, though, was not her hometown. It was almost as far as it was possible to get from her hometown. It was not a place, in the then-grimy industrial midlands, that she would have come for a holiday. It was not the kind of place any of her friends would call home either.
Until this business trip, Beth was reasonably sure she had never heard of the place. But two days in the town, including a meeting at a local business that she found without even using Google maps, convinced her she knew this place. Perhaps she knew it even better than the memories of her real old hometown. A place that after only two days here was starting to look more and more like a dream.
It was time to go, go back to her hotel, a taxi to the nearby station and go home.
‘Susan…? Susan? What are you doing here? You said you’d never come back home.’
She turned to see a man, staring at her, eyes wide and jaw dropped as though he was in the presence of a ghost.
‘Paul?’ she said, knowing him instantly as her long-lost lover, even though she’d never seen him before.