Juggling Balls: Episode 18

https://www.davidhadleyauthor.co.uk/book/juggling-balls/

Go to Episode 1

 

Chapter 15

 

Martin stood on the street outside the University. He looked left and then right as the cars sped past. The street looked just the same as it had the day before. He could just see the house: Sam’s house, his house, the place where he lived. The house that was – apparently – now full of insane people, about 300 yards away down on the opposite side of the street. It too looked disconcertingly normal.

Martin, though, didn’t feel normal at all. He had the odd feeling he had stepped into some film or novel, or even a parallel universe. Nothing made the same sense it had before he received that parcel containing those juggling balls. On the other hand – though, he had to admit – he hadn’t been able to make sense of his life before the events of the morning either. His life before hadn’t made sense, but in a way that was far more comprehensible in its incomprehensibility than what he was currently going through.

People didn’t claim to come from the future – not outside of daytime chat shows anyway – in Martin’s proper world. People didn’t go around killing or being killed – at least not…. No, that bit could…. In fact, when he stopped to think about it, it wasn’t all that outlandish. Not compared to some things he’d read in newspapers or seen on the television news. It was just not the sort of thing that should happen to him. He was – or at least he had thought, up to that morning – too ordinary for anything like this.

Martin glanced across at the bus stop on the opposite side of the road, reassured by the ordinariness of it all. There was a man standing at the stop, presumably waiting for a bus. Martin looked away, and then back at the man. He was wearing a long light-brown mac. Martin could just see the bottoms of the man’s trousers. The trousers were white, white and flared, white, flared and sparkled along the seams. Martin looked up towards the man’s face. The man wore dark sunglasses with his jet-black hair combed back into an enormous and improbable-looking quiff. He reached into his inside pocket.

Martin searched around, looking for somewhere to run to, somewhere to hide. There was just a low wall along the edge of this side of the road. It was less than a foot high, stretching for several hundred yards both up and down the street. Behind the low wall, the university grounds stretched flat and green out towards the car park and then the university buildings themselves.

There was nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.

The man at the bus stop over the road pointed something towards Martin. Martin flinched and ducked. He heard a sharp crackling fizz, as the air lit up with a searing brightness just slightly to the left of his face. He looked behind him. A long charred streak of scorched grass was smoking slightly and there was a smell of burnt grass.

Martin ran.

Martin glanced behind as he ran down the street. The man had crossed the street and was gaining on him. The long light-brown coat was open and flapping as he ran. Now, Martin could clearly see the sequinned jumpsuit glittering and flashing in the bright sunlight as the man chased after him.

Martin put his head down and tried to run faster. He just managed to avoid tripping over the outstretched feet of a young woman sitting on a bench, deeply absorbed in the book she was reading and completely unaware of Martin as he sped past her. Martin thought she looked vaguely familiar as he passed by. He almost turned to look at her again, but remembered why he was running. He put his head back down and ran faster. He wondered if he ought to dodge and weave as he ran. He decided distance was all that mattered.

He looked back again.

He stopped running and turned right around, his palms on his thighs as he gasped for breath. The man had disappeared.

No, he was now sitting head down – seemingly taking a nap – on the seat where the woman had been reading. Martin wondered if he had imagined the whole thing. Perhaps he was mad, perhaps he had gone completely mad and the whole thing was an illusion. He found this thought strangely comforting and smiled. At least until the breeze brought the smell of singed grass back to him.

 

 

 

[Next Episode]

[Buy the book]

 

Published by David Hadley

A Bloke. Occasionally points at ducks.

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