Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Traveller in a strange time

Quinn looked up and saw only gnarled and twisted branches of grey bark against a pale, almost opaque, blue sky. His head ached. Come to think of it, his entire body ached. Quinn made a mental inventory of his limbs and was relieved to find that they all seemed to be in place. It wasn’t always the case.

Now then. What was all this about? Quinn thought to himself, his forehead wrinkling. He sat up, wiping away the dust of the ground that had accumulated over his face and arms. His suit was filthy and he could tell that his tie was undone. Frowning he started to adjust his tie by reforming the knot and fixing it firmly up against his collar.

‘Hello?’ A voice came from behind the thin trunk of what Quinn now recognised to be an olive tree. In fact, looking around, he seemed to be in an olive grove; the trees stretched out around him with contorted branches and ancient cracked bark indicating senescence past useful life. There was no sign that this grove was alive, no leaves broke the monotonous crumpled grey, and no fruit tempted the hungry. And as there was also no sign of a body to belong to the voice therefore Quinn replied directly to the tree.

‘Hello. Perhaps you could tell me where I am?’

‘Don’t you know?’ A small boy crept from behind the tree and Quinn felt relieved that things were not as strange as he had first assumed. The boy wore a simple tunic that appeared to be very like the boy himself: dirty and uncared for.

Quinn shook his head, gingerly. ‘I don’t know anything actually. I seem to have a complete blank where my memory should be.’ He paused, confused that this state of affairs was not more worrying to him, and shrugged. ‘I’m relatively sure this is only a temporary inconvenience and I have every hope that things will become clear at any time now.’

The boy simply stared at the man with his strange clothes and even stranger way of speaking. Fidgeting from leg to leg he looked like he wanted to run away but couldn’t quite bear the idea of missing something interesting. His stare was unnervingly direct but there was vulnerability behind the slightly crossed eyes.

‘I do know that my name is Quinn,’ Quinn said gently ‘what is your name boy?’

‘Arsenio.’ The boy whispered uncertainly, a pronounced lisp in this single word. He looked around furtively and then took a few tentative steps towards the man. ‘Did you bring the building?’

Quinn’s head was spinning already and he wondered whether something had gone wrong with his translation mechanism. ‘Eh?’

‘The building.’ The boy indicated with his left hand and Quinn noticed that it was as gnarled and hard and useless as the olive trees surrounding them both. ‘It was not there before. And now it is. As are you.’

Quinn forced his fascination away from the boy’s deformity and looked in the direction indicated. There was, indeed, a building just on the outskirts of the grove. And it did not look like it should be there at all. He stood and walked carefully over to the edge of the olive grove.

A mountainous land spread out in front of him, dry and dusty looking, littered with rocks and small pockets of tough vegetation. He thought he recognised his location now, somewhere in the dry heat of the Mediterranean, and, he felt with no real excuse to his certainty, more specifically probably somewhere in Greece.

Quinn inhaled deeply, his inner nanotech filters telling him that there were no pollutants in the air and suggesting that the timeframe for this adventure was a long time before industrial activity tainted the planet. Millennia before Quinn’s own time.

And that meant, Quinn figured, that this mosque which appeared to have been shoehorned into this ancient Greek landscape, now existed in a time before Islam had been created.

‘Bugger.’ Said Quinn, knowing instinctively that this was probably his fault.

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