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 NEW STORY: Another Place - a story about loneliness, childhood and friendship

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Jenny
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Posts : 144
Join date : 2010-03-17
Age : 44
Location : New Zealand

PostSubject: NEW STORY: Another Place - a story about loneliness, childhood and friendship   November 23rd 2010, 7:28 pm

Another Place

England: July 1981 – somewhere on M40 motorway heading south

Eight-year-old Ann sat in the back seat of her parents’ car, squashed between her friends and the door. It was a muggy day and she relished the fast breeze that hit her face as their car sped along: glad that for the time being she didn’t have to sit in the middle. A total of seven people were squeezed into the white Vauxhall Cavalier that zoomed down towards the south coast of England. The traffic was heavy and, though it was summer, large grey rainclouds threatened to burst at any moment. Ann watched as large raindrops began to plop on the windscreen, but she kept the window down. The heat in the car was palpable and the occupants were unusually quiet each lost in their own thoughts or in deep sleep.

Ann’s mother, glad of the silence and a rare opportunity to close her eyes, was sitting in the back of the car with the four children, Ann’s two-year-old brother sprawled across her lap, heavy and drooling in his baby slumber.

The other two girls were sisters. Ann had known them all her life, but for them everything had changed. Their parents had
recently divorced and Ann couldn’t quite understand this new situation. She felt sad that their mother, like an Aunty to Ann, wasn’t coming with them like she used to. She’d miss out on the beach and the trampolines, and the donkey rides and the forest walks and the funfairs and the ice-creams…

The two fathers sat at the front, stopping every now and then to stretch their tired legs and take their turn at the wheel. Ann rested her head against the seat trying to read the funny placenames on signposts that whizzed past every few minutes: Bicester, Blackbird Leys, Kiddlington, Abbingdon, Didcot, Wantage, Newbury – strange places lain hidden behind the green and yellow fields that rumbled by. Sometimes she listened to the voices on the radio talking about a lady called Diana and a big wedding that would take place in a cathedral the next day. The thought of becoming a princess was lovely, but Ann wished they would get on and play the next record.

Can you feel it,
Can you feel it,
Can you feel it
If you look around
The whole world's coming together now, babe


Ann smiled and closed her eyes as she pictured all the words.

Can you feel it,
Can you feel it,
Can you feel it

Feel it in the air,
The wind is taking it everywhere, yeah


“SLOW DOWN, JOHN!” were the last words she heard her mother scream before it happened. Ann looked between the front seats and knew they were going to crash into the car in front. The impact woke everyone with a jolt. Ann looked back and saw the car behind would crash into them, which it did. They suffered another impact and then another and another as car after car ploughed into each other. It was almost comical had it not been so frightening.

There followed a deathly silence. Ann tuned into to the song again still playing on the radio,

All the children of the world should be
loving each other wholeheartedly,
yes it's alright,


She turned to see her little brother’s red-faced anger as he began to release the longest, loudest yell Ann had ever heard in her life, he was not used to being woken so abruptly from his baby slumber. Everyone was okay.

Every breath you take
Is someone’s death in another place
('nother place, 'nother place, 'nother place)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chicago, USA: November 1967

Nine-year-old Michael sat in the backseat of his father’s car squashed between his brothers and the back door. Jackie sat at the front reading a street map and trying his best to ignore Joseph's constant rebukes and anger as they drove through the backstreets of Chicago to West Englewood and the Steeltown Recording Studios. But not even their father’s temper and yelling could quell the boys’ excitement as they imagined cutting their first record.

Joseph yelled at Michael and told him to sing the song again and again and again, until the lyric had all but disappeared off the sheet of paper he was holding and etched itself somewhere inside him. He ignored his brothers’ panic and Joseph’s subsequent rage as some car pulled out from nowhere and nearly crashed into them. No idiot fool of a driver was going to ruin Joseph Jackson’s biggest opportunity to date.

And Michael continued to sing at the top of his voice, as they approached what appeared to be an old abandoned building, suitably adorned with an old abandoned dog sniffing around outside in the middle of this old industrial suburb laced with old industrial railway lines and smoke and squalor and, quite incongruously, opposite, a play-park filled with all the noise and laughter and confidence of children oblivious to their surroundings locked in a world of their own making. Michael stared and continued to sing,

Fairy tales, fairy tales
I don't enjoy
Fairy tales and wishful dreams
Are broken toys

'Cause I'm a big boy now...



Michael was so wrapped up in his own thoughts as he helped his brothers unload the car that he hardly noticed the little girl who approached him until she spoke. “Hello!” Michael was so surprised to hear anyone that her unfamiliar accent hardly registered. “Ummm what are you doing?” she asked almost impetuously, but Michael didn’t seem to mind. “We’re going to make a record in these studios here!” he proudly announced, “My brothers and I are a band!” “Oh, I see!” she replied but was hardly satisfied by his answer. “What is your band called?” she continued, her curiosity aroused. “We’re The Jackson 5!” “Oh!” The little girl considered this for a moment and seemed confused. “You’re like The Jacksons?” Michael frowned at her response, “We ARE the Jacksons, The Jackson Five! We’re brothers…” he continued, bemused by her reaction. “You’re going to sing a song?” she asked. Michael laughed at this question, “We’re going to sing and make a record. “ “What are you doing here?” asked Michael wondering where her friends were. “Oh, my mum and dad are at the garage because we were in a crash and the garage man came along and towed us away. The car is all rumpled up. “ “Oh my gosh!” said Michael, genuinely stunned by this unexpected answer. “And where are your parents?” he wondered aloud quite concerned now. “They are at the garage, over there!” Michael looked in the direction the little girl pointed out, but could see no garage, just some old abandoned houses and a group of kids playing tag. “I better go and find them!” the little girl mused looking a little unsure about her next course of action. “It was nice to meet you…” “Michael!” Michael interrupted, “…and you are?” “I’m Ann!” the little girl confirmed. “And I love your records!” she grinned at Michael and turned to go. Michael laughed aloud and was about to correct her when he heard his father yell from the doorway. He looked back over his shoulder to see which way the little girl had gone, but she had disappeared from sight, back into the industrial wasteland from where she’d appeared.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~update


The Staples Centre, LA: June 2009

Ann felt quite sick as she realised she wasn’t walking towards the garage as she imagined she would be, neither could she see or hear her parents anywhere. As the light industrial smog cleared she realised she was now completely lost. All her curiosity disappeared and she was consumed with a sense of despair as she wondered how on earth her parents would be feeling having just survived the accident and now realising their daughter had gone missing.

Suddenly, she found herself in the middle of an excited crowd who were all screaming, “Michael, Michael!” They couldn’t all be calling after the little boy she’d just spoken to, could they? But she’d just walked away from that place and this place was quite different. And the weather here was different too, she looked up at the sky, an azure blue and suddenly she realised how hot it had become. A hand from nowhere grabbed hers and a strange voice said, “Hello Ann, I’m Michael. I know exactly who you are,” he continued, “And I don’t want you to worry about your parents. They are very safe and they’re okay. You’ll get to see them real soon, I promise!” The strange man stooped low so that Ann could see her startled face reflected in his sunglasses. She hardly had time to consider what he had said when he asked, “Now, Ann, how would you like to come and see me dance and sing for you?”

He looked down and smiled at the little girl who stood before him, timid and confused, as the crowd continued to surge forward around them. She was safe, now, he thought, and he knew that she was quite oblivious to the fact that she was his very dearest, closest and oldest friend that he'd known and cherished his whole life - or, at least, since he was nine years old!



For some reason, Ann couldn’t explain it to herself, she felt compelled to follow this man. He knew her name, he seemed know about the accident and her parents, and the way he spoke made Ann feel that he knew intuitively she was about to break into tears.

'Lost' would be an understatement. She didn’t recognise a single person, in fact she didn’t seem to recognise anything about this environment. She felt as though she were in foreign country –it felt like a dream. A nightmare! But there was something familiar about this man; something familiar about his voice that reassured her. She recognised something in him: his gentle manner, his kind smile, the way he held her hand, firmly. Her eight-year-old self couldn’t fathom it. But he was the only person who now offered her some hope in this strange world. He was the only thing that made any sense.

They headed into the arena surrounded by a frenzy of activity of which Ann could make no sense. Michael held her hand as all around them people talked and rushed and pushed and practically fell over themselves trying to stay close. Ann noticed that whenever Michael spoke absolute silence descended - a kind of calm and people moved closer to hear. They wrote notes, nodded heads, complimented whatever Michael said and then as they reached a destination the group seemed to vanish into thin air back to wherever it had come from.

Michael held onto Ann’s hand as she tried to make sense of their new environment, some vast black universe, a huge void without any walls. It took some time for Ann to take it all in. There was a huge construction of scaffolding and lights, enormous shapes covered with people busily occupied in whatever it was they were doing. Workmen building and fixing all kinds of equipment, the purpose of which was completely and utterly beyond Ann’s comprehension.

In the middle of it all, Ann’s eyes fell upon a group of dancers. Never in all her eight years on this planet had she seen anything like it. The power and precision of every movement - they moved as if they were born to dance, as if someone had switched off gravity and time. In that moment, Ann completely forgot her fear and despair and the strangeness around her. She was absorbed, mouth and eyes wide open. A voice whispered gently in her ear, “They're amazing aren’t they, Ann?” she turned her head and noticed Michael had removed his sunglasses. She recognised those eyes and she grinned. “Yes, they are amazing!” And although she had never seen anything like the spectacle before her, she recognised the music. It was one of her all-time favourites.



Michael had thought about this moment for a long time. He knew for some reason he would see Ann here today. Of course, that was nothing unusual - they saw each other most days. But, there was something very odd and important about this occasion - unlike all the other days when she had walked into his world without a care in the world - today was definitely different. Maybe it was as soon as he saw her in the crowd, something in her eyes told him this was all new to her - that she wasn't yet used to "traveling." She was frightened and alone and he sensed immediately that she didn't quite recognise him or understand why she was there. Michael had known this day would come, of course. He had known and felt it perhaps all of the time he had known Ann. It was inevitable. In fact, he hadn't expected he would have to wait so long. She'd taken the most almighty leap in time, perhaps the biggest of all - 42 years he mentally calculated. From 1967 all the way to 2009. But he'd always known that - as a little girl Ann jumped about time like a child in a play-park wanting to go on all the rides at once. As she got older it slowed down a little, she stayed longer and leaped shorter distances through time. Of course, both he and Ann would have preferred for it to stop altogether. But that was never going to happen. This was something completely outside their control. They both knew that. And as Ann aged quite normally she would continue to bounce about through time not knowing exactly where she was going to land. Of course, that wasn't quite true. There was one certainty! One thing she always knew she'd be able to hold onto in her tumultuous, roller-coaster of an existence. And that was Michael.

*

There was no easy way to do this, Michael thought as he looked down at the little girl still gawking at the dancers on stage. It was something they had both discussed countless times. Ann had told him it would all work out. He would simply tell her what he felt she needed to know.

Neverland Valley Ranch, Los Olivos, California: 1988

“Don’t even think about it, Michael!” she had said one time they were having a picnic at Neverland. He was enjoying a rare moment of freedom from his relentless schedule of recording and touring and the gentle breeze seemed to ease away all the aches and pains of his tired mind and body. He smiled lazily as he watched her lay out the things for their picnic. They could have been a couple to all intents and purposes - but no, nothing in his life was ever that simple! She was about eighteen years old that day. “You worry too much," she said biting into the biggest strawberry she could find, "I’ll be fine – that eight year old is a lot tougher than you think.”

“Tell me about it – she’s the bane of my existence!” Michael had retorted teasing her at which point she attacked him by wrestling him to the ground and launching a tickling campaign. “And she’s dangerous too!” Michael yelped in agony desperately trying to defend himself. He tried to compose himself and holding her wrists had asked, “Tell me when it happens, just so I can be ready”

“Nooooooo!” Ann replied, rolling her eyes.

“Why not?” Michael asked, but he knew the answer.

“Because, you know why not!”

“Tell me…” he whined playfully

“No, I can’t. You know that!”

“Who told you, you can’t?”

“YOU did, silly!”

“You always do what I say. What about what I say for a change!”

Ann rolled about on the grass in hysterics at the apparent absurdity of his comment.




The Staples Centre, LA: 2009 continued...

Only as the years rolled by did Michael increasingly learn the importance of the advice he was about to give Ann. He knew now, more than ever, perhaps, that he couldn't burden this little girl with such an awful responsibility. He made up his mind there and then that under no circumstances should she feel she had to inform his younger self of anything about his future. Or their future for that matter. It was an important decision, Michael thought to himself. Perhaps one of the most important decisions he had ever made in his life. And as she grew older, Ann would often argue with Michael and try to persuade him to change his mind. Especially during the more difficult times in his life. But, no! He was resolute. No matter how tempting it might have been sometimes to know the future, it was more important that he deal with it. He knew that now. He couldn't change the course of history. And neither, he determined, could he expect the little time-traveller standing in front of him.

Ann looked up behind her at the tall man who had put on his sunglasses again and was chewing gum. He seemed lost in his own thoughts now, so very tentatively she shook his jacket in order to get his attention. "Why are we here, Michael?" she asked, eyes full of wonder and curiosity again. Michael crouched down and raised his glasses so she could see his eyes again. "We're here because this is it, Ann. This is where your wonderful adventure begins. This Is It, little one!"


*

Walking through time is a little bit like walking around an amusement park. You walk, but you're completely oblivious to the effort because there are so many strange and wonderful distractions along the way. This was how the first few hours of time-travel was for Ann. She would simply walk, then stop and gaze in wonder trying to take in all the strange sights, and then she would carry on walking again. It was all very peculiar, but not yet frightening. Eventually she got used to seeing Michael, although he kept getting younger or older, in no particular order, which was all a little unsettling for the girl, but because he seemed so relaxed in surroundings completely alien to Ann, she really had to overlook this strange occurrence for the time-being, anyway. Beside she had no choice. The feeling Ann was having right now was akin to getting a vaccination, you hold still, grit your teeth and realise that there is no getting away from the inevitable. Don't think about the pain. Try not to think about how worried mum and dad are, or your little brother hot with rage and tiredness. Just endure. Keep walking.

Besides Michael seemed to be expecting her. She never seemed to surprise him, except once perhaps. She had wondered onto some kind of stage (she kept seeing those), there were lights and cameras and people everywhere. So many weird and wonderful people in all kinds of attire. Ann simply stood where she was, rooted to the ground taking in all the strange and wonderful activity around her.

"PLEASE REMOVE THAT CHILD FROM THE SET" groaned a rather tired sounding man with a loudspeaker.

"It's okay!" came a gleeful reply from nowhere, before Ann could even think of a response. Through a smokey haze of dry ice, a scarecrow bounded in front of her, picked her up and carried her off to a seat in the corner of this rather draughty cavernous place. He was all straw and dopey grin and big brown gleaming eyes. "Hello again, Ann!" he giggled. I bet you didn't expect to see me looking like this did you!" and he crossed his eyes and pursed his lips. Ann couldn't help but laugh.


"I see you're carrying your book, Ann" Michael exclaimed looking at the book Ann was holding tight against her chest. Ann looked at the book she was holding, "You just gave it to me, Michael!" she said looking at the front cover, "It's my favourite story in the whole world."

"Well, listen!" confided Michael, "As soon as this shoot is over, I'm gonna come right back here and read it to you okay?"

Ann nodded and tentatively followed Michael back towards the set but she wasn't destined to see the shoot, not that day anyway! Her little legs just kept walking and as soon as the dry ice had cleared all she could see was the glaring light of the sun which, as she looked up, was eclipsed only slightly by a mass of branches and leaves all swaying and rustling gently in the light spring breeze.

"Ann come up here and I'll read to you!" shouted an excited and, by now, easily recognizable voice. Ann's eyes scoured the branches, but the sun was so bright they hadn't yet adjusted and before she could work out where the voice was coming from a hand reached down from above and took her own. "Come on, now! Carefully. Come up here and look, Ann - it's magical! Let me take your book for you!"

"No, it's okay Michael, I'll hold it. I don't want it to disappear as well."


"Now close your eyes, Ann!" Michael said as soon as she had pulled herself onto the platform. Michael loved playing this game with Ann. He had done it hundreds of times and she always said it was silly, but he liked to remind her how truly beautiful Neverland was. He didn't want her to take that beauty for granted, for it to ever become jaded in her mind, even though she saw it all the time. He loved to paint the picture again, take her on a journey as they looked out across the beautiful park; let her look in wonder and allow her eyes to feast on its magnificence and true beauty, time after time. That was the wonder of childhood -it usually didn't take long, just a few words and Ann would be spell bound again. Michael could see the wonder in Ann's eyes as he read to her or made up stories about fairies and elves and witches and goblins. He concocted all sorts of tales out of thin air. Sometimes they frightened Ann, but he would always comfort her with soothing words and then he would talk about her home and her parents and her friends in some other place, far far away, and Ann remembered and was always grateful to Michael for taking her there.

But this time Michael was in for a surprise for as soon as he removed his hands from Ann's eyes, she gasped. It was a loud gasp, almost a shriek, of pure amazement as if she had never seen the place before. It took Michael by surprise and he looked at her. "Is this the first time you have ever seen Neverland, Ann?" Michael asked just as amazed as she was. "Y-yes..." she replied, still trying to absorb everything around her: a fun-fair in the distance; smoke rising from little teepees beyond, trees and wide expanses of velvet-green grass and meadows rolling over gentle hills and flowers every colour of the rainbow. A valley of hope and dreams and escape filled Ann's vision. It quite literally took her breath away, until she finally collected herself and asked in a whisper, "Is this where Peter Pan lives, Michael?"


*
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NEW STORY: Another Place - a story about loneliness, childhood and friendship
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