Monday, 14 April 2014

The First Electric Word


Bill drove home from the refinery. He could still see its stacks smoking in his rear-view mirror as he crested the final hill before home. At the top of the hill there was a track on the right. On impulse, Bill tugged down the indicator switch and swung onto the track. This manoeuvre required cool nerves. It was a fast road and visibility was minimal. Getting across in one piece was nearly as bad as playing Russian roulette.

The car bounced as it hit the track. There were deep ruts and he scraped the bottom of the car. He slowed her down and crawled to the piece of land set aside for a car park. It was a popular spot for kids up to no good. But at this time of the evening, he had the place to himself.

This could have been one of the most beautiful spots in the county if it hadn't been for the clandestine activities that went on up here. The car park was littered with beer cans, cigarette packets and the detritus discarded from the nearby MacDonald's. Someone had dumped a fridge in the hedgerow. Bill looked at these things but decided not to see them.

He walked to the white stone with the metal plate set on top. Lines etched into the metal giving directions and miles to locations that the plate maker decided were of interest. Salisbury 12 miles. Stonehenge, 15. The Isle of White. Land's End. America...

Bill started down the track and came to a wood as the land left the hill-top behind. The hill, although Bill didn't know it, where Marconi first experimented with sending signals by telegraph.

The first electric word.

The woodland floor was thick with vegetation and some of the younger trees had protective sleeves to keep the deer away. But Bill chose not to see these. What thoughts he had were peculiarly wrapped up with Geoffrey Chaucer. It seemed to him that this track would have been just the kind of place the Canterbury pilgrims would have ridden through. That Canterbury didn't get a look in on the metal plate was neither here nor there. He gazed into the trees and imagined that a man in a cloak was approaching. A man who would give him a ticket out of this life and the refinery.

Bill had know way of knowing, but his thoughts travelled on a cool breeze that entered the wood at that moment.

It was as good a place as any and the words travelled in a protective sleeve along an invisible wire farther than any destinations engraved on the metal plate.

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