Futuristic fiction, for another of my Adult Education online writing groups.

“I think I came here from the past, through a time portal.” I’d said it again that morning, on my hologram computer, surrounded by the motley bunch of people in my current user room, in their virtual forms. They listened to me critically, and this time they took it quite calmly.

It always sounded trite, every time I said it. The hologram films often had portals in them, and it sounded as if I had got the idea from watching those. I was a fake, living in a fantasy world. Or worse, I was crazy.

But it was my friend Magenta’s fault, and she was real enough. I had two close friends, Marion and Magenta, and I thought of them as the ‘good girl’ and the ‘bad girl.’ Briefly I contemplated what might constitute good and evil in a past time, and how far it was all in the minds of those who had been present there, with that era’s morals. 

I couldn’t choose between my two friends. Should you ever have to do that? Marion is such a pure sounding name. A Virgin Mary name. I was going to see her that afternoon, at the Warden Girls’ group where I am a helper. The group is for underprivileged girls; we meet once a week at the Citizen’s Hall, and sometimes at weekends Marion takes them camping and teaches them to be confident and self-sufficient.

Of course, you have to book the campsites. I think when I was a child some of the land was still not enclosed, was not yet allocated to someone. There were still a few wild spots of countryside where you could take children on a camping expedition. But not now.

My other friend Magenta I wasn’t seeing till Saturday night, at the witch group. There is supposed to be no prejudice against religions these days, but a few people still think that witch covens are evil. My old Mum, for one. Maybe that was why I paid so much attention to my visions about Magenta which I’d been having for six months. In the visions she chased me through a time portal, so that I ended up here in a place where I didn’t belong.

Mum had always said she remembered giving birth to me. but now I was convinced that it had been recreated backwards like a time warp, and I wasn’t really her daughter. Dad hadn’t been around for a long time, so I couldn’t ask him. “Even if I did,” I thought, “I expect his memories have been altered too.”

I finished my virtual chat and had my lunch: salad from the allotment with a sloppy home-made dressing. Then I cycled to the Citizen’s Hall. Mine is a push bike which helps me to stay slim; the electric ones are not so good for that.

Marion’s girls were sitting in rows on the floor, singing a song. Marion waved to me and I sat down at the back, the usual place for helpers. Suddenly I saw a vivid picture in my mind. It was the same girls, all dressed in uniforms and in a field, signalling to one another with flags. I knew that it had happened in my real home in the past, and it filled me with fear. I was convinced that they had been spies or terrorists, sending messages to their military comrades. Had Marion been as evil as Magenta after all?

The vision unnerved me, and I was on edge all through the meeting. When we were in the kitchen making hot drinks Marion asked, “what’s wrong? You seem very subdued.”

“I keep having these strange flashbacks,” I said. “To my real home in the past, before I came through the black hole.”

“You do talk about that a lot. Are you still against seeing a counsellor?”

“It’s no good, they would only say I was mad. But the visions are becoming more frequent.”

“That’s what I mean, are you sure they’re not hallucinations?”

“I know that they’re the truth,” I replied.

That night I had a striking dream. In front of me was a huge vertical fairground wheel, slowly rotating, and I was being drawn towards it by a magnetic pull. Magenta was behind me, urging me forward. That was right before she pushed me through the vortex.

I woke with a jump, trembling and sweating. Why had she done that to me? Maybe I should leave her witch group and just stick to helping Marion in her altruistic work with the girls. I’m sure that if she knew about it, Marion would disapprove of witchcraft, just like Mum.

But I loved the herbs that Magenta had introduced me to. They gave me new flavours for my meals. Most of what we eat is vegetables and grains with a bit of fish now and then, occasionally a pheasant. I was sure the diet had been more varied in the past, in my true home, but my memory was hazy.

Some of Magenta’s herbs could also cure illnesses, and her crystals improved my mood when I wore them, although they didn’t stop my visions. Magenta laughed more than Marion; a deep chuckle that came from low down in her chest. She didn’t care what she wore, flouting convention with voluminous black dresses and red and green cloaks, even when she wasn’t with the witch coven. I couldn’t give her up- I wanted to keep both my friends. But why had Magenta sent me here and caused me all this conflict? I didn’t feel I could ask her.

The next day I couldn’t settle. I felt I had to get away and walk through the wasteland, to the ruined area where people don’t like to go. I put a few supplies into a cloth bag and set off towards the west shore. It’s the only seashore I know that is safe from flooding and tidal waves- the others are too dangerous to go near.

I crossed the wasteland, a bare and inhospitable moor with hardly a tree or flower in sight. The air smelt stale, and the only sound was my footsteps crackling on the dry grass.

I reached the ruins along the shore. As I walked, I passed the remains of outdoor playgrounds and statues, and dilapidated buildings that were probably once museums and hotels. I barely glanced at most of them, lost in my thoughts about my two friends, especially Magenta. But then something appeared on the horizon which attracted my attention forcefully.

It was a fairground wheel from the old times. We still have fairgrounds, but now the rides are all small and horizontal, not like this wheel which stood on its side, and reached up to smack the sky. It was exactly like the one in my dream. I had to get closer to it.

All that was between me and the wheel was one broken gate, half rusted away. As I drew nearer, I could see that the fairground had been in a grassy hollow a little way back from the beach, deliberately easy for visitors to enter with their children. The remains of the other attractions were scattered around, and I swerved to avoid splintered wood from the carousels.

I ran my hand along the edge of the big wheel, with a vague intention of picking up impressions from touching it, but no impressions came so I sat on the ground in its shadow and closed my eyes.

That was when I had the culminating vision. I was back in the past- I could see that earlier time all around me. I looked down at my body, and it looked different, and I realised I was a boy. Suddenly it came to me that this was a previous lifetime. All this time I had thought that I time- travelled from the past, but really it was reincarnation.

A picture appeared of Marion with her girls, and they all had different faces from now. I knew their names were different too, although I didn’t remember the names.  They were sitting on chairs in a dusty hall, and a banner nailed to the wall at the front proclaimed, ‘Tenth Hampshire Girl Guides’. I remembered learning about scouts and guides in history lessons at school. No wonder I had seen them out in the countryside wearing uniforms and sending signals with flags. They used to call the signals semaphore.

Another full colour picture appeared in front of my closed eyelids. This time I was in it, and so was Magenta. She too had been male, although her face was more like it is today than Marion’s. We were sitting in front of an electronic screen and holding little controller devices in our hands. On the screen was an eight-pointed star with arrows at the points, coloured in solidly in black. I recognised it- the chaos star. Chaos magic was a separate branch of magic from Magenta’s witchcraft, and it had been popular in the twentieth century.

On the screen the star transformed into a fairground wheel which was uncannily similar in shape to the star, with spokes in place of the arrows. It was standing on its side and it began to rotate. Then a man with grotesque clown make- up ran onto the screen. It all came back to me- Magenta was playing as The Joker. I had to fight the Joker and if I lost, I would be killed, but it was only a gaming death, after which you resurrect and play again.

My figure emerged from a corner- a slim boy who was supposed to be the hero, but Magenta was a good player who could often beat him, and that was what happened today. Once she had got the upper hand, she chased my character over stones and boulders and into an enormous black hole. “Got you! You’ve gone into the void.”

I opened my eyes with a sense of relief. At last my visons had led me to the truth. My friends were innocent, and I was more ordinary that I had ever thought. But Mum was my real mother.

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