Something moved

I have just had a great week-end at Madingley Hall in Cambridge. The programme was ‘Time to Write’ with John Mole in charge. On Friday we were offered a list of words/phrases and had to make something of any one of them. I picked the phrase ‘Something moved’. Lots of other challenges faced us over the week-end. This morning we each had 20 minutes to present something to the group. There were many stories and poetry on offer – each very personal to the presenter and pieces that I shall remember for a long time but will pass on to nobody. My choice was that two word starter from Friday – ‘Something moved’. This is it – just as I told it this morning:

The sun was setting with a blaze of gold behind the coppice. Ann loved the sunset; it reminded her of so many things. Good things.
Those times when she and Garry had strolled – and lingered – there; when they had loitered on the ridge and watched the sun slowly dip behind the horizon, leaving the heavens to absorb the fading beauty of sunset. Those times together were precious in her memory.
Then Garry had had to leave. She never knew why – but he had kept in touch. He would send her postcards of sunsets – beautiful sunsets from around the world. Each would have just a simple and meaningful comment – ‘Warmer than at home’ and ‘No more beautiful than you and our view’. She treasured and kept them all.
But there were also the not-so-good things. The last card with dark clouds and the words: ‘I may not be back for a while’ – nothing more.

Two years had passed since he had left. She still loved the sunsets – but tonight that sunset hurt. As she watched, a dark cloud began to blot out the gold.
The coppice became a second dark line.
Then, as she watched the changing, darkening, scene something moved in the coppice. She looked away, then back. All was still. What was it that had caught her eye?
She tried to recall it. She shook her head. It was not a dream – there had been something moving; something big enough to catch her eye; brief enough to leave her in doubt.
For no reason she could place she began to walk toward the coppice – now darker still as the sun sunk below the horizon.
Her mind took over; perhaps it was Garry. He had said that he wouldn’t be back for some time; he had never said ‘never’.
She was now at the edge of the coppice – the dark coppice. All was still. Then there was a sound. Ann felt a cold shiver on her spine – the sound was behind her. A quiet voice said:
‘Stay where you are; don’t turn round.’
Ann froze, but instinct made her want to look; the voice reminded her of someone. She slowly began to turn her head.
The voice remained low and quiet but now with an added edge: ‘I said do not turn round: stay still.’
‘Is it you Garry? Where have you been? I’ve missed you.’
‘That is not now my name; and where I have been need not concern you.’
There was a silence: neither spoke for what, to Ann, seemed an age.
Then she could bear it no longer. She spun round to face him. It was dark in the coppice but her eyes had adjusted. She saw him – and screamed.
‘Quiet.’ Garry’s voice remained quiet, but firm. It was a tone of voice that was not to be challenged.
‘Your face – it’s different. What have you – they – done to you? Who did it?’
‘I said it need not concern you and I mean it. Me being here is dangerous for you and for me, but I wanted to see you one more time. I have been waiting for a sunset that I knew would attract you. Tonight it has and I am pleased. Ann, I love you; I always have and I always will, until I am no-more.’
His voice had gone soft and hesitant. Ann took a step toward him.
‘No.’ His voice was sharp, and authoritative. ‘Stop and turn round. Now.’
Ann could do nothing but respond. A wave of fear spread over her. She stopped and turned her back on him. Fear turned her into a statue. She felt his lips on the back of her head.
‘Goodbye Ann,’ he whispered.
Silence spread through the coppice. There was no sound of movement. Even the breeze through the trees seemed to have stilled. The coppice was dark now – very dark.

How long she stood there she could not tell before she collapsed in heart-rending sobs.
‘Garry, Garry’ she called across the coppice – first quietly, then loudly. There was no response. Ann turned and slowly, very slowly, made her way home.

It was a week later when she saw a story in the national newspapers. It described in clear, but limited, detail the death of a member of the Security Services who had exposed a scheme to cause major damage to people and properties in a number of cities across the country. The report said that the gang had operated on an international scale and had been under surveillance for over two years.

The dead Security Services man was not named.

Ann wept.

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