Leaving Edinburgh under a grey sky and arriving in London for the Book Fair under the same blanket of low cloud, I was reminded of this short story I wrote some years ago.


Changing Times – Part One


Here was soft, muffled silence. Elsewhere, she knew a shining sun hung suspended in a vast, clear sky of shifting blues. She hoped faithfully to see the stars again, The Plough, Andromeda, Great Cygnus. Meanwhile, Earth waited, wrapped in grey, protective cloud beyond which playful starlight hung back out of sight with the myths. Naturally, it would clear, but we had no idea when.

Months ago all the strangeness started: large moths in July that clung on everywhere, silently filling and occupying all the spaces from the ground up, so that playful schemes for summer were overlooked: the mock fishing parties, the state-sponsored harvests, the tree planting jamborees. Since all-in-one pellets had been lab-perfected, people had not worried so much at the soil, had not forced food from it. Communal gardens wilted in the grey heat, un-watered and thoughtlessly trodden over. The earth couldn’t help being old-fashioned.

Many of the old, slow, ways were bypassed in an age when constant technological advances promised the world. There was small patience and no faith whatsoever, in the halls of our technocrats. The white coats clung ferociously to their ascendancy, but for how much longer?

As she patiently got out of bed that morning, Edith puffed a little, straightened and grimaced. The itchy blanket of small aches and pains began their accustomed jig over her joints. Must ease up on the late nights, be a good girl, she thought carelessly. Creeping downstairs in shabby gown and slippers, deliberately fond of those plodding, careful things of her youth which she understood marked her as eccentric, Edith used a fifth of her daily allowance of drinking water to make a pot of tea, partnering the nondescript china with a stained tea cosy. Though plain and small, the small brown piece was her favourite, one of the few pleasing and useful items she had inherited from her mother. The gentle roundness cradled exactly in her hand, like a warm, live thing.

There was a calm slowness in the small rituals of breakfasting. The air breathed balm through her kitchen windows. Many times she had been urged to leave the shabby, peeling house, which was very gently falling apart, sliding peacefully into decay. But Edith would have missed the sweeps of wind under the grey sky, the blowing breeze that welcomed her each morning at the kitchen window. She had remained in this house for over sixty years, had moved back in permanently after her mother had gone over to the other side in 2071, and in the midst of everyday tasks, cooking, cleaning, washing and baking, she would glance up and grin at changes outside, colours that clung on within the seeping seasons which, despite the grey, slipped innocently forward with a faith that Edith always found moving.

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