Copyright© 2012 by Denham Forrest
Sylvia and Rose bounced into the bungalow – or whatever you like to call it – just after five o'clock, as if they had not a care in the world. And those two grinning Neanderthals they called 'Win' and 'Mol' followed them. And who Douglas and I took to referring to – between ourselves -- as 'arsehole' and 'asshole'.
Hey, I never would have imagined that the difference between American English and the real thing would come in so handy.
Anyway Douglas's temper got the better of him and ... well, I -- and a couple of those yellow shirted security guards -- had to separate the two of them. Me holding Douglas back as best I could, and the two yellow shirts restraining the guy the girls called Win, and then bundling him outside.
The other guy, Mol or whatever his name was, bravely inserted himself between the two women and the altercation and then did ... well, he did sod all actually, but stand there with a shocked expression on his face, mouth agape.
I have to say that for all his size -- and apparent fitness -- the Win bloke didn't put on a very good show against Doug, even though Win did have the upper hand. Whether Win was going easy on Doug, or he just wasn't used to fisticuffs, I have no idea. Whatever Mol, followed his mate outside rather sharpish once a little decorum had been re-established.
But Douglas hadn't got his emotions completely under control and once the four of us were alone, he tore into Rose – verbally. Who matched him word for word and gave him back as good as she got. Don't ask me exactly what they said because with both of them shouting at the top of their voices, I couldn't exactly hear.
No, I didn't instantly lose my own cool with Sylvia. I suppose I had accepted that the inevitable was going to happen, even though I was not enamoured with the idea. Because I knew that -- in Simul's peoples' history at least -- it already had happened, and by that time in my life I was way past the point where I could be bothered to cry over spilt milk.
I just stood there, without speaking, glowering at Sylvia. Who at first looked a little nervous until Rose took a holier than thou stance in her argument with Doug, then Sylvia began to look a little more belligerent.
But then when the Sugget's eventually ran out of steam, Sylvia went on the attack and complained that I'd embarrassed her in front of everyone. That inevitably led to my retaliating.
"How have I embarrassed you Sylvia? I didn't go gallivanting off with a youngster half my age without word, and leaving my spouse behind."
Okay a complete exaggeration, those guys had to have been in their mid to late twenties and Sylvia was only thirty-two; but really, I was trying to make a point.
"George, it meant nothing. Things are different here; men and women don't get married like we do back home."
"No, they don't, Sylvia! But that's no reason to forget that you are married to me. At the moment anyway, the way you're going I can't see us being married long after we get back to our own time again."
"Oh, that's silly, George. You boys are taking this all too seriously. In a few days Adona's people will transport us back home and we'll be laughing about this together."
"If you think that, you've got another thought coming, Sylvia. Now if you don't mind I'm going to take a shower, then we'd better eat. We're going to a concert tonight."
"Concert, no. The boys told us they have an ice-skating rink in one of the domes. They are taking us..."
"Sylvia. I am going to a concert, and if you have any sense left in your head, you will come with me."
"No, George, their music is rubbish, I don't like it anyway. Why don't you come ice skating with us?"
"You have to be kidding, me go along with you, with that freak sniffing round like a dog on heat? How long do you think it would be before I wiped that smirk off his face permanently? Sylvia, you might not realise how angry I am about the way you've been behaving around those wankers, but I'm damned sure he does. I'm going to the concert, either you come with me, or you don't come. Honestly, I just don't give a damn anymore."
Our evening meal with just the four of us – our two minders trying to keep out of the way, I should imagine – was a somewhat sombre affair. You know, I don't believe any of us said more than two words during the whole meal.
But Sylvia must have been doing some thinking though, because very suddenly after the meal she started to change her position to a more conciliatory stance. I'll admit that she could only do this because I had – I suppose some folks would say childishly – switched into dumb mode. I refused to reply or react in any way when she spoke to me. Come-on fella's, we've nearly all had the missus play that card at least once in our lives; I wanted to see how Sylvia would react to the treatment.
Very oddly, I thought, Sylvia seemed to be under the impression that ... well, when push came to shove, I'd cave and go ice-skating with her, Rose and their new friends. I can only assume that she and Rose believed Douglas would do the same. A very strange conclusion for them to come to, after Douglas's violent outburst earlier, I thought.
But then, I've never claimed to be able to understand how the female mind works. I know to have gone to the ice rink, would have effectively meant total surrender of our principles. And I was also aware that -- short of actually physically stopping her -- there was nothing I could do to prevent Sylvia from going skating with those idiots, if she chose too.
I think the fact that Doug and I chose to wear togas told the girls where we were going, the same as their choice of those leggings and short dresses informed Doug and I of their decision.
However the shock on both Sylvia and Rose's faces was plain to see when Chaise and Myra arrived in the golf trolley again to pick us up.
"Did you have the front to lecture me about going ice-skating with Mol and Win, when you were intending to cavort around with those little tarts this evening?" Sylvia demanded.
"Sylvia, I invited Chaise and Myra to come with us, you and me, to the concert tonight. It's you who decided to go gallivanting elsewhere without consulting me. Now you have a choice, the concert ... or off with lover-boy. Frankly after your behaviour today, I don't give a monkey's where you go!"
There were a few moments when I'm sure that Sylvia was in two minds. But then her facial expression changed. I'd say a look of sad understanding more than anything else, came on her face. I really do believe that was the instant that Sylvia realised that she'd probably already pushed my patience too far.
"George, I'm sorry. I think I should go ice-skating with Rose, don't you?" She suddenly said.
"Sylvia, I told you, I don't give a damn what you do, from now on!"
"I'm sorry, George." she said. Then she burst into tears and ran back into the building.
"Do you wish to cancel this evening?" Chaise asked, as I climbed into the seat alongside Douglas and behind her and Myra.
"No, Chaise, it's a little too late to cancel anything. A good couple of thousand years, too late actually!"
I'm sure Douglas and Rose had had words, but to this day I do know not what transpired between them just before we left for the concert that evening. To be honest, I believe that Rose and Douglas's marriage had gone up in smoke at the same instant in time as mine really had; when our wives had chosen to do their vanishing act that morning. All that had happened afterwards, had really just been the aftermath, or dying embers.
The concert was ... well horrendous. I really did wish that I could have gone ice-skating with Sylvia. Look, their musical instruments were crude, nothing like we are used to. And the screeching noise that came out of them has to be heard to be believed. And I'm not going to even mention the vocalist.
However, Douglas and I made our mark, and -- so I'm told -- started a new trend. When the torture was finally over, out of respect and good manners, Douglas and I stood-up while we joined in the applause. It was with some embarrassment that we realised that, doing so, was unusual behaviour in their society.
But because Chaise – dressed in purple as she was – had followed our example, the people near us also stood, out of respect I believe. Well, by the time the applause faded away, everyone in the concert hall was standing. I've since been informed that is now called a 'Visitor Ovation' and has become standard procedure.
After the concert, Chaise suggested that we went to one of the many eating-places in the large dome. I won't call them restaurants because they weren't, not as we know them anyway. At no time at all did I ever see any money exchanged or even signing of chits, and no prices were ever displayed for anything. Yes, there were waiters and waitresses, but often they appeared to sit down and join the customers. And it was Myra who took our order and went of to get our food and drink. She returned with another woman carrying some of it though. I'll add that Doug and I didn't actually choose anything because we still had little understanding what anything was.
We did ask if there was any wine though, and that arrived in copious quantities. I fear, because the two girls were aware of how much of the stuff Douglas and I could put away when we chose to.
"Shall we walk for a while?" I said to Chaise once we'd left the eating-house.
"As you wish," she replied. Tucking her arm in mine when I proffered it.
Douglas and Myra followed suit, but soon dropped back behind us. We were followed I might add, at a discrete distance, by the golf trolley with its two yellow shirts sitting in the rear. However, I was ignoring those guys by then. I had other things on my mind.
"Chaise, this morning you said something that confused me, I wonder if you might clarify it in my mind?"
"If I can, I'd be delighted to, George. What did I say?"
"Well you said that you were acting as Ciera's chaperone at dinner last evening."
"Yes that's right, I always chaperone for Ciera; we are close friends."
"But why would she need a chaperone, I thought free ... Well, I thought you people had a lax attitude towards ... fraternisation between the sexes."
"Oh we do, but some of our females, well they can't become too emotionally involved, if you understand me. Or maybe I should say, that if they do, it's important that Simul gets to hear about it."
"Why is that; is it a class thing?"
"Oh my no; there are no social classes here."
"Oh, come on, Chaise, don't try to feed me that line. What's all the different colours you people dress in all about, if it's not class distinction?"
"Service to the community, George. In your time, as I understand it; you valued wealth. Your personal wealth dictated your social standing. Here, we value service to the community. I'm a nurse, and Ciera is a schoolteacher. She's a very good and dedicated schoolteacher, and I'm a highly trained nurse. For the dedication we put into our everyday work, we are rewarded with status within the community. Possessions mean nothing here, George."
"So why then, does Simul have any interest in Ciera's ... social life?"
"Well, that's a little difficult to explain. But some females are chosen to ... well they are selected as possible Simuls of the future. To fulfil that position, they have to be a little different from everyone else. We do still fall in love in our time, George. And it is possible for someone to be ... oh dear, what do you call it? I wish I was a schoolteacher, I'd probably know then. Beguiled, is that the word I'm looking for? Simul has a very difficult job. She must be strong and not easily influenced in her decisions, by anyone."
"Oh blimey, I see, your job as a nurse, is to psychoanalyse Ciera, on the quiet."
"She's my friend George, I couldn't psychoanalyse her ... although, I suppose I do really, unintentionally; we are very close friends. Actually Ciera would prefer it, if she was not a candidate. No one looks forward to being picked as Simul, George. It's the loneliest job in the world. So much responsibility, and so demanding."
"And Adona, and all these people dressed in yellow, what are you allowed to tell me about them."
"Anything you want to know. Yellow attire denotes that you are doing whatever ... at Simul's direct request, or in their name, if that makes sense. Simul doesn't give individuals orders directly. And of course they are charged with keeping the peace. There are some disagreements in our society. Some members of our society ... well they play with other people's emotions. From what I witnessed earlier, that doesn't appear to be a trait exclusive to our time."
"Ah well, as I told you yesterday, we have a society based on monogamy, and in theory we mate for life, an institution we loosely term marriage. Regretfully, all too often that turns out not to be the case."
"Well the ties that bind folks together, don't appear to be as tight as they were at one time."
"I must admit that idea sounds enchanting. One person you can become emotionally attached to and stay with ... forever?"
"That's the theory, Chaise. Doesn't always workout like that though, as you saw earlier. The only way it can work, is if you are willing to forsake all others."
"Not become attached emotionally ... or otherwise, to anyone else, Chaise."
"Sex, Chaise, you mustn't..."
"Oh yes. Sexual involvement often leads to emotional involvement, and that would ... Of course it has, hasn't it? With you and Sylvia.
"But tell me, George, what happens if you become emotionally involved with someone who's already ... well emotionally involved with someone else?"
"Oh boy, a gentleman stays well clear of another man's wife. Mind you, not every male is a gentleman even in my time."
"No, not someone else's wife, supposing that you ... what did you call it, fell in love with a female who is emotionally involved with another female."
"No, not sexually; just very close, emotionally."
"Ah, like sisters you mean, no trouble there! Well usually there isn't. Most wives have the dreaded female best friend they can chew the cud with and moan about their spouse to. Like Sylvia and Rose are best buddies, they go shopping together and everything. Providing that things stop at the emotional level and don't become ... Look really it's a kind of pride thing, when a couple get married, they are supposed to give their mind, soul, and bodies to each other, and theoretically no other person must come between them physically or mentally ... well I'm sure you get the idea."
"Oh," Chaise said with a disappointed tone to her voice. Then she went very quiet, for a very long time.
God only knows what time Doug and I got back to our digs that night, but there was no sign of either of our wives. There was still no sign of them when Myra turned up again, after Doug and I had eaten breakfast the following morning. She and Douglas were all over each other. Embarrassingly so, actually. But then the two of them promptly vanished off somewhere together.
I didn't see either of them again for the next few days. But that was because I didn't return to our digs during that time myself.
Doug and Myra hadn't been gone very long when Adona showed up, and tried his best to ... well look, the poor bugger had obviously been sent by someone to keep me company; I suspected Simul's hand, but I wasn't sure. But Adona really didn't have the people skills for that kind of thing.
Adona did look happy when he received a message on his communicator. Then – with a smile, invited me to take the same cruise on the Thames that Sylvia and Rose had taken the day before. Well, at the time I thought it was going to be the same cruise.
I could not think of a reason to refuse and immediately agreed to go. I had some fun after that, watching Adona as he jumped to it, as some unknown puppeteer's hand -- most probably Simul -- pulled his strings. He'd turn his head away from me when he spoke into his communicator trying to ensure that I didn't overhear what he was saying. No I didn't hear anyway, but basically because I wasn't bothering to try to listen.
Shortly a compact two-seater version of one of those golf trolleys arrived, and very quickly whisked the two of us out of the dome into the forest. There was no road and the craft dodged amongst the trees at breakneck speed. I'm sure one would get used to it, but I found myself trying to locate a seat belt of some sort. Adona assured me that the craft never collided with the trees or any other such similar craft.
"Oh yeah, and they said the Titanic couldn't sink, didn't they?" were the sort of thoughts passing through my mind. But I didn't voice them to Adona; he weren't the type to have understood.
Shortly the thing slowed as we came up behind a group of similar craft -- but of various sizes, some containing upwards of thirty or forty people I figured, more like golf trolley-busses – waiting in line to discharge their human cargo onto a large pleasure barge.
However our craft didn't join the rear of the queue, it picked its way amongst the trees off to one side and when it reached the riverbank, shot straight out over the water. Very disconcerting, when you weren't expecting it.
But I soon saw that there was a smaller barge lying just off the bank behind the larger. Our craft came to a standstill alongside the smaller barge so that Adona and I could literally step aboard.
The smaller vessel was without doubt a kind-of private yacht of some sort. Whereas there was no mistaking that the larger was a tourist type pleasure boat. Probably the same one that Sylvia and Rose had been on the previous day because they had said there were other people on-board. No, I don't believe that Sylvia would have lied about that. Sylvia had her faults, but she hadn't lied about anything.
I looked Adona in the eye and raised my eyebrows. He seemed to know what I was asking instinctively.
"I don't have to tell you who they are, they are waiting on the upper deck for you," he said, then promptly stepped back onto the golf trolley, which whisked him away.
Seems so silly referring to it as a golf trolley, when it had been hovering about five feet above the waters of the Thames, but what else can I call it?
I located a companionway and made my way up to the upper deck, where I found Ciera and Chaise lying on sun-loungers, dressed in very little. For some reason, my instinctive reaction was to turn away, not so that I couldn't see their almost naked bodies, more to check who was staring down at them from the much larger barge. To my surprise, the upper decks of the large barge – that was receding quite quickly by that time -- were devoid of people.
When I turned back to the girls, they were both sitting up and looking at me with confused expressions on their faces.
"You look surprised to see me," I said.
"We, er ... we had no idea you'd be on Simul's barge today as well," Chaise replied.
"I didn't know I was going to be here myself, until about ten minutes ago. Is Simul onboard?"
"Yes I am, George. May I have a moment with you alone please?" Simul's voice said from behind me, almost making me jump out of my skin,
I noted that Ciera and Chaise tried to hide the fact that they found my reaction to Simul's voice funny.
Simul pre-empted my next question. "I stay out of sight when another boat is near," she went on when I'd turned to face her, "otherwise all the partygoers feel they have to formally acknowledge my presence. Now, this way. Please, George?"
I followed Simul into an enclosed saloon at the rear of the boat that had darkened windows, obviously where she had been hiding away from her subjects gaze.
"From what Chaise tells me, you and Sylvia are ... well."
"You are correct, Simul. History as you know it, does appear to be going as you would wish it too."
"George, I really am sorry. But Chaise tells me that she fears there's going to be a problem. Oh, no she doesn't know what is predicted, she was just spilling out her troubles to her mentor this morning."
"Chaise is besotted with you, George. She says that you're like no one she's ever met before."
"Oh, so quickly?"
"Yes, and Chaise understands your anger and disappointment with Sylvia's behaviour, more than you think."
"That surprises me."
"I thought it might. But the reason she does understand is because ... well she feels great affection for Ciera, as Ciera does for Chaise. The two women have more than an emotional bond to each other. However Chaise seems to think that that bond might be an obstacle to you forming a relationship with either of them. Mind you, she hasn't voiced those concerns to me specifically."
"Oh, so that's what she was talking about last night. Chaise was asking some probing questions, I'm afraid I was being a little dense and maybe I didn't interpret them as I should have done. Yes, there is a certain taboo and always has been about same-sex relationships in my time. Up until this moment the idea of being with a female who is ... emotionally involved with another female, has never crossed my mind.
"Anyway, I know that you told me that both of them will return with me but ... Well, I assumed that Ciera would be ... Oh god, what would you call it? The first..."
"Ah now, George. I'd say that 'if' your relationship with both of them is going to work, then you have to understand that there can be no first or second in your mind. Sorry no, in your heart; it's your heart that your people say guides you emotionally, isn't it?"
"You are so right, Kay. But I thought, that I'd fall for Ciera first, but last night..."
"You found yourself become emotionally attached ... maybe even falling in love with Chaise."
"Well yes, I believe I did."
Simul stood and said nothing for some moments, obviously thinking. Well I thought she was.
Then suddenly she said, "He'll have to know!"
"Who will?" I asked.
"You will, George," she smiled at me. "George, Ciera and Chaise are a little different to the vast majority of people. They have ... well, a gift we call it. They aren't really so much emotionally involved, as mentally."
"Yes, this is going to be a hard one for you to accept, George. But we think it's the reason both of them go back with you to your time and not just one of them. Let us try to put it this way, if Ciera falls in love with you, Chaise will do so at the same time. You see they sense each others emotions and they can ... well sense, or rather feel each others thoughts."
The realisation of what she was saying sprang into my mind.
"They're telepaths; they can read my mind?"
"No, George, they can't read yours or anyone else's mind. Although they can sense your emotions when you are in their presence. Your alarm, or concern that people might have been looking at them in a state of undress just now, for instance ... they felt that quickly enough; as I did!
"However they can sense each other's mind much more acutely, and very often they can interpret each other's thoughts. And any other ... telepath who lets them as well. Our experts believe that it is a sense that every human once had, but one that, for some reason, lies dormant in most people. In fifteen percent of people here, it's no longer dormant and from those few, prospective Simuls are selected at an early age."
"Ah, I think I'm beginning to understand. There isn't just one Simul is there?"
"No, there are ten of us at present."
"And you are all strong telepaths, and you are in communication with each other all the time."
"No stronger than Ciera, George; but we are nurtured and trained to enhance the sense by other Simuls from a young age. When you speak to me, you are effectively speaking to all of us at the same time. But not actually in words George, the other Simul's are aware of the electrical impulses in my brain, my reactions to what you do and say. Thought patterns are a little complicated to explain.
"Ciera and Chaise, when they are close to each other, are aware of each other's minds as well. When one feels alarm the other does at the same instant. She might not know why, but she senses her friend's concern."
"And George, in Ciera and Chaise's case, when one of them feels attraction to another human, the other does as well. Those two are remarkably well matched, mentally. Mind you, they have grown up together, they shared the same brood group."
"Brood group?" I asked.