Through My Eyes. Again
Chapter 1

Copyright© 2020 by Iskander

Saturday, 13th October 1962

He stood there, on the far side of the railway line, hidden from view by the untrimmed growth along the fence line. The public footpath slanted on up the hill towards the woods at the crest. Was this the place? Or should he climb to the greater privacy of the woods ... but the climb was in full view from below.

No, here would have to do.

If he delayed, he could lose his resolve. Shrugging off his coat, he retrieved the drawing compass from his school bag, its newly sharpened point glinting in the thin October sunlight. No knife, so no single smooth slice to a fast fade; it would have to be multiple punctures, the extra pain his reward.

He let the school bag slither to the ground and sank back into the matted grass edging the scrub. The thick wool of the school jersey slid easily up his arm. The diagrams of the wrist and forearm in his mother’s anatomy text were clear in his mind. The needle-like point of the compass teased his skin and he wondered how many punctures he would need. Would he need to do both arms? Possibly, so he slid his right jersey sleeve up past the elbow as well.

He would probably cry out with each plunge and so needed the camouflage of a passing train. A strange sense of detachment slipped over him and his mind drifted until he heard the distant clatter of an approaching train, its low speed and loud clanking marking it as a goods train – perfect.

The point poised over the first chosen spot and the train noise grew. Just a bit closer ... the point pressed down slowly, ready for the first swift puncture.


I jerked in surprise, pricking my skin with the compass in my hands. A bead of blood formed on my wrist and, instinctively I leaned forward to lick it, but stopped in shock when I realised my wrist ... was not my wrist: no greying hair and age-marred skin.

And yet – it was the wrist of this body: it flexed when I told it to flex.

I licked the bead of blood, feeling my tongue on my skin and the sting of my saliva in the tiny puncture. The lick left a smear in which a smaller bead started to form. I rotated my hands – fresh, pale skin with none of the blotches and well-known scars from seventy years of living.

I looked up and saw the hill crowned with woodland and the footpath climbing to lose itself in the autumnal russets and yellows. From deep in my brain, surging to the surface came the memory: the hill behind my junior school.

My last recollection was relaxing quietly, half a world away with a glass of Australian Shiraz beside me. I must have dozed off and be dreaming. But no dream had ever been this sharply drawn before, each strand of yellowing grass crushed under my feet executed in complete perfection. What had stirred this distant memory to surface with such preternatural detail?

And that thought brought me to a halt: whilst dreaming, I’m critiquing my dream?

I sat there looking around, expecting the dream to spiral away, but nothing happened. Only the quiet breeze whispering, gradually chilling my bare arms and legs. Minutes passed. Another train slipped into my world, building to a crescendo and then rushing away.

I surveyed my body – skinny legs sticking out of grey corduroy shorts, grey knee-length socks, black lace-up shoes, glasses on my face: such a youthful body, the body of my youth – and it had been about to spike its arteries. The dark emotions of my younger self flooded me with their bitter tide. My head jerked up and I felt tears running down my cheeks – the school bullies, my father’s beatings, my impotent rages, my loneliness. Eyes closed, I took a stuttering breath. The rawness of the emotions was agonisingly sharp to a seventy-year-old.

And I knew when I was as well as where: my first contemplation of suicide, aged twelve years. But then, I had only thought about it and it had happened on the other side of the railway tracks.

Dream or nightmare, this was different.

I suppose I could have sat there by the railway line and waited to see what happened, but I was starting to feel cold: time to go. If this were a dream, it could end somewhere else just as well as here.

I was still clutching the compass, so I opened my school satchel and dropped it in, slid my jumper sleeves down to my wrists, donned the blue school mackintosh and cap and set off, back across the railway line and through the village to the bus stop. I was hoping for a number 7 bus, which would take me within a couple of hundred yards of my house, but what came was a number 6, which meant a mile walk, with a steep climb to get home. I sighed and went up to the top deck. The conductor eventually followed me.

“Tickets please!” Her lilting West Indian accent still a novelty in the rural Kent of 1962.

For a moment, I froze and the conductor’s sunny smile started to fade to a questioning look, but then my twelve-year-old brain served up the knowledge of my season ticket in its leather case firmly attached by a cord to a button in my left-hand coat pocket. I dragged it out and the smile returned as she moved on.

Shoving away the season ticket, I wondered what else I had about me. My pockets turned up only fluff and a handkerchief, so I opened my school bag: a French text, a Latin text, Caesar’s De Bello Gallico, several exercise books: opening one of these revealed my awful handwriting. I felt my stomach clench – my father goes wild about this.

Goes wild?

My twelve-year-old brain was telling me he would be waiting for me at home, ready to thrash me for even a perceived transgression. But twenty-five years ago, I had insisted on viewing my father in his coffin: I had to see his corpse, to know it was finished. This dream was so confusing.

I dived back into the bag and found the Horse and his Boy, my favourite from the Narnia series. I escaped into that for the rest of the journey, refreshing my memory of Bree, Hwin and their riders Shasta and Aravis, trying to shed some of the turmoil I felt.

I kept an eye on the passing countryside and my twelve-year-old brain warned me to pack up and head downstairs for my stop at the foot of Mickleburgh Hill. I hated coming home this way, but the number 7 bus was only once an hour and so I frequently ended up on the more numerous number 6. Climbing the hill, my satchel banged annoyingly against my thigh until I remembered to hook the strap over the opposite shoulder. After the climb, the road flattened out before I turned down my street.

About halfway to our house, a boy was sitting on a low wall, idly kicking his heels into the bricks. He glanced up once as I approached and then went on staring at his feet as they banged on the wall. I stopped – anything to delay the arrival home.

“You are new around here,” I said, realising I had never seen him before, in either of my worlds. He wasn’t part of my memories at all.

His eyes narrowed, quizzically. The feet stopped. He looked up, staring at me with his wide, almost black eyes. “Neu ... new... Ja!”

He was speaking ... German. I had learned German in senior school.

“D ... umm.” I had nearly replied in German – but my twelve-year-old self didn’t speak German. “Ummm ... who are you?” I spoke slowly as I had the impression he spoke very little English.

He gave me an unblinking stare for a second or so and then jumped off the wall and headed rapidly back down the road in the direction I had come. I almost called after him, but I couldn’t think what to say in English that he might understand. I watched him turn the corner at the end of the road without a backward glance. This was getting strange. I had never met or even known of a German-speaking boy around here. I looked around me and it certainly seemed like the world of my childhood but at the same time, it clearly wasn’t. The strangeness of this dream was rising. What would I find at home – my mother, father and sister or some complete strangers who would throw me back on the street? Was this reality or a dream?

The kitchen lights were on and I walked warily towards the back door. A head sporting a long pigtail appeared in the window and turned, looking out. It was my bossy older sister as I remembered her as a teenager. She saw me and I saw her dismissive sniff of recognition. I climbed the two steps and opened the back door.

My father was seated at the kitchen table, so young, so menacing as he leaned forward.

“Why are you so late?” His flat voice snapped out the question.

Our final physical confrontation, one Christmas day when I was fifteen, crashed into my consciousness. Then, I had silently urged him to just touch me and I imagined I would hammer him but he had turned away and backed down.

But now, I was too small and all the angst and anguish that drove my afternoon’s decision flared through my brain, swamping any control my seventy-year-old self tried to impose. Suddenly I was crying impotently and fled through the house pursued by my father’s yells, up the stairs to my bedroom. Slamming the door behind me I threw myself on my bed and sobbed.

It was dark when the bedroom door opened and light from the landing crept in, wakening me. I lay still. The slight swish of a skirt told me it was my mother. I felt her hand lightly touch my shoulder. I must have flinched but I remained curled around my satchel, still wearing my coat.

“Will, do you want to come down for supper?”

I shook my head.

“Shall I bring you something here, then?” My stomach lurched and, again, I shook my head.

After a few seconds, I felt her hand leave my shoulder and with the same faint swish of a skirt, she left. The room descended into darkness as she closed the door and a terrible fear claimed me. I simply could not go through my childhood again. Even with a seventy-year-old perched on my shoulder I didn’t think I could do it. I would make sure I had a knife next time.

But ... was there a way back from here? I had to hope so. If this were a dream – what would happen if I went to sleep? Would I wake up from my doze, reach out and find that glass of Shiraz? If I killed myself here would I wake up there? Had I had a heart attack and died back in my old world – and what did that mean if I killed myself here? What importance did the differences between what I remembered and what I saw in this world have? My brain swirled with questions that had no answer.

Lying there I became increasingly uncomfortable, so I crept over and cracked open the door. I could hear muffled voices from downstairs. I took advantage of the quiet and got ready for bed, pulled the covers over me and finally drifted back to sleep.

Waking, I looked round at my childhood bedroom. No glass of Shiraz for me – I hadn’t gone back. I lay in bed, immobilised by my crushed hope and this truly strange situation.

I could hear my parents heading out for early communion. The front door closed and I heard the car crunch across the gravel drive. I decided to make my escape, to find time and space to think. Dressing quickly, I scuttled downstairs to find my sister preparing breakfast. I grabbed a couple of slices of bread, slapped on some lime marmalade, slipped an apple into my pocket...

My sister walked back into the kitchen. “Hey! What are you doing?”

“I’m going out. I won’t be back until after lunch. Bye!” And I flew out of the door, down the garden, across the back fence and into the field. Would my childhood sanctuary be here in this world?

The marmalade sandwich was a bit grubby from its encounter with the fence, but I was starving, so I ate as I walked down the field.

Three houses down the road had been a large, partially derelict house with a huge overgrown garden that marked the eastern boundary of the field behind our house. This was my private escape – specifically the massive cedar tree. I could lie back and hide, high in its enfolding arms, invisible from below – and, with considerable relief, I could see its top branches rising above the other trees in the garden as I walked down the field. I clambered over the rickety fence and pushed through the overgrown shrubs to the tree. It was so big and spread so wide that, under its shading arms, nothing could grow through the thick carpet of old needles.

I wiped my slightly sticky fingers in the long, dewy grass at the edge of its shade and walked in beneath it. There was only one way into the tree which required some acrobatics. I reached up and grabbed the lowest branch in both hands, swinging my feet up to catch the branch. I scrambled round the branch and started the climb.

I was reaching for the last branch before the fork when a head poked out just above me. This was so startling that I almost lost my footing, waving my reaching hand to regain my balance, but a hand clasped mine, placing it safely on the branch.

Vorsicht.” It was the German boy.

Those large, black eyes looked down at me. For a few seconds we just stared at one another and then I hauled myself up. We sat in the fork, each leaning back against a spreading branch. He was the same height as me but slender, wearing long, grey trousers and a blue jumper over a grey shirt. His hair was longer than my short back and sides. Mine, however, was blandly mouse-brown whilst his was black and glossy, matching his eyes. His features were delicate and his skin quite pale.

He flicked his long fringe out of his eyes and tapped his chest. “Col.”

Oh, my god – my friend, Colin – Col, but he was English, well half English, half Canadian. In this world, Colin was German?

Bewildered, I tapped my chest. “William ... Will.”

He smiled. “Ach so! Willi!” He pronounced it Villi as the Germans say the name.

“Wo wohnst du? Wo ist dein Haus?” He wanted to know where I lived. I was trying hard to appear uncomprehending, as my brain was gyrating around this huge anomaly.

“House?”

Ja. Dein ... you... Haus?”

I waved vaguely through the cedar branches to where I could see part of our roof.

“Ummm ... you?” I was still not thinking very clearly.

He pointed in the opposite direction, across some vacant land to houses along Sea View Road and I nodded. He did not look at all like my Colin, who had been (or perhaps is?) blond-haired and blue-eyed. I knew where my Col lived and it wasn’t in Sea View Road.

Col was eyeing me speculatively as all this bounced around in my head.

“You are new here!” I eventually said, in a somewhat accusatory tone as if it was his fault, he wasn’t my Colin.

“New ... here?” he nodded, pronouncing the words ponderously. “Yes... zwei Wochen ... two...” he held up two fingers and then shrugged, lost for the right word.

I paused, as my brain started working again. I held up seven fingers. “Week?”

He looked at my fingers. “Ja, Woche ... aber zwei ... two.” He held up seven fingers, twice.

I nodded, “Week is Woche!” carefully mispronouncing it Wocke.

Ja – aber Woche, Woche!” He slowly emphasised the German ‘ch’ sound which doesn’t exist in English.

“Woche, Woche,” I copied and then looked at him and said “Week.”

“Veek.” I smiled and corrected him, making much of the shape of the lips for the ‘w’ sound, which doesn’t exist in German.

“Veek!” Again, I smiled at him, shaking my head,

We leaned back against the tree, appraising one another – and I heard my father’s voice in the distance. He knew I used the overgrown garden as a sanctuary.

“William! William! Where are you!

I leaned across and clamped my hand over Col’s mouth.

“Shh!” I whispered. Col’s eyes stared into mine over my hand. After a moment, he nodded and then, gently but firmly, pulled my hand from his face. Col must have felt the tremor in it and looked back into my eyes, recognising the fear there.

We sat in silence as my father searched the garden below, calling out for me. After a few minutes, he swore loudly and headed back to the house. Moving carefully in the tree, we watched him climb back over the fence and walk quickly back across the field.

We sat back down and Col searched my face.

“That’s my father,” I admitted, looking away in embarrassment.

“You... Vater?”

“Father, yes.”

Col again searched my face for several seconds. “Du hast auch Angst vor deinem Vater.“ He murmured.

I frowned, pretending not to understand – but he must also fear his father. Another difference: my Colin’s father had died before I met Colin. We sat for a while, each tasting our private fear. After a minute or so, Col reached a decision. He leaned across, grabbing my hand.

Komm.“ he said, pointing in the direction of his house and then started clambering down the tree.

Komm, Willi!“ he said, glancing back up, seeing I had not started down.

I looked through the branches towards my house. My father would be back, looking for me after Matins. It would be safer if I were somewhere else, so I followed Col down.

He led me through the garden, now settling down for winter after its late summer riot of untamed blackberries and sun-warmed apples. We slipped through a decaying fence into a vacant block which backed on to a row of houses. He showed me how to clamber over one of these back fences and led me up to the back door.

“Mutti! Mutti!” Col pushed open the door and walked into the kitchen. I paused on the steps, unsure of what to do. A woman younger than my mother, with the same dark hair, dark eyes and pale skin as Col appeared. Her eyes travelled past Col and saw me in the doorway.

Col, Was machst du?” Her voice sounded anxious. I half turned away, ready to make my escape back across the fence. I did not need any more trouble in my life.

Mutti, ich habe einen Freund gefunden. Er heißt Willi.”

Col’s mother looked at Col, then me.

“Welcome, Willi, come in please.” Her English was good, only slightly accented, pronouncing my name the German way. I stepped hesitantly through the doorway.

“Please shut the door, it is a bit cold today.” I did so, standing with my back to the door, my hand still on the doorknob: I could feel some undercurrent in the room.

Col turned to his mother and started a rapid-fire conversation that my rusty German could only follow in part, but I did pick up “friend”, “father” and “fear”. During the brief conversation, Col’s mother glanced at me several times. Finally, she held up a hand, stopping Col. He tried to carry on. She held up her hand again “Genug.”

“Willi, I am Frau Schmidt, Col’s mother. Perhaps you would like to join us for some milk and a biscuit?” Col visibly relaxed at Frau Schmidt’s welcoming, if incomprehensible, words.

I nodded. I realised my twelve-year-old body had eaten precious little since lunch at school the day before. Frau Schmidt indicated a chair at the kitchen table and Col sat opposite me. Shortly, a plate with half a dozen plain biscuits appeared along with two glasses of milk.

I felt the apple in my pocket and retrieved it. “Would you like half my apple, Col?”

Frau Schmidt’s lips curled into a hint of a smile. “Er möchte seinen Apfel mit dir teilen, Col.”

Col nodded and I saw the smile for me in his eyes. A frisson ran through me and I saw Col’s eyes widen momentarily at my reaction. My Col had been my closest, really my only friend. Would that friendship happen again with this very different Col?

“So – eat.” She smiled, placing two quarter apples on each of our plates.

As we munched, Frau Schmidt gently drew me out whilst all the while Col listened, his eyes flicking between us as Frau Schmidt translated what I was saying. She soon discovered I lived nearby, had an older sister and my mother was a doctor.

“And your father?” Col leaned in. There was clearly something about fathers.

My father ... I sat, emotions welling up inside me. I knew I was in trouble and that I had to face it but I was fast approaching panic at the thought of reliving this life. I struggled to control myself but could feel the black tide roaring in. I jumped up, sending my chair crashing to the floor and ran for the door into the garden. In my confusion, I tried to push the door rather than pull it and I stood there pushing futilely at the door, tears streaming down my face.

Arms gently but firmly folded around me and for a moment I struggled against them.

“Shhh, shhh.” was murmured into my ear. “Shhh, shhh.”

Sobbing, I was half carried, half led through into the sitting room, where Frau Schmidt placed me on her lap and cuddled me, rocking me gently. After a while, I managed to calm down a bit. I felt safe, encircled by warm, caring arms. I opened my eyes to see Col sitting half turned towards me, his head leaning on his mother’s shoulder, eyes full of understanding.

Frau Schmidt felt me stir and saw me looking at Col.

“We have trouble with Col’s father and he must not know we are here.” I could hear the tension in her voice. She sighed, softly, and looked down at me. The radio was playing a quiet piece for piano and orchestra, so gentle and peaceful – the slow movement from the Emperor Concerto, my old brain announced.

“Perhaps you can tell me about your father another time.”

She felt me tense. “Shhh ... shhh... bleib ruhig ... stay calm, Willi.”

We sat there on the couch for a while, the human contact providing comfort with the music spreading its calming influence. Finally, Frau Schmidt gave me a gentle squeeze and asked if I was hungry. I nodded and clambered off her lap as she stood and went into the kitchen. Col and I followed, sitting at the table finishing the biscuits and milk as she put some soup on to warm and buttered some crusty rolls. At first, I didn’t feel very hungry, but the thick chicken soup settled my stomach and I dug into the crusty rolls, following Col’s lead in dunking them in the soup, giving a delicious combination of soft and crunchy textures. As I finished my bowl, Frau Schmidt smiled and ladled in another serving.

“Thank you.”

Wachsende Kinder... Growing children.” She laughed.

When we finally finished, Frau Schmidt looked at me.

“Do your parents know where you are, Willi?”

I looked away.

“Willi?”

I turned back and saw only sympathy and kindness in her eyes. I shook my head.

“Well, I think we had better get you home, don’t you? Your mother will be worried about you.”

I closed my eyes and fought down my young brain’s panic.

Komm, Col, wir werden ihn nach Hause bringen.”

Col stretched across the table, putting his hand on mine. “Du wirst es nicht verstehen, aber du kannst zurückkommen wann immer du willst.”

Oh, Col, I do understand – and thank you, I truly want to come back to this gentle, welcoming house. I struggled to keep my face emotionless when I felt intense gratitude for the kindness raining softly down on me.

Frau Schmidt smiled. “Col invited you to visit us whenever you can.” I gave Col a heartfelt glance, full of gratitude, noticing that she had changed ‘want’ to ‘can’.

Col, benötigst du einen Mantel?“ (Col, do you need a coat?)

Col shook his head and Frau Schmidt rose and pulled on her coat and hat. Leading us out of the house, she carefully took a hand from each of us, stopping when we reached the gate.

“Which way, Willi?” I lead them along Sea View Road, around the corner and along to my house. One house short of our destination, I stopped and pointed. Frau Schmidt looked down at me with an encouraging smile, but keeping a firm grasp on my hand, lead us to the front door.

Col, läute an der Türklingel.“ (Col, ring the bell.)

Col reached up and pressed the doorbell. After a few seconds, my father opened the door. He was startled to see me in the company of a strange woman but soon resumed his usual glower at me.

“Willi has been with my son and me. He was very upset about something and I thought it best he calmed down before I brought him home.”

My father just stared, rudely. My mother appeared behind him, paused as she looked us over, and then pushed past.

“I’m sorry, please come in.”

My father was not pleased but stood aside and we followed my mother into the sitting room. My mother looked at Frau Schmidt who glanced at me.

“Will, perhaps you can show your friend your room,” my mother suggested.

Bitte, geh mit Willi.” (Go with Willi, please).

I looked at Col, holding my hand out to him.

Frau Schmidt turned to my mother. “Col, my son, does not yet speak English. We have been here only a few weeks.”

I lead us out, closing the door behind me. Upstairs, Col looked round my room. Hanging from the ceiling were my prize Airfix models of a Spitfire on the tail of an Me 109. I felt embarrassed at this, flaunting Germany’s defeat at a German boy. Then I realised that on my bookshelves were lined up a dozen or more Biggles books, all featuring images of German defeat at the hands of RAF and RFC across two world wars. Col did not seem upset. Perhaps he did not understand.

Col continued his inspection, noting the bed was the only place to sit, and then sat cross-legged on the carpet. Rather than sit on the bed, I sat down opposite him. As far as he knew, we shared no language, but I was aching to talk, to find out about him and his mother. He searched my face and then leaned across and took my hands in his.

Willi und Col ... Freunde?

“Friends?”

“Yes... Freunde ... friends.”

He looked away with a frown. “Ich soll schnell Englisch lernen.” (I must learn English quickly.)

I squeezed his hand. “You must learn English and I must learn German... Deutsch?”

He looked at me questioningly, “You spick Deutsch?”

“I will learn – and you will learn English!”

He laughed and an idea came to me. I jumped up and grabbed my school atlas off the shelf. Flicking pages, I came to the map of Europe. I pointed to the two of us and where we were in England and then pointed to Germany.

“Where are you from?”

Col paused. looking at me. I had the feeling he was assessing me. Then, murmuring “Freunde”, almost as if reassuring himself, he finally pointed at Leipzig. He looked back up at me, seeking my reaction. For my seventy-year-old self, the Wall had come down and Germany had been unified for thirty years. The old DDR (East Germany) along with the entire Soviet block was now history. But here in 1962, the Cold War was very real ... and I started to wonder about Frau Schmidt and her son. Clearly, Col had expected me to react, perhaps in an unfriendly fashion. Who were they and what were they doing in England?

I looked up at Col and smiled – friendship now was far more important than some long-dead (if strangely still current) global rivalry. “Leipzig,” I said, carefully pronouncing it the English way. “Freunde.“ I repeated back to him.

He smiled and I saw his body relax a tension I had not realised was there.

Suddenly, squeezing my hand he pointed at my head “Kopf!” I realised what he was doing.

“Head!” I replied and we started on the process of learning to speak each other’s language. I tried hard not to ‘learn’ too quickly, but I’m sure my enthusiasm ran away with me a bit.

After about half an hour, my mother and Frau Schmidt appeared in the doorway. Smiling at me, Col pointed at me and at objects around the room saying the English word and I chimed in with the German. Together, we ran through about thirty words, occasionally helping each other as we stumbled.

Ach, Willi, you speak German well!” I wondered if my unusually good accent for a novice had given me away.

“Will is learning French and Latin at school and he has a good ear for music ... so perhaps that helps,” said my mother. “Anyhow Will, Col and Frau Schmidt are leaving now.”

I felt my buried panic well up at my father’s probable reaction to today’s absence. Both Col and Frau Schmidt sensed this. Col held my hand tighter, searching my face with concern. Frau Schmidt knelt beside us, placing her hand on my shoulder.

“Willi, you are welcome at our house. Please come and help Col learn English – and we will help you learn German.” She looked up at my mother. “I am certain that will be OK?”

My mother looked between us. She knew that as Col lived close by her permission or lack of it would not really matter to my twelve-year-old-self. But I knew it would matter to Frau Schmidt – and my father.

My mother looked at me. “You must let us know where you are. You are not to just disappear!”

Swallowing, I nodded.

“Right.” She gave me a meaningful look. “Time to see your friend out.”

We descended to the hall, where my father was standing, waiting.

“Frau Schmidt and I have agreed that Will and Col can spend time together here and at their house. It will be good for both boys’ language skills.” I realised that my mother had neatly outflanked my father. His face hardened but he was unwilling to make a scene in front of strangers. He managed to shake Frau Schmidt’s hand as my mother ushered her and Col to the door.

“Thank you so much, Frau Doktor Johnstone.” Frau Schmidt looked at Col, raising an eyebrow.

Vielen Dank, Frau Doktor Johnstone.

Bitte sehr.

I turned in surprise. My mother spoke German? She laughed, slightly embarrassed, “I learnt a little German in school before the war...”

Frau Schmidt smiled and, turning, walked with Col down the drive. As they reached the gate, I rushed after them. “Please, can I come round, when I get back from school tomorrow?”

Frau Schmidt looked over at my mother, who nodded.

Returning inside, I hurried past my father and up to my room. Nothing was settled with my father, but I felt that I had an ally in Frau Schmidt. I also had a friend, but not the one I remembered. A different friend in what was clearly a different world, at least in some small details.

I managed to negotiate the rest of the day without my father exploding at me and that night, safely in bed, I curled myself around this strange, new friendship, revelling in its gentle warmth. At the same time, the discovery of Col had shown me that this world I was in was definitely not the same world that I had lived in. What did these slowly accruing differences mean? If this were a dream, I could understand the differences, but this was like no other dream I had ever had.

Sleep came, eventually.

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