Author: DJ Lunan

Barden loved Saturday mornings, rambling with his young daughter through the deciduous forest. Perpetually wet underfoot, the forest always kept the eight-year-old entertained.

“Look! Dad!” shrilled Megan. “Someone’s dropped their train ticket!”. She peered precariously at the litter next to a large muddy puddle, “And it says Guildford!”.

Barden frowned, “Megan, leave it, it will be dirty and you may fall in”.

Megan was already stooping expertly to collect it. She proudly handed Barden the sodden ticket, covered in wet mud, “See… Guildford!”.

“Thanks, love, now race you to the climbing tree”. Megan squelched a hasty path to a partially fallen sycamore and started scaling it.

The ticket was stiff and hard, and thinking it might be a valuable season pass, Barden cleaned the ticket’s face with his handkerchief, revealing a purple background with raised silver lettering stating: Guildford (Verger) – Bordeaux (Gravité), Vacuum Avion, Premier Classe, RETOUR, 37e Avril 2053, EU$459. Against the purple background was a subtle animated clip in yellow depicting a passenger jet ascending vertically behind a church before accelerating into the distance, trailing the words ‘Chaque quinze minutes de GV à BG et au-delà’.

Barden was baffled by the astounding technology and the French. Surely a promotional gimmick, but for what?

The sound of rotting branches giving way was accompanied by Megan squawking, hitting the ground with a wet ‘thunk’. Barden stuffed the ticket in his trouser pocket and sprinted to pluck her from the mud.

Barden was wet and muddy after carrying Megan to their car. She stopped sobbing when he promised her cake, imploring irresistibly, “Can we go to The Dabbling Duck? I want lemon cake!”. “Me too!” replied Barden.

At sunset, after their hot chocolate and cake, Barden and Megan held hands returning to the car as the hush of the English Countryside fell, amplifying both their boots clacking along the lane and their inane chatter.

“Mummy loves this little village” he divulged, “She loves cake you mean!” came her whip-smart reply.

Barden stopped abruptly, squinting through the final sunrays at the 13th Century Church. Megan continued tottering up the path, shouting “Come on lazybones”.

His mouth agog, he fumbled for the purple ticket, held it in front of his face. The animation perfectly matched the church, albeit without a launching jet. “Hang on Meg, let’s walk around the side of the church”.

Adjoining the church was not a landing strip or helipad, but a small thatched cottage with a working orchard.

A young estate agent was erecting a For Sale sign in the garden. Barden waved politely.

“Afternoon sir, are you interested in buying a farmhouse?” inquired the agent.

Barden hesitated, half-tempted to tell his intriguing story, expose his purple ticket to some public scrutiny.

“You can go in and look, it’s open and empty, the Jones’ have moved on”.

Megan skipped through the gate, Barden followed. Up close, it was every inch a Fairy-tale cottage of his dreams. Megan bounded through the door, muddy footprints on the clean tiles, her delighted screams echoing, ”Daddy, I love it!”.

Barden’s excitement was building, and wasn’t deflated by the dank smell indicating ancient mould, persistent damp, and rotting timbers.

Megan screeched, bounding into the room, “Daddy, look, I’ve found another train ticket!”

She proudly handed over a second purple ticket, “Look! it says Megan”.

He read the purple ticket ‘Carte d’identité: Megan Barden-Jones, âge 43’.

Barden shuddered, wobbled, the blood draining from his face. He pursed his lips and knelt.

“What is it, Daddy?”

“Pumpkin, I think we’d better show Mummy this house. And find us all some French lessons.”