Chapter 9 – Like Alice Through The Looking Glass

From Peel Forrest they drove south through Timaru to Omaru. There had been no mobile phone service whilst they were tucked away in the hills and as soon as they reached State Highway 1, both of their phones chimed repetitively. Molly and Will giggled, how quickly they had become accustomed to the quietness of living without phone reception and internet! Refusing to look at her phone just yet, Molly suggested they stop at a cafe for a break and check their messages then. Over lunch and coffee, the two of them read their messages and listened to the voicemails. They both had one each from Tom, Molly had several text messages from Anna, and one from her mum. She didn’t realise that they would be out of phone reception and by the time they were, there was nothing she could do to let them know. There was a little concern from Anna and Tessa, so Molly sent them a quick message each explaining what had happened. She told Anna that she would call her later that afternoon once they had settled into their motel room, before dinner.

Around mid afternoon, Molly and Will checked into a little motel in Alma on the southern side of Omaru. They had decided to have dinner in and catch up with friends and family. They planned to explore Omaru the next day. After unpacking what they needed for a couple of days, Molly called Anna. Once Anna had given Molly a roasting for not letting her know that they would be out of phone reception, Anna announced she had some ‘bad’ news. Molly’s heart started racing with anticipation of what this could be. When Anna finished explaining to her about the leaking roof, Molly laughed. “Is that it?!” she exclaimed, somewhat relieved. 

“Yeah, but Molly, you haven’t seen the quotes yet!” Anna retorted. “Oh my god! Can you believe it? I’ll send them to your email.”

“Oh stop being a drama queen Anna – just tell me now.”

“Well…..for the repairs to the actual leak, you would be looking at around $5,000. Or the same company can replace the roof for $30,000.

“Hmmm….I’ll have a chat with Will and let you know. Is there anything which needs to be done straight away?” Molly enquired.

“No, the guys that gave us this quote offered to cover the leaking area with a large tarpaulin.”

“As I said, I will get back to you after I have discussed it with Will. Any hoo, how are you Honey and do tell… how are things with Patrick?”

Molly felt Anna’s energy shift. “Oh Molly, you would not believe just how amazing this is. I cannot thank you enough for inviting me to come and stay here. My life will never be the same again – thank god. And thanks Grace!” 

The girls chatted on for some time. Having finished his messages and phone calls, Will decided to take care of dinner. When Molly got off the phone, he said, “Uncle Tom sends his love and says he is looking forward to reading your stories and taking a look at the photos I will draw from, to have a good break but hurry up because he can’t wait much longer! How is Anna and our home?” He asked, whilst he attended to making a stir fry for their dinner.

“Do we have any wine?” asked Molly, to which Will replied, “there is a bottle of white in the fridge, will go nice with the chicken in Thai green curry.” 

“Mmmmm, shall I pour a glass now? It might help soften some news from Anna.”

“Oh god, she’s not pregnant, is she?” To which they both burst out laughing at the very  possibility of this suggestion.

“Ummm….noooo, I don’t think so. But there is something regarding the house that needs our attention, so I will give it to you straight. Sounds like we need a new roof.” But Will did not respond in the way Molly had expected.

“Yeah, I thought as much. We have been postponing this since we moved in. I am surprised it has held together this long. Besides, Patrick told me the other night.”

“What! Will Ferguson! And you never told me?” She squealed, slapping him playfully across his shoulder. 

“Well, I was wanting Anna to do her part first. But now I guess it really needs our attention. What shall we do Molly?”

“New roof of course!” stated Molly very matter of factly, as she opened the bottle of wine.

“But Honey do you realise how much that may cost? Where will we get that kind of money from?”

“I don’t know yet, but I have a strong feeling we will find it, somehow. Can you trust me with this? Better still, let’s work on it together. Can you imagine the feeling of seeing a new roof on our house?”

“Molly…are you sure you have not been talking to Patrick about this?”

“No!” replied Molly surprised. “The idea just came to me now. Well…Will, can you?”

“Have already done it with Patrick the other night.” Again Molly slapped him playfully on the other shoulder, “William Ferguson, you are full of surprises!” Standing behind him, she wrapped her hands around his waist, pulling her body close to his and kissing the back of his neck. He switched off the gas stove, turned around and picked Molly up in his arms and carried her over to the bed. “Dinner can wait….” He whispered to her, kissing her neck, as his hands untucked the t-shirt from her denim shorts, searching for the catch of her bra….

The next morning Molly and Will decided to find a cafe in Omaru for brunch, having had a light breakfast before heading out. The architecture in Omaru is what drew them there. Tall, grand official buildings made of locally quarried limestone, known nationally as Omaru Stone. This is also favoured by stone carvers around the country, but here in this small city, many of the buildings and houses have been constructed with it. Earthquakes are not often felt this far south, nothing substantial anyway, therefore many of the original buildings are still standing and in use. After brunch they followed the signs to The Victorian Precinct, having no idea what they were in for, and in more ways than one!

Walking around the corner from the main street, the buildings changed. Somewhat smaller and more of an industrial design, the streets were tar-sealed with cobbled gutters. They felt like they had stepped through a Crack in Time, back into the 1800’s. The shops in the Victorian Precinct had been refurbished to look as it had done in the 1800’s. There was a Christmas Shop, a Costume Hire, even a wheel wright, black smith and rocking horse maker! Until late in the afternoon, they explored the shops in this special part of town and The Steam Punk Museum which is a must for anyone visiting the area.

They stopped by the supermarket on the way back to the motel for some ingredients for dinner. Walking through the automatic door, Molly felt her head swooning, nausea hit the back of her throat. “O-oh”, she thought as she grabbed Will’s arm and she tried to stop herself from spinning. Will stopped walking and looked at her with concern, “You ok Babe? Do you need to sit down?”

“No fuss, it will pass…I sense I presence,” Molly whispered, trying to laugh it off. And she was right, there was a whole group of Spirit People following them around the supermarket. What a surprise if anyone else could see what she could see! All of these people looking like they were in period costumes, parading up and down the aisle with them! Molly felt head achy, slightly dizzy and her vision was a little blurred. She reached into her bag for the Rescue Remedy and took a dose. Instantly she began to feel better. 

After dinner, the couple focussed their attention to the work for Tom, Will had already begun the art work for the first portrait. Just after midnight, Molly caught herself nodding. Having been lost in her work, she had not even noticed that Will had snuck into bed already.  She cleaned her teeth and slipped into bed next to him, snuggling up behind, he barely moved. But she was woken at 2am unable to sleep. Molly felt the room buzzing with energy and she could see bright flashes of light which danced in the darkness. She knew she was not alone. Closing her eyes, she imagined standing at the bottom of the stairs to The Attic. The transition from the Physical World to The Attic became easier and quicker each time she did this. Looking up towards the door into The Attic she could see a strange light emanating from within….different to the usual candle light. Intrigued, she looked curiously through the doorway to see that the room had been transformed. It appeared to be very similar to the Victorian Precinct at Omaru. As she stepped into the room, it felt very real. Looking around she could not see Grace any where. The building she now found herself in reminded her of one in particular they had visited earlier that day. It looked like a passageway between the two streets which ran parallel, but was actually the bottom level of a huge old grain store not far from the wharf. Filled with props for festivals, it had a carnival feel to it. It felt like she had stepped back in Time. As she walked into the old building amongst the massive timber supports which appeared to have been created out of individual trees, she could sense many eyes watching her, and the whispering of voices. Looking straight ahead, she could see clearly through to the other street and could just make out people walking along it. When she got about half way through the building, she stopped, stood still and closed her eyes, wanting to feel closer to these Spirit People living here, and silently asked permission to visit. On opening her eyes she saw before her what at first appeared to be a giant mirror, like something out of a carnival side show. It seemed to reflect back to her the street from which she had come. Puzzled, Molly looked over her shoulder to see the same scene, each way out of the building looked identical, but somehow slightly different. As she looked closer, she realised the difference. One street was present day. The other was in the 1800’s! One way had cars parked outside on the laneway which was sealed with tar together with cobbled gutters. The other way had a horse and dray stacked high with sacks of grain in the same lane way that was fully cobble-stoned. The horse snorted, grabbing her attention. Tired from a long haul journey, he leaned on one hind leg, resting the other, relaxing, his head nodding sleepily. When she looked the other way, Molly saw a mother with a baby in a three-wheeled stroller, a modern design, the type with inflatable tyres. The sounds of the child crying were muffled by a thick misty drizzle outside, falling flat in the heavy air. 

One side of the building appeared to be 2017 and the other side in the mid 1800’s – 150 years different. But here she was witnessing it simultaneously. Inside the building the eyes she had sensed watching her had become embodied. A vast array of people assembled before her, staring at her with curiosity, looking as puzzled as she was, as they all witnessed the same phenomena of the time warp they were all standing in. Molly dared not move in case she broke the spell. Suddenly she realised that she could make a choice to go either way. If she went to the past, how would she get back to 2017? As if reading her mind, a heavily accented voice behind her breathed heavily into her ear, “simply stand where you are now and wish yourself back, state the date you wish to return to. We have all done this many times, when they have their town fairs, we join in with them and no one notices we are from a different time. They just think we are a part of the celebrations and dressed in costume.”

Molly slowly and cautiously turned to see a sea captain standing behind her. “Arr! It’s a grand day aye!” He says in a broad Irish accent, smiles and winks at her cheekily. Come this way lass, to Miss Maude’s and we’ll get you into something a little more…..acceptable, inconspicuous,” his eyes slowly taking in all the details of her tight jeans and beyond! “Oi! That will do Pirate Pete!” She stated sharply, causing him to blush and turn away. “Beggin’ ya pardon M’am. Allow me to introduce myself – I am….The Captain” he addresses Molly, bowing courteously and sweeping his cap to the ground. He then looks up at Molly, takes her hand gently and kisss the back of it. “And your name would be?” He enquires.

“Molly Ferguson, Mrs Molly Ferguson. And Captain, that will be enough with the flattery, it will get you nowhere! I am a happily married woman!” She exclaims firmly.

“Aww,” he drawls, “Lucky man indeed! May I be your gentleman guide?” he offers, as he takes Molly’s arm and tucking it in to his own, he leads her towards the tall double sided doorway into 1867.

As Molly stepps out of the building with her chaperone, she is met by bright sunshine which at first dazzls her vision. It is so busy, so much chatter, so many people bustling about. The street is a hive of activity – people, workmen, women, horses, carts, hand-carts, wheelbarrows, trolleys, all busy moving stock from the buildings down to the wharf and back. A ship had set anchor in the early hours of that day, being March 29th, 1867. The noise of the voices rising above one another, the smell of fresh horse manure, tobacco, stale alcohol hung in the air, Molly senses were overloaded. The Captain wove his way confidently through the busy crowd, dodging and sweeping Molly effortlessly amongst the people, horses, piles of manure, dogs, carts and even the horse drawn tram which trundled down the tracks in the middle of the street.

Molly began feeling overwhelmed, but The Captain moves her with such ease, her feet barely touching the ground. They arrive promptly at Miss Maude’s the dressmaker, and he gently guides her through the door, closing it behind them and shutting out most of the noise. They are met by a very buxom woman who addresses The Captain like an old friend, “Mornin’ Capt’n. Another lady for a fit-out I see….” Her voice trails off as her skilful eye ran over Molly’s body from head to toe. She winks at him portraying that his secret was safe with her. He took a step back as if offended and replies, “Miss Maude! Arr, you wouldna understand this ‘un…”

“Try me” Miss Maude retorts, standing tall, hands on her hips and her head held high. “You think I don’t recognise this garb?” She replies, tugging at Molly’s jersey distastefully, and then smiles at her knowingly, “I have just the outfit, almost completed. Help yourself to some tea folks whilst I attend to this. Shan’t be long, make yourself at home Capt’n, as you always do!” She chatters excitedly, her voice trailing off as she disappears into the work room. It is amusing for Molly to see this rough but somewhat elegant man navigate his way skilfully around the kitchen in the living area at the back of Miss Maude’s shop. There is something about him that feels familiar, but Molly is unable to work it out. He points for her to take a seat whilst he busies himself making tea and cutting some freshly baked bread which he slathered with butter and jam, neatly arranging them on a fine bone china plate to share. “Tea, Miss Maude?” He calls through the open door, to which she replies, “Not for me, too busy!”

He sat down opposite Molly at the small kitchen table, handing her a cup of tea and nudging the plate of bread and jam towards her. “I do know why you are here,” he began. “We get the likes of you folk visiting from time to time. I guess like when we visit them from this time period too, during their celebrations and festivals.” He pauses, sipping hot tea carefully from his dainty tea cup.  “Tell me your story Miss.” He leaned back in his chair, inviting Molly to talk. Finishing her cup of tea, she shares with him a little of her Journey with Will and of how she was collecting stories from the past to write into a book. “An author eh?” Well, I have never met one of those before. I can read you know!  And quite well, if I may say so myself. (He sits up proudly). Many lonely nights out at sea, I have read many books which I have collected from different countries. My favourite topic is spiritualism – I find it fascinating, although not many wish to speak on such topics here, most being of the church. And then there were the letters from my beautiful wife waiting for me at home. But why here, why now, and who is it that you need to see?” asked the Captain.

“I have no idea. Maybe it’s you, Captain” Molly suggested.

“Me?” he looked up in surprise at Molly.

“Why not!” She replied and continued, “Surely you must have a story or two you need to tell?” Blushing shyly, he turned away, and then distracted Molly from the subject by suggesting, “Allow me to show you around the town Miss? It would be my privilege….” 

“Well Captain, what a splendid idea. Where shall we begin?” she enquires, to which he replies, “with you trying on your new attire, Miss Maude is ready for you now,” and he guides her back through the shop to the dressing room, where Miss Maude proudly hands her the new dress. Leaving behind her jeans and jersey, Molly stepped out into this new world in clothes more befitting to the times. She now blended into the crowd seamlessly, not recognisable as a Time Traveller. She stops, pulling on the Captain’s arm and says, “My deepest gratitude Captain for your generosity, but I have no current day money to repay you.” The Captain looks at her affectionately, “Let’s say I am making good use of money easily obtained,” he winks at her, taking her arm proudly. He pauses before opening the door and calls over his shoulder, “Thank you Miss Maude, your payment is on the kitchen table.” As they walk out the door onto the street, they hear a muffled shriek and a giggle as Maude discovered just how much money he has left for her.

The Captain proves himself to be a gentleman indeed and takes Molly on an inquisitive tour of the town, introducing her to the various shopkeepers, bankers (whom eye him cautiously), past some well dressed professional women standing enticingly in the doorway of their establishment, beckoning to The Captain to come and visit. There were street vendors with timber barrows yelling and selling their goods. A mixture of people walked the streets, some children well-dressed walk with their parents or nannies, whilst others ran playfully through the crowd, their quick fingers sneaking goods from the barrows and street stalls. Molly so wanted to take it all in, of what seems like a normal day in Victorian Omaru. What she is coming to realise is that this layer of existence still dwells amongst us in the present day, it’s just not visible to the untrained eye. As she walks through the streets with The Captain, she is aware that her time here was coming to an end. The Captain felt it too. “May I take you to High Tea M’am?” He offers politely. 

“Why kind sir, that would be a pleasure indeed,” to which he adds, “Canna you stay a wee longer?” He looks at her longingly. 

“Welllll, I would like to see this part of the town in the middle of the night, when no one else is about. Just to feel what it was like.”

“As you wish!” He replies and with a click of his fingers, they walk around the corner into Harbour Street, the daylight vanishes giving way to the night and the dimly lit street, with shadows cast by the light of the gas lamps. Molly felt uneasy, and in need an escort it was good to have The Captain close by. “What is it that you be lookin’ for?” He asks.

“Hmmm…nothing in particular other than to see the colours, the lights and shadows of the night, of the quietness of the sleeping town, of the atmosphere and experience, of what it felt like to be alive in the 1800’s. Although I know that there are still people out and about even at this time of night (it was 3am), I want to feel the peacefulness and to see the golden hews of the street lights against the limestone walls, the contrast of the dark spaces in-between the buildings, the dark hollows of the night windows, some lit with the gentle light of a bedside lamp, some reflecting the outside lighting,” Molly tries to explain what she was envisioning in her mind. Something scurried from behind them and through her legs and she muffles a squeal with her gloved hands. It was a cat chasing a rat. They both stifle their laughing not wanting to draw attention to their presence. The night air was getting colder and The Captain notices Molly shiver. Removing his coat, he places it over her shoulders and put his finger to his lips for her to be quiet and accept his hospitality.

“Captain, may I ask you a question?” Molly asked politely.

“Certainly M’am, ask away?” 

“What is it like to be living here, and why are you still here?”

“Both good questions M’am. This is where I live, it is my job. I guess I am the guardian of this area, it is a portal between Times, as you are witnessing for yourself. I am here until further notice. I do know my time will come, when I am free to go and be with my beloved wife. Come my new friend, there is something I would like to share with you….” Excitedly The Captain takes Molly’s hand, “I love mystery and an adventure, are you up for it Missy?” Trusting in her new friend Molly smiles and nods her head in agreement. He leads her over to a wooden bench seat down by the wharf. Holding Molly’s hand he sits down and invites her to do so too. “Close your eyes, Mrs Ferguson and allow me to take you on a journey…..feel the coolness of the night air, that gentle breeze on your cheeks, feel my hand holding yours, knowing that we are safe and protected by the angels who guide us now. As I count backwards from 10, feel your body getting lighter and lighter. Three….two….one…..now open your eyes Mrs Molly Ferguson. Is this somewhat more familiar?” The Captain asks. Molly could not believe what she saw when she opened her eyes. She and The Captain are sitting in The Attic! And there standing before them is Grace Forrest! 

“Hello my love!” He greets Grace. “Just calling by for a brief visit, and to return this Time Travelling waif to you, safe and sound!”  The Captain embraces Grace and kisses her passionately. “Until next time!” He bows to both the girls and vanishes, leaving no trace at all. Molly sits transfixed in her chair. She is finding it difficult to believe what she has just witnessed, and understanding the truth, that The Captain is indeed Captain Callum Forrest – Grace’s husband!

“So my dear, do tell of your travels…..by the way, that is indeed a very fine dress, dearest Callum has the best taste!” Grace sat down next to Molly, keen to hear what she had been up to.

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