He was just a harmless old boy for most people. They’d see him going past on his fixed route of library, coffee shop and the Co-op and say what a shame it was for him to lose his memory like that. They speculate about what happened that night on Spalding Fen that left him wandering naked and unable to remember who he was. They talk about the time he had spent in hospital being tested for a stroke and assessed for mental illness. But then they say the same thing. “He calls himself Bill now. He keeps himself to himself and he’s always polite.”
Lucy had met him in the library, where she worked. He had come in looking for history books. He only ever borrowed one at a time, but he changed them every time he visited. All the staff were fond of him. He was nice, he smiled a lot and he was polite in an old-fashioned kind of way. He had started with history books, but he had soon moved on to art and music. He would ask questions that amused the staff in their almost childlike openness. He would hear a piece of music and, for want of anywhere else to go, he would ask the staff what it was.
What Lucy knew, which few other people did, was that having asked his questions at the library, he would trawl round the second-hand shops and buy books, pictures and old records. It was that, that Lucy used as an excuse to go round to the small care in the community flat that he lived in. In reality, she was quite fond of the man. He was kind and made no demands. They would have a cup of tea and chat and he would tell her about some wonderful classical music he had discovered and how amazing and beautiful it was. For a few minutes Lucy was in the company of someone for whom the world was new and exciting. It was such an escape from the worries of the world.
Halloween was a time Lucy worried about Bill. He seemed troubled at that time of year and she thought that the costumes and images stirred some closed off memory. One Halloween he had had a funny turn in the library, and she had heard him muttering about evacuating wounded. Since then she had wondered if Bill suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This year, she had decided to visit him on Halloween itself in the evening, so that he wasn’t bothered by trick or treaters. It was only a short walk, the light was fading and the street lights were coming on. It was a familiar walk, even with the small ghosts and ghouls wandering around, watched by parents from a distance that was just long enough for the children to feel independent, but close enough for comfort.
It was with this happy thought in her mind that Lucy reached Bill’s door…
…and found it wide open.
In a panic she rushed into the flat calling Bill’s name. There was no reply.
She ran back into the street, looking both ways, and she saw him. Was almost rounding the corner to the cemetery, and he was walking straight and stiff like a man possessed. She chased after him, running along paving stones made slippery by fallen leaves.
By the time she had reached the cemetery, it was fully dark and Bill was not in sight. Lucy began cautiously walking along the path towards the mausoleum stood in the centre of all the aging gravestones. As her eyes became accustomed to the dark, she could make out a tall figure standing by the mausoleum door.
Then she heard a voice.
“Alright. Here I am!” he shouted. Lucy recognised Bill’s voice, but it was louder and stronger than she had ever heard it.
“You have crossed the galaxy, and broken the Terran Quarantine to find me,” Bill called. “Well here I am! Show yourselves!”
Lucy suddenly felt afraid. Bill was having some sort of episode. Instinctively she fumbled in her handbag to find her phone. Her first thought, to phone for an ambulance.
When the five glowing figure appeared surrounding Bill, she was stunned into stillness and her handbag fell from her fumbling hands. As she watched in horror, Bill began to surround himself with light. It solidified around him like a suit of crystal armour. The glowing figures dimmed and she could see that they were clad in some form of bright reflecting armour.
It felt like an age that they stood still, but it was probably less than a second. Then they began to fight. To Lucy it was a confusing blur of shape and colour. Armour, weapons and shields clashed, seemingly appearing and disappearing at need.
First one, then another of the coloured figure fell and grew dim, but that left three more and Lucy could see that Bill was also starting to fade. Fear and anger boiled through Lucy and hot tears ran down her cheeks. Bill was fighting for his life and all she could do was stand there.
Suddenly a wave of shame and frustration washed over her. All her life she had dreamed of being a hero. She had read books, watched films and television series, and daydreamed about taking up sword and armour. Now she was in a real-life drama, even if it seemed like something from a dream or nightmare, and she was useless.
Suddenly her emotions overtook her completely and she screamed her rage at the twisting mass of fighting figures. Before her eyes it the scream seemed to take form, like a ball of force and when it struck, all four figures were sent flying.
Now, Lucy had been noticed. While two of the shining figures recovered themselves to renew their attack on Bill, the third turned towards Lucy.
Within Lucy, fear had given way to fury, and as the figure approached she lashed at it with her arms. As she moved, lines of light appeared around her, imagined weapons and armour from so many dreams wrapped themselves around her arms and sprang from her hands. The approaching figure stopped suddenly as if in surprise, but it was too late. Stepping forward, Lucy struck out, as she had so often imagined herself doing. The figure fell and faded.
Lucy marched on.
The two remaining attackers had Bill on the back foot, but Lucy’s arrival soon changed that. In a flurry of swift blows, both had fallen.
Lucy’s rage subsided, and the light around her faded.
Bill was on the floor.
Lucy quickly kneeled down and swept Bill up in her arms. “Bill, what happened.”
“Psychic warriors, like me, come to take me back.” He gasped.
“I don’t understand.” Lucy cried.
“I was once a psychic warrior, now I am a deserter hiding in a place that even my kind fear. Your people are so dangerous, so wildly creative and so destructive that your world is in perpetual quarantine. I fled the psychic wars, to hide here among the horde.”
“Quarantine?” asked Lucy, puzzled. “Horde?”
“Humans.” Replied Bill. “Look at what your imagination and emotions were able to do. And you cannot be trained or bargained with. Seven and a half billion undisciplined warriors fighting each other and struggling to escape the captivity of your world. No wonder the galaxy is terrified of you.”
Bill coughed and then looked intently at Lucy. “But they are fools. They haven’t seen the other side of you. When they trained us, they never told us about the art and the music. Such music.”
Bill was becoming breathless, and Lucy realised he was starting to fade, even as she struggled to hold on to him. “I must die now, but I have lived more in the few years I was a visitor on earth than in a thousand years of psychic wars.”
Bill smiled and breathed his last. His body faded like a dream. All Lucy could do was kneel on the grass by the mausoleum and cry. Then, like a sigh on the breeze, she heard the psychic warrior’s last words.
“Hiding amongst a horde of demons, you do not expect them to sing like angels…”