Where Do I Fit In?
by Andrew Foote
Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.
Life was good. We managed to settle in to a routine made easier as we weren't having to transfer from one house to the other. Wednesdays were still kept as family time, more important for Lucas as I could pop through and see my folks anytime I liked.
Dan and Gary loved the time spent together over the weekends. Aside from Guam they had almost no opportunities to be alone for any length of time so the chance to relax and be together in an atmosphere of complete acceptance was like a dream come true for them.
Three weeks later on a Saturday afternoon Lucas and I had competed in our first real gala where we had won a silver medal. We both knew that we'd missed gold as one of our low-level dives was, by our standards a bit off but it was a good start and Liam was more than happy.
The journey home from Oxford wasn't so good though.
"I'm going to come off the motorway at the next exit boys. This car doesn't feel right somehow and I'd prefer to go across country just in case it packs up completely."
Actually it sounded rough as well. A nasty vibration and a rumble from the nearside front wheel definitely wasn't normal then as we drove into a small village, the car lurched to the left and came to an abrupt halt. Liam got out and walking round to the nearside put his foot against the tyre and gave it a shove.
"Thought as much. Sodding wheel bearing's collapsed. I'll phone the RAC."
The RAC man arrived pretty quickly and confirmed Liam's diagnosis and offered to take the car back to Oxford as a front suspended tow.
"Unfortunately sir, your cover doesn't include transport back to your home but I can try and get you a hire car but I can't do that until tomorrow lunchtime I'm afraid."
"That's okay, that'll be fine. Is there a hotel locally?"
"Wormleighton Manor up in the next village. Nice place and not that expensive. If you like, I can take you up there then come back for your car."
We booked in to the hotel, phoned home and took a rest before supper. Lucas picked up the hotel literature and casually thumbed through it.
"Oh wow! Does this village look modern to you?"
"Get out? Most of it has to be at least three hundred years old. Why do you ask?"
"It says here that the oldest remaining structure is the church with parts of it dating back to the eleventh century, the rest of the village being built much later but beyond the church is the site of the original medieval village of Wormleighton which was always thought to be early quarry workings but when the canal was dug, they found all manner of artefacts which led to them carrying out a full scale investigation of the area. Shall we go and take a look tomorrow morning before the hire car arrives?"
"I'm up for it! Sounds really interesting."
The following morning we met Liam for breakfast and told him what we planned on doing.
"That's fine boys but just make sure you're back by about two-thirty as the hire car should be here about then and we can get back home."
We walked down to the church which we discovered hadn't been locked following the early morning service so we went inside. Lucas bowed towards the alter and motioned me to do likewise before we took a look around. Some of the carvings hadn't stood the test of time very well and were almost impossible to read but then we heard a voice and we turned to see a lady vicar standing in the isle not that far from us.
"Interesting isn't it. All of what you see has been transcribed and can be found on the English Heritage website. Most of it relates to the old village, the early church and the way in which people worshipped and if you're really interested, you can see more down at the site office which is more about the village itself rather than the church."
"Thanks very much. I hope you don't mind us being in here?"
"Not at all! You're very welcome boys."
We walked down to the site office where we were met by a man wearing a tunic with the English Heritage logo on it and the name 'John Parker' and his position of site supervisor embroidered on it.
"Hello boys. Interested in archaeology then?"
"Well sort of. We were staying up at the hotel last night where we read about this place so we decided to come and see it for ourselves. Is that okay?"
"Yes. In fact I wish more people expressed an interest in it! Would you like me to show you around?"
Mr Parker took us on a guided tour pointing out various features such as where the great house would've stood, roads such as they were could be seen and made clearer when he cross-referenced it on an aerial photo. Houses, a pottery, a mill and a cemetery.
We then walked back up the hill and off to the left but just before we got to the top, both Lucas and I looked at each other and froze as if we'd taken root.
"What's the matter boys? Something bothering you?"
"Not bothering as such but up there, just past the tree line. There's something up there you've missed."
"I wouldn't have thought so. That's outside of the village walls up there."
"Maybe so but there's still something up there. Has that area been surveyed?"
"No. The main entrance was the other side of the settlement and as we already know where the village walls were, there was little point in any further investigation. You're not taking the piss I hope?"
"I promise you, we're not kidding you. There is more up there, we can feel it!"
"What do you mean, feel it!"
We gave him a brief rundown about how we manage to communicate whilst diving and how sometimes it went beyond mere counting and awareness of each other.
"Alright. Let's go and take a closer look shall we? It's going to be a waste of time but if it helps rid you off your suspicions then I don't suppose it'll hurt."
We walked up through the trees where both Lucas and I suddenly stopped.
"Whatever it is, it's right here."
I paced an area of about four foot by three foot.
"Inside this square. There is something, honestly!"
Mr Parker pulled out a hand-held GPS and read off the latitude and longitude co-ordinates and saved them.
"If you're so sure, I'll have it investigated but for your sakes, I hope you're not wasting our time. Let's go back to the office shall we?"
We reached the office, neither of us had said a word. Mr Parker looked at us.
"You really are serious about this aren't you?"
"Please trust us. We have no intention of messing you around. We know you'll find something back there."
"Very well. Leave it with me okay? Now would you like to take part in our genealogy experiment?"
"As I told you earlier, we found the cemetery which meant the good vicar reburied the remains in the churchyard but before she did, we took DNA samples from all the skeletons and for a bit of fun, visitors can give a sample of their DNA for comparison. If they don't have a match worth talking about, those samples are destroyed along with the computer records but if something is found that is interesting then with the permission of the individual, we hang on to them. All we need is a hair from your head and we're done."
"Okay, why not? Take as much as you need!"
"Just the one hair is enough for our needs!"
He took samples from both of us and sealed them in plastic tubes then has us write our names and addresses and also our parent's phone numbers on labels which he then stuck to the tubes before putting them into a Jiffy bag for posting. He then gave us some literature to give to our Mums and Dads and told us that nothing would be done with our samples without their permission as we were still kids.
About six weeks passed, two more galas, another silver then our first ever gold which we won in a regional competition whereupon Liam declared that we were ready for some serious competition namely a European event in Berlin but then as we were doing our homework one evening, my father knocked on the door.
"Can you both come through to our lounge, we have visitors who need to talk to you."
We ambled through where we were met by Mr Parker, Lauren, Liam and both sets of parents. Lucas looked almost scared.
"Wassup Dad? What's going down here?"
Lauren looked at Mr Carmichael for permission to speak. He just nodded his head.
"There's nothing to be concerned about but it just might be another piece in the jigsaw which may help explain your closeness and awareness of each other. I'll let Mr Parker explain everything as he's the expert here."
He leaned forward in his chair and studied our faces before he spoke.
"Do you recall your visit to Wormleighton and the hair samples you gave?"
We both nodded.
"Good. You see, over the years we've had over ten thousand donations but only three have come close to being of interest and by that I mean that the matches were close enough to indicate a distant tie to the village but no direct link as such.
Also, following your insistence that there was something we'd missed up there in the copse, we investigated the area and……..you were absolutely correct in your assumption. We uncovered a shallow grave right where you said. We went on to further test the area but found nothing but this grave was particularly interesting. Here we found the very well preserved remains of two bodies and DNA testing revealed that these were of two boys, ages unknown but our knowledge allows us to believe that they were both in the order of thirteen to fifteen years old at the time of their death. Now we have to understand why they were there and not buried in the cemetery along with the other villagers? The fact of the matter is, they had been murdered as they both had the same injuries to the head and neck, probably not sufficient to kill them outright, they might have lived for a few hours following the attack and this is where it gets really interesting.
They were both laying side by side and holding hands and we can only assume that whoever it was who attacked them, did a runner but came back later and buried them by which time the muscles of their bodies would have contracted and stiffened making it almost impossible to separate their hands so they were buried as we found them.
Why were they killed? Another mystery but if we go back to their hands, maybe that gives us a clue. Maybe they were lovers? Gay sex would've been unforgivable in those far off days and if they'd been caught in the act? Well we don't know what punishment might've been meted out to them but it would explain why they weren't given a Christian burial as no church in the land would be a party to such a thing. Now that brings us to the small matter of your DNA samples that you provided and also the reason the good Doctor is with us, or Lauren as you know her because you might find this upsetting. I'm going to hand over to her now if I may.
Lauren looked visibly moved as she stood up and knelt down in front of us.
"The thing is, your samples, like the other three, showed that both of you had a distant connection to the village but it doesn't end there. When they studied the match between you two and the two boys in the grave, it was as if the computer spat out the results and sent them bouncing off the walls. No two DNA samples are identical unless they come from the same person because we're all different but those matches were so close to the point you might as well have been brothers. Somewhere some one thousand or twelve hundred years ago, those two poor unfortunate boys were your direct predecessors. You cannot argue with the facts, this is an absolute certainty."
I felt numb and I knew Lucas felt the same.
"But……..but that means that it's almost like we've known each other for over a thousand years? Mr Parker? I don't have an issue by telling you that Lucas and I are gay. Where do the similarities end?"
"We simply can't say. I have never come across anything quite like this."
"Every religion talks of reincarnation. They say that there are only a finite number of souls and that we're all of us reborn so that might be an explanation?"
"Yes okay but for both of us to come together in the here and now? How does that work then? Fifty-six million people just in the UK and yet we meet again after over a thousand years? I just don't get it!"
"None of us do Andy. Just on a different note, their remains will be buried tomorrow at a private committal service and I wondered if you might like to attend? You are afterall close family, probably the closest they've ever had. What do you think?"
Lucas came out of his silence.
"Yes. Yes we want to be there. Would it be possible to view them before the committal?"
"I'll call Reverend Judy and find out. Just give me a minute."
Lauren went outside to make the call then reappeared a few minutes later.
"Yes that's fine. She's in no hurry as it's not as if it's public service but if we could be at the church by about half ten then she can have a chat with you but she said not to wear sombre clothes. Tomorrow is a day of celebration, not mourning."
What little remained of the evening after everyone had left was spent in quiet contemplation, even during supper. We had so many questions yet too few answers.
That night we lay in bed cuddled up in each other's arms.
"Do you think it's really possible that the remains of those two boys could actually have been us all those years ago?"
"I dunno but there are too many similarities for us to completely dismiss it as pure coincidence. We both knew there was something that drew us to that place even though Mr Parker didn't believe us. We even found the exact place where they were buried. It's a bit like our connection with each other but this time we were connecting with them as well as ourselves. We're gay and by all accounts they were too, they were about our age when they died, I'm sorry but it all adds up and as Lauren said, DNA evidence doesn't lie. They're what remains of us in a previous life."
"You know what we have to do tomorrow don't you?"
"Yes I know. Let's try and get some sleep as I reckon tomorrow is going to be a tad traumatic."
Lauren picked us up at nine the following morning but instead of her car, she was driving a minibus and seated inside was Lorain, Paul and Benny with the promise that we'd also be collecting Gary and Dan along the way. Both of us were overjoyed to see them but we wondered how they had managed to get a pass from school. Paul gave us the answer.
"Your Dad turned us away from the door last night saying something was going down so when we got to Christchurch, Peter told us what had happened. It was Tony who told us not to turn up for school as he'd speak with Mr Fairbairn who'd cover our absence which he did. He also knows Gary and Dan's Head Teacher and said he'd have a word with him so we're sorted. We all want to be with you even if we're not sure where the connection is with you and some thousand year-old bodies but we're all family in sport plus we're close friends so we support each other no matter what, right?"
"We'll explain after we pick up the others. It's a very long story and neither of us want to go through it twice!"
We collected Gary and Dan then told the story of that Saturday afternoon where we won our first ever medal then through the Sunday where we sensed the presence of something in the woods then to the previous evening and all the news that flowed from it.
"So there you have it. That's as much as we know."
"So the DNA was like a really close match then?"
"Benny? It's so close that Andy could have been his counterpart's twin brother and Lucas and his the same. I've not had much of an opportunity to talk to anyone about this yet but my understanding, for what it's worth is that it's almost unheard of but I intend to pursue it."
For reasons still not clear, we were all wearing our Team GB trackies. Nothing had been discussed, afterall we didn't even know that the others were coming but we really did look smart.
The Reverend Judy met us at the church and commented likewise.
"Love the dress sense! Really nice considering the occasion. So all of you are sporting?"
Lorain answered for all of us.
"Yes we are but more importantly, we're also close mates as well."
"Well I love it! I told Liam to tell the boys to keep everything upbeat today and you haven't disappointed!"
She then turned to Lucas and me.
"Do you want to see their remains now?"
"Yes please but only if it's alright."
"Yes of course it is! Would you like to be by yourselves?"
"We don't mind. If the others want to join us then that's okay but then we'll understand if they'd rather not."
Benny stood up.
"I'll join you. We're friends through whatever happens and so I'll be with you."
We walked through to the Lady Chapel noticing everyone was following Benny's lead and there we saw two bare oak coffins minus their lids.
During the journey I had visualised this moment and I was sure I'd get too emotional but as it turned out, I felt strong. I looked up at Lucas who was already smiling at me so I let him ask the question of Reverend Judy.
"Who is who here?"
"You are standing beside Andrew's relative and he yours so if you feel you want to swap over then fine."
"No. This is what we wanted thanks Judy."
I looked at Lucas as we linked our little fingers as if preparing to dive then I placed my hand on the skull of Lucas' late relative and his on mine and then closed our eyes.
I have no recollection as to how long we stayed like that because I felt nothing, heard nothing and was totally unaware of where I was and what I was doing but when we did finally open our eyes, the others looked scared and even the good Reverend looked disturbed.
"What's with you guys then? We were just saying goodbye?"
Reverend Judy looked perplexed.
"You didn't feel it then?"
"There was……..it was almost like there was an earth tremor or something. You must have been aware of it, you must!"
"No nothing. We felt absolutely nothing! This is too scary to be possible!"
"What did you feel Andrew. You have to try and tell me, you as well Lucas. Try to remember!"
"Nothing. It was as if we weren't even here. Silence, peace and quiet and the feeling of contentment."
"And you Andrew? What did you experience?"
"Much the same but just before we woke I remember seeing a bright white light in my head. It was only for like a split second before it went out and I opened my eyes to see all of you looking sort of shell-shocked."
Lucas jumped in.
"I saw it too but it was so quick that I hardly noticed it. What's going on here?"
"A committal Lucas but then I need to talk with my bishop."
The coffin lids were secured but not before we placed the silver medals we'd won the day we found the grave inside them. The waiting officials went to take them out for burial but Lucas and I stopped them and asked if we could carry them instead.
Reverend Judy ushered them away to allow us this last honour. We watched in silence as they were lowered into the ground, Judy saying the last few words and scattering some earth onto each of the coffins closely followed by Lucas, me and the rest of the guys.
I think that the good Reverend Judy was pleased to see us go although she never said as much but she looked pale and drawn as she waved us off, walked back inside the church and shut the door behind her.
Our journey home, at least for the first ten miles was silent as well but then Lucas squeezed my hand and looked at me. I heard him speak although he didn't so much as open his mouth.
"You okay Andy?"
I answered in kind as if reading each other's minds.
"Yeah but that was really creepy and if we keep this up the other's will freak as well!"
Lucas grinned then spoke out loud.
"Okay then. So what is all this about an earthquake?"
Lorain looked at both of us before replying.
"You blokes really didn't feel it then? It wasn't so much a quake, more like a tremor but it happened none the less."
"Honestly, we never felt a thing. Could it have been like a heavy truck going through the village or something?"
"Only if a heavy truck is capable of knocking over a chalice on the Alter and dislodging a few roof slates. No that was caused by something entirely different."
"Alright. When exactly did it happen?"
"You two held hands then you touched the two skulls. It happened about twenty seconds after that."
"How long did it last and how long were we touching the skulls?"
"About ten seconds I suppose and you are going to tell me that you've no idea as to how long you stood there for? C'mon Lucas?"
"Honestly Lor! I've no idea! It's like I was someplace else. Ask Andy, he'll tell you?"
"Lucas is right. I'd no idea of time or even where I was or what was happening. I just remember feeling so at ease then the bright light and coming back down to reality almost."
"Didn't you feel scared?"
"You are having a laugh aren't you? I've never felt so safe in my entire life! It was like a few seconds of pure bliss! Nothing there to scare me!"
"Sounds like heaven to me!"
Lucas swallowed hard.
"Something like Benny, something like. Can we please lighten up here people?"
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