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Fracture of Illusion-Chapter 1

by  starsailor

Posted: Monday, August 11, 2003
Word Count: 2323
Summary: Chapter 1 of my on-going first novel

Chapter 1: Driftwood

‘Well, that was another waste of a morning’ thought John, as he descended the steps from the offices of another financial firm at which he had had another interview. At least this one had paid his travel expenses. It was a fine morning, so instead of heading straight for the train station to get out of London, he decided to wander for a bit.
He felt that walking always helped to clear the mind, despite the pollution and noise of London, and other cities. Of course it helped that it was a bright August morning. He had always disliked the heat, although he had learned to tolerate in while he had been in Egypt. He was still well tanned, and his natural completion had meant that he hadn’t burned that much. He had dark hair, and skin which was naturally resistant to burning. He was always careful however, and whether he was in England, or abroad, always used sun cream, and tried to keep out of the sun as much as possible. ‘Of course it’ll probably be raining by the time I get home he thought’ But he was in no rush, he had no plans, and no one to call up on him, which was fine with him.
He had been up very early in the morning in order to travel from Somerset to London, and was it was beginning to catch up with him, so he took a brief stop in a coffee shop to perk himself up with some caffeine. He settled himself down in a comfy sofa to enjoy his dark, black strong coffee.
It had been a week since he had been back from Egypt, and was still customising himself back into English life. It had all been very different, he thought to himself. For the last four years or so he had been constantly moving, and now he was thinking of stopping. The only problem was, he didn’t actually want to.
He blamed his friends actually. They all had a plan of what they wanted to do, and how they were going to do it. Get a job in the city, work for 30 years hoping they didn’t die of stress, and then retire to some cottage in the country. Most of them already had a job. Most of them had migrated to London, like moths to an extremely large and extremely busy bright light.
Actually, he didn’t mind London, it was good to visit, but the thought of living here full time didn’t go down well with him. He thought back to a few weeks ago, having just returned from a gap year after university, and being excited and eager to start this new life. Now, he wasn’t so sure if he was doing the right thing. Living in a big city wasn’t too bad. He had studied in Bristol for four years after all, and liked the vibrancy of city life.
It was just that he didn’t feel that he ever going to be able to settle, doing one thing for the rest of his life. So many of his friends from university had already found somewhere to work, along with a flat, mortgage, cheapish car, the works.
He felt that feeling showed in the interviews he had had so far as well. It was if they could look into his soul, and tell ‘He doesn’t care about this job, he doesn’t want it’. And that was the problem. He didn’t take it seriously. ‘Maybe I should just grow up’ He thought to himself ‘Everyone has to at some point in their life, let go of their dreams’. He shook his head. What kind of way was that to live, to settle for something you don’t love, you don’t put your heart and soul into. He needed something to care about, but how many people did that happen to?
To cheer him up, he decided to head to a place he loved. The British Museum. He knew that to most people it wasn’t the first place to spring to mind, but he adored it. A month ago he had arrived back from Egypt, deciding to spend a gap year there after university at a dig in the Valley of the Kings. From his uncles contacts it wasn’t hard to get a place, spending his time in the dry desert dirt, peering through the centuries at a civilisation that had spanned four thousand years. He hadn’t discovered a tomb, or found any treasure. He knew he wouldn’t, but for him it was enough to just be there, and being a part of working at one of the most special locations in the world.
Maybe he should be back there now, and decide for once and for all that he was wrong to plump for a job behind a desk.
. Ah well, he would give it a few more goes. Maybe something would click for him.
The term British Museum is a bit of a misnomer, it contains findings and artefacts from all over the world. Starting from the dawn of civilisation, in Sumer, now parts of Iran and Iraq, spreading to Egypt, Greece and Rome, and then to England and all other parts of the world, one could spend years in the massive building in Holborn, and still not see everything on offer. Ever since John had been taken here by his uncle when he was seven, he had promised to come here at least once a year, and had so far kept that promise.
Since being on the dig, he had learnt how to read hieroglyphs, and could now read some of the hundreds of inscriptions and writings which adorned the items in the Egyptian section, it took time, but soon he was reading words and names written over 3,000 years ago. Most were inscriptions of Gods and Kings, names from the distant past, which captured the imagination, Ra, Osiris, Set, Horus, to name but a few.
John knew these names well. Although he had studied Mathematics at university, he had close to an experts’ knowledge of ancient mythology. The year in Egypt was a chance to put this knowledge to practical use. He had his uncle to thank for that, Sir William Hawke was a respected archaeologist, a learned man who had written many books on the subject of ancient civilisations and their religions. He had also been a father to John, as his real father and mother had died in a car accident when he was a baby. It was strange, having no memories of them but old photographs and stories from other members of the family and old friends. It was strange but he didn’t miss them, he had been too young, and his Uncle and Aunt kind enough to him, so he had never missed out.
Finishing his visit, he travelled by tube to Paddington and then a train bound for the West Country. It took a few hours by the time he had picked his car up in Bristol, and by the time he had reached his home in Somerset, it was getting dark. An inheritance from his Uncle, it was a large country house, with rambling grounds, situated in a small village about 20 miles south of Bristol, near the small city of Wells. The house now seemed very large to John, especially now that it was only himself living there. It was almost a year now since his uncle had died, his Aunt having passed away several years earlier. He knew that he should have sold the house by now, it was too big, and had too much of an old style for a twenty something. But he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.
The death of his only remaining relatives had affected him more than his parents’ death did. Although they hadn’t been around much, jetting off all around the world moving from dig to dig, they were always there for him in the holidays, ready to pick him up from school at which he had boarded during the term.
But now it was time to move on. John knew that he had reached a crossroads in his life. Behind him lay the life of a student. But what about now? He didn’t know. He wasn’t rich enough to live a life of leisure, and he didn’t want to do that either, but he didn’t know what he wanted.
‘Ai, there’s the rub’ he thought to himself.
It was only then that he noticed the message on the answer-phone. This was odd in itself, as all of his friends called his mobile, and it was very rare for him to get to get other calls. He had considered disconnecting the phone, but he needed the line for the internet. He pressed the replay button. ‘ This is Mr S Claybourne, from Claybourne and Sons the solicitors, calling for a Mr J Hawke. Could you please give me a ring as soon as you get this message’ The speaker had a sense of seriousness and gravitas, as one would imagine old family solicitors to have. John noted down the number. This was strange, Claybourne and Sons was his Uncle’s solicitor, but he had had no dealing with them at all, he hadn’t had any need for any in his life yet. Although it was after office hours, the caller had said to ring as soon as possible, so John immediately returned the call, expecting an answer-phone message.
‘Hello, Mr Claybourne, speaking’, it must be his home phone number, which was odd in itself.
‘Hello, this is Mr Hawke, returning a message to ring you’.
‘Ah yes’, replied the voice. ‘I suppose you must find this most odd, but I was instructed to contact you by your Uncle’. This made no sense at all to John.
‘ I think you are going to have to tell me exactly what you mean by that’ he said.
‘Yes, of course. Before your Uncle died, he instructed me, upon his death to contact his next of kin, that is of course you, exactly one year, after his death. I have a letter in my procession which is addressed to you’. The speaker paused.
‘I was instructed to release this letter only in person, one year to the day after the death of your Uncle, that day is tomorrow.’ John looked at the date on his watch. Tomorrow was indeed the 27th of August, the anniversary of his uncles death. Had it really been a year? Mr Claybourne spoke again.
‘I understand this is a shock for you, but Sir William stated that it was vitally important that I hand over this letter to you in person, and it must be tomorrow’.
‘Certainty’ John said, still flustered. ‘Could we arrange a appointment for 10 tomorrow?’
‘That is satisfactory,’ said the man. ‘I shall see you then’. The phone caller hung up.
John just stood there holding it for a minute, the finished dial tone in his ear. What was this all about? Sir William, although on the outside jolly and personable, had always had another, more darker side. There were times when he had left his wife for months at a time without stating to anyone where he was going, but John had always thought that the man was at a special dig site, which he couldn’t tell anyone about. But now John thought about it, there were other things. He had been only there during the holidays, but his Aunt had often told him of strange meetings at the house. He remembered her telling him about several men, and women, who would visit, stay for a few hours then leave. They would meet in the drawing room, where his uncle would lock the door and draw the curtains. No one would be allowed to enter when the meeting was taking place.
The next day wasn’t as bright and sunny. Dark grey clouds were rolling over the Mendips as John set off for Bath, and his uncles solicitors. By the time her reached his destination, it was drizzling slightly, painting the streets of the fine Georgian city a dark beige, which was the colour of most of the buildings.
Claybourne and Sons was an old family lawyers, dealing mainly with wills and trusts of ‘old money’. John had decided to wear his dark grey suit for the day, and looked like any normal businessman as he reached the offices of the lawyers. Standing before him a tall terraced Georgian house, which had been converted into offices many years ago. The sign outside the door which read the name of the solicitors was understated and austere, which seemed to match the voice on the phone the day before. John rang the door, and stated his business to an intercom system.
He was lead to a reception area, in which an elderly woman was sitting behind a desk.
‘Ah, are you Mr Claybournes’ 10:30?’ she asked with a piping voice.
‘My name is John Hawke, I believe I have an appointment ‘ John stated.
‘Ah yes, if you please take a seat’, she said, gesturing to a row of high backed chairs, which looked very uncomfortable. Just as John was thinking about whether to sit down or not, a man entered the room, he was also elderly, tall and thin, he wore a suit which must have predated the 60’s and had a face like some type of bird. This must be Mr Claybourne.
‘Mr Hawke I believe’ he said as the two men shook hands.’ Thank you for coming on such short notice.’ ‘
That’s not a problem’ John said, ‘Although the circumstances do seem to me to be a little strange.’
‘Yes indeed.’ Agreed Claybourne ‘It isn’t often that this kind of thing happens, But I think it would be prudent to continue this discussion in my office’.