Take a stroll into one of those novelty shops that you see dotted about the place and you will undoubtedly come across a selection of children’s ornamental snowstorms which fit snugly into the palm of your hand and come to life the moment you shake and turn them upside down. Lots of shimmering flakes are suddenly stirred into action and the plastic figurine in the centre of the device cops the whole blizzard and is unable, until the thing calms and settles again, to do anything whatsoever about the situation. Indeed, the male or female stood in the firing line is more than likely to be subjected to another flaky dowsing before the object has lost its power to amuse and is placed back on the shelf once again. And to top it all, even when the scene has calmed down, the poor bloke or woman glued to the centre of the display is still unable to escape the confines of the bubble as it is hermetically sealed. What I am getting at is that you can see out but cannot go out and trouble could, at any minute, erupt when some perfect stranger turns your house upside down. Such was the line of thought preoccupying Arnold Matson as he considered and steadily digested the outlandish news given to him by Harold Garstang some two hours earlier.
In a way, what had surprised Matson most about Harold Garstang’s revelation was his own startled reaction and reply as the news hit him and caught him completely off guard. Arnold’s counterpunch had been ‘You don’t think I believe in all that rubbish, do you?’ when he knew full well that he did believe in an afterlife; he just didn’t see why he should admit it when he felt he had been made to look a fool after being subjected to sensitive information in such a ruthless fashion. No, he needed to remain calm and gather his own thoughts. After all, where’s the constructive mileage in storming into Edith Moseley’s room and demanding some sort of psychic explanation? Besides which, she had only emitted grunts and monosyllabic oratory ever since she got here.
The simple facts remained and must be addressed. Seven people were marooned in Matson’s home and they would all be expecting an evening meal later today. He could easily expect his guests to help themselves but it wasn’t Arnold’s way. Dwelling on what he had been told in the bar earlier was not going to help matters and the more he kept himself occupied with routine and mundane chores, the less he was going to worry and the quicker time would fly past until this predicament had run its course.
It was a toss-up which one of Darwin’s quotes seemed more appropriate at this moment…‘How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children,’ mused Arnold, before seeing the perfect irony and whispering to himself, ‘It’s just a pity that I’m surrounded by a bunch of crazy adults…’ He wiped a chilled circle of condensation from a window pane, observed the motionlessness landscape of the car park and sleeping fields beyond, and made his way through to the stark reality of the pub’s kitchen.