On Monday 3rd July 2017, Adeline Anderson-Ardht –well equipped with paternal language genes and maternal business genes, all round over achiever, ravishingly beautiful and wearing a silk scarf infused with her mother’ scent– boards the 06.50 Deutsche Flügel flight from Manchester to Flughafen Hamburg. At the precise moment the jet’s load transfers from the undercarriage to the wings, Adaline sits back and thinks: “I’ve finally arrived. My first European business trip. My first big deal for Oil Corp. My time to shine…”
Behind him is the burned-out hulk of his Hawker Hurricane Mark IID, more opened tin can than tank-busting tin opener. Above him is the searing mid-afternoon sun and all about him is a vast expanse of snaking sand dunes. Pilot Officer Barclay is in a tight spot. With no radio, he reasons there is little chance of rescue and with no water, he reconciles himself to the inevitability of his fate. It boils down to a binary choice. If he stays with the plane, he’ll surely die. If he leaves it behind at least he’ll die trying to survive.
“This will be a difficult innings,” Barclay thinks as he heads out into the desert.
For the third time, he falls prostrate. Particles of sand attach to salt-encrusted lips. In a hypnagogic state, a cinematic rendering of Barclay’s last sortie appears in his mind.
Amid tank fire from both sides, Barclay is now on a low pass. A Panzer type III is centred in the crosshairs of his gun sight. He waits for the perfect moment. A fourteen pounder explodes at one o’clock. The sudden dip of the left wing is corrected by a quick shift of the stick to the right. Debris blasts over the cockpit and wings. Barclay checks his machine.
“Oil pressure good. Engine noise unaffected. Wings abraded, still attached,” He says, thanking Camm for the Hawker’s durability.
The Panzer grows in the sight…
The face peering back at him from behind the smeared surface of the hall mirror appears both familiar and unfamiliar. Sagging features coupled with the deep fissures and prominent sulci of a septuagenarian have triumphed over the chiselled ironed-out youthfulness of the ‘vicenarian,’ George thinks he remembers. But it is only that, a thought. At best a guess. George isn’t certain of much anymore. If it not for Sally, he wouldn’t know with any certainty exactly where he lives, exactly what day it is, whether he should take the blue pill at breakfast time or the red pill at lunchtime or the red and blue pill together at dinner time.
Today is Monday, George has already taken the green pill on an empty stomach as instructed, and there’s a note next to the mirror that reads: “Breakfast date at 10 am with Wendy at the Tea Pot, love Sally.”
“A date?” George mumbles, “Thataman!” he adds applauding his virility whilst forming a grey-white side-parting, working in Brylcreem with a tortoise shell comb…