The Little Willowford Mission (3)

Report Three

Much idolised commander, a thousand abject apologies for the late delivery of this report. I can only imagine what anxious deliberations must have been assailing you. However, I can reassure you that both the body and I are safe and well, although this was not the case yesterday and my report will explain how that came to be.

Several days passed before I left the dwelling for the second time. There was still plenty of material with which to sustain the body, so I set up an observation station at the upstairs front window. I determined that it would be judicious to avoid any further risky interactions with vehicles until I had gained a better understanding of their operation.

Unfortunately, I learned nothing that could have helped avoid the near collision on my first outing. Most of the vehicles I observed drove on the left side of the road at moderate speed. I concluded, therefore, that my narrow escape was a random event with no particular significance and that it was safe to venture out again.

By the time I had come to this conclusion, it was much later in the day than before, but I was cognisant of the requirements of my mission. My report would be a sparse and negligent creature if I languished in the dwelling for yet another day. I added a further layer of garments and left the dwelling once again, this time turning left.

I found the village to be very dull. The windows of some of the dwellings I passed were lit, as the light was fading, but I passed no-one as I progressed further, seeking communication. I turned left then right, a sequence that could be easily reversed thus avoiding the possibility of losing my way. I was about to retrace my steps when I heard voices, so I continued and was rewarded almost immediately.

What an interesting sight to behold! Three men stood on the steps of a large building with many illuminated windows. Clouds of smoke billowed around them, and at first I feared for their safety, assuming the building to be on fire. Then, fortunately before I was able to raise the alarm, I perceived that I was in fact witnessing the social custom of smoking. I had learned about this but not yet observed it, so I paused to gather information until this drew unwanted attention to me and I was forced to abandon my task. Luckily, the men were amused rather than discontented or aroused at this interaction, as evidenced by the laughter and cheerful greetings that followed me as I walked away briskly.

The next building was similarly illuminated and a large sign read THE WILLOWFORD ARMS. Although it seemed unlikely that the village would have two inns beside each other, I decided to enter. As a customer, I would be in a superior position to observe, although I resolved not to draw further attention to myself by taking notes. Commander, I am more repentant than you can imagine, to report that my memory of the events that followed is substantially impaired. However, I will record what I can:

On entering the building, I found it to be most attractively appointed, with hundreds of tiny lights twinkling at every point. I observed a good many tables with associated seating arranged alongside the outer walls, and the centre of the room was formed of a circular brick barrier, topped with polished wood. A multitude of bottles were arranged on and behind the barrier and there were a number of tall, circular seats beside it. Two of these were occupied by a man and a woman, who turned to look at me as I entered. Another man stood behind the barrier and he, too, studied me closely. This caused me some discomfiture and I found myself at such a loss to know how to respond, that I had almost turned to leave when he spoke.

‘Can I help you, love?’ said he.

This was most confusing. Yes, of course there would be ways in which he could help me. Almost certainly he would have access to information it would take me many weeks of observation to gather myself, but it would be far too perilous to trust him. And why would he refer to me in that intimate way after such a brief acquaintance? I have read that some romantic engagements occur most expeditiously in humans, but this seemed extreme.  Commander, you will be relieved to hear that I did not fall into his trap, if indeed that is what it was. I was still debating internally how to reply without giving offence, when he spoke again.

‘Can I get you anything?’

Knowing that the function of an inn is to provide sustenance and entertainment to the population, I grasped this opportunity.

‘Sir, I am excessively obliged,’ I replied. ‘I would indeed welcome a drink.’

I will not record the conversation that followed. It would be difficult to recall all of it, as the man and woman on the high seats joined in at this point, debating the suitability of a range of beverages. They were very friendly, as shown by the frequency with which they smiled and laughed when I spoke. Eventually they decided upon a nice glass of Chardonnay, which was presented to me with a request for money, with which I complied easily, having gained a high score in the currency module.

I have to report that the body responded very favourably to the glass of Chardonnay. Almost immediately there were signs of relaxation. The cardiac system had been over-stimulated on entering the building, but the pulse reduced quite quickly. I also noted a reduction in the sensation of separation I have felt since taking charge of this body, and that enabled me to participate easily in a short conversation with the man and woman, who insisted I sit beside them.

I was delighted at this turn of events. Maybe my mission would be shorter than anticipated. If the population were this amenable to communication with a total stranger, surely I could be home in two or three cycles, rather than the five or six planned. This, Commander, was my reasoning as I paid for a second glass of Chardonnay – a large one is better value I was assured. I also paid for drinks for the man and woman to avoid them leaving as they had discussed, having forgotten to bring much currency with them.

It is with great regret that I have to end my report here. The body started to malfunction before I had completed drinking the second – or it may have been the third – nice glass of Chardonnay. It was unable to walk in a satisfactory manner when I took it to the toilet, and speech became challenging. I left the inn expeditiously, despite the protestations of my new friends, and managed to find my way back to the dwelling before a good deal of the Chardonnay was ejected in a violent and unpleasant manner.

Commander, I beg you to forgive me, but it was impossible to write this report yesterday. If I did not know it to be a preposterous notion, I would have believed the body was punishing me for poisoning it the day before. I could not have imagined such a plethora of symptoms. Pain in the head, a dry mouth, a sensation that informed me the stomach would eject anything offered to it. I was forced to remain horizontal in a darkened room for more than twelve hours and wait until the surroundings ceased to revolve.

Nonetheless, the body is almost recovered now. This is good news. I will give it only small quantities of Chardonnay in future, but I have discovered that the inn is a good place to initiate conversations. I hope you will accept this as an indication of future success and spend only a short period considering my failures.

Your most faithful foot soldier,

Jane Brown (Mrs)


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