Duncan kicked at the large stone in his path and stopped for a moment to watch it splash into the murky water. Even the rivers around here were dull, he could smell a slight stench caused by stagnancy and decay. He didn’t like to think what else may have been dumped or leaked into the water.
Uncle Goliath had said that back in his day being a young man was about as good as life could be. He would relay tales of bike races, tree climbing, caving, apple scrimping (which apparently meant picking apples from a tree in somebody else’s garden) and even some of the fights he’d been in. Duncan wasn’t much of a fighter, or likely to win a race but be able to ride a bike without it being stolen, or steal some apples without the police being called sounded wonderful.
Most of the lads his age preferred their X-box and Duncan probably would too, if he’d been allowed to have one. His parents claimed they were ‘hippies’ but there was nothing ‘hip’ about their lives. Even having two parents was odd, but living in a house with minimal technology, in the middle of a city was seen as outrageous. If it wasn’t for his twin brothers who were 7 years older he’d probably be the target of most of the local bullying, but whilst they had little time for him when he was around, they were fiercely protective and watchful.
Mom said that spending time without television and computers would enhance his imagination and Dad said that he was always busy and out with his friends when he was the same age. Sometimes he was proud of his life, sometimes at weekends when his parents’ friends visited; hands full with musical instruments, food, drinks and peculiar artefacts he couldn’t imagine being anywhere more fun.
Some of the other kids in school looked as though they hadn’t smiled in a year, or like they ever stepped outside their front door when they weren’t at school. At least he knew how to climb and hold a conversation and whilst he was teased for knowing the names of the plants and trees around him he would at least be able to identify some sources of food if he was lost somewhere....and how wonderful it would be get lost somewhere. To be away from the city, to breathe clean air, to climb up a cliff and look out at the sea....
“You want what?” an irritated and creaky voice suddenly interrupted Duncan’s thoughts. He looked around him, side to side, turned looked behind and then back in front of him again but he could see nothing.
“Who’s there?” he asked.
“What’s Quin? Is that your name?” Duncan asked.
There was no reply, so he asked “Where are you? Can I help you.....er....Quin” but again there was silence.
Duncan looked around again; spun around on the spot, took a few steps in every direction, looked up, checked behind the trees nearby and even crouched down to examine the grass at his feet. There was nothing, nobody, no object, no telephone, nowhere that a voice could have come from. After a few minutes he continued walking and within an hour he’d almost forgotten the voice.
It was a Summery evening, and dinner was a selection of salads in the garden with Constance; his sister Aggie’s best friend sitting close to her, giggling conspiratorially. With a sigh he ran up to his room to find a book, comic, anything to distract him from the high pitched sound of lively, teenage females.
He turned the handle of his room and *bang* his chest bounced straight off the door again. There was no lock, and nothing had been blocking the door when he’d left that morning! How could this be? He pushed and still there was no budge, so he knocked and called out;
There was no reply and so he rammed his body weight hard against the middle of the door and the next thing he knew he was flat on the floor in the middle of his room. The door slammed shut again behind him and as Duncan rolled onto his back and looked up to see who had closed it, he was dazzled.
A kaleidoscope of bright shimmering metallic colours arrested his eyes. Shades of the like he’d never before seen, these weren’t the dull hues blurring in the background, like the endless anonymous cars streaming constantly through the surrounding roads. This was like the changing bright colours you may see in a puddle of spilled petrol, or the swirling shades you could see when you looked closely at the surface of a bubble.
It took half a minute for him to assemble himself enough to even look at the shape of the creature which stood before him. What was it? Duncan recognised that it had wings rather than arms, a beak not a mouth, little mounds instead of ears and peculiar scaled feet. It was difficult to see what was beneath the changing colours, it didn’t look like feathers, or scales, or skin but some kind of strange liquid.
“You want what?” a piercing impatient voice suddenly demanded.
“I...I don’t want anything. What, why, who...?” It was difficult to know which question to ask first.
“You summoned me, I am here and I am Quin.”
In his shock Duncan had barely registered this was the same voice he had heard by the river but there was that word again *Quin*.
“What is Quin, is that your name?” he asked.
“No time for that now, where is it you need me to take you?” asked the strange creature.
“We’re just about to have dinner, I can’t go anywhere why don’t you, er.. join us?”
Duncan’s parents were open-minded but this could be a strange situation to explain to even them and so he was relieved when Quin replied that he didn’t “imbibe earth substances”.
Duncan didn’t know what ‘imbibe’ meant but in this moment all he wanted to do was to go outside in the garden and be around humans and their earth substances. He picked himself up from his strangely seated position on the floor and said, “have to go” and hurriedly exited the room.
By the time he reached the bottom of the stairs he paused for breath, realising his heart was racing and palms were warm and wet. He’d half thought the creature may attack him, or trap him in the room, at least he’d got away but...what to do now?
Back outside in the garden Aggie and Constance were still talking so fast it sounded like another language and bursting into laughter at the same time as if they were connected components in a car engine “chugg chugg”, “chaff chaff chaff” then a resounding “haw haw haw harrrr” the whole thing was baffling. There was definitely no point trying to explain the situation of Quin to either of them.
Rather than taking a seat at the table Duncan sat by the large pond and looked at the calming colours of the water, interrupted only by the reflection of the odd cloud, a floating leaf or the rise of a small bubble of air. The family cat was avidly watching the water also, clearly hoping that one of the fish, or perhaps even a frog, would swim near enough to provide a challenge after a day of basking in the sun.
His Mom appeared in the garden balancing two large glass bowls on her left arm and waving enthusiastically with the other. She was smiling and gesturing to Duncan to take a seat at the table. His father emerged at this point carrying a very large platter with lots of small bowls and an even bigger smile. They were always so happy, why didn’t they sulk and argue like other people’s parents. Or like he did? How didn’t they manage to be cheerful so often?
He knew they did argue sometimes but when they were happy it made him feel a bit left out, as if he was missing some magical world that they lived in where he wasn’t invited. He was invited though, after a while he always found himself smiling and laughing along with them. It was an infectious joy they shared. Only today, today was different. Today there was something going on that meant he could not be infected by anybody else’s thoughts, or feelings, or humour.
“Yes, Dunc? How was your day? Do you want to follow me to the kitchen?”
Duncan jogged to catch up with her fast walk and again asked, “Mom?”
She smiled openly whilst reaching for a jug of purple liquid and a placing it amidst a tray of glasses.
“What is Quin?”
“Quin? Well, I used to know a Mr Quinn, and there is a fruit called ‘quince’, you can use the word ‘Quin’ in scrabble but.....I don’t know what it is, as a thing. Why? Why do you ask?”
“I met one today, or...it anyway”
“One what, what are talking about Dunc?”
“A big shiny bright *thing* which called itself Quin, I saw that today.”
Duncan was expecting shock, disbelief, more questions but his mother simply threw back her head and laughed.
“Oh I forgot about that ‘Quin’ yes, wonderful, well they do say it can only be seen by the sensitive one who awakens it. Did he really come and see you Duncan??”
“Yes Mom, though I don’t think Quin is a he or a she.”
His mother laughed, “it really does sound like you have met Quin! Well I never, I really didn’t actually believe this creature really existed. You must have quite an adventure ahead!”
She stopped and stared blankly out at the lawn for a few seconds, collecting her thoughts.
“Son, this really is quite a thing. I do want to be here for you if you need to talk about it all, but it may be that you have to experience much of this without me. From what I know you are completely safe with Quin and…..well, I have to say, I do envy you. How I wished to experience that when I was a child.”
She smiled wistfully and after placing her arm protectively around his shoulders she lifted the tray of glasses and juice and walked back into the garden. As if there had been no strange conversation at all.
For the first time in his young life, Duncan felt like there was something special about him. Him, he, Duncan a 9 year old, fairly unremarkable city boy, had been chosen to have a great adventure.
Duncan ate hurriedly, he was excited and scared, hungry and anxious. A part of him was keen to go back to his room and see if Quin was still there, his mother’s endorsement had surprised him but he felt a little safer now. When his food was finished she flashed him a subtle but definite smile of encouragement and he knew it was his cue to leave the table and begin his adventure.
Upstairs Duncan turned the handle to his room and pushed open the door very slowly this time. It eased open as usual and he walked expectantly into the room but it appeared to be just the same as it had been that morning. There was no Quin in sight. To make sure, he checked in all the obvious hiding places; under the bed, inside the wardrobe, he even opened the window and looked to see if there was anything on the ledge outside but no, there was nothing. Not that Quin would have been able to fit into any of those areas, but it seemed sensible to check all the same.
Duncan was too excited to read or draw as he may usually. He had a little mathematics homework to do, so he decided to try and look at that. He changed his clothes as he had planned to earlier and sat on the corner of his bed. The new maths topic they had started in class was called algebra and it made very little sense to him. As he was beginning to actually manage to concentrate on the first question, a strange buzzing noise started from the darkest corner of the room. He looked up but could see nothing, so he pretended to carry on with what he was doing.
Bzzzzz zzzz, ZIP!
Suddenly the dark corner of the room was lit up with Quin’s magnificent colours and Duncan had to blink a few times for his eyes to cope with the sudden brightness. He was feeling more courageous now, if his Mom wasn’t worried then he had less reason to be scared.
“So, are you ready?” Quin asked with clear irritation.
“Yes I am, what happens now” replied Duncan calmly.
“You tell me why you summoned me and where you want to go and we set off!”
“It’s dark now though, all day I’ve wished to be by the sea but I want to be there in the daytime. I have to go to school again tomorrow” Duncan explained sadly.
“A-ha” said Quin, “you have so much to find out, so much to learn.” For the first time a note of smile was present in the creature’s voice. Not that you could see a smile on Quin’s beaky mouth, but you could hear it, as if the hard corners of his beak had upturned a little.
“I can take you to the sea, I can take you to earlier today, I can take you anywhere!” Quin explained.
“I have been sent to you for a reason, you knocked the sleeping stone but very few mortals can see or hear me. You are chosen”
At hearing these words Duncan was suddenly gripped with nerves. What could it mean to be chosen? Why would he be able to see Quin if so few could? He’d never been special or remarkable in any way. Sometimes he was told that his ability to draw and sing were talents, or ‘gifts’ but those comments made him feel even more shy. He was not born to be remarkable.
“I don’t understand? Chosen...?” He finally asked.
“You will understand, all in good time. Now go and open that window over there, that’s it. Good. What you need to do now is sit, just here. No, not there, you right where my ~as you call them~ feet are. Sit in there, as far in as you can and lean back.”
Against his better judgement Duncan found himself doing as asked and nestling back into Quin’s ‘feet’.
“It’s okay you can’t fall,” explained Quin.
“Once we are in the air you will be connected to me. You cannot be seen, you cannot move away. When I land, then you are free to step away. There is nothing to fear.....Now!”
With no further warning they were suddenly sailing into the air and out through the open window.
Duncan for a moment wondered how such a large creature had squeezed out of such a small space, but then he looked down at the ground so far away, and growing further and further away and his thoughts and concerns began to fade. The city looked beautiful from here, he could see the river that he walked along every day, snaking through clumps of trees. The roads which seemed so grey and grimy close up were like patterns in a lovely Indian silk fabric. Hills too, he didn’t know there were so many hills and pastures so close to where he lived. As Quin guided them higher and higher; the lights of the city grew dimmer, until the stars in the sky were more vivid than the city below; beaming down on them like spotlights.
Duncan could barely make out the ground anymore, just the increasingly bright blur of thousands and thousands of stars. No Moon was in sight, just an amazing map of lights and suddenly the Sun began to appear, it was rising up quickly, filling the sky with purples and reds and blues and greens. So beautiful, so bright and then it was daylight again, and he had turn his head completely to the left as it hurt his eyes so much.
He could see land again now, there were some lakes, many hills and oh there was the sea; the lovely coastline of the sea ahead. They began to slow down and swoop closer to the land bit by bit and within a moment they were on solid ground again and he found he was lying in a sand dune. It took him a moment to catch his breath and his heart was still racing when Quin said “here it is”.
And it was, the sea was just 10 metres away, lapping softly and gleaming in the sun. Duncan jumped up in glee and ran straight towards the water, barely remembering to remove his shoes before stepping into the shallow waves, happily wincing at the coldness of the water.
There was nobody around, the pale sandy beach was accessible only by sheer cliffs. Quin left the boy to tire himself out and eventually Duncan emerged from the sea gleeful and grateful.
“Now” said Quin “this is where the real story shall begin. Come with me!”
Startled and intrigued Duncan said nothing and allowed himself to be led away from the sea, into the deep sands towards the cliff face. Quin hovered and shimmered in front of him, with the slight use of his wings he was able to move above the sand in an ‘S’ shape, like the flight of a very tidy bumble bee.
When they reach the cliff Duncan found he was standing at the mouth of a large deep cave.
“I will wait here” said Quin, “I need to you explore and learn about this cave. There are no clocks here, and there is no time. For me a moment can be a minute or a day, I am beyond gravity and will take you back to your home when you have finished in there.”
Duncan looked quizzically at Quin wondering how time could be ignored, and what he was supposed to be looking for in the cave. There were so many question to ask and yet, he was curious. He wanted to explore. Perhaps there would treasure, or a skeleton. So he smiled up at Quin and his peculiarity and simply said; “okay”.
Duncan had never been inside a cave this big before, he’d seen photographs of magnificent caves filled with stalagmites and stalagmites but they were always lit up. This cave was dark, very dark indeed. The bright sunshine didn’t reach very far inside, but further in, to his right, he could see a shaft of light. A hole in the roof of the cave was lighting up a corner dramatically and he instinctively walked towards it.
As he moved closer there was a rainbow of light, shining in an arc on the sand. He stood so that he was standing within it, enjoying the feeling of being surrounded by the colours. Then he noticed at the bottom of the beam of light there was a large clear crystal. It was tilted towards where he was standing and creating the rainbow. He picked up the crystal and watched how it moved the colours around the cave as he pointed it in different directions in the light. He laughed and felt the crystal suddenly warm up in his hand and grow brighter. It was no longer creating rainbows and was giving out light as a torch would.
It occurred to Duncan that he could use the crystal to explore the darker areas of the cave, and so he began to walk further within, using the light from the crystal to step around the rocks as the surface became more uneven. He could now feel he was inside the cliffs which looked so strong and mysterious from the beach. The roof was lower in here and the path had become narrower. It was wetter in here too, and the constant dripping of water into the small pools collected in the rocks sounded like steel drums echoing around him.
At the back of the cave he was slightly disappointed. He’d had a sense that something magical would happen, that he was supposed to experience something in here and he crouched for a moment disappointed, turning the crystal around in his hands. Suddenly a narrow beam of light darted from the crystal, he followed it with his eyes and saw there was a small tunnel that had been hidden from sight where he had been standing. Excitedly he jumped up and headed towards it. It was very low, he would have to crawl on his hands and knees to get inside there but he knew he had to. There was something pulling him in that direction.
He slipped the crystal into the top pocket in his t-shirt and started to crawl down the tunnel. It was damp and smelled of seaweed and salt. He could feel little pointed shells beneath his knees, and palms and the texture of the rock felt damp and slimy beneath his fingers. His heart began to race as he suddenly realised he was in a narrow area and may not even be able to turn around, and it would be very difficult to crawl backwards. As if responding to his fear the light emitting from the crystal was growing dimmer and dimmer and he began to crawl faster, now suddenly fearful and wondering why he had come in here. Moments were stretching and as he scrambled and slipped through the low, narrowing tunnel, he began to feel like he had been moving for hours and hours. It all looked the same in the dim light, with only the slightest light being emitted from his crystal. He realised he was shivering from the coldness of the rock and the dampness of his clothes and all he wanted to was to be back outside in the warm sunlight again. He stopped, exhausted and scared, wanting to turn back and began to scramble with his hands to feel if there was enough space to turn.
Suddenly he realised that the in the distance up ahead there seemed to be a little bit of light. Perhaps there was a way out ahead after all? Surely it was quicker to carry on towards the brighter end of the tunnel than try to find his way back again. He took a deep breath to summon some courage and the crystal in his pocket began to warm up and glow again. With relief at being able to see ahead more clearly again, he crawled on ahead and slowly as the crystal grew brighter, so did the light channel from up ahead.
As his racing heart began to slow a little, he realised he could smell smoke and the air temperature was gradually becoming warmer, this wasn’t daylight ahead, there was a fire. It was very narrow now and he was having to wriggle more than crawl, how would he get back? Why did Quin let him go in here alone?
Duncan slowly poked his head out of the tunnel and tried not to cough at the smoke from the fire. He saw he had reached a large round rocky room with a fire burning in the middle. There was hole in the roof above where the fire was and most of the smoke was rising up and out through it. It was very warm and a little bit of steam began to rise from his t-shirt as the dampness began to evaporate from his clothes. He pulled the rest of his body into the room and leaned his back against the wall of the cave with relief. His heart was still beating quickly but he was warm and at least he was safe and could see some daylight again. Just as he was beginning to try to think of ways to climb up to escape from the hole above him he saw a movement. There, just a few metres away from him was the figure of a man sat cross legged looking at him intently.
Duncan was startled, this man must have been watching him for the last few minutes. Why was he here, and why had he not even spoken so much as a hello? The man looked like one of those people he sometimes saw sitting in the street, who would ask for money as people walked by. Some said if you gave them money they would spend it all on drugs or alcohol but Duncan always felt sad when he saw them. He wished he could stop and ask them why they were there and with this in mind he walked over to the man who was still staring at him and sat down next to him.
“Hello” said Duncan.
The man just smiled, he didn’t look like he had had any alcohol or drugs. In fact his eyes were an unusually bright blue, they seemed to be glowing unnaturally in the flickering shadows.
“What is your name?” Duncan tried again.
This time the man laughed and the intensity in his eyes immediately faded. “Huraghy” he replied, “you’ve done very well Duncan, I’m pleased.”
“but, but...h-how do you know my name?” Duncan stammered in surprised.
“You will become accustomed Duncan, in time. In your world, in this so-called ‘civilised’ life you live many abilities have been neglected and forgotten.”
Duncan was mesmerised by the sound of Huraghy’s deep melodic, haunting voice.
Huraghy continued; seeing the fascination his words were creating, “To be able to read the mind of another is the most basic ways to communicate. Observe your surroundings when you are back in your world Duncan, you will notice that animals do it, plants and trees do it. All of the life around you is connected and it works together. It is only human beings who have made themselves separate.”
As Duncan listened he felt warmer inside. There was something very calming and safe about this man, he seemed to know and understand everything. The crystal in his pocket had grown very warm again and he instinctively reached for it and held it in his hands. Looking down at the glow coming from it.
“I see you found it” said Huraghy gesturing towards the crystal. “This is the beginning of your journey. This crystal is a clear quartz and it can create pure energy. Whenever you feel, joy or happiness the crystal will respond and light up.”
Duncan examined the crystal and suddenly could feel the energy of it in his hands was resonating with his own body. It was almost as if he could give off light in the same way as the crystal did. They were working together as one.
Huraghy smiled and said, “take this crystal with you and it will show you where pure spirit is, it will teach you where there is truth and what is pure. This is just the start of your journey Duncan, there are many more lessons for you learn but you asked for this experience and you will learn secrets that many spend their entire lives seeking.”
“I don’t understand though, why me? How did I ask for this?”
“Your soul has been asking for a while my child, and many truths have already been passed to you by your ancestors.” replied Huraghy, “you see my life here and you may think I am a hobo, a tramp or a vagabond but what appears to be is not always what is. You will discover this for yourself though in time. Go back now and return to me when you have completed your journey of ‘pure spirit’”
“How will I know when I have completed my journey though? What do I have to do?” asked Duncan suddenly flustered by all the questions that automatically flooded his mind.
“You will know, you will feel a change and will be filled with truth. Quin will be there when you need to travel” and as if he could hear Huraghy’s words there was a ‘bzzzzzzazz’ sound and suddenly Quin was standing next to them.
“You are ready to go back now,” Quin said.
“I want to ask Huraghy more questions though,” protested Duncan.
“Always listen to Quin, Duncan, Quin is the messenger, like mercury the metal which can form into any shape, like the planet which moves quickly and represents travel and communication you must always listen to Quin, young man.” Huraghy finished his words with a wave and Duncan could feel the gravity of the moment compelling him towards Quin. He put the ‘clear spirit’ back into his pocket and once more seated himself in the crook of Quin’s peculiar feet, his back resting against the strange creature’s legs and they set off again.
Rising up in the cave, Duncan tried to wave to Huraghy but found that he couldn’t move his arms. As Quin had told him before, he could not move, his limbs when they were in flight. So Duncan smiled down at Huraghy and found that although they seemed to fly through the centre of the rising flames from the fire, he was not burned by the flames, even when they seemed to lick his skin. Suddenly they were outside in the sunlight again, rising up into the blue of the sky. This time the sun was behind them as they travelled over hills and towns and the sky grew colourful as Duncan got to see the sun setting again, until they were again gazing upon a carpet of stars. He could see a brighter body amongst them and wondered if he was looking at the planet mercury. The crystal in his pocket grew warm as if to agree and Duncan suddenly felt a deep joy and at the light of the crystal glowing powerfully.
It was a beautiful day and finally the weekend. Although only one day had passed since his exciting cave adventure, Duncan had felt like he had been walking in a strange daydream for weeks. The contrast of going about his ordinary day at school yesterday had been a peculiar experience. He had been so deep in thought in fact, that his best friend Norris had been asking him what was wrong. Duncan hadn’t told his friend anything about his adventure yet, he certainly didn’t want to discuss it at school where they could be overheard or interrupted at any moment. It had been a great relief to arrive home and relax into his own thoughts again. Perhaps he was mad, maybe none of it had really happened after all, it all seemed so strange and unreal to him now.
He hadn’t carried his quartz crystal with him to school the previous day, concerned as he was, that he would keep looking at it and that one of the teachers may take it from him as a consequence. Today though was his time to explore and begin his journey.
He got dressed and placed the crystal in the pocket of his jeans. In his eagerness he had awoken earlier than the rest of his family and so he quickly ate some cereal and wrote a note to his parents to say that he was at the river. Their garden backed onto the river and so he often spent his free time there. Sometimes he’d sit in a tree with a book, or skim stones so that they bounced off the surface of the water. His friend, Norris would often join him and they’d cycle for miles along the river and canal paths and sometimes try to make rope swings over the water.
Today Duncan just wanted a little time alone before anybody else came along. He wanted to find out what the crystal would tell him, although he didn’t know how to begin. He sat down on a rock he often sat on, near where the water gushed and made a calming noise. With the crystal in his hand he tried to think of different things he liked but the crystal didn’t light up or grow warm at all. He sat there for a while, pointing it at different things and trying to feel what he felt when he was talking to Huraghy last week but still, nothing happened.
He was growing frustrated and when Norris appeared from behind a bush making a loud “whooop” noise he jumped and then laughed. Amazingly the crystal lit up immediately and grew warm in his hand. Norris sat down beside him laughing and looking to see what Duncan was studying in his hand asked “Wow is that a light?”
For a moment Duncan was lost for words, seeing the crystal lit up reminded him that the adventure he had had just a day and a bit ago was very real after all. He didn’t know if he was allowed to talk about what had happened to him but it was so exciting and he wanted to include his friend in his new magnificent journey.
What Duncan didn’t know at this point was that Norris was already involved in his adventure, more involved that either of them could ever have imagined possible!