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Flying the Flag

The American flag flew over the town hall, dancing gently in the slight wind. Kelly McCoor had deliberately hired the largest room in the town hall to show off Mr. Ellephanie's vote winner to the retired population of Hertferd. She felt it was the type of intrusion into personal terrain which would make Anderton annoyed. She was right; he had tried to stop them using the town hall, but there was nothing he could do.

The word about the demonstration of "Revival" had spread like the Ebola virus and there were massive queues of elderly people chattering excitedly, their voices echoing inside the hall.

The portable holoroom stood at centre stage, looking like an innocent white box. There was a discrete cubicle for changing and preparation.

Chuck Ellephanie, Kelly McCoor, Sandra Wilbeck, Sue McGowan, Jim Howard, Anne Highbury and Lisa Stanton of Intel stood around the foyer. They had made full use of the opportunity to talk to all of these potential vote winners and there was a scale model of what the "Revival complex" would look like, situated at the edge of Hertferd on what was now farmland.

Eager faces were held back by a barrier. "I thought it was five minutes in length."

"I thought it was two."

“It's two," said an old man who wore a couple of medals especially for the occasion. He was next in the queue.

Lisa Stanton of Intel came up to him.

“Hi, I'm Lisa from Intel, Good to see you here."

"The name's Norm."

“What have you heard about 'Revival’?”

“Everyone seems real excited when they come out, but I'm not so sure myself. I've got a good imagination; I can remember things so I'm not sure all this contraption is needed. Seems a bit unnecessary to me. It’s certainly seems far-fetched, but I'm willing to give anything a try."

“Well, I'm quite sure you have a really good imagination. The difference with ‘Revival’ is the difference between a dream and thinking about something while you're awake. You actually feel like you're back there, in whatever memory or time you bring up."

“Well, we'll see. Like I say, willing to give it a shot. .

Lisa, taking her cue, went off to talk to others.

“My name's Norm,” he said turning around to the elderly woman behind him. “Nice to talk to you. What do you make of all this?"

“Well my friend, Hatty, she went in yesterday and she said it was just swell. She says she's hooked and she's coming back today."

“What did she say it was like though?"

“She said, just like the lady said, she said it was like being there. Another friend of mine, Marge, well she went to Revival in Florida, and she said there they have a complex that's as big as Senax. They find good memories ‘n’ bring ‘em back. Reliving their best moments. People spent days there, like you used to do in Disney. I remember it well, remember the first time' I took my son there. He was there wandering around wide eyed, you know, couldn't get enough of it. This is different though, this is kinda' personal."

“What are you here to remember?"

“Well, my husband died about three years ago now. He didn't leave an image behind."

“I'm sorry to hear that."

“Well, I suppose I'm used to it now, but the pain never goes away, and the loneliness, I wanted to go back to when we first met."

“Uh huh. Let me tell you something. Sorry what's your name?"

"Oh I'm sorry, my name's Sinead."

“Nice name, unusual too."

“Thank you. Named after my great-grandmother. She was Welsh; she came from a little town called Bangor."

“Uh-huh. Anyhow, like I was saying, my wife, she won't come out to this. She says it's not right, to go visiting things in the past. She says some things might upset you even if they made you happy at the time. You sure you're not making a mistake?"

“No I don't think so. This is just a better version of photographs, videos or something and I'm choosing to look at them. I don't think there's any harm in looking at photos and videos and I don't think there's any harm in coming to this. What's wrong if it gives you a little pleasure?"

“Well, maybe you're right. I just don't know." Howard was beckoned.

“Oh well, good luck."

Norm walked forward and went into the cubicle.

A counsellor talked to him and explained what would happen to him. He had to sign a document saying it was his decision to go ahead. He entered the small holoroom. In the centre there was a chair that looked like it had come out of a fighter aircraft, only it had a circular section at the top, which came down over your head.

A woman came into the room.

“Looks like something out of some goddam sci-fi movie. You sure this won't whip me away into an alien spaceship? "

The woman smiled reassuringly and told him not to worry.

He sat down in the chair and it moved to the shape of his body.

A voice told him to relax, breathe deeply and start to think about the moment that he had brought with him to explore.

He started to think about the Vietnam War. He pictured himself in the cockpit of his plane weaving and diving; cannon fire was all around him. It felt like the memory was drifting towards him, like he was travelling physically towards it, until suddenly he arrived.

He jerked.

Two zero, you've got five on your tail. Hit the deck! Hit the deck! Go below one thousand and we'll regroup."

"Roger that. Will do. Stormy weather up here, stormy weather."

Norm pushed the stick forward, the engine roared and he felt himself become lighter as G hit and the buckles started to restrain him.

He had five fighters on his tail bearing down on him like black ravens.

"Two zero, you've got one at seven o'clock I repeat seven o’clock.”

Tracer bullets shot past him in the cockpit. He felt his mouth go dry, his heart was pumping.

"Hard left, hard right. Come on baby," Norm shouted, "Come on baby."

More tracer fire shooting past the cockpit. Closer this time, getting closer.

"Come on baby. Hit that deck!"

The cloud embraced him and he became lost in it, falling faster and faster towards the earth.

“This is squadron leader two zero. Go in. Go in. We can't break free up here. We are all being engaged and under heavy fi..."

The radio waves crackled with white noise. The noise of death.

Norm swallowed hard, bobbing his head around like a hunted animal inside the cockpit, trying to spot any more birds of prey chasing him.

Norm stormed out of the cloud base at one thousand feet, like a swordfish shooting out of the surface of the ocean. Rain splattered against the plane and bolts of lightning rattled.

The convoy lay below him. It looked like a green wet, lizard moving through the jungle. The bridge lay ahead.

"Two zero, you are the last one in. Good luck. Over.”

"Roger that."

Tracer fire again.

Hard left, hard right, weave, weave, and weave.

The bridge came up beneath him. He dropped the payload and pulled the stick up hard. A plume of flame chased the plane as he pulled up.

“Two zero, two zero, two zero..."

The lights came up slowly and Norm realised where he was. He shook his head. It was like he had been there two minutes ago. Literally two minutes ago. He could remember it all, every last detail. The colours, the smells, that intoxicating mix of utter fear and excitement. He had come out alive.

The chair hissed as it allowed him to get out. He walked out past Sinead

“How was it honey?"

“The longest two minutes that I've felt in a while."

Norm waited for Sinead to go in. When she came out she started to cry, large teardrops falling freely down her face, making her mascara run.

“It was just so real," she exclaimed between her tears, "They said it might not be the best thing for me to do, but I insisted. He was there; I swear he was, with me. I could smell him; feel his breath on my neck. He held me in his arms it felt so good."

Norm took Sinead’s arm as she led them out the back way.

Why don't you come back and have a drink with myself and my wife?" Norm said gently. "I'd hate to feel I left you feeling like this."

“It's just everyone's been enjoying it so much," Sinead continued, "I thought it would be fine, I'd thought about it and everything."

Norm took Sinead out into the open air. He offered her a tissue to wipe her eyes.

Kelly McCoor walked up to Chuck.

“This is great. Ninety per cent of people are going away saying that this is a good idea and many of them are switching to your side. I don't think we'll allow many more widows to visit their husbands though do you? We'll leave them to pay for that."

“I agree. Tell them they can't take that memory, and if need be tell them why, but we don't want anyone else coming out of there crying, okay?"

As Norman took Sinead down the road, his medals clanked against his chest. He had remembered exactly why he'd won them. They watched a police car drive up the high street, a man was pointing towards them. It was Goldentooth.

“Hey look it's Grandma and Grandad out to get us."

“Hey, shut the fuck up with you," Randy Howell said. "That's my Gran you're talking about there. Looks like she's hooked a guy, Jees.
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