_In Search Of A Dream_
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Patrick hunched down in his coat as the winter air swirled around him. His nose was already numb from being outside so long and he swore his toes had all frozen together into one big lump in his boots, making it close to impossible to walk. But he had to keep going. This was his only chance to put an end to this misery. To finally break free of everything that had been holding him down and keeping him from all his life could be.
He took in a deep breath through his frozen nose, coughed as the cold air hit his lungs and thought about turning back. Stopping, he turned to look at how far he had come, what he had faced to make it this far. Even though he only saw mountains and snow his mind conjured up everything he'd faced from the time he'd started his journey until now. Patrick turned to look at how much farther he'd have to go before it was finished and he could rest, warm and snug somewhere, anywhere, once this was over.
"I can't stop. I have to keep going." He said aloud. The wind replied back with a sharp blast to his front and he closed his eyes against the chills racing over his skin. Patrick couldn't stop, not because he didn't want to but because he was afraid to.
He knew the monestary was somewhere at the top of this mountain: He had seen it in a dream. In his minds eye, he knew exactly where it was, what the scenery looked like around it. In the dream, he could fly over the buildings and swoop around them. It was different in reality, of course - he had never felt the cold in his dreams; had never had to battle against snow-storms. But the monestary was out there, he knew it. He only needed to find it, and all his problems would be over.
He even knew the name of the monk he had to talk to. When he made it, he knew he had to knock five times on the door, and ask for Brother William.
Down below, on the windswept moors that had been his home for so many years, he also knew that They were out looking for him. He had made careful plans to get away without being missed, but he had always known he was only ever be buying himself a little extra time - they would have discovered his absence eventually, and then all hell would have broken loose. All this, he was sure must already have come to pass - even his careful preparations couldn't have allowed him to get away completely unnoticed - but he allowed himself a smile of smug satisfaction that he hadn't heard the sirens: he had hoped all along to get away far and fast enough not to know when the chase was begining; it was another sign that he was going to succeed.
He continued to push his way through the weather. Snow swirled around him, and he hugged his jacket in a futile effort to keep hold of the little warmth he still felt. Keeping his footing was also getting harder - the ground was getting more and more slippery, and as he ascended, the terrain was becoming rockier. Small stones and pebbles slipped under his feet, minature landslides that occasionally threatened to take his feet with them. He had to tread carefully, but his feet were becoming painful from the cold, and it was getting harder to keep going. He wished he could have prepared better - it would have been nice to have got some warmer clothing - but he had done the best he could: it hadn't been easy to get what he had without raising suspicion; if he had done any more, he would have been exposed before he had even started.
With a muttered prayer to Brother William and his collegues, Patrick was able to muster another reserve of energy. He strode forward with renewed purpose.
But the snow carried on falling, and although the wind did sometimes seem to ease off, it was only so it could build up to the extra strong blasts that were so effective at cutting right through his jacket and chilling him to his core.
And then, just as the first seeds of doubt were entering his mind, he saw it. It loomed out of the haze like a grey leviathan. The snow still battered him, making visibility almost zero, and it was hard to make out any details, but he was sure this was it. He staggered up to what he hoped was the front door, and beat his fist on it five times, praying fervently that he would be answered.
He listened intently for a sound; anything to tell him that he had been heard, but nothing happened. A couple of times he thought he caught the sound of chanting being carried to him by the wind, but the wind itself was howling and changing direction so much that the sounds were gone almost as soon as he heard them. He cursed his luck that he had chosen a day with such bad weather to make his journey. Another day, and it would have been different.
He considered whether he should knock again. But his dream had told him only about the one set of knocks. He had no idea what to do if they weren't answered. Or perhaps he wasn't at the front door? Maybe he should walk around and find another entrance? But what if someone answered his first knock and he wasn't there any more? The uncertainties tumbled one after the other through his mind. He wasn't used to this: He had never been uncertain of anything in this way before. He always knew what to do. But this was different.
* * * * *
When they found him, he was hunched against a sheltered rock-face, almost frozen to death, crying quietly to himself.
The snow storm had blown itself out and the sky had cleared, allowing the search to be extended by helicopter, and it was from the air that they finally spotted him. A rescue party was quickly on the scene, and Patrick was wrapped up and winched on board the chopper. But it was three weeks before he had recovered enough to give an account of his ordeal.
When he was finally discharged from the infirmary, he was taken directly to the governer's office. He had been there before, of course, but never under such circumstances, and he felt a genuine twinge of fear as he was led down the final corridor. Like a schoolboy, he thought, who knows he's about to be caned.
The door was opened, and he was ushered through.
The familiar voice of Mr van Sittart immediately filled the room: "Ah, Patrick," he said, "You put up a fine show there, didn't you."
Patrick's eyes darted nervously around the room in response.
"Take a seat," the governer said, "I want to show you something."
Patrick sat, uncomfortably, tense, and leaning forward.
Van Sittart also sat, and pushed a folded newspaper across the desk toward Patrick: "Take a look," he said, "you made the front page. I'm impressed."
Patrick scanned the page. 'Asylum Escapee Rescued', said the headline. His eyes flitted across the columns. The helicopter crew were heroes. The asylum procedures would have to be looked at. No mention of the monestary, but that was understandable - it was a secret; there was no reason why the journalist would know about it. And even if he did, no reason for him to mention it.
"Now why don't you tell me the story from your perspective?" said van Sittart amiably. He leaned back in his chair, and nodded encouragingly to Patrick. "Go on..."
Patrick felt able to tell them how he had escaped - he was fairly sure they would already know anyway, so there was nothing to be gained by holding anything back in that respect. They would know how he had got hold of the jacket and boots, how he had timed everything to fit the schedule, and how he had arranged diversions and excuses to explain his absense, so he told them everything.
What he didn't tell them was why he had done it. Of course, that was what they were most interested in, and they pressed him on it for weeks afterward, but he never broke. Brother William had told him that the monestary must remain secret, and he had no intention of breaking his word. Instead, he made up a weak excuse that he was simply sick of being confined. It was true enough up to a point, but they didn't believe him; they knew as well as he did that he was holding something back. They just never found out what.
Eventually the interrogations subsided. There was only a certain number of times that they could ask the same questions, and it was clear that the answer was not going to be given.
So after just a few short months, Patrick's routine was back to almost exactly the same as it always had been.
* * * * *
"I'm sorry about your troubles getting to us. I hope you have not been dissuaded from your quest? We are still waiting for you."
The coarse fibres of the monk's grey habit caught the light as he spoke, creating an eerie shimmering effect. His voice was the same as always - soft and calm, but at the same time powerfully intense, and his eyes gazed directly at Patrick with unhesitating boldness.
Patrick knew what he must do. His mind began sifting ideas; working out how things would be different this time. After breakfast, he would begin.
Spudley Strikes Again