Late evening, on the edge of a remote field located in Middle-England, three score and ten years forward of this day, two romantics made preparation for a starkly different kind of date, to the usual.
Charlotte lifted out a fat gun from a portable case they’d brought along with them and handed it to her lover.
“Actually, it’s not as heavy as it looks!” Chris said.
“That’s right, it’s mostly hollow in construction.” Charlotte replied, knowledgeably. “Here, let me help with the cartridge, then you can do the honours.”
The crescent moon and clustering Milky Way stars spread across the cloudless night sky, providing adequate light to assist with prompt loading of the firearm.
“There,” she said, cocking the mechanism, “you’re good-to-go.”
“Are you sure it’s safe?” Chris tested the weight with a loose grip, peering at the gun inquisitively. As he rolled it back and forth through a one-hundred-and-eighty degree arc, Charlotte studied Chris, unsure if his question had been a serious one or not.
“Yes darling,” she said, taking a firm hold of his arm, “especially if you point like so, up in this direction.” From her pockets, she produced four foam earplugs and gently inserted them, first in Chris’s and then her own ears.
“It doesn’t make too loud a bang,” she said, her voice raised by five decibels, “it’s not like a starter’s pistol. But, safety-first, just in case. We don’t want to go down in history as the first couple to lose our hearing, in such a manner.”
“In case of a malfunction, you mean?” Chris asked.
Resembling a small rocket leaving Earth, a reddish glow hurtled skywards, leaving a softening trail of smoke in its wake. Seconds later, the flare illuminated the whole battlefield under a greenish burst of light.
“Wow! Look, at that.” Charlotte scanned the fields and hedgerows, the small clumps of trees, pathways and undulations in the land. “Just think of all the men who lost their lives here, heads knocked in by cannon balls, charged down by horses, picked off by arrows, skewered on pikes, cut and hacked to pieces by swords.”
“The gun feels warm in my hand.” Chris said.
“Does it?” Charlotte replied in a distracted tone. “Don’t worry, the heat will dissipate quickly in this evening’s temperature.”
The light from the flare in the sky flickered and then entirely extinguished, plunging the couple back into darkness. Charlotte allowed her eyes a few moments to adjust back to night light.
“Here, give it to me.” She took the gun out of Chris’s hand and reloaded in an able and well practised manner, handing it back to Chris within seconds.
“This time, fire it slightly over to your right. Just, over … there.” Charlotte aimed Chris’s arm where she wanted it.
“There, will you look at that!” Across the illuminated landscape, Charlotte pointed her finger at a location far off, identifying a dark depression in the field. “See there Chris, that’s so amazing!”
“What? Where are you looking? What can you see?” Chris asked, dumbfounded.
“After all these hundreds of years passing, it’s still there!” Charlotte drew in a breath of wonderment. The green light, flashed thrice, then went out abruptly.
“Again!” She yelped, grabbing the smoking flare gun from Chris’s hand and rapidly effecting a reload. “Do you mind?” Charlotte asked Chris, out of courtesy.
“No, not at all, be my guest”
“I’ll show you what we’ve found.”
Up went the flare, directed with precision to best reveal the land feature exciting Charlotte. “There, see? Look for the darker area of land. That, denotes a marsh.”
“What’s so special about that?” Chris asked, bemused.
“Well, let’s see.” She turned to her boyfriend, noticing the shapes of light from the flare and shadow contours change across his face. “That piece of boggy ground ‘changed history’. It defeated an army and killed a ruling monarch. The future of this country took a different turn because of that patch of permanently wet ground: a new king, marriage to a young queen, the joining together of two opposing factions and offspring traced as ancestors to the present royal family.”
“Wow,” said Chris, “that is pretty amazing. Would you reload the gun for me?”
“One more time.” Charlotte said.
“I’m glad we don’t have kings any longer. Do you remember the last king we had? You must have been very young when he abdicated. I’m glad we only have queens now, and forever more.” Chris lifted his arm up, shut one eye and bit his lip, concentrating as he pulled on the trigger.
“I was indeed, very young. I didn’t witness the waves of removal, taking men out from positions of power. I have no recollection of the chief-executives replacement programme. As far as women assuming all the top posts in politics, from local-level to the international stage, this happened a several years before I was born.”
“Thank God though!” Chris exalted, “Can you imagine where’d we be today, if women hadn’t taken over all the senior roles within policy think-tanks, of decision-making and management?”
“As a species, we’d have annihilated ourselves, that’s for sure.” Charlotte stared out across to the dampened patch of land in the field before her. “Either, by way of war or environmental catastrophe. We were so close to a tipping point, impossible to recover from. Yes, thank God. We have her on our side, for sure.”
“It feels ironic, stood on the site of this battlefield, looking out towards that marshland.” Chris blew wisps of smoke rising from the flare gun’s barrel. “Without the gender role swap of responsibilities in the mid twenty-twenties, by now we’d have walked straight into an environmental disaster and been done for by a likely military conflict.”
“I’m sure you’re right, Chris.” Charlotte stroked the side of her boyfriend’s face, finishing with two, slow taps of her finger on his nose. “Come on, it’s late. I’ll let you discharge the last two flare cartridges if you want and then I’ll drive us back to the hotel. We ought to catch ‘last orders’ at the bar if we’re quick, I’ll buy you a drink.”
“Okay, sounds good,” Chris caught Charlotte’s index finger and kissed the tip, “if you promise I can give you a neck and shoulder rub, when we get back to our room?”
“Alright lover boy, you’ve got yourself a deal.”
©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a collage)