High up on the downs overlooking the petrified sheep of Fyfield and with the vast
conical shape of Silbury glowing gently, warmly effervescent in the distance, three cyclists sit on top of
the mound of West Kennet longbarrow with Mr and Mrs Colin supping mead and enjoying the feel of
the balmy breeze and the sound of larks singing. Cats' paws ruffles of wind take the edge off the
blistering heat and, sitting in the boundaries of A-Time as they are, the tramping tourists do not bother
them too much.
Ravenbait idly makes a daisy chain while Aeroflash throws dandelion heads at a couple of fat
Americans struggling to get between the portal stones. Flying Monkey is meditating, hovering his
standard 120mm above the coarse grass that covers the mound, the space between his lotus-positioned
body and the ground awash with a faint blue nimbus, as of Hokey Spokes in a mist.
A small child scrambles over the mound and comes a complete stop, eyes wide, thumb in mouth. It
looks sticky, and of indeterminate sex. Ravenbait rolls languidly onto one elbow and drops her shades
down onto the end of her nose to favour the child with a stare.
The child bursts into tears and starts screaming.
"Wanna go A-TOYLET!!!!"
It runs away, little legs hammering, shoes kicking at the grass as if its feet are too much in a hurry to
lift enough from the ground to take proper steps. The two fat Americans rush over to it and start
soothing and fretting over it and then another adult appears, wiping the child's face with a grubby
handkerchief and offering it a sweetie. This last man seems to be typical middle-class English, and tells
the Americans not to worry over the boy because he'll be fine in a minute. They seem to know one
another. Although they glance up to the top of the mound and appear to be looking right at the small
picnic party gathered not ten feet away, they do not see anything, and the small child appears to have
been mollified by some Haribo gummy bears.
"Was that really necessary?" FM asks with a quiet sigh.
"Oh hush," RB responds. "Nasty little snotty sticky thing. Do not see the attraction, myself. If I'd let
him be he'd be climbing all over us and pulling Colin's ears. Chuck us that bottle, Colin, there's a
The large, grey-green, hairless bulk of the Chief Controller rolls slightly at an angle to reach the
corked, stoneware bottle of mead that is resting against a tussock of grass.
"I think that one is nearly empty, my love," says Mrs Colin. "Best open another."
She heaves herself to her feet, smoothing down the floral patterned skirt of the dress she is wearing,
and the white apron tied neatly over the top.
"Can I get anyone anything else?" she calls as she threads her way through blind tourists back into the
"No thank you Mrs C!" Ravenbait responds, her reply echoed by everyone else.
"So are those the new glasses?" Aeroflash asks her.
"Nah. Got to wait until the end of the month. Wayland said he might have something special for me in
by then, but if not then I've to go back anyway and he'll retrofit these ones for me."
A pair of weekend Wiccans crawl up the side of the barrow and stand right in the middle of the picnic,
arms outstretched and eyes closed, as if tuning into alien television signals. There is one male and one
female, both dressed in a variety of gothic colours and fabrics, with enormous silver pentacles dangling
about their throats. Each of them has a quartz point in each outstretched hand.
The girl starts talking about dragon energies.
Ravenbait sighs and makes an exasperated face at Colin.
"Have you never considered moving?" she asks him.
Colin smiles peaceably, unperturbed. "It's only this bad in the summer. It's quite quiet in
Mrs Colin winds her way back up to the small gathering with a fresh jar of mead, and plonks herself
down on the gingham blanket spread on the grass, right between the two Wiccans who are completely
oblivious to her presence.
"Oh come on!" Ravenbait exclaims, irritated. "That's just rude!"
"Don't worry, my love. We have a way of gettin' rid o' folks like this," says Mrs Colin. She takes a
whistle from her pocket and blows on it sharply. Squinting upwards towards the sky for a few seconds
she starts making frantic waving gestures. Ravenbait, Aeroflash and Flying Monkey crane their heads
back but can only see the silhouette of a buzzard, which glides off towards the main road.
It is not long before the buzzard returns. The Wiccans are now discussing black lines and ley energies
and whether they should tap into Swallowhead Springs for the full Goddess in the landscape
experience. There is a cry from up above.
"Way hey hey! Doon wi' yar fannies!"
Mrs Colin shuffles backwards a couple of feet and a rotten, disintegrating, stinking rabbit corpse is
dropped from the sky onto the heads of the Wiccans. It still has tyre tracks in its head. They don't stay
long after that.
Ravenbait and Aeroflash are breathless and panting with laughter, falling about all over each other and
hooting helplessly. Even FM is forced to settle back on the ground because he can't quite keep the
mental focus to remain the calm state of Zen repose.
"Gods!" RB says breathlessly. "I didn't know you knew the Nac Mac Feegles. Hi Hamish!" She waves
up to the little blue man saluting from the buzzard, which is even now spiralling off away over the
"Oh yes, my love," says Mrs Colin. "My Aunt Jemima's second cousin's daughter-in-law is the niece of
the Kelda for the Stone Sheep Clan. So how come you know them then?"
"RB seems to know everyone," Aeroflash replies with a wry smirk. "I heard they were fending them off
with sticks on the Dun Run."
"Don't be silly," RB tells him, poking him in the ribs and making him flinch, yelping. "Got a good,
healthy ancestral line that's mostly Viking and Pict. How could I not know the Nac Mac
A pair of black shapes appear in the sky and tumble down towards them.
"Boss is after you, er...boss," Thought says as they land on the grass. Memory's attention is
immediately caught by the rabbit corpse that has broken into pieces in the grass and he stalks over to it,
eyes glinting. "Afternoon Squire, Mrs Squire," Thought says to Mr and Mrs Colin. "Is that bunny
"No no, my little lamb," Mrs Colin says. "You go ahead."
RB drains the cup of mead that Mrs Colin had poured for her and pulls a face as the alcoholic warmth
spreads down the back of her throat. Max is waiting, leaning up against the fence, crud catchers still
brown from the trip across the Ridgeway from Wayland's Smithy and Camelback MULE dangling
from the bars. There's still that nasty big scratch that he seemed to have picked up when they were last
in Scotland, but he's a tough little cookie and nowhere near in need of a re-spray just yet.
"I'll see you two back at the Cake Stop then?" she says to Aeroflash and Flying Monkey, frowning in
annoyance at a tourist who walks straight through her without so much as a by-your-leave. The other
two cyclists nod.
"Right then. Thanks again Colin, Mrs Colin. I'll stop by soon, ok?"
"Always a pleasure, my love, " says Mrs Colin as Mr Colin starts filling his pipe.
"Bit early for this sort of thing, isn't it?" Aeroflash says to Flying Monkey. FM shrugs.
"Who knows?" he says. "Better than arguing the same old things in Campaign, anyway, and now we've
got Spen back as well."
"Ah," Aeroflash nods sagely. "There, sir, you do have a point."