Now read on…
If you want to learn what it was I did in the other worlds, you must wait until I publish the full story. If I can find a publisher. Surely you don’t expect me to give you the whole tale for free on the Internet? I brought back neither gold nor anything saleable except knowledge. Unless I decide to retire in the land through the portal, which I do not intend at all, even though I know they would make a place for me and life might be easier in some ways. No. I intend to end my days here. I shall need to make a living here. My days are limited as a health inspector. Soon people may start asking questions.
I stepped from the portal and approached the rope barrier placed to keep tourists away from the dolmen. I was relieved and so very pleased to be back in Ireland. As I leaned on the post I realised I was shaking. I was really glad to be here, to be alive. I gathered myself together and waited for the solitary figure, walking anticlockwise around the dolmen, to notice me.
I was taking photographs. When I saw me I stared openmouthed for a moment, looking quite startled indeed. Then I lifted the camera and took a photograph of me . I remembered how odd I had felt when I did that. I tried to describe it to myself, to memorise it, so I might write it down accurately later when – if – I completed my tasks and had time to record the story for posterity. It was difficult, because my feelings were tempered with a smug sense that I now knew something that the other I did not know.
Definitely still the oddest feeling to be in one’s own physical presence. Even having been here before it was difficult still, getting used to the idea. I was feeling very relieved and still in wonderment that I had actually returned safely. Best not show how shaken I really am.
I gave me a cheerful grin, and told me ”That really went well. A bit dodgy at first, but I did it. Now go do it!”
I was still looking at me as if I could not believe I was actually there. Well, that made two of us. I held my hand out towards me. ”I shall need the car keys. I have a journey to complete. I still need to visit Gollum’s Cave and go back to Aillwee before I head back to Dublin and fly back to New Zealand. Oh, and you had better hand me that camera.”
“Why?” I asked me.
“Because it won’t work there. You can’t use electronics there. You will get no photographs and if you take the camera, it will never function again. Best leave it here. I gave it to me when I arrived. Trust me. If one cannot trust oneself, who can?
One of the good things about talking to oneself, is that one can tell when one is telling the truth. I clearly accepted my own statement because without protest, in fact without even a word, I handed me the camera. I hung it round my kneck and waited while I reached into my pocket and brought out the keys to the rental car. After a brief hesitation, I handed them over also. I knew from memory that I was for a just moment wondering how I would get back to the boarding house, until I had realised that – obviously – I would be driving the rental.
I pointed at it. “It is over there”.
“I know”, I responded with a grin. “I parked it there”.
I grinned my own grin back at myself, and asked “How long is this going to take?”
I considered what to tell me.
I saw that as I waited for an answer I was examining my appearance, and making an estimate of the time I had been away. Just as well, I thought, that I had had the clothes laundered and stored when I did. Should have thought of it earlier. I had worn other garments most of the time I had been away. “I don’t think I can answer that.” I told me. “We need to be sure we don’t have any preconceptions that may affect our judgement.” I let that sink in, then added “Look. One thing I probably should tell you. Should…” I stopped and corrected myself. “There will come a time at which you have to make a serious choice… A… decision. Choose left. I told me this when I arrived. It helped”.
“It is OK to tell you that. I did the math, It is safe to tell you. It is just one choice that might affect the outcome of this endeavour. Nothing is predestined and we need to do what must be done. I can tell you this and no more. That is all, now. Go. You… I … We … have appointments to keep.”
I shook my hand, recalling how it made me feel the first time. Then I turned away from me and walked toward the car park without a backward glance at myself.
Again, I wondered what might have happened had I tried to talk myself into turning round and returning to repeat the journey I had just made, armed with the knowledge gained from having already achieved it. I wondered how it might end if I turned around now and volunteered to do it again, sending me on my way without ever having gone through the portal at all. The notion made my head spin.
I knew I was standing by the dolmen, watching my retreating figure. I was not going to turn and wave to myself. I felt sorry for me, knowing what I must face. The fact of the matter is that even though I knew now that I had successfully completed the first task I had been set, and somehow had managed to live through the experience, there was no way I would volunteer to go back and do it again. I could not face it once more. Not even if I was given an iron clad guarantee that things would work out as they did. And what if this time I did fail? What if… No, I could not even go back to volunteer more information. I would not look back. I had to trust myself. I unlocked the car, climbed in, and started the motor. Without even a glance across at the dolmen, which I knew now had no one nearby, I drove out of the car park turned right down the R480 and headed back towards Aillwee. I needed to speak again to the little red-haired girl before we went to Poule na gColm.