“That just cannot be so,” Mr Worthington interrupted. “The rain is given to us for our harvest and our ale.” I was desperately trying to think of something else to say when the first rumble of thunder gave me new impetus.
“Ah did you hear that? Now that’s thunder. That’s caused by increasing pressure and the expansion of air around-” A flash of lightning flickered brightly across their faces. “Lightning.” The timing could not have been better. “Lightning is caused by lots of tiny bits of ice rubbing together to make a charge.” The mumbled disgust of Mrs Abernathy and Mr Kenwood stopped. Now they were definitely listening to me! The thunder rumbled again. Mrs Abernathy’s shoulders and arms tightened.
“I am from another time.” I could sense surprise. I wanted to surprise them even more:
“I am from around here but not how you know it. I know so many things.” Mr Worthington looked taken aback. He had just declared me useless for not speaking Latin. Another flash of lightning lit up the grey walls. “Lightning is electricity and we will learn to make it and control it. We will make it firstly from coal.” I turned to Mr Worthington. “That’s a fossil fuel you know!” The thunder continued to rumble. Mrs Abernathy whimpered. “It’s something you get from under the ground. Then we will make more electricity from the sun and the wind and even the sea.” Mr Kenwood grunted. “Soon electricity will light up this house, but not in the way we have just seen. You will walk into a dark room and by the door will be a switch. You flick the switch to light up the room. It will be like daylight in the darkness.” I looked at all three of them in turn. They were all in a state of disbelief. Suddenly I felt good. I felt that I had some control back.
“Silence silence, you will anger God himself.” Mrs Abernathy’s tone was shaking and fearful. A loud clap of thunder exploded close by. She shrieked. As the rumble faded, the rain burst into a torrent. Outside, the stone began to glisten with its welcome moisture.
“Do not make Him angry,” echoed Mr Kenwood. I knew he was rattled. I could hardly contain myself. I was doing my best not to come out with a load of random nonsense. If I wanted to scare these people I had to keep some kind of order.
“Electricity will be passed around the country by pylons. They are tall towers of steel bearing massive cables of pure power.” I remembered that description from a poem I’d read. Mr Worthington’s stony face was turning a grey to match his expression. “But!” I held my finger up and checked they were still listening. “We don’t just have electricity.” Kenwood looked ready to explode. “Where I come from, we go round in cars. Cars are carriages without the horses. We don’t need horses. Horses are for racing or jumping over fences or just riding for fun. ”
“Cars have engines. They use petrol. We get that from another fossil fuel. It’s called oil. This Fossil fuel also comes from under the ground or even at the bottom of the sea. We have oil platforms which have long legs to stand on the sea bed. And cars go fast. Faster than any horse. Everyone will have a car.”
“Have a care,” warned Mr Worthington. “You speak the words of sorcerers.” His threat did little to deter me:
“But trains can go faster. They can run of steam, diesel or electricity. Trains are like lots of big cars all joined together. They go on rails. We have a train that goes through a tunnel all the way to France. Soon there will be trains travelling underneath London itself. And you will be able to get on a train and go anywhere in the country.” Outside the rain lashed down onto the windows while the lightning flashed in fits and starts. It was a noisy evening.
“Stop! You must be silent. These are the devil’s words.” Mrs Abernathy was now sounding terrified. “We’ll all be cursed, we’ll all be doomed!” The next bolt brought a genuine scream from the cowering woman. I was delighted. I had the power and I was going to use it:
“Oh we don’t just have a train to go France. We have planes that fly in the sky.” As I paused to catch my breath the following burst of thunder was the loudest yet. I noticed Mr Worthington begin to sink his head into his hands. He began squeaking frantically like a cornered mouse. I was impressed with the impact I was having.
“They can get to the other side of the world in just one day.” Mr Kenwood stared back at me. His redness was now off the scale. At that point I was confident that I could both outwit and outrun him.
“In everybody’s living room there’s a television. A flat box with moving pictures. You can see what goes on in any country of the world.” A gust of wind threw a flurry of rattling raindrops against the windows. “Then we’ve got other little boxes called phones. If you’ve got a phone you can put in a code and speak to anyone wherever they are.”
“You are the devil’s child, the devil’s child.” Mrs Abernathy was now hysterical. “The ground beneath us will open, we’ll all go down.” Mr Worthington’s face was no longer visible. I kept a close watch on Mr Kenwood out of the corner of my eye. His horsewhip was at the far end of the table. If he wanted it, he had to step towards it. That would be the signal to run. Up to now he had remained rooted to the spot. But I wanted more revenge. I really wanted to spook them.
“Do you see the moon at night?” I gave a sort of evil laugh-it may have been a bit comical but it was genuine. “I know men have walked upon that moon.” The thunder, lighting, rain and wind were now roaring freely outside. “Men went in a rocket through space and landed on that moon. It was even on the television.” The chaos outside was now happening inside. Mrs Abernathy and Mr Worthington were both playing out individual performances of screaming blind panic. As for Kenwood, I knew I was playing it close. I knew he was ready to explode. I knew that what I said next would set him off:
“And I know the earth goes round the sun and there are other planets that do the same. The sun is just one star. And if you were to travel to one of them you would die of old age before you got anywhere near them. In fact there are millions of stars in the solar system, silently gazing, watching over-” Kenwood made his move. Like the storm, he was raging:
“This beast will desist. For I shall kill this beast, I will beat it out of your soul until it screams for mercy.” He reached for his horsewhip. I shot through the door. Now I really felt the power. I wanted to tease Mr Kenwood. I wanted him to try and catch me. I would let him think that he could catch me. Then I wanted to stand and laugh as he keeled over in exhaustion. After putting up with all the humiliation and cruelty of this hateful stinking man, this was the bit I was looking forward to.
I had an idea that I could escape the same way as before-along the corridor and out through the main entrance. But for some reason I turned the wrong way. I found myself going outside to face the elements. Immediately I was buffeted by the gusting wind as my cheeks were peppered by bullets of rain. The crashing thunder was accompanied by the roar of dogs. I remembered the barking dog on my first day. Then I heard Kenwood screaming behind me.
“Kill the devil, kill the devil,” he chanted. This was more frightening than I had imagined. I was losing control. But I knew I could run. With all previous thoughts of teasing my pursuer banished, I ran at full speed turning a corner to what I thought was the way out. I was wrong-horribly wrong. It led nowhere. There was a door at the end but between me and that door were two baying angry dogs. I could see that they blocked my path.
I turned in panic. Now I was heading straight for Kenwood. I had played rugby-I was good at rugby. I had ran against over-sized monsters before. Horsewhip or not I knew that there was a good chance of side-stepping past him, even if he did manage to lash out at me. But the ground was slippery. In my attempt at a body swerve my boot lost its grip and I went crashing down onto one side. I could feel the stinging of my scraped palms. I could feel the bruise on my hip and the falling rain, now turning to hailstones, pinning me to the ground. Kenwood, teeth bared like the dogs behind me raised his arm. I curled up ready for the first blow.