The Stranger

They decided they should show it to Jenna’s sister Winnifred and Bren’s siblings, so they could help them to furnish The Burrow. Winni – unlike her sister – was not skinny, but she was beautiful. She had deep blue eyes a man could get lost in and for every glance you gave her, she’d beam a great big smile back. Her dark, wavy hair showed hints of colour, and it was so thick one could make a nest for himself and live in it. Though she was a few years older, Bren would not mind at all if Winni were to tell him stories of bad hair days, although he could scarcely imagine her hair ever looked less than fetching.

            Rebecca was only six years old; too young to go out exploring with them, but Terri and Theo had been there a while before Jenna came back with her sister. To Bren’s surprise Winni, radiant as ever, was rather impressed. Of course it wanted light, and something comfy to sit on, but they all agreed they liked it there and stayed there picking names for it and playing games, decorating it (in their minds), and sharing secrets and stories and the like.

            Soon it was as dark outside as it was in, and Winni had decided it was time to head back – the others wanted to sleep there and head back home for breakfast in the morning. “Someone needs to find breakfast for Redtail” they argued, but Winni was older and wiser, and she knew that their parents would be worried about them.

            As the sun began to rise the next morning Bren rushed outside and dashed for The Burrow. He wanted to be the first on there so he left his siblings behind and raced towards and over the creek. As he approached The Burrow he saw Redtail hopping outside with a mouse hanging limp from his chops. There was no way he had caught the mouse, restricted by his injuries as he was. Someone had beaten him there. He came to the entrance and Rocket bounded out to welcome him. When he entered he was greeted by Jenna, Winni and a stranger. And he was strange!

            In his appearance he seemed relatively normal. A boy of twelve years, his hair was dark and straight, long for a boy and well kept. He was small and skinny and had an eager look about him. Relatively normal at first glance. He did however mention – on more than one occasion – that he came from another world. So there you have it. Jon was very strange indeed. He claimed that there was another entrance to their Burrow and on the other side there was another world as big and vast as theirs.

            It seemed from his stories that there was always something going on in Jon’s world – gatherings, ceremonies, festivals and celebrations.

            Bren was, of course, sceptical. Even ignoring the fact that it would be absurd to believe in Jon’s other world, The Burrow was one big room and they would have noticed if there was another entrance. Although it was still dark in the room, they could see that there were no openings in the walls except the one they came in through – at ground level. However, their little retreat could have been as tall as it was wide, and it was very dark at the top. In fact, it was very dark at the top. Still, that gave them no cause to believe that the boy came from another world.

            He claimed he’d travelled a long way to get to The Burrow and Winni – as kind and caring as she ever was – was adamant that they should feed the lunatic. They broke fast at Bren’s house where Jon told more of his crazy stories. Although Theo was old enough to know that these were nonsense, Terri was unsure and Rebecca was excited at the prospect of meeting someone from another world. She’d only met people from The Bump before now. She became fond of Jon quickly and asked all sorts of questions about his homeland. Jon had been happy to answer all of the others’ questions, seemingly unaware that they were merely humouring him, but he seemed to take a particular enjoyment in Rebecca’s genuine interest in him. “Does your world have jig-saws?” she asked. Rebecca loved jig-saws. “Do you have a mayor? Are there trees where you come from?”

            “In my world” Jon explained “There is one great city on a, bigger than any that has ever been. It is sat right at the top of a big hill, which is surrounded by trees in a forest that is more expansive than the seas in your world, and it is ruled by a Great King. He is the most commendable ruler there ever was and has ruled since before anyone can remember.”

            “Have you ever met The King?” asked Bren. A reasonable question he thought.

            “Don’t be silly, no one has ever met the king.”

            “Then how do you know he exists?” Bren inquired, not inconsiderately.

            “Well who would make the laws and govern the land?” Jon’s response was not uncaring either. “Who would keep the city at peace? Who would decide where and when things happened? – not small things like the things small people plan, but who would decide when there is a big meeting or ceremony?”

            “Suppose there is a group of people that plan these things. Maybe there is some sort of council or maybe there is someone else in charge.”

            “Well, does that matter? Would they not just be a king, but by a different name? Why would you not believe that there is a king when I have told you so, but believe in someone who does the same job, whom you have imagined?”

            Bren didn’t see that this was proof enough to believe in a king that no one had ever seen. Perhaps Jon sensed that.

            “I can see evidence that there is a King. A city must be ruled by someone. And I can see The King’s justice when someone breaks the law. I can see The King’s compassion when there is famine and he buys food for the poor.”

            Bren was not convinced.

            After breakfast, they decided to allow Jon some time to rest before returning to The Burrow. He had come such a long way after all.

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