Terror in Tudor Tewkesbury

One hour to go. They're starting to pile up the wood.

You're wearing the simple smock given to those who are condemned to the very unpleasant death that all heretics must suffer. The words of the judge go round and round your head:

"You Lucy Kandek are to be led from hence to the Gaol from whence you came; and on Monday next you are to be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution; where you are to be burnt with fire until you are dead."

Three quarters of an hour to go.

The man reporting on trash in modern Greece was burnt yesterday. Avon was executed the day before that. Everyone with you bar one has been found and executed for not being a Catholic. It's only a matter of time before they find Dub, the cameraman.

Half an hour to go. You've become good at telling the time using the church's ominous sundial. No, don't think about the sun.

You think about him. How handsome he was. What a nice man he was. Even hotter than your hot yoga teacher. No, don't think about people being hot.

A quarter of an hour to go. The stake has been checked and is secure. Your heart is beating rapidly fit to burst.

The priest comes towards you. "Do you confess your sins, my child? Do you wish to make your peace with God before the fire cleanses your troubled soul?"

You're so nervous that you remain silent - you can't speak. You know that it'd make no difference if you did.

Suddenly a man appears. He seems to have trouble keeping his beard on. You realise with delight that it is Dub!!

He tells the assembled people, whilst reading from a scroll, that Henry VII has died and that his son, Henry VIII, has just changed the religion. Now instead of being burnt if you're not a Catholic you'll be burnt if you are a Catholic.

"Lucy Kandek, are you a Catholic?"

"No, Sir," you stammer.

"Or have you ever been a member of the Catholic Party?"

"No, Sir," you say.

"Lucy Kandek, answer me candidly... has anyone here ever attempted to coerce you against your will into being a Catholic?"

You point to the priest who was speaking to you so recently. Panic grips him.

"In the name of the King - seize him!" says Dub as he points dramatically at the priest who is promptly led by the executioner to the place where you would have been burnt.

The priest, terrified, tries to point out that he was only doing what he was legally required until a few minutes ago to do and that he'd be more than happy to switch religions - he never liked Catholicism anyway.

Dub magnanimously says that the priest and anyone else here who will walk around the town openly swearing their allegiance to the Church of England and curse the Pope, the memory of King Henry VII and the Roman Catholic Church will be spared the flames. They'll get one chance only - the next time they dare to say anything Popish they'll be consigned to the flames here on Earth and thence to the flames of never-ending hell.

"And you, Mistress Kandek - come with me. His Majesty the King would desire you attend him."

Dub sweeps you away from there. His false beard falls off and he throws down the falling-to-pieces copy of the AA Book of the Road (a.k.a. the King's Scroll) and gets you into your rental car. There is just enough petrol to get you back to the spaceship.

Being Canadian you find it kind of cute the way Dub uses words like "petrol" instead of "gas".

On your way you pass frightened-looking people staring at your car.

"So long, suckers!" you say as you pass their half-timbered buildings and Tewkesbury Abbey. You see some of the crowd who had come to watch you burn as they walk around the town proclaiming their hatred of Catholicism and their love of the new religion. They seem to be getting into physical fights with people. They seem to be losing those fights.

As you get into the spaceship you can smell something like machine gun bacon and hear the most awful squealing. Those poor pigs, you think! It's enough to make you vegetarian.

You have the best hug of your life with Dub after he's closed the doors of the spaceship. He has rescued you. He managed to do it without actually making that poor brainwashed priest suffer. Dub shows you wear there is a lovely red dress to wear, clean underwear and some moderately expensive-looking alien jewels. You dress in front of him. He smiles round at you in between tinkering around with the ship's dials and monitors.

Dub has been working for a while on repairing this thing so that it can take one trip to Canada in the 21st century. You're going home!!! He will then gallantly make his own way back to Europe... or maybe he could stay with you? As you watch him making the final preparations for take-off you imagine introducing him to your mother and him kissing her hand and then shaking your father by the hand and calling him "sir". You imagine the wedding dress you're going to wear...

You glance at the Yearometer. It is 1508. If you remember your English history correctly Henry VII isn't going to die this year. Come to think of it when his son does take over next year it'll take him decades before he switches religions.

The awful truth dawns on you: the priest, the executioner and all the people who'd come to see you burn have just been walking around the town cursing their King and the national religion and swearing allegiance to something heretical. Their life expectancy must have been reduced substantially the instant they started their perambulations around the town. And your car appearing as they started preaching must have added to the sense that they are from the devil. They were sent by Dub to become dead men walking. Not just men - you remember the women and the children who had come to watch you burn.

You are grateful for Dub saving your life, for mending the spaceship and the car, for bringing you back home and, well, for everything he's done. But there's a ruthlessness there that you would never be able to live with. That was an over-the-top revenge that you can't support.

You imagine the wedding ring falling off your finger. You imagine Dub waving as he walks away into the mist.

"Dub, can we talk?" you ask.

"Certainly," he says.

"I am so grateful for everything you did for me but the memories are kinda gonna be sorta hard and... I was just thinking..."

"When we get back to Canada you just want to live your life and pretend all this didn't happen?" says Dub.

"Well..." you say.

"And pretend that I didn't happen."

You look down at the Yearometer.

"Oh, I see, you realise that... well, they deserved it. They murdered our friends. They would have murdered us. But they won't kill anyone else. I think they should burn and I think they should burn now." His eyes light up insanely. "Frying tonight."

He catches himself.

"I probably need to be alone too after this," he says. "I have done a terrible thing."

There is a hammering sound from outside the spaceship. On the spy screen you can see an angry mob banging on the airlock door with billhooks and axes.

Dub looks at you. "Ready?"

You nod.

"Do you want me to press this one, which will take us to Europe, or this one, which will take us to Canada?"

"Canada," you say.

"If it's Canada I shall leave you when we get there and make my way back to Britain alone."

"Canada," you say.

"You want me to press this button?" he asks.

"Yes, please," you say.

"Canada, Kandek?"

"Yes, please."

"Final answer?" he says.

"Final answer," you say.

"'Phone a friend?" he asks.

"No. Canada, please," you say.

The hammering from outside gets louder.

"So you want me to press this button?" asks Dub.

"Yes, please," you say.

"All right," says Dub. He presses the button and there is a horrible sound of screaming and that awful smell of bacon again.

"Oh, I forgot to say... if we'd gone for the British option we wouldn't have needed so much thrust - that button you insisted I press must have burnt the area immediately around and caused quite a bit of collateral damage. Sorry, I ought to have mentioned that. Frying tonight!" His eyes light up insanely again and he laughs a sinister laugh.

You are so delighted when the ship arrives back home in Canada. You are even more delighted when your insane and somewhat evil saviour disappears out of your life forever. Your pleasure grows even further when UFO researches and the Canadian authorities take the spaceship away and no-one asks you anything about it - that adds to your sense that this whole thing had never happened.

Only one thing is required for your joy to increase further: you're going to take up yoga again. This will calm you down, help you to forget... and you never know - that ring might be put on your finger after all but not by Dub - by that hot yoga instructor :)

                                                                 T H E          E N D

The End

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