A.J. Walker


Signal Issues

Signal Issues

Silvia stumbled through the woods just wanting to get out and get home. She’d hit her target of 20,000 steps sometime back, but now she was disoriented and tired. She deserved to put her feet up now with a gin.

She looked at her phone and saw she was in the middle of the wood; if the GPS was right. As she watched the screen the position marker kept moving her around. It was not what was needed. She swore at herself for going off the paths in an unfamiliar place. She wasn’t going to recognise anything until she hit the road, but which way was it? Retracing her steps was an option, but the road must be close. Though she couldn’t hear any traffic.

Sitting down on a fallen tree she lifted herself up to dangle her legs above the carpeted floor. It was good to take the weight off though her hands were now smeared with soil and moss; and her leggings would be a state. She knew she’d feel better when home and hosed - maybe literally. The keep fit lark was an addictive hobby. But she did wish she could teleport home once she’d hit her goals.

She looked back at the phone for a clue to which way to go. Still the position marker danced around the blank green space. ‘Shit! What the hell’s this about?’

She put her hands down to try and get more comfortable and felt her right hand slip down a crevice before coming to rest on something solid and cold.

She jumped down to inspect what it was, only to find a beautiful crystal ball jammed in a hole. It looked perfect. The reflection of the woodland was clear - if upside down. ‘Oh, I like that.’ She said to no one, whilst looking to see if anyone was around. There hadn’t been a soul for ages but finding something unnatural meant that suddenly people must be around.

There was no-one. Of course it could have been there for ages. It had just changed her perception of being alone.

As she circled the tree she kept returning her eyes to the phone for her position, expecting it to suddenly stabilise. It didn’t. But she noticed it did seem to move around less the further she got from the tree. Eventually she put it back in her pocket wanting to prioritise the crystal ball. It had been discarded there and there was no evidence anyone had walked through the area recently. That made it hers if she wanted it. Finders keepers.

Sylvia crouched down to inspect the ball - and to see how best to rescue it. It didn’t look jammed in hard, and some bits of wood on the floor suggested that maybe it had been hidden within a smaller hole rather than in its current partially exposed position. In fact looking at how fresh the fragments were she decided she’d probably broken the wood herself whilst sat up there. So someone had hidden it. How strange.

She went back to her phone keen to take some photos of the ball before moving it. It would be good for a blog or at least her Instagram. The woodland reflected in it was so clear and endearing. After taking a few shots she checked Maps again and found her position either madly darting around or else disappearing completely. She wondered if crystal balls could interfere with phone signals. It seemed unlikely. Besides surely it was just glass and the screens were made of glass. It was probably just a bad Vodafone signal again. Sure enough there were no bars on the phone either; probably a signal black spot.

Her feet were rested now, she could retrace her steps if need be. It was time to rescue the prize. She leant forward planting her feet firmly in the ground, bracing herself in case it was stuck. But when she grabbed the crystal she felt a buzz, as if she had turned something on. In her head she heard sounds like people moving around and conversation. But should couldn’t make anything out. She looked around the wood: there was no one there. Of course there wasn’t. The timing, the clarity: the sound was coming through the ball. It was some kind of communication device and it wasn’t suffering signal issues.

That was when she first heard the aliens speak to her. This keep fit lark was going to take her to all sorts of places.

WC: 749