Chapter Four

The man was bound and bleeding and kneeling and had a bag over his head. His shoulders were twitching, as if he were crying. Left, left, left... left, right... left, right, left...

Mark woke up with a start. He couldn't see clearly and he had a massive headache. He was sat down someplace, and the first thing he discovered was that he couldn't move his hands or legs.

He almost panicked for a second, yanking on the bounds to no avail, then started blinking. Slowly, his vision began to clear.

He was in a round room, gently lit from the walls, about five or six steps across. His wrists were covered with a sort of thick gel, almost like a resin, that seemed soft, but quite impossible to break. He leaned a little forward and saw his ankles glued in the same grey stuff. He was still dressed exactly like in the taxi, with Timberlands, a pair of blue jeans and a light blue shirt. Except the shirt was no longer wet, and he was no longer sweaty.

He began to take in his surroundings. He looked up at the vaulted ceiling; then he looked down.

Across the room, at one hundred and twenty degrees from each other, were two seemingly identical seats. Both were occupied. To his left was a young man, maybe around twenty, tall and obviously quite well built, with shoulder-length blond hair that fell into his eyes, clad in woollen pants and a strange shirt made from the same material. He was wearing leather shoes, the likes of which Mark had seen in a BBC documentary about the early Saxons. The young man was slowly shaking his head, but was not fully awake yet.

To his right, there was a young girl. She was wearing a single garment, like a long dress, made of a rough, dark grey material that might have been flax fibre. She had no shoes at all, and she was wearing a small, wooden cross tied with a string around her neck. She had just come to, and her brown eyes were filled with fear.

"Hello," called the Englishman. "Are you alright?"

She blinked, turned left and faced him. Her mouth opened and a stream of words came out. It took Mark a few seconds to realise that she was speaking Latin, and another few seconds to discern that she was praying:

"...sicut in caelo, et in terra... panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra..."

Then, the young man opened his eyes and blinked a few times, clearing his vision. He yanked on his wrists and ankles furiously, moving this way and that, trying to set himself free. After a few failed attempts, he looked to his right at Mark and began to speak.

Mark could not understand a single word that the other said. He waited for a pause in his stream of questions (they had to be questions, based on general intonation -- that, and common sense) and interjected:

"I can't understand you." Then, he added: "I'm Mark."

The other listened and measured him carefully from across the room. The Englishman immediately knew he was being sized up.

"Cooman?" asked the young man.

Mark shrugged.


He shook his head.


Wait. Did he just say "German"?

"Verstehst du mich?" asked Mark, in hopeful German. The blond man listened, paused, then went on asking:


"Mark," said the Englishman. He wiggled a finger, trying to point to himself, then enunciated again, clearly: "Mark."

The girl finished the prayer, with her eyes closed and tears streaming down. She was shivering. Then she started again:

"Pater noster, qui es in caelis..."

It's the Lord's Prayer,
thought Mark. In Latin! He was about to speak, but the other man looked at her and intervened, frowning:

"Pater tuus?"

The girl stopped, opened her eyes, and stared at the young man to her right.

He asked again:

"Ipse pater tuus?" pointing with his head towards Mark, who started wishing he'd actually paid attention in Latin class.

She shook her head, looked down and started over:

"Pater noster, qui es in caelis..."

"Pater in caelis?" asked the blond man, incredulous.

Finally, Mark caught on. He was asking her about her father, not understanding the God metaphor. He couldn't understand the "father in the sky" part of the prayer. The man spoke Latin, but didn't know the Lord's Prayer.

And then they all started speaking simultaneously, each trying to understand what had happened, how they had ended up in there, where they were and why, why they couldn't understand each other, how strange the other's clothes seemed to each of them, both men trying to raise their voice above the other two, the young girl praying louder and louder, eyes squeezed tight, tears flowing on her dirty cheeks.

They felt pricks in their wrists and ankles, and they all fell asleep.