Lucy stood at the front of her family and knocked on the door.
“The man you know as John is dead” came the muted reply from inside. Lucy turned to Michael. After a moment of confusion and another bitter reminder that there was little she could do, composed herself and held her finger out. The rest of her family waited at her command. They waited and caught snatches of the conversation that followed.
“….daughter…all the way…to see you”
“…don’t know… daughter”
The conversation dropped below and audible level. The dull roar of the ventilation system took its place, as did the sound of elderly programming on viewing station and the cries of someone upstairs.
“Dad…” asked Joanne, quietly, hesitantly. “Is granddad ok?”
“Um... yes, I’m sure he’s fine. Mum just needs to have a little talk with him on her own. I’m sure it’ll be ok”
“Hello there dad. How you doing.” Michael held his hand out. John, who was lying in bed, hesitantly held his own hand out.
“Oh uh, how do you do”
“This is Joanne, your granddaughter” Helped Lucy.
“And this surly one is your grandson Alex”
Alex stood back and waved. They all took seats facing in towards the bed.
“So… How are you, granddad?” Asked Alex.
“Oh, yes, you know… Can’t complain. They treat me nice here. It’s a nice place. I’ve had a lovely holiday but I can’t wait to get back home”
“Uh.. Do you know what day it is?” Asked Michael, thinking of the first thing off the top of his head.
“It’s a Wednesday.”
“It’s a Saturday. Do you know the date?”
“Is it October?”
“Its… Its June, dad… it’s the middle of summer. Let’s try for a year. Do you know the year?”
“I’d say it was the year… two thousand and… sixty five”
“Uh, no dad, its 2084”
“It is not! No!”
“Ha! It is, look at the calendar”
“So, I’ve had a very nice time here, but I’ll have to leave soon. They need the room for someone else”
“Oh yeah? So where are you going to?”
“Oh, I’m going everywhere”
“Yes. Everywhere. All around the world. All over the world”
Though a stilted and forced question, it was one that Lucy was genuinely interested in.
“Well, it’s got a bit interesting of late. We’ve started work on some areas south of the river, as you know. We’ve got into a place that they’ve recently opened up again, and it’s actually near where John’s from, from where he was born…”
“Did you hear that dad? Michael’s been working near where you were born”
“Oh good. Heh. That’s nice.”
“So, we’re looking at this row of houses near a park- it’s all the usual row housing, you know, but then there’s the remnants of this one on the end and its very unusual for the area. Its… well, it’s an unusual design, very grand- must predate the rest by at least 40 or 50 years… and another thing we’ve noticed is, well its suspected anyway- we won’t know for sure until its fully mapped and simmed, but one thing we- suspect- is that much of the damage took place a long time ago, much further back than the rest of the area… but it was just left there, just remained there… I get the feeling that this place is going to throw up a few surprises when we begin to document it fully. I mean, what I’ve already seen of the ground and basement levels…”
“It’s been very nice staying here, but they’re going to send me back very soon”
“Uh… there are various signifiers to suggest that, old though it is, this isn’t the first…”
“It’s not the sort of holiday I would have chosen”
“Uh… structure to be built…”
“…but you can’t complain can you?”
“Oh look dad, it’s almost time for your tea. What are you having today?”
“I don’t know. They’ll tell us later”
“Well… what did you have yesterday?”
“I had… uh… porkchops”
“You… had? Are you sure?”
“You… you’ve been a vegetarian all your life... Since you were born!”
“Don’t be so silly.”
Lucy looked shocked.
Michael interjected with the first thing he could think of to try and paint over the obvious.
“So… uh… we don’t know yet for sure but there is some indication that this house may have been used as some kind of commune or alternative/outsider lifestyle venture in the late 20th/ early 21st century”
“Uh, no not exactly, but in some ways, I mean, well done!”
Alex snorted and muttered “You’re not the only one that can read you know”.
“There were a lot of political communes, but some were political in the sense that they just sought to exist outside of the mainstream, as some kind of alternative, so I suppose there’s a case of similarities to be made… But were not sure how successful it was, how long it lasted, whether it was gone before the house…”
“I remember Paris. I remember going there in my twenties. I just got bored of living here and packed my bags and went to live in Paris for a while.”
They were never quite sure if these stories John would come out with had any basis in reality. The rest of the family looked at Lucy, the closest thing to a family historian. She would normally nod or shake her head. This time she just shrugged.