Extract from Chapter Three of Game of Life

On a snowbound Easter Sunday, the Porlocks gather for the final time in their soon-to-be demolished family home. All Porlocks that is, except one. As time and nature close in, the family embarks on a journey of remembrance from ancient Egypt to Victorian England and into its own troubled past, awakening long-repressed voices which refuse to be silenced.

The embrace was sweet, delicate and fragranced with renewal, like a gentle dowsing of fresh spring sunshine. In the mental lens of Elisabeth Elaine Porlock, her daughter reappeared in glorious, pin-sharp clarity, sweeping forwards in her lime green dress towards her outstretched arms on a beaming mythical day in June. The creaking of a vacated playground swing muffled her giggling, which seemed to come from within and outside her four-year-old frame.

Then, the beautiful surge skywards as Elisabeth pushed her child from the grass to the clouds, four eyes squinting in the summer sun. They held their positions for as long as they could at the furthest point possible, before mother, child and imagination dissolved against reality’s abrasive cut. A verdant rhyming couplet terminated by a heavy period of frost-white blank space.

Elisabeth’s reveries never lasted long. Like dreams, they dissipated upon the slightest interruption from the physical world. The break of daylight, the distant trundle of trains, the bedroom light turned on too early by Roger at weekends when Elisabeth’s body told her mind she needed to be a good girl and get moving again.

Which is what she did that Easter Sunday morning just before midday, stepping into the utility room from the garden, not bothering to stamp the snow from her feet on the unwelcoming mat that read ‘Be Our Guest, But Not For Too Long Because It Gets Weird’. The black cat got the message, following her up to the doorway, peeking inside and then slinking back to a vantage point under the hedgerow.

Elisabeth shuffled across the concrete floor, leaving a trail of white to melt into the porous grey stone. She yanked the pullcord next to the doorway, flooding the room in a harsh white interrogative light that intensified the blandness of its egg-shell walls. Above, Elisabeth heard the gentle rhythmic whirl of the exercise bike and her son’s diffident shuffling, a dissonant overture to the full chorus of voices to come.

During that one long summer of 2005, the utility room would become something else. They would only discuss the search with police and journalists in that room. Then it became a warm space. Febrile even. Equipped with a table, telephone and reams of porcelain white posters picturing Elise’s face, it became a makeshift war room and reverse Pandora’s box, a vessel in which they could pour all traumas. Hope was somewhere in there too. The hope of a long, warm embrace that would be so full of love it would lift the entire world off its axis and carry it straight to the heavens.

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