five years the voice of Time Peeleras she called ithad
left Lillian in peace. She was normal, so everyone impressed upon
her. But for a couple of weeks at the age of seven she'd been
something quite different. A psychiatric hospital had been her
temporary home, until Time Peeler's work was done. When the doctors
proclaimed her fit for release, it was ironic that her madness
had yet to truly fester.
parents: they were to blame. All they'd wanted was a normal child.
So act like it, Lillian, her mother told her often. Any attempt
to speak of her experience was met with an impenetrable wall of
denial. She was forbidden to even tell her friends, not that they'd
listen. So she found other ways to be heard: by being silent,
by acting out. And what good had that done?
matron pounded on the dormitory door and yelled at her to get
up. It was time for the bugle call, and Lillian had volunteered.
She didn't know the first thing about bugles, except that they
were loud. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes.
I will be heard.
ventured out into the brisk air of the boarding-school courtyard.
She wore her drab brown uniform, stockings, and dull black shoes.
Why shine them if they'll only get filthy? she thought, watching
them beat the pavement. She stood with the bugle pressed to her
hip, gazed at the rising sun, the dew-soaked school-yard, the
high, oppressive fence. In a moment the school would come alive,
and all because of her.
gave the tarnished and battered bugle a rub, raised it to her
lips, and gave an experimental blow. A half-hearted hiss issued
forth. I'll have to do better than that, she thought. She took
a good deep breath, then let out a tortured blast which seemed
to shock the surrounding buildings to attention. She blew again,
until her lungs gave out and she
started to see heads pop up at windows. A few of the teachers
filed out of the main hall, with shock and anger on their faces.
last, an audience! Shaking, Lillian began her story, right from
the beginning. She spoke as loudly as she could, darting looks
at the teachers and students who flocked to hear her tale. She
wished her parents could be he here to see the turn-out. No doubt
they would hear of it soon. Her voice rose higher until there
weren't any words, only screams, and the crowd was taken from
sight by the tears in her eyes. She felt a sharp slap to the side
of her face, and collapsed, still clutching the bugle in her hand.
from her past came vividly. The paint and wallpaper of the hospital
cracked before her eyes. Pipes rusted on the walls, tiles lifted
and crumbled beneath her feet. She stood at the top of a staircase
leading down, into blackness, saw a store-room filled with boxes
and gurneys, where lights illuminated long-forgotten cells, and
a coal scuttle hiding the secrets of murderous deeds...
awoke in the sick-bay, tucked into a bed that reeked of medicines
and bleach. She looked around groggily; saw her uniform folded
neatly on a chair beside her, and the coming of dusk through the
window. In her hand was the bugle, her fingers wrapped tightly
around it. She unfolded them and winced from the cramp.
you're awake," said a voice. The nurse appeared; she looked
stern but concerned. She gave Lillian the once-over, then stood
back with a nod. "Get some rest, young Miss. You'll feel
a bit sluggish till the sedative wears off."
water by your bedside, and the bedpan underneath."
settled back against the pillows and turned her head away. The
nurse withdrew, leaving her to mope in silence. Her cheek still
stung where it had been struck. Her mind sifted through the morning's
events to see if anything made sense. Nothing did, and soon she
was dozing again.
eyes flicked open, surprised to find the room in darkness. A silence
told her the school was sleeping.
there?" she asked.
Don't speak, just think.
her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she saw no-one, she realised
where the voice had come from: inside her head. Have I truly gone
crazy? she asked herself.
covered her face with her hands.
we first met, I said I'd return when I needed you.
about what I need?" she shrieked.
came running, and light silenced the voice. Lillian sobbed. The
nurse tried to comfort her, but in vain. She calmed by degrees,
and the nurse left a lamp on before returning to her desk.
picked up the bugle again, and studied it. She couldn't quite
tell in the dim light, but surely it shone like new with not a
speck of tarnish; and hadn't it been dented before?
did this, didn't you? she thought at the voice. All of it.
was necessary to point you in certain directions, said the
voice. But your sacrifices won't go unrewarded; I can help
it!" she said, then thought: Sorryprove it.
can prove you're not crazy. You've wondered, haven't you? After
the things I showed you all those years ago.
admitted that she did.
were too young to understand, so I didn't tell you in words. I
am a guide. I help those without voices to say what life, or indeed
death, has taken their right to say. Unlike you, I have no body,
no form. So I must push gently at those who have, until I find
someone receptive. You're a very brave girl, Lillian, and I thank
let it all sink in. She felt at last that something made sense.
Her mind turned again to the bugle.
must I do?
light pushed through the gaps of the blind and grew brighter,
creating a halo. Lillian put on her uniform, then slipped out
of the sick-bay window and closed it quietly behind her. She stood
once again in the courtyard, now silent and dark but for Time
light moved off between buildings, and she followed it into the
school grounds. Beyond the halo of white light, the moon shone
enough to make muted silhouettes of the surroundings. As she walked
and watched, grand trees shrank down to saplings, creaking as
they went. Pieces of the playground blinked out of existence until
all that remained was bare grass. A couple of buildings un-built
themselves, and last of all a small shed appeared at the edge
of the garden. Time Peeler moved towards it, then faded away.
Yellow light burned in the shed's solitary window, and a breeze
played among the trees on the edge of the grounds.
twenty feet from the shed, Lillian hugged the bugle and waited
tensely for events to unfold. She felt the slightest movement
beside her and watched a young woman sweep past in her nightgown.
The woman, perhaps sixteen, glanced behind her as if afraid of
being seen, and knocked discreetly on the shed door.
man, rough-featured and wearing overalls, appeared at the door.
He too looked anxiously into the night. Lillian felt a stab of
fear when his eyes met hers, but they darted eagerly back to his
young guest. The two embraced, and retreated inside.
realised this was the groundsman's shack. The current groundsman
had larger, more comfortable lodgings, but in times past such
must have been a groundsman's lot. And what of the young woman?
She had come from the direction of the dormitories.
no longer felt the bugle in her hands. She looked around and spotted
a young boy, no older than herself. Moonlight glinted off polished
brass at his side. So, the bugle had been his.
bugler crept up to the shack, and peered in at the window. Laughter
and muted scuffling came from within. Then a shout; the groundsman
had spotted him.
boy ran towards her. The groundsman, hoisting his overalls, burst
from the shack and took up a shovel. The boy lifted the bugle
to his lips, but before it uttered a note he was struck from behind.
He landed with a thud on the grass, the bugle spinning away from
him and landing at Lillian's feet. She picked it up, noticing
the fresh dent in the bell.
of sobs and angry words reach Lillian's ears as the groundsman
and his illicit lover hover over the boy, arguing. He slaps her
once, twice. Each grab one of the boy's legs and drag him toward
the trees. Lillian follows, numb, trance-like, a slave to the
sound of shovels pierces the night. Lillian watches the boy's
body disappear under a few feet of freshly dug soil. The girl's
nightgown is spattered with dirt turned to mud by the dew. Her
tear-stained face is smudged with more. The groundsman pats down
the last shovelful of dirt and hangs his head.
dropped to her knees beside the boy's grave, shedding tears of
her own. They fell on bark mulch. The rich scent of juniper wafted
where there should have been flowers. The grave was now a garden,
planted to conceal the crime, yet a fitting and tranquil place
for the endless sleep of death.
boy's name appeared in her mind. So did some other things the
boy no longer had need for.
gift to you, said Time Peeler.
stood, and lifted the bugle to her lips. The sombre tune of 'Taps'
pealed out, softly at first, then louder as the notes came more
easily. Lights flickered on in the dormitories and staff quarters,
until the entire school was awake. Bodies filed out, in a slow-motion
parody of the morning's events. Teachers and students alike gathered
around her and watched in confusion.
silenced the bugle.
Morton Proctor is buried here," she said calmly. "Dig."
flurry of chastisements flew from the teachers' lips. The nurse
was sent for, and punishments were wielded like daggers. But one
teacher, an elderly lady, a little overweight, stepped forward.
do you know it, dear?"
bugle led me here."
that's just an object, a thing!"
remember," said Lillian, and that's all she felt needed to