Graham sat on the back verandah that brisk April morning. His weary eyes stared into the distance at the rising of the sun, unfocused. Inside, his wife and little girl slept, while half a kilometre away, the masses stood as the “Last Post” bellowed from a bugle. Graham’s hand rose into a salute as he sat upright.
The last note echoed across the countryside. Graham made a silent prayer to his compatriots, the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
It had been ten long years now, but to the rest of the world, it was near a century since the Gallipoli campaign had begun.
He sat and looked at the bus parked in his driveway. It said “St Mary’s Catholic School” in bold maroon letters across the side. He’d driven it now for 9 years, and he still marvelled at it. The world changed so much since 1915. He couldn‘t believe how people had changed too.
Graham charged into the tunnel, blood splatters across arms and face ashen from the explosion that took the last of his company. For the first time in days, desertion crossed his mind, but he pushed the weakness aside just as fast as the idea came to him.
The tunnel shook, and Graham ran in deeper until he saw no light from either end. He dropped and let the moment consume him for more minutes than he cared to admit.
A bright light brought him back from his shock. A shadow covered the most blinding section. Graham raised his weapon and jumped to his feet.
“Settle, sonny,” an old voice said. “We haven’t much time.”
Graham blinked at him and lowered his weapon. He didn’t sound German.
The old man cleared his throat and continued. “This portal behind me. It’s your ticket to freedom. Into the future. A future you will never see otherwise.”
“Science, magic, I don’t rightly know. It’s a two-way gate. You live and settle in the future, I stay here.”
“Why would anyone want to stay here?”
“My father is here,” the old man said with a tightness in his throat. “I always wanted to know him but he died before I was born. I spent my life trying to find a way, and this was the best I could muster.”
“Okay then, humor me. Why should I?” Graham asked.
“Because in a hundred years, they will forget that freedom comes at a price,” the shadow answered.
Graham looked at the blood on his arms with disbelief. How could anyone forget this?
“I’ll do it,” he said surprised at the words coming from his lips.
“Good,” the old man coughed. “I have much to say. We only have a few minutes before the portal closes.”
Graham swallowed back a tear. While so many still showed respect on Anzac Day every year, he had noticed that the girls and boys on his bus showed little interest, spending most of the rides watching you-tube or Insta-something on their portable phones.
“Daddy?” a little voice called from the back door.
“Yes, Liddy?” he said.
“Why are you up so early?” she asked as she jumped into his lap.
“It’s Anzac Day, love. I’m paying my respects.”
“Can I pay with you?”
“Of course, darling,” he said with a smile.
They sat quiet for a moment.
“Daddy, tell me a story,” she said. “About the Anzacs.”
He smiled as an idea came to mind.
“Sure, love. And after that, can you show Daddy how to make one of the you tube things?”
A year later, he had finally completed the promise he had made in that cave. The kids of his bus route begged him to take them and their families to a dawn service.
He accepted with a glad smile.