“I know who you shagged last night…” whispers the wind, from behind. The hiss ricochets off of the surrounding fells in the icy gloom; those mountains that were so green and alluring in summer are now imposing, peering over your shoulder; colossal, nosy neighbours with dark, furrowed brows, watching your every move. You see your reflection in the water by the lake-side. You’re sick of yourself. You’re sick of the same old faces.
Suddenly, that old familiar sound of dirt crunching, coming from around the base of the famous kissing stones, where the road forks. You brace yourself for the inevitable.
You allow the walkers to pass by on the path with their strained grins. They’re wearing all the correct walking kit, in day-glo, and are accompanied by dogs so huge you just know you wouldn’t be able to afford to feed them. You can barely afford to feed yourself. They’re about to disappear into the distance, thank god, but their young golden retriever is lagging behind, having found a source of great fascination at the base of the hedges.
“Come on, Barney! What have you found, boy…come on!”
The rains begin once more.
You enter the local pub. The only pub. It’s a well-lit lengthy, and narrow space, with a grey flagstone floor, chunky benches, and a smattering of tartan detail here and there. There’s Bob, the electrician, propping up the bar in his blue-overalls.
“Hiya!” he says. He knows who you shagged last night. And then there’s Emma the barmaid.
She knows too, although she’s feigning nonchalance.
“You been scuttling your ex again?”
The air is heavy with the smell of wood smoke. You take a long, slow drag of it.
He nods, buys you a pint (European-style head) and over the next forty minutes his silence says everything. You find yourself staring outwards, across the expanse of the room, past the sopping out-of season walkers in cagoules – they’ve brought the weather inside with them – past the log fire, above the cushioned seats, through the shimmering, rain beaten window and beyond, into the darkness.
You know the way the tracks wind around the fields, and behind the woods. You know those tracks like the back of your hand. Yes, you’re tracing your steps, it’s all so vivid now. The Herdwick sheep are waiting for you in the moonlight, by the trickling brook; rows of their watery dark eyes seemingly suspended in air around the ancient stones, and the signpost pointing left, right, and upwards, towards the North Star. You can almost feel the change in soil as you pivot around with the change in direction, the way the loose material shifts under foot.
The village is a plumber down, and no one appears to have noticed.
Emma pulls another pint.
“So, Bob.” You turn to face the strong, silent type. “I hear there’s an opening in the darts team.”
The Flick recommends: Magnus Mills - The Restraint of Beasts