SHORT STORIES: The Man On The Moor

The greens, greys, browns and purples of the moor stretched endlessly away. Baby grouse could be seen leaping playfully between heathers with larger birds circling in anticipation. A wind howled relentlessly across the plateau, which would have  made any voice inaudible, had there been anyone atop the ridge to talk to.

On an old coal track stood a lone figure. He was wrapped up warm, yet still impossibly cold. He was taking long painful strides north, grimacing with each step, and muttering silently to himself. There was  no respite. No release.

When one is running away from one’s problems, one rarely chooses a destination, and this man was no different, except for the fact that on arrival at a small brook, he spotted a possible destination.

The water was crystal clear, and icy to the touch as it ran through a peaty trench to a small hamlet of rocks on the edge of the old train line. The man sat down on the cold earth, and began to pass the stones between his hands, uttering thoughts which should never be thought.

He couldn’t take it anymore. The unbearable agony of the energies inside him could no longer be contained. they had to have their way. He had run for miles, but the problem was not behind him, the problem wasn’t even in him; the problem had become him.

The voices had started as whispers, but built through chatter and rowdy dissent to savage cacophony. He longed for silence. He longed for conclusion. He should die, and rest quietly in the dirt where he belonged.

He threw a pebble into the stream, and dug out a much larger stone from the shiny gravel that surrounded it. The stone was maybe twice the size of his head, and the water burnt his fingers as he scrabbled around trying to grip the rock. He pulled it from the water, and rested it upon his knee.

He would lift the rock above his head, drop it from arm’s length, and the sharp edge would settle him. He would be found in a few minutes by his companions, who were less than a mile behind. There was no need for a note. His decline was evidence enough of what had happened.

His will power was remarkable as the heavy stone lifted above his skull. His arms straightened, and he gave a weak smile.

“Well. this is it I suppose.”  He thought. How underwhelming. His teenage dreams of taking bullets for loved ones seemed insanely romanticised now. That wasn’t the world. The world was abuse, stigma, pain, inadequacy and eventually, death. Without pride, but with sweet release.

But then again, that wasn’t the world! What folly! The world was infatuation and secret smiles and walks along the seafront at night. Wine in the evening sun, the warm glow of a beautiful face in candlelight,   a whispered promise at a departure gate. Birds whistling on a spring morning, the duck pond’s glimmer and children’s chatter.  The colours, the shapes, the sounds. Things that made one stare confusedly at the sky and ponder how people thought that there might not be a god.

God. Surely he didn’t create him for this. A painful end. A tragedy. there must be something else.

A redemption? A heroic escape? A rescue?

His arms twitched.

Then again stronger.

Would he let go of the rock?

Or let go of his sorrows?

His elbow snapped out, and there was a large thud seconds after the release.

***

The greens, greys, browns and purples of the moor stretched endlessly away. Baby grouse could be seen leaping playfully between heathers with larger birds circling in anticipation. A wind howled relentlessly across the plateau, which would have  made any voice inaudible, had there been anyone atop the ridge to talk to.

On an old coal track stood a lone figure. He was wrapped up warm, yet still impossibly cold. he ambled north, his mind dipping in and out of consciousness. he had been wandering for hours, yet every minute found new joy in the beauty of the moorland.

All of a sudden, at the bottom OF a sharp vale, he saw a brook, and shivers rocketed up and down his spine. Memories and visions rushed over him like cold water. Things he hadn’t seen in over a year. Scenes entirely forgotten, yet with him as the protagonist.

He had almost killed himself here 14 months earlier. How had he forgotten? How had such a defining moment in his life drifted into the hazy ether of his illness? He was speechless, but at the same time furious at his forgetfulness.

He sat down on the track, and began to look around. There it was. It had been shifted across the track, but the rock he had dropped on the cold Wednesday morning was still there intact. He shivered and shook intensely. He then began to cry.

***

The greens, greys, browns and purples of the moor stretched endlessly away. Baby grouse could be seen leaping playfully between heathers with larger birds circling in anticipation. A wind howled relentlessly across the plateau, which would have  made any voice inaudible, had there been anyone atop the ridge to talk to.

On the old coal track stood two adults and a gaggle of children. They were wrapped up, but still impossibly cold. They were smiling, the children were shouting and no one seemed to mind the fact that the sun had failed all day to break the thick veil of Yorkshire cloud.

They carried walking, and at a brook, the parents stopped as their children ran on. The woman pulled the man into a tight embrace, and they stood for a moment in silence.

The man began to cry once more, and he cried out to God.

Not in despair. But in thanks.

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