She had left only a quarter-hour ago, yet was already soaked to the bone. Water trickled over her eyes, seeking her thoughts, demanding undivided attention.
Above, the ashen, brooding heavens reminded her of how they had been only an hour ago, looking out from her window. Then, her only thought had been departure.
I have one choice alone.
Now, the rain seeped into her very soul, leaving her devoid of hope. A tumult of thunder was audible overhead as she stumbled, without thought of direction or destination, over the moss-covered moorland. Her single aim was to distance herself from that place.
I cannot think of it a second longer.
But her running was to no avail.
The scents of water-saturated moss and grasses bombarded her; she lay, a tangle of limbs swathed in a twisted skirt, on the earth a half-metre from the boulder of her downfall. For a fleeting second, as the downpour whipped her bare neck, she contemplated lying there indefinitely.
It seemed so wonderfully easy, to simply slip away…
Suddenly, the earth sighed a breath bursting with moisture, compelling her to press onwards.
Thankfully, she fell no more, so made good progress. The liquid bombardment continued to surge down from above, staining the land with its effects; mud was unavoidable, and soon it was crawling up her legs as a beast does upon prey. It sunk its jaws into her clothes — the pristine ivory cream was lost, replaced with a deep grey, mirroring the sky above. Cold wracked her very bones so that she was barely aware of anything else. Trembling, she staggered on blindly; one wrong step risked her being calf-deep in the mud. But this was a cunning lure for more naïve prey than her — she stayed afoot.
Soon, inattention to all aside her feet and the ground proved a dangerous decision. Terror surged in her veins, and beat on her brain, crying out a screech of desperation. She’d hit something; head aching from the collision, she wondered: am I dying?
No. Life’s paraphernalia remained too strong within her.
Blinded, seeing only darkness, she fingered the air ahead of her. Only a moment later, her hands grasped something impenetrable. A tree trunk. She must have collided with it. But no. She investigated further, feeling stone and, for a second, she gasped in despair: she must have come full circle to the very place she aimed to escape from. As she felt more attentively, her fingers clasped moss and ferns erupting from the crannies between the stones. A ruin? Safety?
She stumbled, sight regained at last, into the derelict shepherd’s lodgings. It was deserted. The place had been without life for an age: all that remained were the ghosts of a past community, imprinted on the place in semi-permanence through stone and mortar. Sinking down onto the grit-covered slabs, she encompassed the quilt of relief, facing her true fatigue.
Thunder exploded overhead and, still, inky black drops of lasting stain fell upon her neck as the water permeated the crumbling refuge.