Tor: a craggy hill
Simon just couldn’t stop giggling. He was on his way up Seely Tor with his girlfriend and best mate, hanging on the coat tails of a rag-tag procession led by the Sandmarsh pagans. They were headed for the Samhain bonfire on the plateau. He’d only gone for a laugh, an ambition now fully achieved by dint of the sneaky bottle of vodka Pete had lifted from his dad’s bar. Who has a bar in their garage? Anyone who did deserved to have the piss taken—or a bottle or three.
By the time they were halfway up, the three friends were much the worst for wear. Simon more than the other two. His longish blond hair kept getting into his eyes and though the moonlight was strong and the path ahead clearly illuminated, he kept stumbling and lagged behind. Each fall made him laugh all the more until, holding his sides, he leant against the rocky hill, unable to take another step.
“Aw, come on, Si!” said Jen. “We’re gonna miss it all.”
“Go on without me. I’ll catch yerrup. It’s a load of bloody rubbish anyway,” Simon slurred back, as he leaned on a nearby rock and slid down it.
Pete grabbed Jenny’s arm and started pulling her up the slope. “Leave him to it. There’s only one way up or down. He’ll find us when he’s sobered up a bit.”
Jenny shook her head dubiously. “I dunno. We shouldn’t leave him, not in this state.”
“Bugger off, both of you,” drawled Simon. “I’ll be or’right when I get my breath back. Wouldn’t like you to miss anything. Huh, not that there’s much to miss about a few stupid dressed-up goths dancing round an old cross.”
“Why did you suggest it in the first place then?” Jenny shrugged. She turned to Pete. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for him to be on his own. I should stay.”
“No, you bloody won’t,” said Pete, pulling harder. “I want to see what they get up to. We’ve heard all sorts of pervy things about that lot, haven’t we, Si? No way I’m going up there on my tod.”
Jenny gave him a friendly slap on his shoulder. “Get away with you,” she said, letting him lead her onwards. Then she suddenly stopped and stiffened; raised her eyebrows at him. “Eh, I hope you don’t expect me to join in with anything like that. I’m a good girl, I am!”
There was a pause—some kind of hiatus—but it didn’t last long. Her expression broke as it lost the battle to contain another fit of giggles. Pete joined in, chuckling as he snaked his arm around her waist.
Simon tried to stand up but slumped down again. He banged the side of his head against his palm, trying to clear it. “It’s no good. I’ve lost my legs. You two go ahead. I’ve told you, I’ll be fine.”
Jenny seemed conflicted, but only for a moment, because Pete finally succeeded in pulling her away. Soon the sound of their footsteps and chatter faded into silence, leaving Simon on his own, nearing midnight with nothing for company but the canopy of the Tor’s huge craggy promontory overhead and, right in front of him, the large, shining, full blue moon.
Before long, faint sounds of chanting wafted down from the summit, following the beat of the bodhrán that had already paced the pilgrims’ journey up the hill. The steady rhythm soothed him, and the dim choric voices of the assembly above lulled his muggy head. The moon drew ever closer, widening and encompassing, blotting out all his other senses until he could hear nothing but the steady beating of the drum. Or was it his heart? Mesmerised, he gazed at the blue-grey planet as it came ever nearer; comforting him; drowning him in its luminous aura. Was the moon a planet? He hadn’t a clue but one thing he knew for certain: it was beautiful. A beautiful, big round …
Without warning his perspective changed, his eyes no longer filled with moon. Instead, he was staring down, onto a crowd of dancing people.
That made no bloody sense at all. They were supposed to be above him—on the hill—since he sat below them, on the path. Wasn’t he? And yet there they were, a company of about fifty souls, dancing and gyrating, faces entranced as they cavorted around the flames of the Samhain bonfire. Their long shadows flickered wildly in tandem, thrusting fleeting silhouettes onto the Tor’s huge Celtic Cross which stood sentinel only a few yards away.
The scene was nothing like he’d anticipated. Not that he knew what to expect. Maybe he thought—hoped—they’d all strip off and have some kind of orgy round the bonfire like in those old Hammer Horror films his gran watched. But the spectacle offered nothing like that. Just a few people enjoying themselves; having a bit of a party.
As if by some common inclination, the dancing stopped and gave way to a gentle swaying. A few individuals lifted their arms, palms to the skies; some knelt. The only thing that resembled the slightest bit of action came from next to the stone cross. Beneath, he could just make out the figure of Jenny—his girl—and Pete, his best bloody friend, arms around each other snogging as if their lives depended.
Simon narrowed his eyes; refined his focus. He shook his head and looked again. He had not been mistaken. But how could this be? How could he be watching them?
And where the bloody hell was he?
He dragged his eyes away from the ceremony and turned around. The world didn’t spin. His nausea had gone, but not the floating sensation. That remained. What the hell was happening to him?
Void. That was the word that came to mind. An irridescent, shimmering grey nothingness which permeated his entire being. He breathed in. A kind of clean, almost menthol mist entered him, pushing away the effects of the vodka; clearing his mind. He looked at his feet and could see or feel no platform beneath them. Was he floating? Was he dreaming?
Was he dead?
He very much doubted it. Nothing wrong with his eyesight, for sure. He felt wonderful. Cosmic. All-knowing. And not pissed. He clearly remembered the moment his so-called friends had left him: alone on the hillside with nothing but that huge freakin’ moon for company.
The moon … No. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t possibly have, what … ? Landed on it?
He scanned about, trying to fathom his fate in the stars that encircled him. Nothing. No clue. Nothing to connect him to the earth but the scene below; nothing to feel but the implied rhythm of the beat accompanying the swaying movement of pagans …
… and the thrustings of the couple now lying under that bloody cross.
The only orgy in sight.
What seemed hours later, Simon awoke to the sound of excited chatter, hastily shrinking back from the onslaught of legs and laughter that was making its way back down the hill.
“You were supposed to follow us, Si,” Jenny said. “You must have fallen asleep.”
“Huh,” said Pete, “Passed-out, more like.”
Simon clambered to his feet, stretched as if newly awakened. He turned to Jenny.
“How long have you two been at it? Behind my back?”
“You’re dreaming man!” said Pete, too loud. “What’s got into you?”
Jenny tried to avoid looking Simon in the eye, but he didn’t budge until she finally managed it.
“How did you know?” she asked.
Simon gazed up at the moon, pressed his lips together in a knowing, humourless smile. He didn’t bother to answer; simply turned his back on them and made his way down the path.
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