Tor: a craggy hill
Simon could not stop laughing. He’d gone with his girlfriend and best mate up Seely Tor, hanging on the coat tails of a long procession organised by the Sandmarsh Pagans, on route to the Samhain bonfire on the plateau. He only went for a laugh at first, but the sneaky bottle of vodka Pete had lifted from his dad’s bar had done for him. 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 handrailed track, leading upwards from the Flammark Road, they were all very much the worst for wear. For some reason Simon much 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, sliding down the rocky hillside.
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 as she regarded Simon’s prone, giggling body. “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 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.” Then, looking askance, she said a bit too loudly, “Eh, I hope you don’t expect me to join in anything like that. I’m a good girl, I am!”
Both burst out giggling, the alcohol affecting them too. Pete put his arm round her waist, tugging her away.
Simon tried to stand up but slumped down again. He shook his head, trying to clear it. “It’s no good. I’ve lost my legs. You go ahead. I’ve told you, I’ll be fine.”
Pete finally succeeded in pulling Jenny away, and soon the sound of their footsteps and chatter diminished to nothing. Simon was left 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, a 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; encompassing him. Drowning him in its aura. Was the moon a planet? He hadn’t a clue but one thing he knew for certain: tonight they belonged with each other.
Without warning his perspective changed, his eyes no longer filled with moon. Instead, he was staring down, onto a crowd of dancing people.
Hang on, that made no sense at all. They were supposed to be above him. On the hill. He was below them, sitting 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 a few yards away.
The scene was nothing like he 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 liked. 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 remotest 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, true, 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 and 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. All his faculties were back where they should be, and he clearly remembered the moment those two 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 have …
He turned once more to view the scene below; felt the 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 felt his shoulders being roughly shaken and he shrank 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 looked up at the moon, a knowing smile playing on his face as he turned his back on them and made his way down the path.