Red Screes

In the AM. About seven.

The sound of hooves cantering along tarmac brought me out of what was my first decent night’s sleep in quite some time. ‘A horse.’ I said aloud smiling, still drowsy, sounding six years old. I turned, ducked under the rainmaster silver venetian blinds and looked out of the window behind my bed. The horse, pulling a small carriage with a father and his daughter, both of whom I recognised jaunted passed. The air was still blue, but sunlight would soon turn the land golden. The year’s first lambs lay huddled into their mothers, too nervous to venture out even a few steps from their comfort zone. Snow Drops were already beginning to die back, ready to make way for the prominent daffodils. A wry smiled grew across one side of my mouth as I appreciated how fortunate I was to witness such a small but complete moment. I thought about how much people from urban areas would pay for such a privilege. My thoughts then darkened as I thought about how many people would soon be filling this peaceful sanctuary, towing all their bullshit along with them. I instantly shook off the negativity with surprisingly little ease. Today was the day I was determined to get back on track. What track that was, I didn’t know. Any track would do. All I knew was that positivity was key. I got out of bed. Stretched, making a strained, gargling noise whilst pulling a face. Farted, laughing in a small burst at the length and deep tones. Pissed, trying to direct it as best I could with a hard-on. Threw on my bright white dressing gown and creaked and cracked my way downstairs to make a coffee. I sat at the kitchen table, staring into the patterns of the oak top, not thinking about anything in particular, which I was more than fine with. I decided against toast, instead pouring myself a bowl of muesli with honey and blueberries on top. I chewed and chewed and chewed until I wish I’d poured myself a bowl of sand instead; scraped the remainder of the cereal into the bin and made myself three rounds of toast. Delicious. Later that morning I had a job interview that I’d seen advertised on social media. Something to do with boats. Not that I knew a lot about them. But I took the call, blagged some bullshit about port and starbird, and to my surprise they asked me in for a chat. 

Back upstairs I brushed my teeth, flossed too hard and gargled mouthwash. Took a shit whilst checking the football results from the night before and hopped in the shower. After spending ten minutes too long in the shower, sitting down, allowing the water to cascade down me, I dried and decided on what one wears to an informal job interview. I chose a Crew Clothing classic half zip knit jumper: ultramarine blue. Nothing screams “nautical” like a man wearing half a zip down his front. On my bottom half I flirted with the idea of wearing light beige chinos, but thought it was perhaps a little too early in the year for such a move. Instead choosing a pair of dark vintage straight leg jeans, complemented with a dark brown belt and a pair of leather Chelsea boots to match.

I got ready too early as I always do when apprehensive. Or excited for that matter. I lay on my bed unsure of what to do. I picked up Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” but didn’t read a single word in the two pages I flicked through. I tossed it to the side, unzipped my jeans and decided to masturbate to calm myself down. I scrolled through some amateur porn site until I remembered the left earpiece on my headphones had stopped receiving sound, so clicked off knowing orgasmic sounds coming through the one ear piece would be far too distracting and instead thought of Faye fucking some guy that was better than me in every single way. Seconds later, with a dollop of semen larger than what I’d expected spewed all over my lower abdomen, I shuffled to the en suite, knees bent in slightly with my jeans around my ankles, perturbed that I had jizz on my recently moisturised hands, knowing I’d have to wash them and start over.

Later on…

‘Well Jack I’ll let you know within the week. I have a couple more people to interview in the coming days, but once they’re done and dusted, I’ll make my decision.’ ‘Thanks Paul. Fingers crossed those other guys are as thick as pig shit.’ Paul laughed. I smiled back, cocksure. I always nailed job interviews; it’s the employment part of jobs I tend to struggle with. We went to shake hands. Hesitated. Went to bump fists. Hesitated. Attempted to bump elbows but missed. In the end we kept our goodbyes verbal, and both thanked each other one too many times. Paul was tall, strongly built. The ridge along the top of his shoulders down to his arse formed a perfect triangle. He had a safe haircut, safe clean-shaven face and safe composed eyes with a sinister calm behind them that whispered, ‘I know I could snap most necks if it came to it.’ He had an air of ex-military about him. The kind of guy who would watch “City Slickers” and think, ‘I’ll do a trip like that next summer, and if the wife objects she can go fuck herself.’ He was dressed in a dusty ripped pair of overalls. I felt overdressed and suddenly began to panic it may hinder my chances of getting the job – but it passed. I walked out of the yard thinking this looked like a pleasant, honest place to work; a small boating company that gave lake tours on small wooden launches in the summer months and maintained them in the winter. And all situated on the east shores of the lake away from the main tourist hotspots. It didn’t even seem to matter that I had little to no boating or construction experience. My kind of gig. Old boats, engine parts, outboards, cables, snapped masts, miles of coiled rope piled high, swaying empty drums piled even higher and a wood pile that suggested next winter was going to be even rougher than the one we were finally exiting, filled the yard like forgotten body parts. I wondered what the millionaire neighbours in the vicinity thought about this place. I got in the car feeling invigorated. The rest of the day was all mine. Patches of heavy fog sat a few feet off the ground floating motionless like blimps made of marshmallow; their reflections mirrored perfectly in the lake. It was all so glorious.

Kirkstone Pass bobbed and weaved to such an extent it felt like even it didn’t know what direction to take. The inn sitting bravely on top yearned for a little company. Alien wind turbines stood self-consciously behind, knowing only too well they didn’t belong. I parked up, killed the engine, got out and changed. All around dense fog lay dormant but for a slice of bright spring life over yonder, toward Ullswater. Dropping down to the west, The Struggle lived up to its name, making life arduous for anyone making their way up or down. At the other end of the car park the signpost read “Red Screes ¾ mile” and pointed me in the right direction.

Rocks and boulders lay scattered down the mountainside looking like the consequence of an avalanche caused by some mythical folklore beast hundreds of years ago. Amongst the debris, the path lay like stepping-stones through marshland until it abruptly soared jaggedly.  It soon became apparent I hadn’t climbed a mountain in a while; the ascent burnt the back of my legs. It doesn’t take long to lose your mountain fitness. The thick fog formed a huge dome; anyone caught inside could be heard no matter how softly they spoke. Two young guys, late teens slipped and floundered up ahead attempting to scramble in inappropriate footwear. ‘You lads should be more careful.’ I said catching my breath as I approached, ‘You get stuck up here and you’re risking the lives of volunteers.’ ‘What’s it got to do with you?’ One asked. His face greasy with a trail of snot running out of one nostril. ‘Yeah man, fuck off will ya. Unless you want me to kick your fucking teeth out?’ Shouted the other, his face covered with a green fur lined waterproof trapper hat that was slightly too big causing the back of it to swivel round to the front. I grabbed the latter’s left foot as he began to scramble once more and pulled down hard. He yelped like a kicked dog as he slipped a couple of feet unable to grab hold of anything secure, penetrating the bottom of his jaw on sharp, spiked rock. Blood splattering against the cold blue scree. I prowled towards his frie…I shook off the violent fantasy, telling myself not to ruin what had been a great day so far. ‘You lads ok?’ I asked approaching. ‘Yeah good thanks man.’ One replied, wiping his nose. The other smiled, readjusting his hat. I overtook.

Smooth slabs of stone blocked parts of the narrow path that kissed the edge of the fellside as I fought for breath. I looked around but the impenetrable fog robbed me of any visibility further than a few feet away. I remembered the signpost back in the carpark; ‘Lying bastards.’ I thought, knowing that I must surely have walked fifty miles by now.

At the summit, or close enough, sweat ran down me like dog piss on a lamppost. I removed my damp jacket. My left knee signalled to the bench that it could no longer continue, unaware every substitute had already been used. With ten metres to go the fog slipped, revealing a sight that made me gasp, ‘Fuck me.’ Ironically leaving me with a more uplifting gratification than any fuck I’d ever had. Well, that’s not true. But certainly better than any toothy blowjob and a dry finger down Greggs alley at ten to two on a Saturday night I’d encountered over the years. Or seventy-five percent of them anyway. With the fog gone, the wind seized upon its opportunity to attack my sweat. I pleaded with the sun to add a little more oomph to its rays, but the bone idle cunt wasn’t interested. After absorbing adequately enough scenery from the cairn, I dropped down onto Smallthwaite Band and walked along until I reached Middle Dodd. The views of Brothers Water, Dove Crag, Black Brow and Little Hart Crag were simply beautiful, with the haze adding a surrealism to the theatre. I dreamed of camping up here in the summer months and promised myself I’d actually go through with it this year. Far into the distance the sun reflected on a window, presumably someone’s home. I wondered momentarily who they were, what plans they had for the weekend. What everyday worries they had like the rest of us. Worries that immediately become surplus to requirements in the grand scheme of things. On the lip of Smallthwaite Band, voices could suddenly be heard below. I can’t explain why at that moment my heart sank. As I turned back, the fog rose once again, diffusing and spreading the sun at the same time. The vast white light looked like death had come to cash in on me. I had no choice but to squint and shield my eyes as best I could walking into it.

Back on Red Screes and the views I’d been fortunate enough to embrace only half an hour earlier were taken from me. A solitary raven sat perched on a cliff edge ceased looking down at whatever had caught its eye and turned its attention to me. I stood and watched it watching me until it became bored and flew away.

I descended on the same route as the ascent. At least I presumed I had. I recognised certain landmarks, but didn’t recognise others, it was very disorientating. The solitary raven followed me part way, circling and squawking, before retreating into the void. The spectral scene below flashed into view, then taken away just as quickly leaving one unsure if anything below even existed. Three male runners came bounding past me from up top, wearing tiny running shorts and luminous vests, covered in mud and small cuts running down their legs. All three could be heard shouting in thick Cumbrian dialects. ‘Now then.’ The first called out. ‘Now then.’ I replied. ‘Now then.’ The second called out. ‘Now then.’ I replied. ‘Now Then.’ The third called out. ‘Now then.’ I replied. ‘Nice day fer it.’ The third continued. Thrown by the unexpected loquaciousness of the third runner, I rampantly surged through my brain for an appropriate retort. ‘Aye.’ I replied, thanking my vocabulary.

Back in the carpark amongst civilisation and everything that comes with it, the fog had burnt away, and the sun beamed down eradicating all shadows and with it the air of mystique. The world once again felt fully explored. All myths, legends and folklore felt ridiculous. Every question had an answer. Science ruled. It was melancholic. ‘At least they’ll never find the origins to “The House of the Rising Sun”’ I thought. Two women with three dalmatians were embarking on a hike heading east. One of the dalmatians came running over, making a beeline for my crotch, but I handled it with superb nonchalant composure.  

Once changed and about to set off home, I noticed two males and a pregnant female, all around the same age; mid-twenties maybe. They had the whole skater vibe going on; baggy jeans, flared corduroys, oversized hoodies, huge holes in their earlobes and a beanie each. They were finishing off a KFC. I watched them for a minute, whilst thinking both, ‘The nearest KFC must be over twenty miles away, their fried chicken and fries must have been stone cold.’ And, ‘Is it cool to listen to Eminem anymore if I only play the first three albums?’ One of the male skaters put the wrappers into a brown paper bag, only to kick it over the wall, causing it to split and the contents to blow down the fellside. He didn’t laugh, nor did the other two. They simply turned and began walking toward their car. I waited for a moment, unsure if I should say something. I sighed deeply. Got out, jumped over the wall and picked up all the litter that hadn’t blown away. I jumped back over the wall. The skaters came driving past. The passenger window behind the driver wound down. ‘Missed a bit.’ Shouted the second male skater sniggering and threw a medium Pepsi at me. It hit my chest exploding down my front and splashing onto my face. I froze. I didn’t feel too pissed off at first, until I wiped my face and felt the sticky soda on my hands. I clenched my fingers as tightly as possible and slowly released, watching them pry away from themselves like breaking webs, repeating the motion four or five times. Finally, I looked up, and saw the car waiting at the junction. A stream of traffic had suddenly appeared forcing them to wait. I bent down, calm, picking up the litter, placing it into the brown paper bag once again and walked towards the car. The skater boy in the back glanced out of the rear window. I could see the stream of traffic was coming to an end, so ran toward the car. To my surprise the rear window was still open. I charged up to it and called out, ‘Oi, Blink One-Eight-Two, you forgot this.’ And threw the bag of litter into the car as hard as I could. As the contents of the bag flew all around the interior of the car, I had one thing on my mind, ‘Was it Blink One-Eight-Two? or Blink One-Eighty-Two?’ I walked away, my knees beginning to shake. ‘You little fucking prick.’ Shouted the driver getting out and running towards me, ‘What’s your fucking problem?’ ‘I’ll give you three guesses genius.’ I answered turning. ‘That car is my pride and joy.’ ‘Really? That piece of shit?’ He pushed me. I began walking away. He came after me, pushing me once more but harder. I fell down to one knee but managed to get up with ease. ‘Where you going tough lad?’ He shouted. By this point the other two were out of the car and had joined him. They were all shouting insults but all I could focus on was trying to lock my knees in an attempt to stop them from shaking. The driver pushed me again. I pushed back and the second guy pushed me, knocking me down a second time. I looked at my hands, wiped the gravel off them. I didn’t feel any pain. I didn’t feel much of anything until I felt a kick to my stomach. The impact flattened me. I rolled over to see a flurry of kicks coming at me from all angles. I curled up into a ball and faced away, hearing traffic in the background and wondering why no one had come to help. It all became a blur, but I rolled away and managed to rise to my feet. The three swarmed in. I looked at them knowing I’d probably have to throw a punch but bizarrely didn’t want to in case I hurt someone. I also knew I couldn’t punch the pregnant chick (or could I?), leaving just the two. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about because the driver hit me across my right cheek. I threw a punch back, but it was weak and had no effect. The two guys stormed in throwing punches relentlessly. I went down once more. The punches turned to kicks and began working every inch of my body. I could feel my head rebounding off the gravel. Every so often a small sharp stone dug into the back of my skull. All of a sudden the attack ceased. I looked up desperately, relieved it was finally over, only to see the big black Doc Martins boot of the pregnant skater kick me in the forehead as hard as she could. The sound alone made me nauseous; like an eggshell cracking on the side of a bowl. My body briefly spasmed uncontrollably. My natural reaction was to let out a disturbing wail similar to a child when experiencing a new pain for the first time. I fought the urge and instead became bizarrely hypnotised by the syrupy blood pouring at will from my head wound. Cupping my hand, it formed a puddle. I proceeded to empty and refill until I began to feel tired. Laid my left arm out straight using it as a pillow for my head and slowly closed my eyes. I could feel the warm blood reaching my fingers. The last thing I remember before slipping into unconsciousness was the sound of birds chirping around me as they swooped and danced. A twisted smile encroached across my lips. Spring had sprung.

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