Great Mell Fell

The local papers used words such as “shocking, brutal, mindless, horrific, distressing.” One even went as far as to call the victims, “Innocent teenagers.” A nineteen-year-old is an adult. An adult that knows deliberately and repeatedly riding a motorbike through a herd of terrified sheep and their young is a scumbag move; end of story. And there was certainly nothing innocent about them. One was pronounced dead at the scene. The other held on a little longer, but soon followed. I desperately wanted to call up the Evening Gazette and give a full account of what really went down. Give a full account of the type of vile, heinous human beings they really were. But knew putting unnecessary heat on myself when I’ve got a world to protect would only compromise the operation. The police, it appeared, had no clue, no trace. I wanted to keep it that way. I carefully cut around the border of one of the articles, making sure all sides were symmetrical. Folded it neatly into quarters and placed it into my wallet next to the “Helvellyn” article. I spent the following ten minutes tiresomely flicking through one of the National newspapers (my vengeful acts hadn’t made it into any of those yet) until I came across a double-paged article highlighting the growing litter problems rural areas and parks in cities and towns were having since the lifting of lockdown; Cornwall looked like the Marlboro Man had taken a stroll along its beaches with the weight of the world on his shoulders. It was only a matter of time until the tourists hurried to the Lake District. The National Trust and other so-called do-gooders still naively believed a poster of a cartoon fairy picking up shit and placing it into a bin would make people think twice about leaving theirs. Fucking idiots. There was only one way to keep the environment clean – eradicate the problem like you would a dog that catches rabies.

The graveyard was heaving. They’d decided on a double funeral. The deceased were cousins, both male, being laid to rest side by side. I wore a slim fitted suit, black. Open collar and a pair of Burton dark tortoise sunglasses I got cheap the previous September, that could’ve fooled Tom Ford himself. On my feet I wore a pair of red laced, high shine Jeffery West’s that had a “Rolling Stones” quote on the soles brand new but had now worn. I stayed on the cusp of the service, leaning against a large cracked gravestone of some geezer who died eighteen something and would always be cherished. I wasn’t sure why I’d turned up. Curiosity I guess. It was hot for ten-thirty in the am. All I could think about was buying a bottle of factor fifteen once I left and hoped my neck wouldn’t be too red by then. Someone had arranged for a bouquet of flowers shaped as a motorbike to be placed by the coffin. Personally, I thought it looked tacky, but each to their own. Across the narrow public footpath and cycle lane from the graveyard, families joked and laughed whilst playing Footgolf. Above the sound of unbearable grieving cries as the coffins were lowered six feet under, jubilant cheers rung out as someone putted on the ninth from the edge of the green.

As the mourners departed the graveyard, a road-train pulling five carriages filled with tourists, holding up traffic on the one-way system, tootled past. The driver, microphone in hand, giving a running commentary announced, ‘The graveyard coming up on the right, is famous for the burial of the inventor of the crossword. You’ll find his grave six down and five across.” Laughter and clicking cameras ensued.

The wake was in a large beer garden. The spread was impressive, although the egg barms became soggy quickly in the heat and the only pizza was Hawaiian. I walked around, eavesdropping, pint in hand. I do love an excuse to begin drinking early. I looked one of the grieving mothers in the eye, giving her a sympathetic smile. She didn’t acknowledge me. Behind her reddened eyes her thoughts had become trapped in a maze of bewilderment. I sat down on one of the wooden benches, removed my sunglasses and basked in the heat. The place was a real suntrap. As I sat tanning, a voice called out, ‘Jack?’ I looked up. It was a guy from work whose name escaped me. ‘Oh, hey…you.’ I replied squinting, sounding like an American sitcom character. ‘What are you doing here?’ He asked. His suit was blue, cheap and his striped shirt wasn’t tucked in at the back. ‘I, erm, know the family.’ ‘Really? Which one?’ ‘Well…they were cousins, weren’t they? So, it’s all one big family, right?’ I answered with half a laugh. The cheap shape that was blocking the sun’s rays from working on my tan just stared. ‘Who are you here with?’ He finally asked. ‘No one. I’m just here on my own. No one else from my side could make it so I’m flying the flag so to speak. Who are you here with?’ ‘My wife.’ ‘Oh right. I didn’t know you were related to the erm, er, you know, the bikers.’ ‘The bikers?’ ‘Yeah, the young lads who tragically passed. Terrible stuff. Truly awful.’ ‘You mean William and Karl.’ ‘Of course. So are you closely related to, you know, Karl and…erm…’ ‘William.’ ‘Yeah, William.’ ‘My wife goes horse riding with Karl’s wife.’ ‘And you?’ ‘I’m here to support my wife.’ ‘You sure you’re not here for the creamy mushroom vol-au-vents?’ I replied laughing, ‘No no, I’m joking of course. They’re actually a little flavourless.’ There wasn’t a reply, only an uncomfortable silence. ‘Anyway,’ I continued holding up my pint, ‘This is a little flat, I’m going to get it changed. Can I get you anything while I’m at the bar?’ ‘No, I’m good.’ ‘Ok great. I’ll be back in a minute.’ I hurried from the garden and walked inside, leaving my pint on a table and made my way to the exit. At the front of the pub, a forgotten cigarette consumed itself in a green plastic ashtray on top of an all in one wooden seat and table combo. To the right of it, a funeral programme had been pinned to the table-top by spilt Coke. The victims smiling faces on the cover looked up at me. I took a few steps to the right, came back, took a few steps to the left, keeping my eyes fixed on theirs – they didn’t follow. I picked up the cigarette and burnt holes through their foreheads. The interrogation had left my armpits sweating profusely. I checked my shirt, both sides, and for some reason smelt the damp on my fingers, as if I needed extra proof of the substance.

The close call added with the few sips of beer had given me a buzz. That’s all it takes. I considered going all out on the sauce, but my state of mind mixed with too much alcohol concerned me. After some time deliberating on the matter whilst walking back to the pickup, I decided on stretching my legs instead of embarking on a one-man session. The blues mixed with a shot of anxiety coursed through me as always when I opt out of drinking.

The bars were lively, rowdy. An unease filtered through the streets of Bowness as I drove through. Just as well I’d decided to go hiking instead. I drove up through Windermere. The edginess of Bowness hadn’t quite reached the top of the hill, but it was just as busy and drivers were becoming exacerbated with one another, showing it through animated facial expressions, over-revving and sarcastic cries that at the time, to the offender, sound like Tarantino written gems, but on reflection sound more like an “Inbetweeners gag”.

I wasn’t sure where to drive. I was sure I wanted to avoid crowds and traffic, but knew my chances were slim. The roads were chalky from dried grit that hadn’t washed away, coating cars in a drab powder. After driving aimlessly for a little while, I found myself in Glenridding and pulled over at a local corner shop for sun spray.

‘Have you only got factor thirty?’ I asked the old fella behind the counter. ‘Why, what you after?’ ‘Fifteen.’ ‘Fifteen? You might as well use cooking oil.’ He grumbled. ‘So, is that a no for the fifteen?’ ‘I dunno lad, let me take a look out back.’ ‘No, it’s fine. This’ll do.’ ‘It’ll only take a minute.’ ‘No. I said this’ll do.’ I replied. ‘Alright keep your hair on. I was only trying to help.’ ‘You’re right. I’m sorry.’ I replied, trying to smile through gritted, pulsating teeth. To the side of the counter was a small sickly pink A5 poster urging people to respect the local livestock. The old fella, noticing me reading it, piped up, ‘Did you hear?’ ‘Hear what?’ ‘About that family who chased that cow and her calf, wanting to get a selfie?’ ‘Sounds like the start of a joke.’ ‘Ain’t no joke. The calf ran to some fencing and got tangled up in barbed wire. The farmer turns up, plays bloody ‘ell with ‘em and the, well I’m guessing the husband, father, whoever, gets his phone out and starts telling him he’s recording and is gonna expose him on the internet for yelling at his family. All the while the wife, mother, whoever, is telling the farmer to chill out and “F-off”. It’s an awfully brave individual who provokes and attacks before finally pressing record to film the reaction, I tell ya.’ I sucked hard on my front teeth, that felt like they were attempting to escape my mouth, whilst studying the old man’s face. I was annoyed at the story. Annoyed he’d told me. Annoyed he’d gotten me annoyed. ‘What the fuck’s it gotta do with me?’ I asked coldly. He stepped back, wary of my reply. ‘N…no…nothing. I er just saw you reading the…never mind. That’s £6.25 please.’ I kept my eyes on him as I reached for my wallet, soon realising I’d left it in the car. ‘I’ve only got a fiver on me.’ I answered, pulling one from my back pocket. ‘But, its erm, £6.25. Everything is priced accordingly.’ His thick white sideburns were back lit from the cigarette stand behind. His breathing slowed to bated breath until he gulped with such vigour his whole throat shuddered. ‘You’re right again.’ I finally replied, ‘That’s quite a roll you’re on. I’ll go grab my card. I’ll be two shakes of a scared shitless calf’s tail.’ A bell rung out when opening the door and my eyes instantly watered from the jarring, contrasting light. I grabbed my card, re-entered the shop and paid. ‘You really think this is going to stop people behaving the way they do? This little pink leaflet?’ I asked, turning to leave. ‘It might make people think twice. At least I hope it would.’ ‘It’s a shame you’ve got to your age and gained such little wisdom along the way.’ ‘You have all the answers huh? Well tell me, what would you do?’ ‘Me? I’d stop them. Permanently. But that’s the difference between me and the likes of you, I’ve got the guts to do what’s right.’ He didn’t answer. 

Ullswater glistened as the sun danced off its ripples. The shores were lined with the recently released enjoying the late spring heat. Paddleboarders and kayakers explored the lake’s islands and eastern shores. I tried with every last fibre in my body to relax and be content for them enjoying the day but became agitated at the thought of the smoker sat on the wall not disposing of his cigarette properly. Or the couple eating a picnic by the side of their campervan leaving their tinfoil in the layby. Or the dog walker hanging a bag of dog shit on a branch like an unwanted Christmas decoration. Every nomad, couple, family, group, innocently enjoying their day got under my skin. The more I began imagining them all littering, disrespecting, destroying, the more the skin around my forehead began tightening and my teeth began throbbing. I couldn’t handle it anymore. There was no peace. Only frustration, anger, hatred, murder. How could I carry on living here? How could I carry all this bitterness around with me for the rest of my life? Living in paradise and watching it being destroyed by these termites was unbearable. I couldn’t kill them all, could I? Only if there were like-minded people could I pull off such a feat, and even then, I’d need an army. There aren’t enough people who care anymore. Maybe there never was. Society is turning into a grey rolled out, flat piece of clay and anyone with a question or a spark of passion is looked upon as demented. We believe we have more freedom now than we ever did, but the simple fact is we’ve never been more incarcerated. It’s just that we’ve been conned into believing we’re in control. Maybe I’d be at peace moving to some concrete shithole, overlooking blocks of flats or bellowing cooling towers. Some place that’s fallen through the cracks and likes it that way.  

Somewhere near the signposts for Aira Force I took a left and drove through Matterdale, still unsure of my destination. At Matterdale End I veered right down a narrow country lane. I pulled over a mile or so later and studied the map. I’d parked at the foot of Great Mell Fell. I’d never heard of it and wasn’t particularly interested, but there were no other hikers in sight which was fine by me. I changed on the side of the road, neatly folding my funeral attire, wishing I hadn’t been recognised so I could have stayed a little longer making the most of the spread. A farmer opposite cut through the silence with his chainsaw. The sun was white and harsh, like lights shining down on a patient being rushed through a hospital. Birds darted past sounding like wireless radios searching for signal. I scoured the ground for traces of litter, determined on becoming irate and fantasising carrying out just revenge. To my dismay, apart from the corner of a red wrapper, there wasn’t a drop.

I began the hike, following the path through sparse, fenny woodland, until it abruptly ascends steeply, before slowly levelling off once it’s lit a match inside your lungs. The trees on the fellside are stumpy, misshaped, cracked, but still growing strong. Looking north-east, this section of the Lake District begins to feel a little more like the Derbyshire Dales or the Yorkshire Moors – the seated section in the nosebleeds of a Primal Scream gig. Although, the views looking back into the heart of the Lake District from Great Mell Fell is drama unfolding at its best. Black shadows, caused by unexpectant clouds, moved slowly and forcibly over fields and woodland like alien life strategically positioning itself for attack. In the distance, the A66 hosted high speed dustbins gearing up to dump their load. ‘How incredible it would be to pick them off one by one with a sniper.’ I thought aloud. I didn’t stay at the summit long. Some perfect looking family with a happy shaggy dog skipped and laughed their way up to me as if they were starring in a decorating commercial – fucking arseholes. Back on the road to the pickup, a short, stocky man in his early thirties, glued to his phone, was walking with four young boys of around eight and nine. They were sullen in comparison to the Ikea clan on the summit. One of the boys sneaking a peak at the man’s screen asked, ‘Dad, how come you’re on Tinder when you’re going out with Chloe?’ The man, salivating onto the screen, grunted an incoherent reply.

I found a secluded part of the beach on the northern shores of Ullswater. It would have been nice to cut my fucking head off with a hacksaw and kick it to the side for a few hours so I could enjoy some serenity. But without a needle and thread, I was tapped out of luck. I stripped down to my boxers thinking I really needed to buy some more and looked around making sure no one could see this tired, borderline offensive piece of material. The water was cold, but laying on my back sculling with the sun at its zenith warming my front melted away all negativity. To live in the wild away from mankind would be bliss. Of course, I would have to learn the required skills to kill prey. But with three humans now on my notch, how hard could that be? Of course, there isn’t much wildlife in England, so it would be mostly rodents or stealing the odd chicken. Maybe living in the wild and going to the supermarket every once in a blue moon for essentials and the odd luxury like Pastéis de Nata, would be more achievable. Of course, I would still need my job if I were to do this, which would mean I’d still very much be surrounded by mankind. Of course, I would need to be equipped for treacherous winters on the mountains, unless I lived in the forests. But I would surely be constantly pestered by dog walker and hikers. Oh bollocks to it all. Nothing’s ever simple.

I dried by lying on the beach like a washed-up jellyfish, occasionally turning, covering myself in pebbles. I ripped my one of my socks trying to pull it over a clammy ankle and could feel my boot rubbing against the bone when I began walking to the pickup.

The overpowering heat in the metallic hotbox forced my body to break out in an uncomfortable sweat. I wiped my brow with the rung-out boxers and threw them into the passenger foothold. As I contemplated plans for the latter part of day, I noticed a group of six, three couples, or so I presumed. I couldn’t tell their ages from where I was. They were finishing off a picnic and packing away their gear. I watched for around ten minutes, particularly one of the women who was wearing a pair of denim shorts cut so short you could see the lower part of her arse cheeks. As they were getting into their vehicles, one of the women cautiously looked around, not spotting me (perhaps because of the glare off the windscreen, perhaps not) and stuffed a binbag into some bushes. One of the men, wearing a red vest and baggy green combat shorts, precariously holding a disposable BBQ, using a towel to protect his hands, ran to the edge of the lake and threw in the BBQ causing steam to rise like a hot spring. Initially impressed by the scene, he turned his back on the simple chemistry experiment and walked back to his campervan empty handed. After a couple more minutes of chattering and map pointing, the six eventually drove off. The last few hours of pulverizing thoughts thinking the worst in people had been founded. I turned the ignition, allowed the engine to hock up a little before finding its rhythm, and slowly followed the convoy.                      

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