This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to persons living, dead or otherwise is purely coincidental. The ideas and thoughts that follow are pure fantasies. In real life, at the very least they would be unpleasant and probably illegal. Fantasies are like that; daydreams where we can contemplate and imagine the sensations without suffering or inflicting the pain, despair or humiliation.
© obohobo 2009
"Hi, are you going to Scalybridge Youth Hostel?"
I stopped wrapping my precious photographic equipment in waterproof bags and looked at the two attractive girl hikers standing by the path and wondered what on earth they wanted with me. 'No, I'm going to Scalybridge but I'm staying in Mrs. Pendleton's Bed & Breakfast place."
"And you'll be going along the shorter, low level path?"
"Yep, I don't want to go over the tops today."
"Well would you do us a favour?" Favour? When girls asked me to do them a favour, that usually meant more work or inconvenience for me, but I nodded and the girl went on, "There's another girl in our group, Yvonne, we call her Eve, and she's about half a mile behind us. We want to go over the top but she's not fit enough to do that so I wonder if you would show her the lower track and the way to the hostel? We really need to keep the map and she should be here in a few minutes."
"I can but I don't think it wise for you to go over the top today either. There's a storm in the offing and it could be here before too long. It's a bit steep in dry weather but in heavy rain, it can be dangerous."
"We're fit and strong and if we don't have to wait for her, we'll be at the hostel before the rain comes. Only a few clouds at the moment and we've been wet before."
Okay, sod them, if they were too arrogant to take any advice, they'd get wet. I hoped it wouldn't be worse than that but kept quiet, like I usually did. They didn't heed my warning about the impending storm, or even consider it, and set off up the winding track while I waited impatiently for Eve. Ten minutes went by and then twenty. I heard the first rumble of thunder and hoped the girls made it over the top and down the other side before the storm broke. Five minutes later, I saw Eve still several hundreds yards down the path. By the time she wearily arrived I'd waited half an hour, and as it turned out, wasted half an hour of precious time, more so because her speed was much slower than mine.
"Hi Eve," I greeted, surprising the shortish girl stumbling along by addressing her by name, "Your two friends wanted to go over the tops and asked me to escort you on the shorter way to Scalybridge. I'm Don."
"Thanks Don. How far are they ahead?" she smiled wearily.
"About half-an-hour, your friends said you were only a few minutes behind them."
"You've waited all that time? Thanks but I could have found my way."
"You probably could normally but we need to find shelter before the storm breaks."
"Sorry, I seem to have been a great inconvenience to you and you'd be at the village by now if you hadn't waited for me. How far is it?" At least she didn't have the 'I know better than you' attitude of the other two.
"About four miles." She groaned. "And we need to get a move on if we are to beat the storm." I pointed to the clouds blacking the sky ahead of us.
"I'm pretty-well wacked, it's been a much harder walk than I expected and Greta and Karen are racehorses and like to go as fast as they can. Have we time for a short rest?"
"No," I said more abruptly than I intended and then added, "We'll take it at your pace." I'd somehow burdened myself with the responsibility for caring for her. We struggled on at a snail's pace for a couple of miles until, noting her slow limping walk, it became obvious the storm would overtake us long before we reached our destination. I tried to force the pace as much as I could but every time I did, I saw the distance between us increase and I guessed she plodded on a fast as she could. She didn't complain though; something that earned my respect.
I stopped at a narrow track leading off to our left and dumped my rucksack. Thinking I'd decided to have a rest, she did too. "Eve, see that hut on the hill the other side of the river? It's a bothy, a camping barn hut. I've stayed in it a couple of times and it's very primitive but it's dry and warm or will be when we get the stove going, not that we need much heat in this sultry weather but it will get cold at night. I suggest we head for it and sit the storm out there. Maybe spend the night if necessary. What do you think?"
"I don't think I can go much further without a rest, so if we can get in, let's go." I picked up her rucksack and ordered her to take my much lighter one. Hers had everything for a week-long walking holiday, mine only had photographic and other gear I needed for a day out. For a moment she looked uncertain but by then I'd started off and she'd no choice.
On the narrow track we'd not talked much so I'd no idea how she would react to a hut with one long bed, a wood stove, a table and two bench seats. There could be candles and occasionally people left non-perishable food but those intending to stay, normally brought camping equipment and a sleeping bag. I had emergency rations, chocolate and Kendal mint cake so we'd be really roughing it if we had to spend the night there. Certainly there wouldn't be any of the comforts found in a Youth Hostel.
We splashed across the river at a ford and entered the hut minutes before the rain arrived. Almost instantaneously with my closing the door, the sky darkened, the light disappeared, lightning flashed followed by tremendous claps of thunder and the rain and hail hissed down in hard stair rods, rattling loudly on the slate roof. We were definitely glad to be inside but I worried over the two girls and wondered if they'd found a place to shelter. I estimated they would have been well on the descent before the rain hit them but they had several miles of open moorland before arriving at the village.
We dumped our rucksacks in a corner and looked at the rain beating against the glass. "How long will it last?" Eve asked.
"Probably a couple of hours, maybe more."
"That will mean it will be seven o'clock before we can move on so it will be dark before we get to the hostel."
"Eve, we won't get to the hostel tonight. We're stuck here until morning." That shocked her. "Even if the rain stops in the next few minutes, the river will already be in full spate and we won't get across the ford which means we'll have to walk downstream across the rough open moor in the opposite direction to Scalybridge before we get to Kyson's bridge and a path that will take us to the track we were on earlier. I'll try and phone my landlady at the B&B to let her know we're safe enough." Unfortunately with the lightning, static drowned out the signal. Eve had the same result when she tried to phone Greta. I saw a tear form in her eye and wanted to hold her close but didn't dare.
Yes, having to spend the night alone in a hut with a man, well he wasn't much older than me really, whom I'd only met a short time before, worried me but I tried not to show it and stopped myself from crying. He seemed likeable enough but alone with him, miles from anywhere and away from any help, I could be in trouble. Still the risk was better than being out in the terrible weather and at least I stayed dry, apart from sweat soaked clothing that were now beginning to feel cold against my skin.
When we planned the walking holiday, I'd objected saying that 24 miles was too far to go in a day, but they said that Scalybridge was the nearest hostel and disregarded my suggestion to get a B&B before then or to take the bus for part of the journey. Once we'd started on the track, we were more or less committed to it for the whole way. The warm sultry weather soon had me sweating and lagging behind the other two but I managed to keep fairly close until lunchtime. They'd almost finished eating when I arrived at the stopping place and they started off again before I'd had much of a rest and only a few bites of food. I'd seen the shorter path marked on a map they carried and the longer one that climbed the peak and decided to take the easy option. However, as the afternoon wore on, my progress became slower and slower and by 4 o'clock I wanted to sit down and collapse but I thought I'd better carry on until the junction of the track in case the girls decided to wait for me and I knew they wouldn't be too happy if they waited long.
.... There is more of this story ...