I had enough sense to grab him hard by the arm and yank him with me as I hurtled into the closest tent. Steve was sent tumbling back as we landed on him, the torch flailing about like a disco light in the chaos. In
the riotous war of my pot buzz and the sobering thud of adrenaline, I think I might’ve been screaming.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” he said. Ewan managed a nod. “We’re in the countryside.”
“What the fuck sort of countryside have you been hanging around in?” I asked. “Midsomer?”
Ewan stroked his fiance’s back. “It’s okay,” he soothed. “It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got a couple of bottles in the minibus. From the service station, remember? If the water’s still not working when we get back from the walk, we’ll drive out to the village and get more. No problem.”
I don’t like camping. I think anyone who genuinely likes camping is broken in some fundamental way. Where were you over the last few millennia of human advancement while the rest of us discovered things like houses and central heating?
“If so much as a single man dies, it’ll be on your soul,” the Skipper said at last as he shrugged away from his restraints. He pointed a finger at me, spittle flecking his chin as he did so. “On your soul!”
Fearing that I might be too overwhelmed by the dread I had been seized by the last time I had touched this new, lower trapdoor, I wrapped my handkerchief around my fingers and immediately pulled upon the hatch’s handle. It opened upwards without a sound.
A most astonishing thing has just occurred. I am trembling with nerves and barely able to write. But write I must! I am stricken with terrible delight! If I do not capture these thoughts, then I fear that I will come to dismiss them as the result of some feverish, sleep-poor delusion!
While removing what remained of the unsorted miscellanea, I exposed a trapdoor. It was firmly rusted closed and completely unusable, but nonetheless inspired a level of discussion I had come to think beyond them.
Illuminated by only a single lantern and with naught but the sound of our breathing and the muted sea, the air in the room became uncomfortably close. I felt a chill pass down my spine, even as I became aware of quite how far I was leaning towards the retiring Skipper…
2nd June, 184__
As promised, I began writing this as soon as I was able to do so on my safe arrival.
I hope you received the letter I sent prior to leaving the mainland. The owner of the inn assured me that he would have it sent on my behalf, and I tipped him well for it. I was exhausted after the long journey across the Pennines and fear my handwriting may have been illegible. Hopefully my instructions to him were not!