At Bowjey Hill I heard a tuba being practised from number eleven, its gabled, gate- split door half open, the top partially swung inside. This was where the bloops came from.
I was unsure as to whether the fog was lifting or settling, but the music fit it well. I was walking into the unknown and I was pretty jolly about the whole escapade.
I came off the main road at the point where two ramblers’ dogs were growling each others’ suspicions out, and headed down to the beach. A momentary warning from a stand of the most confidently outrageous gladioli, that actually could have been hollihocks.
Whatever their species, the flowers spoke of danger ahead, an orange blaze in the centre of each white head, petals billowing like gusted-out sails. They felt tropical, timeless and a poisonous omen of something out there in the mist I was walking into.
The tuba player had either stopped or I’d walked far enough away from it to be a memory. Without really being aware of it, I found myself in a short-lived canyon of buddleia, the horn-shaped floral clusters wagging at me as if ratifying what their gladioli cousins had tried to drop onto my deaf ears.
I looked back. The half door had been closed and the net curtain twitched.
Onwards, my feet told me, talking to a path huddled up to a wildflower bank that sloped down to the beach. Pebbles clacked far too slowly for me to hear. Two immense cubes sat on them, corners buried in the sand. And I mean cubes, man-made, each the size of a Renault Mégane, each fit out with handles built into the sides. No Hercules would’ve budged these, but I still tried, gripping the coarse stone with my soft urban skin.
Either side of me the fog had made up its mind and thickened, but straight ahead it bowed out. An expanse of flat, quiet sea the colour of Limbo rippled off into a horizon about a soccer-pitch size away.
I heard the four tourists before I saw them from the smallest corner of a pupil and I wanted to ignore them, but screwed my neck ‘round and caught the eye of a pleasant Scandinavian woman. She smiled through her heavyset, black-rimmed glasses and said ‘hi’ in an accent that co-ordinated with her blonde ponytail.
I liked her, instantly, but my heart was drawn to the older, more primal things in this world so I turned back to the rocks beneath me and let the quartet ramble all the way back to Denmark. I had my own little mermaids to spot.
The veins in the rock drew my attention by bloodying themselves away from me in odd rivulets of red and green, making the surface of the boulders somewhat three- dimensional. My gaze was led by these igneous scars out past the first bumping waves, over that placid Atlantic and towards a pair of schooners that idled in conversation with each other, their prows attending the shipping forecast of the day. I wondered if they were too afraid to enter the mist but then deduced that as far as I was aware, maybe they were already in it.
Beyond them was nothing, and a full nothing at that. It occluded the end destination, which was the village of Mousehole, a place I took pride in not being able to pronounce properly. This was not my kingdom here, after all, so it was not my tongue spoken.
Instead of this settlement, all I could see was the mist and some of the shapes it was creating. I knew there was a new horizon trying to create itself in there but I couldn’t see it, not yet. I’d thrown my past away behind me with the passing of a birthday yesterday and it had succumbed easily. Waking this morning with a novel hangover, one edged with determination, I realised all the things I’d thrown away were meant to be behind me. That was their home now; an ex-boyfriend and his lessons, a fairweather career in service, a house that was a sanctuary but not one I’d built, and the city of Bristol, which was still fresh but past my self-stamped best-before date.
People were grieving an old way of life, but not I. I had screwed my neck so hard in the past that not even Scandinavians could make it turn back. My old life was now an old photograph and the sepia was running in all directions away from me.
I didn’t want to get to Mousehole, it felt like a step back in time. My ex and memories of our happiness were there, but I wanted the joy that was hidden in the promising mist out there, the pleasure that was unknown but only in the way that a rainbow is. You know when it’s likely to happen.
As I turned my incline to return to the four walls of the B’n’B I was calling home, a figure came out from the buddleia grove I’d stumbled through like some lost Alice. Old Woman Death floated towards me, her head bowed over a mackintosh that glistened with rain like an obsidian sheet. She failed to look at me, though I was stock-still and baiting a reaction from her.
What death have you got for me today, crone? None.
Onwards, my feet told me.