There we were, despite all our precautions, lost on the foggy moors with evening approaching. And I had just stumbled on a sheep skull lying in the mire. Visions of a slavering spectral Holmesian hound prowling the plains for its prey swam through my mind.
Now there are times when having a fertile imagination is a plus. Standing in the queue at the Vehicle Licensing Centre, for instance, I’m golden. I could stand there all day with just my imagination to keep me company and not be terribly bored. We have a good thing going at such times, my imagination and I. But when I’m cold, wet and miserable, nervous about being lost in a strange place, staring down at the gruesome remains of an extremely dead creature, my imagination does me no favours.
Still, there we were – my husband, a skeleton and I. Hanging out together on the moors. If we had all walked into a bar, I can assure you some sort of hi-larious punchline would have ensued.
I decided that the skeleton, given the drama it was providing to the proceedings, was a sign of some sort and that we should check the GPS again. This time, praise the dead sheep, it worked. We had a location! Hallelujah! I briefly considered dancing a jig but restrained my enthusiasm in deference to our deceased woolly companion.
We ploughed on, this time with a very specific goal in mind. We were heading for the West Okement River which we would lead us back to our starting point – the Meldon Reservoir. Full steam ahead!
At a juncture like this, when the hero and heroine are finally feeling secure that the enemy is vanquished, the villain usually gets a second wind. Not enough to kill or even maim the protagonists, mind you, but enough to require a secondary character such as the mother, or the best friend who secretly loved the heroine all along, to valiantly sacrifice themselves by eating the bullet.
So if the hell-hound decided to make an appearance now that we finally felt safe, my husband and I were at a significant disadvantage. Not only were our lovely mothers a few thousand miles away, but I did not in fact have a chivalrous pseudo-love waiting behind a gorse bush, ready to fling himself at our supernatural canine nemesis. If anyone was going to do any flinging, it would have to be one of us. This would have been inconvenient, to say the least.
Thankfully for us, this plot device decided to skip my saga and neither one of us was called upon to make the supreme sacrifice. In fact, as we walked on, the mists, contrary to all narrative logic, began to thin, and as we crested a small hill, we saw before us the valley of the West Okement.
We were safe. The Adventure, dear reader, Was Over.
A few acknowledgements from the author:
Dear West Okement River,
The sight of you was panacea – seeing you meant we were home. Sure we had to trudge on a few more miles after reaching you, but we had you babbling along for company, didn’t we? What’s 5 miles between friends? And you led us to our car right as rain.
Men will come and men will go, and I sure hope you go on forever.
You are incredibly beautiful and we will be back. And this time we’ll do an about turn if we see your mists.
Dear Dead Sheep’s Skull,
I don’t know what killed you and I wish it hadn’t. In another world, at another time, there’s a fair chance you’d have ended up – an anonymous unsung end – in someone’s stew. As it is, though, you played a dramatic role in my narrative, entering it at the perfect moment of emotional chaos and added wonderfully to my tension. You’re a natural thespian, Skull.
There you lie, out on the moors, beyond the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and I hope you sleep, perchance to dream.
Dear GPS technology,
Get your act together! Good grief.
Dear Arthur Conan Doyle,
Dartmoor was everything you made it out to be. Everything.