22nd May


It was an afternoon of possible magic. The air heavy and hot, solid almost, needing a storm to break it up. Birds silenced by the heat. In the woods, hazy with bluebells, thick with the smell of wild garlic, the heat percolated through the branches and even the shade of the trees seemed stifling. Everything was languid, faint. To move at more than a gentle stroll was draining.

They came out of the wood and there was the loch, flat under the flat grey sky. Nothing stirred the water, or stirred on it. It was as if almost every living thing had gone somewhere else. A bee buzzed past as if hurrying to beat a curfew, a few flies rested on hot stones. That was it. The two of them in an emptied world.

When they sat on the grass, though, some crawling, biting creature nipped at his legs. He brushed invisible things away. She watched him, curious, smiling. ‘There’s nothing there,’ she said.

Later, drinking tea in her kitchen with the storm raging outside, they puzzled over what had happened next, when they stood (because he couldn’t sit, so intense was the interference round his legs) and made their return along the path through the woods.

‘I don’t believe in that stuff,’ he said. ‘It just doesn’t happen. It definitely doesn’t happen to me.’

‘But it happened. We both know it.’

‘What happened? Did we fall asleep?’

‘No. We were walking. And we came to that stone, where the path divides. And you went one way, I went the other.’

‘But we were only out of sight of each other for a moment. A few seconds at most.’

‘I know. But on the other side, you weren’t there.’

‘No, you weren’t there. You’d disappeared.’

‘I was there all the time. I walked all the way back to the gate, looking for

Which was where he had found her again. ‘Where were you?’ he’d cried.
And ‘Where did you go?’ she’d asked at the same moment.

‘I don’t believe in any of that.’ He sounded tired, angry, maybe scared.

‘Me neither.’

The rain poured down the windows, so heavily that they couldn’t see out.

Reader: Iona Zajac
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
Subscribe here for more stories & music