Friday 18 – Tuesday 22 February 2011
You know you should never go anywhere alone!
The end of Hardacre and Bell’s four hour watch brought them to daylight. The mist receded as rapidly as it set in. It too, unnerved Hardacre who, being a God fearing man, considered the alternate explanations for the mist, and none of them were remotely comforting.
‘Bell, wait here and keep an eye on everyone,’ Hardacre spoke as he quietly crawled out from the safety of the shelter.
‘Sir, where are you going?’
Hardacre didn’t need to see Bell’s face to know that the man was terrified of being left alone.
‘Back to where we got the wood from. I . . . I need to take another look, see if there’s anything we missed the first time. You’ll be fine, son. Safety in numbers. I won’t be long.’ Hardacre pushed on before Bell could respond.
It was still difficult to see very far ahead, as the mist hadn’t complete dissipated. Jonathan Hardacre, First Lieutenant in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, aboard the vessel the Priory Rose, cautiously pressed forward. During the night, he had an intense feeling of malcontent. An urge overcame him and he needed to examine the bodies once more. From the outset, however, he knew exactly what he would find, and he was sure that it had come to fruition shortly after they had left the clearing.
With the mist hampering his journey, it took Hardacre much longer to reach the clearing than it had the previous day. All the while, he had prepared himself for what he knew he would see. Finally, the path opened up in front of him to reveal the clearing. It was as he had expected.
Neither the stakes, nor the bodies, littered the clearing any more. Just as there was in the night, a sense of auditory nothingness, before Jonathan Hardacre now, was a visual nothingness. What had been the previous day was no longer. No stakes. No bodies. Just open space. A gentle breeze made the long grass off to Hardacre’s right sway. He flinched, startled by the movement. He looked closely. Only that section of grass was moving. How could that be? he pondered.
He could feel the breeze on his skin, but only a small section of grass was being jostled by it. The rest was perfectly still. He trained his eyes on that area to his right. Did I see movement? He focussed, willing himself to refrain from blinking. There it was again: a flash of movement to his right, amongst the swaying grass. Remaining motionless, despite the rising panic in his body, he shifted only his gaze, and caught a sense of movement about ten yards in front of him. Feeling vulnerable, and incredibly stupid for not arming himself before setting out, Hardacre pivoted on his back foot and sprinted as fast as he could back to the camp. They were most certainly not alone on this island.
. . . To be continued . . .