The Holiday – Part 13

High summer heat-haze, syrupy air laden with insect and birdsong and occasional horse nickering, knowledge that there will be two weeks of no-work… Knots in my shoulders began unknotting. The tension of too many problems and being the one with workable solutions began to dissolve. My breathing was slowing and deepening. I could feel the beating pulse of my heart finding a new rhythm.

Then, through my drunken heat-hazy limb-heavy state I was aware of a new sound. Distant – but getting closer. A low and regular growl. Growing louder. Resolving itself into a mechanical and ripping roar. Enjoined by the yipping, high, bark bark bark yelp squeal of dog. The whistle of man. And the increasingly frantic bleating of what sounded like 1000 sheep. Sheep that were getting closer. Closer to me.

I thought briefly of jumping into the single-track nettle-filled roadside ditches. Nope. Not an option – bare legs and flip-flops.

There was only one way to go and that was up the hill. Now. And at speed. A speed that had to beat the dog and the sheep and the roaring, predatory quad-bike-man. I was panicked into running. I tripped on a flip-flop. And left it lying in the road. My feet stung as they slapped the rubbly tarmac surface. I looked behind and could see the beasts gaining on me. There was a multitude of sheep. A bleating scrabbling mass of grubby wool and yellow satanic eyes pursued by machine and mad barking dog. And the only thing between them and the farmyard was me. A stumbling unfit footsore me.

Above the din I heard shouting. Insistent shouting. Noises that were clearly human but which contained no meaning I could decipher. The heartbeat was sounding so loud against my eardrums. I would as well have been deaf. I stopped, briefly, bewildered by the human insistence. The sheep were gaining on me. They were almost upon me. My nostrils were full of their smell. I could feel their breath. The clatter and slip of their horny feet on the loose road grit as they pushed on towards me. In one split second I saw the newspaper obituary – 44 yr old Mother of Five Trampled to Death by Sheep.

I looked at the ditch. I looked at the sheep. And with one despairing leap I was up to my thighs in nettles…