1st Prize: £100 Kelly Spreadbury
2nd Prize: £50 Peter Hudson
3rd Prize: £25 Olivia Hunter
By Kelly Spreadbury
The mist was rolling down the hills around her and soon she was enveloped in an eerie, unfamiliar cloak ….the shroud seemed to muffle her calls, stifle the fear in her throat until she felt hoarse with trying to make herself heard. Where was she? How could a three year old move so fast? It was dangerous out here on the moors, the mist was thick and it disorientated even the most competent of locals. It was also cold and she shivered.
Two minutes that’s all she had left Jessica for, two stupid minutes. What would Frank think when he got back home? His only daughter missing out on the moors, lost, lonely, hungry and frightened. Hannah looked around in desperation, she was losing her own bearings, which way was the house now? The mist was becoming denser by the second and she tried to think how far she had come from the safety of the garden. One wrong step and she could easily take a tumble. Hannah felt tears prick at her eyes and she struggled to blink them back. Cry baby she thought. First sign of trouble and you put on the waterworks. Hadn’t her mother consistently chided her for that when she was young? She almost smiled but then with a cold jolt, remembered Jessica, all blonde curls and big blue eyes, out here alone. Oh god. What if she died out here? She would never forgive herself ever and neither would Frank. The thought chilled her and spurred her to search further. Swallowing hard, she carefully pushed forward out in the direction of the open moors, one steady step at a time.
“Jessica” she bellowed, straining her ears to listen for signs of crying, but only a cold silence greeted her. At first there was nothing but then, a faint sound, a cry from out of the mist. “Jessica,” Hannah breathed a sigh of relief. She was out there and alive and now she just had to follow the sounds.
“I’m coming pet, don’t you worry. Stay where you are!” Jessica’s faint sobs could still be heard through the gloom, Hannah hoped she sounded calm and had managed to quell the desperation from ringing out in her voice. She had to stay calm. The ground felt slippery underfoot and her tension rose yet further. She still sounded so far away. The ground was uneven and dipped ahead, where was she? She felt the ground give way in front of her and jolted her back as she lurched forward stumbling a little. She didn’t have time to stop and feel sorry for herself, the muscles in her lower back were starting to throb but Hannah knew she didn’t dare give up. Jessica’s cries were getting fainter but the mist had wrapped its icy fingers around her and she was starting to feel paralysed with fear. Was she near the old mine? Had she walked so far? Sure enough the slope was heading down before her and it felt steep in places and uneven, but if so, Jessica had fallen into the disused mine shaft. Oh god, please don’t let that have happened she prayed desperately.
“Jessica pet, can you hear me?” A slight sound, stifled in the mist and Hannah eased forward, her heart lodged in her rib cage, stress levels escalating as she strained to identify the direction. Hannah felt disorientated, the mist seemed to be affecting her hearing too and suppressing her instinct. Worse, fear threatened to rip through her as she agonised over the prospect that Hannah could be seriously injured. Guilt weighed heavily and she realized that she had been keeping her feelings for Jessica in check, holding back, feeling resentful that Frank had loved Jessica’s mother and fear had led to her stifling her emotions, unwilling to bond with his beautiful daughter. Fear, jealousy, guilt, powerful negative emotions that had led them to this moment and her having been distracted enough to have let Jessica wander off alone. She had to save her, had to.
From out of the depths, Frank’s voice sounded, desperately calling her name, she could hear the fear in his voice, he was home and he had realised that Jessica was missing. An overwhelming urgency to find Jessica swept through her so that she could reunite them all and she stepped forward, a loose boulder sliding underfoot and she fell awkwardly, her head hitting the ground and the hazy mist suddenly went dark.
She was cocooned in strong arms and it felt good. Masculine scent evaded her nostrils and she turned instinctively towards the source, head nestling into the warmth.
“Hannah, are you ok? Can you hear me?”
Frank, the realization swept through her like a wave of pleasure, diminishing in a second as she remembered Jessica and her plight. “Jessica..is she?” Her lips felt swollen and the words too big for her mouth but she needed to warn Frank, tell him how careless she had been.
“Sssh,” he said, “she is fine, absolutely fine, I was worried about you, you took a nasty fall”
Hannah struggled to sit up, waiting for the room to stop spinning before attempting to open her eyes again. “The mine? Did I fall down the mine?”
Frank threw his head back and laughed “No, pet, you slipped on a lump of coal in the back yard and fell down into the bunker.
“No, that can’t be right, I walked miles”.
“You must have walked around in a big circle” he laughed, relief warming the sound “the mist does that here, it’s so thick, it’s disorientating. I was so worried about you especially when I found Jessica alone in the house”
“In the house?” Hannah shook her head, “I was searching for her, she had disappeared, I’m so sorry Frank, I only turned my back for a moment. I heard her outside calling for help.”
“No, you didn’t, the mist disorientates everything including noises, Jessica was hiding from you, but in the house, she never left, it was a lovely game of hide and seek until she got bored of waiting to be found”
Hannah nestled into Frank’s arms, all was safe, and suddenly life had changed for her. In those desperate moments that she thought Jessica was missing, she had realised just how much her new family meant to her and an overwhelming feeling of relief swept over her. It was time to shrug off her past relationship fears and embrace the new life that was hers for the taking and she had the unforgiving mist to thank for bringing her finally to her senses.