The Heartland Road

I can feel the gravel under my feet, and the noise of it fills my ears.

Just keep walking, I tell myself. One step, then another. You’ll get there.

The noise is grating. It feels like it is scraping at my mind, scraping skin from a raw place. The sky is grey and heavy.

I close my eyes and just keep walking.

At first I am scared. In the red darkness behind my eyelids, I feel trapped. I sway. I am afraid of tripping. My breath seems very loud. Even the gravel crunching is drowned out by it.

But with time, it quietens. The gravel has quietened, too. No, gone, given way to the warm thump of peaty earth. Behind that, a blurring sound of wind, soft on my ears, the piping of birds as they ride it, and behind all, the steady breathing of the sea.

I stay in darkness for a moment, my nostrils filled with fragrance; then the darkness turns ruby-red and I open my eyes to the sun.

I am on the heartland road. It’s barely a track here, two grooves worn in the peat, the ridge between thick with wild flowers. It winds ahead, pale against the heather and longer grass, disappearing at last behind a dune-cliff pocked with nesting-holes. The shape of it is calligraphy, a letter I can’t read, but I understand it – with all my being, I understand what it says. It says, Come home.

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