My fleecy hat is just about useful, sheltering my ears from the burning chill. The dashboard flashes amber, a warning ping heralding the arrival of frost and its season of slips and slippers. The air is mute, interrupted only by a driver’s yawn or sniffle. The occasional hum of a descant, making the most of this Narnia setting.
I imagine Mr Tumnus is in the passenger seat. Legs crossed, shaking snow into the footwell. Chattering away, of course. Something about the badgers, I expect. It looks like he is wearing little round glasses but I daren’t turn right round to check, we’re already going 70mph, ready to take off. A sleigh rising from the silent night. Reading glasses? Or driving glasses. Maybe he’ll take over when I’m warm enough to slip off into a snooze. Seatbelt probably not fastened… Eyes on the road, Harriet. I doubt he has Thinsulate leggings… stash of turkish delight?
The sparkling tarmac is all ours. My camera is somewhere in the boot, so I’ll just have to see if my memory can work a night shift. We’re past the long and even longer winding lanes – the ones with trees densely packed together in an indignant fringe against the road. There’s a tension, a need to move – and swiftly. Without drawing attention. I daren’t slow, the darkness willing us on. Stars lost for now, towering pines and suddenly we’re stopping, screeching. Brakes, slamming the brakes, skidding. Clinging. Nails into the wheel. Immediately to the right. Watching. It’s just there, to the right. We’re both looking, staring through the headlights.
A stag. Stately, bold. A lesson in elegance, strength. Panting warmth into the dark, legs ready, head delicately poised, just glancing back, eyes gently alert.
I look around, hurriedly, almost expecting instructions. Mr Tumnus gone. Pitch black behind and before, a full beam screaming into the night. I shouldn’t stop, not completely. I should just go past, slowly. What if Stag moves. I have an image of antlers on the bonnet. All the locals’ stories flood into focus. The dashboard says 21.34. Somehow, knowing the time is reassuring. Something human, nearly tangible. A timetable. Time. I need to get going.
Into first gear, we’re off, crawling back to the frost. I can almost feel Stag’s breath, controlled, wondering. It is the first time I have thanked roads, generously setting a direction in the mountains, letting me sit tight in the black of night. We’re flying now, soft eyes watching us speed towards the stars.
Lightheaded. I try to catch my breath, stolen by shock. Ping. -3. Eyes stretching to catch every fern and flicker, wheels holding on. Leaning into the windscreen now, hands tight, wishing these gloves had fingers.
You’ll notice this is not Sri Lanka, but bonnie Scotland. Och, what a place. Drop me a wee line with your tales, stag nights and all…