Silver Mirror Sky

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The guard’s announcement informs all passengers that there is no driver. I stand, and the Chinese student opposite asks what this means; do I know how he can get to Chester?

When I look back at the platform a driver has removed the train.

I acknowledge an internal struggle. The fatalist in me sees this as a sign that there might be an intent in the wider universe. The realist is simply frustrated. I haven’t been to Tatton Park for several years and I crave the essential sensation of low autumn sun, spun through orange leaves.

In a tall residential tower, possibly for students, I see that most curtains are still drawn. Behind me two station employees discuss a staff shortage. More trains will be cancelled. Do I change my plans? There are only two possibilities: yes or no.

The memory of my daughter’s training expedition slips into my consciousness. Almost as a reflex reaction, I buy a ticket to Hope, Derbyshire. The train is packed with walkers, their rucksacks and walking poles. Many people stand in pairs, but I am alone. Is there a mirror version of me somewhere else in the universe? Who am I with? Which direction am I facing?

Half the train empties at Edale. The station sign says 'Alight here for Kinder Scout' and I know that I could climb the peak. The summit is clear and I have enough food and clothes in my backpack, but I have neither compass nor map. I could flip a coin but I don’t believe in chance.

At Hope the air is fresh. The sun is bright and low, then flits behind a cloud. Specks of rain dance in the air. The wind picks up.

Two runners pass me, their calves spattered with the mud of hill paths. One of them leads a dog. I remember the last time I went running in the hills. I wonder, could I still feel that joy, that freedom?

I pass a large green sign for a low-level footpath but continue up the higher road. It is narrow and I know that it is ‘metalled’. It feels good to climb. In the distance, I see a huge gash in the hill. I recall a sign, further back on the road, for the cement works. Is this the hand of man scooping the stone or did an ancient rotating ball of ice carve the landscape?

Below, in the closely grazed fields of the wide valley, two drystone walls form parallel waves, almost sinusoidal, standing out against the linear uniformity. There is a beauty in the pattern, the repetition, as if perhaps, yes, this is art.

I once watched a film in a gallery where a living landscape was, over time, rendered into a digital mesh.

Now I am deep in a depression in the landscape, and it is dark. Above me the sky is a flat, silvery blue. A cyclist slips past near silently and immediately becomes invisible.

I pass a little cottage whose front door is open. A mother places her young child in a pushchair in the small paved yard with its neatly potted plants. I look inside the cocoon of the dark hallway, and although I can see nothing, I can smell the warmth.

This village offers shops selling fudge, gemstones and walking gear, cafes and tearooms. I climb towards the castle.

A memory. I am fifteen and we have walked here. We’ve missed the return bus so in the fading light we start back. We are walking along the side of a main road with no pavement. Each headlight nudges us off the road. A man in a red Ford stops and gives us a lift back to Buxton. It is very late when we return.

I recognise the large green sign marking one end of the footpath. I wonder what might have changed, had I done this walk in reverse.

The path is stony and pleasant, the river on my left side moving with me. It is swollen from the recent rain, thick and black. My father said never to drink the water unless you know there are no dead sheep further up. I can’t be sure.

I eat my sandwich exactly in time with a sheep’s mastication, mine linear, theirs rotating. I work my way through two rounds, but the sheep is still chewing the original mouthful of grass. The ridge of its woolly back blazes silver in the sunlight.

I’m not sure it’s possible to describe the sound a river makes as it gently flows though the bottom of a very shallow valley, light flicking the grasses on the bank, illuminating tree trunks, occasionally sparkling off ripples in the water. The sound seems to exist only in darkness.

The cement works now loom large on the horizon. Backlit by the sun the structure is dark, hellish and imposing. I have worked in places like this in the past and they provide jobs, our way of life. We can’t block them out in the name of beauty, or can we?

The path rises gently to the road where I began. I have this superstition that if I turn around once, I must do the same in reverse. I could retrace my steps. It is the same when I fly my kite; it is essential to keep track of the number of twists in the string.

There is a theory that every particle has a mirror somewhere else in the universe. The moment you determine the spin of one of the particles, its sister particle, no matter how distant, will immediately begin spinning in the opposite direction at the same rate.

The train home exits a tunnel. The sun appears between the hilltops, unbearably bright, overwhelming the carriage. As we pass a sequence of trees, the light quickly pulses on, off, on, off, on, off.

About the Author: 
Manchester, England, based writer of poetry, flash fiction, short stories and stage plays. Fascinated by how science affects our daily lives.