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Shipton Shorts 2017 Shipton Bellinger Short Story Competition

2015 Winner ‘OMG’

By Michael Crabbe

"OMG in! Its so ec. C u l8tr"

I had been walking about an hour when this message came up on my phone. I didn't recognise the number so I just ignored it. I had always wanted to start walking to Stonehenge as the sun went down on the day before the Solstice and arrive just as the sun rose through the stones and this was my chance.  My partner was away, I had a couple of days to spare and the weather forecast was good. I had given myself four hours and I thought I may go back to my Army training and carefully chose a route to be safe in the dark. Although, to be truthful, it never really got pitch black. As I made my way up Bulford Road past the Village Centre, over Beacon Hill and down past Double Hedges into Bulford, I took it very slowly to avoid rabbit holes and other obstacles, stepping off the road when a car approached.

"Cant find safe loc. Still lkng. U ok? Wen u here?"

Another strange text. By now the street lights of Bulford were close and, as I glanced behind, there was a faint glow in the North East sky which told me to hurry up, so I ignored this text too. I got to thinking about how I came to live in the village after my wife left me. It was my fault I guess, always away in my Army days then with my management consultancy. Even more so since a "friend of a friend" invited me for a beer one evening and asked if I could help out with a little bit of observation and reporting as I went round the world. I never really knew who he represented and, frankly, did not want to know. As time passed the little bit of observation and reporting grew into much more. It was quite exciting and the money was good so I was happy to continue. The village was an ideal location with such a mixed population that people did not ask too many questions. I could afford a place slightly off the High Street and moved in with my partner. We had only been together a couple of years having met in an internet chat room. She was Bulgarian and sometimes our cultures seemed to clash and her English was not perfect. She found it a bit isolated and spent a lot of her time with relatives in London.

"OMG. Cum quick. Its a treasure trove. U must cum quick. Txt me! Where are U?"

The tone of the texts was getting more and more urgent but still I thought nothing of it. I had half a mind to respond and say that they had the wrong number but by then I was through Durrington and making my way to Woodhenge and the sky behind me was getting significantly lighter by the minute. I aimed for the Cursus but, by then, there were many more people about and I decided that I should just follow the crowd. We soon got herded in around the stones.  What I was not prepared for was the sheer number of people and the sweet, sickly smell. I had smelled that smell many times in clubs and bars and even market places around the world and I knew immediately what it was. I had never smoked it but I recognised the light headed feeling and mild euphoria associated with it. That, and a heavy air of expectation, hung in the air. Everyone was looking towards Beacon Hill as the sky got lighter still.

"OMG. OMG. U must come. Txt me txt me now!"

By now the sun was just breaking over Beacon Hill and a great sigh went up from the crowd. Even the chanting Druids seemed overawed and everyone stood still and watched for the first rays of the sun to strike the stones. A man standing next to me offered me a drag on his "cigarette". It looked just like the "old stogies" my father used to roll. A trick he learned in the Navy but stuck to all his life. I shook my head. The man shrugged and moved away. Even though I hadn't smoked it, I still felt lightheaded and the number of the phone used to text me went round and round in my head. I could not shake it out of my head and it became like a Buddhist chant going round and round. I began to sway and, as I looked round, the man with the cigarette was next to me again.

"You OK Buddy?" he said in a sort of mid Atlantic accent. "You look all in in. Have you had any food? Here get this down you. It will make you feel better"

He handed me a bottle of water and a piece of cake. I drank the water thankfully but was a bit hesitant about the cake.

"C'mon Bud," he continued "you won't get home without it. Do you want me to give you a lift?"

Even with my befuddled brain I knew it was a bad idea to accept a lift from someone who was probably as high as I was, but I took a bite of the cake. It tasted like one of my wife's date and walnut loaves but with a little something extra. A bell started to ring in my head. It was not tinnitus but a warning bell. I had that feeling I was in the wrong place and at the wrong time. The sun was fully up by now and I had an urgent desire to get away from the crowds. I pushed and shoved my way through what seemed like all thirty thousand people until, at last, I was free and heading back the way I had come. I had not thought about the way home assuming that, if push came to shove, I could wait for the Tidworth bus in Durrington and make my way home from there. But that thought went straight out of my head and I had the feeling I must take the quickest route home.

"OMG. Yay jackpot. Gr8. Need u now!!!!"

Once again the text appeared on my phone and it started the number going round and round in my head again. I felt a desperate need to get home. My head seemed to be separate from my body and, try as I may, I could not seem to get the message to my legs to go the way I wanted. I stumbled back to Woodhenge and, I know not why, I followed the road down through Durrington. In one of the houses beside the road I spied a bike. Soon I had liberated it and was pedalling hell for leather down into Bulford village and up the other side towards the camp. I was on automatic pilot by then and swept through the camp. I seemed to get a sudden burst of energy as I saw the masts of Beacon Hill above me and I abandoned the bike and battled and stumbled my way to the summit. Out of breath and pretty much out of strength I reached the masts at last.

"OMG. Blast u. I am just gonna do it!"

As I looked up from reading the text I could see a plume of smoke rising over the village. It was still only 5.30 am so what was on fire at that time of the morning?  All of a sudden my head cleared just for a moment. The water? The cake? I had to get down to the village. I had to find out about that fire. Down the hill I stumbled, fell and rolled, cutting myself on brambles and branches and wire. I had to get to the house. I just had to get to the house. I felt such an urgency and a dread of I knew not what. My mind seemed to divide into compartments whilst my body just stumbled on. It must be my house I convinced myself. The texts must be about me. I had so much information on my computer and hidden in a secret place that it could do untold damage if it fell into the wrong hands. I must get to the house before the Fire Services and the Police. I must protect the information that was on the computer and in the safe place. "I must, I must", my head kept urging on my feet. I thought I could hear a distant siren getting closer and closer. I must get there before them.

"Wake up, wake up. Are you hurt? What are you doing in the bed of the river?"

It seemed as if the voice was a long way away but the slaps on the face were much closer; and painful. I opened my eyes and shut them immediately as the sun, high in the sky, temporarily blinded me. As I screwed them up to take a look, I saw the faces of a man and a woman looking down at me. They were telling the truth. I was on my back in the dried bed of the river on the High Street next to St Peter's. My head felt as if a thousand drummers were practising for the Queen's Birthday Parade inside my skull. I recognised the faces above me as two of my neighbours and, as I struggled to get up, they helped me onto my feet. When I looked around I realised I was only a hundred yards or so from home. Sudden realisation of the last few hours hit me and, without even a word of thanks to the neighbours, I pushed them aside and ran as fast as I could to my house, fully expecting it to be burned to the ground.

 "OMG just realised wrong number all night"

As I ran up the drive the house was still there and, standing at the front door, was my partner. This text swam before my eyes as I ran. "What was she doing there?" I thought to myself. Perhaps all the events of last night were just in my imagination. Had she even gone away? She had a mobile phone in her hand. Not the I-phone I had bought her but some simple throw away model; and her hands? They were black with soot as if she had been burning something. I pushed past her into the house. I ran upstairs into the study. Through the window I could see the remains of a bonfire in the garden and I could see that the computer was wrecked. Smashed to pieces on the floor. As I tried to take this all in, I heard a motor bike roar up Watery Lane and saw car in the drive. Moving to the bedroom at the front of the house I could see the "friend of a friend" who recruited me all those years ago as he walked over to my partner. She sort of shrugged as if to say "my job is done" and without a fight or struggle allowed herself to be bundled into the back seat that was already occupied by another man. All the pieces of the jigsaw slotted into place.

"OMG" I thought "O M bloody G"