The Night I Saw The Reaper – Part 1

Driving through the New Forest, I was thankful to be in the car as the heavens opened. It was biblical rain, turning the world outside my windscreen into the interior of a washing machine on a full rinse cycle. The windscreen wipers could barely keep up with the pounding deluge that hammered my car from above.
The New Forest is a desolate place, yet filled with the beauty of untamed nature. And although in calmer weather it would have been nice to enjoy the wide open spaces seen in the dusk light, all I wanted to do was find somewhere safe to stop and get out of this jungle-like monsoon.
As I crested the brow of a hill, I saw a glow on the left hand side of the road, and as my car swam through the standing water beginning to form on the road I saw it was a pub. Actually, it was more like an old fashioned inn with a small ‘vacancies’ sign glowing in one of the windows. I was tired from my long journey, and thought an evening in front of a fire (I was sure this place would have an open, roaring fire somewhere in there) with a stop over in one of the inn’s rooms would be just what I needed.
Pulling off the road where there was no demarcation between carriageway and pub grounds, I nosed the car up to the front of the building, and prepared to make a dash for the welcoming site of glowing windows, with the promise of good malt whisky within. Opening the car door, I was doused in cold, driven rain. I scrambled out, hunched over in my coat, and slammed the door shut. I scurried to the rear of the car to grab my overnight bag, and with a last dash I made it to the front door of the inn, where I was partially shielded from the downpour.
I pushed open the door, and straight away was hit with a blast of warm, fragrant air. I was mindful of letting in the weather so I quickly entered and pushed the door closed behind me.
As I paused and shook myself briefly, like a dog who’s just emerged from the ocean, I gazed round the room I found myself in. I saw it was quite empty save for the barman, who was now looking at me with an amused smirk playing about his mouth, a man and a woman sat at a table by the window at the front of the pub, and an old man sitting in a high backed leather armchair, close to the fire and placed at an angle.
“My, you’re a brave man to be out in weather like this” said the man behind the bar. He was a tall, well built man with a barrel chest and a big beard.
“It wasn’t out of choice, believe me!” I replied. I walked toward the bar and placed my overnight bag on the floor in front of it.
“I wonder if I could possibly have a room for the night?” I asked.
“Certainly” he replied “we don’t get much trade this time of year, and you can see why with the weather being like it is. Let me get you drink, and we’ll see about getting you signed in. What’ll it be?”
“A large whisky please” I said “no ice, no water.”
I noticed a coat hook by the door, so I eased off my damp jacket and hung it up. When I returned to the bar, my drink was there with a small registration card and a pen next to it.
“If you’d be so good as to just fill in that form, and then you’re all set” said the barman.
I filled in the necessary, and passed the card over in exchange for a large bronze door key with a plastic fob attached saying ‘3’.
“Lovely, thanks” I said. I turned from the bar and faced the room. The man and woman were deep in conversation, and the old feller was gazing deep into the fire. The smell of the coal burning on the fire, and then heat it was giving off, was too nice to resist and so I made my way over to it. Indicating the duplicate of the chair the old man was sitting in I said, “Is anyone sitting here? Do you mind if I join you?”
The old man slowly lifted his gaze from the fire, and for a split second I saw a flash of fear in his eyes, as though I had threatened him with violence, rather than just asked him if I could share the fire.
“No lad, no” he said “no one sitting there, please, join me.”
So with a sigh I lowered myself into the chair, and eased myself against the firm leather back.
“Oh that’s just what I needed” I said. The fire instantly began to chase the chill from my bones and I stretched out my legs in front of me to feel the full force of it’s warmth.


3 Responses to The Night I Saw The Reaper – Part 1

  1. Now, I stopped in the middle of this one last night out of the sheer frustration at ‘no comments’. And now, I’m going to have to leave it till tomorrow. I’ve been writing all evening and it’s 11.45 and I’m working in the a.m. so I’ll be back to this. x

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