Chapter Three (Part Two)
“They’re coming. They’re coming. Everything will be alright.” The pilot tried to console himself, but it wasn’t the same as having someone else consoling you. It was much harder to believe.
He found his way onto his hands and knees and bashed his fists against the cockpit door to get out. The way the plane had turned over meant that the door was angled more towards the sky and had not been buried in the snow. It was a small consolation. The door opened easily and the pilot swung it open and hauled himself out, careful not to put pressure on his broken ankle.
The snow was deep and getting deeper. When the pilot put his gloves down into the snow, his arms were buried almost to the elbow. On all fours, he surveyed the blank canvas that stretched before him. The dark sky whirled with millions upon millions of white dots, and the snow-blanketed moors below it rose and fell forever, it seemed, into the distance. Though all his memories had been bashed from his head, he still knew that light was a good thing… Light = People + Help. But, unfortunately, Number of Lights = 0. There was nothing to guide him in a particular direction. He would have to take a risk.
“Eeny meeny miny mo,” he chanted, thinking it was a method as good as any.
Once he had chosen a direction, the pilot spent a bit of time looking for a makeshift crutch, and found one of the support struts hanging off the damaged framework of the plane. With a twist and a pull the metal tubing fell away. It was a bit sharp, but his flying jacket was so thick with sheepskin that it wasn’t too uncomfortable underneath his arm. He practised hopping about, forced to lift his ankle high to avoid the thick snow, but he seemed to be quite accomplished with a crutch. Maybe he’d used one before. It was the first positive thing to happen so far, and for a second he even felt a little hopeful.
Then the strangest thing…
He was about to set off, the crutch tucked firmly under his arm, when something moved a few yards away. It was a dirty white, in contrast to the pure white of the snow and, as it shuffled towards him, it took the pilot a moment to recognise the thing as a sheep.
“That proves I’m not on the moon,” the pilot murmured, relieved to see some form of life, even if it was a sheep.
The creature was hung with bedraggled lengths of tattered fleece, its curved head black and punctured with two shining eyes that seemed to burn into him. They regarded each other through the moving curtain of snowflakes.
“Hello,” said the pilot, and then immediately felt foolish.
He wanted to go up to it, bury his hands in its straggly fleece, just to feel another warm body. But it would run away if he did. Still, it was blocking the route that he had chosen. He took a few limping steps closer. The sheep didn’t move. It looked like it was frowning. The pilot moved left to go round it. The sheep moved to his left. He hobbled right. The sheep moved right.
“I’m afraid I’m not in any shape for a fight,” the pilot apologised, “You’ve picked the wrong man.”
“And you’ve picked the wrong path,” the sheep replied.
The pilot staggered back and almost fell over. He righted himself quickly and stared at the sheep. The sheep stared back.
“I must be going mad,” he gasped.
He knew nothing about anything, but he did know… absolutely know… that animals couldn’t talk.
“You are going mad if you’re thinking of going that way,” the sheep said.
It didn’t move its mouth. It was almost like a thought. Not entirely clear, a little muffled and blown about by the wind, but the words were there.
“Alright. I’ll pretend you just spoke to me,” the pilot said, “If this is the wrong way, which is the right way?”
“The right way is any way but this one,” the sheep said, “You need to get out of here fast. They’ll come soon. It’s your last chance.”
The words came thick and fast. The pilot shook his head, trying to understand, trying to keep up with the fact that a sheep was communicating with him. It stepped towards him on legs that seemed too thin to hold that amount of wet wool up.
“Go!” it commanded, “There isn’t much time!”
When he still didn’t move the sheep ran at him, lowered its black head, and butted at his good leg. The pilot nearly toppled over again. As it was, he accidentally put his weight onto his broken ankle and cried out at the pain.
Suddenly the landscape was filled with sheep. They came from nowhere, the sound of their advance dampened by the snow. They seemed to fly over the drifts like ghosts. The one that had spoken to him glanced round at them and stamped its hooves like a warning. It backed away uneasily and then finally spun to join them.
“Too late,” came its last words with a backward glance as it bounded into the midst of the flock, “I tried…”
The pilot was left blinking, watching the rounded backsides of the sheep as they scattered snow into the air in their panic to get away.
To get away from what?