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This is my first normal ‘boy meets girl’ story, and it’s a bit dark. It takes some time to get to the sex but please bear with me.
I still can’t remember when it began…
My last normal memory was a slow drive north to visit my old friend Steve who had invited me for a weekend shooting in the country. Both old army buddies (we went through basic training together), he was now an assistant head gamekeeper on our former Commanding Officer’s country estate on the Scottish borders.
I’d left as a Corporal after 9 years and joined the London Ambulance Service as a paramedic, while he’d stayed for 12 and left with the officer he’d became orderly and driver for, moving with his wife and young family to a large cottage on the edge of the vast country estate and baronetcy our Colonel had inherited from his father.
I’d started chatting with Steve through our regiment’s old comrades Facebook page and he saw pictures of me shooting – he invited me up at the end of the season. I later found out he was thinking of trying to reduce insurance payments and having a selection of trained medics he could have on site for free or at least ‘payment in kind’ via these hunting trips could only be a good thing for all concerned and I was to be the first.
I had driven from my South London home, and heading north and 3.00pm saw me on the north circular and onto the M1 and north. In the boot of my car I had an overnight bag, a collection of various hunting clothes ranging from some original army camouflage left over from my previous life, an expensive ‘Real Tree’ camo jacket and trousers I’d borrowed from another shooting mate and of course my trusty sage green, waxed cotton Barbour coat.
The reason, I only had a rough idea of what kind of shooting I would be getting up to. I was hoping to get in some grouse or pheasant shooting, perhaps some pigeon; I was desperately hoping I might get in some deer stalking but seeing as my mate’s boss sold that kind of pleasure to guests at something like £3,000 for a weekend I figured that might be a bit of an outside chance.
So I had come prepared for all sorts of shooting. This included two of my favourite shotguns, a reasonably new Winchester 1400 and my all-time favourite Beretta ‘Silver Pigeon’ – an ‘over and under’ shotgun and probably the industry standard of its kind. With them was 500 shotgun cartridges, 32gm 6’s that the friend I’d borrowed the jacket from said would do for anything the size of a duck or smaller.
At seven that evening and just shy of Pontefract I stopped for a meal, and half an hour later, full of fish and chips and with a relieved bladder I plugged my mobile phone into the charger and headed north courtesy of the in-built sat-nav and my good friend Steve and the warm welcome he’d promised.
I got caught in a traffic jam where the M1 and the A1 joined around Wetherby and found myself at close to midnight sat in a small roadside café with a few others. The owner said that we could stay for while the road was cleared and refilled the coffee pot.
The shop had no Wi-fi and I had no mobile number for Steve, so I wrote an email and set it so that as soon as it got a signal it would send.
The owner refilled my coffee cup as the Police officer said the road would be clear in another twenty minutes. That is my last memory of that journey.
I woke up strapped in my car seat, my head resting at a weird angle – on the door pillar in fact. I could hear the sound of running water and felt some chill in the air. As I came round my head with thumping and spinning somewhat, and the medic in me took over. My fuddled brain told me that I was in the car and must have had an accident. I forced myself to relax, the best thing the army taught soldiers was problem solving and part of that was first aid. The thing they taught us in combat first aid was that calm people live longer, even with a big hole in you or parts hanging off, stay calm and keep a cool head. I went into squaddie mode.
I took a deep breath, and my chest expanded, and feeling no pain with that simple act I relaxed and started by flexing my fingers on both hands. Next I twisted my wrists, raised my elbows, shrugged my shoulders, no pain, so far so good.
I wriggled my toes, lifted my feet as much as the pedals would let me, rolled my ankles and moved my knees and thighs all without pain. I started to pat myself down feeling for lumps, bumps, rips, blood stains and anything else that might indicate damage. Finally I felt across my scalp, nothing, no swellings or bumps or even so much as a graze. Another thought struck me and looked to my front, the airbag hadn’t even deployed. What kind of accident had I been in!
Now it was the big one, I lifted my head from its resting place and held it by muscle alone touching where my head should have bashed against the metal strut it had so recently been resting against. I touched it, expecting a smarting pain at the very least but nothing, I seemed to have İstanbul Escort survived unscathed so far so slowly I tipped my head forward and touched my chest with my chin, then let it back slowly until it touched the head rest. I leaned forward but was held in place by the inertia function of the seat belt, which must have held me since… since what ever happened to find me here. I decided that I was going to release the seat belt and see if I could get out of the car and find out where I was.
That passed without drama, and I took the decision to get upright. This too was successful and I found that I couldn’t stand up as the passenger door, now above my head, didn’t want to open. I pulled the catch and put my shoulder to the door but nothing happened. Thinking like a driver I checked the ignition key and it was still in the on position. I flicked the central locking button and nothing happened. Perhaps the battery was flat or shorting out, my car was laid on its side after all. Nothing for it but to break some glass.
I’d left the army as CMT, a combat medical technician and upgraded to a paramedic in London. I’d seen several cars that had rolled over and had seen the occasional fireman brace himself against the front seats and push the front window out, especially if the roof of the car had squashed a bit. This I tried and the front windscreen popped out and away from me.
I slid out of the gap, and looked around me. I was in the country, that was for sure, and there was just enough of a woodland canopy for me to see in the half light. I looked at my watch, but it was obvious that the glass was broken as I couldn’t make out anything.
My mobile phone was back in the car and I hoped it had survived whatever had happened to find me in this situation. There was a definite chill in the air and I slid back into my car through the open front. I reached onto the back seat where I knew my Barbour to be and pulled it out and put it on. My cloth peaked cap and gloves were in the pocket and I put those on. I reached into the glove compartment for the torch I kept there, but as I opened the compartment I saw that the torch must somehow have switched on and the last fading of the batteries.
What? It could only have been as the car had impacted or rolled or whatever had happened to it. It was a good quality LED torch that had been a birthday gift from a former girlfriend. The battery should have been good for five or six hours.
I looked out into the slowly appearing woodland around me and guessed that it must be around five or six o’clock; I knew that I’d still been drinking coffee at midnight so…
The general dopiness in my head had eased somewhat, but this still didn’t make sense. I thought back to the jobs I’d worked with the Fire and Rescue services, and in what was left of the torch light and thought on why the car airbag hadn’t deployed. I felt my face, no soreness that would indicate that my face had bashed into one of those lifesaving devices.
What the fuck? I hadn’t been drinking, OK I was tired and had planned on winding the seat back and having a power nap in the car but had gone and had a few coffees, but this?
I switched off the torch to save what was left of the power and stuck it in the commodious pockets of my Barbour. I sat in the car and figured that undamaged the best thing would be to wait for the sun to come up and re-evaluate the situation. In the back I had a bag of stuff I’d bought that lunchtime – there was bread, cheese, wine and a bottle of the Taylor’s late bottled Port that Steve and I used to throw back all those years ago. I found the bread and thought that I’d best not eat it, after all I didn’t know how long I might be stuck here.
So I got as comfortable as I could in a car with no windscreen, laying on its side, in the countryside somewhere between the Borders of Scotland and York. Being in squaddie mode had its advantages and as I sunk my face into my jacket I felt myself gently nod off.
I came round to a gentle buzzing sound and daylight had arrived. I slid out of my hideaway and stood and surveyed where I was. My car was at the foot of a steep bank and it had evidently rolled or slid down. I looked up, the point I’d slid down from wasn’t even visible, and the top of the bank had to be some forty or fifty feet above me. I moved slightly to my left and to my right and saw that the bank extended at that same height some hundreds of yards along in both directions.
I sat on an adjacent fallen tree and pondered on my next step. There was absolute silence, and I mean absolute; nothing, there was the occasional chirp of wild birds but nothing else. That impressed me as well, as far as I could remember I had been on the A64, a significant North/South Road and hadn’t driven more than three hundred yards from it to the café I was in. Whatever had happened I couldn’t have been so far away from it that I wouldn’t hear the hundreds of cars an minute that should have been thundering Bayan Escort up and down it, even at…
I looked at my watch. As I’d suspected that morning the glass was smashed. It was quite an expensive Seiko and as I remembered when I bought it, was actually quite rough and tough and if I scraped the glass off, the actual mechanics should still be fine. I took it off and picked at the glass and saw that central point and the hands were pushed back into the body of the watch. Shit!
I looked at my wrist where it had come from, and there wasn’t so much as a red mark to show the massive blow to it that it would have required to do that kind of damage. I headed back to my car and figured I’d better start getting myself located.
I just knew that the mobile phone wouldn’t be getting a signal but climbed in and looked for it anyway. My search revealed that the lead from the 12 volt charger thingy was out of the small gap in the driver window and under the car, and as I gently pulled it, it came free and I guessed that my phone was now under the car. It was also extremely well wedged between the bank and the trees it had fallen into.
Excellent, just fucking excellent, this day was just going to get better and better. I clambered on to the side of my car holding on to the tree it was now leaning against. For something like twenty minutes I tried to climb the bank, climb the trees and succeeded in doing nothing but hurting my hands, knees and pride and getting covered in very loose soil that the banks of this gully seemed to be made of all the way along.
“Hello!” I shouted at the top of my voice, “Hello!” nothing, not even an echo came back to find me.
I thought about the stuff in the boot of my car, and the two guns and hundreds of cartridges came to mind. The boot was wedged shut of course but the passenger side 60/40 split seats came down so I could reach in and retrieve the stuff in there. It was a really tight squeeze but I managed to grab the top of a gun slip. I felt huge disappointment, the shape that came to hand led me to realise that what had previously been £1400 worth of the finest over and under shotguns that Europe could produce had either come unconnected in the middle or had broken. I managed to pull the thing free and I felt that the bloody thing must have broken. I unzipped the slip case and found that my lovely ‘Silver Pigeon’ had snapped clean across the middle. How the fuck?
My car had slid down a bank and hardly had a dent on it, my watch was smashed with a blow that must surely have broken my wrist and I appeared to have rolled or dropped down a fifty foot bank without so much as a scratch or at least a bump on the head – the one part of my body not held in place and that would surely have flopped around causing me head injuries or at the very least some kind of whiplash.
Yet a precision instrument, made of the highest quality machined steel was snapped across the middle as if they lugs had been cheap moulded plastic. I reached further in and found my overnight bag and pulled it into the car and its relative dryness. Then it was the turn of the various coats and I hung them in the car from whatever hanging points I could find. Finally I released the strap that held the rear floor covering in place and hid the spare tyre, tool kit and all that sort of thing.
There wasn’t enough room to get to my second gun safety locked in with my tool kit and spare tyre. I knew it was secure as there was a knack to opening the thing. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to get in there with the boot wedged shut against the tree anyway. Ah well, at least it was safe and well oiled.
I retrieved the broken bits of gun and half a box of cartridges. The one thing I knew was that while an occasional rough camper might be ignored for weeks, someone loosing off a shotgun and poaching would have every land owner and game keeper within a mile here within minutes.
I wedged the cartridges into a split log and using a key and a stone started to fire them off. They went with rather a muffled bang and I had to step back in fear that this shit might take some of my toes off.
“Boom!” the report just seemed to bounce around the woodlands. I was so impressed I tried a second and a third, my ears ringing with the din.
“No!” came a screaming female voice. I dropped to my knees and spun. There was a woman, dressed in muddy black clothes and looking like some kind of mad witch, “Please,” she howled, “please!” She dropped to her knees, her shoulders heaving in silent sobs. I’d only had a cursory search that morning and was surprised I’d not seen her.
“Hey,” I said, moving across to her my arms raised, “it’s OK Miss,” I stepped closer, “my name is Harry Scholes, I think I’m stuck down here,” I looked at her, “just like you are.”
“Stay…” she said picking up a large tree branch and swinging it towards me, “stay where you are.”
She looked terrible, and was obviously extremely traumatised by something; Eskort probably the amount of time she’d been down here.
“Tell me your name,” I said, “I won’t hurt you, I promise.”
“Emma… Emma Rogers,” she gasped out, taking a firm grip on her stick. I looked at her face and her hands, they were cut and bloodied.
“Emma, back up there,” I turned and pointed up the bank, “back up there I’m a paramedic; would you like me to look at those cuts and scratches you have there?”
“No!” she snapped, “stay away from me.”
“OK,” I took a deep breath, “how about I get my first aid box and you can sort them yourself? I’ll stay over here out of the way.” I’d worked with traumatised patients, suicide attempters and the like and I’d been very well trained in this kind of thing. I stepped back to my car and ducked into it and pulled out the large green bag that I’d kept in the boot ever since I graduated as a paramedic. I dragged it through the gap in the windscreen and heard her voice again.
“Where have you gone?” she shouted waving the stick in front of her, “stand where I can see you!” The warble in her voice suggested tears.
I could see from her panicked looking around and swinging of the stick that she was either blind or very short sighted. Christ, stuck in this hole and not being able to see, no wonder her hands and face were torn about. I stepped out of the car and stood with my arms outstretched with the big fluorescent green bag at my feet.
“It’s OK Emma,” I said taking on my best ambulance voice, I stepped towards her and I could see that she was back looking at me if not actually in focus, “I’ll kneel down here, please let me take a look at your hands, hang on to your stick if you want to, please?” I made sure that the fallen tree she was behind was still between us.
I reached out and gently took her hand, she flinched. It was ripped to hell and covered in cuts, grazes and quite a few scars. I took out a pack of cleaning wipes that I would normally use on my hands or around wound sites.
“Sit on that log there,” I said and she felt down to the log and perched on one cheek, I did likewise but on the other side of the log. “This may sting a bit Emma, would you rather do it yourself?” She lifted her hands to within about six inches of her face and looked hard at them. “Here,” I said, “here’s the first one.” She put her stick under her arm and started to scrub hard at her filthy hand with her other filthy hand. It was painful to watch! “Let me, please,” I said and as gently as I could started to scrub at the grime that must have been there for weeks, or months?
“So Emma,” I said, as I took a small pair of tweezers and removed a large thorn, wiping over where it had come out of, “how long have you been here, I’m a bit of a new arrival myself.”
“I…” she stuttered, “I don’t know,” she gasped.
“Well yesterday was Friday 17th September,” I said, “does that make it easier.”
“Yep!” I said trying to add some fun to my voice.
“But…” she pulled her hand away from me, “But I was on my way to my sister’s house, it was my nephew’s birthday, it was June… Nicko’s birthday was… is June 24th…”
“Christ,” I said, “you’ve been here for almost three months?”
“I…” she gasped out, “I must have been,” she slid off of our fallen tree and cried out when she hit the floor.
I reached for her and she flinched and pulled back,
“Your hands Emma, just your hands. Sit back on the log, give me your hand again.” I got back to my cleaning. She wouldn’t let go of the stick and I guess I was as much about finding her way as it was about self-defence. I asked her if there was running water here, and she said that the stream ran through the gully and the water was very clean. She’d been drinking it for a few months at least.
Within twenty minutes her hands were wiped clean and swathed in clean dressings and covered with surgical gloves.
“That’s the first time I’ve had warm hands in weeks, thank you Harry.”
“You’re most welcome,” I said, “Right, let’s have a look at that pretty face of yours.” Taking my bag of dressings, I sat astride the log to sit right in front of her, hands on hips and stared into her face. She smiled, and squinted moving her head forward slightly.
“That’s better,” she said with a grin, “Now I can see your face; Hello Harry!” She beamed. The magnitude of what she must have suffered down here in almost eleven weeks came home. I was probably the first friendly face she’d seen in all that time. How she’d managed to survive was still a mystery.
“Hi Emma!” I wiped the mud and dust from her face applying plasters to some of the fresh cuts that hadn’t scabbed over. I didn’t have a comb and apologised.
“I’ll have to change the dressings tomorrow, unless we can get out before then of course.”
“There’s no way out,” she said her head dropped, “I’ve been trying to get out every day since I’ve been here. It’s the same soft mud bank all the way around, I’ve tried to dig my way out but the earth is too high and too soft, I’ve almost been buried a few times.”
“I notice that you’re short sighted,” I said, “did you have contacts when you… err arrived?”
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