The grey was foundational. Structural. A mottled concrete of cloud lurking beyond the canopy. It was ever present, but unreachable. Lingering, touching all, tuning all colours into a cold sepia frosted with the fuzz of an out of tune CRT. Sometimes, in the distance, its ghostly mass would drift in front of the church steeple. It cloaked the hilltop in mystery, and masked the tips of the marching pines, marching as one along the cliff edge. The sea was invisible.
Without the wind the rain fell with certainty, a steady straight dripping that never quite reached a downpour. It transitioned between flurries of mild intensity to near-nothingness; becoming then cloud or mist. Yet the trees, branches still littered with residual water, continued to drop thick thumps. The moss supped in puddles. We climbed a gate and crossed into a wide field, a ditch on one side, a line of trees on the other. Ahead of us the world dropped into the grey. The far end of the field remained unseen.
We walked, following the ditch towards waves we could hear but couldn’t yet see. The ground wetted further. Light rain played percussion on our coats. My ankles tickled at the continued strokes of the long grass. The land was untouched, undamaged by feet or hooves, so the grasses and moss had grown in tufts, resting on the earth like discarded wigs.
Our feet sank still further. We eyed the horizon, collectively spied another gate beyond a vast pool of water, and spun erratically to follow a white light stretching through the fog. Its whirling fluorescence searched the waterlogged meadow, then combed through the skeletal pines. Their bones dancing through the light.
A failed crossing forced us back. One member fell for the lure of a set of ‘stepping stones’; three deceptive clumps of moss disguised as stones. Feet and legs wet, he freed himself from the still water and we retreated to the road, the blank white of the lighthouse chasing our feet. The rain drifted in and out of consciousness. The gate was slippery in my hands, and a heavily rotted branch gave as I dropped to the ground.
The road was as the moon. A cratered surface, yet pocketed with puddles. Their dark interiors swirled with depths unknown, every one another scrying mirror for the stars. Another gate, another field. We pause to examine the hill rolling down towards bright lights. The church steeple now lit with white. A few cozy houses, their windows bright with yellow light bulbs . The mist swam between us and civilisation. A ragged line of trees teasing hid the rest of the village from us, and then – movement. Movement on the grass, a series of black shapes take a few steps. Horses, but smaller. Ponies. Manes of darkest black, they stand still in the centre of the field. They stare at us, and we at them, considering one another. They take a few steps closer, following the curiousity of a leading animal. Soot-black in colour, with dustings of black, then a pure jet black mane and tail.
They weave towards us in a staccato of considered steps, pausing with the front runner. Standing dead still for minutes, then moving again. The world waits. We wait. They linger, then move off back into the field until forgotten – swallowed by the thickening fog.