For some reason that warm mid August night I missed my usual turn through the woods that would take me through to the A31. Instead I ended up going through even narrower lanes set in darkening tunnels of overhanging oak trees. Just past the Sir Walter Tyrell pub, which was closed for the night; my car engine coughed, spluttered and then cut out completely. I coasted helplessly off the road on to a small strip of gravel separated from the surrounding forest by short uprights and cross rails. I got out of the car and leaned against the side of it looking into the darkness. When my eyes got used to the dark I could see in front of me a swathe of open ground forming a clearing that disappeared into the dark woods.
I am absolutely useless with the workings of cars so I rang the AA for help. While I was on the phone I could hear in the distance the sound of something crashing through the woods. It got louder as I waited to be dealt with by the AA. As I finished speaking to them I felt the temperature drop around me and watched as a white hind broke through the darkness and stood in the middle of the clearing.
It looked me straight in the eye, its chest heaving and the steam from its breath saturated the night air around it. Every time it heaved its great chest there was glint from something around its neck that looked like a metal collar.
Silently a group of shadowy grey men appeared on horse back from the woods. I froze with fear and the cold as one of them passed within a couple of yards of me. They formed a circle around the hind that had nowhere to go. They all took arrows from their quivers, loaded their bows and took aim at the hind. Only one man let his fly.
How could he have missed the hind from so near? She took the chance that was given to her and ran. Silently she ran for two or three strides across the clearing and then went crashing back into the darkness of the woods.
Directly opposite from the man who let his arrow fly was a horse without a rider. It stood there pawing the ground near where the body of a man lay. The remaining horsemen gathered around the body and seemed to be having a serious talk. Most likely they were trying to decide what to do about the body. Hands were used to apportion blame and were occasionally pointed at the body.
My phone rang dragging me back from the past.
“Good evening sir…….I’m from the AA and my names Will, Will Perkiss and I’ll be with you in about five minutes”.
“Thank you” I replied.
I looked up and all of the horsemen had gone but the dull grey shadow of a body still lay on the ground.
It was still bone chillingly cold and got colder as a horse drawn cart came along the lane and turned off to go to the body. It lumbered across the clearing
From the other direction I could see the flashing amber lights of the AA patrol van through the trees as it passed the Sir Walter Tyrell pub. The van stopped behind me and I was temporarily blinded by the headlights. The headlights went out just leaving the side lights and the amber lights flashing. I looked across to where the body had lain and where the cart was heading but there was nothing except shadowy darkness.
The AA patrol man came towards me in the half light.
“You alright sir, you look like you’ve seen a ghost”.