The Fox on Quarry Hill

The Fox On Quarry Hill by May Shepherd

Katey was looking forward to her day’s walk up into the hills and across to High Fell. It seemed the perfect antidote to the acrimonious divorce she was going through, and this couple of day’s holiday would give her the strength to face the lawyers the following week.

Calling in at the village shop she bought her usual Kendal Mint Cake bar and humming softly to herself as she left, she started up the lane to the beginning of the walk. Leaving the village behind her, she saw ahead of her a familiar red car parked in a lay by, and leaning nonchalantly against it was her estranged husband John.

“Hi Katey. Surprised to see me.” he said softly.

“What are you doing here?” Katey asked.

“I thought it would be nice to take one last walk together. For old times sake.”

Katey sighed. I know he won’t leave me alone unless I go with him, she thought.

“Well I’m heading up to High Fell, you can come if you like.”

“I have a new walk I’d like to try, up on Quarry Hill, They say that there’s a particular good view from up there. It’s not so far as High Fell, but maybe a little bit harder walking. How about it?”

“That’s in the opposite direction to the walk I had in mind, and I registered my walk at my hotel in case of emergency.”

“Never mind that. After all what could happen to you if I’m with you?” John replied.

So with many misgivings and great reluctance she took the other path and walked with John towards Quarry Hill.

John went out of his way to entertain her with his witty banter. This was the John she knew of old, the John she had married three years ago, and memories came rushing back, reminding her of the good times they had had together.

Before Carole.

They climbed up the hill, John helping her over the hard parts until reaching the top they flung themselves down on the grass to rest, and to enjoy the coffee from Katey’s flask.

“I thought we might talk about the divorce settlement” John remarked.

Katey came back down to earth with a bump. This was the real John and the loving memories quickly disappeared.

“If it’s about the Bob Dylan records, you know they’re mine.” She pulled out her cell phone and shook it trying to get a signal.

John tossed her his phone “You can try mine if you like, but you won’t get a signal up in these hills. Anyway it’s not the records I want, it’s the company.”

“My advertising company?”

“Ours darling, I work there too.”

“I would hardly call what you do work, and I started the company before I met you.”

John sighed. “Nevertheless my dear, that’s what I want”

“Over my dead body” was the tart reply.

“Oh Katey! I wish you hadn’t said that”

John stood up and pulled Katey to her feet and dragged her to the edge of the quarry.

“These places can be dangerous if you’re not careful” he said, and with that he pushed her over the edge, watching as she tumbled down into the quarry, landing awkwardly in the undergrowth which had reclaimed the quarry bottom. He tossed her rucksack after her, then picked up her phone and threw that over too. Seeing no movement, he shrugged and after one last glance, turned and retraced his steps down the hill and back to his car.

***

Katey gradually became aware of the pain in her chest and legs. She felt as if she had cracked some ribs as her breathing was so painful, and when she looked down at the angle of one of her legs sudden nausea overcame her. Trying to pull herself together she tried to move but pain, like daggers shot through her. If she stayed where she was she would surely die as the cold of the night overtook her. When she didn’t return to the hotel, the rescue team would be looking for her on High Fell not here on Quarry Hill, so there was no chance of her being found. She tried again to move, and with an effort she rolled on to the hard rock of the quarry floor. Winded she rested for a while until her eyes spotted her rucksack nearby. Inside she knew was the Kendal Mint Cake bar which she knew would give her some energy. She crawled slowly towards it, tears forced back by grim determination.

Pulling the bag open she retrieved the sweet bar and chewed a piece off. She looked around. There didn’t seem to be anyway out of the overgrown quarry. She could see her mobile phone lying nearby. It wouldn’t be much good to her without a signal, but she crawled over to it and put the phone into her pocket. The effort of her exertions made her feel sick again and she closed her eyes to rest.

***

She didn’t know how long she had been unconscious but the daylight had begun to fade, darkness not more than an hour away now. She became aware of two eyes staring at her through the bushes.

“Go away” she croaked, and waved her arms at the animal.

The eyes kept staring at her.

“Help me then“ she whispered.

The fox stood up and trotted off for a few yards and then stopped and stared at her again.

He must know the way out of here, she thought, and with a tremendous effort she started to crawl towards him.

Several times the fox repeated the procedure with Katey following, until, nearly fainting with pain, her hands bleeding she pulled herself up to the brow of the quarry. There was nothing to see but hills and heather and dusk was falling fast. The fox stared at her again, then disappeared along an animal track not waiting for her to follow this time.

Katey’s head ached, and the pain in her chest was hardly bearable, but she dragged herself along the trail in the wake of the fox.

Away in the distance she could hear barking. A dog. Could it be from an isolated farm? Which way? She followed the noise.

Suddenly she saw the light of a farmhouse, glowing way down in the valley. Light. She had a light, the mobile phone wouldn’t have a signal but it might show a light from it’s display. She pulled the phone out of her pocket and turned it on. A small light showed but not enough to penetrate down the valley. Sick with disappointment she lay on the ground and let the tears come.

The barking became nearer, and suddenly a streak of brown fur rushed past her and away up the trail.

The fox.

She could now hear the dog thrashing about in the heather searching for his prey.

“Over here” she tried to shout and she waved the phone in the air, the dim light barely showing.

The dog stopped, his attention distracted by something that glowed in the heather. He nosed his way cautiously up the track.

“I’m here” Katey whispered, and was surprised by hot breath and something unspeakably wet on her face.

Relief flooded through her and she lifted her hand to stroke the dog. He growled deep in his throat and turning, ran back down the track. She could hear the dog barking in the distance, but despair overtook her and she rested her weary head on the ground, with no effort left in her to cry.

Then once again she felt hot breath and a wet tongue licking around her face. The dog had returned. She lifted her head and saw a pair of boots walking towards her.

“Eee lass!” exclaimed a voice.

The End