Things Get Lost
“What? The sign?” he said. “We just put that there for the tourists.”
I frowned. “But it did used to be a rifle range, right? Back in the day?”
“Oh sure. Back before we found out about its dark secret.”
“Yeah, yeah. Alright.”
He shook his head. “You laugh now, but you’ll see. I’m telling you, things that go out on that moor get lost.”
I poked him in the ribs. “Maybe they oughta bring a compass?”
He unslung his rifle. Every move he made seemed measured and refined.
“First thing they did, they set up targets. Just a little way in from the main path. They figured nobody from the village came out this way anyway, what with the horrible weather and the miles and miles of nowhere. The perfect place for shooting.”
He took several rounds from his pocket and loaded them into the rifle, very careful, one by one.
“They set up the targets, just big sandbags really, and they walked back here to where we’re standing, and they took their best shot. And they shot dead air. Not one of those bullets ever hit a thing.”
I chuckled. “There’s an awful lot of wind out here.”
He shook his head. Then he handed me the rifle.
“I don’t want to…”
“Shoot that rock.” He pointed at a white stone outcrop.
This was stupid. I couldn’t miss that thing if I tried. I decided to try anyway, because it was late and it was cold, and anyway I wanted to impress him.
Lazily, I took quick aim and fired. Nothing happened.
The gun went off, alright – nearly kicked out of my hands – but nothing in the landscape changed. No rock sprayed dirt. No clods of soil flew. There was no sound of impact. Nothing but the ever-present wind.
I fired again and again. I aimed at rocks and tree stumps, easy targets. The wind took the bullets every time. The wind, or…
“These aren’t blanks, are they?”
He shook his head again. “Check ’em yourself.”
“Then where are they going?”
He grinned. “That’s the question, isn’t it?”
I didn’t know what to say, so I just looked out over the windy plain. It seemed to go on and on into endless mist.
“They try and warn us away,” he said. “I hear Mister Barnes lost his dog out here once. It went running after a mountain hare and never came back. Remember Jim Tanner, from primary school?”
“He snuck out here on a dare and they never saw him again. Things get lost out here. Now we can, too. We’ll figure it out, and then we’ll come back and tell everybody the secret.”
I drew back from him, confused. “You’re going out there? Why?”
He took my hand, and he bent down to my eye-level. He was perfectly sincere. “I’m only going if you’ll come with me. It’s an adventure, just for us. Come with me?”
And because I loved him, and God help me, because I wanted to impress him, I went. Together we walked out into the moorlands. That was two hundred years ago.