At least it wasn’t raining, as Alana sat on the grassy bank with her knees tight against her chest, her arms wrapped around her legs as she stared at and read the sign one more time. ‘I’ll never remember this nonsense’, she thought as she tried to commit the dates of when the tomb was discovered, who it was that was supposed to have built it, and who, or what, it was supposed to have been for.
She stretched her legs out in front of her and put her arms out to her sides, arching and stretching her back, and stared up to the sky, praying the clouds got no heavier. She then looked around her for a moment, jumped to her feet, straightened her fetching Historic Scotland sweatshirt, tutted at her ridiculous khaki shorts, and stomped her hiking boots around the site yet one more time.
It had been two days now without a single visitor and she was definitely well on the way to being bored. The summer solstice was a four-day festival for the druids and this site would have been heaving a few thousand years ago. But today? Now? Not a single soul. Two more days she had to endure hanging around this miserable place in the vain hope someone would turn up and want a guided tour of the tomb. It was nearly a mile hike from the road just to get here so that prospect was looking just a little thin at the moment.
She found herself back at the sign at the entrance to the field in which the ancient tomb was enclosed. The sign was made of wood, had weathered somewhat and was perched on a pair of rotting poles by a style where you could just make out a rough sheep track that led to the single track road nearly a mile away. At that end of the path, a small brown Historic Scotland sign simply read, ‘Tomb’, and pointed back this way. There had been a small information board at some point in the past at what was loosely described in the manual as a, ‘parking bay for one or two cars’, but it had long gone, probably on someone’s to-do list to repair and return.
Alana read the sign again, trying to remember the information contained on it. She then looked about her, picked up a small stone, and scratched away at one part of the sign. She stood back, smiled to herself, looking very pleased, and lazily plodded around the site one more time, turning the stone over in her hands absent mindedly the whole time. She’d probably get in to trouble for that later.
Two days later, she was going crazy. She had started to talk to herself and, as the rain fell relentlessly, she cursed the absence of any kind of waterproof clothing. Her hair, long in a tight ponytail, was now plastered against her skull. Her sweatshirt clung to her body, her shorts had become torture and her legs shone as water ran down them, into her boots through woollen socks which provided no insulation. Still no visitors came.
At last the sun, hidden behind the storm, began to set on the fourth day of Alana’s task. She headed to the information board and thought about her handiwork, wondering if she should have scratched out the letters U and N from the word ‘Unmanned’ after all. Maybe it wasn’t funny. She took one last look around her, sighed and headed slowly towards the tomb entrance. As the last of the light faded, she disappeared into its darkness until such time that she’d be called again.