Amy felt a twinge announce itself from within her kneecap as she crouched down. One of the many twinges, creaks and aches that seemed to be peppering her body as she edged closer towards the dreaded ‘old age’. She used her hands to steady herself against the ground. The grass was mostly dry now. Only the barest remnants of moisture survived from the morning’s thin blanket of frost. Drying out just in time for another night’s worth of chill, she thought as the light began to fade around her. She completed the manoeuvre, allowing her knees to connect with the earth.
She sighed – a sigh skirting on the outer rim of contentment – and took in the view around her. One that had become increasingly familiar, but no less beguiling, with each time she visited this place. The Fairy Glen in the village of Uig, one of the Isle Of Skye’s most well known, or lesser known (depending on which websites or travel guides one chose to peruse), attractions. Around her the almost-geometrically perfect hills rose and fell, weaving up and down the landscape. Trees, almost all shorn of their leaves, added a slightly macabre decoration. Some at the base of the hills, perched precariously on the edges of ponds, others seemingly stopping for a breath after clambering halfway up the very same hills. It was a strange place. One of beauty. One of peace. A place both bewitching and spiritual, depending on what angle your mind chose to approach it from. A thousand versions and distortions of the same image to a thousand different people. By day, throughout all seasons, even now in Winter, sporadic, isolated groups of – what she’d guessed were – tourists would make their way through the long, winding, single track road to arrive at this place. Abandoning their cars, buses, bikes and whatever else on one of many grassy verges to traipse around the sight. To breath in its wonder, its allure, its peace. But for now, it was just her. Amy. Her alone. It always was at this time of the evening. Everyone else likely curled up in the warmth and safety of their holiday accommodation or deep within the frothy firmament of their second or third drink of the evening in one of the island’s many local establishments.
‘And so it begins…’ she murmured to herself, leaning down to pick up a rock in the process. She lifted her head once again, this time taking in the sight spread out on the ground immediately in front of her.
Rocks. Hundreds of them. Scattered out in various poses. Some clustered in formations, others piled on top of each other, depicting, to all intents and purposes, figures – torsos, arms, heads. In the fading light, in this place of basic isolation, the formations, the figures, could trouble a more delicate soul, their gothic outlines and contorted features ready and willing to twist and turn their way into the darker corners of a mind. But not to Amy. She smiled. Pleased. Pleased at the sight. Pleased of her previous night’s work. Almost sorry that she would have to pick each formation, figure and message apart and begin again anew. But that she would. As she did every night. She shook her head, smiling, discarding the foolish thoughts.
‘At it again I see?’
The voice crept out of the evening air as Amy applied the final rock on a new, fragile, figure. She looked up, her hands slowly withdrawing from the rock in question, careful not to knock it from its perch. No-one. She squinted her eyes into the distance, afraid the light was combining with her own failing eyesight. No-one. A different tactic was required, she decided.
‘Hello? Sorry what?’ she announced to no one or direction in particular.
‘I said, at it again I see?’
A man, a tallish man with a full grey head of hair and thick-rimmed glasses, stepped out from behind a nearby ridge, holding on to the crooked branch of lonely tree as he slowly ushered himself down a slight gradient.
‘Oh, it’s only you Alasdair.’ She turned her face back down to the rocks at her feet and continued arranging them, physically formulating the vision in her head onto the soil in front of her.
‘Aye, it’s only me, dear. As always.’
His voice was soft. Calm. At one with the pervading atmosphere of the place. He approached her and stood above her, his hands on his hips.
‘Every night this is Amy, every night. Rain, shine or bloody freezing. Always at it.’
‘That I am, yes. You are correct.’
Her answer was solid but not without warmth. Sure but with no lack of kindness.
‘Well, I for one don’t understand it. But that’s just me.’
‘No,’ she replied, ‘you never did, did you?’ she let out a slight laugh as she continued to smile, arranging the rocks in what appeared to be an elongated curve.
‘You’ll spook some people you know that? Yeah, of course, some of the weirder folk will think its creepy in a ‘good’ way and some of the kids with the more vivid imaginations will genuinely think it’s the fairies that are up to this every night, but the others? You’ll be scaring them Amy, ever think about that?’
‘Oh be quiet Alasdair, you silly old man. It’s the same every night.’ Her smile remained etched on her face as she began to place rocks in a crooked V formation conjoined with the ones already in place.
Alasdair held his hands up.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘like I say, I don’t understand it, but that’s just me.’
‘Look,’ said Amy, beginning another long curved line of rocks, ‘I tell you this every night so I’ll tell you again. And whether you understand it this time or not matters not because I’ll just keep repeating it every night you ask, ok? Look, sometimes I think people like the idea that even though you can’t see them, it’s good to know that people or things are happening and going on without your knowledge. That the world is still ticking despite your own troubles.’ She took a slight intake of breath. ‘That even though you can’t see them you know someone is watching out for you. I know I like it. It’s a…well, it’s a nice feeling, ok? It’s comforting to feel.’
As her words fell silent Amy placed the last rock in place and lifted herself slowly from the ground. That twinge called out once again. This time she gritted her teeth, only slightly skewing that omnipresent smile. She looked down at the formation of rocks arranged on the ground in front of her. A love heart. Strong, solid, robust.
‘What do you think then Alasdair?’ she asked, slowly reaching out her hand behind, clutching for his.
But he was gone. She felt a slight sag in her chest but the smile, as always, remained. She glanced up at the horizon, the darkness further encroaching on the surroundings. She padded at her winter coat tamely as she felt the evening’s chill suddenly creep into her bones.
‘Until tomorrow then, my dear’ she whispered hoarsely as she turned and walked back down the uneven hill towards her small red car parked on the winding road below.
Her small red car that she and her late husband had driven up and down the island on mini adventures throughout their many years together.
Her small red car with the picture of a young Amy and a young Alasdair, fresh-faced and newly married, tucked away in the glove compartment, the two of them kneeling together beside a collection of rocks arranged into the shape of love heart at the very same Fairy Glen in the village of Uig thirty some years earlier.