18 Aug


derbyshire dales photo: Somewhere in Derbyshire Dales DFE5A41F-49D7-4BBE-9E4A-074A3FDE504D-5514-0000072FF44FD165.jpg

By the time Tommy was seven he knew he wanted to be a romantic hero. He had read lots of stories, some of them fluffy and happy and others grotesque and gross, and he loved all of them. He had fallen in love with lacy princesses with peaches-and-cream complexions, run his immature fingers through their golden locks and looked deep into their perfect eyes, he’d fought savage man-eating tigers on the plains of Africa where no mortal being was safe, he’d climbed freezing and jagged mountains until his fingers fell off in the cold. He had read about every kind of romantic hero the planet had spawned, and by the time he was seven he wanted to be one of them.

It wasn’t until he was in his teens, though, that he got his chance.

The school he went to was taken on a school camp. Not the whole school – that would have been silly, there being above five hundred pupils altogether, but just his class. He was excited. Of course he was what teenage boy wouldn’t be excited, what with there being fifteen girls in the class, and only fourteen boys? It meant that even the spottiest, smelliest and most loathsome boy would stand a chance of getting at least one clandestine cuddle when no-one was looking. It stood to reason: the mathematics showed that.

The camp was to be in the most picturesque corner of Derbyshire, England, not far from the most beautiful of idle rivers – and the weather forecast was optimistic. The weather-girl, his weather girl if the truth of what went on inside his head was to be told, had stood in front of her weather-map during the breakfast television news, and waved a delicious hand at little suns just about everywhere.

She was Sophie and the main reason for him watching the weather forecast. His experience of the opposite sex, besides princesses with long and fragrant hair that teased his fingers as they drifted through it, was his mother, whom he had once adored and now found rather annoying because she insisted there should be rules in life. And when Sophie came out with pictures of bright sunlight and explained wonderful summer temperatures in that silky voice of hers, he became aware of a mysterious and exceptionally pleasant stirring in his loins.

“Sophie,” he whispered when his parents were out of the room, “Sophie, you are perfection … there can be no woman anywhere on the Earth more beautiful than you … I wish I knew you, in the flesh, face to face, smile to smile…”

But he knew that he didn’t know her, and it was that very knowledge that fed his love of romantic heroes and created, in the planet of his brain, a wonderful, beautiful and highly personal world in which he was a magnificent lover and she was his goddess.

“The future looks warm and bright and beautiful,” she sighed at him, smiling that special smile of hers just for him, and then the image faded to be replaced by a newscaster grimly going about his duty of reporting wars and the pains of human chaos as the headlines of the day.

“Sophie,” he sighed, and went furtively to the toilet.

Everyone who goes camping or otherwise holidaying there finds Derbyshire to be beautiful if they look at the right parts of it, and the dales with their varying shades of the Earth itself, complete with rivers that glide serenely along, have wonderful names like Dovedale and Wolfcotesdale. As soon as he saw the camp-site Tommy fell in love with nature. And that fondness increased tenfold when he and half a dozen other boys sat in their enormous tent as dark fell and discussed the girls.

It seemed that everyone, himself included, knew a great deal more about girls than he believed could ever be possible. The things he’d done himself were, he thought, incredible and made the mind boggle as he explained them. After all, he found himself, whilst remembering the weather forecasts and the way its presenter made him feel, recounting escapades that he’d had with Sophie along dark streets on darker nights. He even called her Sophie in his glassy-eyed reconstructions of an impossible past, and much to his own delight he found himself gaining a reputation (totally unearned) as a Romeo.

He was creating a make-believe world and populating it with a real flesh-and-blood woman, and thrilling his classmates with descriptions of flesh that he’d never actually seen and certainly had no chance of touching. But the dark early nights called for bold stories, and he knew how to produce them.

But it was on the third night of the camp Sophie let him down. Unbelievably, her erotically-charged promise of unending sunshine was proved to be a lie!

He had almost swooned as she had, on the television back home, promised a week of endless sunshine, of arid conditions perfect for tents and camping, and here, on the third night and in reality, a storm broke out. And what a storm. Lightning flashed, brilliant through the walls of the boys’ tent, and thunder crashed, louder than the bombs falling on Flanders in Biggles books.

Sophie had made no mention of storms and certainly not of a storm like this. There had been no jagged flashes or crashes on her map, and her smile had spoken only of sunshine.

“I’m scared,” muttered one boy, squeezing as close as he could to another boy, for comfort rather than sex.

“Well, I’m not,” growled another, trying to sound macho, and failing as a particularly bright flash illuminated the fear on his face.

“It’ll be over soon enough,” murmured Tommy, displaying a great deal more confidence than he felt.

“It’s all right for you to say that!” whispered a different boy. “I usually like storms with thunder and lightning, but this is … scary.” A crash of thunder confirmed the terror in his voice as he yelped the last word.

“It’s only weather,” suggested Tommy, “It’ll be sunny again tomorrow.”

“Says you!” scoffed a fresh voice in a meteorological lull, and a new shape formed by the tent entrance, feminine and fragrant like a fairy story princess.

“And says Sophie,” breathed Tommy to himself, suddenly knowing that voice better than he knew his own.

“Says me,” gloated the princess, “Says me indeed.”

Six pairs of teenage eyes turned to look into the shadows where the voice had come from, but were too slow because an angry jagged spear of brilliance cut down into the tent, through the fragile canvas, and slashed magnificently into Tommy’s flesh, taking his life and filling the tent with the acrid stench of burning flesh.

“Sunny again tomorrow,” grinned Sophie as the storm petered out, “I guess the boy was right!”

And she walked back into the wild black world, holding someone by the hand and whispering sweet nothings to the rain-swept night.

© Peter Rogerson 18.08.15


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