[Part One here]
Mist, cold, damp, and a dull ache. I am lying down and can see only grey overcast sky so I sit up. I am in a small dip, woods behind me and hills rolling away ahead. I explore the source of my pain – the back of my head – and my fingertips return with dark, dried blood flaking from them. There is blood on the back of my hand as well, where the skin seems to have been torn off. What the hell is going on?
Slowly, memories drift back to me: packing my bag this morning, driving out to a remote car park, setting my sights on a distant peak and ducking into the woods as the rain began. After that, things grow fuzzy…and colourful. I have a vague recollection of a rainbow – the bright shades searing my memory even now.
I check the time – it is getting late to be carrying on and my clothes are unpleasantly damp from the grass. The hike back to the car takes a good hour and all the time a sense of unease crawls over my skin.
While it doesn’t fade until I drift to sleep that night, the foreboding does not manifest itself the rest of that day and I wake the next morning with the whole episode quite out of my head.
Neither cut seems serious and the head wound quickly heals but the one on my hand, though shallow, remains open and sore. Perhaps it is in too mobile a part of the body to heal well. I figure I will be fine for korfball training on Wednesday and don’t want to miss an opportunity to see Vix, a girl at the club on whom I have a most schoolboy-like crush.
At training we warm up all together which is my favourite part because it is the only time Vix and I are in the same group. I jog alongside her and make small talk and my heart flutters. I don’t tell her about my odd Sunday and how I’ve thought of little besides her face since. We toss a ball around with Jon, an experienced player who likes to think himself an excellent teacher. He spends plenty of time closely helping Vix with her grip before deciding to ‘demo proper passing form’ and bullet a pass at me. The impact makes my cut throb but I focus on imitating his form and return the ball firmly at him. Caught by surprise, the ball slams into the tip of a couple of his fingers and they bend with a sickening crackle and pop. Through the pain, as he is being bandaged by the sports centre staff, he tells me that was the best pass he’s seen me throw.
The whole session goes well – all the drills make perfect sense and I see improvement with each one. When the ‘experienced’ group are a man short for the games at the end, I am asked to move up to take Jon’s place and Vix smiles as I join her team. My first four shots produce goals and, feeling invincible, I shoot from an outrageous distance and the ball bounces back off the rim of the basket.
“If that shot had got in…” Vix says to me after the game.
“Next time,” I reply with a smile, “I’ll make it and you’ll buy me a drink.”
She blushes a little but agrees.
‘Roll on next week!’ I thought to myself that evening.
I had no idea how far this would go.