“I think here is a good place for lunch,” said Julian, lowering his satchel to the ground, his eyes locked on the descending track ahead. He’d stopped abruptly on the track, his siblings piling up behind him.
“Good! I’m famished,” said George, oblivious to Julian’s sudden hesitancy.
Anne dutifully put down the hamper and began spreading out the picnic blanket. Dick was sitting down undoing the long laces on his mossy hiking boots. Timmy sat panting happily, watching Anne remove the carefully wrapped sandwiches and bottles of lemonade from the hamper and lay them out on the blanket.
They’d walked all day. The Elysian Fields seemed to stretch on forever. The beauty was overwhelming, crystal-clear streams ran off the mountains and gurgled past carving up the gentle plains. Mossy beds lay underfoot and the blissful meadows sang with birds and were full of golden flowers.
Finally they’d come to the ocean, a familiar place for these island dwellers. Here the stony track through the meadow petered out. The spot from the brow gave a commanding view of the ocean and the jagged coast. Far below, they could see the dark entrances to the catacombs, soundless waves frothing at the waterline beneath the blackened caves.
Just off the path, an ancient sign, covered almost completely in moss read “Journey’s End”. Its carved pointer showed the goat’s track that descended down into the bay, away from the safety of the fields and into the unknown where Julian knew he had to go.
They ate hungrily, sprawled on the tartan blanket, as they always did after a long hike. They talked about past adventures, the time on Mystery Moor when George lost her temper and stormed away from them nearly losing herself in the beguiling rocky landscape.
The drama at Smuggler’s Top, where Julian and Dick had to race to the lighthouse to radio the mainland so the criminals wouldn’t get away. So many adventures shared. So many still to come.
A bicycle trip was planned, this time around Cornwall and they discussed what hikes they would do in Wales in the holidays when they were all back from boarding school, together again, brothers and sisters happiest in each others company.
They fed their crusts to Timmy and after a while, their bellies full, they lay back in the grass quietly and dozed, the occasional bee humming harmlessly by.
Julian dreamt of Kirrin Island, a hazy vision of sheep-studded hills and the smoky cottage fire and eventually, yes, the gravel track where the Landrover went over. He lived it again, the rigid frame of the Landrover fishtailing them tipping over the track, the jolt as it left the lip of the cliff and fell. His brothers and sisters clung on around him, a collective yell. He remembered looking at the back of Uncle Quentin’s head, and the dark sea through the windscreen below.
There was a stunning flash, followed instantly by a crack of thunder and the brittle tinkle of shattering glass. Julian opened his eyes with a start and looked at the dark sky above. He lept to his feet and looked at Anne, the shattered lemonade bottle beneath her feet, foamy suds fading into the stony ground around her sandals.
“Careful, Anne,” he said to his sister, who was beginning to well with tears.
“Don’t cut yourself, here give me your hand.”
Anne went to him and he stroked her hair out of her eyes and wiped her cheeks with his palms.
The thunder peeled away across the sea till there was silence again. Dick was still lying in the grass, the brutal outburst from the heavens hadn’t moved him.
“Des Lebens als Weiser mich freun, Und wie im Elysium sein”. He said.
“Something from your German class?” asked Julian, his nerves settling.
“Its from the Magic Flute,” said Dick, lifting himself onto his elbow, squinting into the growing breeze.
“I think it means, enjoy life as a wiseman, I feel like I’m in Elysium”.
“How strange,” said George. “What made you think of it?”
“I suppose I just picked it up from Mr Schiller”.
Julian looked down into the bay, at the fathomless ocean dashing itself against the jagged cliffs. Inwardly he sighed and shivered in the cold. He knew he must go. He picked up his satchel.
“No!” Dick stood up.
“I have to Dick. You are in charge now.”
Dick shook his head firmly.
“We’ll go together, like we always do.”
Julian looked at his brother, trying to control the pride and love building up.
George got to her feet and put her hands on her hips defiantly.
“Yes, you aren’t having an adventure all to yourself. Anne, pack up the hamper, we are going.”
Julian smiled and sat back down silently as Anne packed everything away. Then the five of them descended the goat track, down towards the catacombs.
The starting off point…
This story was the product of another creative writing class exercise. We were asked to reveal a secret – and write a story based on the secret of another class member. The piece of paper I selected out of the bag read “I secretly love the writing of Enid Blyton, particularly Famous Five”. I was delighted with that. I’m a massive Famous Five fan, but Enid sort of tapped out the scenarios for the gang of five… so I took them to the other side…