The Man on the Hill
Written by Nathalie Rowe (inspired by an experience my father had as a soldier)
It was a dark night and the grass was damp from the neverending showers of rain. Wind blew wildly and trees were shaking from the cold, causing leaves to fall and fill the air like paper airplanes. Beneath it all marched a group of soldiers, moving stealthily through the wet fields.
They were hungry and tired, but their mission was to meet group Alpha on top of Elder Hill by midnight. The captain walked in front of the other three soldiers, he was tall and confident, strict but fair. It was their first night doing an operation together, and none of them were well acquainted. Nevertheless, they were approaching the meetpoint fairly quickly and it looked like they were going to arrive just on time, when one of the soldiers came to halt.
‘What’s that?’ cried one of the soldiers. There on a far away hill stood what looked like a man in a long black coat and a cap.
“Oy you there, put up your hands or we will shoot!” The Captain shouted, but the man didn't move. “I said, put your hands up!” The man-like shadow once again did not move a muscle.
“Captain, what do we do, he isn’t responding?”
“Why don’t you look through your scope, try and see who it is?” the captain said calmly pointing to the soldier's rifle. The soldier did as commanded and bent down, placing one knee on the wet ground, then looked to see the man through his rifle.
“What on earth…” The soldier looked up from the scope in disarray, and then back at the scope.
“What's wrong?” asked one of the other soldiers impatiently.
“I can’t see him!”
“What do you mean you can’t see him?” the captain scoffed.
“I can’t see him through the scope!”
“That's impossible, he is right there!”
“Well, try it yourself,” Insisted the kneeling soldier.
He handed the rifle to the Captain and put his tired pale blue eye towards the scope.
“Well bob's your uncle, you are right, I look up at man, he is there, but when I look through the scope, he ain’t there anymore.”
All four men took turns looking through their guns, but they couldn’t understand why none of them were able to see the man.
“Is this some kind of joke?” asked one of the soldiers
“Well, what do we do, midnight is in 20 minutes, we don’t have time to sit around here.” They were all becoming restless.
“Well, we can’t shoot, he isn’t an immediate threat, we must approach him.” The Captain looked at the group.
“There are not many of us, but if we don’t investigate we might let a potential terrorist loose in this area. So stick close!” They started walking towards the man.
He was very still, he didn’t move at all and his ghost-like figure was making the soldiers’ stomachs turn the closer they got. The captain walked squinting, trying to make out his face but all he could see was a dark silhouette under that cap. They were now about 20 metres away from him.
“Who are you!” the captain shouted one last time. No response, “Alright men, move in!”
“He is gone!”
The captain looked back. The figure was nowhere to be seen. They started running to the hill, but by the time they reached the top there was nothing left.
“Where could he have gone?”
“What was that?”
“That's impossible to get off the hill this quick, we would have seen him!”
“Captain what do we do?”
“We go back, there is nothing we can do now, I don't know what that was, but we have to focus on what we came here to do.” And with that the soldiers continued on with their journey. But none of them were able to stop thinking about what they just saw.
They got to Elder Hill, but there was no sign of the other group. So they waited around and watched, alert. One of the soldiers looked up at the sky. The wind had now stopped blowing and the once gloomy clouds above them had cleared and revealed the whole family of twinkling stars.
“Do you think it was an extra-terrestrial?” asked one of the soldiers provocatively.
“What makes you say that?” frowned the other soldier.
“It’s a clear night and there is no way that thing was human.”
They suddenly heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and soon they saw the heads of four other soldiers come over the side of the Hill, It was team Alpha. They were covered in mud, and pieces of grass and moss were plastered to their bodies like wallpaper.
“You are ten minutes late! Where were you?” asked the captain furiously.
The other group of filthy soldiers looked at him with blank stares.
“W-We don’t know, we saw something.”
“What did you see?”
“It was a man, a strange man, he was standing on a hill, and he didn’t move. We tried to look at him through, you know, our scopes, but…”
“You couldn’t see him,” the captain interrupted.
“Well, yes! You guys saw it too?”
No one knew what happened that day around Elder Hill, and most probably nobody will. But those soldiers made sure to tell their story, so that people knew that life was still full of mystery.
A Stitch in Time
I was approached by Leah Gaffen from Class Acts, an initiative that works with bilingual children in Czechia, with a particular focus on drama and writing.