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March 2019 Second Place: The Silent Approach of Eternity by Rob McInroy

The Silent Approach of Eternity

By Rob McInroy

Friday, 4am. The old man strode up the deeply eroded path. Either side was bounded by heather and moss and lines of trees, firs and beeches and silver birches, black against the grey night sky. Ash carried a shotgun. She struggled to keep up, taking care to avoid rocks and tree roots.

“You only get one shot,” he said, “so you have to get it right. Don’t shoot too soon. Wait too long, you won’t even get one.” They walked on. He waved his hand behind him and crouched and she followed. He pointed through the trees. A deer was standing beneath a birch, surveying the hill. Ash took aim and fired but the deer skipped away and raced for cover.

“Goddamn, that thing musta known. Moved before I shot.”

“They have a sense of danger.”

“Wish I did.”

They walked for fifteen minutes until the ground levelled and they emerged at the summit of the Knock.

“Finest view in the world,” the old man said. The darkness was dissipating, nature emerging from shadow, taking shape, drawing colour. The cold morning air was crisp on their lungs. He stood over the Indicator and explained it to Ash. “Ochils east and south. Grampians to the north.” He pointed. “Due east. That’s Kinnoull Hill, fifteen miles away. And there, Dunsinane, Black Hill, King’s Seat.” He looked at his watch. “Ten minutes.”

They stood in silence as the longest day unfolded over Strathearn, sun rising on Kinnoull Hill, light spreading across fields and moors and woods and into the valley and onto the mountains and the fabric of the world. Birdsong, chatter, leaves in the wind, rustle of grasses, hum of moorland.

“The start of it all,” he said.

“It’s like lookin’ into eternity.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But you only get one shot.”

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