The Beacons

by PeterG09

Today is the day. The day. Probably the last day of my life if things go wrong. Could be the best day of my life. Who can tell. It all depends on one simple answer to one simple question. The answer is 'yes' or 'no'. I don't think there's any 'maybe' in this one.

I've been churning this over for weeks, feels like months. He can say 'yes' .He can say 'no'. What happens? The world divides around those two answers, like Quantum Theory. All possibilities exist in a cloud of maybe's and then someone examines the system and the uncertainty collapses into a binary yes or no. Did any of those theoretical physicist ever think what it was like playing their mind games in the real world? One way or the other. What if it is one way. But then again it might be the other.

Oh God I'm so mixed up. Send my Guardian Angel to help me. Maybe he can ask the question. Can you reject an Angel? Maybe, but I've got to ask the question. I know what it is but I don't know how to ask it. Maybe he knows it's coming and he's just waiting for it. Maybe he hasn't a clue and hasn't given it any thought. Like I have. Endlessly.

So here we are hiking in the Brecon Beacons. I came here on my DoE course and I sort of know the way. Very sort-of, that was two yeas ago. They still look like the same hills. This is my brilliant idea. That we hike over the Beacons carrying a tent and enough grub for three days. Two nights. We've split the bits of the tent between us. DoE taught me that you can leave an awful lot of kit behind. How many pairs of pants and socks? One. The ones you've got on. Be ruthless. You're the one who's going to be carrying it so bin all the stuff that doesn't earn it's place. We've all seen the Bronze expeditions wandering the landscape lonely as a cloud. The girls are loaded with hair-straighteners and face jollop. The boys have brought their hair gel and acne cream. Everyone's got spare batteries for everything. No-one has a clue, though. And they're only going to hike five miles: from the start they can actually see their target place to camp for the night. Or they could if any of them could read a map. Get to the Silver stage and you look with amused contempt on these beginners. But you were one once. Now you know better.

You've packed that damned question. It's the one thing you can't leave behind. That is why you are here.

You've got your phone of course. One thing you can't leave behind. Its got your maps on it. And your way of calling for help. And if you get bored you can always play games on it. As if you're going to get bored with this hanging over you. That's like a load all on its own.

So you know where you're going. Find a campsite. Pitch tent. Three days, two nights. Could be two great nights. Could be one awful night. Could be no night at all. It depends. Everything depends. You've talked it through, only he thinks you're both here just for the trip. If he knew why you're here you'd probably have the answer already. You'd know. But he doesn't, so you don't.

Today is the day. D-day. Decision day. Ask the question now so that you can still get back in daylight. Btw, what is the question? Will you marry me – maybe but if anything that is way down the line; would you like to ravish me – good, but a bit direct; will you make me yours – your what. What is the actual question that will get you the answer you want, even though you don't know what that is?

Up the hill that is really a mountain. The hill that goes on and on. Stop at the top, hours later, and look at the view. The stunning panorama that stretches miles to the west. Good place for the double selfie that means no matter what happens after, you have this moment to remember.

You're going to open your mouth and hope that Divine intervention provides some words.

Look at the camera, come in together, and Tim is gone. Almost soundlessly he has disappeared. He is lying on his back on a rocky ledge four feet below, and just behind you. He has gone over the edge having tripped while posing.

Scramble down to see if he is alright. He's landed on his back so his rucksack is underneath him. He is alive and breathing, but he's not moving. In shock. His right foot is twisted at an odd angle. You ask if he's OK. Well, obviously not but it is at least a good question.

After a few minutes of panic you start to think a bit more clearly. You've got to get help. You can't leave him here, actually you've got to stay with him. Reach for the phone and dial 999. Another question: what service do you require. Well, its not a fire, there is no crime, and the Coastguard won't be much help, so it must be ambulance. Only no ambulance is going to get up here. So you explain to the call handler that you're on the side of a mountain and your friend is injured and can't move.

A short break then the friendly voice of a paramedic. Is there anything broken; any bleeding; breathing normal. Right. Don't move him, water but not food, keep him warm, get the boot off if you can, keep the phone on.

Call Handler again. They know where you are because your phone is on. Provide the GPS co-ordinates as backup. Mountain Rescue has been alerted but it will be several hours before they can get there.

Back to Tim. His rucksack is jammed underneath him and he can't sit up to get the straps off. So, out with the trusty Swiss Army Knife and cut the straps. Ease the sack out. A bit of groaning but it has got to be done. Roll up a jumper to make a pillow. Keep him warm – how. No way I can get him into a sleeping bag. Knife out again and slit my bag from top to bottom and put it over him like a blanket. Put his hat on to shield his face from the sun. Try to get the boot off – can't be done so undo the lace and ease it open to take the pressure off the foot.

Get a cloth and use some of the water in your bottle and wipe his face. Keep talking, look for any signs of things getting worse. He needs a pee so put all the water in one bottle and help him to use the other. That feels strange.

Two Land Rovers enter the valley way below. Mountain Rescue is in touch. Look for something bright to wave so that they know where to head. Find the bright orange tent flysheet and wave it wildly. They've seen it. Now peg it on the hillside as a marker.

Lots of fussing about, preparing the stretcher, lifting Tim on to it, getting all our gear together. As they lift the stretcher ready to go back down to the vehicles lean over Tim and ask if he's OK. Very quietly he says "Dave, I love you."

Oh. So there never was a question. But there is an answer.

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