It’s so good to be out today. Alone, focused and present. Walking home, slowly, today is photo day.

The landscape is frozen, solid. I have to focus on each step, the path is like ice. But it is so quiet, even in the middle of the day. Today I am looking for nature, not people. 

I’m wrapped up warm but the chill is still penetrating all my layers. I have to try to keep moving, but not miss anything. 

So far, I have a few shots, but I don’t feel like there is anything special. 

The river is covered in snow. Footprints are crossing from one bank to the other. The place seems devoid of life.

There is one patch of unfrozen water, on the other side. It seems to be some sort of water inlet, there must be some water movement. It’s still strange though, the water shouldn’t be any warmer there, and it isn’t moving so fast. You would think that some birds would be there. If it’s warm, why not?

Above it, on the bank, is a small concrete block. Some sort of control mechanism I suppose. This is what I love, finding the details. It’s covered in some sort of design. Is it art? It’s hard to tell from here. 

It’s a long way to the other side but I have to get closer. Actually I could do with the walk. I’ve been standing around for a while and even my bones are shivering. 

When I reach the other side I feel better. I have warmed up after the walk, or the skate, I’m not sure what you would call it. 

This block is fascinating. What is it covered in? Is it graffiti? Is it natural? Maybe some sort of weathering, or a strange combination of the two. Whatever it is, it seems to draw me.

Details seem to jump out at you. A face, a hand and when you touch it…

I can feel the pores of the concrete, its skin. It feels like I can even sense a feeling.

OK. What the fuck? That was just too creepy.

And the ground shifts, or is it me? It’s me. As I fall, I throw my camera over my shoulder. Then brave myself for the cold. I take a deep breath and plunge under water.

I recover quickly, only because it is shallow here, close to the bank. Lucky, since I swim like a bag of sand. I say it is shallow, but it still rises under my arms. 

Confusion reigns, it’s warm. I know there is no reason for this. I suppose I should be grateful, otherwise I would be struggling. But the water is as warm as a bath. Why?

Anyway, for now I need to worry about how I am going to get out of this. The banks are deserted. I can either climb onto the ice, which seems sketchy. Or up the bank, but that inlet is the only area of bank with no ice.

I have to edge forward and be aware of the slippery boulders which form the bank of the river. They also slope upwards towards the bank, it would be easy to fall.

I’m next to the hole now. I might have to wait for help, I don’t see how I can get any purchase to drag myself up.

I turn around to look at the other bank, there must be some people around. As I do, I feel a warm gust of air on the back of my head. So that’s why it isn’t frozen here. I still don’t know why. There is nothing here. These are just channels from one arm of the river to another.

As I turn back to the hole, I get that feeling again. A presence. I can’t help but move forward, drawn towards whatever this thing is.

I feel something brush my leg and it is as if my bones have left my skin behind. I’m stumbling now, slipping back down the slope towards the ice, the frozen part of the river.

When I get close to the ice, it takes my breath away. So cold. This is how I should have felt when I first fell in. I struggle a little closer to the bank, and it is almost as if there is a line where I cross into the warm water. It isn’t a slow transition, it is instant. 

It takes a few minutes for the warmth to permeate my body and for me to stop shivering. I’m OK now, but I want to get out. I don’t know what this is, I just know that I want no part of it.

I start screaming for help, panic is beginning to take over. Where is everybody? Earlier, I was wishing for no people, now I’ve never wanted to see another human so much in my life.

Time to take a few deep breathes. Whatever touched me before would have been as boring and everyday as a carp enjoying the warmth of this area. This isn’t Star Wars. There is no creature here living in the depths, scavenging on lost and discarded items. 

I have to laugh at myself and my imagination. But as I get closer to the bank, there it is again. Nothing physical but a feeling. A sense of something, lost.

As I move closer, once again, I seem to feel so many emotions. One minute sorrow, of an unimaginable degree. Then anger, ferocious anger at the unfairness of the world. And also malevolence like I could never imagine. 

And finally, as I approach the hole, joy. A rapturous joy like I have never felt. It is flooding through me, what could make someone, or something feel like that? Maybe a dream coming true. What you have been waiting for, finally approaching. Another soul to add to your collection. 

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

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