It wasn’t really difficult going, but it was getting dark. A flashlight would have been nice, but I probably wouldn’t have used it anyway, what with unfriendlies not far away.
It was cooling off, but it seemed like the limestone below us had held the heat from the sunny day. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all, especially if we kept moving.
My original estimate of five miles an hour was ridiculously optimistic. We were moving slowly, watching for nasty drops in the moonlight. At this rate it would take us all night or longer to make the 10 miles across the Burren, and I didn’t really know what was on the other side, meaning we could be walking a lot more than the next 10 hours.
I should have been delighted at the prospect of even living the next 10 hours. Some people are never happy.
Nothing much happened. We walked, we climbed down escarpments, we climbed up hillsides, we walked. Seemed like we’d both gotten used to the silence between us; I had plenty to think about without wasting time on someone whose word didn’t carry much weight with me any more.
I hadn’t slept since morning, so I hadn’t had any more sleep-induced epiphanies. I’d had plenty of tea and excitement, so I wasn’t especially tired, but if we found a decent place to rest, we should.
I hoped Siobhan’s leather coat was warmer than it looked; if it was lined, she was just fine. Otherwise, thin leather wasn’t enough out here. Summer weight wool wasn’t quite enough, now that the rock was starting to cool down.
Away from the ocean the quiet was immense. We’d been walking quite a while; hard to know for sure, but the moon had crossed enough of the sky to make me think it had been at least three hours. Even at two m per h, that was still half the width of the Burren.
“It’s dark and cold, and I’m getting worried about falling into something. I haven’t heard any sound from behind us, have you?”
“No, and I’m exhausted. I thought you were going all the way across in one go.”
“I was; changed my mind. No sense falling into a hole. If we find a place you wouldn’t mind sleeping, we’ll stop.”
“That would be almost anywhere, right now.”
The clouds parted, and the moon shone on the hillside ahead of us. At the top was a small square of dark.
“Dolmen. Not much, but it should offer a little shelter if we need it.” We trudged up the hillside to one of the ancient burial spots.
It was tiny; just enough room for two, and certainly not standing. It was a flat stone about eight feet across on top of two smaller stones about the size of a coffee table.
“You’re joking. This is no shelter.”
“Look, it’s covered, it’s grassy, and if we lay back to back, it might possibly even be warm.”
She stared, first at the dolmen, then at me, weighing some options again.
“Fine. Fine. You just get in first, and mind you keep to yourself.”
Maybe it was best she couldn’t see me rolling my eyes in the dark.
I crawled into the small space, just smaller than a single bed, facing the support stone on my side. She must have still hesitated, and I must have been more tired than I thought, because I was already drifting off to sleep when she slid in behind me. I was just far enough gone that it was comforting rather than exhilarating.
My sword was too heavy. No matter how I tried to swing it, I could only hit their legs. Didn’t matter; it just bounced off. Then they’d jump back, laughing, waving their arms and grinning evilly. I couldn’t turn and run; something stopped me from spinning. My arms felt pinned to my sides, my legs wouldn’t behave. Suddenly one of them turned into a bright light, shining right in my face. I tried to shield my eyes, but it was no good; my arms couldn’t find my face.
Finally one snapped free and slapped me in the head. I opened my eyes and got an eyeful of distant sunrise. My right elbow was jammed against a stone wall, and I was laying under another.
Rob and I had wanted to hike the Burren on our next trip to Ireland. Once he had more freedom to travel, he’d started coming with me to Ireland on my research trips. I’d spent as much time as I could gathering ancient place names and their meanings, trying to preserve the ancient names before they were all forgotten.
That wasn’t Rob behind me. Not that I knew what his backside felt like, but I was sure it didn’t feel like that.
I did a slow shuffling roll to see who or what was behind me. Funny how bits of old memory and new memory keep mixing; Siobhan was still asleep and we were in the middle of the Burren.
It was fairly cold; fortunately no wind, but still close to the low for the day; 50, maybe 55 degrees.
I raised up on one elbow to look at her. I’d been circumspect about studying her face since it seemed to disturb her. Yes, it was still a nice face; nice freckles, nice nose, with a slight bump, nice lips . . . she moved slightly. I leaned back a little so she wouldn’t see me first thing when she opened her eyes; I didn’t want her to think I was taking advantage.
She rolled slightly on her back without waking. As she did, her jacket puckered open just slightly, and something slid out onto the grass. Her passport.
I reached to pick it up, and something else fell out.
My driver’s license.
And this wasn’t an Irish passport, it was a U.S. passport.