This place has been our home perhaps since time began. We only know that we cannot remember existing anywhere other than this crossroads, as far back as our memory treads. We knew this place when it was nothing but a place where two deer trails met, when the ways were called footpaths, bridleways, carriage roads. Humans widened and straightened the ways, but we never left this place. We have seen many things.
Panting and gulping for breath, a young woman in tattered skirts and bare feet approaches a crossroads. Her hair has slipped out from beneath her bonnet, but she dare not stop to fix it. It is night and she does not carry a lantern. She came from the flat fields below and ahead of her lies her decision: does she carry on straight and pass through the valley? Or would she travel east or west, following the Roman road?
We could smell her approach and anticipated with glee her arrival.
The sound of horse’s hooves on hard-packed dirt resonate from the east. She collapses at the crossroads, weary.
We sucked in our breath: will the horseman stop for her? Will he see her in time?
The horse rears up before it can trample the maiden. The rider extends his hand.
We did not like the asphalt. It dampened our senses, made us lethargic. But when we saw how swiftly travellers moved upon it, we were thrilled. There were decades when we went hungry, but after they paved the ways and began thundering through our home in their motorised vehicles, we feasted like kings.
You’ve got your Green Day CD pumping full blast as you careen down the Roman road along the foot of the tor. Looking up at the craggy lump of hill, you wonder how old it is, whether it always looked that way. You’re not really expecting the intersection when you look up and see the red light. Your tyres squeal and the car lurches as you hit the brakes. You rock back against your seat when your little Peugeot comes to a halt, heart beating slightly faster than normal.
Our hearts were beating quickly, too.
There’s a heavy-looking lorry coming up from the south. Wouldn’t have done to sail through the intersection in front of that thing, you think. Suddenly, that’s exactly what you’re doing, having been slammed from behind by a pretentious-looking SUV. The grill of the lorry is the last thing you see. And the last thing you feel is a flurry of countless soft, seeking hands pulling your life from your body.
We have been here since we can remember. We grow stronger by the day.
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