None of your business
A few years ago me and my mate Dave were driving back from Manchester to Wakefield one cold foggy Sunday night in January. We had been watching Leeds get beat as usual that day and we were on our way back in Dave’s big white transit van. It had been freezing and foggy all day and as we rose over the foothills of the Pennines the wraith-like mist swallowed the road ahead. Out of nowhere came an endless trail of red lights indicating what is known to the Great British motorist as a sodding great tail back. We joined the queue and inched our way along in the darkness, listening to the charts on the radio to keep our spirits up, and taking the mickey out of the latest X factor acts, as always.
After five minutes of that we came to a slip road which took us across the Pennines on an old road known as Snake path. We could sit in this tail back and go numb or we could take our chances on a bit of adventurous navigation that might just get us to our beds an hour earlier. Oh and Dave had his new sat nav that he wanted to try out. This bit of kit had cost him £300, and he reckoned it was worth every penny. I was too knackered to argue so off the road we went. Several cars ahead of us had taken the same option, so maybe it wasn’t a bad idea.
Snake path is a trecherous road on it’s best days so we took it really steady, minding the snake like twists and turns that gave the road it’s name. The fog got thicker and thicker, even with the lights on high beam we could see barely twenty years ahead. The cars ahead of us became strung out further and further until we were left alone on this cold dark path, trying to squint through the fog.
We were brought to a screeching halt by something three feet high standing in the road. For a second it was stock still in the distance, then it moved it’s head and went ‘baaa’. Bloody sheep. A parp of the horn and off it went, unaware of how close it came to making us a collision statistic, and itself into a tasty kebab.
As you pass over the Pennines your radio tends to jump from station to station and go mental, and this occasion was no different. Chris bloody Moyles… some girl laughing.. classic fm.. some little girl laughing again.. I changed the channel.. and there was this little laugh again. Not a nice one, a really mean haha showed you kind of laugh. I turned the radio off, it wasn’t improving my mood.
We passed a car parked up for the night. Why they parked it in the middle of the moors, I thought little of. I just wanted to get home. The fog lifted a little as we mounted a hump-backed bridge over a brook. Just as we did we came across a car in the middle of the road, parked diagnally. It’s hazzard warning lights were blinking away into darkness and the passenger door was ajar.
Dave was a trained paramedic so he instinctively grabbed the green bag he kept in the space between the seats and got out to investigate. I was straight after him, grabbing a dirty blanket out of the back and my mobile out of my pocket. He poked the door open with his foot, and peered inside. It was empty, and cold. Frost had gathered on the inside of the windshield. We looked around and shouted at the tops of our voices. A ground frost had turned the ground white, and should have illuminated any foot prints away from the car, but there were none.
With a start I realised that I recognised the car, it had been two in front of us in the tail back. Dave thought I was mistaken but I recognised the stickers on the rear window. Neither of us could get phone reception on our mobile, which was no surprise. We decided to phone the police from the next phone box we came to. In the meantime we just wanted to get down off the moors. We followed the path, metre by metre, eyes on stalks. The sat nav indicated we were only twelve miles from the motorway, and a cup of granada services tea suddenly sounded very inviting. Then the bloody thing started to die, much to my annoyance. Dave was so angry that he tore it from it’s cradle and threw it out the window. I cracked up laughing and it broke the tense atmosphere. We spent the next half hour howling and doing Brian Glover imitations. ‘Beware’t moon, lads!” I was still laughing when THUMP
My side, high up on the metal side panel THUMPTHUMPTHUMP, further back each time, as though we were driving past the source. Dave slammed on the brakes, and I looked back through the door mirror. Some figure was standing there, and this time it was way too tall to be a sheep. It was man sized.
Somebody was definately standing just off the road, about ten yards back from where we were now stopped. We didn’t discuss anything, we just got out. I took the tire handle and slid it up my sleeve. I was taking no chances.
This guy had to be about forty but looked older, most of him was hidden under a donkey jacket, like the miners used to have. A huge hood hid most of his face, the lower half was illuminated by the red brake lights, which gave his unshaven visage a demonic appearance. He had dirty jeans and dirty boots, he had obviously been hiking across the fields. But that wasn’t the strangest thing about him. At his feet was a long black bag, about five feet long in total with six handles on the edges. “Alright mate, where’s tha going?” said Dave. The guy shook his head, and I wondered if he was deaf. “You need a lift?”
I shot a look at Dave to say ‘are you mad?’, he just looked back to say ‘it’s ok’. I was far from convinced. “Just gizza lift to’t next town.” The man had spoke. Mancunian accent, gravelly and deep. “Right, gerrin”. Dave was already opening the rear doors to his van. Inside it was full of wood he was collecting for some stupid building project. It would have been a bonfire if I had any say in it. I got the other end of this guy’s bag and lifted it. Christ, it was bloody heavy. “You moving house then?” I tried to make light of the situation. “What you got in here, the mother-in-law?”
He turned to face me square on in the red brake light. “None of your business.” He hissed..
Christ, alright. I dumped my end of the bag in with him pushed up the far end of the van, never taking my eyes off him. I really had a bad feeling about this, and I gripped the tyre handle. I got back into the passenger side and off we went into the night.
I resumed my job of peering into the thick mist, trying to call out the turns, which came thick and fast. I checked back in the rear view mirror once and the guy was still there, though all I could see was his shadow.
I don’t know what made me do it but I felt the hairs on the back of my neck flutter, and I started to turn my head. As I did so I heard the splintering of wood, loud and close then the rear doors flew open, filling the cabin with freezing air. Dave turned his head as he slammed on the brakes, and brought the van to it’s third emergency stop in an hour. I reached up and switched on the internal light. The rear doors were definately open, and some of the wood was scattered about the back, and splintered. The guy was gone, he had bolted. We jumped out of the cabin and walked down each side, losing sight of each other for a second. I went round the back, my tire handle now gripped in my white knuckles. Dave appeared out of the gloom a long second later. He picked up a piece of wood as a weapon and stood back to back with me, peering into the darkness. We could see sod all, absolutely nothing. Nor could we hear anything, except each other’s quickening breath. I have never been so terrified in my life.
“Should have bloody listened to you, cocker” said Dave with a nervous laugh, then he froze on the spot. I followed his gaze. In the back of the van, barely visable in the dark, and part buried under splintered wood was the man’s bag.
Adrenaline pumped through me as I advanced towards it, my tire handle held high. Was the bag moving or was it my tired eyes in the dark? “Nick..” Dave sounded nervious, which was unheard of. He had seen it all in his day as a paramedic, all the horrors a saturday night in Leeds can throw at you. And yet now, I knew he was scared.
I put my hand on the zip and felt it loose in my hand. I opened it scarely an inch. My heart was beating in my chest fit to burst. I opened it further and further and reached in.
“What’s in it?” Dave’s voice was trembling.
I rounded on him, my face rough,my body stinking and my eyes glowing red, full of undue fury, the tyre handle held high as I advanced and in this gravelly mancunian accent I growled “NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS”
Anyway sleep well.