I never post my creative writing on here, so please be kind!
We parked the car in a makeshift lay-by. Jess needed to pee, but we hadn’t passed a shop or café or anything else for miles. We weren’t sure how long it would be till we found civilization again so a side of the road pee would have to do. We also hadn’t eaten for a while so I pulled a can of coke from my bag and the Tupperware containing a slice of apple pie that Jess had baked before we had needed to leave. The sun was casting long shadows, the day was drawing to a close. We’d better make this a quick stop before it got too dark. The valley between these hills didn’t have any street lights and it would be pitch black within the hour.
Sitting on a spare blanket from the car I opened the apple pie container. It was starting to grow mould. Unsurprising considering it had been living in a hot car for the last three days. I sighed. We didn’t have much food left and even less money. No doubt the food we did have was going the same way as this sorry looking pie.
‘We’ll have to eat around the mould’ I called to Jess as she squatted behind a bush. Hiding herself only from me as no other soul occupied this valley today. She didn’t reply.
‘Jess?’ I called.
I opened the can of coke and the hiss of gas seemed really loud against the quiet of the valley. The quiet. Jess still hadn’t answered me and I couldn’t hear anything. Not the sound of her peeing or fumbling with clothes as she did her jeans back up, no snapping branches or leaves rustling and even worse; no Jess answering my call. I stood up. Leaving the can and mouldy pie sitting on the blanket and heading towards the bush where I was sure she’d headed to.
‘Jess?’ I called again. I reached the bush and looked behind it. Nothing. She wasn’t there. I looked around the vast valley with only the occasional bush or tree dotted up the side of the hills. Where could she be? Feeling a slight surge of panic I headed back down towards the car. Luckily, I had been driving so I had the key. I’d locked it when we got out, force of habit rather than fear of theft. Opening the passenger door, as if by some miracle, I’d find her sitting there trying to tune in the radio as she had been all the way here. When instead all I found was her phone on the seat. Wherever she was, she didn’t have her phone. I closed the door and turned to scan the hills again, looking for signs of movement and listening to the deafening silence telling me I was alone. Further down the valley was a small lake. Could she have gone down to the water?
I made my way from the single-track road in the fading light towards the lake. The closer I got the boggier the ground became underfoot. My slip-on shoes kept getting stuck and mud spattered up my bare legs. As I got closer to the edge of the water I saw shoes. Blue denim espadrilles sitting on the edge of the water. They were her shoes.
‘Jess!’ I screamed. My shrill voice cutting through the thick silence. Could she have gone into the water? Why would she do that and not tell me? She liked to explore and had gone swimming in various lochs along the way. I still couldn’t see her, but on the surface of the water, about 10 metres out, there seemed to be something floating. It was her coat. I could see the blue floral pattern of the hood bobbing on the water.
I had to go in after her. Kicking off my shoes and discarding my coat next to the lonely espadrilles I glanced back towards the car. I could still see it, but light was fading. I guessed I only had about 10 minutes before I wouldn’t be able to see my hand in front of my face.
‘Help! I’m over here!’ I whipped my head round at the sound of her voice.
‘Jess!’ I called back. I couldn’t see her, but her voice sounded as though it came from the middle of the lake, ‘I’m coming’.
I waded into the water, slipping and sliding in the mud. As soon as I was waist deep I lunged forward to swim. It was hard. The water felt thick with mud and my arms and legs struggled to pull through it. I kept trying to shout her name; ‘Jess!’ But every time I opened my mouth the thick brown sludge flooded in. I spit and coughed trying to clear my throat as my legs fought against the thickening water. I started to tire quickly, panicking as I realised the futility of my struggle. I couldn’t see Jess. I couldn’t reach her. The sun had nearly set behind the hill and darkness closed around me.
The radio in the corner of the room crackled, hissed and popped to life; ‘Concerns are growing for a vulnerable young woman, Sarah Riley, who hasn’t been seen since Monday morning. Her car was found by the side of Loch Hourn this morning, but as yet no sign of Miss Riley. She was last seen by her neighbour seemingly packing up her car at 6am on Monday. She was wearing a blue coat with a floral pattern on the hood, black trousers and blue denim espadrilles. Anyone with any information should call the police on…’
(Written as part of creativewritingink.co.uk 26 January prompt).