Julian Harrison is a Yorkshire man, once married to an Irish woman; with whom he is still the greatest of friends. Three kids. Rugby player. Graduate. Soldier. IT practitioner. Chef. Agricultural expert. University Maths Lecturer. Builder of two Breweries. And, now that the knees have gone, Writer (as yet unpublished). He has an Editor, a successful Irish screenwriter. Lives in the North of England (though his recent sunburn was achieved in West Cork). One novel under the belt and four more on the stocks. Not a particular proponent of the ‘Oxford’ comma. Currently assembling an anthology of ‘Microcrime’ – Murder-based tales between 500-3000 words. He is using the form to create a socio-philosophical manual of the human condition – but it ain’t pretentious and his Editor says it reads well. Very well.
Up or Down
In the later part of a glorious summer evening, close to the summit of one of the highest mountains in Snowdonia he, going up, met someone coming down. That person, who turned out to be called Jack, joined him, and asked what he was doing up here at this time of the day. “You won’t find your way down safely in the dark.”
“It’s not my intention to. I’m Randolph by the way. I’m also more than a bit knackered now that I’ve made it almost to the end. Do you mind if I sit down for a moment.”
“Not a problem. You don’t look at all well I have to say.”
“That’s because I’m not. Inoperable and unalterably terminal cancer. Hurts like hell, but then climbing a hill this size always did hurt a bit. Not like this though. I wanted to see the sunset from a mountain top again, while there was still time.”
He took a small brown glass bottle of Aspirin tablets and a half bottle of whisky from his jacket pocket and washed some down with the spirit. Returning the bottle to the pocket caused a clink of glass on glass.
Jack looked at Randolph. “Not enough, have some of mine. They are mixed in with Codeines; it helps.” He handed over a big brown plastic bottle full.
“I’ll take a couple, then you can have them back.”
“No. Keep them. Your need is greater than mine.”
“Thanks. That’s very good of you.”
“You will need all of that to take the pain away. Trust me.” Jack slipped his small backpack off and extracted a full bottle of whisky. “That supermarket piss you’ve brought isn’t for a perfect evening such as this.” He removed the stopper and passed it over. Randolph took a swig. “That is superb. Angels had a hand in making that.”
“Angels certainly took a share. It is fifty-year old Saint Magdalene. To my mind the best whisky in existence. Always the choice to end an evening with, assuming you can obtain it. Come on, let’s climb the last few metres to the cairn and rest on the exposed side of the summit where there’s a better perspective. Up you get. Need a hand?”
“No, I want to finish it on my own.”
They arrived at the top. Jack quietly said, “I was very very depressed when last I came up here. I sat for a long time looking at all that out there.”
“The view is wonderful isn’t it?”
“So wonderful that I finally decided to go back down and join it all.” There was a long pause as they stared at the marvellous colours in the sky.
“How are you going to do it?”
“Just curl up here and die.”
“Funny how everyone thinks you should adopt that foetal posture. It’s a default survival position that is so hard-wired into us by evolution that we don’t – can’t – think about it objectively. Much more efficient to stretch out and expose every surface. It is said to be sweet. As the sun goes down take all your clothes off. Will you be able to manage?”
“I am determined to.”
“Have you got your envelope for the mountain rescue team?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“How much is in it?”
“A hundred pounds.”
“Not nearly enough. A bit more would keep them happy. Let’s put the envelope in this plastic bag in case it rains. It can keep the other one company.”
“The sun is in the Irish sea. I’ll be off now, Randolph.”
“Goodbye, Jack. Thank you.”
The man’s letter of apology was so much better than his that, with hands shaking from some new cold, he crossed out the name at the bottom and appended his own. He finished the whisky. It took away the other bitter tastes and it really was very good. ’Why have I never tasted that before?’ As time wore on he began to warm up. The man had been right. Though he was losing all feeling, he felt comfortable and easy. He smiled as he drifted off to sleep.
Jack shrugged as he stood in the box. “I was simply trying to help.”
“That is still a crime in this country,” the Judge said.
“Perhaps, and perhaps very soon, it may not be, when people see reason.”
“Your conjectures are of no interest to this Court. I only deal in fact. You have assisted a suicide which is, in the eyes of The Law, tantamount to murder: so a severe custodial sentence is inevitable. I have met Angels of Mercy, but you are plainly an Angel of Death.”
“This is most unfair. He would have killed himself anyway, but slowly inefficiently and painfully. Why should I have to go prison? At the end of the day I was only out for a walk.”
The newspapers had a high old time with the case but Jack still got ten years, which ruined the life he had saved for himself.
© 2018 Julian Harrison