My breath felt like fire as it burnt a painful path along my windpipe. The urge to give up and turn back was strong but a quick glance ahead assured me that I was almost there. Like an animal I clawed my way to the top, grabbing handful after handful of purple heather in clutching, sweaty palms.
As I pushed myself to the limit I experienced a heart stopping primal rush that was new to me and hard to explain. But this was what I wanted. I needed to feel alive again.
Finally I was there. Black dots swam in my field of vision as I took in the magnificent view. I blinked them away and reached out to touch the cold ancient stones, wanting to connect with them in some indefinable way.
This was a place of the fallen, the final resting place of Connacht’s bravest warriors. Men of battle forgotten by time. What were they like? I wondered feeling the pitted surface of the granite. Had their women folk climbed all this way to mourn their passing? Or had these warriors been buried and then forgotten?
The sacred burial ground consisted of a large group of cairns built atop a sweeping plateau. As a result of its elevated position, the sea breezes that whispered through the grasslands below became almost gale force once they reached this hallowed spot.
Sitting in the lee side of the cairn closest to me, I rested for a while to catch my breath. Scraggly gorse bushes shivered and shook in the piercing gusts, while overhead the clouds scurried past like fluffy tufts of lambs wool.
Curiously the stone behind me felt warm to the touch, possibly warmed by the early morning sun as it had risen in the east. It made for comfortable resting place at any rate, so I leaned back to take a long draught from my water bottle and then briefly closed my eyes, enjoying solitude. My muscles were aching and my legs were tired so not surprisingly it wasn’t long before I drifted into a strange but lucid sleep.
Presently I became aware that I was looking down on myself from above the stone cairn, sleeping peacefully. Then suddenly all that changed and once again I could feel its warmth on my back. More dozing followed until I became aware that the stone had altered in some way. It was no longer hard and unyielding.
Frustratingly I was unable to move or turn around, but even so I felt certain that the stone had morphed into the warm body of a strong muscular male. At that point I sank into a deeper level of sleep but every now and then I got the impression of an arm slipping around my waist or wickedly soft lips brushing the underside of my throat. Later on I tried to dismiss them as tantalising sensations invented by a weary subconscious. But deep inside I felt that it could be something more.
Upon waking I felt disoriented and it seemed as if no time at all had passed. But upon looking at the sinking sun it told a very different story….