Shetland had become a power station 17 years ago. That was arguably the worst thing ever to happen to it. The population had become used to the ugly view out their windows, and a generation had grown up not knowing the beauty Shetland once had. The population was rapidly falling; Shetland was dying.
An old man stood on one of Shetland’s many hills, staring at a wind turbine spinning directly above him. Even the beautiful sunset behind him couldn’t make up for this. He wished he were a child again. There was such a sense of community then. Now nobody so much as knew their neighbours.
He turned around, and without looking back walked in the direction of his cottage.
Even with the wind farm, Shetland’s hills were still fun to climb. Jamie McDuggen had always wanted to climb a particular hill near Aith, which was where he lived, and was delighted when he and his friends finally got the chance.
His first impression was that they were muddier than they looked.
“Come on Jamie!” his best friend Mary called back to him.
Jamie suddenly realised he’d fallen behind. As he caught up with her his shoe got stuck in a particularly deep pool of mud, and he fell face first into some heather.
“You alright?” Mary asked running back to help him up.
“Yeah I’m fine,” he replied.
“What’s going on?” Mary’s older brother Robert said coming down the hill. His long legs always gave him a boost in speed.
“I just fell over,” Jamie replied, wiping mud off his face. “Not hurt”.
Mud had gone into his long hair. Mum was right, he should have had it cut ages ago.
They caught up with Robert and continued at a steady pace.
“How far are we going to go?” Mary asked Robert. As he was the oldest, he was in charge.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “We’re to keep away from the wind turbines.”
“Do we have to do everything Dad says?” she whined.
“He only wants to keep us safe,” Robert replied.
Jamie kept quiet, which wasn’t unusual for him, but their “debates” could go on for hours.
“Anyway, we only brought some sandwiches. Once we’ve eaten those we should probably turn back,” Robert finished.
Mary stuck out her tongue at him.
“What’s so dangerous about a wind turbine anyway?” she said to Jamie following five minutes silence.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“They probably think the blades will spin off and rip us to shreds or something,” she said irritably.
“Maybe…” Jamie said.
He hadn’t always lived in Shetland. He hadn’t even heard of it until he’d moved. He remembered being shocked when seeing the wind farm. Large spinning objects are scary to 7 year olds.
They decided to take a rest and eat their sandwiches. There might have been a lovely view from the hill at one point, but in every direction, apart from the one they came there were wind turbines.
“Robert, can we please just go and see one up close. We won’t go near it,” Mary said. “What are the chances of something happening anyway?”
“I don’t know,” Robert said. “But it could be dangerous all the same!”
Robert was a very pessimistic person, and was also quite short tempered. When his and Mary’s parents split up Mary had gone to live with their Dad and Robert went to live with their Mum. All Jamie had heard about her was that she was now in prison. He was originally meant to live with their grandparents but they both mysteriously went missing shortly before.
Mary eventually gave up and they decided to go back home. Aith was a nice place, but there were a lot of uninhabited houses that rumours said were haunted. Jamie didn’t believe them, but Mary and Robert’s Dad said there were ghosts of dead crofters in them, who were angry at Shetland’s current state.
The vast peat bogs seemed to form a maze.
“Have you been this way before?” Jamie asked.
“Er… yes! I recognise this bit,” Robert said unconfidently.
It started to get cold.
They continued walking, huddling together slightly. The wind started to increase. They could hear the wind turbines around them, whirring.
“We need to get away!” Robert shouted through the wind. “They can be very dangerous in high winds!”
They sped down the hill, tripping on rocks and rabbit holes. They stopped just before running face first into a wind turbine. It sounded like a monster, though in many ways it was.
“The hill goes down here!” Mary shouted over the noise of it, pointing to their left.
They charged down the hill, avoiding wind turbines. Jamie’s heart was racing, and he felt sick. Mary, the shortest of the three, had fallen behind. Jamie looked back and she looked frightened. He’d only seen her look that frightened once before.
After much running they arrived at a point where there were no wind turbines. They looked back. It didn’t seem that scary.
“Why did we run away from wind?” Mary said, acting like she wasn’t scared, but was clearly relieved.
“People have been killed in wind farms during gales before,” Robert said, panting.
“What! When?” Mary said. Jamie looked at the wind turbines. They did look dangerous.
“It happened a long time ago,” he said. “Ben’s cousin.” Ben had been Robert’s friend, before he got into drugs.
“We should go back,” Jamie said. Robert nodded, but Mary didn’t seem to pay any attention. She was staring at the wind farm.
Jamie looked as well, but saw nothing.
“What are you looking at?” he asked her.
“Oh, nothing,” she said. “I thought there was someone there but it must just be my imagination”.
The blades on the wind turbines continued to spin violently.
“Are they meant to spin that fast?” Jamie asked.
Almost as soon as he said that there was a thunderous crash, followed by an agonised scream.
Jamie and Mary ran up the hill again, regardless of the fact it was now clearly dangerous.
“Stay here!” Robert shouted at the top of his voice. They ignored him.
Half was up the hill they saw a body with a metal point stuck in his chest, and others splintered around it. The body belonged to an old man with a grey beard. Mary checked his body.
“He’s dead,” she said, shaking.
Blood was spilling out over his clothes, and Jamie was very nearly sick. Mary had gone white, and began to cry softly.
Robert caught up with them, and looked at the body.
“Oh my God…” he said, looking terrified.
Another shard of metal flew off the blade of the wind turbine and hit the ground near Mary, making her scream.
“Go, quickly!” Robert shouted. Jamie started to run down the hill, but Mary just stood there, staring at the body. She had gone almost as pale as snow. Robert grabbed her arm and pulled her away. She came to her senses.
“Sorry,” she said faintly.
They slowly walked down the hill. Jamie could still see the body. It was the most horrible sight of his life, and he knew he’d never get the image out of his head. The image of the man’s lifeless hazel eyes… the coldness of it…
They made an unspoken decision to go back home. None of them said anything for at least half an hour.
Suddenly, Mary collapsed. Robert caught her.
“She’s fainted,” he exclaimed.
Seeing her in such a state was torture for Jamie. She’d always been so confident, and seemed impossible to scare.
Robert laid her down on the grass. They were near Aith now. Jamie wondered if his parents had noticed they were gone by now. None of them had a watch on, so they had no way of telling the time.
Then all of a sudden something changed. Jamie couldn’t put his finger on what though.
“Something’s changed,” he said.
“Wait… the wind turbines have stopped!” Robert said, looking back.
They had. The wind hadn’t died at all, but they had just stopped spinning. Jamie didn’t care why though; the less they span the better.
Mary woke up after a minute. She knew immediately that she had fainted, though Jamie never did find out how. It didn’t really matter.
“I must have scared you,” she said to them.
“A lot,” Jamie replied, helping her back up.
Robert was terrified. “We need to get back as fast as possible!” he said.
He’d never lost control like this before. Jamie knew people acted differently in a crisis, but it was scary to actually see it happen.
Aith wasn’t far now; they could see their houses. They had no idea how long they’d been up the hill, but it felt like days. One thing was for sure though; none of them would go anywhere near that hill ever again…
© Copyright 2016 Mathew Nicolson. All rights reserved.
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