Keep heading north

Submitted for writing challenge 5th May 2016
Topic: North. Awareded 3rd Place at Intermediate level.

Gruff teenage voice: “Which way now?”

Squeaky voice: “I don’t know. I just need to get a GPS fix and we’ll be fine.”

“You’ve been saying that for the past half-hour.”

“It’s the cloud cover. Gets in the way of the signal.”

“My Dad says cloud cover doesn’t affect the signal.”

“Well if it’s not the clouds, what is it?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t got a GPS tracker.”

Several minutes pass.

Squeaky voice: “it’s gone dead. The batteries must have failed.”

“Don’t you have spares?”

“No. I forgot them, OK?”

“Don’t worry. My Dad said if we got lost we just need to keep heading north. Then we’ll come to the stream or the road and we’ll know where we are.”

“And how do we find north without a GPS fix?”

“My dad says moss grows on the north side of trees.”

“That’s rubbish!”

“It’s not. The moss likes cold and damp, so it only grows where the sun can’t reach it.”

“But this hillside’s bare. There are no trees here.”

“No problem. Here’s a rock. There’s loads of moss on this side. That must be north.”

“Well lead on if you’re so confident.”

Trudging in silence through coarse grass.

Gruff voice: “It’s getting dark.”

“No problem. My dad bought me a new head torch last week.”

“Doesn’t look very bright.”

“I’ve been using it to read in bed. The batteries must be going.”

“No need to ask if you brought spares.”

“Don’t rub it in!”

“Never mind, I’ve got a wind-up torch.” Whirring sounds of dynamo. “Here we go.”

More trudging, interrupted by checking rocks for moss.

Squeaky voice: “It’s raining. I’m getting wet.”

“There’s a wood over there. Let’s get under cover.”

“We’ll get lost in there.”

“No we won’t. Just find the moss and keep heading north.”

Running now, then softer steps and sounds of snapping twigs.

After some time, footsteps halt.

Gruff voice: “Well, we’re out of the wood and the rain has stopped.”

Squeaky voice: “But this is just a ploughed field. How do we find our way now?”

“The clouds have gone and I can see the stars. My dad taught me to look for the big dipper. The two stars on the cup point to the North Star. Look, there it is. Just keep that ahead of us and we’ll be heading north.”

Squelching sounds for several minutes.

Sounds of running water.

Squeaky voice: “Look, there’s a stream. Which way now?”

“My Dad drew a sketch map. Let’s take a look.”

“My dad never uses a map, he’s got GPS.”

“Only when the batteries work!”

Sound of map unfolding.

“Look, we must be here.”

“How can you tell?”
“My dad taught me to read a map. North is always at the top of the page. So we point it towards the north star. We came through a wood (that’s here) and arrived at the stream. The road comes up from the west, so it must be to our left. If we follow the stream we’ll find the road.”

“I’m not so sure.”

“Trust me. My dad and me have done this loads of times.”

Swishing of wet grass accompanied by running water to the right.

Squeaky voice: “Hey, that’s the road ahead.”

“Didn’t I say we’d find it. My dad said he’d meet us here.”

“I see lights, and I can hear an engine!”

Sounds of running feet.

Deep man’s voice: “Hello boys. Hop in and tell me how you got on.”

Gruff voice: “No problems dad. I just did what you said and kept heading north.”

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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