It was as dusk descended and the heavens turned to a thick ebony, almost touching me, that I felt the restlessness grow. I was unsettled, as if I was waiting for something I couldn’t put my finger on. It must have been the storm brewing. It was the inexplicable sensation of Evans again.
The wind rose, suddenly, swirling the leaves of the silver birch in the wild space at the far end of the garden. A downpour was imminent. And sure enough the first drops started to fall, vertically, bouncing in great splats on the patio. I frantically raced around the house, which now was filled with an uncharacteristic inky gloom, to secure the windows. I noticed I was clammy, my whole body dripping in sweat and tiny beads of perspiration soaking my upper lip and brow. I remember wiping the wetness with the back of my hand as I reached up and pulled down the sash window in the bedroom that overlooked the garden.
In the half-light, it looked like a pre-historic bird, its immense wing-span stretched, hovering just feet above the birches, silhouetted against the sky. And then a violent rustling as it seemed to swoop downwards and come to a sudden stop, trapped in the silver leaves of the branches. It felt primeval and I rolled Pterodactyl around in my mouth with pleasure and with a logic that at that moment, made perfect sense.
It’s the wetness I recall now, the cooling deluge of storm-rain soaking my cotton T shirt as I raced towards this creature hanging there in the branches, silent and motionless. This creature whose wings too were sodden and limp. I could see that the flimsy silk of its wings, the tips like smoked tallow, had been violently ripped in the fall and had become detached from the skeletal framework which reminded me of tributaries of veins. Pathetic somehow, this loss of flight, this fallen angel.
This was a creature of unspeakable beauty with a fineness of form which was almost unearthly. Not yet fully mature, you could see the adult that would be in the face that was finely sculpted, sharp and intense; the skin taut and translucent, veins showing through the alabaster, the bloodless lips that looked icy cold, and the eyes, pleading to be cut free. This mesmerising bird-man had flown into my garden on a sudden storm one hot August night and fallen to earth. I felt an instant connection. He gave off an aura which I sensed even before his arrival.
I must have untangled him from the branches; unhooked the barbed brambles that had punctured his flesh. I suppose I might have helped him off with his harness and pack away his sorry wings. And I would have bathed the scratches on that face of his – wiped it clean – as my fingertips remained stained with blood, a juicy rich red-purple, like those fat ripe blackberries that would soon hang in the lane, just beyond. I presume I asked him his name, where he came from, all manner of things as I knew by his accent and his archaic northern dialect that he wasn’t from these parts, perhaps not even from these times. He simply told me that his name was Evans. I just have an impression of him leaving, walking down the lane that leads from the sea, trailing his broken and bedraggled wings from his shoulder, turning his head, just once, to smile, as he faded into the distance.
Naturally, my husband put it down to the combination of too much sun, heat exhaustion and the virus. The medical profession reassured him that high temperature, hallucination and out-of-body experiences followed by total collapse were typical; recovery was likely to take a long time. They put the broken branches on the birch down to the storm that night, the electricity in the air; but no one could explain the blood on my hands.
Summer and Autumn passed. When early November came, I ventured out beyond the five-bar gate and along the lane. The blackberries had flowered and fruited without my knowledge, save those remaining desiccated few, near which a foulness of blue-black flies buzzed over a heap of dried dung.
*Calan Gaeaf = Hallowe’en