Trudging along a dirt track long since turned to mud by the storm that had been raging for days Greg stopped under the cover of a massive pine tree and pulled the hood of his Army issue poncho back and wiped the moisture from his face.
He stared out at the rain and watched it turn to sleet as the temperature dropped a few degrees. He had been walking for hours and was certain this track would bring him to a main road and the possibility of shelter but he was growing weary.
As darkness descended he caught a glimpse of light out of the corner of his eye and turned to look. Yes, about 100 metres ahead and to his right. A house; maybe a hotel. He pulled his hood up and bent his head against the stinging sleet and ran for all he was worth.
He climbed up onto the tarmac that appeared out of nowhere and ran to the building. It was a pub. Salvation! He entered and looked around. No one but the barman who glanced at him and then went back to washing glasses.
He took off his poncho and tossed it out onto the porch. Shaking off the cold he walked to the bar and ordered a pint and then moved to a table next to a roaring fire in a great stone hearth at the far side of the room. The barman watched him for a bit and then promptly forgot about him.
Pulling his diary from his rucksack Greg began jotting down the minutiae of his day. He hand been in New Zealand for forty-three days and as part of his self-imposed therapy had been recording his every thought and action. When he was done he took out his map and pinpointed his location. He was on the west coast of the south island, headed for Fiordland. If his reckoning was correct he must be on the outskirts of Haast. He inquired of the barman who grunted in the affirmative.
Another three hundred kilometres to his destination then. Nothing compared to the distance he had travelled to get to the Land Of The Long White Cloud. He pulled his sleeve back and looked at the three vertical scars on the inside of his wrist. Would they ever fade?
He pushed his sleeve back down and chided himself for looking at them. He needed to move forward. Put the past behind him. Find himself, if such a thing were even possible. Of course it was. That’s what he was told anyway. He drained his glass and fumbled with the currency in his pocket as he went to order another. Nothing at all like American bills and the coins was even stranger.
He returned to his seat and got out his travel guide to see what he could expect to find in Haast. He needed a roof over his head. Not finding much useful information he went to ask the barman where he could find a bed. He was in luck. The barman had a spare room and would let him have for a nominal sum.
With that settled he went back to his beer and settled in to enjoy the warmth. He looked around at the stag’s heads and rugby posters that graced the walls. He soon felt the call of nature and headed for the loo to relieve himself. Returning to his seat he turned toward the fire to warm his hands. When he turned back he was startled to find a man sitting across the table from him with a benign smile on his face.
Part 2 Tomorrow