Pulling down roofs in the hills

Jones spent days walking the hills following the movement of his four sheep. The sheep kept together and walked where the green grass took them and if there was a hard wind blowing in from the Atlantic they crouched behind a rock and let the air blow over them. Jones sat with them keeping himself warm against their wool.

The wind blew worst from over the Mizen and then as it drove through the gaps in the hills. Sometimes it blew so strong the sheep’s legs were blown from under them and if he stood up he could hold out his arms and lean into it as if he was learning to fly. Walking into it he could feel it flattening his cheeks and his ears filled with the sound of it. The grass lay flat across the hills as it blew over and as he bent down to shelter from its blast he could hear the noise of the grass moving against itself and if he closed his eyes he could feel the hill move under him and it would shake in the thick of it.

There were days when was it still and in summer the heat would suck the air and water out of the hills so they were dry and brittle to walk on.

He would not swim in the sea. But deep in pockets of ground in the hills brown lakes had filled in the land. They were thick with vegetation and weed but there were clear patches of water he could wade through his bare feet stirring up the mud.   He kept on his shirt as he swam his pale white legs kicking behind him. The water was cool in the sun. Afterwards he would sit by the side looking over the hills for his sheep. Bubbles rose and popped in the water from the layers of rotted vegetation and other things that formed the bed of the lake.

The hills and the green valleys that lay between had their names but all he knew of them was drawn from what he could see and smell. Some of the names had been forgotten when the people had died or the places had gone. As he walked the hills he still came across the places were the people had lived. They might only have been a scattering of stones on the ground, or a change in the colour and the thickness of the grass. But some of the houses were still standing with their roofs of earth intact. They had about them the smell of death and twice he found inside a pile of white bones held together by torn pieces of the clothes they had worn still lying where the people had died. He pulled those houses down pushing in the stones so no one else would have to come across the bodies.

Once those houses were down he went back to his walking and his mind turned more sharply to the colours in the air.

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