'Darren' by Sarah Snell-Pym

Darren sat and watched the sky, he often did. It helped him dream and think of the past times when he was happy, when the world had seemed to be on his side. But that had been a long time ago now and he hadn't been left with much, just the clothes on his back and the train ticket. Ah yes the train ticket. It had been a golden egg, though he hadn't thought so on the long journey as he'd watched others eating and drinking.

He'd got no money and no hope and he had no idea why he had gone to the station and gotten on the train and even less of an idea what he would do the other end. He had been pretty sure he was in trouble; he was in debt so deep and had dragged others with him. Then in desperation he had thought to claim on insurance for a small fire that he had orchestrated. But it had gone wrong and the whole lot had gone up and he knew with a sinking feeling watching the firemen that they suspected him.

And so he had boarded the train and it had taken him to the Lake District and there beneath a dark blanket of sky he had decided to become a non-person.

No money? Who cared? He'd been sure he could find something and that he had. First it had been an old barn and then when he was turfed from that six weeks later he had found a hollow tree the size of a small (very small) room. Then when he thought the Woodland people had found him he'd moved on.

He'd been malnourished by then but had not cared. Then he'd found the campsite and had showered and washed the tatters that were his clothes. He’d slept the first night in the toilets and then had found an abandoned tarp the next day. The campsite wasn't manned and only asked for donations and he had the tarp. He made a shelter and then? Then he was camping and there were fires permitted and people left their wood behind, bits here and there, and often they didn't want to take excess food home.

And so Darren had lived at the campsite and spent the days walking the barren hills. But his mind niggled. He remembered the before and it seemed to him he was never warm now, never not hungry and he wondered sometimes if prison was better than this but the purple clouds and green hills had him captivated. He shivered and wrapped the old tarp around himself in the hope of some extra warmth.

That night he sank into the warmest of sleeps, one he would not have awoken from if the farmer who ran the campsite hadn't been collecting the money from their box.  When he awoke Darren wasn't sure he was grateful.

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