The mist hung heavy on the plate flat fields. Green became grey, disappearing into the distance, stretching into an uncertainty. He sat on the boat’s edge, bare feet resting on the gritty, grassy ground.

Goosebumps gripped his biceps. He wrapped himself warmly in his arms. Thin pyjama trouser legs; cuffed with damp dew, thin t-shirt clinging to thin skin; shot through with cool clouds of autumn mist, converging on summer’s edge.

He turned to look down river. The Wittenham Clumps, cloaked, clocked his presence. Behind him the river ran smooth. Ahead, the dawn light was breaking, the day barely awake. The silence of the night clung to the atmosphere.

No swan, no duck, no bird rising with the light. No wind, no wave, nothing. Strange, he thought, searching the scene. I would have sworn I was not alone.

He kept the silence still, posturing, presenting to a prevailing light. But the sun held its peace on the horizon’s edge. He grew cooler; cold. The silence had lost its sanctuary. Now it was stony; suspect.

A noise caught his attention; a bell, tinkling in the distance. But for all he looked and listened, its location could not be found. He stood to search further, his feet feeling the ground for some knowledge of his next steps.

Then it caught him. Ringing in the mist, behind the boat, out in the river proper. The cold turned chill, raising the hairs on the nape of his neck. He stopped, frozen, frightened, waiting for the thing to find him.


During the Covid outbreak my writing teacher is challenging us to create a piece of writing based on a set of three specific words. This piece is based on the words: bell, dawn, boat.

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