Where have you been?

An experimental short story by Amanda White & film by Andrew Gillman


I had to get out – to get some air. 

I’ve been lost inside something, inside something strange, inside myself, in the small rooms that I have inhabited or that have inhabited me. 

My eyes flicker and dance, taking note of the muted moon, ajar, slipping through the clouds.  I look at the edges of what I see and find, my slow path.

I feel sick but in a good way… the fresh air keeps me moving, the cold, the wind, this darkness.

Should I be out on a night like this?  

It’s not a storm but it’s not calm either and it’s very very dark. I can see eyelids of boats opening along the wide sweep of horizon. I can see the beady eyes in little hamlets, of homes lit up and cosy, nestling in…

The hedgerows are wet and dank, the drains fit to bursting and I keep walking. I just needed to get out. 

I needed to find some space. 

I needed to sew myself a little distance.

Rising up the hill, cliffs on my left, moors to my right, the uneven ground, enjoying the uneven ground, the cold on my skin, the cold on my cheeks, getting further, further away.

Turning around I can still see the lights of our house, our little, little house nestled with the other little, little houses in the hamlet.  No stars out tonight, not quite, and that shifting veil of what must be keeping the promise of stars shining down.  

So, the fields grow wild, the fields grow into themselves. Walking uphill now.

I had to get out.  

I had to get out.  

To find that space, fresh air, feel the wind, know the wind…. myself.  

I can hear the water falling off the sides of the already waterlogged hills, it’s chasing itself to the sea.  It can’t wait, it just wants to be there to join the waves.  Freshwater joining salty water and tonight….. walking in the darkness I can still see home, just about but I keep going.  

Everything’s moving, everything’s throbbing, I can just about make out real shapes of things that become other things in the darkness and it’s not frightening, it could be if I wanted it to be, but it’s not, it’s liberating.  I like to hear my own breath, I like to be a little bit out of breath, to feel myself moving, moving up the hill, it’s not a steep hill, it’s not a mountain.  It’s not a dangerous place, I know where I’m going but I can hear my heart working and I can keep going, keep going, soon I won’t be able to see my home, its little light, and soon I will be further away further off down this track

This half a moon, what do we call that, a half moon, I don’t think it’s a crescent or a harvest moon, it’s just a half moon, whatever it is it’s a comfort, of course, it looks so close, like I could just take my hand and snatch it, pick it up like a stone, a stone off a beach, pocket it, take it home to join the other stones on my bathroom shelf, shuffle them around, the runes, the stones….

Am I walking back now, I can’t really tell.  The lights are jigging about, they think I’m coming back. It’s a dance, it’s a game. It’s a tease.  It’s not frightening. I’m not frightening, although I do frighten myself.  Do we all do that?  

I got angry this morning, I didn’t want to, maybe it was the time of year, the snarl of bad weather coming in, although weather doesn’t bother me, it does bother other people, it’s just weather, you can make the most of it and wear the right clothes and you can get right out into it, wear itself…. Feel it…. Like tonight it can help you make you feel more alive. But others don’t like it they just want the sun, its knife-hot glare.  

Tonight I’m in darkness, aside from the odd car, this one slowing down I feel them watching me thinking ‘what’s she doing out on a night like this, what’s she doing out at a time like this’ shouldn’t she be at home, shouldn’t she be preparing supper, getting supper, raising a toast, celebrating, she should be somewhere else, but I’m not somewhere else, I’m right here,  taking one step at a time, I love the feel of it, the forward motion and stopping just looking at those edges where sky and land float, where sea and land meet, some hedge hunkering down where one odd pink campion bobbles about, kind of showing off really, look at me I’m still alive it says, I’m still shining bright.  And the lichen in this light, this darkness, lights up a white-lime-green stone, beautiful, like a gemstone, gemstone after gemstone, isn’t that right, it’s all how you see yourself, it’s all how you see the moment if you try, if you want to, you can see so much more in the dark.

You see I didn’t forget where I was going, I just took myself off without asking, I just did it, I put on my boots, your coat because I couldn’t find my own, a hat, I left the gloves behind and opened the door, I didn’t lock it behind me, I left all the lights on, I left enough logs on the fire and I simply walked off down the road.   

Where have you been, I know that’s what they’ll say, I know that’s what they’ll say when I get back, if I’m going back, but when I do, I guess I am going back that’s what they’ll say.  They’ll want to know something. What shall I say?  Shall I make something up? I don’t know, I don’t know what drove me out, I don’t know why I went out on a night like this at a strange time, an in-between time, I don’t know but I don’t know won’t help, so I should say something.  I had to clear my head. Yeah, I had to clear my head, that’s a good one, I had to clear my head.   

That car was going too fast, they almost drove right into me if I hadn’t had my light on, on my phone, if I wasn’t talking to you now, they would have driven right into me.  It’s funny I feel calm.  Of course, they wouldn’t have hit me.  Nothing will happen to me. Nothing will happen to me.  And I will take care, that’s what you do, you take care.

What a big shadow my hand makes, my giant black hand, it gathers everything, everything it can see.  It’s getting bigger with the strange, askance angle of this lid of moon, this beautiful half-moon watching me.  As if!  Why would it bother to watch me?  One little me amongst all the other little mess.

Nearly back now.  I wonder if anyone will even ask where I have been.  With the fire on they probably think I’ve just been out to collect wood. 

Ssssssh! Let’s just keep it a secret.  I won’t tell them if you won’t.   They don’t need to know my every move.  I’ll lay the table, start the supper.  Everything will be in its place, they might if they look carefully notice a bit more colour in my cheeks, that my hands are not quite as warm as they were.

Amanda White is a Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Amanda White is a writer of poetry, childrens, travel, short stories, articles and film with director Andrew Gillman. She is also a Creative Practitioner within healthcare, education, community and corporate settings. She set up THE DAILY HAIKU in 2020 which now has over 13500 members worldwide.  She worked for many years as a literary agent in London before moving to Cornwall with her family.

Andrew Gillman is a Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Andrew Gillman is a director and editor whose work spans broadcast TV (The Day Today, That Peter Kay Thing, Rob Brydon’s Annually Retentive), Commercials (Tango, Rolo, Volvic) and corporate risk films and dramas. His first short films experimented with making comedic, emotional truth from almost nothing – a single actor on a black background. The sparse simplicity of this drove a growing interest in making something powerfully emotional from almost. Where Have You Been? is a developed extension of that process. Website: www.andrewgillman.com.