William’s ride from the industrial complex had dropped him off at the guest-house of the Braxton estate. They promised to pick him up again on Monday, before they drove off to let him get settled in. He had been in meetings for three days, as they had learned what he had to teach them.
He had intended to fly out after the first evening, but they had needed him for longer. Then, there had been an airline strike that forced him to stay where he was. Fortunately, he had a change of underwear and socks, which he always carried with him when he went more than a hundred miles from home, but here he was, more than five hundred, and stuck out in the country.
His one day, had become three days of fourteen-hours each, as they had thrashed out what to do. He was dog-tired, and needed his sleep. So did his equally exhausted hostess, who had offered to put him up with her relatively grown family, having had him stay much longer than they had intended. He had politely thanked her for her offer, and explained that he needed quiet, and rest, as well as time to work on the plan they had settled upon.
She had sympathized with his need for peace and quiet, and had given him the guesthouse they owned by the shore, and some five miles away. Her house would be too noisy with teenagers in and out at all hours. He would be the only one, where he was, for the entire weekend. It had all the facilities he needed to look after himself, washer, dryer, and kitchen; well stocked, for those who intended to raid it to go sailing, or out in the powerboat. He could sleep as late as he liked, and spend the entire weekend recovering. He looked forward to some rest. They could meet again on Monday. He would have two complete days to himself, and intended to get a lot done.
When he was dropped off, it was after nine in the evening, and still just light enough to see things with the help of a moon, which might not be there for much longer from what he could see of the gathering clouds moving in, but at least it was warm.
The local scenery was of a gently sloping meadow, leading from the house down to the sea, a hundred yards away. The open grassy slope was dotted with scattered clumps of trees, growing in small rock pile accumulations cleared from the open area.
He let himself in with the key, and replaced it outside under the plant pot before he closed the door behind himself, put all of the lights on and explored.
The lower half of the house was mostly a stable; empty of horses or cattle, and closed off from the rest of the house, but the upper floor was set up for at least one guest. There was a large and modern open bedroom whose windows over-looked the sea, and with an adjoining bathroom, also large, and shower. Next to the stable downstairs, was the kitchen of the house, and a large living room with fireplace, another smaller bathroom, and an adjacent garage, also empty.
He made himself a snack from the store of canned and dried food. He would explore the freezer in the garage later, to plan a more ambitious meal. He settled in, deciding that he would have an early night. He could not find the bedding that he had been told about. That, must be in the boathouse down on the shore, as he had been warned might be the case. He would get it later. The family had planned a boating trip that weekend, but it had been cancelled with that storm, so he could recover what he needed from the boat if he needed it.
He decided to go for a walk around the point before retiring, even though the wind was blustery, and the waves were beginning to pick up in height and intensity. He could even feel the damp spray driven at him from the whitecaps. He could see well enough, and the path was well-marked with white cobbles at the edges, and chips of white quartzite for the surface. A storm was coming. He had heard something of it during breaks in their discussions but they had been too busy with everything else to worry about that. He would risk it. He did not bother locking the house up.
His walk was much longer than he expected with his mind going over many things. He had needed the exercise, and to clear his head. If he had brought his running clothes, he would have been out doing that instead. When he got to the furthest point, and it began to become too dark for comfort, though his eyes had grown used to the dark, he turned back. It had gone much colder in the short time he had been out; the wind had strengthened too, and he could hear the waves smashing into the pebble beach somewhere below him, and grinding the edges off, to make those rounded cobbles and pebbles that children of any age from six to sixty, loved to collect. He could hear the undertow sucking some of those rocks out into deeper water before throwing them back at the shore, as though the gods were playing ninepins.
He was surprised how far he had walked, with his mind going over so many other things, and he was caught in a downpour the like of which he had never seen before. There had been something like two inches of rain, fall in less than fifteen minutes, and then steady, heavy rain after that, driven in off the sea by a strengthening wind. He wished he had paid more attention to the weather forecast. The lights from the house guided him back. He was soaked through to the skin and weighed twenty pounds heavier. He was cold, too, but that was because he was wet. He could soon solve that.
He walked through to the garage, squelching with every step, stripped off, and squeezed the excess water from his jacket and trousers into the sink, putting his outer clothing in the dryer there, and got it started. There was nothing that was likely to shrink. He had better wash all of his other things too.
After he had dried himself off, he retrieved his socks and underwear from his overnight case, threw those into the washer, along with the rest of his clothes as he stepped out of them, and got it started too. He knew he was the only one who would be there for the weekend, and no one else would come by, with the weather turning as it had. He walked off to the living room, thinking that he might review some of his notes. It was fortunate that no one else would see him wandering the house, as naked as he was.
That, was when the lights went out. He had planned on drying out his wet clothing, and at least donning his underwear, which would dry first, and sleeping in those, but now he could not. Everything was still wet and the power was off.
It did not matter. There was only him there, so no one else would be shocked at his lack of clothing. He would retire, rather than light a fire in the grate. It was late, and he needed his sleep. Tomorrow would bring its own problems, though the storm should have moved through by then.
He made his way through the dark house to the kitchen, and found the milk in the fridge. It would do, tonight, and he still was not hungry. He had been snacking all day. He drank some of the milk, direct from the small carton, and then replaced it. He did everything by touch and, fortunately, he had seen the layout of the house earlier. He was shocked where the time had gone. Just before the power had gone out, he noticed that it was midnight.
There was nothing else to do but turn in. He could not go looking for blankets now, not in that downpour, but he had seen that the bed had a sheet and pillows, and that would do. It would be warm enough even though there would be no heat. It would have to be. He could double the sheet if it became too cold. He had slept in worse conditions, and at least he was protected from the rain and wind, which he could hear around the house, beating at the windows and rattling everything that might move.