I drove up through the whole of Scotland the day before independence. The fields, walls and houses yelled Yes or No in big letters, blue flags with white crosses and union jacks fluttered in the wind. A heavy fog rolled in off the sea just past the Dornoch bridge and visibility reduced dramatically so I turned off at a junction that agreed with my decision with a Yes painted on a wall. The road headed up onto high moorland and narrowed down to lanes with passing places. The fog thinned then cleared then thickened again closing off the view and opened it again. I got lost and decided to follow a course of destiny dictated by Yes or No.
If I came to a junction and a sign read Yes I carried on and if the sign read No I’d turn left or right or if a crossroads then I’d turn the same direction that the sign appeared on the side of the road. The mist rolled in and out, lines of stone fence appeared then disappeared. Wind turbines turned and flocks of geese spread out across the sky. I drove through villages that looked depressed and deserted and turned left or right or carried straight on as the signs dictated. Night began to fall and I passed a pub in the middle of nowhere at a place that was famous for being the coldest place in the land. The road carried on and No led me across a bridge at the Kyle of Tongue where the Aurora Borealis was visible in the sky over the sea.
I stopped and made a brew and watched a blue diagonal line cut the sky in half, star constellations began to move and spin, then stop, I rubbed my eyes and looked again and they spun again. There were a couple of islands out in the bay and an orange sail appeared between them and slowly grew bigger as it approached and became a deeper orange. The blue diagonal line quivered, the stars turned and the sail crept closer until I realised it was a slither of moon rising out of the sea. The show in the sky continued and the moon appeared in crescent shape above the sea and took its place in the sky-scape art piece. I drove off following my destiny along the road.
It hugged the coast and went over high moors with startled stags running, passed derelict buildings and down dips with houses grouped together, TV’s flickering in the windows. Then round an enormous loch that went for miles with houses scattered along the shore and onto a rocky sided road with white sandy beaches below. I drove through a village and a No made me turn off down a narrow road that ended at a fence with sand dunes beyond. There was nowhere else to go, this was it, this was the end of the road, the edge of the world.
The night was clear, the sky was now just full of stars that went on forever, waves crashed a fluorescent white in the distance. Tiredness began closing my eyes, sleeping bag in hand I went to the dunes and fell asleep.
The sound of footsteps, voices and barking dogs woke me and waves crashed in the distance and the dune grass ‘shhhed’ and danced patterns in the wind. I got up and saw people gathered outside a small hall where a sign was being unfurled that read Polling Station. The group grew in size and split into pockets, chatting and smiling, a lets move on aura filled the air. I gathered my things and returned to the car, cleaned up, ate and made a coffee then returned to sit on the dune overlooking the beach and the hut polling station.
The doors opened to a cheer and the people filed in, in orderly fashion, the excitement visible, then filed out again and resumed the chatting. They hung around and fell silent as cars pulled up and the other people filed in and filed out again and drove away without a word. This continued for the rest of the morning and around noon an old kilted man rode up on an antique bicycle and received a big cheer from the crowd. He took a tot from an old hip flask, laughed, danced a bit of a jig and went into the station to make his mark and came out again with arms aloft. The group then moved off and onto the white sandy beach, gathered driftwood and set a fire ablaze.
It was a small community and all the people had voted, the polling station doors closed and a police car arrived and escorted the officials with the ballot box to their vehicle and drove away to the main town for the count. The people cheered from the beach and talked of their hopes for a new country, a new ideal. A voice shouted out and all eyes turned and rested their hopes on a large dark object in the water. A flock of seagulls hovered above it and then a spout of water shot into the sky and the sucking of air could be heard. It dived and surfaced again and swam back and fore in the small bay.
The joy and hope of the day exuded into the air which now took on a strange hue. There were no clouds but the light seemed a little shaded as if the sun was waiting at three-quarter power. The tide didn’t seem to move but just hung not knowing which way to turn, the waves rose then fell flat without breaking. It was as if time itself was standing still waiting for something to happen. The people stood about the fire and seemed to levitate, their feet unsure of where the ground was. Then it seemed only minutes since noon but the night began to fall.
More wood was piled on the fire and the blaze lit up the whole bay. The whale kept swimming in the unmoving tide, splashing with thwacks of its tail, spouting and taking in air. It was night now and suddenly the water began to recede quickly and retreated from the people and the fire. A shout went up and everyone ran down to the water and looked out. The old man in the kilt was the first to go in, the tartan rising like an opening flower on the water. Then the others began to go in too, towards the whale which thrashed in the shallowing sea. They splashed towards the beast, falling over and getting up again. The bay was a shelf of sand and the water only as deep as their waists, they pushed on and gathered about the stranded whale that whipped its tail knocking some of them off their feet. They got back up and pulled and heaved and pushed the beast and rocked it back and fore. They tried to lift it and failed, they grabbed the tail and tried to pull it around but was knocked down again as the animal whipped it violently. It made a noise that no-one had ever heard, a loud high pitch long even scream that sounded like a city of towers were bending. Then it thrashed and thrashed and bounced it’s body from side to side throwing all the people off onto their backs. The sun was rising and the water was only ankle deep and the people cried as they scooped water up onto the whale’s back. It just sucked in the air now and made groaning sounds.
A quad bike hurtled down the beach towards the crowd and the beast that lay dying on the dry sand. Groups consoled each other and sobbed for the dying creature and the man on the bike stood up and shouted that there was to be no independence. He then pointed at the old man, Scotland himself, wearing the kilt, collapsing to the floor next to the whale that was now dead.