We broke into a run. There was insufficient oxygen in our lungs. The pied skies gave way to a looming darkness threatening to engulf us. The howling of fantastical creatures resounded chillingly in the not-so-far distance. Contemplating the plethora of ways in which lives could be lost, I tasted salt on my lips.
“Here, where the land ends and the sea begins.”
The multicoloured hues spread themselves across the blank canvas of the sky as dusk made its graceful descent, akin to a mesmerising waltz that had left us completely captivated. As the glistening surface of the sea cast doubt on the increasingly elusive horizon, we were blissfully unaware of the ominous predicament we had unwittingly placed ourselves in.
It was 19:30. We had been waiting at the bus stop for over half an hour, with only our shadows for company. With no sign of any vehicle appearing at the bend of the long, meandering road which had earlier brought us here, we scrutinised the bus schedule once again, hoping it could lend us clues on how we could get back to Sintra to catch the last train bound for Lisbon.
16:10 17:10 18:10 19:10*
Despite none of us having any knowledge of Portuguese, we were certain of our ability to read bus schedules. There it was, the time at which the last bus was supposed to depart: 19:10. Suddenly, as though powers of invisible ink had faded away, a glaring asterisk symbol leered at me. My heart instantly sank. We were waiting for a bus that would never arrive.
Fear hastily took over, as beauty resigned to the backseat, in the vehicle of surrealism on this frigid night. Here we were, completely stranded, in the westernmost point of the continent. Knowing no other alternative, we followed the winding road that promised a way out of this cul-de-sac. Our darkened silhouettes skimmed the surface of the tar. The sky seemed eager to compete with us; darker and darker it grew, in tandem with our quickening pace.
Turning with a curve in the road, we were momentarily blinded by a pair of shining headlights. Instinctively, we stretched out our arms with thumbs extended upwards. A grim countenance at the window agreed to take us to Sintra, and we climbed tentatively on board. An hour of zipping through dark alleyways and recurring thoughts of human trafficking later, we, quite incredulously, arrived safely at the Sintra train station.
Closing the car door, I repeatedly thanked our mysterious driver for turning what I had thought to be the worst journey of my life into a heart-palpitating adventure, and allowing me to live to tell the tale unscathed.