I don't believe it at first. Surely it can't be that near. But the more I look the more I'm sure that it's right. Just six miles away lies the last stop before Holme. All we have to do is get there, find a boat, and sail out to the island. It's so close. We're so close. It's almost over.
"But," says Lisa slowly, "this says we're almost there. Is that right? Are we, David?"
I scramble to my feet and check the mile marker again, sure that I must have made a mistake. Sixty miles to go, perhaps. Or six hundred. But no, there it is, our penultimate destination within a day's easy walk.
"It's right," I say. "I'm sure of it."
For a moment we stare at each other, unsure of how to react. And then laughter bubbles up in my stomach. And we're both laughing, sitting there in the middle of the road at the end of the world and laughing like idiots. It's the first time I've felt really, truly optimistic in ages.
"They must have carried us north," says Lisa eventually, when the laughter begins to subside. "We've been so lucky."
"Come on," I say, helping her to her feet. The mood of elation is swiftly being replaced by an urgent sense of purpose. Now that our goal is so close I want it more keenly than ever. "Let's get moving."
We walk intently, stopping to rest only when Lisa stomach twinges in pain. Somehow now the cold doesn't matter, my hunger and my thirst don't matter. Even the confession about which I was so anxious a few hours ago seems like nothing. As we crest a long rise we come to within sight of the sea. The smell of it hits us on the breeze, full of salt and openness and sand. We stop for a moment and breathe it in, stare as if stunned at the wide open expanse of blue that now crosses the horizon. That's when I turn to Lisa and say "Listen," and tell her simply and without any preliminaries what happened on my way back from meeting Sven.
"I've been so worried about telling you," I finish. "But, well, there it is. I should have been honest with you from the start."
Lisa looks at me oddly for a minute and then steps forward and hugs me tight. "It's okay," she says. "It's nobody's fault, any of this. Don't be guilty. You did what you needed to do."
Hand in hand we set off downhill. We lose sight of the sea behind a hill, and then before we know it we've emerged onto a wide, flat road that runs alongside a chalk cliff. Down below the sea pounds itself against white rocks, and there ahead of us, a mile or two downhill is a small, untidy town that can only be Porturaik.