Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Ghost Story: The Woods

Contrary to popular theory, ghost stories don't always have to be set in a dark, mysterious wood, with gnarly old trees, blocking out what little light is available from the moon.  They don't always need to involve a small girl, lost, alone and frightened, being approached by a small host of woodland creatures of the night; beady eyes glinting red in the gloom.  Unfortunately, this is just one such story that feeds those ridiculous theories.

Casey sat crying on a tree stump; the mouldy damp seeping through her torn dress.  She had been playing hide-and-seek with her brother, Peter, and had decided to hide in the woods.  Peter had tried looking for her, but she had hidden well and he didn't find her.  Now she couldn't remember the way home and night had fallen (typical...).

Suddenly, Casey heard a noise behind her.  She turned round, but couldn't see anything in the dark.  Then something brushed past her cheek and she screamed.

"There's no need to be afraid, child." The voice was soft and alluring; feminine.  The velvet undertones spoke to Casey beyond just her ears and she calmed down. "There, there.  There's no need to cry."

"Who are you?"  Casey couldn't see the owner of the voice.  "Where are you?"

"I am the forest.  I am the lustful creatures of spring, running rampant through their mating rituals.  I am the midges, dancing pirouettes over the stream in the heat of summer.  I am the heavy-laden branches of autumn, too fat to sustain themselves another month; shedding their leaves and fruit like a snake sheds its skin.  I am the soft, decaying earth that feeds next year’s growth in winter.  I am all of these things, and I am everywhere.”

Now, Casey wasn’t as stupid as you might think.  She listened to the forest in rapture, but couldn’t help but notice a distinct theme of pessimism in the forest’s description of itself.  “But, forest, you speak only of the nasty things.  What about the chuckling of the brook and the glinting of sunlight off morning dew and the playful frolics of young rabbits through the undergrowth?”

“Hmph!  I am these things too.”  Said the forest, sulkily.  “But you soon tire of such things.  There are only so many times you can see a cute bunny rabbit flopping about, or so many hours you can spend listening to the incessant gurgling of a stream, with its population of trout and salmon popping up to wave their fins at you, or so many droplets of early morning dew you can gaze at before you grow utterly sick of it all.  Much better to stir up trouble when I can, introduce a few moulds of my own design to bring out interesting growth patterns in the trees; a gnarl here – some poison oak somewhere over there...”

“But that’s terrible!  If I lived in the forest, I would make sure to take pleasure in all the lovely things, and not encourage decay!”

“Oh really?  Ha! You wouldn’t last five minutes, city girl.  Run along to your stone home with your fake, fashioned lawn and leave the tending of the wild to the experts.”

“I wish I lived in the forest.  Then I would look after it better!” Cried Casey. 
Perhaps she wasn’t all that clever after all...

Peter never found his sister.  But since that day, all who visit the forest in the morning comment on how beautiful the dew is on the leaves and hanging on the webs.  And fishermen come from miles around to catch the trout and salmon in the chuckling stream, which seems to have an endless supply of fish (and chuckling).  And everywhere you go, look under a scrub or some brush and you’re almost guaranteed to see a rabbit.

Drawn on the way to Scotland, 31st March 2011

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