8 Jun

The old forest was dark and spooky and Miriam shivered as she made her way down a path that almost wasn’t there. She came this way at least once a month, visiting a maiden aunt to keep her company, and this time she felt as if there might be eyes on her, dark brooding eyes, maybe, hidden eyes.

And suddenly, when he heart was beating extra fast out of apprehension bordering on fear a voice cracked out from nowhere. At least, she thought it was from nowhere, though common sense rapidly assured her that it must have been somewhere.

“I don’t know where I’m going,” it flashed like lightning turned into sound.

She stopped dead. Of course she did: she could barely see her way through the gloom and anyway the sound of her own feet snapping twigs or slurping through gloopy mud puddles left by rain a couple of days earlier drowned out any audible clues there might be.

In the sudden silence she thought she could hear breathing. Ragged breathing, as of a creature struggling for air or a man old beyond life. And there was the suggestion of a smell … burnt matches, was it, or something worse?

“Where am I going?” asked the voice a second time.

“Who are you?” ventured Miriam.

That question seemed to confuse the voice because it gurgled almost silently and remained soundless for what seemed ages.

“I am a refugee,” it said at length. “I have come from the darkness deep, deep down.”

Miriam was at a loss. She’d never heard of a place named the darkness and she thought she knew of just about everywhere for miles around.

“Where is Darkness?” she asked tentatively, and followed it up with a friendly “I thought I knew everywhere near here.”

There was silence again.

This time a longer silence and Miriam was just beginning to think her vivid imagination might have been playing tricks on her when the voice replied.

“I just told you. Darkness,” it said, “is deep down.”

As far as Miriam was aware there was nothing deep down. This was the old forest, for goodness’ sake, and the only things that crawled far into the earth so you could call it deep down were the roots of ancient trees! There weren’t even any rabbit burrows or fox holes: she knew that because she’d looked for some once, when she’d been younger and more inquisitive and had time on her hands.

“I don’t know of deep down,” she replied, trying to sound positive.

The answer was almost instantaneous this time. “That doesn’t matter because I do,” it cracked out. “What I want to know is where I’m going.”

“You’re going into town,” assured Miriam. “This path leads into town where there are shops and churches and a place to dream.”

“Is that where you’re going?” it asked.

“That I am,” she said.

“Then I’m not going to town because I’m going the other way,” almost wept the voice.

“What other way?” asked Miriam, frowning.

“To the way you were walking before you stopped,” explained the voice. “You were going that-away, towards the bright new moon, and I’m going the reverse way, towards a pall of darkness, where I suppose I belong.”

“Then it would seem,” said Miriam slowly, “that you know exactly where you’re going and so you’re perfectly all right.”

“I suppose you’re correct,” murmured the voice, and it sounded suddenly sad. “Maybe all I really wanted to do was talk to a pretty lady like you. Maybe I’m just a lonely old fellow and the world’s such a savage place for folks like me, hated and abused for so long, even deep down. Perhaps I should never have left my deep down hovel with its cheery fires and cracking whips, below the tree roots and the tangled webs of giant spiders that haunt the tunnels of my world.”

“Who are you?” asked Miriam, shocked at the length of misery the voice had put into her ears.

“I’m a shadow,” it whispered. “A dark shadow from the deep places where pretty ladies never go.”

“Then maybe you should go back home,” decided Miriam, “Maybe you and the deep places you seem so fond of belong together. And, for your information, I’m almost late, spending all this time talking to you when I should be walking along here to visit my aunt for tea and crumpets.”

“You’re not very kind,” moaned the voice, shaking with emotion. “I wouldn’t mind tea and crumpets myself. But I wouldn’t be able to eat the crumpets or drink the tea because, as you can see, I’m not very alive.”

Then there was the sound of twigs snapping and mud slurping and a figure slowly detached itself from the shadows and stood before her.

“Goodness gracious me!” she explained, “Surely I recognise you! You’re Adolf Hitler, long dead and never mourned, the summation of all that’s evil… And you say you’re from the deep places… goodness gracious me!”

“I know,” the figure almost wept, mucous running down its nose and matting in its little moustache, “I’m from the deepest darkest most scary depths of Hell itself where sulphur is the only breath I take and Satan is my boss, and I’ve come to offer advice to my followers … tell me, madam, where might I find a man called Farage? You see, I don’t know where I’m going….”

© Peter Rogerson 04.06.17


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