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A Walk in the woods

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 06 September 2018
Word Count: 907
Summary: For FF comp 685

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A walk in the woods
I am happy, I suppose, or perhaps ‘content’ is the better word.  I have a comfortable home and an affluent enough lifestyle, but something is missing, and I know very well what it is.  It is the sense of ‘belonging’.   Although it is Marcus who died, sometimes I feel that I am the ghost.   Swimming through life, going through the motions but all the time existing on the perimeter of life.  I have no sense of purpose.  I subsist from day to day, my only goal the dark abyss called death.  I do not believe in the afterlife, and so my prospects are barren.
                All the above was the truth as I saw it yesterday, but today, something has happened that I can’t explain.  Nor do I want to, for that would destroy the kindling of hope that has awakened a spark of life in me.
This morning I took my dog Casper for a walk in the woods.  Our routine doesn’t vary, a fact that Caspar doesn’t seem to mind.  Morning and evening we walk down the road leading to the copse I call a wood, although I’ve heard others call it a ‘forest’ - always, my lips twitch into a smile at the thought.   It is late autumn and for the last few weeks the weather has been foul, raining incessantly day after day, sometimes so heavily a grey sheet covers the windowpane.  Today was no exception and when I reached the wood rain was streaming off my waterproof.  Splashing through the mud, Casper bounded ahead while I followed more slowly, for fear of slipping.  The weather had silenced the birds and all I heard was the drip of raindrops falling from sodden leaves and the squelch of saturated earth.   The usual dog walkers were not around which didn’t surprise me.  Given the choice, I would be at home, warm and dry while the elements did their worst, but I don’t have a garden, so I had no choice.  Except one, I could cut the walk short.  This, I decided to do and called for Casper who had disappeared.  I called again but no dog.  I think I must explain at this point, that Caspar is an obedient dog, or rather he is a dog who realises that a reward follows obedience, so I was surprised, but not alarmed.  He’d probably caught the smell of fox, so I continued my usual route, all the while looking around for him.   As I did, I noticed the absence of colour, the hawthorn berries, normally bright, were dulled by a film of mildew as were the hips of the wild rose while the lazy fronds of Queen Anne’s Lace had collapsed and were lying bedraggled in the mud.  All this affected my spirits, so much so that when I reached the wood’s boundary and emerged into an area of parkland, I was glad to be free of its oppressive atmosphere.
At almost the same time as I emerged, another figure appeared from a track on the opposite side.   It seemed another walker had braved the rain.  I looked for the dog for it would be odd, not to say ominous, for anyone to be out without a pet in these conditions.  Sure enough, I saw the tip of a tail whisking thigh high just above the grass, and relaxed.  But not for long.   They drew nearer and as my eyesight focussed, I stopped abruptly, shocked.  The tail was Casper’s.  Then, following on, as quick as a lightning strike, came another shock.  The walker was Marcus.  I was immediately sure of it.  I recognised his odd, shuffling gait, the stigmata of his disease.  I recognised his ancient green anorak that he insisted on wearing although it was both tattered and torn.  I recognised so many things that had been burned into my psyche through the years.  Yet, it couldn’t be!  I must be dreaming.  I pushed back my hood, lifted my head and felt the rain cold upon my face.  I pulled at my hair and ground my nails into my hands, feeling the pain of consciousness.  Then I looked again and nothing had changed.  Marcus was stumbling towards me with a delighted Casper frisking about his heels.  As I stared he looked up, our eyes met and a thrill ran through me.  His eyes, which towards the end had been dull and listless, were bright and alive.  The eyes of a young man in an old man’s face.  His eyes as they had been when we’d first met.  He smiled, then turned and disappeared into the wood.  My heart beating a tattoo in my throat, I ran to where I’d last seen him.  As I pushed my way through the bushes, I came across a cottage.  A cottage, with roses round the door.  Our cottage!  The one we’d first lived in.  As I stared, Marcus appeared at a window and beckoned.  But, for some reason, I hesitated and as I did a look of disappointment clouded his face and his image slowly faded and that of our cottage also.
I lick my lips, they feel cold and dry and taste of winter.   I regret many things in my life, but that moment of hesitation…...   Except, I can’t deny that feeling of hope and tomorrow, and the next day and the next, I will return and who knows, I may find him again.

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Comments by other Members

euclid at 14:31 on 06 September 2018  Report this post
Very atmospheric.

I think I'd like an experience like that, but then I'm not so sure.
You might add a sentence to describe Caspar's reaction at the end.
I assume he hadn't followed Marcus to the cottage / afterlife.

Great flash piece.


michwo at 21:29 on 07 September 2018  Report this post
I think you're writing about something very personal here.
Do you really have a dog called Caspar and did you have a husband called Marcus?
Perhaps you've changed the names, but I get the impression that you're drawing on your own experience here.
I nver really do that, I must admit.
P.S. Five chapters still to translate in my 'historical novel'.  I normally do ringbound copies when I've actually completed a work like this.  Assuming I manage to stick with it, can I send you a copy through the post?  I'd like to.

Cliff Hanger at 10:34 on 09 September 2018  Report this post
The great thing about this piece is that it displays real raw emotions but never becomes maudlin and it is very optimistic and uplifting. I really like the idea of not wanting the happenstance to be explainable. There are some fabulous lines that drew a sharp intake of breath from me

Although it was Marcus who died, sometimes I feel that I am the ghost

Anyone who has experience grief or personal emotional hardship will really get that but I love this counterpoint

The kindling of hope that has awakened a spark of life in me

Great use of detail to paint a vivid external and internal picture throughout.

This is a story of experience and wisdom told with integrity.

Thank you for sharing it.


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