A Story by Peter Rogerson

An old woman with memories...


Agnes remembered the road, all right, though road was giving the track she was on too much of a sophisticated polish. Bent of back, now, she pushed a wheeled walker in front of her and glanced around her. She’d been here once before, a long time ago, so long she might have been forgiven for just about forgetting it. But a tendril of memory, a gossamer thread, still remained practically intact despite the undoubted fact that a great deal of stuff had melted away over the decades.

But she’d been down here before.

He had taken her.

I know a road,” he had said, “that leads to a magical place.”

There’s no such thing as magic,” she had replied, “no such thing at all!”

She knew that as a fact. Daddy had told her when he had wanted her to believe in what was real rather than what was absurd, like religion. Daddy had been most forceful.

She had always hung on to every word daddy said. He was so wise. In a long life she’d not met anyone wiser.

Well, I think there is,” he had said, slightly miffed by her reaction. “There’s more to the world than what we can see and touch, that’s for sure.”

He had been Walter. For a while he had been her boyfriend and he’d even showed her his willy when nobody was looking, which made him a very, very special boyfriend. Yes, they had been close even if he did think there was such a thing as a magical place.

They both had plenty of time on their hands. They’d left school for all time a week ago and neither of them was starting on the road to their future just yet. He was going to University starting in September and she had a typing job in an office, starting too soon.

That’s the way things had been back then. Boys went into shining futures if they were clever enough and girls had to do things like typing and having babies.

But she had let him take her to his magical place, though she had no idea what could possibly make any place at all supernatural. It annoyed her, that he should be so simple minded and believe such a thing, and he going to University too.

The lane (she guessed it had been a grassy lane back then because that’s how she half-remembered it, but now it was a muddy track churned up by tractor wheels) certainly did have a lonely, rural ambience to it, even now all those years later. And on one side, to the left, there was a stretch of woodland. She didn’t know much about woodland but to her this looked pretty old, as though it had been there for longer than she’d lived. Each tree had about it a solid magnificence and she could almost have fancied that every one of those magnificent giants was, under the cover of night, worshipped by an entourage of forest creatures. Fanciful and stupid, of course, and exactly what Walter would have thought.

She shook her head because she heard his voice speaking in her memories, a lovely boyish voice, well-modulated and cultured, just like it had been back then.

See these trees, he had said, I guess they saw the earliest people as they came to this land and explored it for the first time. They must be that old and it’s hard to imagine they could live that long without accumulating natural wisdom…

She had listened to him and knew he spoke nonsense. Trees can’t have wisdom in their fibres, can they? They’re just wood except where they’re hollow, and then they’re nothing but fresh air. They don’t think. It’s silly to suggest they might. Walter must know that, so why was he being stupid?

That’s nonsense,” she had said, and she whispered that same two words again as she walked slowly along, pushing her walker over ruts as she went, wondering why she was going to all this trouble for the sake of a rotten old memory.

No, it isn’t, he replied earnestly, I know that it’s true! The soil they grow in, what do you think it’s made of? And when she didn’t reply straight away he continued, it’s made of time, Agnes! It’s made of all the things that have wandered this way, creatures of the wild, rodents and foxes and bushy-tailed squirrels, and it’s made of death, their death, fallen leaves, probably even soldiers who fell just here in some ancient battle, blood-stained and broken… that’s kind of magical, don’t you think?

No it wasn’t!

Was it?

Oh, she knew the cycles of life that kept trees growing and plants blooming, but it wasn’t magic, was it?

And she had told him again that he was talking rubbish. It was just a daft old patch of woodland, and not so big at that these days … those days. And he had said you’ve got no imagination, Agnes, and imagination’s so important…

And she had said,

Kiss me instead of talking silly,”

Now, decades later, the words came back to her with so much power that she found herself echoing them under her breath…

Kiss me instead of talking silly,”

And he had looked at her, him sixteen years young and she sixteen years old, and said, no, not now, not until you see what I see and love what I love…

Silly boy, she thought in the here and now. How immature! She so hated boys who were immature back then, and she still did.

That’s why she’d never got married.

She might have married Walter if they’d not been split up by the nonsense of that day.

She’d spent a life-time forgetting it.

There are some things a person who’s lived for so many years has to forget, she mused, things that shouldn’t have happened… but did…

Like today. This today in the here and now and the same today half a century or more ago.

Walter had got on her nerves.

Quite deliberately he’d said I know it’s magical because that’s how I see it. You should, Agnes, open your eyes, smell the air, the rusty leaves underfoot, listen to the songs of the wild, the loud call of birds and underneath it like a supernatural echo, if you try to imagine it, the almost silent sigh of spiders and butterflies…

She’d heard quite enough! The boy was nuts after all!.

She rested on her walker and knew she had to sit down. Her blasted back was aching like it hadn’t ached for ages, but then she hadn’t subjected it to so much exercise for many a long day.

There was a kind of mound near an oak tree, and she sat on it, her old bones creaking as she quietly lowered herself.

I almost recognise this tree, she mused, it might have been here when Walter and I came this way. It looks old enough.

Then a dread voice from an age ago forced its way from the vaults of her mind where she stored stuff best forgotten.

What are you doing, Agnes? Why are you doing that? Why…

And silence. She had liked Walter but he had got inside her with his talk of a forest place being magical when daddy said there was no such thing. He had needed putting in his place, and then he’d be all right.

You’re daft, Walter,” she had told him firmly, “thinking that trees can think, believing in places being part of a world of magic when they’re just places...”

It might not make much sense to you yet, but it might one day,” were the last words he had said to her, because, and she put it down to the pressures of starting a new job next week, she picked up a fallen bough and, almost carelessly, she battered it against his head. She could still see through her memory’s eye the shocked expression on his face as he had stared at her own twisted anger as the light of life left his eyes.

Stupid boy,” she had grumbled.

Tears formed in her eyes today and trickled down her face. Yes, she had hurt him. No, not hurt, shocking as it was, she had killed him. The silly boy who believed in magic! The silly boy who told stupid lies to her

She had piled debris on his body, a huge pile after an hour’s toil, leaf litter, rotting wood, fallen branches, until every suggestion that a Walter had been anywhere near was obliterated.

I was so stupid back then,” she sighed, and stood up again. How she hated this place! How its shadow had haunted her entire life since Walter and his magic had wrecked it with his foolish talk.

Slowly, she pushed her walker away, back down the path, going home before memories drove her mad.

Which they might have done had she noticed the weathered bony sockets of Walter’s eyes as they followed her from their resting place under the mound where she’d been sitting mere moments ago, easing her aching back.

© Peter Rogerson 26.01.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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I enjoyed this very much. The old person revisiting a place of the past is something I do these days, too, so it was easy to relate. I admit the Poe-esque twist was not expected, but made for a delightful ending. Add poor Walter's name to the endless list of those done in by romance.

Posted 11 Months Ago

Peter Rogerson

11 Months Ago

Thanks for the review Samuel. The twist at the end only came to me when I was halfway through.

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Added on January 26, 2018
Last Updated on January 26, 2018
Tags: memories, woodland, magic, argument, belief, religion, earthen mound


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 75 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..