I used to think other people didn’t see us. But then, darkness would fall and it would be time for Will to go home again, and I would remember. They just didn’t see me. Only that’s not exactly fair, is it? Children sometimes saw me, particularly small ones. And they would scream like there was no tomorrow and their mothers wouldn’t know what the matter was, but I did. Old folk sometimes saw me, too.
See, I think in a way, those closest to me could see me the easiest. I don’t know what this place is and I don’t think it’s Heaven. Or Hell. But I don’t honestly think there’s more to it, either, even though I’d like to.
At first, in the first days of my… confinement, I thought this is some sort of punishment. That my soul was trapped and something had to happen for me to ascend, to move forward. But then, when I met the others, I realized there’s no forward to ascend to. This is all there is, there’s no absolution, no eternal salvation. Just cold and darkness, wandering alone through this stale world forever.
There are others, of course. I’m not the only one who died in this park. And I remember thinking about all those boys who died in wars, on those same fields. Those places must be awfully crowded by now, I’d imagine. But through all the people and all the years and all the noise, you’re just alone. And you know you’re alone, because there’s no footsteps to be heard. All the people who haunt this world do so silently.
Dogs. Dogs can sometimes see me, too, though I never understood why. Maybe it has to do with some heightened sense or something like that.
And finally, Will. Will could see me from the first moment and I remember I looked at him and for many minutes, I thought he was looking through me. He must’ve been, he was too young and too healthy to be anywhere near this cold, dead world of mine. But then he stood up and came, through the bushes, and sat beside me.
It was easy to make up stories, at first. I let him talk and then I made up this perfectly plausible life for myself that would, in no way, ever bump into his. I told him I went to a different school and what subjects I liked and didn’t like. I told him about my family, about my father and my brothers and he believed me.
The first time I thought the earth beneath me would give way, that he would discover my lie and run away in disgust was when he asked me what my favorite song was.
And for those first few seconds, I couldn’t think of anything to say. All the songs I’d known hadn’t been popular for a hundred years, at least. But then, I remembered. Not two weeks before, I’d been walking through the grass in the early morning and I’d heard it.
A girl, slender and not much older than I had been then, was dancing on the little hill above. All alone. And she was so graceful, so utterly perfect, like someone meant her to be there for the sole purpose of being so beautiful.
I hummed the song for Will and he laughed, said I was quirky.
But nothing lasts forever, does it? And things eventually go bad, as they must. We’d known each other for some two months before he realized something was wrong with me. I thought I was doing a pretty good job, but looking back, I must’ve been rather evasive. And when he asked me if we could go to a coffee house instead because it was starting to get cold inside our forest, I just shook my head.
How could I tell him I would never leave this forest? That whenever I tried to step outside the park, it was as if an iron chain pulled me right back inside?
I don’t know, but in the end, I told him everything. I didn’t think he’d come to meet me in the park much longer, not with the way things were going. And I did really want him to keep coming, because he was warm and if he stopped coming, I’d be left all alone again. So, I told him. I started with my house above my father’s shop and I told him about Russell and about the man with one eye. And about the darkness inside the water.
And he sat on our bench, shivering slightly, and listened to everything. And then, he ran. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t look at me, and I thought that was it. That I’d gone and ruined it.
But the next day, he came back to the park again and all through winter and all through summer. Every day, he came back to me, to find me. And each day, I would wait for him.
I would look for him at the park gates. Or I would climb atop the tallest hill and look for him. Or I would sit on our bench, surrounded by our own secret forest and I would look for him. Until all I could see before my eyes was his face.
I used to walk through the forest and notice the hearts carved into my beloved trees by children. Teenagers in love, just like my William. Yet, so unlike him. There was nothing normal about my William, nothing like the other people who walked through my park. Still, I would look at their little hollow hearts and wonder where the sense was? They could scream it and write it on every wall, but the only thing that mattered was that the other heard. If they didn’t, then it was all pointless.
And so it was that in my walks, I slowly became convinced that Will couldn’t hear me properly anymore. Because before, he’d never missed a single day. In over two years, not one day when he didn’t come to the park to see me. But that day broke everything, because even though he tried to act as if everything was normal, I knew it was not.
He’d stopped hearing me and I could feel him slipping away, in the way he stared at the grass sometimes, in the way he said nothing on purpose so that I would grow uncomfortable and he would have a reason to leave me sooner.
When he finally came out and said it out loud, I’d been ready for it for days. The sentence that would, in three weeks, break us apart forever.
‘My dad died.’
I didn’t need to ask. Suddenly, I knew why he’d missed a day and why he risked missing many more.
‘I’m so sorry.’
But Mr. Crane’s untimely death was just the beginning. He told me how heartbroken his mother was, even though for as long as she’d been alive, she hadn’t loved Mr. Crane for one single minute. And he told me how she would be moving, back to some indistinct city she’d come from twenty years ago, on a young Mr. Crane’s arm, to start a new life and a new family.
But the family she’d started here was now shattered, so she was going back to her old one. And of course, she expected her son to go with her.
‘You can’t. How could you go?’
‘How could I stay?’
‘Well, you’re almost eighteen.’
‘Almost, though not quite. Besides...’
He let his words trail off, but he didn’t need to say it for me to know what he’d meant. Besides, he didn’t have any reason to stay here. After all, what was he going to tell Mrs. Crane when she demanded to know why her son wasn’t going back with her? That he needed to stay here, not for school and not for his lousy boxing job? But because of a girl who’d died in a park more than a hundred years ago?
And I saw, as I looked into his eyes that afternoon, that he would never tell Mrs. Crane that.
To Be Continued
Cheers for reading,
To Be Continued
Cheers for reading,