29th July

The Old Man in the Forest

The old man in the forest heard the door close. He recognised it at once. The sound came from far away, yet it was as clear and unmistakable to him as if he had been standing next to the door. Despite its softness, it was a sound of firmness and finality. Somebody had gone through to the other side, and they would not be back. Or at least, if they came again, they would remember nothing of the journey.

He heard the quietest sounds: a bird shaking its feathers in a tree, a burn trickling over pebbles, a deer stepping on dried leaves. Sometimes, he realised, he heard only the quiet sounds, tuning out aeroplanes, traffic, the clatter of machines, the roar of crowds in streets and arenas, the conversations of millions of people. Birds, water, wild creatures – he would hear these things long after everything else had fallen silent.

And the sound of the door closing in the wall: he would always hear that.

It was a low, wooden, blue door with no handle or latch. It made no sound when opened, only when closed.

He was the only one ever to walk back through the forest. Sometimes he met people coming the other way. Sometimes there was no one to meet.

He could not remember what lay on the far side of the forest. He knew only that it was there, a beginning or an end to the trees. He thought it probable that when he arrived he would turn and walk back. He would walk along the broad red road until he reached the wall, and then he would go to the west or to the east, it did not matter which, and he would come to the door.

If he had ever gone through the door, if he had ever knocked or pushed at it, he did not remember. If this had ever troubled him, it no longer did.

He saw two figures coming towards him, a long way off. They would be tired, hungry and perhaps anxious. He did not want to alarm them. He stepped into the trees and waited till they had gone past.

He was not afraid.

Reader: Jennifer Hartland
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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