Man of GreenK.M.J. Brann / Horror
Man Of Green.
By Kye Brann.
Copyright 2014 Kye Brann.
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I can still remember it. As the years pile on, it’s my younger years that come easier to me. Those wonderful summer months of my childhood are my favourite, all but one.
Each day I waited for my Father to come home from work. I’d wait by the stream that followed the road. I’d see him coming round the corner and he’d say “There’s my girl,” and I would be held in his strong arms.
My Father smelt of coal and sweat and whisky, but he was a kind soul with a large body in which to house it. We’d meet roughly a mile down the road from our home and we’d walk back together, hand in hand. He used to walk home to sober up from the drinking after work; the stress of running the colliery was hard on him. The man had always kept his word about not drinking at home after he had once struck my Mother. At the time I didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation and I am thankful that they were able to move past it. They both lived together happily until their deaths in the early Twenties.
My Grandpa on my Mother's side had built the colliery long before I was born. My Dad owned it now but he still had a miner's blood. The mine had been good to us and we were without much want. It was three miles north of our house, through the forest.
Ah yes, that forest. What a magical place. I could have spent forever exploring its ancient trees and playing in its streams. My Grandma had many stories about those woods; stories about fairy folk, which were my favourite; tales of gnomes and imps that trick children and adults alike with their riddles; but there was always one that scared us both. She had only told me it once when I was seven, but it was perhaps the one that stuck with me the most. The rhyme escapes me now, except for the first verse:
“He is rarely heard,
And rarely seen.
But always beware,
The man of green.”
It was never the rhyme that scared me. It was the story that she told with it. She told me when my parents had gone away for the weekend. I was cuddled up in bed under my pink sheets, and she was sitting by the open window looking over the forest. She kept her gaze fixed on one location as if she could see something in those trees and she told the story unlike the others, which were filled with all the wonderful enthusiasm that someone has when telling a story to a child. Instead there was darkness in her voice, as if it pained her to tell it.
With her brother, she had once gone deep into the forest. They had reached a part that they had never been before. It was beautiful, she had said. A small stream cut a path between two oaks, sunlight shining between their branches. Sitting on a branch over the water, was a man with eyes of deepest green. The three of them talked for a while. She said that the man seemed to know them well. That his words were like honey, and that these words had made them forget time.
It was morning when they had entered the forest, but now Grandma had noticed that twilight was approaching. She had begun to collect herself and as she stood she saw something in the water. She saw it for only a second but it had scared her deeply. She ran through the trees, screaming the whole way home. She had never told me what it was she saw.
A few months after hearing the story, I asked my Mother if it was true. In a disinterested way, she responded, “Not in the slightest. She was always an only child. Her mum had once told me that one day she came running out of the forest, crying about a brother she never had.”
She had pointed to a family picture of my Grandma as a child and she was right. Only a man, a woman, and one ten year old girl stood in that photograph. My Mother had left it at that and she must have scolded my Grandma as I never heard that story again. And as the years rolled by, I forgot most of her tale.
That photograph, however, always gave me an awful feeling that something wasn’t right. Maybe it was the way they were standing? Or how the girl seemed to be holding a hand that wasn’t there? I don’t know, but I always tried to look at it as little as possible..
I am writing this not for any kind of memoir of my life, nor am I pining for my younger days. No, I'm writing this because a package arrived for me today. Besides, anyone who reads this after I'm gone will probably dismiss it as the senile ramblings of some old woman.
A woman who has grown up with a fear of the wooded places of the world, one who favours the streets of London where I now reside. My Mother had always tried to convince me that my encounter in the forest was made up. That what happened in that forest all those years ago was, in fact, just a dream that I had clung to.
It was that package, the one that smelt of dirt and of trees that would finally prove them wrong.
It happened the day after my tenth birthday. My parents had given me the old nursery book my grandma had gotten her stories from. My grandma had passed a few months before and so my parents couldn't have given me a better present. All the stories she used to tell me were in there, except for a few pages that had been torn out.
It was a thick book, old as well. With the thick musty smell that clung to those older books. It had a few illustrations in it, one for each story. They were beautiful hand drawn things. In younger days, they had fuelled my imagination as I played in the trees.
And so on that day, book in hand, I left my house. I left earlier than usual, leaving my mother to her housework. The day was sunny and warm, perfect in every way. A gentle breeze brought with it the smell of the forest, calling me.
An hours walk and I had reached my usual reading spot. Nestled in against a grand tree, I had a clear view down the hill. The road that my father would travel along weaved its way through the valley until it disappeared around a hillock. I opened my book to a story about a lighthouse and began my wait.
I awoke to silence. No birdsong, no wind through the trees, just complete and utter silence. But there was something. It was faint, barely audible. A ringing? Bells I thought. The sound grew as if it knew I was listening. It was beckoning me. Definitely bells now. I shut my book and stood up and tried to discern where the sound was coming from. It sounded like it was coming from within the forest. There was something captivating about it. I needed to know where it was coming from.
My journey through the forest led me deeper than I ever gone before. I had passed the stream my Mother always told me never to cross, jumping over the rocks. I still held the book protectively in my arms.
The forest was beautiful. The sun broke through the canopy of the trees, lighting up my way. It wasn't until I looked back that I realised the silence continued, broken only by the gentle ringing from the bells. The air was still and neither animal nor insect invaded my journey. It was as if the forest had stopped time just for me.
I'm not sure how long it took but after a while I became aware of a new sound, that of running water. It was soft and gentle, working with the bells to bring me forward.
I pushed through the underbrush and before me lay a scene of true beauty. One that could not have been created outside of nature. A break in the trees bathed the area with light.
A gentle stream wove its way through the clearing. In the centre, an ancient willow hunched over the stream, its vines lightly touching the water. I approached the willow, the bells ringing louder with each step. And here they were. Hung throughout the branches were tiny bells. Each one delicately designed.
There was an opening in the leaves. The bells were a strange sight to see this far in the forest but here was a mirror. The bark of the willow had begun to envelop the mirror, yet it remained unscathed by time. It clearly reflected me poking through the leaves, my blue dress dusty at the hem.
Who had put it here and why and this far into the woods?
I moved into the willows embrace. My nose was treated to smells of fruit and earth. The air was cooler here, shaded from the sun. I felt an urge to remove my shoes, to feel the earth beneath my feet, to be a part of nature. The ground was soft beneath my bare skin, when I did. I could feel warmth beating through the earth.
My eyes were fixated on the mirror. I approached it, reaching out with my hand, the book held tightly against me in the other. The ground felt like velvet under each step. The song of the bells rose, no longer using my ears, passing straight to my brain.
Come in, they sang.
They wanted me to touch the mirror. I was close now. The mirror itself seemed to reach out to me.
“I wouldn't do that, my love,” a voice called out to me. It broke the spell, my attention drawn away from the mirror. The voice was deep and soft. It flowed through the air like honey, caressing my ears.
“W-who's there?” I called out, my own voice barely a whisper. I looked back through the leaves. The bells had stopped their ringing. Silence returned, or so I initially thought. There was a