|There’s a silence in the forest and it’s stale like the ashy burn mark on Alistair’s leg. We, Alistair’s people, follow him through that eeriness while he retraces the steps of his childhood expeditions. He’s retracing them wrong. He didn’t go this way through the forest, he always went down the old rabbit’s path now worn away, the one he’s going down now is new, recent, but he thinks it’s the old one anyway. It doesn’t matter, really, he’s still feeling that strawberry-rain gut nostalgic feeling, which is the point, the whole point of why he’s back here. And now he’s stopped to look down at a puddle, to try and see his reflection in the water, so he can feel really old and fulfilled and whatever. And now he looks back the way he came, because the silence really is eerie and stale, and it’s starting to get to him. It’s starting to get to us, too. He moves his shoes around in the damp earth and wishes for someone to call him out of his reverie. We wish too. He touches his lazy eye to feel where it’s looking and whispers something to us. I don’t want to go back, he’s saying, but I don’t want to stay here. And we tell him, most of us, the clever ones of us, Yes, we know, but you’re being stupid now. Just act. And so he goes back to the car, outside of the forest where it’s parked and Ellie-Lillian is leaned against the blue bonnet of it, smoking a cigarette in the now gently drizzling weather and her waterproof blue raincoat.
- Thanks, he tells her, I, um, yeah. It was good.
She nods, and looks away and ditches the cigarette.
- Yeah, she says.
Above them the clouds move forward with hidden luminosity and crumble into a sea of moving, sealing fog. It’s a living blanket that looks like a scattering of human remains across the forever grey. Alistair gets in the car, in the back seat and Ellie-Lillian settles in the front. She moves her tongue around the inside of her lips and we chat to her people, who move about her making much the same motions. Then she revs up the car and we are quiet, waiting for her to say what her people have already told us she will say. They tell us her mood.
- What you in the back for? Get up here.
And she starts the car slowly moving forward so that our Alistair has to be careful while he climbs into the seat next to her.
- Jesus, she says, You look like a ghost.
Before Alistair replies (and he’s going to say something like, yeah, I always look like a ghost) Alistair nods and makes a sort of mhm sound which is sort of like an amused appreciative nod to Ellie-Lillian’s comment and the way it made him feel.
- Yeah. I always look like a ghost.
She hits him and says:
- That’s because you need to get out more.
And she drives the car with him and us and all of us inside down the hills while above the tumbling tide grows steeper and ever more close.