Forest Ghost



After resting for a while Jonathan stood up from where he was sitting against the old oak tree in the moonlit forest and started walking along the path again. He’d barely started walking when two ladies approached him from ahead. Jonathan was surprised, he had not been expecting to find people on the forest path at night.
‘Good evening,’ he greeted them, as a few clouds scurried across the moon and a soft wind blew through the trees, sounding mournful. On a cold night like this, he thought, ladies should not be walking alone in the forest.

‘Good evening,’ the girls greeted him.

‘Evening ladies, what are you doing in the forest at this time of night?’ asked Jonathan, feeling this would be a good way to start a conversation.

‘We’re looking for the ghost. We are staying at our aunt’s house, and it is said the forest path has a ghost, and we are looking for him.’

‘Two ladies out looking for a ghost in a forest!’ said Jonathan, surprised. ‘Well, rather you than me, I wouldn’t like to meet a ghost on a night like this!’ With this he stepped aside to let the ladies pass him.

‘Walk carefully,’ he cautioned.

‘You take care too, and beware the ghost!’ said the taller of the two girls, as they continued on their way.

The night was still long, and he wanted to be in town by the time the sun rose, so he could surprise his mother with warm bread from the baker. In the dark night Jonathan tripped over the root of a tree and stumbled forward. That was close or I would have fallen, he thought, and sat down against an old oak to rest.

After resting a while Jonathan stood up from where he was sitting against the old oak tree in the moonlit forest and started walking along the path again. He’d barely started walking when a man approached him, walking carefully in the moonlit night.

‘Good evening,’ said Jonathan, surprised to be meeting another person in the forest.

‘Ah, sir, so good to meet another traveller in this lonely old forest!’ said the man, looking at Jonathan. ‘And where would you be going?’ he asked.

Jonathan smiled at the man’s good nature. ‘I am on my way to town, for I would like to surprise my mother with warm bread from the baker,’ he said. ‘And where might you be going?’ he asked.

‘I am not going anywhere,’ said the man. ‘I am simply walking the forest looking for the old ghost!’

‘Old ghost? There have been others looking for a ghost tonight, two ladies!’ said Jonathan. ‘Can’t say that I would like to meet a ghost. What does this ghost look like?’ he asked.

‘Ah, that I do not know,’ said the man. ‘But it is said that when you meet with this ghost, the wind will sing most mournfully through the forest.’

‘Sir,’ said Jonathan, ‘I have been walking this forest all night, and the wind has been singing mournfully all night. It is what the wind does!’

The man looked around him, turning up the collar of his jacket against the cold wind, which was indeed blowing mournfully through the trees. ‘Ah, yes, now I can hear and feel the wind too, and what a cold wind it is. But I must bid you farewell, and not keep you from your quest to visit your mother.’

Jonathan stepped aside so the man could pass him. ‘Go well, I hope you find your ghost!’ he said, but the man merely glanced behind him as he passed Jonathan, and continued up the path.

In the dark night Jonathan tripped over the root of a tree and stumbled forward. That was close or I would have fallen, he thought, and sat down against an old oak to rest.

After resting a while Jonathan stood up from where he was sitting against the old oak tree in the moonlit forest and started walking along the path again. He’d barely started walking, now listening to the wind singing her mournful song in the trees, when yet another person came along the path. With the clouds passing in front of the moon, it took Jonathan a moment to notice that this man was a soldier, and he was as surprised to see Jonathan as Jonathan was to see him.

‘Good evening!’ Jonathan greeted him, not wanting to seem rude for staring at the man’s uniform so openly.

‘Good evening to you too, sir,’ the soldier greeted him. ‘Haven’t happened to see any ghosts around, have you?’ he asked.

‘Not one single ghost, but strangely there have been quite a few people looking for the ghost tonight,’ replied Jonathan. He stood straight up, thinking that a soldier would probably not like him to slouch. ‘But I wonder, could you tell me how I will know if I meet this ghost, what does it look like?’

‘That sir, I do not know. But I think he must be near, for the stories say that when the ghost is near, the wind will sing mournfully through the trees, and clouds will scurry across the moon!’

In the dark of the forest Jonathan and the soldier looked up at the moon, where silver clouds were indeed moving across the glowing lunar disk.

‘Sir, with all respect, the clouds have been passing the moon and the wind sir, has been blowing through the trees all evening. I can attest to that, for I have been watching the clouds, and listening to the wind all night.’

The soldier gave Jonathan a look that was most unsettling, as if he thought that maybe Jonathan was not being truthful. He is a soldier, and I must rather show respect, thought Jonathan, and stood aside that the man might pass him on the forest path.

‘Good evening to you sir,’ he said, and waited for the soldier to pass him.

‘Good evening to you too,’ said the soldier, but even in the moonlight Jonathan could see that he had a frown on his face when he said this. Jonathan watched the man continue up the path. When the man was a few feet away he turned to look at Jonathan, then turned around and hurried up the path. Jonathan turned back and continued down the path.

In the dark night Jonathan tripped over the root of a tree and stumbled forward. That was close or I would have fallen, he thought, and sat down against an old oak to rest.

After resting a while Jonathan stood up from where he was sitting against the old oak tree in the moonlit forest and started walking along the path again. He’d barely started walking when he met an old crone on the path, walking with the aid of a stick. He was immediately worried for her, for what should an old woman be doing in the forest on a night like this?

‘My dear lady,’ he said, and the concern he felt was in his voice. ‘What might you be doing in the forest, surely you should be at home, in front of a warm fire!’

‘Now, now, young man, old I might be, but feeble I am not. I live not far off, and soon I will be in front of my fire. But I am out ghost hunting, for tonight is a good night to see the Forest Ghost!’

‘It must be a good night for that,’ said Jonathan,’ for everybody is out and about looking for the ghost tonight. You say it is the Forest Ghost?’

‘Yes sir, the Forest Ghost he is called. I am an old lady, and soon I too will die and be nothing more than a spirit, so I thought maybe I should have a word with him, ask him how things are on the other side. You know, get a bit of information to make sure I am ready for it.’

This all sounded very strange to Jonathan, who had never really thought about the fact that he would pass away one day. Get ready for the afterlife? Well, the priests had always told him to, but he’d never taken their word that literally.

‘Can you tell me what he looks like, this Forest Ghost?’ asked Jonathan, thinking that he too might want to see this ghost that everybody was looking for.

‘That I cannot tell you, young man, for I do not know. But there are signs that you must look out for, such as it suddenly becoming very cold,’ said the old woman, and hiked her shawls around her as if she was suddenly freezing. ‘And you must listen to the wind, and watch for the clouds scurrying in front of the moon, for that is how you will know if the ghost is near!’

‘But it has been icy all night,’ said Jonathan, folding his arms tightly around him to keep the cold out.

‘Yes, it is getting very cold now,’ said the old lady. ‘Let me get to my cottage, that I might get in front of the fire. I bid you a pleasant evening sir, and beware should you meet the Forest Ghost!’

With this she made to start walking, and Jonathan stepped out of the path that she may pass him and go on her way.

What a strange night, he thought as he continued down the path.

In the dark night Jonathan tripped over the root of a tree and stumbled forward. That was close or I would have fallen, he thought, and sat down against an old oak to rest.

After resting a while Jonathan stood up from where he was sitting against the old oak tree in the moonlit forest and started walking along the path again. He’d barely started walking when a priest came along the path, and stood in front of him.

Now Jonathan was no longer surprised. The world was out ghost hunting all right, and if they kept on keeping him up he would never get to town on time to buy his mother warm fresh bread from the bakery. But he would have to make time to talk to the priest, for not to do so would be extremely rude.

‘Good evening, father,’ he said, bowing slightly.

‘Good evening, sir. I trust I find you well?’ said the priest.

‘Oh yes, very well. And you father, how are you?’

‘I too am doing well,’ said the priest, glancing up to where more clouds were moving across the face of the moon.

‘Out looking for a ghost, are you?’ said Jonathan before he could help himself, but it had been a long night and a lot of people were out looking for a ghost.

‘Yes, as a matter of fact I am,’ said the clergyman, cocking his head as if he was listening intently to the wind blowing through the trees.

‘Listening to the wind and checking the clouds, I see, Father,’ said Jonathan, hoping he wasn’t sounding too impertinent.

‘Yes, yes that kind of thing,’ said the priest, now scratching his chin and looking at Jonathan carefully. ‘And I do believe I have found the Forest Ghost!’

Surprised, Jonathan looked around to see where the ghost was, but could see nothing around him.

‘Where sir? I see no ghost!’

‘You don’t see him sir, because you look around you. To see the ghost, you must not look around yourself, but at yourself!’

‘Nonsense!’ said Jonathan, feeling exasperated with the man’s words, but looking at himself nonetheless.

The priest waved a hand through the air around him. ‘Feel how cold it is? See how the clouds scurry across the face of the moon, hear how mournfully the wind blow through the trees? I bet you’ve been hearing that all night!’

At this Jonathan stopped and thought carefully. Yes, he had been seeing the signs all night. But that was nonsense, they were not signs, it was only things that a person could expect to see along the path in the forest.

‘Is your name Jonathan?’ the priest asked, and now his voice was kindly.

‘Yes, Father, that is my name, but how did you know?’

‘Jonathan, one hundred years ago, a young man was walking along this very path when he stumbled over a tree root that grew over the path. His body was found the next morning, and legend has it that his ghost has been haunting the forest path since then. This young man’s name was Jonathan, and I do believe that is you!’

‘But, but that cannot be!’ said Jonathan. ‘I would have known if I was dead!’

‘Would you?’ asked the priest, giving him another careful look. ‘Jonathan, the legend says that the ghost will only leave this forest once he knows that he is dead, then another will take his place. Now, I do not know who will become the ghost after you, but I implore you, turn around and go the other way, for the way that you are walking goes nowhere. Turn around, go to the next life, and leave this forest in peace!’

‘And if I don’t, what will you do?’ asked Jonathan.

‘There is nothing I can do, but if you do turn around and walk the other way, you will soon know if I speak the truth or not, for you will stop walking this path, and you will go on to the next life.’

Jonathan was about to refuse the priest when a thought occurred to him. He had indeed fallen over a tree root tonight! And again, and again he could remember falling over the tree root. Suddenly, the truth was clear to him. All those people, all of them walking along the path, looking for me, Jonathan!

‘I am dead, I’m a ghost!’ he said in a weak voice. Fear gripped him. He had to get out of here, had to get out of the forest. Without saying another word he turned from the priest and fled, fled back the way he had come, fled out of the forest.

*

On the forest path, the priest chuckled to himself. He had heard so many stories of the Forest Ghost, and now he had sent the ghost off to where the dead belonged. Now, this path would be haunted no more, for there would be no ghost to take poor old Jonathan’s place. Still, it was strange how the clouds scurried across the moon and the wind howled through the trees. The priest pulled his jacket tighter around him to keep the chill off, and continued on his way.



In the dark night the priest tripped over the root of a tree and stumbled forward. That was close or I would have fallen, he thought, and sat down against an old oak to rest.

After resting a while the priest stood up from where he was sitting against the old oak tree in the moonlit forest and started walking along the forest path again...