Do you believe in ghosts?
Do you believe in coincidence?
Do you believe history repeats itself?

Struggling to fit in after fleeing his native country, Divij sees these ghostly figures wandering in the forest. The next morning he dismisses it all as a dream until it repeats the following night.

Why do people avoid the woods at night?

Based on characters created by Mercury Chap


3. Rambling On


Funny how you think that life will never change, that the routines you have each day will stay the same for the rest of your life. The world is fluid, flowing like mercury from one place to another. Shifting like sands in the desert. You think it will stay the same, like the tides in the sea, never faltering. Twelve months ago, I never could have believed how different my life would be. Never thought that those carefree days would come to an end, that I would miss the hustle and bustle of New Delhi.

The years I cursed about the traffic, the heat and the humidity. Three months away and I was getting as nostalgic as my Nanna for her village in the mountains. Right now, laid in this tent listening to some demented sheep in the next field, I missed the car horns, the shouting and the heat. I snuggled down as far as I could in the sleeping bag. It was cold. To me it was like the middle of winter, but Ralph and Inga, our leaders, had told us it was warm for the time of year. Going from morning temperatures of twenty degrees to the positively freezing ten degrees that it was here was something I was sure was never going to get used to in a million years. Ever since we’d moved to this frozen isle, my feet were cold. I was used to wearing no socks and sandals, but here I wore socks, even for bed. It’s the little things you miss.

Raul murmured beside me. I pulled the bag over my head to try and get a last few minutes slumber before the day began. I closed my eyes and dreamed I was back in my society in New Delhi. For a few moments I was there, lying waiting for mum to wake me. The generator broke through though. The spluttering signalled that Ralph was up and starting the day. Soon there’d be the clattering of pans as he started to make the breakfast.

I sat up hitting my head on the soft canvas above me. The tent was small and required us to almost fold up to get into it. Getting changed was almost impossible, way too much wiggling in such small a place. If I went now I’d get the toilet block to myself and be able to get changed in peace.

The sunlight was bright when I got into the fresh air. The smell improved too, even with the smell from the sheep. I guess we both needed a shower or maybe at least a change of socks. I wandered over the field waving at Inga who was sat in front of the food tent nursing a mug of tea. I’ve never known anyone have such a capacity for tea as Inga. I always thought it was a stereotype that the English loved their tea, but Inga lived up to it. Every time we stopped for a break, she’d be getting the kettle on and the tea bags out.

The stench of urine in the men’s side of the toilets was only just kept in check by the strong smell of bleach that almost took your eyebrows off in the morning. I quickly showered and changed into a fresh set of clothes before anyone else go there. As I was leaving Tom arrived, all cheerful this time of the morning.

We exchanged pleasantries about the weather. Why is it every Englishman goes on nonstop about that subject? Tom was the first friend I’d made when I came to England and were given a flat in the small town near Sheffield. He’d been kind to my family and helped me at school. Without him I wouldn’t be on this trip now. After the first day at school, he’d asked me if I wanted to go along to the youth group at night. Although I hadn’t at the time, I was too scared and bewildered with the new school to do anything that night.

The incident at the detention centre when we’d first arrived had also made me wary of people who wanted to be my friend. There was a man, not much older than myself, who had befriended me. He’d let me play on the centres Xbox and appeared to be my friend. Then one night he’d tried to get into bed with me. I later found out I wasn’t the first he’d tried it on with and the guards always turned a blind eye. Tom, I’d found out later, wasn’t anything like that. He genuinely had wanted to help me.

A few weeks later I’d gone along with him and here I was, one of the youth club, on our camp in deepest, darkest Suffolk. It had been fun so far. Raul, like me was a migrant. His parents were studying at the university in Sheffield. The girls loved his Spanish accent and good looks. The rest of the group were English. Well apart from Frazier who apparently was from Scotland. He had an accent I couldn’t quite understand. To him it was because I was a ‘paki’ and should go back to Pakiland as quick as I could. Tom had tried to explain I wasn’t from Pakistan, but it was like hitting a ball against a wall, it just kept coming back. I didn’t like Frazier and he didn’t like me. I’d been mortified since learning he was coming on the trip. So far I’d followed Tom and Raul’s advice and avoided him.

“Come on sleepy head” I said to Raul who was still asleep when I got back. I admired the way he could sleep even through the noise from the generator and the background camp noise.

“Oh, why wake me from the dream, I had Anna at my mercy and then you wake me,” He said smiling and tousling his thick black hair.

“Breakfast’s ready by the looks of it,” I said seeing the rest of the group heading for the food tent.

“I’ll have a shower later” he said pulling himself out of his bag. I dropped my things inside and waited outside for him to get himself together.

“Why do they have to get up so early in the morning?” he said finally extracting himself from the tent, “it’s worse than home. I thought we were supposed to be on holiday.”

“Well we’re off on a walk today aren’t we?”

“Just what I need, a day walking miles to go nowhere,” he grumbled, “when do we hit the beach?”

“That’s tomorrow, I think,” I replied. I wasn’t sure if the beach Raul had in mind matched the reality. I’d seen pictures of the Spanish beaches and then I’d seen pictures of the one we were going. His had miles and miles of blue sky and golden sands. The one we were due to visit had pebbles and angry grey sea in the photos.

We sidled over to the food tent and were met with the smell of cooking. Bacon sandwiches were the order of the day. I never could see the fascination the British has for bacon. It’s another thing they seem to hang their mouths out for, dribbling just like Homer in the Simpsons. Luckily, I was vegetarian, so was spared the ritual of eating it.

Inga handed me an egg sandwich dripping in fat. I took it at arm’s length afraid it would somehow harm me. They did their best with the food, but it wasn’t much to write home about, apart from pizza and chips, two things I’d learned to have a craving for.

“Tha won’t get your jungle food here, better eat some bacon, it’ll make a man of you.”

I could just about discern what Frazier was saying. His cronies laughed.

“Frazer, we’re not having covert racism here,” Ralph said wearily. He was well used to Frazier’s outbursts and always tried to speak up. Sometimes it just added fuel to the fire.

Frazier muttered under his breath and departed the tent closely followed by his friends. No doubt they were sneaking off for a quick smoke.

I managed to get rid of the egg sandwich without causing any offence and looked across to Raul. He was stood talking to the girls, stroking Anna’s cheek with his finger as she seemed to hang on to his every word. He had an amazing talent to captivate girls. They usually turned away from me. The only one that seemed to bother with me was Cassandra. She was quiet and we’d often spend hours in the library after school studying together. I hadn’t thought she’d go on this trip, she didn’t seem the outdoor type. Then again neither was I.

Later we were put in groups for the walk. We would both be heading to a small town, where there was promise of a café. That brightened up the mood of everyone about walking, although Frazier still wanted to know why we couldn’t use the minibus. Ralph assured him that we’d come back in it. I was glad to not be in Frazier’s group as well. There were six of us in our group. Raul, myself, Cassandra, Anna, Tom and Amie. It shouldn’t be a bad experience at all.

We set off on our route which ran at first through the wood I’d been in the night before. It was strange how different it was in the light. Last night it had appeared dead and foreboding. Now it was light and airy. Silver birch tree trunks glistened in the filtered sunlight, birds sung their hearts out and at times I thought I saw rabbits hopping around. That’s the thing I loved about England, the greenery. Back home I was lucky if I saw a tree. The sun saturated the colours washing them all into murky versions of what I saw here. There was also so much more water. I used to love the thought of rain. It cooled the day and brought relief from the humid days of summer. Now here, spectacular as the rain could be, it was mostly dreary cold and disheartening. I guess though it explained the amount of greenery everywhere.

The track took me close to where I saw the two figures last night. I wondered whether to say anything to the others, but was unsure about what to say. Would they laugh at me? Did I believe what I’d seen? I wasn’t sure now. In the cold light of day, it seemed impossible. Maybe later.

The woods went on nearly a mile through various little clearings where the bright sun burst through with shafts of light. It was a heavenly place to be right now, all the worries and events of the last few weeks were vanishing. My head clearing.

At the edge of the wood we came across a roped off section. There were several holes dug into the ground. In some people were on their knees scraping at the ground.

“Oh it looks like an archaeological dig” Cassandra said with a element of excitement in her voice.

“Boring Cassie…” Anna retorted.

“No, it’s interesting,” Cassandra replied, “let’s just stop and watch them for a while. I wonder what they’re digging?”

“The ground,” Raul said, the sarcasm fairly coated with tons of sugar. It brought a giggle from Anna, although to be fair she’d giggle at anything Raul said.

We stood and watched them for a few minutes. They were working methodically scraping away exposing small amounts of earth each scrape. It was quiet and peaceful.

“Come on,” Raul said after a few minutes, “this is hardly Time Team.”

Just as we were turning a woman waved at us from a trench. Her looks gave away her Asian heritage, either Indian or Pakistani. She clambered out of the trench she was in and came towards us.

“Hi” she said wiping her hands down her jeans, “can I help you. I’m Raksha”

She had a very friendly smile on her face seeming genuinely pleased to see us.

“What are you digging?” Cassandra asked.

“Well it’s an early Saxon settlement. We’re on a university summer dig. No one is quite sure what’s here so they gave us the summer to find out.”

“Find any bones,” Raul asked.

“No” Raksha laughed, “not sure we will, but you never know. Are you staying around here?”

“The other side of the wood at Stentons farm.,” Tom replied.

“Oh not far then. We’re camped over there,” indicating a few tents further along. If you want to come back in the evening, just turn up. Always glad to see new faces.”

“Thanks” Cassandra said, “can we come tonight and have a look what you’ve found?”

“Well there’s nothing much to look at, just a few stains in the ground, but it’s early days. Come anytime. I could show you now.”

“No thanks,” Raul said, “we’ve got to meet out leader in the town.”

“OK, well it’s an open invitation, any time.” Raksha said smiling. She turned and went back to her hole.

We wandered off after Raul and Anna to the stile.

“We could have stayed.” Cassandra said pouting.

“Look you go back later, but I wouldn’t be seen dead in there.” Raul said gaining another giggle from Anna.

“Does anyone else want to go back tonight?” Anna asked.

The rest just shrugged. Cassandra looked upset at the reaction.

“I’ll go if you want, need to find out some history of this country now I’m here.” I said eventually.

Cassandra looked dubiously at first as if she didn’t want me with her but eventually smiled.

“Thanks Divij” she replied.

We climbed the stile and set off across the heathland towards the small market town. I sneaked a view behind me of the site wondering if it had anything to do with what I’d seen last night in the wood.

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