It’s strange being back here after all this time. The smells and sounds are the same – earthy and wild. The only thing that’s different is me. Where once we could all hide in the hollow, I now barely fit alone. Here, among the thicket and ferns, I’m taken straight back to that Summer’s afternoon. A mix of emotions rise and fall inside me. It was a perfect day, golden and pure. But, through the lens of time, it now holds a sinister hue. We couldn’t know what was to begin that day, what path we had started to walk. I suppose it was the last day of our innocence. Maybe on some subconscious level
we knew this, and embraced the final cry of childhood.
The root is still here. A gnarled, ancient artery of the vast undergrowth surrounding the hollow. Through all these years our names are still there. DB, FE, CT, JO, EP. Crude and rough. I run my fingers across the letters, lingering over the last initials. Melancholy, like I’ve never felt before, washes over me. And guilt. And shame. I sit for a while, the shafts of light that make it through the dense growth shifting down with the setting sun. I pull out my penknife and with deliberate, slow motions, I start to carve a line through the names. FE. CT. JO. I stop at EP. My hand is shaking fiercely, my eyes glistening. With a flash of anger, I slash through the last letters. A harsh and jagged line. My breathing is hard to control, heavy and laboured.
DB. That’s me. The only name that’s left intact. But what remains of that boy, who on that perfect Summer’s day all those years ago sat with friends and laughed and cried and made that binding pact, is yet to be seen.