I thought it was the most wonderful place in the world to be. So pretty, beautiful scenery surrounding it and so peaceful and quiet. Just the kind of place you could wander off too and be on your own for a while. How wrong can one person be?
To believe and dream of better things in life. To think that this place could be your whole life, a wonderful life just like you read about in books and saw in films. I thought so too when I first arrived here.
That was six months ago now. I arrived in the Lake District on a cold and miserable-looking day. But my heart was aglow with a sunshine and warmth I had never known before. My life up until now had been one of misery and heartache. My childhood had been an awful time, not one that I would care to relate to again either, and the subsequent breakdown of my marriage had all conspired against me to cause such a change in my life that I had decided I needed to get away. Start my new life afresh, away from the family I despised and who in return felt the same about me.
The Lake District had been one place I had always wanted to return to. I had been there on holidays when I was in my teens and had now finally got my wish, but this time to stay for good.
By the end of the first week, I had sorted myself out with a job, somewhere permanent to live and even made some new friends. I took a deep breath and inhaled the wonderful smells that came from the rain. I didn’t care what the weather was like; I had a positive outlook on life.
It was through my new friends that I had found out about the ‘Valley Of The Souls’. I had told them that I had liked strange and out of the way places, because of the kind of paintings I did. I must just explain that my paintings are strange and unusual. Places that look normal to others, I will see hidden things and I paint the things I see, the things I believe are there.
‘The Valley Of The Souls’ is a solitary place. Ruins litter the forest floor as far as the eye can see. These used to be the cottages of the few people who wanted to live in a quiet and peaceful way, away from city life. As I stood on the edge of the forest floor, I could see why these people had wanted to spend their days among such a beautiful place. I walked around the ruins, marvelling at the tiny rooms, the fireplaces that still stood intact, and how many of the cottages that must have stood in this small stretch of ground. Nobody had known what had happened to the inhabitants of the cottages. It was assumed that the older generations had died and the younger had moved to pastures new, but no-one had known for certain. Nobody who lived near the forest had any contact with the inhabitants.
As I walked through the forest, it began to snow quite heavily. I was glad that I had wrapped up warm, but I loved the snow and began to imagine what the whole of the place would look like covered in a thick layer of snow, all sparkling and white. The sun hung low in the sky, bouncing off the snowflakes and it blinded me temporarily. When my eyes had adjusted once more, I thought I saw figures moving between the trees. But surely I was mistaken. I hadn’t seen anyone on the way down here. Perhaps the snow blindness had caused my eyes to see these things. Maybe it was just the shadows of the trees; I could not see anything moving now. I walked along the small path between the trees, stepping carefully as the snow had lain quite thick on the ground already. Twice, I had nearly fallen over concealed trees roots.
Shadows seemed to float between the trees and I knew that it was possibly a combination of the trees, snow and the sun that had caused those shadows earlier. I began to doubt my own senses, when I heard what sounded like a small child crying, calling for its mother. I was confused and startled, I couldn’t make out where or in what direction the crying was coming from. The sound was pitiful and sad. A lonely and haunting sound. I must have been moving in the right direction, as the sound seemed to be getting louder. Then I spotted the child, huddled in a small hole in the base of a big tree. As I moved nearer, a small face looked at me. It was red and tearstained. Suddenly, I felt paralysed. I just couldn’t move. The child’s eyes were black and cold, as though everything behind them was dead. We looked at each other, for what seemed like an age, then before my very eyes she disappeared.
I must admit that this scared me to the extent; I suddenly panicked about being in this place. I felt closed in and had to get out. I began to run in the direction that I thought I had entered this place. I found myself back at the ruined cottages but there seemed no visible way out. The snow had covered everything. I became dizzy and sick at the thought of being trapped in here. I scanned every direction with my eyes. Then I noticed the shadows looming once more from behind the trees.
I looked up at the sky and realised that the sun had gone down and the sky was slowly darkening. Snow had begun to fall heavily once more. I sank to my knees hoping and praying for a way out. But my prayers were not answered. Then, a hand fell upon my shoulder, softly, and I looked up into the face of a young woman. Beside her was the child that I had seen earlier. More people closed in around me. All of them very pale and drawn. All were dressed in rags.
I stood up slowly and faced the young woman, pleading with her to show me the way out. She just smiled and shook her head slowly.
‘I’m sorry’, she said, softly, ‘Everyone who comes to ‘The Valley of The Souls’ stays here.’
‘You can never leave’, said the child, her eyes burning into my very soul. I looked around me again and for the first time noticed that although the clothing on the people were nothing more than rags, torn and dirty, they were all different generations of clothing.
So here I am in this beautiful countryside. Trapped forever, never able to leave and return to civilization. I have friends here, but I yearn for reality in life knowing that I will never have it again has killed a large part of me.
So next time you take a walk in the countryside, just think of this story and watch where you go.
Walks in the countryside will never be the same