I did not sleep well last night, which you may well suppose after my encounter in Wicken Wood with the ghost of Stanford Byle. Would that I might dismiss it as a bad dream or trick of the mind but the dozen filberts found in my coat pocket tell me something uncanny occurred last night and the thought of it brings a cold clamminess to my back.
Having sleep badly I was in no state to rise early and return the blasted nuts before breakfast – that they must be returned to the wood is, I trust, understood – and sight of them this morning and again in the brief time I get after lunch left me sick to the stomach. Opportunity did not arise until after my afternoon lecture, which I somehow managed to finish a half hour before sunset and, at the end of a pleasant enough day, there was enough daylight to make the wood and back before twilight merged with the night. I might have delayed another twelve hours and returned to the wood in full daylight tomorrow morning before returning to Avebury but I wanted the deed done quickly.
My shoes were at least dry from the night before, though still caked in mud, and I returned swiftly with the last of the sun still in the sky. To my great surprise, so determined was I, I did not feel much in the way of panic. Stanford Byle, or whatever that thing truly was, had made his point clear – I must stick to the path, whatever that means – and magick seldom makes the same warning twice. Moreover, since I was to return what was his and then retreat (I shall henceforth take the longer way by Temple Lane when next returning from the Abingdon Arms) I trusted he, or it, would have no reason to complain.
On arriving at the entrance to the wood, barely discernible in the gathering gloom, I confess to a shiver of trepidation. I had not before thought how small the way seemed, almost fit for a badger or a rabbit. A man must stoop beneath a low branch to gain within and immediately the air is damp and chill and the sight dreary. I have walked in woods that are a joy, beech copses especially of which there are several near my home in Avebury, but Wicken Wood is another type of wood altogether. The trees fight with one another and grow constrained and bent; horsetail ferns sprout from the damp mould and fallen branches lie half rotten in the soft ground.
On Tuesdays I teach the symbolism of the wildwood in Jungian psychology. If Principal Stonebreaker is willing to allow an ex-campus lecture it may be fruitful to bring my students here as I am certain some could not tell one tree from another. There would be no danger: magick is wary of people in numbers and it might serve to exorcise whatever demons I sense in this place. Something to think about and procrastinate over.
I had one hand in my pocket gripping the dozen filbert nuts which I had packed in a brown paper bag lest I manage to miss one and leave it in my coat pocket – they had found there way in by magick; I would not give magick a chance to let one remain – and walked as dryly as I could to the little wooden footbridge that had saved me the night before and cast them into the rush of water, said the Lord’s Prayer and retreated back through the wood and across the open fields.