(M.J.E. / Writings / Stories / Twilight Woods)
This is my first completed story, if you ignore many children's adventure
stories which were completed in my childhood, but which are, in terms of writing
style, atmosphere, characterization, and plot, sadly deficient, and which need
to be completely rewritten (some elements of plot being strong enough to make
this a worthwhile project for me one day), but which in their present state I do
not recognize officially as "completed" stories. "Twilight Woods" was written
in two sessions of several hours each within one week, in December 1983,
although the general concept of the story had been brewing in my mind for some
months prior to that.
I have mentioned in this story a composer by the name of William Baines,
and a piano piece written by him. William Baines is not fictitious, but lived
in Yorkshire, England, from 1899 to 1922. He wrote mainly miniatures for piano,
sensitive atmospheric tone poems in an impressionist style, many of them
inspired by natural scenes in his native Yorkshire.
Neither is the particular piano piece by him, mentioned in the story,
fictitious. All the information given about the composer himself and this
particular piece is factual. I mention all this for a very good reason, as it
points towards the original inspiration for this story. The piano piece by
Baines mentioned in the story is called "Twilight Woods (A Fragment)", and my
story is named after it.
Before I had even worked out in my mind any details of plot, the very germ
of this story had already been inspired by this beautiful, sensitively-coloured
composition by William Baines. The utterly unique atmosphere of this piece
directly suggested the setting of the story and the dreamy bittersweet emotional
atmosphere; without the piece, this story would never have come into being.
However, the details of plot surrounding either the tragic situation that
gradually becomes apparent, or the counteracting uplifting, comforting element
that is present, were quite definitely not suggested by the music itself, but
merely developed in my mind (with a little preliminary confusion) as I began to
ask myself what sort of story might take place in the already-determined
setting, and would evoke the emotional atmosphere suggested to me by the music,
and the setting; and what sort of characters might be involved in that kind of a
Because of the close link between the music and my story (in general
atmosphere, at any rate), I took the liberty of naming my story after William
Baines's composition. And in a way I would like to think of this story, at
least in part, as paying a tribute to a little-known, short-lived English
composer whom I have come to admire considerably, from listening to and playing
the few of his works I have access to.
My thanks go to Dr. Richard H. Griffith for his encouragement, which helped
inspire me to finish, as well as start, this story, against considerable
odds. I owe him a debt of gratitude for helping me to achieve what must be
quite a landmark in my life, the writing of my first complete story that I can
quite unashamedly feel pleased with.
I would also like to thank my friend Roger Martin for the use of his I.B.M.
computer, on which I produced the first typed copy of this story, and for his
patient instruction on the use of the computer, without which I never would have
understood the intricacies of word processing.
"Twilight Woods" copyright (C) 1983, 1987, by Michael Edwards.
Helen felt hot and weary as she drove through the rugged hills in her
Volkswagen, weaving in and out of the hills, but generally rising in altitude
gradually. Her thoughts went ahead with pleasurable anticipation to when she
would arrive at her destination (surely only ten minutes away now), and she
would be able to spend a day or two with Bertram before getting down to business
with his father.
The rocky hills lay beneath the warm autumn sun as Helen's car reached a
slight plateau. The road levelled off and stretched ahead in a straight line
amongst scattered trees amid dense undergrowth. A mile ahead the town could be
seen, with its widely-dispersed outskirts seeming to stretch in all directions.
Immediately beyond it from where Helen looked, the terrain appeared much lusher
and gently undulating.
Helen stopped the car briefly and studied the map by her side, on which her
destination was marked in pencil, and then she started the car again and
continued driving onward.
Helen entered the centre of the town and turned left at the main
crossroads. As she passed through the now quiet grid of criss-crossing streets,
she tried to look out for the office building where she would, as a
representative of an interior-decorating firm, be discussing a contract with
Henry Northwood, the manager of a local estate agency. However, Helen had never
been here before, and therefore recognized nothing, and she couldn't see the
name "Northwood" anywhere.
The road she had turned into went up a well-wooded slope and curved among
the widely-spaced houses. The road reached a low ridge, which marked the edge
of the town. She looked out for the right house number and pulled into a
driveway, the car's tyres crunching on the white gravel. As she turned the
motor off, she looked over at the pale yellow stone-walled house, set amongst
trees and shrubs. The front door opened and a handsome man with brown wavy hair
and a serious, kind-looking face walked out and smiled at Helen.
"Hi Bertram!" called out Helen gaily. "It's wonderful to see you again."
"Hullo, my dear," said Bertram. "Lovely to see you too. Come in."
Helen grabbed her bag from the back seat of the car and kissed Bertram,
while he ruffled her short black hair. She followed him into the cool interior
of the house after declining to be relieved of her bag, and into the kitchen
where a middle-aged couple sat at the table with cold drinks.
"Helen, meet my mother and father," said Bertram. "Mum, Dad, this is
Helen, of course."
"Pleased to meet you," said Mr. Northwood, in a slightly formal way but
with genuine warmth. "I hope you have a good time here until we get down to
business. Bert's new house nearby, across the town, is being renovated now, and
is presently unlivable, so he is spending a few days with us, and so we thought
you'd both enjoy a couple of days together first."
"Thank you, Mr. Northwood," said Helen. "It's kind of you to invite me
here a couple of days early."
"Don't mention it. Call me Henry if you like. My wife's name is Bernice."
Bernice smiled at Helen. "Would you like something to drink? I suppose
you must feel hot and tired."
"A beer would be fine if it's convenient, thank you."
After ten minutes of relaxed conversation, Bertram showed Helen to her room
and asked her if she'd like to shower. She nodded absently, her attention
having been drawn to a gaunt sad-looking man in his thirties she saw through the
door of the living room, as he lay slumped motionlessly in an armchair.
"Let's go for a walk after that," said Bertram.
"Great," said Helen. "You've got some nice woods out the back of your
parents' place I'd like to see."
"The Twilight Woods, they're known as," said Bertram. The gaunt-looking
man suddenly opened his eyes and looked up. His eyes met Helen's. Bertram
followed Helen's gaze and a flicker of sadness crossed his sensitive face.
"That's Adam," he said quietly to Helen. "A kind of hermit round here.
Lives in a little hut near the woods. He's in a bad way, the loneliest man in
the world I'd say. I invited him in for a bit of company but all he'll do is
sit there motionless gazing dreamily out the window. He's almost totally
withdrawn from reality. I think he appreciated being asked in for a few hours,
though, even though he shows no sign that it affects him one way or the other."
"Oh, Bertram, isn't that typical of you!" said Helen with a laugh. "Social
worker out of hours as well as during hours."
Bertram merely smiled at her. She went off to have a shower, and faintly
in the background she heard Bertram playing a soft piece of dreamy music on the
piano in the living room. For some reason she couldn't quite identify, it
seemed to conjure up fleeting images she almost but didn't quite recognize, and
gave her a feeling of excited anticipation.
Helen lathered herself with soap under the luke-warm streams of water and
looked forward to going out for a walk after that. Dinner would follow later, a
meal of roast beef and vegetables, Bernice had said, followed by apple pie with
Bertram had been a social acquaintance and then friend of Helen's for some
months, while he lived in her home-town, but more recently she had become more
and more aware that she loved him deeply, and that he loved her. She had had
boy-friends a couple of times before, but she felt Bertram's quiet sensitive
nature complemented her own out-going personality better than had her previous
friends' rather lively personalities.
Then Bertram had taken on a new position as a social worker in his original
home-town, where his parents still lived, and where he had recently bought an
old house. Renovation work had begun, and was taking a little longer than had
been expected, and so he was staying with his parents until the new house was
Meanwhile, Helen had been so busy with her work that she had been unable to
find the time to visit Bertram and his parents until now, when she was to
discuss her contract with his father after being referred to him by Bertram.
Helen suddenly turned off the taps and stepped out onto the bath-mat,
hurrying in her eagerness to return to Bertram.
After dressing, she found Bertram sitting next to Adam talking with him and
getting monosyllabic responses.
"Excuse me a moment, Adam," Bertram said, and approached Helen, beckoning
her into the next room.
"He looks horribly depressed," said Helen.
"Not depressed so much as withdrawn," said Bertram. "He's long since gone
past emotion of any sort. He's barely in touch with the real world at all."
"Poor man," said Helen. "He looks a nice enough fellow."
"I like him," said Bertram. "What small part of him I can reach."
"What's up with him?"
"I don't know. He hasn't told me yet. Maybe he never will. Look, what I
wanted to say is, I think he'd like to go for a walk with us. He didn't say so,
but I kind of sensed it. Did you see how he perked up when I told you about the
Twilight Woods? I think the woods have some special significance to him. I
think the walk would do him a lot of good. I'm awfully sorry, but do you mind?
We can walk together alone any old time. And we will, I promise you."
"Of course I don't mind," said Helen, although she did feel a pang of
regret for a moment, before her sympathy for Adam overcame it. "I'll do
anything to help him. I hate to see him looking so sad all the time."
Bertram and Helen went back to Adam.
"Adam, how would you like to come out for a walk with us?" said Bertram.
"A bit of physical activity will do wonders for you, rather than sitting still
all the time."
"Yes please," said Adam in a flat monotonous voice. "I'll come."
"This is Helen, a friend of mine who's come to stay for a few days.
"How are you?" he droned.
"Fine," said Helen. "You come out with us, and if you feel like it you can
tell us anything you like."
Adam rose slowly and the three went towards the back door.
"We're just going out for a walk into the woods for a while," called out
Bertram to his parents. "We'll be back in time for dinner."
"Okay. See you then," replied Henry.
The sun was low in the sky and cast long cool shadows over the back garden.
There were no fences at the sides or back of the properties in this area, and
the trees, grass and flowers of the back garden seemed to merge imperceptibly
into the woods behind. The main garden path seemed to wander off aimlessly into
the woods, the trees sparse to begin with, and gradually getting denser.
Bertram, Helen and Adam followed this path slowly, and Helen was fascinated
by all the different patterns and varieties of trees they approached, and the
play of light among them. No-one said anything for a few minutes. Adam trailed
on some yards behind the others.
Several minutes into the woods, Bertram and Helen felt as if they were in a
world totally removed from the one they had left behind them. The house and the
town and even Bertram's parents might have been a thousand miles away. Bertram
and Helen held hands and felt at peace with each other and the world. Adam
shuffled along ten yards or so behind.
Helen glanced at him. There was no telling how he felt, although his face
looked more animated now than it had done in the house barely quarter of an hour
earlier. He looked around himself from time to time, obviously seeing things of
interest, although his gaze focused on Bertram and Helen no more often than
chance would have accounted for. He had a vague, dreamy, far-away look on his
face, a bittersweet expression of mingled happiness, nostalgia and sadness.
The air was quite warm but not hot. The only sounds in it were the drowsy
singing of birds and the occasional rustle of leaves in the tiny puffs of breeze
that sighed through the woods. Small creatures occasionally scampered away
through the undergrowth as the humans approached.
The trees and undergrowth varied considerably in density. Helen, Bertram
and Adam seemed to be walking alternately through densely overgrown areas, and
sparser and more open areas where the only covering on the ground was thick
layers of rotting leaves. Some areas were dominated by evergreen trees, some by
deciduous trees covered with yellow, orange, or red autumn leaves some of which
had been strewn over the surrounding ground in a multi-coloured carpet. There
were also occasional clearings covered mainly by grasses of various types and
ranging from very sparse to thickly overgrown.
A few slanting beams of mellow sunlight occasionally penetrated to the
ground, giving a dappled effect interrupted every now and then by a solidly lit
area of golden brilliance which seemed to emanate from a sun which hid elusively
amongst the tree trunks themselves; but even the shadowed areas had an
appearance of radiance rather than gloom. The interplay of light and shadow and
colour themselves had an almost three-dimensional depth to it. Everything was
green, brown and gold, with only a little blue spilling in from above.
A distant chattering noise was heard. As Helen and Bertram walked further
along the rough path, the noise became louder.
"A stream," said Helen. Soon the stream came into view, running parallel
to the path and ten feet to the right. It was only a couple of feet wide and
was crystal clear.
"I'm thirsty," said Helen. She bent down, put her hands into the water and
"It's lovely and cool," said Helen. "Try some."
Bertram tried some of the water. Adam, as usual, stood some distance away.
As Bertram and Helen, with cool wet faces, resumed following the path, it
went down a slope to the water and continued on the other side of the stream.
Using some rough stones in the shallow waters, they stepped over to the other
Looking to their left, they saw a small pool the stream flowed into. Helen
wandered over to the edge and peered into the cool depths of it. The stream
emerged from the other side and wandered out of sight through a slight dip.
As Helen looked in that direction, she caught a glimpse of a tiny stretch
of distant blue horizon, with the brilliant orange disc of the sun hovering a
little distance above. It was like a glimpse through a window into another
world. The rays of sunlight streaming through onto her almost seemed like
tangible objects. This was the first time in the woods that evening she saw the
sun actually in the sky rather than as a bright orb of radiance between the tree
trunks, seemingly out of its proper element.
Bertram came over to look. Adam followed him slowly.
"We couldn't have chosen a better time to explore the woods," he said,
shading his eyes. Helen noticed Adam gazing at the distant horizon.
In a few minutes the three of them went back to the path, with Adam lagging
behind as usual. They continued along the trail for several minutes. There
were many forks in it which went off in all directions, each with its own
allurement, but Bertram selected a way without hesitation and seemed to know
where he was.
Bertram and Helen stopped in a small illuminated clearing after describing
a broad arc through the woods, and Helen sat down on a tuft of grass. Bertram
sat down too after a short pause.
"I didn't know forests were so beautiful," said Helen. She breathed in
deeply and savoured the rich warm fragrance of the woods. It was almost like
breathing in orange-green light. "For all you could tell the woods might be the
entire universe," she said.
"Maybe for Adam they are," said Bertram, looking over at Adam some yards
off. Adam seemed to be gazing off into the distance, twiddling a leaf round in
"How could that be?" said Helen, putting her arm around Bertram. "I didn't
really mean I believe that literally."
"Maybe he does," said Bertram. "Maybe the house and my parents and we
ourselves are like a hallucination to him."
"He must live somehow, and deal with the world."
"He lives very simply, in a little hut near the edge of the forest. I
believe he has a bit of money, but he grows and hunts a lot of his food.
There's a friend nearby who helps him, as he is, as you may guess, a bit inept
in dealing with worldly things."
"I wonder what the forest means to him," said Helen.
"I don't know," said Bertram. "What might it mean to you in his
"I don't know," said Helen after a few moments. "Peace, maybe. It does
seem a self-sufficient world of its own. You could almost forget about the
outside world. It's so - eternal here, somehow."
Adam approached Bertram and Helen and sat down a few feet away, facing
partly away from them.
"It's quite unique," said Bertram. "It seems to have an aura of its own,
like nothing else, like no other forest and no other time."
"I think it reminds me of something but I don't know what," said Helen.
"Something of spiritual significance and wonder. I wish I knew..."
"Do you know a piece of music by William Baines called 'Twilight Woods'?"
asked Bertram, taking Helen's hand gently. Adam listened more attentively but
said nothing. Blackbirds could be heard chattering some distance away.
"No, I don't," said Helen. "It sounds nice enough, though."
"It's only a short piece - less than two minutes - for piano. You heard me
playing it back at home a little while ago."
"Now you mention it, the woods and the music remind me of each other," said
Helen. "Which one comes first I don't know, but both still remind me of
something great and wonderful."
"William Baines said of his piece that he wanted to capture the atmosphere
of woodlands in the half-lights," said Bertram. "He must have had great and
wonderful hopes that were never to be," he added dreamily. He paused for a
moment as a bird's trilling nearby sounded loudly in relief against the general
murmuring background of bird-song, and a pair of blackbirds, the sleek black
male and dull brown female, passed through the clearing in quick hops as they
hunted for food. "He lived only twenty-three years," Bertram continued. "His
great promise and talent are lost forever. He was, if he but knew it, already
in the twilight of his life."
"The poor man," said Helen sympathetically. The two blackbirds across the
clearing were apparently disturbed by the humans, for they suddenly took off and
flew away quickly, their insistent metallic cries of alarm floating back behind
them on the calm fragrant air, cutting sharply through the mingled songs of
"I wonder if his piece was some sort of premonition," said Bertram.
"Maybe, maybe not," said Helen.
"I thought Adam might like the piece," said Bertram. "Even if you don't
know the title of it, it is completely redolent of woods at twilight. Now we
are having the real thing."
The light was diminishing slightly, so that the effect was hardly
noticeable for a while. The shadows were a little darker and cooler, the
patches of sunlight a little weaker and diluted, a washed-out orange colour. A
cool breeze stirred somewhere.
"Come on, let's move on," said Bertram, arising and pulling Helen to her
feet. They started walking slowly further along the rough trail, wandering
about through the woods and simply going ahead through the trees and bushes when
the paths faded out, as they did frequently. Adam tagged along, quite aloof.
"Adam seems to behave as if he's in the twilight of life," said Bertram.
"I wonder what's troubling him," said Helen. She looked behind. Adam
showed no sign of paying attention to their conversation. "It must be something
traumatic to switch his mind off the way it appears to have."
"He's only living in the backwaters of life," said Bertram. "Maybe that's
why he likes the forest. The forest could represent the backwaters of life.
It's very still and peaceful and beautiful, but totally static - nothing ever
happens there. Imagine what it must be like to live here all the time and know
of nothing else."
"But he knows of the world and deals with it after a fashion," said Helen.
"He's not always here."
"Physically maybe that's true," said Bertram. "I suspect mentally he's
here all the time and is largely unaware of all else. It's his life. I think
he's not happy though. If only we could find the key to unlock his mind - then
maybe he could be helped. He's not unintelligent; he's not lacking in
sensitivity and feeling. He merely covers them up well; but they do leak out
occasionally here and there. Not enough to give clues, however. It's like
trying to solve a mystery when you only have clues that don't even relate to
each other, let alone give part of the overall picture."
The woods were noticeably dimmer. No sunlight appeared anywhere now,
although it was impossible to be sure that the sun had yet set. Helen briefly
regretted she hadn't noticed the last time she actually saw some sunlight. A
cool breeze rustled through the woods. The singing of the birds diminished
somewhat. As Helen recognized a part of the forest they had been through
earlier, she looked around with new eyes. Everything seemed to be coloured
"I wonder why the woods are known as Twilight Woods," said Helen.
"I don't know," said Bertram. "No-one knows. The name just came into
being some years ago."
"It seems a very appropriate name tonight," said Helen. "But after all
it's twilight everywhere now, and also it must be morning or noon or night
"Must it?" It took Helen a moment to realize that Adam had spoken, not
"Why yes, of course it must," said Helen in astonishment. "What do you
"I know why the woods are called Twilight Woods," said Adam enigmatically.
"Do you wish to tell us why?" asked Bertram.
"Yes, I know why," said Adam dreamily, as if Bertram hadn't even spoken.
"The twilight. Gracie's twilight." His face took on a little expression.
"What - " began Helen, but Bertram held up his hand.
"Let him continue," he whispered in her ear. "I think we've hit a trigger
Adam said nothing more and his face became impassive once again.
"Did Gracie name the woods after her twilight?" Bertram asked, touching
Adam on the shoulder and apparently deciding to try to lead him on a little.
Adam's face changed a little. Helen knew how sensitively Bertram could convey a
message through physical touching.
"Gracie woke up one morning ," said Adam abruptly. His face took on a
profound sadness. "She told me what had just happened to her. She had got a
feeling. No-one told her, but she just knew it was true." Adam paused a
little, as if wondering how to tell his story.
"She was in a beautiful forest. The sun was just setting and it lit her
face up. The sun was still forever, in the one place, she told me. The forest
remained forever poised in a beautiful twilight. It was at this moment she got
the feeling. One day time would stop forever. If this happened one day, a long
time in the future, it would be the most wonderful thing that could ever happen
to her. It would be a great and wonderful sign, and her life would be happy
ever after. Wonderful things would happen to her."
"But hadn't time already stopped still there in the forest, rather than in
the far future?" said Helen. Bertram held up his hand again, obviously afraid
the spell might be broken. Perhaps surprisingly, Adam answered the question.
"That was different. The twilight was there for eternity. Time was still
going on though. But it would be a long time before time stopped."
"So the eternal twilight didn't mean the same as time stopping?" said
"No," said Adam. His attention wandered off again into the distance.
Bertram asked: "What happened after that, Adam?"
It took Adam a moment to turn his attention back to the others.
"What? What happened? Oh yes. Well, ever after that, Gracie - my Gracie
- always loved the forest and wandered round in the Twilight Woods, especially
at sunset. She always used to hope the twilight remained, but it never did. It
always got dark. But she never gave up hope. She always continued to love the
Twilight Woods and spent much time in the woods. She would wander round
sometimes, or just sit still in a nice spot, or perhaps bathe in a stream. And
she always continued to like the time of twilight best. Apart from me" - here
he seemed to choke back a sob - "she always loved woods and sunsets best of all.
She was lonely, even though she always had me to be with. I wasn't enough
though. I wasn't enough...."
Tears flowed down his cheeks and he sniffed noisily. Bertram put his hand
on Adam's shoulder and said nothing. There was nothing that could be said.
Adam was alone in this cathartic process and nothing could change that. He had
to deal with it himself. The most anyone else could do was to show sympathy -
to show that they cared.
Adam shook a little and continued crying. Helen got the queer impression
that he was reliving the events of which he was speaking, and that he shook with
fear in anticipation of what had happened next.
The forest was quite dim now and the breeze stirred more strongly and
became cooler than before. The little chinks of sky visible overhead were
distinctly deeper in colour. The birds were silent, although no-one had noticed
the exact moment they had stopped singing. The atmosphere of the woods seemed
different, less warm and friendly now.
Adam stammered a little.
"There, it's all right," said Bertram. "You don't have to tell us any
"I - I must sit down," said Adam, still shaking. He sat down promptly in
the middle of the path, and the others sat down next to him. Having wandered
around freely through the woods, they were by now facing back the way they'd
originally come, although they had taken a different route coming back. They
had now started to move back towards the pool they had passed earlier.
As they sat there, a distant rustling of foliage was heard for several
"I must finish this," said Adam, the tears still flowing. "I can't just
leave it there." Adam sniffed and wiped his face with his hands. Helen offered
him a clean handkerchief, which he accepted gratefully.
"Alas, Gracie never lived to see time stand still. She had an accident.
She - she - "
Adam choked up and shuddered. It was quite obvious he was physically
incapable of saying what had happened to Gracie. He sobbed for a couple of
minutes, and calmed down a little after that.
No-one spoke for a few minutes, but merely sat still while Adam's crying
petered out. Suddenly the rustling sound came again, louder and closer this
time, and a male blackbird bounded into view some yards in front of them, giving
a loud twittering noise which scintillated richly through the now-silent woods.
Another blackbird scratched around in the soil under some nearby bushes, barely
visible. It might well have been the same blackbird and his mate they had seen
before. Adam stared fascinatedly at the black male as the bird stood still,
head cocked, apparently listening for worms moving in the ground, and then
jabbed down with his beak, shook his find vigorously and flew off. The female
emerged from the bush, twittered loudly, and took off after her mate, leaving
the woods in silence once more.
After this, Adam seemed to pull himself together again, and in a shaking
voice he continued his story.
"It was a terrible sight. After that - "
Helen felt a stab of shock. No wonder he was having such a difficult time
telling his story, if he had actually seen Gracie die: in some manner
unidentified to Helen, perhaps quite horrific. She felt a bit uneasy as her
imagination started to work on the idea. She reached out and touched Adam,
shuddering as she tried to put the idea out of her mind.
"After that I was alone for years," continued Adam, seemingly unaware that
he hadn't even told the others what had happened to Gracie. "I've never found
anyone else to be with. And the forest and the twilight are all I've got to
remind me of my Gracie. My dear Gracie. Won't you ever come back?!" Adam
broke down into sobs once more and Helen felt most uncomfortable. She didn't
know what to say or do, and hoped Bertram would be able to do better than she
Bertram simply left his hand on Adam's shoulder and let Adam get his grief
out of his system. It appeared entirely likely that this was the first time in
ten or more years he had told anyone about Gracie. Certainly Bertram had never
met anyone in town who'd even known of Gracie's existence, let alone actually
known anything about her. Had Adam kept the whole story suppressed within
himself for year after year?
Bertram spoke to Adam quietly when he seemed to have calmed down enough.
"Adam, it's time we went back. It's getting quite dark and cold here and
that won't help us feel better. You come back with us and we'll get you some
dinner and you can stay with us a few days if you want to. Meanwhile, you can
tell us any more if you want to and I'll think about it and try to work out a
way of helping you. You're already on the way there. I'm very glad you told us
this and I'm sure it's a load off your mind."
Bertram and Helen stood up, and Adam did likewise. They started walking
again in the grey dusk, Bertram selecting paths that led back home. A little
later, they once again passed the now black pool.
"Just a minute," said Helen impulsively and walked over to the pool where
she had stood before. The others followed her. She looked over at the spot of
horizon she had seen before. The sky overhead was deep blue and above the
horizon there was a yellow glow. The evening star, the planet Venus, hung
higher up in the darkening sky like a brilliant lamp.
"The sun has set," intoned Adam sadly. "It's going to get dark. It's
almost dark now."
"Adam," said Bertram simply. "That's right. The sun has set and it is
almost dark. The sun will always set at twilight and it will always get dark
afterwards. Twilight can only last but a few minutes. But - listen - the sun
always rises again in the morning. It always gets brighter again. Life's like
that. You've had a difficult time and gone through much hardship. But it
needn't last forever. Things will always get better sooner or later. And
there's always help available to see you through the night, beginning with Helen
Helen felt a thrill of love and pride at hearing Bertram talk like this so
compassionately and simply to someone in trouble, and impulsively hugged him.
She wished she knew what to do in situations like this.
Bertram laughed briefly. "Look, Adam. See the evening star there?
That'll be there well after the sun sets. Why not think of that as a good sign
that will shine even when the sky's completely dark?"
Adam looked a little bewildered.
"Gracie said the twilight lasted forever," he said hesitantly, as if not
quite knowing whether this was true or not. Helen could sense him struggling to
emerge from a world of unreality that had held him prisoner for years.
"Adam, I'm sure she said that," said Bertram, leading them back to the
path. "She was having a dream and when she woke up she told you about it.
Perhaps it sounded convincing to you because it was a very vivid dream to her,
but it was only a dream. It didn't happen. It couldn't ever. Twilight never
lasts forever. Time can't stand still - life must always go on moving. That's
the way the world goes. And in a way that's fortunate for you. You've been
held back ten years or more by events in the past that can't be undone.
Gracie's gone - and I'm terribly sorry and sympathize with you, and will help
you all I can. But you must continue to live and find some happiness for
yourself instead of continually trying to relive the eternal twilight that could
never take place, and in the process becoming very unhappy."
The three of them had by now crossed the stream and were only ten minutes'
walk from the house.
"But, but - Gracie," stammered Adam. "I can't leave her behind forever."
"That's not what I'm saying," said Bertram. "You will doubtless have happy
memories of her as long as you live and can enjoy them whenever you want to.
But it is possible, and also the best thing, for you to escape from the
domination of this eternal twilight which brings you no happiness, and come out
a little into the outside world, until you realize there is more to enjoy in
life, and can leave behind your unhappiness. You can keep the happy memories
and leave behind the unhappy ones. It's precisely because time doesn't stand
still that you can escape your present unfortunate situation. If on the other
hand you continue to believe time will stand still, well, you will then give
yourself no hope of escape from unhappiness and will remain the same all your
"Are you quite sure?" asked Adam hesitantly. A whole new world of
possibilities was obviously being opened up to him right before Helen's eyes.
"I couldn't be surer," said Bertram kindly. "I've met many people who have
trouble of various sorts and I do know that one of the first things is for the
person to start thinking of wider possibilities than they have previously been
in the habit of thinking about.
"I'm a social worker in town, not far away from here, and it's part of my
job to help people solve their problems. I can't solve the problems myself, but
I can help in ways that make it easier for the person to solve his problems. I
believe you've taken an important first step in talking to us as you have and
it'll get easier for you from now on.
"I know a number of people in my field of work - very kind understanding
people they are - and if I speak to them I'm sure we can organize something to
help you solve your problem and adjust to a new and fuller life. But we can't
force you. You must say you want to try this. Will you give it a try? We're
here to help."
"Are you quite sure it'll work?" asked Adam hesitantly.
"I'm quite sure it will help you much more than if you continue to keep
entirely to yourself. You need someone to talk things over with, someone who
can help you find friends, help you work out a fuller life for yourself. I
think it's the best thing you can do for yourself."
"I'll see," said Adam dubiously. Bertram didn't press him any further but
smiled at Helen, as if to say to her that he thought the turning point had been
The path was quite dark now and the three stumbled along a little
awkwardly. As they passed through a clearing, the horizon to their right became
briefly visible. The sunset glow above it had almost completely died away, but
Venus was still shining brightly, calmly. Adam looked at it wonderingly.
A chilly breeze swept over them as the last vestiges of twilight faded
away. The world of William Baines's piano piece "Twilight Woods" seemed to have
completely died now, and given way only to featureless blackness.
The bright lights of the house soon appeared ahead of them and they went
forward. Henry and Bernice could be seen in the kitchen bustling around.
"Let's go in," said Bertram to the others. "I'm hungry. I'm sure the
roast dinner must be ready now. Tomorrow will be a new day."
As they approached the back door Helen noticed that Adam's face didn't look
quite so blank as it had done earlier, before they had left the house for their
twilight walk in the woods. She smiled at him and he looked back at her
The three of them walked inside.
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Comments on "Twilight Woods" - Some thoughts about the story as I look at it 17 years later.
Introduction - Front page, which leads to Contents
Web Site of Michael Edwards - Contents
Writings by Michael Edwards
Twilight Woods (this page)
Comments on Twilight Woods
This page created on Monday, 10 April, 2000;
last modified on Monday, 24 April, 2000.