(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 story.
      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.

                                                  Michael Edwards.

"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 whipped cream.
      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 ready.
      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 drank.
      "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 side.
      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 his fingers.
      "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 situation?"
      "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 other birds.
      "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 differently now.
      "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 here sometimes."
      "Must it?" It took Helen a moment to realize that Adam had spoken, not Bertram.
      "Why yes, of course it must," said Helen in astonishment. "What do you mean?"
      "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 somewhere."
      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 Helen.
      "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 more."
      "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 seconds.
      "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 could.
      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 and me."
      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 life."
      "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 reached.


      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 gratefully.
      The three of them walked inside.

Michael Edwards,
Victoria, Australia.

E-mail me about this story.

      Click here if you need an explanation for the strange appearance of the e-mail address which will appear when you click on the e-mail link, or if you don't know what you need to do to make the e-mail address work properly.

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

Site Map
    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.