Walls have doors
In the middle of the forest, Sarah found a wall. It seemed stout enough: Hampshire flint, stretching away either side, as far as she could see. A little to the south, she saw a door, green, studded, with a rusted handle. She turned it, and stepped in. The door slammed behind her. The aspect on this side of the wall was east/west (that was odd) and yet it was hard to see the source of light, as the trees were so tall. There were paths, glades. Nothing else for it, Sarah thought. Here goes.
It was hard being thrown entirely on your own resources. She had no map, no phone, no jacket, no food (she had refused the delicious-looking cake before, and was sorry now). It had been foolish to set off so unprepared, but she realised that she had set herself a challenge. It was the first for a very long time, and she was afraid she would come to grief with it. But of course she was in grief already.
On and on she walked. She began to hear things: a laugh that sounded familiar, someone calling her name, a bark that she knew. And to see things too: a sky-blue skirt disappearing round the corner, a red scarf hanging from a bush, a ginger cat playing with leaves. She wasn’t afraid, but on high alert.
She arrived at a bigger clearing. Tired, she sat down with her back against one of the huge pines. Then gradually, slowly, the clearing filled up with things, dragged there in boxes and on pallets by people she did not know. Everything she had ever owned was there: the blue glass vase given to her when she was 21, the starfish pendant, the purple sweater, her first brassiere, the green high-heeled boots, the pottery figurines, the life-changing books, the chinz curtains. Thousands of objects that she had possessed. She had wanted them, organised her personality round them, and had tired of them at last. It gave her a pang to look at them.
And then on the other side of the clearing, the people began to file in. Everyone Sarah had known, loved, hated. They sat down quietly and looked at her. Some of them she was glad to see and she wanted to say “why did you leave me so soon?” Others looked as abashed and lacklustre as before, and Sarah wondered whether to berate them. But there seemed no point now. She sat in front of each of them for a few minutes, looked into their eyes, remembered how they had been together.
With an incredible jolt, Sarah realised that she was neither her things nor her people. They were fading in the evening light. And as her attachment to them faded, she began to feel quite different. Lighter, freer, without boundaries, without personality. She might be someone else. She might just do that.
She stepped out.