This story is for Sue Vincent’s photo prompt.
There must have been a road here once, two, and the stone marks the junction. I touch the cold moss, my feet buried in bracken, and wonder how long since anyone walked these roads, since there were roads to walk. The trees grow close, overhanging what might have been a clearing. Not a clearing, a long tunnel of trees stretching north and south. I turn, see the same green tunnel running east and west. The light is soft and full of shadows. Green. Gentle.
It has not always been like this. I shiver as memories creep, like beetles over my feet. My bare feet. I feel no cold. Perhaps it is the gentleness in the air that keeps me warm. And the smell of rosemary. There can be no plant growing beneath these trees, not in this cool green dimness, but the scent is strong. I part the bracken, find only stones, the remains of a cairn. A cairn.
I back away as the dark memories pour out from among the stones that I know conceal a hole. A pit, a howling emptiness that they hoped would serve as my hell. The scent of rosemary calms me and I search until I find the ghostly remains, a root, hanging on beneath the leaf mould. They planted it, he and the children. I can feel the touch of their hands. Can ghosts cry? I wipe the tears, let them fall onto the green ground, feel the spark of life reignite.
I can leave this place, take either of the roads, any direction. The forest has covered the tracks of the righteous, and left only the plants that pass no judgement. The rosemary stirs and I smile. I touch the mossy way stone and say goodbye. I will walk the forest paths north, south, east, west, back and forth until I find my own ghosts. If there is anything as sure as death, it is that they will be waiting for me, in some green glade, amid the scent of rosemary.