Have you ever been out in the woods at twilight, and seen some faint flicker of light amongst the leaves? The chances are that it was just the sky breaking through the canopy for a moment as you walk by, but then again, it might not be; twilight is deceiving. What you may well have seen was one of the Secret People, or rather, the ethereal light which marks their passing, the only sign of their presence visible to normal human eyes.
Of course, if it wasn’t on this day that you saw those briefest dim flashes in the treetops, then it probably wasn’t one of those shy forest visitors, who have only been ‘verifiably observed’ by a ‘true possessor of The Vision’ on this evening alone, specifically in the Luck’s End forest, in a spot where the chestnut trees grow amongst large mossy boulders. In fact, it was here that The Vision first passed on to the people of Buentoille, allowing them to see the eerie parade that passes through the canopy this eve in the moments just after the sun has set.
Caerwyn Oiser had run away from home earlier that day, the 25th of September, 1924. There had been an argument; something about a boy she had been seeing. Fifty years later, when she came to tell her story, Oiser did not remember the details; she’d run away from home, for maybe the seventh time, and had decided that she was going to live in the woods. She was only sixteen, but had read plenty of survivalist books and was pretty sure she could hack it. She found a soft, mossy patch of grass in between two large boulders, and laid down a piece of oiled cloth she’s stolen from her mother upon it, before laying down herself. She used her backpack for a pillow and folded the cloth over herself to keep out the rain, which had been falling intermittently all day. The wind picked up, and sang through the stones, casting water collected on the chestnut leaves at her. It was funny, the wind sounded almost like someone crying, far off and faint.
Perhaps it was her own voice reflected back to her, she secretly thought, in some back room of her mind (as an older, wiser woman, Oiser found it easier to admit she had been crying), this sound of distant wailing. Perhaps the wind had blown the sound back, breaking her sobs on the stones like gurgling sea foam. She didn’t have long to think those thoughts, because then, very abruptly, a tear fell into her eye. Not that she knew it was a tear at first; she thought it was a drop of rain from the trees, but it stung something horrid and she sat up quickly, rubbing it like crazy. Both her eyes were red and puffy anyway, but now her left eye was particularly inflamed. She cursed and lay back down, covering her face a little with her arm. Everything looked a little fuzzy. She closed her right eye to test out the left and there, lying in the arms of the tree above her, was a girl crying.
Looking back, in her interview with Buentoilliçan Weird Weekly Oiser remarked ‘I’m surprised I wasn’t more surprised. I’d been looking up at that very spot, just moments before, and there was nobody there. No, she didn’t look anything like me.’ The girl was strange looking, as if she were elastic, boneless. She lay facing down with her head in her arms, but her body sagged, as if you had laid a slack hosepipe between the branches. The proportions were right, she just, well, was saggy. She convulsed slightly, as she cried, ripples sent through her body. Oiser couldn’t see her out of her right eye.
After a long moment, another person, of the same construction, peeled out from behind the tree trunk and sloped over the her, their hand stroking her hair in a comforting way. This other figure, a woman too, walked strangely and carefully, like a wobbly tightrope walker. Their weight didn’t seem to affect the branch at all, and she wavered on each leg, like a snake rearing upright. Her eyes were large and black, almost all pupil. They looked grey, only half there. Eventually they both got up and walked back over to the trunk, and plunged into it with a small, semi-visible pop of light.
It was a long time before Oiser told anyone what she saw that evening, before the moon rose on the forest. It was only seven years later, on the 24th, that she told her newly wed husband, Batear, about it. When he realised it wasn’t a joke he agreed to go with her to the forest at the same time, to watch the creatures lope between the tree branches, extruding from knots in trunks here and there, before travelling some way across the branch and then disappearing back within the tree, accompanied by that familiar flash, just as hundreds had done above Oiser that evening when she was younger. To let him see them, Caerwyn transferred some of the tears from her left eye into a vial, then dropped then into Batear’s eye. They waited for the canopy walkers, the Secret People, to emerge, and were not disappointed.
After Batear it was her family and friends, and then a few others who’d heard tell of the strange experience, of watching those who couldn’t see in return, those secret people who listened strangely to hanging chestnuts at intervals between their loping walks, flashes of light and extrusive apparition. Some of these chestnuts they carefully touched, making them fall to the ground. Not many, though. After the interview many more joined them, and tonight this motley group will do much the same as they always do; share out their tears, their Vision, to newcomers, and sit quietly on the moss-covered boulders for the Secret People to arrive, each with a hand over their right eye.
Other festivals happening today
- The Festival of the Honey’d Voice
- The Festival of Interested Parties
- Holly Berry Anticipation Day