My favourite apples were those picked straight from the tree covered with water drops from a light autumn shower or droplets from a misty morning.
It seemed like I spent all my autumn days outside harvesting, sorting out the animals and making sure everything was ready for winter. I had lots of help, I was the only girl out of eight children. The joke was my mother had kept trying till she had a girl but I had turned out more boyish then some of my brothers!
I was fourth generation of farmer and it ran strong within me. I had favourite jobs and ones I hated but I still did them all. My best was apple picking. I loved getting the reds and greens off the trees, stacking them in baskets before putting them in the trucks to go to the shops.
There was some comforting about the weight in hand, the smell of the crisp apples under my nose and when I tasted the sweet tang of the fruit nothing could bet it.
One of my brothers joked that it was apple juice that ran in my veins instead of blood. I believed that could be true. Another brother said I had been born from an apple seed mother had swallowed on the advice of grandma. A third claimed they had found me under an apple tree on harvest moon night!
However, I had come into the world my name; Autumn Apple Atkins was fitting and perfect to my ears. Some sniggered at it, others had used it to bully me but to me it was who I was and where I had come from.
My father had promised me the orchard and I could think of no greater thing to inherit then the trees that bear the fruit I love.
The child rubbed her eyes as smoke from the fire began to irritate her. In blurred vision, she saw dark shapes moving around the orange-red fire. The figures were dancing slowly in time with the movement of the tips of the flames which sent flickering embers into the night sky.
The child shouldn’t be here. Her parents had told her no and left her with grandma. She had escaped as soon as granny fell sleep in front of the white noise displaying TV. The child had never been out this late but she had come to find out a truth she all ready knew within her heart.
From her hiding spot under a spiky bush, the child heard the rise and fall of voices. At first she couldn’t make out what they saying then she realised it was not English being spoken. It was another language, one from the deep past that belong to ancient peoples.
Lulled by the song and tried, the child fell sleep. She had nightmares, swirls of black and red shadows trying to grip her but she couldn’t escape because the fire blocked her at every turn. Smoke got into her eyes and blinded her, it filled her mouth when she tried to scream. Something grabbed her legs, dragging her into a hole that opened up in the ground.
The child woke and was disoriented. Slowly, she crawled out from the bush and went towards the dying fire. The people were gone now, fading into the night as if they had never been. The sky above was becoming lighter but rain clouds were gathering.
Looking into the last of the flames, the child picked up an un-burnt stick. She knew, somehow what had gone on last night. Touching the stick into the fire, she waited till it began to burn then removed it.
Waving the stick in the air, the child said aloud, ‘I won’t be a dark witch. I will be a white witch.’
Autumn leaves stuck to my boots, a drizzle rainfall patted the trees. The sky was a dusky blue-grey-black, night was coming fast. Birds tweeted their last songs and somewhere a woodpecker knocked.
I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be home in front of the TV, eating snacks, being normal. My mind wouldn’t let that happen. I was going though so much therapy and techniques it was hard to keep up with it all. None of it was working.
Being in the forest helped, somewhat. The hour or two of walking in the evenings, no matter the weather, helped to tire me. If not, the all night gym did.
No pills, cognitive therapy or other practises lasted long. The voices and thoughts came still. They whispered for me to do harm to myself and others. They laughed, taunted, demand, said there was no getting rid of them. I was mad.
I should have stayed locked up in the clinic but I wasn’t ill enough; my problems could be controlled. What did the doctors really know? They didn’t have all these demons inside. I didn’t trust myself, no one could, it was only a matter of time until…I did what the voices wanted and killed the next person I saw.
Looking up at the copper coloured leaves, I tried to relax and clear my head but all I could think about was the flow of blood. Red and pooling on the ground, the taste of it in my mouth, the feel of it on my skin.
Footsteps behind me. I turned hoping it was no one but along the path came a man with his dog.
Tears blurred my vision. I wiped them away hard and told myself to stop crying. It was too hard to, so I shut my eyes and dragged in some deep breathes.
A strong breeze blew, sweeping the salty smell of the sea and also some spray towards me. The marram grass whipped up and began bruising my ankles and legs, almost as if it as trying to stop me.
I hugged the urn hard and carried on walking. My feet sank into dry sand and kicked up as I walked. Before I reached the lapping waves, I slipped my shoes off. Barefooted, I walked into the sea and felt the cold water rising past my knees.
I give up with wiping the tears away and looked around to make sure I was alone. It was passed 5:30 AM and no one was here on the little beach. This place had been my dog, Teddy’s favourite walk. He had loved jumping into the sea and swimming out to catch a ball. He had enjoyed digging holes and been fascinated by crabs and jellyfish on the beach.
There was a feeling a rightness to set him to rest here.
It didn’t have to be done quickly, but I knew I’d changed my mind otherwise. I unscrewed the lid and tipped the urn slowly. Grey ash rushed out and vanished into the waves. I dropped the lid and the urn then dropped down, the sea came up to my shoulders.
Tears and grief swamped me. I couldn’t move, only stay sitting in the sea with the waves splashing against me.