A.J. Walker


Ghosts of a Past Forcibly Forgotten

#MidWeekFlash - 12 May 2021

Ghosts of a Past Forcibly Forgotten

There had been a semblance of normality for years. It could be simply traced back to when I left home. Now here I was back in the old haunts–quite literally. The shop on the corner of Main Street was still selling–or more precisely–not selling the same bizarre tat it used to have. People went in for milk, bread and tobacco every day, not out of date children’s toys, fishing nets and postcards of places not even that nearby. The old store was a family affair, Mr & Mrs Daker, who seemed nice and friendly. It was still run by the Dakers now but I assume it was a son or cousin. It made me laugh when I was younger, but now it seemed beyond quaint: indicative that nothing in this small town would ever change.

Coming back here was becoming harder by the minute. I’d left the town and moved on after that troubled childhood. The Sawyer’s Children’s Home for kids like me was on the outskirts of town. Seemingly so the town could pretend we not a part of them. Most of the town did a masterly impression of finding its occupants invisible under most circumstances; and yet all too visible if something was amiss.

I struggle to call it a ‘Home’ without it crunching like broken glass against my sensibilties. Homes should not be fearful places yet Sawyer’s managed to put the fear of God into me for years. It was only in recent times I’d seemed to have beaten it out of my head. Being there now and seeing that nothing had changed it seemed to me that the place was set to bulldoze itself back. I should never have returned.

Yet here I am. I’d absently moved on to the home as if that was always the plan. It wasn’t. The gate was open in so much as it was hanging on to its rusted hinges with thin intentions. I walked in, up the scraggy garden path to the door and found it slightly ajar. It was hard to imagine anyone would come to this imposing miserable place. But then again here I was. Perhaps it had the power to draw people in. Even though it had driven me away all that time ago.

As I pushed open the door it rasped against the collected dry leaves that had blown into the hallway. I half expected to see the damnable Mrs Hall and Dr Rogers stood there with their evil faces and leather straps waiting for me. But there was no one there. Closing my eyes I tried to picture any good times. There were moments of course. We all made friends with the other children as they passed through the place. Looking back it seemed not so much kids making friends as inmates making alliances and support groups. It was them and us: Us against the world.

We were fractured by our experiences; many before they got to the home. It was like a training camp run by psychopaths for people made from broken porcelain. Then there was that summer of ‘76. Estella. She’d been the ultimate china doll. Dropped and shattered too many times to reconstruct. She’d chosen to cling to me. Not physically, but she was always around me. We’d done some things together. I’d read books to her in the old orchard. That was our place. She didn’t talk much. She wasn’t exactly mute but she obviously felt more comfortable keeping herself to herself. Rogers and Hall liked to take their sadistic pleasures around the group and when it was her turn she didn’t complain. Somehow she got quieter. I remember that antagonised them a great deal. When they locked her in the top room of the house to teach her a lesson the long quiet didn’t seem unusual. But when they’d opened the door the next day they found her frail dead body curled up beneath a window. Cuts on her wrists from a rusted box hinge.

It was the first time I saw a dead body. I hoped I wouldn’t see any more. A friend dead and alone, blood spilled across the timber. It didn’t look real. I could see it now as clear as the day I was there. I shivered. Someone stepping on my grave perhaps. Estella. I felt she was still in the room A ghost. Quiet as she was when she was alive, but maybe she was happier. She couldn’t be hurt again.