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Overview: Ghost stories

Jonathan and the old woman

Jonathan – who was about old as you are now at the time – was certainly not a coward! But as it slowly became darker and the snow storm blew stronger and stronger against his face, he slowly started to become scared. He could hardly recognise the path anymore and knew that he needed at least another hour before getting home.

Obviously there was a shortcut through the woods. Jonathan had never used the shortcut before because his dad had always told him not to. “Never go into those woods!” he had once said “terrible things happen there! Lots of people go in and never come out again and if they did get out, they were never the same.”

But Jonathan’s clothes were soaking wet and he was freezing. If he went through the woods he would be able to sit at the warm fire very soon. Obviously he was scared but the thought of being at home so quickly was so appealing that Jonathan left the safe path and went into the deep, dark woods.

The woods did really have something strange about them. The trees were much larger than usual – they must be really ancient. The air smelt mouldy and there was not a noise to be heard. It seemed like no one had dared enter the enchanted place for centuries. Jonathan thought about turning back again but he had come too far.

Suddenly, a spooky call broke through the silence “Jonathan! Jonathan!!” Jonathan held his breath and listened carefully into the dark woods but there nothing to be heard. He carefully carried on but hadn’t got far before the call came again. “Jonathan. Jonathan, come here to me!” His heart was now beating very loudly in his chest and he started to shake. “Who could that be? Maybe...” Jonathan was really pleased for a second “maybe my parents have started off from home to meet me.” So he called back: “Mum? Dad? Where are you?” “Here... here I am.” Jonathan could recognise where the sound was coming from and walked towards it. He walked deeper and deeper into the woods and fought his way through the deep snow.

There! There it was again. “Jonathan! Jonathan, help me.” The snowfall was too dense to see very well but he could see recognise a shape which was slowly heading towards him. At first he could not make out who or what it is but as he came closer he saw that it was an old woman who was pulling a sledge along. Jonathan was disappointed that it wasn’t his parents. But he was also relieved because this old woman was sure to do nothing bad to him. “I have never seen you before, old lady” said Jonathan, “how do you know my name?”

The old woman laughed so that you could see her crooked, yellow teeth. “Ha, ha, ha. If you are so old that you have seen all of the trees in the woods grow, then you know everything, including the name of a young boy just like you.” She was ancient and very ugly! Her long, white hair fell over her wrinkled face; she had a really bad humpback and stank terribly – almost like sulphur.

Jonathan started to become quite queasy. “What do you want from me, old lady?” he asked her. “Look”, said the old woman, “there is fire wood on this sledge and I need it to heat my hut. I am old and find it difficult to pull the sledge all the way back alone. But you, Jonathan, are young and should be able to help me!” Jonathan didn’t want to stay in the enchanted woods alone with this strange woman any longer. He gathered all of his courage and said: “No, old lady, I cannot help you. I do not have the time because my parents are waiting at home for me.”

“Have a good think about whether you want to help me,” said the old woman and grabbed Jonathan by the shoulder. “No!” called Jonathan. “I won’t help you.” “You’ll be sorry young man” answered the woman. “If you don’t help me, you will be as old as I am before you reach the edge of the woods.” Jonathan pulled himself away and ran as quickly as he could. But he could still hear the old woman calling behind him: “Jonathan, oh Jonathan. A young boy now, but an old man very soon!”

Jonathan ran as fast as his legs would carry him. But he was quickly out of breath and had to stop. What was suddenly wrong with him? His legs were hurting and could hardly carry him anymore. He glanced down at his hands and got a big shock: they were as wrinkly as the old lady’s face! He had to get out of these enchanted woods as quickly as possible; thankfully it wasn’t much further. But Jonathan became slower and slower. He could only take pathetic little steps and he almost gave up completely with tiredness. Something was itching his face terribly. He touched his face and it was like being struck by lightning when he noticed that he had a massive long white beard which reached down to his stomach. “Oh my God!” he screamed with anger. The old woman had put a curse on him and he had become an old man in just a few minutes!

“What should I do now?” Jonathan began to cry hard. “I can’t go home to my parents like this.” The next terrible thought shot through his head. At the age he was now, he would die before he left the woods. Would his life, which had actually just begun, be over so quickly? Jonathan was distressed.

Then he thought about the curse that the old woman had put on him. “If you do not help me” she had said, “you will be as old as I am before you reach the edge of the woods.” Jonathan repeated these thoughts in his head: “If you do not help me…” “Maybe”, Jonathan suddenly had a flash of hope, “maybe I can reverse the curse by going back to the old woman and helping her pull the sledge this time.” He didn’t have any other choice so he made his way back as quickly as possible.

In his condition, it wasn’t very easy. He became older and older and every single step was more difficult than running for an hour when he was young. He had to take a break to rest a little. The snowstorm blew in his face and he could hardly find his way back. Jonathon was not sure, but maybe his eyes had become worse due to his age.

Even though the way had only taken a few minutes before, it now seemed to take days. He was scared that he wouldn’t be able to find the old woman. But without her, he knew that it would be a certain death.

“Old lady!” called Jonathan. This must be the place where he had met her before. “Old lady, where are you?” He heard her voice in the distance and heard her evil laugh. “Jonathan, oh Jonathan. A young boy not long ago and now you are an old man!” “Please, old lady” Jonathan fell t his knees in front of the old woman “please help me and don’t let me die!” The old woman laughed again. “If you help me, I will help you.” She placed the old Jonathan in front of her sledge. Jonathan started to pull the heavy sledge with the last of his strength. But it was far too difficult for an old doddery man like he was now and he felt how life was slowly slipping away from him. “Please, old lady” he cried “please spare this work. If I have to pull the sledge any further I will die.” “Quite the opposite is true” said the old lady. “If you pull the sledge further you will become young again.”

It really happened. Jonathan could suddenly feel each step becoming easier. The long beard growing from his chin started to go away and the strength in his body came back again. Once they reached the old woman’s hut, he was a boy once again.

“I am young once again!” called Jonathan with joy. “Thank you old lady! Thanks very much!” “Let that be a lesson to you” said the old lady. “Always try to help wherever you can! And one more thing: you will become old as well one day. That happens quicker than you think. So use every day in your life!”

Jonathan ran back home as quickly as he could and threw his arms around his parents. From then on, he lived a happy and satisfied life and used every day to the full just like the old woman had said. After all, he now knew what it was like to be old.

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