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Author's note: This piece was something that I worked on for about 8 months. I was inspired to write this by personal tragedy in my life, as well as the life of an old passed away friend.
As I walked down the hall, I began to count how many old dusty pictures there actually were, and as I counted them I became angrier and angrier with what she said. All that work for nothing, I mean it took me three weeks in the first place to even start it. I knew her birthday was coming up, and I wanted to get her something as sort of a truce, so I made her a rocking chair, and of course, it was all about how stiff the back was and how much it reminded her of my father. I decided to go back. I had more to say.
“Mom, why can’t you just believe in me with all your heart, not my dad, and just know that I’ll be okay?”
Nothing, she said nothing, she just ignored me like always which always made me feel twice as bad. I began to walk back down the hall when I heard a faint whisper, an almost deadly silent whisper say,
“Because I’m scared,” and she began to gain her voice. “I’m scared that you will go into a place that has no bounds, has no shelter, has no love, and I’m scared that you will get lost in this world and that I could lose the only thing I have left to love.”
I walked out. We have had this conversation a billion times before and it’s always the same thing, and part of me wants to leave but the other part is worried for her and her heart. Those pictures had never been so ugly. Always smiles, fake or not, showing me how it used to be. It was almost like a slap in the face. I can just imagine what the pictures want to say to me, “Hahaha. Look at what you had, all of it is gone and it’s never coming back!” My rage went from a simmer to a boil in an instant and I snapped. I began to punch the pictures and throw them to the ground. I couldn’t stand being here anymore, I had to leave, and I had to leave now!
As I began to walk downstairs, through my living room, and out the door, grabbing my coat on the way, I realized I didn’t know where I was going and honestly, I didn’t really care. There was a place I used to play in the forest when I was a kid; it was kind of a get-away for me whenever mom and dad would fight. So I went there. The trail was worn and full of amber leaves. I could hear the birds almost yelling at me. “CAW, CAW’’, wings fluttering away, they were scared and hungry, almost like me.
As I arrived at this place where I had found solace so many times before, I realized how big I was and that this place of refuge was nothing more than a fallen tree, surrounded by thicket and carvings I had carved when I was a kid. I read one aloud, “TAKE ME A WAY”, I didn’t know whether to cry or to chuckle. I mean I spelled it wrong, but I still felt the same as I did every time I came here, “I have nothing to be here for, I want to go away.” My eyes began to fill with tears, and I couldn’t hold them back anymore. I sobbed until my breaths came out like the sound of a 6-year-old who just got spanked. And I almost wish that I was just a 6-year-old. I became weak with depression and slowly began to watch my vision sluggishly fade, and I felt my body sink into a hollowed out log of comfort and retreat.
I woke up to the sound of my teeth chattering and stomach pains in a cold dark world. I heard unfamiliar sounds all around me, and for the first time in a long while, I felt scared. Between the sound of my teeth chattering, the sound of my limbs shaking, and the sounds of the dark woods, I began to feel alone, so alone that it felt like my heart was caving in on me. The sounds became louder, and the pressure on my chest began to build; it built so much that I couldn’t stand it anymore. It was too much. I stood up and had to run away from it all.
I ran and I could hear the leaves crush under my feet. I knew I wasn’t on a trail anymore because I was stumbling and tripping over rocks, stumps, and all sorts of decayed mulch. But as I focused on my footsteps, it seemed as if I heard two more feet mocking my very running pattern. I told myself not to look back and just keep running. I began to run faster and faster, and the footsteps behind became louder and louder. It felt like I ran for miles. Now at a dead sprint I realized I still heard the feet right behind me. And I began to turn left, and then a sharp right, avoiding trees at all costs. Before I could do anything, I felt my body go ahead of my feet and watched myself smack face first into a pile of decayed leaves and twigs. My face was numb with pain, and I could only hear myself breathe. As my hearing finally came to, all I could hear was a slow walk, almost march, toward me. I couldn’t see anything. I began to scream,
“Help, please somebody help me!”
The footsteps grew louder and I began to shout,
“Leave me alone! Just go away! Please!”
Almost simultaneously as I yelled I heard the footsteps stop. And all I heard was the sound of a nearby creek.
I looked around and saw nothing but the sun peeking over the tree line. My knees were stinging with pain and I realized there was blood all over my hands from my nose. It was getting lighter by the second, and I began to see my breath in the air. I felt worthless; I couldn’t even gain the pride to stand. I sat for awhile and found the strength to go wash up at the creek and figure out where I was.
As I approached the creek, I realized I didn’t even know there was a creek near these woods. And as I knelt down beside the creek to wash my face and hands, I saw my reflection in the water. My hair was filled with leaves and my face was covered with blood. But there was something else in the reflection as well. I saw a dark shadow almost crawl behind my head and around a tree, but before I could turn to see what it was, it was gone. I felt now more than ever that I needed to be home. But I didn’t know where I was, and I didn’t know where to go. I looked around once more, and I noticed there was a small shack with a smoke stack and old stumps outside, almost like a hunter’s stake out, on the other side of the creek. My stomach began to growl at me with bitterness after not being fed for almost a day now. I began to wonder if maybe I was just seeing and hearing things because of my hunger and thirst. I thought to myself, “Maybe there might be some sort of old canned food in there or maybe something else to eat.” I decided to sacrifice my dry feet for a starved stomach by crossing the creek.
As I crossed the creek, it seemed every step I took, the water became colder and colder. At one point it felt as though my feet were completely numb. I wished my stomach felt that way. When I was about half way to the other side, something caught my eye. It was a little boy sitting across the creek staring at me, dressed in summer clothes that looked like they were from the fifties, sitting on the rocks on the other side. I yelled at him,
“Hey! Are you okay? Do you need my jacket? You’re gonna freeze out here!”
His eyes were filled with such emotion; they made me instantly sad and full of regret. I could not stop staring back, something about his eyes made me continue to stare. They were vibrantly blue, but at the same time they made me feel as though I did something wrong to him. As I walked toward him I felt as if I was in a trance. I put my hand out to touch him and before I could grasp his shoulder he disappeared. I shook out of it, and told myself I was seeing things.
I walked into the tiny shack, and there was a very old wood burning stove standing on three legs with what seemed to be what was at one point a pan on it. To its left was the remains of a cot and sheets covered in leaves probably older than me. And just towards the back of the shack was a shelf covered with cobwebs. I took the stump sitting just outside the shack inside and stood on it and cleared the cobwebs to see what was up there. To my relief and surprise, I found some old un-opened cans of food without labels. I knew I would eat today, and I felt as though this was a place very crucial to my survival at this point. I managed to make the old cot into a make-shift bed and sat down. I used an old shard of metal off of the pan to hit and finally manage to pry open the can; inside was a hearty beef soup. I never thought I’d be so happy to see disgusting beef vegetable soup. It tasted like metal, but that didn’t stop me from eating it.
As I was eating I began to think of when I was a kid. I remember being in my room when I was about ten and hearing my dad come home drunk slamming the door. I heard him stumble into the living room looking for someone to pick on. He must have not found anyone because he started yelling and throwing pots and pans in the kitchen on the floor. I heard him yell,
“Jen, where are ya? I’m hungry. Why the hell isn’t there anything to eat?!”
I became really scared and went into my closet and hid under a blanket. I heard him began to stagger upstairs.
“Jen, Don’t hide from me! Come here now!” he said.
I heard him opening doors looking in rooms and slamming them after not seeing someone to start in on. I heard his footsteps stop at my room, and I began to cry and whimper. He said,
“Colby, you in there, boy? Come here and see your old man.”
I knew what this meant for me. It meant, “Colby, get out of your damn closet so I can yell at you ‘til your ears bleed for not doing what I didn’t ask you to.” I heard my door open.
I finished my soup. Now that I was full, and I could finally focus. My feet were freezing and wet. I started a fire in the old stove with the lighter I picked up on my way out the door so my mom wouldn’t smoke while I was gone. I had to figure out where I was. I peered outside from the door of the shack and saw nothing but trees shedding their leaves, the creek which I had just crossed, and a darkening sky. I still couldn’t figure out where I was and nothing looked like anything I had ever seen near my house. I must have run for a lot longer than I thought.
It amazed me how fast my day seemed. I grew weak with exhaustion and cuddled up near the fire to stay warm. All I knew is that starting tomorrow I decided that I needed to go home no matter what, and I’d never missed my mom so much.
I woke up the next morning, cold, and lonely. The stove beside me was filled with smoke. I opened another can of metal soup and forced myself to eat it. It seemed no different than it did the night before. After eating, I put my shoes on and went outside to try to figure out how to get home. I looked around and nothing had changed, nothing seemed familiar besides the annual falling of leaves every autumn. I went into the shack and put on my coat. To the left of the shack was a huge bare hill. It seemed higher than the highest tree that I could see. I decided this would be a good place to start my search to find my house.
The hill seemed to get steeper after every step I took. On my way up I came across a huge area filled with cacti. As I was dodging the cacti at all costs I noticed a humongous ant hill right in the middle. It reminded me of a time when I was a kid. My mom, dad, and I were having a family picnic at a local park. I was playing catch with my dad, and I had missed a catch and I had to go get the ball. I was looking for the ball when I saw a huge ant hill, and decided it would be awesome to pretend I was a dinosaur and destroy the ant hill. I began to kick it making dinosaur noises. Suddenly I felt a bunch of stinging up my leg, and the ants started crawling up my leg, I began to scream and cry. My dad came running to me and started swatting the ants off. I remember hugging him as hard as I could, crying my eyes out. He told me, “Don’t hurt the ants, Colby; they just want to be safe and happy. Look, look how they are already rebuilding their hill. You need to be like them and just keep your head up and keep trying. Okay?”
I never understood what he meant by that until I got a little older. I watched the ants as they continued to build on their hill and walked around it and continued up the hill. As I arrived to the top of the hill, I was dying with stomach pains from breathing so hard. Once I finally reached the top I plopped down on the ground. I looked around as I caught my breath. All I could see for miles was nothing but trees. In every direction there was nothing but trees. I felt confused. I stood up and ran across the hill frantically looking in all directions, searching for my house. Nothing, I saw no sign of anything but more and more trees. I broke down. I collapsed to the ground in shock. I was lost for real, and I had no idea what happened. I couldn’t believe I ran that far. It was inconceivable. I couldn’t even bring myself to cry. I lay there for awhile trying to figure out what was going on. I felt like giving up.
I sat up and looked around again. I looked down into the trees to see if I could see any sign of life near me. I saw something moving. I tried to move along the hill to get a better look, and I saw through the trees and their leaves what appeared to be a striped polo or some sort of clothing. Whatever it was it started to walk towards an opening, and as it approached, my heart began to race with excitement. Maybe my mom had sent a search party for me or something! As it appeared, my heart sank with sorrow and fear. What I saw was that same boy I thought I had seen when I was crossing the creek. I became very scared, because I knew I could not be hallucinating now. It seemed he sensed my presence, because before I could do anything, he turned directly toward the hill I was on and began to stare at me again. I ran down the hill towards my shack of refuge, sprinting. As I was running I didn’t know whether I was scared, shocked, or confused. His eyes were so haunting they just took my breath away. As I arrived to my shack, I saw him on the other side of the creek walking toward me. He walked very slowly without purpose toward me. As I he arrived to the side of the creek, without hesitation, he walked right into the bone chilling creek, the water going up to his mouth, and through the water to the same side as me. I yelled at him,
“What do you want?!”
He just kept walking. As he approached me, his image became more and more vivid. I knew now that this person was real as I reached out to touch him and felt his shoulder still walking towards me. But instead of stopping when I touched him he just walked right by me, into the shack I called home for now. It was almost as if he didn’t even know I was there.
I went inside and he was sitting on the cot just staring at the ground. It seemed as though he didn’t even realize I was there. I was scared, yet intrigued why this little boy was neither cold nor talkative. He remained mute for minutes. Not a word was produced between the two of us because I didn’t know what to say, and wasn’t moving an inch. After sitting for awhile, I realized I was cold and started a fire. As I was trying to start the fire I kept a close eye on him making sure he wasn’t going to do anything. I was still confused and worried about him. Immediately as the fire started, he snapped out of his trance and started screaming at me.
“Stop! Stop! You don’t know what you’re doing! Please!”
Before I could do anything, he sank to the floor crying. I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked. I tried to touch him and he would just pull away. When I tried to ask what the matter was, he began to disappear before my eyes.
Gone in an instant, I was left with a soaking wet cot from the creek and little footprints all over the ground in the shack. I knew now that I wasn’t just seeing things. This was very real. I went into a state of shock and watched my body tumble onto the cot. I felt myself slowly fade away.
I woke up the next morning trying to remember if what I saw last night was real or just a fantasy. I sat up slowly and the fire was still going this time. As I started to wake up and saw the little footprints of his boots, I knew that I actually saw that little boy and he was real, or at least sort of real. I wanted to know this kid, even if he might be a ghost or something. I knew he wasn’t, I quit believing in ghosts a long time ago.
When I was a kid I used to think there were ghosts in our basement. At one point I was scared of even going into our living room, in fear I might fall down the stairs into the basement. I don’t remember what started my fear of ghosts as a kid, but I knew I was scared. I would always hear a loud banging noise coming from the basement. My parents would tell me it was nothing but my imagination would run wild with images of ghosts chasing me. I remember one night I had a sleep over with friends when I was about eight. We all slept in the living room, and my sleeping bag was right by the staircase by the basement. I didn’t want to be afraid and embarrass myself in front of all my friends, so I tried to ignore the fact of where I had to sleep.
As the night drew on and it got closer and closer to bed time, I began to become scared. As we all lay down to go to bed, I slipped into my sleeping bag and heard a loud banging, creaking noise coming from the basement. “BANG, BANG!” I began to cry and ran upstairs into my mom and dad’s room. I leaped onto their bed clinging to my dad with all my might. He woke up and still waking up asked,
“What’s the matter, Colby?”
Still trying to catch my breath and crying I said,
“A g-g-ghost dad I’m so scared go get it p-please.”
I remember hearing him sigh and say,
“Come on, Colby. Follow me.’’
He grabbed my hand and we walked down the stairs together. I felt less scared just with my dad by my side. We walked down the stairs and all my friends were looking at us. They seemed puzzled at what had just happened and all started drifting back to sleep. I was relieved that they didn’t know I was crying just five minutes ago. My dad lay beside the basement staircase next to my sleeping bag and held me close to him, and I slowly fell asleep.
Then next morning I woke up by the staircase and my dad wasn’t beside me anymore. I went upstairs and he was back in his room again. I knew he must have left after I fell asleep. After my friends left, he grabbed my hand and said he had to show me something. He took me towards the staircase to the basement and I jerked away and hesitated to follow. He said, “It’s okay, I’ll protect you, I promise”
There was something about my dad, when he said he promised something, he meant it. I felt like I could take on the world when he was around. I grabbed his hand after a pause, and we continued down the stairs. The stairs creaked with every step, and I began to shake. It was dark and I was afraid. Once we got to the bottom, the loud banging started again. “BANG, BANG” and now I was scared. I asked, “Dad, can we please go back upstairs?! Please?!”
“BANG BANG” was all I could hear. Just before I could bring myself to scream, he flicked a switch and lights came on. And right in front of us was our washing machine rocking back and forth, smacking against the wall right behind it. He said “See Colby, it’s just a washing machine, not a ghost. There’s no such thing as ghosts.” I had believed him until last night when I met a little boy sitting on the bed of my little hunter’s shack, sobbing, soaking wet.
I knew this boy was real, and I had come to the conclusion that I needed to find out who he was. I spent hours looking for him, waiting and waiting for what seemed like an eternity. Two days went by and the boy never returned. I was running low on food, out of the will to survive, and I couldn’t find my home. I was ready to give up. I went outside and screamed,
“Why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”
I heard the tiniest, brittle voice say to me,
“You didn’t do anything.”
I turned around, and there he was, the little boy that seemed like a reoccurring dream. He was sitting by the water on that rock I had first seen him on.
He said, “You’re not lost, I know where you are.”
“Where am I?!” I exclaimed.
He didn’t answer. His voice was brittle and sickly. He sounded as if he’d cried for an eternity. He looked at me with his vibrant blue eyes.
“You know, it’s not so bad out here. I kind of like it.”
“Answer me! Where am I?!”
He remained still. I quickly walked to him, and reached out to touch him and this time my hand met with his shoulder for the second time. He felt real, within seconds I felt terrible, something about touching this boy made me feel like a sword had just went through my heart like blunt misery. I quickly pulled away. He apologized,
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“What are you talking about?!”
“You put your hand on me, and it hurt, didn’t it?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“I know what I feel, and you looked like you felt it when you touched me”
Here I was talking to a little boy that went from a hungry hallucination to a ghost and now a full on little boy.
“Why do you feel that way,” I said
No response. He remained still and mute. I asked again for what seemed like the billionth time, “Are you okay?”
No response, something about me touching him made me start to cry, it started with a tear, and turned into that now familiar sob I’ve had since I left. I collapsed to the ground with my head in my hands, crying. I saw him out of the corner of my eye walk towards me and sit by me, I felt solace immediately. He said “My name’s Jacob”
And he put out his hand; I wiped the tears from my face and reached to shake his hand.
I paused before I shook his hand. He said it was okay, so I did. It was normal, no pain nor suffering, just a little boy’s hand.
Here I was engaging in a conversation with a boy that might be 12 or nothing at all.
“Where are you from, Jacob?”
“This is my home now,” he said. “I’ve been here for years. This is where I’m from.”
Obviously this wasn’t home, but at this point I just wanted to communicate with this boy. Something about him was almost angelic. I didn’t want to see him disappear again. It seemed that he was all I had left at this point.
“Are you hungry?” he asked.
I nodded my head.
“I know a place follow me.”
He got up and starting running away from the creek. I got up as fast as I could to follow him. He was really going fast just like I did when I was a kid; I could run for miles.
He said, “Hurry up, slow poke!”
I followed him, and something about these woods didn’t seem so scary any more.
We ran for awhile until we came to one of the biggest trees I had ever seen. It was completely alive, and it was fall, leaves spinning around it, tons of wildlife all around, and they didn’t even move. There was a fawn under the tree. As I walked toward the tree, the deer didn’t even move. There was a gigantic hole in the tree that Jacob went into and came out with 2 apples. He handed me one as he took a bite out of the other. I looked at it, and then at him.
He said, “It’s okay, it’s just an apple, I promise.”
I took a bite, and it must have been the sweetest apple I had ever tasted. Crisp, juicy, and sweet, it made my stomach instantly satisfied. I thought to myself, this was much better than metal soup. I looked up into the tree, and there were still birds nested in it with eggs!
He said, “This is where I stay now; they take care of me.”
I asked, “Who are they”
And again I got no response. Just another question.
“Why are you out here anyways?” he asked.
“I ran away from my home. I hate my life,” I said.
He said nothing. He took a bite of his apple and then gave it to the fawn under the thriving tree. He sat down under the tree, and motioned me toward him. I sat down by him, looking all around I had no idea there were this many animals in the forest behind my house, or at least used to be behind my house.
“Why is this tree alive?” I asked
He said, “We all keep it alive, by keeping each other alive. You got to stick together with family, you know?”
Unfortunately I did know. And it made me feel terrible.
“Who’s we?” I asked.
“My family” He responded.
I had a feeling if I asked who his family was; he’d just blow me off again. So I chose to leave it at that. We sat for a long while until it became dark. I asked if he wanted me to start a fire. He said no. And then suddenly what seemed like a million fireflies appeared, and in an instant, I felt safe and could see all around me. The tree was warm, I glanced over and Jacob was asleep snuggled up to the tree. I didn’t know whether to stay or go back to my shack. I felt safe here. I didn’t know where I was, but honestly I was just happy to feel at home for once. An owl came down from the tree and landed on my foot. I jumped at first, but he wasn’t going anywhere, and I knew he wasn’t going to hurt me. I let him stay.
I soon found myself drifting off into a deep sleep as well. I tried staying awake but the constant nodding of my head was making me more tired. And I was out. Asleep on the most beautiful, safe, warm tree I had ever seen. I didn’t know if I wanted to wake up.
I remember when I was younger, my dad and I used to go fishing all the time. I never caught much, but that’s just because I never wanted to wait for the fish to bite. I was a hyper kid, and the last thing I wanted to do was sit and wait for a fish. But my dad was an awesome fisherman; he always brought home tons of fish. This meant that we’d have trout for dinner that night, and my mom was the best trout cook ever. He just plain loved the outdoors.
We were down on the river about 16 miles from our house. We had to hike down there from a steep hill with all of our tackle boxes and poles. My dad always said, “It’s the best fishin’ hole in the world, Colby. No matter what, if you cast right there, you’ll catch a fish.”
We would sit down by the river all day long, every weekend in the summer. It was our place, and it always had been. I remember when I caught my first fish, I reeled as hard as I could, and didn’t stop until that thing was on the ground. I had never been so happy in my entire life! I caught a fish, and my dad saw it! But before I could take the hook out, it flopped into the air and spit the hook right out at me. My dad let out a chuckle, which I rarely heard from him. He said, “Sometimes they just get away. You gotta let some things go sometimes.”
“I love you, dad,” I said as I put my little arms around him.
“I love you, too, and Colby, remember, love is everlasting. It’s the only thing that never dies and never will. It stays deep inside you and keeps you warm when you are cold. When you feel that little tingle inside of you and a smile sneaks onto your mouth, that’s what love is. It’s the one thing that will always be with you. It never dies, Colby, it never dies.”
I never forgot what he told me that day.
I woke up the next morning on my own, feeling like I had slept for weeks. I don’t think I had slept that well since it happened. Jacob was still sleeping, and there were no animals or anything, just the huge tree, Jacob, and myself. I sat up and when I did, Jacob woke.
He asked me, “What do you want to do today?”
As if it was a routine that we did this every day and night. I looked at him puzzled, and trying to convince myself that this was still real.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I kinda wanted to find my house. I miss my mom.”
He looked down, and I saw a tear leak from his eye and caress his cheek. He turned his head and wiped the tear away. I stood there, feeling bad for what I said. I apologized and he said, “What are you sorry for, mentioning your mom, missing her? You’re apologizing ‘cuz you miss your mom, ‘cuz you wanna go home? Well go! Go home! I don’t care! Just don’t tell me about your mom! I don’t care! Just leave! Go!”
I looked at him, “Jacob, I didn’t mean—“
“To upset me? Well, you did, just go!
I didn’t know what to do; I grabbed my jacket and left. As I was leaving, I heard him sobbing out loud; it reminded me of myself. I wanted him to come with me, but I knew he wouldn’t come. Something about this boy, really hit me hard. And I couldn’t just leave him there. I went back, and I sat down next to him; he sniffled and said, “What do you want?”
“I want to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine, just go back to your mom,” he said.
“No, Jacob, you’re not fine. What’s the matter?
He just looked at me; his eyes were red and puffy.
He said, “A lot’s the matter. Ya know, I miss my family, too. I miss my dad and my mom, but do you think I can see them? Do you think I can just leave the forest and have a chance of going to find them?
“Why not?” I asked.
He looked at me like I was asking why two plus two equals four.
“They’re gone, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter what happened. All that matters is that I don’t get to see them.”
I had never heard a little boy use such blunt words to express his feelings. This was a little boy who doesn’t have parents who is okay with it. I wanted to know about his parents, and his life, but now was neither the time nor place for it. I decided to stay with him; I felt like he needed me, or maybe it was that I needed him. Either way I was staying. I said,
“Well, what do you want to do today?”
His eyes brightened up and the biggest smile grew on his face. He could hardly think of what to say. He said, “Well, I don’t care I mean¬¬, nobody ever wants to do anything with me! We could run, or play hide and seek, or— or— I don’t care! Let’s just do something!”
I smiled. There was something about this kid, and it felt like I was looking at myself from a happier time. I said,
“Well, let’s go exploring! You can show me around!”
I knew this would stir his enthusiasm.
“Yeah, that’s a great idea! You sure are smart, Colby!
He showed me all around the forest, parts I had never seen before. I saw an eagle on top of a dead tree, and to me it felt like it was watching over us, and no matter where we walked, I could have sworn that I saw that eagle. Something about that eagle gave me comfort, I couldn’t explain it. As we continued to walk, he stopped dead in his tracks at a raging river. He looked petrified. I asked him,
“What’s the matter? Are you okay?”
He said, “I don’t like this place Colby. We should go.”
I was confused, “But we just got here. Don’t you want to explore?”
He shook his head. “I don’t want to be here, Colby. Can we please leave?”
“Of course we can. We can explore somewhere else if you want.”
“I just want to go back to the tree, please? I don’t want to explore any more…”
“Okay” I said, “I guess that’s fine too,” as I touched his back guiding him the other way.
We walked back to the tree, and the sound of that river scared that little boy, and it reminded me of when I was scared of the ghost in the basement, but much worse. I saw tears fall from his face, first one, and then two, then they fell like the cascading water in the river behind us. I knew he wouldn’t talk about why he was crying, and I wasn’t quite sure why; it was too soon to guess, so I let him be. I simply grabbed his hand and followed him into the dark. I couldn’t leave this kid even if I wanted to, and I knew I had to help him. As we arrived to the tree he lay down next to it and great sobs came out of him. I cried with him, and I didn’t know why, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop. I fell asleep, and so did he. Like the little brother I never had, I let him sleep in my arms.
I woke up to the sound of Jacob talking to somebody; it startled me, and I sat up quickly to see what it was. I didn’t know where he was, but I heard Jacob. It must have been around noon, but I wasn’t sure, I lost track of time during my stay in the forest. I wondered where this person came from. Maybe they were here to rescue Jacob, and I! I listened,
“Do you wanna go for a walk?” Jacob said.
No response and then I heard Jacob again,
“Okay! That sounds great, let’s go down to the river.”
No response again, and I began to wonder what was going on.
“Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I’ll be careful— I know, I know. Yeah, I’ll be fine.— I love you, too.” he said.
And I sprang up and followed his voice to where I saw Jacob talking to himself, and I said,
“What are you doing?”
I must have startled him because he jumped. He looked at me for a second and then after regaining composure he said, “Nothing, just thinking about climbing this tree…”
“I see. Well, do you think you can do it?” I said.
He smiled, thinking I didn’t hear him talking to himself.
“Of course, I can! I’m the best at climbing trees.”
“I’m sure you’ve had lots of practice,” I said.
He didn’t get the humor in it, and simply nodded his head.
“Well, let’s see it then!” I said.
He smiled, and climbed the tree with ease, almost scaling it like a monkey. I was amazed at how fast he climbed it. He climbed all the way to the top, and I was worried he was going to fall. I yelled up, “Be careful! I don’t know if I can catch you if you fall from that height.”
“I’ll be fine! I do this all the time!” He yelled as he climbed down.
He must have been about half way down the tree when a branch broke, and he slipped a little.
I repeated again, “Be careful, Jacob!”
He smiled, “I’m fine I just overe—“
And he slipped again and lost his grip and started tumbling down the tree, hitting all sorts of branches full of dead leaves on his way down. He screamed, and I ran closer to the tree to try and catch him.
“I gotcha!” I said.
As he continued to tumble he came towards the bottom and I managed to catch him in my arms, which took me to the ground. I didn’t realize how heavy he was.
“Well, at least I thought I had you; are you okay?” I said.
“Yeah, my leg hurts a little but I’m fine.”
I looked at his leg, and he had a little scrape on it but he was fine,
“We’ll just rinse it off at the riv—, creek.” I said forgetting about what had happened the night before.
“That was kind of fun; I’ve never climbed down the tree that way before,” he said.
I rolled my eyes, this kid really was me reincarnated. I chuckled to myself for the comment he made, but I told him,
“You need to be more careful.”
He looked down ashamed and I realized I sounded kind of harsh and I quickly repaired the mistake with, “I don’t want to have to fall like that again.”
He smiled. We got up from the leaves that we had landed in, brushed ourselves off and went back to the tree. I was starving, and I was going to mention it, but he was too quick to the draw, he said, “I’m starving. Let’s go eat something!”
I shook my head and smiled, we walked back to tree, but I didn’t really want to eat fruit any more. I said, “You want to go fishing?”
He lit up, “Sure! But we don’t have fishing poles…”
I said, “Yeah, but I learned how to make them when I was a kid”
My dad taught me how, but I didn’t want to bring up anything like that right now, I just wanted to eat.
He said, “Okay, that sounds fun. I’ll bring something to eat until we catch fish.”
“Good idea,” I said.
We walked down to the creek where I first encountered Jacob, and as the hunter’s shack I had spent my second night in came into view, Jacob got that look on his face again, a look of sad memories. Before I could address it, he looked away and ran to the creek.
“Easy there, I still have to make the poles,” I said.
He gave an embarrassed smile and followed me to a tree. I climbed a little ways up the tree to a branch that seemed untouched by wildlife; I gripped onto it and pulled down with all my weight until it snapped and I fell to the ground. I said, “You brought the fishing line, right?”
He smiled; this time he got the joke. I smiled back and walked back to the creek. I knew that we were starting to bond, and it was time to figure out what had happened to this boy.
I sent him to go look for worms as I strung the make-shift fishing poles with thread from my pants. He must have found about a dozen worms, and I was real excited to fish, I hadn’t fished for a long time. I threw my line out, and he asked shyly,
“Could you show me how?”
“Of course,” I replied.
I smiled, as did he and I grabbed his pole.
“You see, the trick is not to cast where you think the fish are, but to throw the line where they used to be. So throw it up stream, and let it flow down into that bend right there.”
As I cast his line, I felt like my dad, and I became overwhelmed. I handed him the pole and turned away. He shouted,
“Look Colby! Your pole is falling over!”
I turned and saw that I had a bite! I ran to the pole and began pulling the line in, ever so slowly as to not break the line. I landed the fish, and Jacob shouted,
“Wow! You’re really good at fishing!”
“Thanks,” I said. “My dad taught me how.”
And we both got quiet. He began to tear up, so I went over to him and said, “We need to talk about this Jacob. Why were you talking to yourself earlier? And what happened to your parents? Just tell me, I’m not going anywhere.”
“I wasn’t talking to anybody…” He muttered
I looked down at him.
“Jacob… Don’t lie, I heard you,” I said.
He started to cry and wrapped his arms around my torso. He began to mutter something I couldn’t understand.
“Jacob, calm down, take some deep breaths. I can’t understand you.”
He took some deep breathes, regained the tiniest amount of composure and said, “I killed my parents.”
My heart sank, could it be true? Could this little boy really kill his parents? The minute I thought this, I had to mentally smack myself for thinking such a thing.
“No, you didn’t Jacob.” I said. “It must have been an accident.”
I had him sit down next to me by the river.
“Tell me what happened, Jacob.”
He turned away,
“I can’t, I don’t wanna. I get scared,” he said.
“Nobody’s going to hurt you, Colby. You’re right by me, and I’m going to keep you safe.”
And I began to tear up as well because this is what my dad had told me a million times before, but I had to be strong for Jacob. I regained composure and put my arm around him.
“Do you want me to tell you what happened to my dad?” I said.
He nodded his head. I never really talked about this with anyone. After it happened, my life went numb.
As the door opened I saw my dad, his mind and body in a drunken state of dizziness. I closed my eyes, and told myself I wasn’t there. He gripped my arm, and I felt shockwaves of pain through my body. With one pull he threw me to the floor of my room, He yelled, “Look at this room, Colby! It’s disgusting. All I do is take care of you and your mom, and this is how I’m repaid? Is this how you show love for your father?”
I tried getting up from the ground but he kicked me in the gut, and put me back down at the level of his feet.
“Don’t move!” he screamed at me.
I kept my eyes closed for the longest time until I couldn’t hear his whiskey breath standing 6 feet above me anymore. I looked up but he was gone. I heard a yell and a scream and then a loud “smack”. I closed my eyes again. My parents were arguing.
“Whatta you mean? You can’t be done! I made you what you are!” I heard my dad screaming as he slurred the words coming out of his mouth.
I couldn’t hear what my mom was saying, but I knew she was upsetting dad. I heard a loud crack, and the sound of a body falling to the floor. My mom was screaming and crying in pain. I began crying out loud from being so scared. Dad yelled, “One day you’ll all thank me!” and he slammed the door.
“That was the last I saw of my dad until a year ago, when the divorce was final. I can’t stand my parents. They don’t care about me, all they care about is each other’s money, and how much they can hurt each other. My dad was an alcoholic until a year ago, and I never want to talk to either of them ever again.
Jacob looked at me, with a shocked and confused face.
“What?” he questioned.
I looked at him.
“What do you mean by ‘What’?” I said. “I told you about my parents’ divorce and you say ‘what’?”
I became angry, and looked at him, and he stood up and ran away, crying. I didn’t know what else to say. How could somebody say “what” after that? I never told anybody that. I picked up the poles and walked back to the tree, where I knew I would find Jacob, sitting there. As I arrived at the tree, no one was there. I looked around, and yelled his name out, but nothing. I don’t even think I saw an animal. I became frantic.
“Where could he be?” I thought to myself. I ran around the area looking for any sign of him, nothing.
“Jacob, where are you?!” I screamed.
I heard tree branches cracking near the raging river. My worst fear came true in an instant. I sprinted towards the river.
“Jacob! Where are you?!” I yelled. “I’m sorry.”
As I rounded the bend in the trail and ran under a tree towards the river, I saw him, on a thick branch high up on the edge of the river. The river was muddy and running fast. I could barely hear myself yell towards him. He looked at me. His eyes were red with the salt of tears. It looked as though he lost all hope. I yelled as loud as I could toward him.
“Jacob! Don’t do it! Just come down. Everything is going to be alright.”
He looked at me, and shook his head, wiping tears from his face, and moved closer to the end of the thick branch.
“Jacob! Please come down! I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to upset you.”
He shot me an angry glance, and kept going, and he started slipping and began falling. I ran towards him. He was holding on to the branch screaming.
“I don’t want to die, Colby!”
“Hold on, Jacob! I got you.”
I climbed up the tree, hearing branches snap like bones as I ran across them. I gripped his hand, and pulled him back onto the tree. He gripped me tight. I held his hand and helped him out of the tree. I didn’t know what to think anymore. He didn’t look at me, he just began walking back to the big tree, and I could hear him crying. I followed him from a distance back to the tree and wasn’t sure if I should talk to him. When, I arrived he was already asleep next to the tree, animals all around him. I lay on the other side, thinking about my mom and the last thing I said to her. And watched my eyes slowly close, as my body submitted to the defeat of sleep.
I woke up the next morning, and Jacob was still sleeping. I grabbed some fruit off of the never-dying tree. I took a bite, and walked around his little set up where he stayed. A large boulder which protruded from the ground caught my eye. I walked toward it and noticed carvings on it. They looked like pictographs, and as I studied them closer, I saw a large stick figure, and next to it was a shorter one, and next to it was a small one. To the right was another picture which showed the same thing but with what looked like a river next to it. I then realized that Jacob probably had drawn these. The next one only showed the little one, and the shorter stick figure with long hair frowning. Finally the last one showed just the little boy stick figure by himself. Something really bad happened at that river, I heard a footstep behind me, and Jacob was there staring at the rock as well. He said, “We were camping at that little shack you were staying at. Me, Dad, and Mom, we all loved hiking and camping. We did everything together. Every day we’d wake up and hike up the mountains and have a picnic. When it started to get dark we’d come back to our little cabin, where Dad would start a fire to keep us warm for the night.
One day, we decided to go look at the river, it was spring and dad said to be careful ‘cuz the river was high from the snow melting. The water was going so fast, it was scary. As we walked toward the river, dad talked about how we would all go fishing the next day at the river, if the under current wasn’t too bad. Once we got there, I ran towards the river, I saw all the trees, and immediately I wanted to climb. I loved climbing. Dad yelled back, ‘Be careful!’
And I just kept climbing; I should have listened to him.
He said jokingly, ‘If you don’t come down, I’ll hafta go up after you.’
I smiled and said, ‘Well you better come up after me then, chicken!’
He smiled back and ran towards the huge tree draping over the fast flowing river. I looked back and he was already climbing up the tree, and mom yelled, ‘You better run, Jacob! He’s gonna get you!’
All I remember is laughing so hard I could barely breathe as I climbed branch after branch. I couldn’t hear anything but my laughing and the roaring river below me. I kept going ‘til I heard a scream, and saw my dad in the water, being drug under by the current. I couldn’t hear anything but the river, as I saw him slowly drift downstream his head bobbing up and down, struggling to live until I couldn’t see him anymore. Mom said it was my entire fault, and that I killed dad. She said to stay here and that she would go get help. And she never came back for me. I killed my dad, Colby.”
How could I have been so stupid? He began crying and turned away. I followed,
“I’m sorry Jacob, I didn’t know…”
He replied, “Of course, you didn’t know! You didn’t care to know. All you do is care about yourself.”
“Jacob, I’m sorry.”
I couldn’t believe it. I felt so naïve. I walked back to the tree where he sat pretending to be too busy twiddling his thumbs to listen to me.
“Jacob, I’m sorry. I know that you’re angry with me, and you have every right to be. But I want to help you. How can I do that? I want to save you, we’re going to find our way out of here. I’m going to take you home, and take care of you. But I need to know that you can forgive me. I want to understand you, Jacob.”
He looked up somberly,
“I killed my dad, and my mom hates me. I want to die, Colby,” he said.
“No! You didn’t kill your dad! It was an accident, you need to realize that! It wasn’t your fault, you didn’t know.”
I realized, I had said the same thing he just said about my parents’ divorce. All these years, I thought the divorce was my fault because it was my fault dad drank, and that mom was disabled. I felt horrible.
He interrupted, “I can’t go anywhere, Colby. I’m staying here forever. I’ll be back, I have to do something.”
He got up, and looked at me, with his vibrant eyes, and walked away.
I knew better than to follow him or ask questions. How could I be so stupid? All I wanted was to stop feeling the pain of heartbreak, when this kid feels like he caused it.
I watched him make his way to the old hunter’s shack through the thicket and bushes. I was awestruck; I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even fathom feeling like I killed my parents, let alone anyone else. To have the burden on me that I caused a death would drive me to the grave. I looked around the site where Jacob and I had been staying, and realized that I must have been here for weeks, paths were beaten into the ground and there were signs everywhere that I was here. Had it really been that long? I did not even have a single thought of my mom until now. I missed her. I ached for her warmth, and I missed her voice. But most of all I missed my dad. I thought of all the things he did for me, all the lessons I learned, I knew that if he was here, he would help this kid, and I knew I had to now, too.
I got up and started to follow Jacob, this time not to question him, just to make sure he was okay. As I walked the usual path to the hunter’s shack, I felt a sense of solace surround me, like everything was going to be okay. The warm fall breeze tickled at my neck as the sun reached its highest height in the middle of the day. And as birds chirped all around me, I came to the realization that this could be home.
As I arrived at my first sleeping area in this autumn forest, I saw Jacob huddled over the creek, splash the water, wait for it to still, and then splash it again. I confusedly asked, “What are you doing?”
He turned quickly and said, “I hate my reflection.”
“Well, why do you hate your reflection, Jacob?”
“It reminds me of my family, and I killed them.”
I thought I had convinced him that it wasn’t his fault.
“Jacob, you did not kill your parents; it was an accident. You cannot keep blaming yourself for this. You’re just a kid. There was nothing you could have done.”
He looked up at me with his sincere blue eyes,
“Colby, what’s it like to feel love?”
And I didn’t know what to say. I searched my mind frantically for the answer knowing that this could possibly help him heal his heartache. And there it was! I remember my dad told me so long ago.
“Jacob, love is everlasting. It’s the only thing that never dies and never will. It stays deep inside you and keeps you warm when you are cold. When you feel that little tingle inside of you and a smile sneaks onto your mouth, that’s what love is. It’s the one thing that will always be with you, it never dies.”
He looked up at me with his eyes, looked down for a few moments and then looked back up.
“What if I got that feeling when I saw you Colby? I felt like you were here to save me. I felt warm and I haven’t felt that since my parents died. Does that mean I haven’t felt love until now?”
I thought for a second.
“Jacob, if you had that feeling deep inside you, where your heart is, then yes, that is what it means. And I felt the same way; you’re like a little brother to me Jacob, I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“I don’t want you to leave, Colby.”
He put his arms around me and began to cry. I could feel his warmth. I took a deep breath and came to the conclusion that if I did leave this everlasting fall paradise, that I would take Jacob with me.
“Jacob, if I ever leave here, I promise to take you with me. I’ll always take care of you.”
He squeezed me tighter, and it seemed like he was never going to let go.
I knew I had helped him come to peace with the tragedy he had faced so long ago. I took his hand, and walked him back to our camp. And for the fifteenth night in this dreamlike forest I slept, a deep sleep, as an ever-present solace acted as a blanket over my body.
2 Weeks Later
Jacob and I walked to the river, and bumped each other playfully the whole way there.
“Why did the chicken cross the road?”
I had to hold back a laugh, this must have been a new joke for him. So, I played along.
“Umm, I don’t know Jacob, Why?”
“To get to the other side! Duh!”
He laughed hysterically and I pretended to do the same. As we approached the river, it was roaring just as fast as it always had. As we arrived at the bank, I picked up a rock and skipped it across the water.
“Can you skip rocks?” I asked.
“Of course I can!” he said.
He picked up a rock and threw it over his head into the water and it made a huge “ker-plunk”. He looked up embarrassingly.
“Well, I used to know how, I swear.”
I smiled and took his hand, put a rock in it, turned his body and showed him the steps. After three or four attempts he finally saw the rock skip across the river.
“Wow! Did you see that, Colby? I did it.”
“I know! Nice job. I knew you could do it!”
He smiled, and went into a spree of picking up and skipping rocks, over and over again. He laughed the whole time. He started to get closer and closer to the water.
“Jacob, be careful, the water is still fast!”
He looked back at me and waved, he didn’t hear me. He ran into the shallow part of the water, looking for smoother, more round rocks.
I started to run towards the water as he went further and further in.
“Jacob! Stop! Come back! You’re going too far in!”
I went further and further in, He staggered, almost fell and looked back. He must have been about a third of the way across the river.
I went in after him; my shoes became soaked as I splashed through the water. He looked to me scared, as he continued to stagger as he tried running back to me. Just as I approached him he slipped on a rock, and I grabbed his hand. The water was faster out here than I thought.
“Colby! Save me! Please! I don’t want to die!”
“Hold on, Jacob! Don’t let go!”
“Colby, I’m scared! Please don’t let go!”
“Jacob, I promise I’ll never let go just hold on.”
I tried to find a spot where I could keep my feet. I found places where I could fit my feet here and there, which brought us closer to the river bank. The water was still at my chest, and the current was so fast. I kept stepping where I thought it was safe. I slipped. And I felt my feet skid across underwater rocks, struggling to find a grip. Jacob screamed.
“Please, Colby! Save me!”
I was in up to my neck, and I knew how to swim, but Jacob did not. If I let go, I knew I would never see him again.
“I love you, Colby”
I began to cry out loud.
“I love you, too, Jacob. I don’t want to lose you.”
He began to cry.
“It’s time to let go, Colby.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“If you hold on we’re both going to die”
“No! I won’t let you go, we’re going to get out of here, and I’m going to take care of you.”
“Colby, just let go. It’s time for me to go”
I held on with all my might, but he quit trying and I couldn’t hold on to his wet hand any longer. He looked up at me.
“Thank you, Colby. I’ll never forget you.”
And he let go.
He was gone; he was taken under by the current and was lost from my view. I swam back to shore sobbing. I couldn’t breathe, and as I arrived to shore, I found myself fighting for air, as blackness took over my view of the amber fall sky.
I woke up, and couldn’t remember where I was or what happened. I lay face down on the sandy, rocky shore and heard the river screaming across the rocky bed below. I opened my eyes as I brushed sand off my face and searched for possible landmarks to help me remember anything.
It hit me. Jacob was gone. I sat up and quickly fell back down to the ground. My equilibrium was off balance. I slowly got onto my knees and braced myself with my hands, and picked myself up off the ground. I started walking downstream, stumbling over rocks and twigs.
“Jacob! Where are you?”
I looked along each bank and I couldn’t see anything. I was now running across the bank frantically searching everywhere. Where could he be? I thought to myself.
“Jacob! Please! Where are you?”
I ran up to the bank where the bank turned into trees, and I ran through the trees down the river as far as I had ever gone that way before. I looked for any signs of him maybe making his way to the shore. Nothing, I saw nothing. I began screaming at the top of my lungs.
“Jacob! Come back! Why?! Why?”
My screams became sobs and I collapsed to the ground. In the feeble position, I couldn’t get my mind off of the little boy from the fifties with the vibrant blue eyes that took away my somber, and brought me to a sanctuary of love and life.
After what seemed like a lifetime of crying, to where I couldn’t breathe, I realized it was getting dark. I started to head back to the tree, where I had lived for a month now. When I arrived, it was a different place. The tree that kept me alive for so long was now dead. Each branch twisted and hard, there was no life coming from that tree. Its leaves fallen around it, it was as if it was the first tree to go into its winter slumber. I looked around and all the animals were gone. It was cold there, not the cold felt on a winter day, not the cold felt when something peculiar happens, but the cold felt when a heart quits beating, when the will to live is a strange, sinister tunnel with no bright light at the end.
It was silent. I tried my hardest to listen to anything, something that could take my mind off of the events that recently occurred. I couldn’t hear the river raging, nor could I hear the nearby creek. I listened for birds, or a cool breeze sweeping the fall leaves up into the air, nothing. It was a silence heard when one’s ears are plugged, or when a cacophony of bangs goes off.
I could smell dying leaves, their bittersweet smell of damp decay. The smell of wet trees and fresh cut grass surrounded my nose. It smelt as if I was back in my yard playing with my dog. I could almost picture it.
Dad had just finished raking the leaves and cutting the grass one last time before the first flakes fell that winter. It was chilly, and my heavy breathing, threw out vapor like a steam engine. I chased my dog around the trees, falling in the wet grass every once and a while. The dog would bark, and I would try to bark back. My dad came back outside, to tell me to get a coat on. I kept playing. He yelled again and I complied. I went inside and ran upstairs to get my coat on, and I saw my mom crying. I tip-toed into her room and asked her, “Mom, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Colby. Everything is going to be fine, okay?”
“Okay, mom.” I said.
I don’t think she ever squeezed me so tight before, and she began to cry. It was one of those cries that’s uncontrollable, and I couldn’t help but feel it was my fault, so I started crying. My dad came in, and said good-bye and I didn’t know what was going on. My mother gave a soft “good-bye”, and my dad was gone. I didn’t find out until later that my dad had lost his job, and my grandpa had died.
I leaned against the tree, and let my legs collapse, until I was on the forest floor. I looked around. Everywhere I looked it seemed there was another memory. I looked at the path which leads to the little creek that I first saw Jacob at. I reminisced of him staring back at me. Then I thought of the hunter’s shack where I first stayed, the metal soup I ate, and the little boy soaking wet on my make shift cot. Then came the first time he spoke to me. How could this be? And when I thought I couldn’t cry any more the tears broke free like caged lions, roaring out of their cages, showing their true untamed nature.
“Why Jacob, Why’d you have to go? I miss you so much. Please come back Jacob, please.”
And then I saw something moving around near the path that leads to the creek.
“Who are you?! What do you want?”
I didn’t care if I was found anymore; I didn’t care if anything happened to me anymore. I felt dead inside. The footsteps became louder, and I looked up, and saw Jacob.
“Colby, I’ll never forget you. You showed me what love is. I’m going to miss you. Don’t forget me, Colby.”
“I’ll never forget you, but how could this be? You died.”
“I’m fine. Come with me, Colby.”
“Jacob, you’re dead. You drowned.”
“I’m alive Colby, Come with me hurry!”
He began running down that same path at the same pace he always ran. I got up as quickly as I could and tried to keep up with him.
“Jacob, slow down! I can’t keep up!”
I saw him at the creek, and he began to cross it. This would be the first time I would have been on that side of the creek since I came here. He ran through the water, like it wasn’t there and I followed. When I took my first step into the creek, it was as cold as the first time I crossed. I slipped and struggled through the whole time. At the other side he seemed to almost go straight through trees.
I dodged trees and twigs and rocks at all costs to keep up. I looked down and saw the trail of blood, where I had my nosebleed that first morning in the forest.
“It’s time, Colby.”
“It’s time for what?”
“It’s time for you to go back home.”
“What are you talking about, Jacob?”
He didn’t answer, he just kept running. Soon I couldn’t keep up anymore. I watched him slowly fade away as I tried my hardest to keep up. He seemed to fade away in the night, and I collapsed from running so far.
I lay on my back looking up into the night sky. I couldn’t even cry. I didn’t know what to think. The little boy who took me to a safe haven, helped me understand who I am, remember what is important in life, and most of all give me reason for living was gone. And for some strange reason I was at peace with this. I looked up and saw an eagle perched on the tree above me and I felt an ever-present sense of comfort in the air. The wind began to pick up, and I didn’t want to move. I felt drops of water fall onto my cheeks and descend onto the forest floor where the ground took them in like its first meal. For the first time it rained in the forest, and I lay still letting the water wash me away.
I heard voices all around me. People whispering, some laughing, others crying. My mother opened the huge oak doors, and the voices became louder. We walked past rows and rows of wooden pews, making our way past soul-piercing eyes.
As we walked through the little wooden gate, I saw a man in a black suit smiling at me. He was my dad’s lawyer, and past him, was my dad. His head in his hands, he looked like a bored, depressed child. He wouldn’t even look up. My mom and I took our seats, and as we began to sit, we heard the words courtrooms have become infamous for.
“All rise for the honorable Judge Jeffery Mathews.”
I stood and watched a very tall, lanky man make his way to the highest podium in the courtroom. His hair was far too brown to be natural, and his hollow smile defined his personality. The wrinkles, now owning most of his face, seemed to make him look wiser.
“You may be seated,” he said, very kindly, as if setting everyone at ease for standing.
“After several months, I have come to a decision for this family. It is very obvious, that after the rage inflicted on the plaintiffs by the defendant, that the two of you do not need to be together any more. I also mandate that the defendant, Mr. Lombar, take anger management classes as wells as attend AA meeting for 2 years, or until his counselor deems him fit to graduate the required courses. I also mandate that Mr. Lombar will have no contact with Mrs. Jennifer Lombar or Mr. Colby Lombar. Upon graduating from his counseling program, Mr. Lombar may have reasonable contact with both plaintiffs, upon approval of them both.
And immediately following that, the gable hit, my heart sunk, my mother’s cries became louder, and my dad looked at me. He mouthed to me,
“I’m sorry, Colby, I love you so much.”
And a tear fell from his eye.
I woke up to a pail of water thrown on my face, and heard my dad’s voice.
“Colby, please wake up! Oh, dear God, Please!”
I slowly opened my eyes to see my father beside me. I looked around and saw a pile of blood caked from the forest floor to my face.
“Colby, are you awake? Please talk, son, please!”
“Thank God!” he said, and I heard my dad cry.
“What are you doing here? What happened?”
“You’ve been missing for days, son. We’ve been looking all over for you.”
“No! I couldn’t find home. I found a boy, I was taking care of him. I couldn’t find home.”
“You must have hit your head really hard when you fell.”
I began to think more clearly. This was where I fell when I was chased. Was I imagining being chased? Was it just paranoia? I looked around, it was cold out, and the fall leaves were soggy. Had I really been here the whole time?
“Son, are you okay? Does anything hurt?”
No, dad. I’m just so happy to see you.”
I gripped my arms around my dad as hard as I could, and couldn’t keep from crying.
“I miss you so much, dad.”
“I miss you too, Colby.”
He turned my head and looked straight into my eyes.
“I’m so sorry for what I did to you, it will never happen again. I promise Colby, I promise. I love you so much.”
I gripped him tighter, and we walked back to our house, a few miles away.
When we arrived home, my mom was waiting on the porch. She ran to me.
“Oh, my God! My baby! Colby, are you okay, honey?”
“I’m fine, mom. I’m so sorry.”
We both began to cry as my dad looked at us a few steps behind. I looked back at him, and he gave a shy smile.
“Well, I guess I’ll be going then…” He said, as he turned away
“No, dad, please stay. Talk with mom, please.”
“Colby, you know I can’t stay here.”
“Mom, please just talk to dad, you guys love each other.”
“Colby, you know that’s not how this works.”
“Mom, I know things have been rough, and dad messed up real bad, but you don’t stop loving someone. I mean, sure sometimes loving someone gets harder, sometimes it’s not there. But love never dies, right dad?”
He looked at me almost like a deer in the headlights.
“Uh, right, Colby!”
“Please, mom! Just take some time to talk to him!”
My mom looked at my dad, back at me, and then smiled.
“I suppose he could come in and have some coffee. Would you be okay with that Stephen?”
“That would be great,” my dad said.
While they sat in the kitchen, I was in the living room across the way, and I heard my mom and dad laugh. And I think it was the first time in a long time they were getting along.
All I thought about was the little boy who I followed into the darkness, and brought me out. The little boy with the vibrant blue eyes, who was in my mind, who made me realize that life is full of love, and anything done should be done out of love. As I looked through my living room window, I saw what looked like the same eagle perched on our picket fence. I smiled. I knew things would never be the same, and this time, I was happy about it.
When times get rough and there’s no one beside you,
Do not fear the vacancy, embrace past memories and hold them close.
Keep the darkness out of your heart, and keep love in your mind,
For with love, all is possible.