Friday, August 1, 2008

The Wanderer

Many nights were passed there, huddled up as tightly as he could beneath his jacket. This old tree had become his savior in a world where salvation seemed impossible. He'd lost track of the days now. There had been a time when he'd marked them down in a notebook he'd brought with him, but an unfortunately timed fall had brought him down hard into a swift stream; and his last piece of normalcy, his sense of time, had been swept away in its torrent. Now, he just walked. He walked and tried to find food and waited for death to come to him just like it had done for all the others.

The end had come just as no one had expected. They should have known it could never be predicted. The Earth makes its own decisions and follows no known time and pays attention to no creature's will or want. The plaguing population that had burdened it was eradicated by its wrath. And it had cleansed itself, leaving very few people behind to experience its rebirth. In truth, he often felt he might be the only one left. Even the sense of loneliness he'd felt so intensely at the beginning had waned. Loneliness, like any feeling, requires fuel. And without the reminder of others, without hearing a voice or seeing a face, there was nothing left on which the feeling could burn.

The sun shone brightly and warmed him through his jacket. Even though the days had grown a bit cooler, and the nights had become close to unbearable, the mornings still brought warm relief. He knew this wouldn't last long. Last winter he had managed to find a small house with a wood-burning stove. He'd made due in spite of nearly succumbing to hunger many times. At the remembrance of this a stab of panic brought him out of his slumber. He keenly realized that time was running short. He would need to keep heading south quickly if he wanted to survive that dead season again. Even more acutely, he knew that the blind luck he'd stumbled into last year would most likely not repeat itself. He would not likely find another antiquated cabin like the one he'd left.

He had laughed until he was delirious when he'd found it lingering there in the rough. Although unimpressive to look at, he could see it was solidly constructed and it's window panes remained in spite of all the rage the Earth had poured out onto it. He lurked outside it for several hours, hiding both in fear of an occupant, and in hope of one as well. When his voyeuristic surveying had born no fruit, he scurried forth in the dark to try the door. It had swung open easily, and unlike most of the homes he'd entered on his journey, the only scent to greet him was the distinctive plea of staleness. He sighed in relief. No matter how many times he encountered the remnants of death he could never quite pull back the sting of his own fear nor the heavy pool of disgust and grief that immediately gathered weight in his gut. The moon was in its height that evening, so searching the small space had been easy enough. The iridescent beams broke through the darkness and splashed irreverently across the contents of his new home, revealing the plump blackness of the stove, and sending waves of sweet relief streaming into his heart.

At the realization of what he saw, he'd laughed until he cried. He laughed until he was rolling around on the floor and clutching at his sides. He laughed for his good fortune until rivulets of tears poured forth from his eyes. He'd laughed until he sobbed and then he sobbed again for all he'd lost.

Hard time was passed there, but the inevitable spring had taken hold. And as soon as the weather felt consistent enough for travel he had taken what he could and continued south. Now, it was time to keep on with the trek. Now, the green was fading and falling. The autumn was taking its turn, and the deathly ice of winter was lingering on its breath. Now was a time for motion. So he thanked his arbor Christ, grabbed his things, and walked on again.


flutter said...

absolutely beautiful