I have decided to share with my readers a short story I wrote earlier this year.
It was a cold, blustery January afternoon. A wall of wind, peppered with sleet and snow, insisted that Criag stay alert and energized. The path through the woods seemed magical, yet treacherous. He felt a vague pain in his toes and knew that a benign numbness would follow close behind.
Something caught Craig’s attention on the periphery of his consciousness. He turned his head slightly and concluded the commotion was nothing more than ice falling from small tree limbs. But a strange feeling began to creep through his skin, accompanied by the insistent thought that he was not alone in these woods. Craig tried all of his usual tricks to reassure himself that everything was as it should be and that he was, indeed, alone on his journey.
On rounding a curve, Craig stopped dead in his tracks when confronted by a person, a man, no, a boy, lying in his path, the body partly obscured by a thin layer of snow. Craig heard a sound in his own throat that could have become a scream, a sound that remained internal, a quiet testimony to his astonishment. He stared for what seemed like minutes, eyes glued on the boy’s chest. Assuring himself the boy was, indeed, alive, he observed the eyes to be open but unfocused. After scanning the body for marks or stains and spying none, Craig said “Hello,” in a voice that sounded much too friendly. As the boy began to mumble, Craig felt the return of that prickly skin sensation. An eerie feeling rushed through his body, a feeling that said something very strange is happening. The boy looked familiar, much too familiar for comfort. Starting to tremble, Craig realized the boy looked like himself in one of those 1950’s black and white photos, the pictures with the wavy white borders.
The boy’s mumbles began to makes sense. Craig heard his own young voice coming from his own young body, a body he had left behind a long time ago. He felt it too strange to speak openly to this boy of his growing impossible realization. Compassion for this boy spread through Craig like warmth from a bonfire. The boy explained that he had been running through the woods after getting off the school bus. He had fallen and passed out from exhaustion. Craig struggled to deal with this as a chance encounter with a stranger, knowing all too well that something extraordinary and quite spiritual was happening. The boy reassured the man that he was fine and that his farm house was just over the hill top. He said his mother would be waiting for him. Craig knew this to be true. He wanted to tell this boy so much, that he would free himself of the town bullies, that he would marry a wonderful woman and have children of his own, that his inner terror would subside and that he would learn to be happy, even joyful. Craig wanted to hug the boy tightly, feeling tears welling in his eyes.
But, what Craig said was, “Glad you are not hurt, now please walk carefully the rest of the way home.” The boy said “thank you” and ran, then slowed to a brisk but careful walk, on his way down the path. Craig stood still, feeling joy, the tears flowing freely now, knowing he would never be the same again and that he would never feel totally alone in life.