I opened my own door and stepped out, looking up at the steeple. I could see, now that we were closer, where the boards had broken and the paint was peeling, and there was moss and mold growing on the corners and the windows.
“Look,” Tony said.
“No,” he said, “Over here.”
I backed up a bit, still watching the church, taking in the details of its decay and decimation, wondering about the people who’d once worshipped here, got married here, had funerals here. I surveyed the lawn, full of weeds and grave markers that had toppled over and crumbled. A sidewalk ran down the middle, from the front door to the road. I followed it, turning back toward Tony.
He was standing on top of the wall that separated the churchyard from the road. I walked up behind him, put one foot on the wall, made sure it was stable, and then climbed up beside him.
“Holy shit,” I said.
In front of us was a break in the tree line maybe fifty yards wide and beyond that, the deepest valley I had ever seen. It was blanketed on both sides with trees dyed all the colors of autumn: gold, amber, auburn, and crimson. The trees rolled down the hill in front of us and up the hill on the other side. It was a massive rainbow of leaves and branches like I’d never seen before and have never seen since.
Tony and I had stood there, quietly, watching the sunlight pour down from the early noon sky and bathe the valley in warmth. The chill of fall slipped past us and I shoved my hands in the pockets of my coat.
“Fucking magnificent,” Tony had said. “It looks like it’s burning.”
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