It was cool and quiet beneath the forest canopy. Beyond the snake pit, the ground sloped toward a creek. An abandoned cabin beckoned from the far bank.
“Let's take a look,” Chris said.
“Hey, where are you guys going?”
“We’re down by the creek, Eddy,” Billy said. “Walk back up the road and come in that way.”
On either side of the creek, the forest receded. Along the verge delicate bluebells intermingled with fresh, green, ankle-length grass. The abrupt change from the blasted, barren landscape of the spar tree clearing made the hollow calm and peaceful. Chris ran ahead, drawn to the dilapidated structure. Flat stones placed in the stream helped him cross.
Up the opposite bank, he paused in front of an open door and a window pane fogged by decades of dust. The wood was peeling and grey; the porch leaned toward the creek; the roof sagged in the middle.
There was stillness like a held breath. The air was rich and fragrant with subtle scents of water, earth and vegetation, the only sound the gurgling of the creek and the rustle of leaves in the tree-tops.
The air moved. Not blown by a breeze, but spinning, twisting and swirling, ruffling blades of grass, bending the stalks of bluebells, tossing dead leaves in the air. It moved toward the cottage sucking up the dust on the porch, forming an indistinct shape, twisting and entering the open door. Then nothing.
“Did you see that?” Billy said.
Chris looked at the cabin and sensed happiness and sadness. Someone had lived there. They’d worked and rested, planned, had a purpose and a promising future. What happened? Why did they leave? Or did time just run out and one day that was it? Over. The end. And everything left behind.
Chris stepped onto the porch and walked through the open door. Billy had second thoughts, but then followed. Cobwebs were everywhere. Something rustled in the room to the left.
“Something’s in there,” Billy said.
“A squirrel or mice.” Chris turned, but his friend was standing down by the creek.
“Come on, Chris, let’s go. This place gives me the creeps.”
Chris walked to the middle of the room. This was where they lived. There was a stone fireplace, a small wooden table and shelves against the wall held a few jars. Remnants of memories, vague and indistinct, assailed Chris. They wanted to be remembered, to share their past.
Where did dreams go? Did they die or were they abandoned? Maybe people moved on, but their dreams stayed where they were born, like right here, eager to be taken up by someone else.
Why didn't they try harder, Chris thought? Why were they so ready to cut their losses and run? To what? To where?
There was more skittering in the other room. “Sorry to bother you,” Chris whispered to the current inhabitants annoyed with the intrusion.
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