He had been on this, his chosen path for several years now and It had led him away from many he was once close to until finally he was walking in solitude for most of the time. Now he found himself someplace new - in an evergreen forest gently sloping up the mountainside. The air was cool and damp with the freshness of lush greenery and the loose dirt he walked on was soft and dark, slightly crumbling beneath his every step. He loved nature; he loved this, and lost himself in its wonder, embracing it all for several moments until the thought occurred to him to look around. The sudden realization that he was all alone rudely snapped him back to reality. And he didn’t want to remind himself of that, not again, because the thought depressed him lately, more than it ought to. But it was time he became accustomed to it.
Changes. There were many this past year, good and bad, and he made the most of them as best he could. And he decided it was time to make serious decisions about the person he needed to become. His motions could no longer be influenced by the masses, nor by musings as random as the changing tides. He had this idea of where he wanted to go and was already heading in the general direction, but was no longer content to merely take in the sights and sounds as he leisurely made his way there. He knew what needed to be done, at least for the time being, and that would be enough to keep him busy for a bit. He walked on, slightly faster, this time with an inkling of purpose and renewed resolve.
He eventually made his way to the edge of a clearing far above from where he first started. His eyes were staring out at the world below, but his thoughts were elsewhere - inward - upon the fears and insecurities that somehow plagued him all this time. But something was different now. From this vantage point his view was unobstructed, his perspectives clear, and the clouds of uncertainty and confusion that manifested in his mind dissolved like mist in the warmth of a new day. The sense of clarity he was searching for so long was finally found and the sensations of relief and victory were quietly taken in.
“Not all who wander are lost” she had said, comforting words echoing his experiences over the last few years. He was glad those words were uttered by someone else because it meant that there were like minds out there, somewhere and he would perhaps meet up with them someday, but until then he needed to focus. He stood with his forehead touching the cold stone wall, pausing, his hands gently grasping at the protrusions just above. He inhaled deeply, his eyes closed, his gear already carefully selected and secured in his backpack. The time was now, and he realized that everything he went through, all the trials and tribulations, victories and defeats were mere preparations for this one moment. He knew that now. And with determination rediscovered, he started the ascent.
There's no noise in the corridor anymore; they've all wrapped up their business and left for the day. It's just him now, seated quietly in the second row from the back. He's one of those hard-to-read people, his face void of expression. If he was worried, you couldn't be sure because his gaze never met yours and so it never gave him away. But he had to be, any normal person would be - especially now because the waiting is the hardest part and because there's nothing else to do. If anything is going through his mind, it's worry. And anxiety. And maybe even regret.
He's second-guessing himself now cos' he's never done anything like this before. He's not a troublemaker, quite the opposite actually. There are several ways to express love and support and his was to defer to authority, to obey without question. But the authority isn't there anymore and the new powers that be - well - they didn't care. Didn't care about his work, his contributions, his sacrifice. They didn't care about him. Fifty years of unwavering dedication was suddenly for nought.
So he did what he did, and that was all to it really. It's been difficult. It's been tiring. And now it needs to be over and done with. He got up and walked slowly to the front of the room, shuffling his feet as he made his way to the lady beckoning him forth. He stood in place as instructed.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"
It was like writing. On occasion her thoughts would flow naturally, easily, effortlessly, steadily - each word was intentional and every syllable enough. And in times like those her essence, her being, the very best of her would be replicated on paper and immortalized for all time.
But mostly it wasn’t like that; in fact - quite the opposite actually. She was not writing in solitude on a page clean and crisp but rather on a shared page with several others at the same time. She's fighting for space and in the commotion her garbled thoughts are imprinted as crooked text and messy blobs on soiled paper. Her best work was pathetic, and now she's all flustered and flushed because the collective result ain't inspiring shit - and that's what bothered her - how that sheet of paper, once nice and new wasn’t the canvas for a work of art, but rather a scratchpad for the incoherent thoughts of anyone with a pen.
But she eventually figured it out. She took a step back to take it all in. She stared in despair at the negative words and doodles, reflected on broken lines of poetry, and cried at stories so sad. She drew inspiration from the intricate artwork and bold statements of creativity. And she found solace in sentences of hope. She paused for a bit, to tie it all together: the good, the bad, the sensible and senseless. And she collected herself - her passion, grit, and her renewed sense of purpose. And she started to write again.
He sat as he often did - with his elbow on his knee, palm propping up his chin, his index finger bisecting his lips. And his sister spoke:
"We were worried about the weather, but it's a sunny day. She had wanted that."
He nodded quietly, agreeing with her. A soft smile formed slowly as the words registered with him.
And they all looked on at the pyre, now fully ablaze.
There’s something fascinating about a lighted candle, especially in the darkness of church. she was the proverbial moth inclined to light one; holding the half-inch piece of wax in its container of cheap foil awkwardly upside down over the open flame of another. the wick caught and she placed it with the others on the metal frame, the collective setting resembling a Christmas tree of sorts, the candle lights painting the immediate walls with shadows steady and a soft orange glow.
the altar to the front-centre of the room was barricaded in black burglar proofing forged in repetitive patterns of four circles fused into a diamond, the very top of which was embellished with sharp curved tips resembling the points of spears used in medieval times. the rounded posts located two meters apart throughout the altar area form the corners of one or more imaginary squares when viewed from above; and the arches connecting them run from left to right, front to back, and diagonally across, dividing the ceiling contained in each of those very squares into four triangular sections, each adorned with a painting of the mother or son, or some other important biblical personality in faded colours of red, gold, and aquamarine. and just then she was distracted by a holy man walking past. preparations for the service would begin shortly.
there were four of them; all clad in white fleece robes with sleeves wide enough to fall to their waists if their arms were held horizontally outstretched. one of them switched on the lights - electricity seemed so absurdly out of place in this setting. two others set about flipping through holy books bonded in hardcovers of red, the exposed edges of their pages appearing two shades lighter. and the last shushes two persons in the front left pew; the gesture reminding her of a Mr. bean Christmas skit in a storefront display.
eventually a hush fell as the service began. three of the holy men were positioned against the curved wall at the back of the altar with two of them standing in little wooden frames - similar to those metal cages that thrill-seekers secure themselves to in those amusement park rides before being spun wildly up into the air. they read in unison, as if singing almost, but not quite, pausing for up to five seconds or more between verses as if each was waiting on the other to start the next line. then they all fell in. they chanted in Latin perhaps - she couldn't tell, but that combined with the richness of their voices echoing throughout this ancient sunken chamber only added to the experience. to the side of the altar were maybe six persons seated in dining chairs, all in casual wear, some of them strolling in minutes after the session had started, all reciting on cue as per the pamphlets from a wooden box up front.
she looked at this, somehow in awe of it all cos’ it's all new to her, having never witnessed this before. she's not religious but respected it, and that involved at minimum embracing the desire to better understand it. she's a student of life, there to learn. and she sat quietly in the second pew, watching, listening. it made sense to do so.
all these questions about work, travel. she didn't care to speak to any of that so answered drily, offering single word responses wherever she could. her disinterest, however, was sorely unnoticed as was her presence in his company, the one she came to visit. not that she's surprised - it has always been like that and there was no reason to hope for a change now. and yet still she was still peering over her right shoulder into the dimly-lit living room yearning for an inkling of attention. anything. a mere acknowledgement that she existed maybe? or maybe that was a bit much to ask. this thirty-year-old was reduced to a child.
anyway, figured it was probably time she said a few words so she knelt to his left, her hand resting softly on his. she felt the age in his touch and the gesture for some reason triggered emotions of bewilderment and panic, causing him to search the room for familiar faces. apparently he knew not who she was - not that it mattered really. he had dismissed the very existence of her and her brothers from ever since and they accepted that. ironic how a decision once deliberate had manifested itself as part of his senile reality.
eventually he did calm down and his eyes of hazel would thereafter rise to hers, albeit with a sense of caution. then he stared at her, consciously, for what would be the first time ever. his expression was the very epiphany of childlike innocence; sans ignorance, sans impatience, and sans any and everything negative that she associated him with. and the truth is that she had accepted him for the person that he was for a long time now, and now she's thinking that maybe this was his chance to do likewise. and maybe he did.