The trees reached well past the limits of the sky. Plentiful, but not so thick or dense that you couldn’t enjoy the nature around you. Grass grew in patches on the pitched frame covering the doorway. Mostly, the square wooden shingles were plush with moss. Two levels, entirely made of wood, with layers of triangular windows. A small kitchen, a wood burning stove and a lofted bedroom. It was a handmade haven in the woods, the perfect escape from everything. Trekking through the forest, seeing its beautiful form. My first night there, which was supposed to be one night of a long weekend/short week stay, was the last night I knew freedom.
Months of DMs of far-off cabins, A-Framed houses, treehouses, all with the various captions “tag someone you would stay here with.” All single bed places. It wasn’t a hard trail to follow. There’s a small space between friendship and romantic interest, like the smallest nook in a rucksack where your keys can sometimes worm in, but then need to be finger out. Tittering on the frayed edge. Until the message “IT’S HAPPENING!!!!!!!” pulled them into the abyss. She had booked the hut, and the first person she had reached out to was me. She sent me the dates, the flights she was planning on taking, even the places she was thinking of stopping along the way. It was like she had been planning the trip for us, not for her. A few days later, at game night, we were playing a real-life version of Clue. Some pizzeria owner knocked off in their own store – she was the only one to figure out whodunnit. When Carney and his Mrs. went home, long after the rest of our friends had shoved off, and it was just the three of us; me, her, and Brian. She leaned over, flicking her cigarette into the fire and said, “I don’t understand why no one else solved it. All the clues are laid out for everyone to see and no one picks up on ‘em. The clues are always there. No one looks.”
“No one looks at what,” Brian asked. Walking back from the driveway he stops directly behind her. “Mikey? Coulda told you that,” he laughs. His hands taking hold on her shoulders.
“The clues,” I said repeating the words.
“They’re right there in front of everyone, Mikey. But no one looks. Including the pair of ye. Right here in front of your noses.”
“Next time, I’ll just assume you’re the murder babe,” Brian said kissing her head.
She rolled her eyes.
“Next time I’ll notice,” I offer.
“Thank you, Mikey.” She giggled. She was gorgeous.
The next day, I notice. I look back through all our messages. All the places she’s sent me. I take action. I spend hours scrolling through posts where the hut had been tagged. Looking at other posts from the same week. Scouring the stupid captions to see if there was enough information to independently determine the location of the hut. And it finally happens. Someone had proposed to their girlfriend in the lofted bed. They’ve gotten married this week, and are posting snapshots of their story. Instead of getting traditional wedding bands they got tattoo rings of the latitude (his) and longitude (hers). It would have been a cute idea had they not been the hippiest of hipsters. I send them fifteen euro for “shots to marital bliss” on their peer-to-peer payment app as an unofficial thank you for the information they provided. Apparently it’s what kids do these days on their honeymoons. Ask strangers to electronically send them money so they can celebrate.
For the next five months I packed every shirt she said she liked, planned what I would say or rather, how I would look, when I approached the open doorframe. She coordinated the dance to this point. It would make sense to let her continue to lead.
The First Day
My rucksack is on the oversized grey cloth chair to the left of the stove. My leggings, slightly damp from the long hike, sliding off the rucksack as I look around. The wood, the details, everything is breathtaking and beautiful. The smell of pine embedding itself into my nostrils. My bra joins my leggings and my rucksack. I stand there in my knee high blue and geometric patterned socks and my oversized sweatshirt. I put on the kettle. The kitchen, like the cabin, is made for need not for excess. At most the kettle can make one cuppa at a time. The sound of the water warming fills the cabin as I make my way up the ladder to the second floor. The bed takes up the majority of the loft. The views from the ladder alone are stunning. Already I feel my body relaxing into its temporary home. I climb back down the ladder and while I’m waiting for my tea to be ready I dig through my rucksack to find my pay-as-you-go cheapy phone. I’m international and left my actual cell phone at home. My fingers glide over the buttons typing a text out to Brian. I miss the days of flips phones and buttons. Maybe I’ll abandon the latest smartphone monster when I’m back home. Brian will surely shit a brick if I even suggest it. “I’m here! It’s unbelievable! I’ll bore you with sketches and long tails about woodsy trails when I’m home. xo”
He texts me back almost immediately despite the time different. “Cool! We’re at the Village Inn. I love you.”
I put the phone back in my rucksack and go back to the kitchen area. The counter top with the tea kettle sits next to a tiny sink, underneath is a mini-mini fridge. I pour my tea into a thick handmade mug. The sun is starting to set, from the angle on the chair it looks like it’s setting onto to the cabin. The colors wash over me and as darkness begins to overtake the forest the solar powered lights around the first floor illuminate. The transformation of the interior is captivating, and again I find myself breathless and suspended in wonder. The rest of the night passes with journaling about my travel and reading. The temperature has dropped and as I crawl into bed still in my sweatshirt and socks I’m engulfed by the heavy duvet.
The sunlight tickles my eyes until they open. The sky is bright and the air is still cold. My stomach growls thinking of a warm muffin and a cuppa. I stretch across the bed, my hand grazes against the book Mikey recommended to me. A book of poems. Not my usual travel book, but the way he spoke about it made me want to give it a chance. It had gotten him through the shitstorm of his late teens, early twenties. It had introduced him to the wilderness and inspired him to go camping instead of clubbing. It didn’t save his life, that was later and a paramedic named Dylan, but it did keep him sane. He would love it here. Similarly to how yoga keeps me grounded. On that thought, I sit up and scooch to the end of the bed. Climbing down the ladder I think about the best place to practice. Outside would be ideal, but I don’t have anything to practice on. If I move the coffee table there should be enough room.
I’m still thinking of my options as I put on another kettle. I walk to the back of the cabin and look out one of the dozens of windows. A little ways back from the hut is an outhouse and I realize how badly I have to pee. My hiking boots are by the front of the cabin, so I walk back to grab them. The outhouse is about 9 meters into the words following a faint path. About half way there, off to the right is a wooden platform. The kind used for tent camping. I had forgotten about this. The perfect place to practice! I walk the rest of the way to the outhouse, do my business and walk return to my tea. The smell wafts from the open doorway.
Brian had flipped through the pictures quickly, stealing glances of whatever game was on television, and had said, “cool.” After I booked the trip I had pulled up the pictures to show him which cabin in the woods I had chosen. Again, a swift swipe through between free kicks, but his comment had changed to “it’s a hut with no front door? Are you seriously gonna stay in a tiny hut in the woods, with no front door?” I hadn’t noticed, and not wanting to deal with a blended outpouring of concern and reprimand I said “why wouldn’t there be a door?” Someone scored and it became a moot point.
Unless there was some high level carpentering I was overlooking, there was no door after all.
I drink my tea and heat up my muffin homemade with berries and seeds. Perfect high energy breakfast for light traveling. Plus they taste really good. I clean up, fill up my stainless steel water bottle, slide my boots back on and head out to the platform. Discarding my footwear, socks, and sweatshirt I get into mountain pose. Letting the forest air settle against my body, I focus my breathing and relax my thoughts. My routine lasts about an hour and a half, give or take. Laying in corpse pose I open my eyes. Taking in each tree, branch, and leaf above me. It feels as though I’m weightless. I get up and grab my clothes from the floor. There’s no formal shower, but there is a hose out back of the cabin. I put my hiking boots back on, grateful they’re waterproof, and carry my socks and sweatshirt with me.
Something rustles behind me and I slowly turn around to see five or six elk just running through the trees. Mikey would love this. I know I said I was going to hose down, but seeing all the elk was just too cool. Instead I shake off as many pine needless, broken leaves, and natural debris I’ve accumulated and carefully tiptoe to my rucksack. Grabbing a blanket, my notepad and my pencil I head outside to the firepit to sit and sketch out what I could. I’m not a great drawer, but going through the process has cemented the vision into my brain. Mikey is a great artist, though he’ll say he doodles. Usually when I come back from solo trips he’ll take my actual doodles and recreate them. We make a good team in that way. Brian jokes that he’s going to start to sell them. Make us an internet sensation so these trips would cost less. He would rather invest in stocks or car parts whereas I would rather travel. The irony is I pay for all my own trips by myself.
I look at my sketch. I have gotten better since I started, but I’m excited to see what Mikey will do with it. He doesn’t travel enough, no matter how many amazing places I send him. There’s only so much I can do. One of those things is enjoy my own time away. I return to the cabin and put my stuff on the small table at the entrance. Replacing art supplies for a towel and soap I head out back. The cold water feels like pleasurable torture. When all of nature’s kisses have been washed off I shut the hose and wrap up.
My stomach growls as I stand inside the cabin. I’m surprised that it’s already been almost four hours since I had my muffin. It makes sense the more I think about it. I love how differently time moves when I’m alone and doing the things that make me happiest. At some point I will need to get to the store, soup and muffins aren’t a great long term plan, no matter how good they are. I take out a mason jar of soup that I canned specifically with this trip in mind. The canning process alone causes me enough stress to need a getaway, but I’m getting better at it. And I haven’t given myself botulism yet so that’s a plus.
I throw on some boy short undies, my workout leggings – not to be confused with my comfy cotton ones, my sports bra, and a sweatshirt. I pull on the socks from yesterday and walk over to the firepit. I heat the soup up over a fire and make a plan for the rest of the day. There’s a supply store just about 6.5 kilometers away. Sunset isn’t until 17:00. If I scoot my boot I’ll be getting back as the sun is starting to set. I make a mental note of it and make an effort to enjoy my lunch and see what time it is when I’m done. I’ll be fine having soup for dinner if I miss my window. The intention for this trip is growth through exploration and relaxation.
It’s only 12:15. I decide to go to the store. It’s starting to smell like snow, and even though it’s unlikely to accumulate assuming it even manages to snow, I’m already drooling over s’mores. Which requires at least three ingredients more than what I brought with me. I put on a clean, thicker pair of socks and get ready to make my way to the store. I have my cold-hard American money in my passport holder along with my identification card, my ICE card, and a picture of Mikey, Me, Jordan, and Brian. Jordan had flown in for both my birthday and to see her cousin, Brian who she hadn’t seen in two years. It was the end of the night, the close to the party, everyone in a blend of their costumes and comfy clothes and clearly drunk. The four amigos, somewhere Jordan’s husband was passed out. If you didn’t know us the picture would paint a different picture. It’s why the picture lives in my wallet and not on our refrigerator where I had intended to put it. It worked out, it brings a smile to my face every time I see it.
I double check that I have everything: money, passport holder – passport safely tucked into the poetry book now snuggled under my pillow, plus a now empty rucksack to carry my supplies back in, and I’m off. Assuming I did my research correctly, to get to the store I travel down the path toward the actual trail. The same one I hiked up yesterday. Instead of going back the way I came I take the trail out further. After a kilometer there will be a faint path on the left that connects to a main road and has a store. Wanting to make the best use of my time, I take a deep breath in and begin my trek.
I must have had a temporary break to get to this point. I’m sitting on a plane on an international flight going to crash my best friend’s girlfriend’s solo vacation because she might have been subtly hinting to me that she wanted me to. If there were any other words I knew for maybe, potentially, could have been, further stretching than the galaxies I would use those. So many thoughts are swirling around my head I can’t really make sense of any of them. I drop my head and look at my hands. The faded ink of a faded youth stare back at me. Pops of bright new ink, new memories, new passions, are squeezed in between. My hands say a lot about me, and it’s true you can’t erase the past but it will fade. My new plan is get off this plane, go to the ticket agent and either rebook my flight home for the next possible one, or see if there are other campgrounds nearby. I didn’t really pack any camping gear, but this is America and they do love their capitalism. I imagine I’ll be able to buy some. If all else fails I’ll stay in some decedent hotel where you pay for privacy and pillow chocolates.
My head drops and I’m awake. I realize I must have dozed off for a bit. The plane has landed and we’re taxing. I turn my phone on. No one knows I’m away. Working remote has its perks. A whole bunch of notifications from work pop up: emails, voicemails, notifications from our PM software, but there is one text from an unknown number that catches my eye. “Hey Mikey! It’s absolutely stunning here! I die a little… you would love it. You have to visit!!! Oh, and before I forget, I’m reading the poetry book you gave me. It’s like having the perfect companion to the wilderness!”
I put my phone away wondering which ones of us is mental. Her for throwing around heavily weighted words of great magnitude like she’s asking for a dinner roll, or me for thinking there is any more meaning to those words than what’s in front of me. Either way, something inside me has broken again. I unlock my phone and in the faces scattered across the background collage I find hers. I’m on my way, Little Bit.
I’m walking down the faint path to my cabiny hut, at least I’m pretty sure it’s the right path. The sun hasn’t set yet, but the inclement weather has created a filter, that while it would look stellar for a picture, it isn’t helping me differentiate between the rows of trees around me. I’m confident that I haven’t started freaking out yet. If I open my mind up to the trek to the store I see a wavy path where I let me mind wonder. I close it, and focus on what’s in front of me. A theatrical voice over fills my thoughts, “if you want to day dream, go for a walk. Real hiking requires your undivided attention.” If I heard Mikey say it once, I’ve heard him say it a billion times. I do some breathing exercises and keep it moving. It’s only going to get darker, and panicking won’t help. I look at the ground. I think I’m off the path, but not by much. I make the decision to cut through the trees. The smallest hint of a familiar smell hits my nose and I’m filled with the confidence that I’m going the right way now. I look ahead, taking each set deliberately. I don’t acknowledge the deep, dark gray settling in on either side of me. My eyes are locked on the thin plume of smoke stretching toward the tree tops. I can’t tell if it’s someone else’s campsite but I continue to follow my gut, and my nose, and all of my sense that says to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Before I see the cabin or the fire I see Mikey, flicking something toward the ground. The tension that has been swirling beneath my skin breaks the surface and I feel myself sinking into panic as I run to him.
She pushes off from the ground, jumping into the air, and clinging to me like my old cat used to. She’s squeezing me so tight, it’s as if she’s not sure I’m here. Her whole body is vibrating underneath my arms. I hold her and wait for her to say something. All I can hear are very soft sobs muffled against my shoulder.
“Ya got lost, huh?”
Her head ruffles against my coat.
“Hiking requires. . .”
She peals her head off of me, shifting her weight to face me. She’s still wrapped against me though. Her grip still so tight. “I heard you say that. It was just after. It was only a few turns, and I didn’t realize it got so dense and gray here and. . .”
“It happens. You made it back didn’t ya?”
“Yes,” she says, “I didn’t think you were really here.”
I laugh. I don’t mean to. It’s not at her, but in some ways it is.
“Next time yer not sure if someone’s real don’t take such a leap into their arms.” I glance at the firepit behind me.
She laughs. Suddenly aware of how we’re situated, she unlocks her limbs and hops back to the ground.
“Well, you can fill me in on your journey here after I put on something more comfy. Have you been inside yet? Do you want to come?”
I watch her face as she speaks. A 5’4″ She-Hulk just throwing her weighted words with no idea of the implications. I feel stupid, aroused, and relieved. I shouldn’t have come here, but she doesn’t seem angry. I’ll visit, pretend the airline lost my camping stuff, and that I’m moving on to a different site tomorrow. She doesn’t need to know I’ll be taking a page out of Brian’s book and getting a room at the most indulgent place I can find. No expense is too great to sort through my fucked up feelings and reassemble my personal pride.
She walks into the hut, sliding her rucksack and jacket off. She undoes her hiking boots and leaves them by the opening. She’s talking a mile a minute about her walk to the store, what she got, how excited she is for s’mores. As she steps into the hut she goes over everything with me. The tea kettle, where she made tea. The windows, where she looks out to the forest. The ladder, which leads to the lofted bed. She takes my hand and leads me to every spot. Her ass is in front of me as we go up the ladder. It’s been in front of my face countless times before and yet in all of the hiking, rock climbing, cliff jumping, and the other activities I’ve never looked at it as somewhere I’ve wanted to bury my face, until now. I’ve opened up a self-contained can of worms coming here, thinking for a second that she wanted a rendezvous, forget just a travel buddy. She’s fully on her hands and knees crawling unto the bed. She’s still talking, but I can’t hear anything she’s saying. Finally, she sits and turns to face me. Her knee drawn up to her chest, her body twisted around it.
“Mikey, did you see the ceiling yet?”
I look up. The ceiling, like the rest of the hut is made out of wood. It reminds me of an old church. One that I broke into and showed the preacher’s daughter all the reasons why sin was a good thing. Maybe people don’t always change.
“It’s beautiful,” I say taking appreciation in the craftsmanship.
“You were the first person I thought of when I saw it this morning,” she say stretching onto her back.
I see my book of poetry sticking out from underneath her pillow.
“I’m going to head back down, tend to the fire and what not. You want me to close the front door?” You said you were changing, yeah?”
“There’s a front door?” She takes a deep breath in, her chest heaves.
I stare at her waiting. She exhales slowly. A soft chuckle escapes her.
“Oh yeah,” she says rolling onto her stomach. “See ya downstairs.”
I climb down the ladder. Painfully aware of the effect she has on me. I make adjustments, and walk outside.
Dancing in front of the fire is her ass in tight shinny leggings. Her voice wraps around the image, “come inside, Mikey.” I want to go back but I can’t. The pieces have fallen into place, and I see everything so clearly. No woman I’ve gone on a date with has held my attention the way she has, has been willing to try, or has sought out, new hobbies – like learning proper camping or rock climbing – nor have they had any hobbies to share with me – like pottery making or theater productions. They haven’t been as funny as her or as kind or as bullheaded. It’s easier to get rid of a puppy you don’t name.
My excitement has passed and I’m burying my face into my hands as I hear her approach.
“You have no idea,” I say. Her light is brighter than the fire illuminating her. She’s wearing knee socks, boxers, and a sweatshirt. She has a blanket from inside tucked in her arm. Even cold and covered in goose bumps she glows. She sits down in the chair next to me and we begin to assemble the marshmallows onto sticks.
“So, you want to tell me how you ended up here?” She nibbles at a piece of marshmallow stuck to her finger raising one eyebrow at me.
“Not really,” I say. “But I will.”
She laughs. “You never have to explain yourself to me Mikey. But I am always here to listen.”
“I feel bad, I was supposed to be out of here before the sun went down.”
“S’alright, you can spend the night, but only if you’re making breakfast tomorrow.”
“You got it.”
We finish making our first s’mores. Hers is overflowing with chocolate. Somehow she has managed to get a glob of it on her nose. I laugh as she tries to lick it off. We spend the rest of the night outside, talking. We talk about poetry, we debate over the perfect breakfast, she asks me about my dating life. Snow begins to fall and the world stops. She looks at me and my heart breaks.
The Snow Fall
“This is almost too perfect,” I say. And it is, even with Mikey here. The fire and the snow, the hut and the trees, two best of friends. Everything fits together and it is perfect. It’s gotten cold, but I don’t want to go inside. Mikey stokes the fire and wraps me up in the blanket I had left outside earlier.
“Almost?” He asks, but before I can answer he’s already walking away. My heart aches in my chest and I’m caught off guard. I hope I didn’t offend him. I only had wanted – my thoughts are interrupted. He is walking back with saucepan from the kitchen and a jar. I watch him as he sets up the pan over the fire, and pours whatever was in the jar in.
“All that was missing was the hot cocoa, right?”
“It’s perfect. You’re perfect,” I laugh.
He smiles slightly before frowning as he sits back into his chair.
“Let’s try it first,” Mikey says.
We sit quietly. Mikey is watching the hot cocoa. I’m watching the tiny specks of snow fall. There is a soft glow from the hut that illuminates some of the surrounding trees. Next year, I decide, I’m going somewhere with a lot of snow. Meters and meters of it. I close my eyes, tilting my head up toward the sky. I feel every flake as is lands. The smell of chocolate mingles with the cold in my nose.
Her head rolls back slowly. Her neck is stretched, smooth. I want to run my fingers down it, my tongue.
A sharp sound hits my ears and I open my eyes, and look around. It looks like someone has let a saltshaker loose from the heavens. Mikey is sitting with a broken stick.
“Did your s’more offend you?”
He looks down, his face is stoic like always, but his eyes, peering through his lids up at me, are devilish.
“Don’t know my own strength I guess.”
Dramatic eye roll, “maybe your wood is just flimsy?”
“Shoulda let you handle it then?”
I laugh so hard a loud snort vibrates through my nasal passages.
“Nah, just lost in thought. Didn’t mean to. But the cocoas ready, if you are?”
“I am always ready for cocoa.”
We talk more. I go through the story of the elk again.
How it made her think of me.
How I’m excited to see what he can do with my sketch. Him and his talented artist hands. . .
How she knows my hands.
How we make a great team. . .
How great things are when we’re together.
I talk the last sip of my cocoa. “Told you, you’re perfect.”
The color rises to her cheeks, already pink from the cold. I want to make her blush all over.
I smile so much, I yawn. I could fall asleep in the chair if Mikey let me. Already he is up and standing in front of me.
“Your boots are off. You’re snuggled tighter than a bed bug. I’ll bring you in.”
He hasn’t carried me since a bottle of Jose got the better of us years ago. At the time Brian had been intimate with a bottle of Powers. Nestled in his arms, I forget how strong he is. It goes with his protectiveness.
“My hero,” I tell him, already giving into sleep.
My head is burrowed into him, my ear against his neck. His breath catches, and I can hear him as he scoffs.
“Seriously, you always look out for me. Keep me safe. Make me cocoa. If there was a prize to be had, it’d be yours.”
It’s a short walk, and somehow, he’s managed to slide me onto the bed. I roll over. “Come on,” I whisper. I pat the bed.
“Getting shy on us now, Mikey? Better than summer trips with all of our friends in clusters everywhere.”
“I’ll come back after I take care of a few things, okay?”
Her voice is heavy with sleep, but she’s insisting. She’s posing a challenge. It’s like she knows how badly I want to. Toying with how badly she wants me to.
I kick my shoes off and crawl in next to her. The moonlight has shifted, and I can see the outline of the poetry book sticking out. I take it, my body begins to relax. It’s too dark to read, but I’ve memorized most of the words. I start to recite the poems in my head. I’ve repeated the same line several times, and my eyes are starting to close.
She scooches toward me, her ass tucked against my hip. She’s still wound in a tight ball. The slow methodical rhythm of her breathing tells me she’s already sound asleep.
“At least I’m not the last to know this time. You are the prize, Little Bit.”
The Middle of the Night
My eyes snap open. Wherever I was or whatever I was dreaming about is gone. The chills are still running up and down my spine. I’m trapped between the worlds of sleep and awake. It’s cold under the blanket, the duvet and sheets are beneath me. Mikey’s hand is on top of my hip. I relax a little realizing where I am. I still have that uneasy sense of imminent danger that I can’t shake. I pull myself into an even tighter ball. In one motion, Mikey’s hand is now clenched, nestled under my chin as the length of him conforms around me. The calm, peacefulness of the day returns, and I fall back to sleep feeling cozy and protected.
I wake up to a faceful of hair. It tickles my nose hairs as I breathe in. It smells like outside, campfire, and her. I start to move, to pull away, fighting against every part of me that wants to stay wrapped up in blankets and her, so I can get up. She holds my arm tighter, every muscle in her body working together. My eyes flutter as she moves against me. I exhale and focus on leaving. Once more I slowly try to back away from her, her legs wrap around mine, pulling them to her. If I were sitting in a chair, she’d be sitting on my lap. If we were naked in either scenario, I’d be inside her. And I want to be, but I know she’s just sleeping. It’s not me, she’s lost in her own dreamland. I’m stuck here in the longing between heaven and hell. I hear my mother warning me of purgatory. Had I only known then. . . she wriggles against me. Her ass nuzzling against me through the covers, until I’m resting perfectly between her. She murmurs in her sleep. My brain is running on fumes, the blood long since relocated.
I close my eyes. Squeezing them so tightly bursts of colors appear before me. Shiny, coopery golden bursts, with brown and beige. The colors of her hair. I breathe in.
My skin pulls from how tight my eyes are shut. Greens and browns mix together against the blackness. My breathing waivers. I see her twisting herself on the bed. The way she moves and contorts. All the places she’s sent me, the far-off wonderland cabins.
My body aches. Tension courses through every vein I have. I can feel my blood pulsing. I can feel hers in her throat. The way she skins pulsates against mine. She moans so softly. Her voice fills my head, the silly nothings that have always been somethings, but I was afraid to hear them. I’m afraid to open my eyes. Her hand is on my thigh.
The blanket is starchy, almost rough against my legs. The cold air rustles through my leg hair. Her warmth is a sharp contrast. She is moving against me and I’m still caught like room is vacuum packed. Reds and pinks fill the back of my eyelids. Her hair is in my mouth, pinching my tongue as I kiss her neck. It’s all a dream, or a nightmare, every part of me is just rigid. I can’t tell one muscle from the next, everything feels connected but too sharp. Jagged.
I feel her stretch over me, fitting me inside her. For a moment everything stops. I’ve left purgatory and have entered the gates of heaven. I didn’t know it existed before now. I’m here.
The warmth is almost gone. I can feel it leaving me as I hover above. Mikey has fallen asleep. His arm still wrapped tightly around my neck. I can see he is snoring, but the sound of it gets further off. It’s muffled, but I’m not bothered by it. There’s an odd peacefulness. The hum of the trees, the breath of the wind, even the small reverberations of the moisture in the air. Those I can feel. They’re comforting. They create the soft glow around the bodies beneath me. It will change when he wakes up. When he sees that I don’t. I don’t want to be here for that, but I have a feeling I won’t be able to get too far.
He starts to stir. His hand falls from my neck and drops across my chest.
I can’t feel his warmth anymore. He rustles. I move away, willing myself out toward the firepit. I’m not quite out of the hut before I hear him screaming my name, I don’t bring myself to look back. This wasn’t what he wanted.
I pause in front of the same seat I sat in last night. It feels like I have sea legs, except I don’t feel any legs at all. I watch as the sun sets higher in the sky, the light bouncing off the windows. It’s so bright, yet foggy. Like I’m looking through a dirty camera.
I’m waiting for something, though I’m not sure what. Mikey has left, probably on his way to get help. I find myself back inside looking down at my body. It’s pale, more so than normal, even a little bluish. The irony of having a favorite color. I want to straighten myself out before help comes, but I can’t. So I go downstairs and look at the books on the shelves. If I was going to be here forever, which I’m not, at least I would have a lot to read.
Time has come and gone, and I can feel the magnetic pull of the moon. Mikey isn’t back yet, but he is close. I can sense him. His vibrations contrast and cut through the woods. He is carrying a camping backpack. It holds a shovel, a tarp, and an axe. The lens thickens and the world grays a little.
Mikey didn’t get help. Not for me.
I look at the path behind him, the same one I took on my first day here. It’s clear before me. As if my veins have rewired themselves in the shape of the surround paths. I keep looking ahead. Unintentionally following it as darkness looms behind me.
When I’m back Mikey is gone, as are my belongings, my body.
There is one thing though. The cleaning woman found it as she was stripping the sheets. Her headphones playing showtunes loud enough I could faintly hear them in the background. A book of poems. She brought it downstairs, not able to see the passport slip out and stay under the mattress, and put it on the shelf. Squeezed between a beat-up copy of Thoreau and Kerouac. There is a joke there, somewhere. I plan on finding it one day, just not right now.
New guests will be checking in, at least that’s what it seems like based on the welcome basket the house cleaner took with her before leaving. I follow her down the path, splitting off as she goes toward her car, and I go through the woods. Later, after my walk, I’ll catch the afternoon sun from my yoga platform. As the sun sets, I’ll sit out by the firepit until I return to the hut and head to the bed.
In the morning I’ll wake replaying my final moments over again.
The Morning, Again, and Again, and Again
I’m lost in a dream world. The air is light and fluffy. Space and objects have a fluid relationship, and much like I don’t question the first floor of the hut having become the basement of our home, I’m not questioning the tingles I’m feeling. The weight of my favorite fictional detective behind me, applying pressure with his hands, his hips, teasing me slightly.
It feels good to have someone press against me that way, even if it’s a dream.
A very realistic dream, where very suddenly the playful grip on my throat has become too much.
I try to breath and I can’t. My eyes are open, looking out at the forest. The threat of sunlight looming behind the trees – not close enough to stop the nightmare. Everything is sharp and clear. I reach behind me, digging my over clipped nails into the thigh backed against me. I try to kick, but my legs are caught in bedding and someone else’s feet.
Mikey must have gone for supplies. I should have picked somewhere with a front door.
My other arm is pinned beneath my head. The stranger’s grip on my forearm too strong and holding it down.
Did I smile too much at the cashier from the supply store? Did I give too much away about traveling alone?
The back of my neck is wet. Small nips pull the skin and the roots of my hair.
I can’t focus and yet I can’t stop the litany of questions, all questioning what I did wrong to end up here?
If I could breath, I’d be hyperventilating. There is a darkness clouding the edges of my vision.
A sharp pain. . .
Somewhere in the abyss I hear Mikey’s voice “Little Bit, oh Little Bit.”
The world is fading. . .
I am fading.