Through the forest passage Anthony went, struggling with the vines, climbing over fallen tree limbs and brushy undergrowth, and navigating the rocky creeks that seeped downhill between the hills, under a canopy of pine, cedar and oak. In autumn’s grasp, the first snow flurries already dropping at mountain summits, and colder afternoons with rain. Anthony knew his journeys through the forest would be shorter in duration, having to return home before dark.

Across the country the night fell heavy like sleep coming down, so Anthony moved in haste, having dawdled at the summit of the far mountain he ascended earlier in the afternoon.

There was a sadness with each step, because on the mountain Anthony had an epiphany; one that took decades germinating before unveiling itself in a flash when he reached the summit.

He tried not to think about what he discovered while looking at the valley below his feet, the narrow strip of asphalt that was Fairview Road, scattered houses and small developments on either side, along with the high school he once attended. The sky was clear that afternoon, and for miles beyond he could see the broken backs of the Blue Ridge Mountains off to the distance, fading into the haze.

It all started with a dream the night before in which he saw his grandparents. From shortly after birth until three months before his twelfth birthday he and his mother lived with them. Anthony had a small room to himself, while his mother slept on a fold out couch in the living room.

When they moved, his grandmother posted a note on his bedroom door. “This will always be Anthony’s room.” It stayed until they moved on to assisted living facility years afterward.

In the center of the room was their television set from the time. They sat regally in overstuffed chairs on either end. This was like meeting the Pope for an audience.

His grandmother looked sourly at him. He always feared that expression. His grandfather also looked none too pleased, staring at him from behind his horn rimmed glasses.

Pointing at the television set, Anthony’s grandmother said, “You came all this way to ask us …. this?”

“Yes, is that the TV we had, then?”

He moved closer, got on his knees and looked into the fading cathode rays.

Anthony remembered little else, particularly nothing of what he saw, but when he awoke that morning, he felt a wave of melancholy, and those emotions grew until he decided to go for a walk through the forest behind their house.

When he arrived at the precipice, looking down at the valley below, he remembered an important aspect of the dream. He had returned to see them at the age he was now–as a middle-aged man.

He could not recollect why he knew this, but this thought struck him as truth, and it was piercing. This realization pained him, and he suddenly had a sense of where and what from this dream occurred.

Down, down walked Anthony through the forest passage toward what was once his home, knowing it was lost, missing it, left behind and replaced by the houses and apartments from the spring to late summer of life.

The clouds now obscured the sun, the shades heralding the last hour of daylight growing dimmer as he hastily made his way to the hill trail that led further down the mountain, terminating at the gravel track that led to his house.

Anthony did not remember what he saw on that screen, but he surmised it was the future.

Eventually he would forget all but the lingering doubts.

 

***

 

Mike Lee works for a trade union magazine in New York City. His fiction is published in The Airgonaut, Soft Cartel, Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Opiate, and others. Website: http://www.mleephotoart.com. He also blogs for the photography website Focus on the Story.