What now? There are always choices. So what are mine?
My breath returns to normal and I wander the room, touching things at random. The myriad scrapes and scratches accumulated in my headlong rush sting with my sweat.
As amber light glows against warm wood, I studiously avoid glancing towards the windows. In every one, her face reflected. Eyes, so blue, piercing me with silent condemnation. I didn’t mean to do it.
I dash an exhausted and angry tear from my cheek. Go back through the door, to the patio, to the haunted and haunting forest.
The mist has collected around the underside of my little tree house. Tendrils creep upwards, questing, fall back unsatisfied. It seems as if it is thwarted. For the moment. I am unsettled, but I am safe. Are these my choices, then? To be safe or to be free?
I didn’t mean to do it.
“I didn’t mean to do it!” It explodes in a ragged and jagged scream from my throat but doesn’t split the silence of the air. It’s muffled around the edges, blurred, doesn’t make a ruffle. A sound that isn’t a sound, in a place that offers succor and taunt in equal measure. Here you can be safe, it says, but never ever free.
Never free. Have I been free since my past was my present? Suddenly I feel as if this mist has been chasing me for longer than I care to think about, that its tattered lace limbs have been looking for a way in. Poking along, searching for a chink, waiting for its moment.
What had I done, what weakness had I betrayed within myself that allowed an opening? I didn’t mean to do it.
The mist begins to whisper to me, to offer answers to my questions, and I scurry back towards the door, scrambling and stumbling in my haste. I do not want these answers.
Back inside. The quality of light hasn’t changed, time isn’t passing. Time is awaiting my choice.
Wandering, fingers running over rough surfaces, unfinished shelving that lay empty nailed to the unpainted wall. Is it waiting for me? As the thought surfaces, a clock appears on the shelf. It is my clock, a glass and metal doodad picked up because it looked interesting, not ticking. Sitting on the shelf. My shelf, now.
Stop avoiding the issues. I didn’t mean to do it. But I did. I did do it.
My aimless journey has brought me to a back door that I would swear was not there a minute before. The top of the door is made of bubbled thick glass panes, distorting. I open it without thought.
A different forest. Snow crusted, gorgeous, crystalline and pristine in the light that isn’t really light, a luminescence. Cold, icy cold, instantly freezing my breath in my lungs. A path. A set of footprints breaking the crust wavers in and out of existence. A path available but not yet chosen. I shut the door again.
I want to lay this mantle down, sleep. I want to forget. I raise my weary head and lock eyes with her reflection. “I didn’t mean to do it.”
Her face changes, elongates, turns angry and confused, lips part and form watery looking shapes, yelling out. This, this is not she; this is a revenant of the she. There is only one way out. I have made my choice. I cannot live if I am not free.
I step towards the back door, one foot in front of the other. The windows rattle in their panes, angry and insistent. The susurrations of the mist begin afresh, assault me as I twist the knob once again. Step out onto the ledge. Another hemp rope hangs over the edge.
“I didn’t mean to do it. I’m sorry.” Hand over hand, fingers numbed, I slide painfully down the last few feet and fall into the snow. Staggering now, I try to send my feet to the path that I had seen, but the freezing cold has already made me clumsy.
The mist cannot touch me on this path, but it can touch the snow. It seeps under it, animates it, breathes life into otherworldly creatures. Snow snakes coil in my front of me, lash out and send me bumbling around them. I do not stop.
Snow wraiths, shrieking and shaking, chase me until I run, cannot help but be terrified, falling face first into the crust of ice. Cannot help but cower. Snow cats, no species I know, prowling and rawring in a circle around me. I swear that I can feel their breath on the nape of my neck.
I want to weep. “I cannot deserve this! It was not my fault!” The puff of air from these last words fades and with little poofs so do the snow creatures. A light to my left, down the path that I had tried to stay on, pulses gently brighter, bluer. It floats towards me.
The insistent cold lets up, enough for me to force frozen hands into the snow and push myself to my knees. It is she, she in the floating light, the light that is the same blue as her eyes. Her face is not terrified, or angry; she smiles. She smiles at me. She knows that it was not my fault. She knows that I didn’t mean to.
A hand, made of marble, made of hardened wax, slips into mine and tugs me to my feet. She has forgiven. The snow melts before her, reveals a barren sleeping ground beneath. A boulder splits open into a yawning maw and she leads me forward, stepping into a place where time waits on no man’s choice.
At the threshold, the light turns, she turns, looks to me. “Make your choice.”
I meant to do it.
The Fab Four Fables has begun. The four bloggers from Master Class have taken turns writing a piece of this story, without knowing what was coming until the previous writer had posted their bit, and these silly people trusted me to handle the ending I can only hope that I have done them proud and that they feel that I have done justice to the excellent lead in I was given by them all. Go read them. A bunch of their stuff. Cos they’re awesome.
Part one: In the Way of Dreams by Eric, at Sinistral Scribblings (http://sinistralscribblings.com/2012/12/12/in-the-way-of-dreams/)
Part two: Sinister Shadows by SAM, at My Write Side (http://frommywriteside.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/fab-four-fables-sinister-shadows/)
Part three: Embracing the Darkness by David, at Scholarly Scribe (http://scholarlyscribe.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/fab-four-fables-embracing-the-darkness/)