by John T. M. Herres
copyright 2010, John T. M. Herres
NEW UPDATE 04/22/2017
I am happy to announce that this story has been requested by Azoth Khem Publishing. The Editor wants to consider it for publishing as a Novelette.
I added, edited and revised before submitting it on March 5, 2017.
While I do admit that it is not completely finished, it is a lot cleaner than has been available here for the last three years.
With that in mind, I also want to tell y’all that what is posted here has been shortened to just the first chapter, and I’m updating it to the version I sent in for consideration.
I hope whoever reads it is satisfied with it. Maybe even intrigued enough to want to see what’s in the rest of the story.
(I will post the link with the update when and if it is accepted and available on Amazon)
So, read on, gentle Reader, and most of all,
*Author’s note: Please bear in mind this is the first draft. Very little editing has been done, only an occasional adjustment. *
One day, I stumbled upon a clearing. There I found, surprising as it may have been, a much-desired resting place for my weary bones.
I had been wandering the dense forest for so long; slept moments at a time in the underbrush; climbed the occasional tree to rest in the boughs; running in some places, walking in others, and even crawling through the thicker areas, trying to get away from something, everything, nothing. I had forgotten the exact reason I began my trek, knew only that I must keep going, keep moving, not stop for too long a time at all.
However, in that clearing, I felt an ease in the urgency to soldier on. A lifting of the illusional weight off my shoulders. I found I may have a little time to reflect upon what brought me to this point.
I remembered being happy once, satisfied with not only my station in the game of life, accustomed to it, but also with life itself. Situations seemed to be going well, money flowing in and out of my pockets, as usual, girls drifting in and being pushed away, one making way for the next. No one got hurt much because we agreed at the beginning that there were no possibilities for long-term attachments. I’d had my share of those in my past and wanted them no more. We could only be a temporary deal.
Most accepted it at face value, but there were those who didn’t want to give up so easily. They wanted to stick around, asking if I cared because they did. I have to say, I did care. I always had. I do love females of many sorts; not all, I admit, but many.
Nevertheless, the idea of getting into another relationship, watch it turn sour and all the feelings reversing repulsed me beyond reason.
Then, she came along.
As usual, the instant attraction when my hazel eyes met her blue-white orbs. The sly smirk lifting one corner of both our mouths. Frequent peeks one towards the other to find those glances not only mutual but simultaneous as well.
Then the physical meeting, introduction, acquainting. It seemed so right: not that it seemed right, but ordained by fate.
I should have known right then, but I figured, “How hard could it be?” Famous last words, I admit, but I had to spend more time with her. I needed to immerse myself in her presence, drown in her eyes, exist for her next spoken word. Still, I had no clue what it meant, nor of what would happen, or already did.
I had contracted the illness I tried to avoid for so many years, swore not to conceive again, even evicted some women from my life for having developed. The dreaded and accursed love bug didn’t just bite me but devoured me in an instant and I could not say how it happened.
By all evidence, she had been infected the same.
Cripes! It crept back up on me; the probable reason for my escape, the beginning point of my urgent need to flee, to get away. Trying to be free, but a desperate desire to go back. No, I could not return, couldn’t possibly reverse, had to continue on.
Standing, I surveyed my surroundings. With the woods making a barrier around the edges, the glade itself looked like its own little sanctuary. The ground had a slight roll to it. The grass, so lush and green, grew eighteen inches tall, varieties of yellow, pink and blue flowers in patches made colorful carpet, and several old oaks and elms stood scattered throughout. They seemed set apart wide enough to shade a building. Such a peaceful, beautiful place, the kind she would have fit into perfectly.
In that meadow, as I started feeling normal again, the thoughts, feelings, and memories caught up. I knew I must move once more before I became lost in the ocean of emotion I feared instead of the glen of Zen I desired.
With hot wetness running down my face, anger returning along with sorrow, I realized once again part of what I had forgotten and did not care to remember. I felt rage for being forced to run, not able to help her, and the impotence for not being capable of doing anything to appease either.
Looking around, I imagined, unbidden, the log cabin we had discussed at length; the garden of roses and tulips she planned to grow; the separate building where my work would get done. We had envisioned all that and more before all hopes and dreams were torn from us with ferocious abandon.
I had near escaped, almost evaded, but only temporarily forgotten. I felt tired, exhausted, wiped out, but I had to move. Soon.
I thought I had slipped away to safety. That I put behind me everything I didn’t want to be immersed in to begin with. I vowed to evade those inclinations at all costs, but now the possibilities looked to be ended for any type of future with her.
Cursing the gods of visions and dreams as I turned and dashed from what I considered a refuge, only to find it a reminder. Tears streaming from and stinging my eyes, I tore through the far side of the field and began anew my failed evasion.
I ripped through limbs and underbrush, using the act of pushing through the roughage as a physical semblance of forcing away the thoughts and feelings that were invading once again. As I had done at the start of this odyssey.
With a strong desire to keep moving, I concentrated on the task of forcing my way through the woodland. Push that limb aside, step over that vine, press through those bushes, climb over that fallen log.
Before long the next action commanded every bit of my attention until a wall of rock materialized before me, impeding my progress. Quick as I could, I surveyed for the best path up, looking for optimum holds. I knew I needed a break before attacking it, so sat and closed my eyes for only a moment. When I opened them night had fallen and I heard the screams from my dreams echoing away.
Covered with sweat, as with every time I tried to sleep, I shook thoughts of the nightmare out of my head. I couldn’t remember it anyway.
With no clouds in the skies and the moon just past full, I figured I could see well enough to continue. I grabbed hold and hoisted myself onto the steep bluff of sandstone.
As I began my ascent, my body demanded that I needed for more rest. My legs ached from near constant movement. My arms and face had slight scrapes from the underbrush, stinging from the sweat that invaded the fresh marks. My hands were sore from ejecting countless obstacles from my path.
With fingers and toes, I moved up, calculating which direction to go. Testing each hold to make sure it could bear my weight before moving to another.
Ten feet, twenty, up I climbed; look up to see a path, down to move my left foot in place, test, okay; up to place right hand, test, okay, pull; down for right foot, check, okay; grab with left hand next, check, okay. I concentrated hard on every action to keep my mental activities on current events and not to think about (LEAH!) her.
Regardless of the physical movements of climbing, the thoughts crept in again. With a yell to voice my irritation, I made sure of three of my support holds and used my left hand to pull the neckline of my filthy shirt up and wipe sweat from my brow. As I did so, while I had my eyes closed for one second, 1 second, the image of Leah invaded and would not dissipate, even after I reopened them.
Her long, blond, wavy hair framing her perfect, oval face; the light tan that never faded or darkened; her lips, perfect and kissable, with a constant smile that brought happiness to anyone she directed it at; the slight upturned tip of her dainty nose and the way it wiggled a little when she spoke; her heavenly blue eyes, so clear even a hardened sailor would weep if drowning there. If one saw tears of sorrow flowing from those orbs, their heart would surely break, even that of the toughest biker. Her diminutive frame, so petite as to make me feel the need to protect her.
A one-second flash and I saw all that and felt overwhelmed again to tears of fear and frustration. I grabbed fast to the rock and shook my head to clear my thoughts so I could resume climbing, but to no avail. Her image remained, right behind my vision, as I resumed scaling the cliff.
Halfway up, then most the way, and at long last, I pulled myself over the top edge. Rolling over onto my back, I huffed to catch my breath. I knew I had to move, to get busy and not linger lest the visions return; but exhaustion took hold and pushed me into unconsciousness.
<<To Be Continued>>