The way is layered deeply with leaves, the ground soft under my feet. In less than a minute I’m completely engulfed in the trees, the open lawn lost behind me. Briefly I worry whether I will find my way back, but still I press forward. The air smells of moist earth. It is cooler and damp beneath the canopy of leaves. A rustling noise causes me to jump as a squirrel scurries up a nearby tree.
I make my way slowly, watching for any sign of the person I hope was here before me. I can’t be certain this is where he went this morning. For all I know this path was created by the many deer in the area and he has never actually been here. It hadn’t occurred to me to watch where he went when he patrolled the area.
As serious as my situation is, I can’t help but feel a sense of peace descend as I connect with the beauty that surrounds me. As the tension that has consumed me begins to lift I start to notice the birds that flit from tree to tree. A tiny salamander crosses my path, unaware of my intrusion into his world. In the distance I can hear the river, but the sound is muted by the lush foliage.
Although the trail continues to the left, I’m inexplicably drawn to an incline on the right where the light filtering through the trees gives the area a mystical feeling. There is a gap between a bent, twisted tree on one side and a rocky hill on the other. Carefully I navigate the narrow way, testing the rocks underfoot before trusting them with my weight, afraid a loose stone will cause me to fall. With each step I nervously look behind me, concerned that I should be going the other direction.
Reaching the small crest where the crooked tree leans away from me I can see why the light was able to penetrate this area more than others. Here the forest floor drops steeply just to the right of where I stand.
I gasp in shock. At the bottom of the ridge I can just make out a form. I can’t be certain, but deep down I know it’s him. He isn’t moving. I angrily swipe at the tear running down my cheek as I try to determine the safest way down the jagged slope.
I can clearly see where rocks have tumbled down to where the motionless shape lies, most likely carried with him as he tumbled downward. Deciding my best option is to crouch into an almost sitting position and slide carefully along the path he has cleared, I cautiously descend, crab walking on my hands and feet, resting periodically to assess the situation.
Finally at the bottom, I rush to the person sprawled on the ground, only realizing moments before I reach him that it could be someone else entirely laying here.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Mystical and is part of something longer I am working on.