Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Walking Away - Chapter 17: The End

Just beyond the edge of Donald’s eyesight, there is a book lying in the leaves with the pages fanned out towards the clearing sky. A few feet beyond that are another book, a third one some ten feet further wedged up in the crotch of a tree and more, strung out like breadcrumbs in a fairy tale. Fifty feet past the RV, the trail of books leads to a figure propped up by a mangled backpack still strapped to their back. Only a mere foot past the soul of a sprawled out leg, the land drops away into the canyon leaving an open expanse of air. As the crow flies, it was probably only a mile down to the Buffalo River, which remained hidden among the barren trees and bone white bluffs.

As you get closer, you can see the caved in chest of the man moving slightly and hear a thin rasping of air as it fights it’s way into the lungs and feebly exhaled. Blood was everywhere as it pooled onto a portion of the rocky shelf that the wind had kept clear of leaves. The moon finally breaks free from the clouds shining a white light down upon the scene making the blood on the rock look like shadows. The bloodied face of the man moves slightly and then lifts off the sunken chest and flops back onto the bent frame of the pack. The moonlight glints off of one eye as it stares vacantly down the valley, the other eye lost in the shadows of blood.

Jack felt no pain as he stared off down the valley, only peace. His body was broken and all control of it had left. He remembered being seeing the outline of his body traced onto the forest floor by a bright light behind him before being sent hurtling through the air by something that hit him from behind. His last memory up until now had been hitting a tree about fifteen feet up in the air and the immense weight of his pack squeezing him like a bug on a windshield. Now here he was all busted up and dying, lying on a shelf of rock amongst the trees.

His one eye that worked stared off over the valley where the moonlight reflected off of so many drops of rain still clinging to the branches of trees like jewels. The sandstone of the rocky bluffs along the river stood out white in stark contrast to the darkened trees and shadows all around. It was so beautiful he thought, so damn beautiful.

Off in the distance, he heard a man talking but he couldn’t speak and even if he could, the beauty of the night captivated his attention. Slowly, like the fadeout option of his computer screensaver in the life he had left behind, details of the scene started disappearing, one by one. His vision narrowed down to one silvery drop of rain hanging onto a branch only a foot and a half in front of his eyes. As he tried to focus on that one glorious sight, it let loose, falling just as his vision went dark for the last time. His breath rattled from between his lips and the head sank forward to rest once again, on the sunken remains of his chest that no longer moved. Silence returned to the world.

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