A Long December

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Chapter I

Warm mist gently ribboned through the air. Lowly-lit yellow light of the looming morning pervaded the burnt autumn canopy. Thickly rigid gray trunks relaxed their roots and stiffened their dying leaves in the generous, meditative sunlight. The mist infiltrated the forest floor not long ago and inundated crisp brown and yellow leaves. Diminutive tributaries ran hurriedly across the awakened forest floor. Some of the dead leaves that tiled this floor were compacted by overlapping wagon tracks. It was these tracks—also, that set foundations, sunken into the earth by the infuriated Amish forest caravans, for two parallel and sparkling streams through the forest hall. Tall dirt mounds equally shouldered either side of the road. At the very top of these mounds, trees lined this road, marking the breadth with incredible consistency. The water crept out of the forest on either side and slid down these bold shoulders with unpersuaded effortlessness. The wagon tracks acted as moats for the water that dripped down from the canopy and swelled down from the shouldering mounds. The majority of the group and I walked off to one side of the tracks, while Rigsby walked in the center of tracks, and Lily, the other side.

The aspect that struck methe most about theinfeasible and dream-like reality I found myself inwas that we all walked at the same pace.We synchronized our steps subconsciously and walked forth side by side, persistently. It was just about two in the morning, and the moon shone down like a secondary sun, illuminating the path before us so beautifully that it did not matter how dimly it did so.

No one in the group had spoken since we departed, and not a single one of us felt compelled enough to pollute this rhythmic silence. Likewise, a sense of tacit obstinacy toward our necessity of travel was of an equipotence in all of us. I risked a glance at Rigsby, perhaps to prompt him, but more likely I did so to gain a sense of commendation, for his stride was certain to be of a far more pertinacious sort. And so little was I surprised when I assessed such a demeanor, as he unflinchingly glided along next to me. His hands intermittently curling forth, his legs of a similar program. And in that nimble glance I respired in a gust of the very spirit that gave him his insight to even the slightest of social atmospheric fluctuations: his egocentrism.

Without a word from this man, one could derive, from his countenance, a sense of raw intellection. He was a brilliant savant in an athlete's body, with no less than a dancer's composure and fluidity. I will not go as far as to say he was a god within human constraints, as lovers of his have hyperbolized in the past, but certainly his spirit was not of an ordinary man.

I would also like to admit my most unenviable process of cognition in that moment, for in my fanatic thoughts of Rigsby I failed to notice a bared and tangled root until underneath it my foot went, and I tripped. I cried out in a sudden cacophony, not in pain or frustration, but out of a pure chagrin, for I had thrown the entire group out of step.

I felt a rush of wrathful heat as I lay face-down on the forest floor. I was always the one to do this sort of thing. I was always, “ruining the moment.” I took a minute to compose myself, while I wrestled with my overwhelming anger. And then, as my face became visible to the group, an alien cloud of laughter formed over my head and thundered upon me.

An enlightening sense of restored composure swayed over me, as if I had just taken a drug for that effect—for then, like an outstretched hand from an omnipotent god, a hand from Rigsby offered a restoration to my feet. I implemented his offering as it was meant, though I also drew from it a restoration in spirit, as I then joined the laughter at my own dispense.

“What a mean old root you are!” I jested, whacking it with the back of my hand. The laughter came to an abrupt halt, and only Lily let out a short, barely audible giggle.

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