Sam Wayne is an aspiring creative writer from Wilmington, Delaware. Sam is grateful for the opportunity to share this story with the readers of the Scarlet Leaf Review, and he hopes you enjoy reading his work as much as he enjoyed writing it.
If it were not for the perpetual layer of fog, God himself could look down from his heavenly orbit to see his reflection in the stillness of the lake. If I were a gambling man, I would bet that, like the rest of us, there are times God looks down upon his image and grows troubled by what he sees.
Jack Frost’s eyes flicker with the first indication of life since the last snow melted in early April. His towering physique begins to unlock from months of slumber, giving him the proper vantage point to look over the island with his opportunistic eyes and salivating lips. As his fists unfold, the outwards motion of his fingers propel gusts of chilling wind through the trees. The inhalation of these gales extracts a terrible tithing from the inhabitants of our island. Soon, his nails will embed themselves into the dirt as he pulls himself up from his midsummer-induced ether. From there, he will whisper winter into existence out of his moribund breath.
The weather epitomizes the dialectics of the Autumn. Brisk afternoons deepen into winter twilights. Fortunately, this evening has afforded me the opportunity to sit by a fire and watch the sun’s curtain call over the scenic tree line.
The sun involuntarily sets off a cascade of ombré fireworks into the sky as it attempts to rest for the evening. I wonder if the sun ever gazes woefully upon the moon, yearning for isolated introspection. I would suspect that, when the feelings of peaceful solitude are molested and ransacked by the slightest inkling of loneliness, the sun would beg for the undivided attention that was previously given unsolicited.
As the embers begin to cool, I gather water from the lake to add a sense of finality to the dying fire. In the brief moment before the steel rim of the bucket violently disturbs the water, I catch a glimpse of myself in the lake and a moment of deja vu comes over me. A deep, sharp breath gives life to memories once twisted and suffocated under the weight of subconscious’ repression.A traveler once visited this island and left me with a pain that knows not of resolution, but only the harrowing burden of regret. Her body was, at first, the libation that enticed me, but I knew nothing of real inebriation until I knew her mind and experienced her personality that enveloped me in comfort and protection. Her spirit was too free to ever enjoy life on this island. I feared she would grow bored of this place, of me, so I did not intervene in the expansion of her life.
I remember desperately clutching on to every second that her face remained recognizable as her family’s boat departed from the dock, sputtering across the waters. The dimples that once sat atop the corners of her lips vanished as her smile became more lax and less confident with each hop of the boat. Eventually, all I saw was the dull, yellow jacket that protected her from the splashing waters while cradling her loving face. As she got too far from view, my eyes followed the last trail of ripples cascading off the end of her boat back to the shore. Her eyes mimicked the lake in color and in function: their enormity too great for my comprehension and possession. I knew, at that moment, I would never again know the loving intensity of swimming in the warm embrace of her serenity. Eventually, my sight fell to the water, and all I was left with was my own reflection.
For many summer afternoons after that, when the warming breezes made visiting the lake enticing to those on the mainland, I sat and watched the boats go by, hoping once again to see that dull, yellow jacket in the distance. With each passing day, it grew more apparent that her return was a hope that would remain unfulfilled. Eventually, my life went on, but never forward. She took her final form as a spirit, idealized, but never experienced.
The face of the young man my mind no longer recognizes is replaced in the water by the old man attempting to survive this autumn night. I slash through my image with the steel bucket, toss the water over the fire and begin gathering wood to fuel my warmth indoors.
The bitterness in the air has caused the bark to loosen its hug on the wood. The bark will disintegrate and return to the Earth, but the wood will endure the long process of growing dry and weak without the embrace it once felt. Sympathy is the power source that fuels the swing of the axe that breaks the lumber.