Sunday, 26 October 2008

Travelogue IV: Subtle Wind

In Autumn we collect leaves as they fall from the trees. The subtle wind shakes the branches and the leaves rustle and jostle, and eventually fall. The susurration is like whispers in the room next door: barely audible and mysterious. I feel a stirring inside myself, and wonder if I am remembering what love is at last. Then another leaf, brown and gold, dances past me on an invisible breath of air and I am distracted, racing off to catch it before the wind abandons it and it falls to the ground.

I am not alone, but I am isolated; we all are. We pursue the leaves, each of us driven to find the one that bestows the gift of memory. The trees tower above, and let through beams of autumn sunlight sometimes, soft drizzle and chill mists at others. People join us regularly, and I resent them briefly. Then I forget who they are, and return to my pursuit of the leaves. I think people leave us too, having found their fragile map back to... wherever. There are always more leaves.

Another leave whisks past me, but this one has a touch of light about it, a barely visible trail of sparks. Something inside me screams at the sight of it, but I have reacted already and leapt to catch it. Everything slows down.

I hang in the air, my hand reaching for the leaf, my fingers closing around it as slowly as though we were all suspended in syrup. At the back of my mind a voice is screaming but it is faint and tinny, distorted by static, heard as though on a badly tuned radio. I finally realise it is screaming one word over and over again: STOP.

I am stood on the ground again, holding a dead autumn leaf in my hand, and I am cold. I shiver, and look around at this ancient, dreary forest, and remember coming here, following a woman with smouldering black eyes. I look around for her, but she is gone. For a moment I think I hear a giggle and the sound of feet crunching on leaves, and then it is gone. I am alone, and on my way home from work. I kick aside a drift of leaves, drop the one I am holding, and carry on through the forest to the road.

The road, it would seem, has been gone a long time. I stare out across a desolation of black, ruined soil, carved with trenches, scattered with coils of barbed wire and smell a scorched smell on the subtle wind. I wonder where I've been.

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