This is my contribution to Hélène Vaillant’s “What do you see?”, challenge
Photo courtesy of Hélène Vaillant
After too many years alone taking solitary sojourns along the river’s shoreline, Malcolm decided this would be his last. He had made a practice of wandering alone in the middle of the night, after his wife Sarah died.
He had always been a hermit even before he met Sarah. He was so taken by her beauty and soulful heart that Sarah was the only soul he would choose to make a life with. Sarah too was a quiet introvert. However, when they finally met, she was already 50 years older than Malcolm. He was only in his thirties as he came to meet Sarah along the path toward the river.
Sarah was sitting beneath an ancient oak tree, she had a picnic basket full of fruit and cheese. She was in a very conspicuous spot, and there was no way he could miss her. Although, Malcolm tried to keep walking past her, she called to him.
“Oh good dear! You do mean to keep walking?”, she said with a sharp yet harsh voice.
“Well yes m’am. I don’t want to interrupt your lunch. Please excuse my intrusion. I’ll be out of your space in a flash!”, Malcolm retorted as he picked up the speed in his step.
“Malcolm, you stop right where you are! We had a deal, you and me. You promised to meet me here once I found a way to come into this material world.”, Sarah spoke with tears in her eyes.
Malcolm began to rub his eyes, and his head started pounding from his racing heart. She knew his name? He seemed to recall something. Time stood still for what felt like hours. Malcolm kept trying to access a memory of Sarah. He somehow knew the words she spoke were real.
Alas, he remembered that he had dreamt of her. He was on one of his walks but this time it was in a dream. His dream body met Sarah along side the road, under the same oak, but in the dream he sat next to her.
“I remember you Sarah! You came alive as a character in one of my dreams!”, Malcolm shouted with excitement.
“Yes, dear! And we enjoyed each other’s company very much. You told me that you wished I was there with you in the flesh. You cried and said how lonely you were.”
Malcolm recalled the moment in the dream where he gave up the hope of finding Sarah in his waking life. He became so distraught that eventually she disappeared and he never had the dream again.
Sarah spoke first, “I couldn’t bear your sorrow, so I left and began to search for a way to come to you in the flesh. Well here I am! What do you say? Lunch?”
Malcolm joined Sarah and yet he couldn’t reconcile her age with his.
“I don’t think you were this old in my dream, why are you so old now?”, he asked.
Sarah looked hurt but shared that the dream world operated at a different and faster pace than that of the material world. She explained, by the time she had found the secret of how to join Malcolm in the flesh, years had gone by.
They decided not to waste any more time. Malcolm grateful for Sarah’s spirit, after several weeks of meeting for lunch, he asked Sarah to marry him. Sarah gladly accepted and they lived happily together for many years.
Until one day Sarah could no longer sustain the magic. She began to wither away and Malcolm rushed her to their favorite spot under the oak just in time for her to take her last breath.
Bereft, Malcolm stayed by Sarah’s side for several days. And one day she was gone without a trace. Not dust nor scent nor anything was left. She was just gone.
Many more months had gone by but Malcolm’s heart would not mend. He began to take more and more walks and went further and further down the path trying to find the river’s edge. Sarah had said something about the river’s edge. Something in Malcolm’s mind knew as well. And he set out to find it.
The air was crisp, Malcolm’s heart ached, the day had come where he would leave his home for good. He grabbed his things, spotted the lantern and took it as well. He was prepared in case he ended up searching after the sun had set.
He was determined to go as far along the river path as he could. He had to get to the edge as he knew, he just knew Sarah would be waiting for him.
He began to get weary and kept rubbing his eyes and the road started to become blurrier and blurrier. He almost tripped as his foot found the first stepping stone. He looked up and could see a golden orb.
The steps were uneven, and had a steep ascent. The higher Malcolm stepped, the less oxygen he could take in. The orb seemed to be sucking in all the air. He kept going even though he became light headed and almost had to stop.
He then slipped and as he was regaining his footing, he looked up at the orb and saw Sarah with her arm outstretched to grab hold of him. He managed to give Sarah the lantern, and before he could regain his balance he was flying head first into the orb. His body began to swirl within its interior as though going through a funnel and tunnel of lights. He sensed he was changing and no longer felt the weight of his body. A while longer and his consciousness was again sitting beneath the oak. Sarah was walking by.
“You don’t mean to keep walking do you?”, Malcom shouted with surprise.
Sarah didn’t hear Malcolm. But she did seem to feel his presence. While she looked in his direction, she looked straight through him.
Malcolm sat flummoxed. Sarah appeared to be in her twenties. In that moment, he realized that the order of the material and dream realms were anything but order. And that fate is chaotic disorder. Every breath his first and last, now forever searching for a time again with his Sarah.