Yay! Another creative writing class to challenge me. This is a short story I wrote for week one. The assignment was to find a work of art or photograph and use it to create a story. These can be found and referenced that the end of the story as to not spoil anything. I promise this one is not nearly as sad but may pull on the heartstrings of some. Enjoy.
I am lost. I am hurt. I can see the blood drying down my leg. I have been hurt worse before on hikes, but for some reason my entire body seemed slow and pained. I need to find help. At the end of the road I can see a house; a white farm house. Surely someone there can help me. I have no idea how this happened. I have never been lost before. I am an expert navigator; ask anyone on my team.
I am a member of a hiking group. I have led some of the most dangerous excursions in the country. In 1956, I led a team of five to the summit of Yosemite’s Half Dome. This was day one of our twenty-six day journey through the Yosemite Valley to Lyell Canyon. Everyone that started, I saw to the end. How is it that I can navigate a wilderness on the sole knowledge of maps, but fail to find my way back home from my own backyard? I have lived here my entire life. I have walked these woods hundreds of times. I have named the trees and the rocks. These woods were my second home; I’d escape here when life was too much.
This morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise; a mix of pale blue, white, and yellow in the east. The weather was cool and perfect for a hike. I chose the east entrance. Being the mid spring, the trees and underbrush were lush and vibrant green. Had I been anymore unfamiliar, I would not have found it. It took ten feet to find the beaten age old path that I had stomped bare season after season. Smaller than I remember, but it was my path nonetheless. Every year brought new life and a familiar welcome of nature and its beauty. Birds chirped unseen in the canopy of ancient elm and maple trees easily seventy feet above me. The ground was still moist from the morning dew and the smell of raw earth and organic decay filled me with nostalgia; like meeting an old friend for coffee.
I spent what felt like an hour just walking my path; greeting it like an old friend. I began to notice that it was becoming warmer quite quickly. I looked to the canopy to get a bearing of the time. The sun had passed its peak and clouds were threatening to hide it further than the cover of trees. When I brought my gaze down, the forest seemed strange. I felt strange. I turned once, twice, and again. That is all it took. I did not know the direction I had come, nor how long I had walked. Soon the sun would disappear and I would simply have to guess.
My heart began to pound and my breath quickened: panic. I found a space to sit. My hands were shaking; they did not seem like my hands. Had I eaten? Drank? What a rookie mistake to take out your door unprepared for a journey. I knew better. I also knew that no one would come looking for me. No one knew I was out here; another rookie mistake.
I stood up, but too fast. My head became heavy, and my vision narrowed. My legs felt as if they were heavy with mud as I attempted to continue my journey. I must have fell hard.
I awoke to the drizzle of rain and the wet of the earth under me. It was dark by that time and my entire body screamed in painful protest as I pulled myself up. Joints, muscles, even my skin seemed unhappy with my napping place. I sat myself up right to a seated position. Dirt and sticks embedded in my skin from the pressure of lying. Many times I have been scared. This time, it completely consumed me to the point of hysterics. I struggled to wipe away the dirt. I must have hit my left on a rock on the way down; it was still bleeding. I pulled some mud over my wound in hopes to advance the clotting. My skin looked paper thin. I needed to keep moving and find my way out.
Hours more I continued on; slow and painful with each step. The sun was rising again when I reached the clearing. In the morning light, I could make out a dirt road on the horizon. I looked around to see if it was familiar. It was not. I was in a cow pasture. We did not own cows. The Henderson’s owned cows but this could not have been their field.
I reached the road and wanted nothing more than to run, but I could not bring my ragged body to cooperate. It was another mile before I saw the house. Thank goodness.
“MRS. CUNNINGHAM!!” a man shouted bursting from the front porch door. Cunningham was my husband’s name. Had John come here looking for me?
“Mrs. Cunningham, oh my word. Here, let me carry you.” The young man bent down to pull my legs from under me. My body gave way easily but I protested.
“Pardon, me! Where is John? Where is my husband?” I demanded.
“Don’t worry, ma’am. We are going to get you some help. Thank goodness you are alive. Let me get you inside and we will call Trudy. She will be so relieved.” Trudy was my daughter. Why would this man not call my husband? Trudy was still in diapers. Maybe I had bumped my head a little too hard.
The man sat me on a chair inside the house and pulled a phone from his pocket.
“Yes, my address is 31 Henderson Way…” The man walked into the other room and lowered his voice. He must have been a Henderson. But this was not a Henderson house that I knew.
“She is asking for her husband so I think she is having an episode.” He kept talking about me like I was not present. Maybe physically but not mentally.
“Mrs. Cunningham, do you know where you are?”
“I’m on Henderson Property in Jefferson County Missouri.”
“Yes.” He spoke into the phone.
“Ma’am, do you know what today is? Or the year?” he directed these ridiculous questions at me.
“I started my walk yesterday morning, Sunday. So today is Monday, March 5th, 1960. Where is John, my husband?” I became frustrated. The man continued to talk into the phone and at that point I was done listening. Soon he returned and handed it to me.
“Mama! It’s Trudy are you okay?”
“Trudy? Who is this?” It was a grown woman on the phone. I did not know this Trudy. She was not MY Trudy.
“Mama, the ambulance is coming to get you, I will meet them where you are and we will go to the hospital together, okay? I love you, Mom.” The woman was crying. My Trudy. She was grown. My husband, John, had passed away last year. I had forgotten my husband was gone. My daughter had to live with me and take care of me.
“Thank you, Honey. I love you, too. I will see you soon.” Ashamed I handed the young man the phone.
“John died last year from lung cancer.” I told the young man. “The doctor had given him a month; he was gone in a week. Today is May 16th, 2015. You are Nathan, my best friend’s grandson, rest her soul.” I wiped a tear with my cleanest hand and looked down at it. I knew this hand. Old and wrinkled, liver spotted and paper thin. It seemed like in an hour I had lived an entire life and not even known it. My mind was melting away and my body withered along with it.
I started to wish I had not woken up from that spot in the woods where things seemed as they should; changing with the seasons but remaining faithfully familiar. Surely now they will confine me to four walls with eyes always watching.
I should not have woken up.
Hussey, Tom. (2013, March 30). Reflections, Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2301557/Tom-Hussey-Haunting-photos-Alzheimer-s-patients-younger-selves-mirror.html
Rogriquez, Martin (2015, July 10) Country, Retrieved from http://10-themes.com/406167.html.