I tread down a rocky dirt road, gazing at the frontiers ahead. The dust intoxicated me, choking me gently while the breeze caused my eyes to squint.
Regaining my focus, I stared out again, my eyes following the road to it’s fork. My boots kicked more strangling dust into the air, but I continued, reaching the fork in a matter of moments.
Left or right?
A conundrum, I said to myself, attempting to associate and commit to memory as much of each path as I could. If I take left, I will not know what lurks on the right. If I take right, then I will not know what lies down the left path.
I sat down on a bed of nightshades and placed my head in my hands.
Which way would she choose?
I closed my eyes and pictured her, standing on her hands and walking through the emerald fields back home. My memories faded to her laying in her coffin, pennies resting on her eyes and clashing with her ashen face.
Think, I said to myself. Think about what her choice would be.
I suddenly heard a faint noise – almost non-existent – to my right. My eyes opened, twisting my vision to the rocky earth underneath me.
Several long trails of ants marched in unison, their little trumpets dictating their formation. They merge right, following the path and disappearing into the cypress trees.
Soaring through the clouds were red sparrows with fixed wings, boldly sharing the skies with a trio of black albatross. These majestic beasts watched me for a moment, then veered left, heading in the direction of green pastures.
Maybe, I thought.
I turned around for a moment, affixing my attention to large purple mountain I had come from.
Home, I thought.
I shut my eyes as hard as I can and shook my head.
I could always just go back…
When I opened my eyes, the sky had become crimson and the lenticular cloud at the peak turned a darker shade, like it had succumb to necrosis.
No. I will not go back.
Once more, I faced the forks.
Left, or right?
A clap of thunder went off like dynamite above me, forcing my attention skyward. Black holes opened up, savagely pulling the world inside of them like a greedy child. Bolts of lightning spread through the deteriorating sky like cobwebs, shattering the clouds like panes of glass, the fragments falling like sharp raindrops and stinging my exposed skin like angry wasps.
Back at the fork, I continued struggling with my options.
Left, or right?
I took another look to the right, and watched in awe as the ants with trumpets spiraled in the sky, their minute bodies swirling among the uprooted cypress trees, being swallowed by the black holes above.
Pulling my gaze back to the ground, all that remained was a slew of decaying grass and a scarecrow perfectly impaled in front of the large windmill.
Chaos still reigned in the skies.
I took another look left.
No more than twenty feet away from me, she stood – my beautiful Annaliesa. Her dress – the color of sage – hung at her ankles, tattered as the day she joined arms with the Ferryman. Her hair – the sun contained in each strand – contoured her face chaotically. Alongside her – three horses with umbrellas – kept the falling glass from piercing her picturesque figure.
She was beautiful – as she always was.
I stared into her frosty eyes, which reciprocated the acknowledgment, and slowly walked toward her, my boots sinking in the mud accumulated from the storm above us. Her lips spread, reaching the corners of her face, and her arms extended, ready to catch me when I fell.
Every inch I moved forward increased in difficulty, as if some unseen force was trying to push me back. Annaliesa’s arms extended further and her smile continued to grace her angelic face.
I have to reach her, I said to myself as I struggled in the quicksand around my ankles.
With a burst of vigor, I emerged from my earthen shackles and fell into her arms. They wrapped me like a warm blanket – comfort and familiarity – keeping the elements from touching me. In that moment, for the first time, I felt safe.
I groaned in weakness, my eyes fluttering, despite my attempt to focus on Annaliesa. Sensing my plight, she adjusted me in her arms, smiling. Her hand emerged, a single nightshade clasped in her fingers.
She pushed it toward me – insisting – her smile refusing to wane.
I quickly got to my feet and backed away, staring at her cautiously. She arose, still clutching the nightshade in her hand, smiling and nodding.
She extended it to me once more.
I shook my head.
Her smile faded…
Standing before me, she hung her head, shaking underneath the umbrellas. She threw her head up and let out a scream.
My hands covered my ears, in the blindest hopes of protecting them from the bleeding sound released by my beloved Annaliesa.
I removed my hands from my ears and looked around. Annaliesa had vanished, along with her horses. The skies, still discolored, suppressed their anger. The glass ceased falling and the lightning only glimmered behind the lenticular cloud above the point of my departure.
I looked at the forks again.
Left, or right?
I pivoted, continuing my journey through frontiers unseen – where the scarecrow waits – into the bleak December.