Long Road

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The old car did not have a radio in it. Its growling engine was so loud that he was not sure he would have been able to hear any music anyway. Instead, he leaned back in his cracking leather chair and watched the world slide by, tree after tree.

Outside the wilderness stretched for miles. Rugged mountains poked through endless pine trees broken only by the weathered, old road he was following. Mist swirled through the air pierced only occasionally by the Sun and endless sky far above.

He felt like a voyeur, peering at one of Mother Natures’s untouched places. Despite the growling car engine and the crunch of its tyres on the old, weathered road, he felt like he had to be quiet. If he spoke, he might break the spell.

Soft mist slept in the valleys serrated by rolling, rugged pines. He would disappear into these gullies as the road dipped down. It was like he briefly disappeared into another world where sight ended, closed by the sudden thick mist around him. Even the sound of the vehicle was dampened down there. But then the road rose from the valley and he would break out of the mist into the cold, crisp morning.

This would go on again and again as he drove along miles and miles of that old road.

Eventually, he came to a fork in the road. No other cars and not a living soul had crossed his path for hundreds–perhaps thousands–of miles out here. So he brought the car to a growling stop in the middle of the road. He let it idle while he decided what direction to drive.

He thought of what existed a world away from this mystical wilderness. He thought of the beings that he loved and that had loved him. He remembered the wooden, slightly run-down cabin he had grown up in and how his mother smelt. He remembered the pine trees and the cold winter months. He remembered the girl that lived in the big city he had studied at. He remembered the final time he had seen his parents. He thought of all his demons and the evil that lurked in all men’s hearts. He thought of the loneliness of one soul and the warmth of friendship. He thought of loyalty and loss. He thought of the beauty of peace and the nastiness that drove the world forward.

He had no answers, only thoughts. But, just perhaps, that was alright all the way out here. Perhaps that was the answer.

Far above, the Sun slipped over its zenith and slid towards the jagged horizon, criss-crossed with mountains and pine trees. He barely noticed time passing. The air still felt cool and wet. A pine and dirt smell permeated this air, and the fragrance only intensified as a soft, scotch mist began to fall as the afternoon stretched out.

But still, he sat at the crossroad deciding which path to take.

Did it matter which path he chose? Would the world change at all? Would his loss ever ease? Where were the wolves? Where was the wild? Where was his friend?

Eventually, his grip on the steering wheel tightened, he put the car in gear and pulled off. He was going down the path that he was always going to be going down. He was always going to choose this path. It was the old familiar path, but he had never driven it for this reason before.

It was late at night by the time he reached the old, run-down log cabin. Far above, unpolluted by city lights and human noise, the jewel-encrusted cosmos displayed itself. Swirling, endless galaxies and stars twinkling dramatically in their silence as they gazed down on this small, insignificant world.

They were the silent witnesses as Mother Nature was the stage.

He turned the car’s engine off and it stuttered and ground to silence. The door creaked open and he stepped out, crunching the gravel ground below his boot.

“I am going to miss you.”

It was the first words he had said all day. Or forever? Definitely for hundreds of miles. Time moved differently out here, or through the fog of his thoughts. The words seemed to echo in his ears, but it may not have been the sound that echoed, but the memories.

“I am going to miss you,” he said again, embracing his voice as he walked around the back of the car and popped the boot, “But I cannot go where you are going now.”

In the car’s boot was a shovel and an old, blue blanket covering something. The something looked like a curled up, unmoving form. It was dead still. It was small enough to be a child, or a best friend. He reached down and gently pulled the blanket back, revealing the body of an old sheepdog.

“I am going to miss you, my old friend,” he said, tears coming to his eyes as he bent into the boot to gently scoop the body of his old pet out, “But, at least, out here you will have lots of space to run around in. You remember this place? There is so much space, so much more than our little house in the noisy city. There are wolves and there is wilderness for you, my friend. Wolves and wilderness…”

And, far above, the cosmos and its countless stars and galaxies silently peered down. Tears streamed down his face, as he buried his childhood dog behind his childhood home at the end of the long road.

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