Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Communication Breakdown (12/16/10)
TITLE: If anyone is there...
By Jack Taylor
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“Hello! ... Hello! ... Lizzy? ... Please, if anyone is there, pick up....”
The click on the line and the silence that followed were ominous. I hung up the old crank phone in its cradle. My cell phone was out of range and now the landlines were down. I’d only forgotten one thing and now this.... Nothing I planned was working out. I glanced out the cabin window to ponder my chances at hiking out.
Amoeba-like blobs of charcoal grey candy floss oozed across the mottled sky, threatening to smother all of life below. Winter-dressed maples stretched their feathered tentacles skyward as if to dare the menace to strike them back with the scorching fingers that flashed downward in the distance.
Not a sound of protest arose from below to fend off the rumbling from above. Instead, proud cedars wrapped their protective arms around the few hearty winged-folk that huddled in for warmth. The forest tribe passively dared the carriers of white death to begin the suffocating carnage one more season.
I’d come up into the mountains, as far as I could, to be absorbed by the silence and inspiration that writers crave prior to Christmas and New Year. The rustic hunter’s cabin was a forgotten shack once hobbled together by a friend of my dad’s cousin. Two pairs of my thick wool socks helped stuff up the holes that had provided easy access for squirrels and mice over the years. The warmth of the crackling pine log fire seemed confined to a ten foot radius and I huddled there, in blankets, away from the singled paned windows.
I could picture my forgotten treasure sitting prominently near the back door where I had deliberately left it as I packed, so I wouldn’t leave it behind. That one mistake was now a distraction that refused to leave me in peace.
It was a five mile near vertical hike from the last traces of a road to get here. I perched like an eagle on one of a hundred rocky crags and surveyed my domain. Icy wind gusts probed the micro-crevasses of my North Face gear and I regretted this momentary forage without my gloves.
Distant bands of lighter ribbon crawled along the marbled horizon and pushed up off the snow-caps of the jagged peaks toward the intruding blanket of darkness. A pinhole of lighter grey broke through momentarily before being suffocated again. Like a pack of wolves pouncing on a herd of deer, sunbeams ambushed the arrogant overlords and a tumbling, rumbling, grumbling wrestling for dominance of the sky ensued.
Today, the battle will not be long. The surging might of gusty reinforcements arise to ally with the forces of light as they pierce the flank of the marauding army. A beam of brilliance breaks through and spotlights a shivering furball still looking for cover. A squawk of joy erupts as a lone eagle escapes its shelter and breaks out to ride the swirling currents.
I feel the crumbling happening inside. It’s not the missing spare I didn’t discover when the tire went flat just a mile from my destination. It’s not the lack of fishing lakes and berry bushes I assumed would be around this place to supplement my meagre food supplies. It’s not the lack of electricity to recharge my laptop. It’s not even the bone-chilling freezer that greets me when I throw off the blankets in the mornings.
It’s the missing love letter I’d come to cuddle up with, to absorb, to plant in my memory and in my heart. The love letter that reminds me what this season is all about. Without that letter of light it feels like an icy surge of helplessness and hopelessness inside. I feel out of touch with everything important in my world.
I watch that battle for light roiling above and around me. I feel it happening inside me.
The tide seems almost turned when the first crystals of ice begin their decent. Like giant war steeds, the cavalry of charging blackness closes ranks and repels the light. The sunbeams move on to other battlegrounds. The wind recoils for another day. The forest tribes bow their noble silhouetted heads in submission. The furball buries its last nut and hurries underground. The season of lasting shadows has arrived.
If I don’t begin my journey home now, that season of lasting shadows will swallow me and never let me go. This is when real communication has to work.
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