Down the tiger-striped path of the forest, he walked with the backlit pines to his left. He paced from shadow to shadow as if tracing the tracks of a shadowland train that culled back from the dead a railcar with his family and a vacant seat. Hundreds of vehicles had lain the path through those woods and it seemed to be meant for two but he walked alone and only had her in memory. He had released her ashes countless years before in the mountain pond that overlooked the shadow-pouring trees and he thought he could feel her in the wind on his face as if there were traces of her which hadn’t fallen to rest in the water but had instead kept on a weightless tour of Earth.
The sun was at the tip of the slashed horizon and the shadows before and behind him were as long as they would ever be. He followed them as if the next black ribbon might be the final darkness for which he searched. Soon the sun was gone and there were shadows no matter where he set his foot and that was what he had wanted, that was what brought him back each anniversary for sometimes he would see figures in the dark. Sometimes he would see souvenirs of their lives together and those items were able to return emotions or thoughts to him as if he were communicating through a dark medium.
Once the darkness was complete, he searched through the inkblot forms of trees for the moon but could only see stars. Their numbers seemed so infinite that even the black between them was a dark gray as if the light of even more stars had surrendered before projecting their full form to him, as if those monolithic creatures were so embarrassed by the sheer number of them all that they too searched for the emptiness of black holes to escape their supposed mediocrity. Every time he saw them it made him immensely nostalgic of places he could only visit in dreams. It made him think of the time he had spent in the city as both a pollution of light and of life. He imagined that one day cities would be void of night as if the citizens are so afraid of the blackness of death that they sought every shadow to destroy it and in doing so, blotted out the studded lights of their creation.
He cut from the path and made his own between the living pillars that held over him brushes of needles like organic models of the tree itself. Around his legs the grass blew in waves as if a fountain of sorts had dried and left them standing. The columnar trees served as the markings for his trail. He thought about the time but knew it was no longer of any consequence. Whenever he worried about his time left he thought about trees and their patience and how trees spent half their lives in darkness where only trickles of light are present and they are older than anything ever loved. The man thought one day the sun would cease to rise and then trees such as the oak would no longer gather light for all of life but instead would freeze in darkness like timeless models of a swelling universe.
The man came upon the old cabin which was seemingly untouched by the vandal of time. The chimney was made from oval stones polished on one side from their time in a riverbed whereas at this time they served as a bed for the smokestream, the fire’s ghost, and they were sootblack on their rough sides and they shined dimly in the starlight like eggs of a pond creature. He entered. The place still had a smell of burnt pine since he had last burned it for fuel against what ailed his wife. He walked to the fireplace and stretched a hand to the coals in hope. He did a tour of the pictures and paintings and in the corner of his eye he saw a ghost through one of the cabin’s windows but it was just the moon with its ghost starlight. He walked to the window and could see the lights of the town under a canopy of stars. He didn’t think he would miss them. They had their lights but so did he and his were on a scale beyond their imagination.
He walked out of the cabin and swung around to walk the dark path beyond. He came upon a mantle of earth below which lay the pond in its shape of a bloated hourglass. Even if one didn’t know its shape from experience, it still would have been obvious by the reflection of stars which made its form. He walked down to the edge where he was greeted by a frog. He reached through the frog’s bayonetic canopy and grabbed a cattail and pulled it from its stem. He studied the bizarre flower which he held in higher respect than any other of its kind and then frayed its edges to give it the appearance of petals and set it on the shore of her grave.
He stripped and entered the cool pond as if to bathe. He turned and backstroked towards its center where the reflection of the moon lay as a flat and floating ghost. The warming water lay just at the edge of his face like a deathbed’s quilt. He took a final look at everything, hoping it would be his last and therefore his eternal image and then he dove into the shimmering and swaying reflection of his last image. The pond was shaped as a thrown clay bowl and consisted of such, and at the bottom was the sediment of everything that had ever lived in that water world and even further below lay the ashes of cremated stars and powdered heavens. He stirred them with his ancient hands and inhaled cold fire.