The beauty around me was astounding, waving grass, bluest skies and little creatures unafraid of my dancing progress across the flowery field. The breeze caught a tendril of my hair and tossed it playfully into the elements – My soul felt as if it were flying. I was carrying three gorgeous, satin lilies which I had picked beside the liquid chatter of a nearby stream. The way I walked was far, and I had still a distance to go, but such a fair day encouraged such exploration. How good the mountains looked, frosted with snow, and the tall pines clinging to the rocky slopes cradling eagle aeries high in their feather-like branches. I left no trail, each footstep I placed gently and without disturbance to the soft grassy tussocks underfoot. About an hour later I left the field behind me and entered the cool, damp forest, dark and welcoming. Mosses grew on grey boulders and ferns poked their heads jollily out from behind rotting logs decorated with colourful lichens and creeping flowers. Sniffing deeply I breathed in the sweet atmosphere of the forest – it was pure magic, the damp smell of dark, nourishing soil and decomposing wood and plant matter with the sweet perfumes of many shade-loving flowers. I saw a deer grazing with her fawn close to her flank, basking in the warmth of its mother’s protection; they neither jumped nor fled at my presence, but lifted their tan heads and gazed curiously after me. I walked this path often, about once a week, or I think it must have been, in the life I led I sometimes forgot to keep track of time, it flittered by me. I smiled at it and thanked if for helping mark the precious moments I had. The path twisted like a snake navigating a stony path, it wound around ancient oaks and dipped down to tickle streams, I couldn’t help running sometimes, walking was too slow a pace for the soul today – there was too much to embrace. The forest path began increasing in angle, and as the dark shade gave way to dappled shadows, the top of a glowing hill could be seen through the thinning branches. Leaving the forest behind I followed the soft white path up the grassy hill. In the setting sun the grass became golden and the little white rocks dotted here and there appeared as pearls in a silken throw. Coming to a halt at the top of the hill I lowered myself to sit down on one of the smooth, globe-like rocks. Placing the lilies beside me to place later, I smiled and feeling the comforting warmth of the sun on my back, like a loving hand, I said,
“Hello Gran and granddaddy. I wish you could see today – I don’t think it has ever been so clear and bright, each colour seems vibrant and glittery. I know I say that every time I visit, but I am sure today is without equal. I can feel summer is almost ready to sleep for the year, yesterday I had to make a little fire for the first time this year in the cottage – it appears that winter will be harsh, but we are preparing for any need. I have gathered nuts and dried berries – just like you taught me Gran. And Granddaddy – the shed is full to bursting with wood and I have made so much cheese from Blossom – she is so generous and her calf grows by the day.”
I then knelt on the soft, younger turf covering two mounds. At the head of each stood a small cross made from two knotted blocks of wood, serene grey hue upon which stood, in rough engraving, two names. I had not the skill to do woodwork well, but I had tried my best. On the left was scratched, Elinor, and on the other, just a touch away was scrawled, Benny. These were the two people who had raised me and loved me more than I think anyone had loved and cared before. They had taught me about the forest and foraging, they had instilled in me appreciation and love for nature and all things, they had also taught me a short history. One I could hardly comprehend, but they would not lie and things were as they were for a reason. This is a summing up of what they told me…
Five hundred years ago as economy and technology had climaxed – nations and cultures were destroyed, entire countries slaughtered for ‘better of the whole’ and upon ‘choice of the most likely to survive’ which was actually code for ‘those who were rich enough to buy such statuses’ a new drug was made and administered to the last ‘chosen’ of earth. In their goal of finding the cure for age and making the world a ‘clean start’ they had doomed their race. Only a hundred or so years later tests revealed that an unforseen side-effect of the drug was that the ability to have children was now out of the question. The life expectancy was around 400 years, an amazing improvement on the rate that the world had wound down to, only around 40 years. It was a miracle and everyone took the drug without question. The last of a doomed race lived out their days trying desperately to find the cure for the curse they had brought down on themselves – but their fate was sealed…
I had been a ‘freak of nature’ in a world where new human life was impossible, I had been born. I don’t know what happened to my parents, but Elinor and Benny had found me under a peach tree, cooing at a pair of doves that peered over the edge of the basked in which I lay. By that time 99% of the world’s population had been wiped out and growing up, I knew no one else. Benny had a machine that could scan the world for life-forms and each week we would see another little flickering light vanish from the grid. It was heart-breaking seeing the extinction of an entire race, but in this Benny and Elinor had taught me many valuable things about life. They explained that there were some things men were not meant to mess with and that was the result of man trying to be God. Each flickering light drove the lessons I learnt to heart – each one a story in itself. Sixteen years later to the day that Benny and Elinor had found me, we watched as the second last light vanished from the map. There was only one left, and to our delight and surprise, it was progressing in our direction. The next day there was a massive lightning storm and all Benny’s equipment had been completely destroyed. I had watched him bury it deep underground – he said he wanted nothing of his to pollute the earth’s surface, all that he wanted as a memory when he left was the love he had for nature and the lessons he had taught me. I would go out every morning and watch the horizon, willing the ‘last dot’ to come into view. Three weeks later, it did. It had somehow found us and wondrously turned out to be a young man, similar to me in the manner that we had both been the last gift to a doomed race. It took no time at all for us to become inseparable and days bright and carefree had followed. Benny and Elinor nurtured in both of us a love for nature and respect and honour for each life became part of the fabrics of our souls.
Putting a hand on each grave before me beside a lily I had laid down, I closed my eyes and whispered, willing my love to somehow travel to those I had lost,
“I love you and remember all you taught me. I will come soon again.”
Then, before turning to leave I walked a little further up the hill, coming to a little pile of rocks, also supporting a cross, this earth was still fresh, only a few weeks old, but already a creeping honeysuckle had claimed the mound. I placed the lily against the little cross and caressed the soft, grey wood with my fingers, thinking of the next 500 years I would walk this wondrous planet.
“I miss you Shane…”