By Kristin Post
I like solitude. I like stepping away, and being able to absorb the silence. And sometimes, I fall asleep.
So, I wake up, and it’s dark. The sky is a dark charcoal, and the swelling brown clouds shoot silent flashes of lightning above my head. As I lay on my back under the silhouetted tree, I try to get my breath back to normal. I look up. The black, leafy shadows above me circle around. I sit up, but the world still spins. The building behind me seems to reach around and tap my shoulder. The daffodils dance from side to side. I focus on the gate beyond the daffodils, but only the central point of my focus stays still. The rest of the gate bends and sways with the wind. I clutch at the grass as I struggle to my feet. Gradually, slowly…ever so slowly, the spinning slows and eventually settles. I shift my gaze to the tree. Oh—slowly. Slowly. …Sloooowly. The tree, the daffodils, the gate, the building, the sky—all taunt me, about to jump into dance again at any moment.
I take one step, my foot pushing down the soft earth around the daffodils. The wind blows, and the tree rustles. I turn my head to look at the tree and notice strange objects hanging from the tree. These are not pieces of fruit. These are man-made objects hanging from the branches. I reach up and grab onto a small sackcloth sack. My chilled fingers tug on the stiff rope until it opens and I pull out an aged, browned photo of a boy. I flip the photo over. 1892. I turn back to the gate in front of me, taking another step. The lightning flashes again, and I see a figure beckoning me from the other side of the gate. I step past the tree, closer to the gate. The wind howls and pushes against my side. The figure looks up at me…it’s the boy in the photograph. He looks at me with his big brown eyes, and whispers, “What’s your name?” “Tom,” I whispered back. “Come play. Please.” I take a closer look at him. The poor child—so thin, and shivering in the gust of wind. His small hand reaches out and grabs one of the bars on the gate. “Come play. Please.” I put out my hand toward his.
Suddenly, I wake up. It’s dark. The sky is charcoal, and the brown clouds are shooting lightning. I see the tree above me as I get my breath back to normal. The world is spinning—the building behind me, the daffodils, the tree, the gate… My mind is reeling. What is this? I sit up, but the world still spins. What just happened? I’m doing this again.
I stand up. The spinning slows, and then comes to a hesitant stop. I take a step into the soft ground. No. No, something must be different. Something has to change. I have to get out of this.
I look up at the silhouetted tree with its blowing leaves and eerie objects. The sackcloth bag. Something about that bag…and what’s inside—I grab the bag and rip it open. Oh yes. The photo of the boy. 1892. I have to do something different. Something must change. I study the photo, and realize everything’s the same still.
“What’s your name?” he asks. Again. “Tom. Tom Gehringer.” “Come play. Please.” The boy beyond the gate. He’s there, again. But he’s not beckoning. I can’t see his hand, his eyes. Something’s different. Good. This must be reality. I can go to him and help him. He’s real. I reach the gate, the wind swirling around me. His hand’s on the gate. So is mine.
Suddenly, I wake up. It’s dark. Charcoal sky, brown clouds, shooting lightning. I sit up. The tree bends and sways before me, the daffodils dancing beneath the tree. Everything spins and spins and spins and spins.
No. I can’t do this again. Is this real this time? I can’t tell. But I must do something different. I have to change something. If I can change something, I’ll get back to reality.
The tree dangles it’s objects before my eyes. The brown sackcloth sack…has a photo in it. Must…change…something. I grab the sack and pull out the photo. 1892. I look up, and see the boy. I rush to him, photo in hand.
I cut him off. No. Something must change. Something…
I push the photo in his face and scream above the wind. “Something must change!” He didn’t move. I have to try…again. “What’s your name?”
His big brown eyes look up at me, and he whispers, “Tommy. Tommy Gehringer. Why did you have to ruin everything? Come play. Please.”
Suddenly, I wake up. It’s dark. The sky is charcoal, with brown clouds hovering. But the tree is still. The empty tree is still. There’s nothing in it. Nothing hanging. No picture. The daffodils aren’t dancing—they only nod their heads in sleep. Everything is quiet. Still. Nothing is spinning. Everything is calm. Something changed.
I go by “Tommy” now. It’s something, at least.