Satisfying steps crinkled coffee brown leaves as Emmit walked through the park. Looking up from his phone the sun melted its gold around the trees above and warmed his face. It’s been too long since he's been out and enjoyed the moment, feeling the sun drip down his face as if it were the hot water a hairdresser uses to rinse his hair. His phone interrupts the bliss, a call from a friend that comes off as annoying and intrusive in spite of their otherwise good relationship. Just the act of diverting attention gets to Emmit in that way, It’s no one's fault so he answers the phone having quickly gotten over the mild frustration distraction brings.
“Hey Kyle, how's it going?”
“So what if she got mad at you, you’re a grown man you…”
He stops walking and looks off, calculating in his head.
“How many years older is that? That’s like twenty six years man.”
He starts walking again.
“Twenty seven. Well you should respect your elders more. She hasn't pulled that one on you, has she?”
A notification on Emmit’s phone has him pull it away from his ear to inspect. Another software update it seems. Scrolling through the endless terms eager to agree and get back his phone call he flicks his finger across his phone. Having to flick again he hums the intro music to his favorite space movie mocking its famous title scrolls. The vital information bounces on his screen as he reaches the bottom.
“Yes, I agree, now let me free.”
Emmit hits accept and the notification disappears. Bringing the phone back up to his head.
“Hey man sorry, Apple gave me a book to read with this new update. But my advice to you is to not let an experienced woman like that out of your life.”
Emmit gets no reply, only a soft static.
“If you can hear me but I don't hear you take care now pal, get out today if you can.”
He looks up to the sun overhead, He pauses and looks at the face of the star in the day sky, longer than he has before.
“It’s… It’s a beautiful day.”
He hangs up and continues on his walk. Passing under trees and walking along a river that flows from the dense forest to meet his trail, flowing beside it. Passing under a large weeping willow he makes a routine stop at whenever coming to the park. Emmit stops as he enters the tree’s shadow. Nothing has changed. Entering the threshold of a tree’s shadow is a signature experience; now it was missing. He stepped back into the sun and felt nothing. Where was it’s warmth? Looking up into the fire ball he waited. He waited to be blinded, preemptively rushing his hand to cover his eyes in fear of damage. But no harm came to him. He stared into the sky and felt no harm from the sun's light or the comforting rain of its rays. Frightened, he sat under the weeping willow. He had sat there many other times and found it to be the most comfortable thing to do. Emmit had no thoughts, what was there to think when things made no sense. He sat waiting for an answer to come to him. The longer he waited the more he came to realize reality itself must have changed. There was no breeze, no sounds of the forest. Emmit didn’t want to move from his spot under the tree, everything was unfamiliar. Everything but this tree, thinking of other times he had visited this spot, he thought of how beautiful it was to sit under in winter. It’s unique shape complimented by the ice and snow that grew and fell on it each year. To comfort himself, he pulled out his phone to open Instagram. He had posted a few pictures of this tree through the years. Reaching a photo on his profile he felt at ease. Looking up, Emmit saw its long tired arms encased in ice. Sitting forward off of it’s trunk, a layer of snow stuck to his back.
He sat back onto the tree slowly anticipating the cold, hitting the tree trunk Emmit flinches. He felt no different sitting in the snow than he did from on the fallen leaves of the willow. Looking back to his phone he scrolled through his profile to find another picture of the tree. He hesitates to click on the image. The small picture among his other posts haunted him. Of what exactly he was testing, he had no idea. The image was from a standing height looking out from under the tree to the river flowing on the other side of the path. Drops of rain trailing the limbs and scattered ripples where the river flowed its slowest. He stood to match the height of the image. That day of the picture he went out in spite of the weather report, almost excited to be caught in rain under his favorite spot. Emmit taps on the image. The snow and ice is instantly replaced with rain water hugging the tree. Wrapping around each stem following gravity’s path. Being pulled from the limbs in streams and drops, and the river’s clear gloss interrupted by ripples. Sitting back down under the willow, the wet grass soaked his pants but he could not feel the moisture. The void of questions inside him grew, he was done trying to make sense of it all. Defeated, he looked at his phone, reopening his profile he saw past pictures of friends and family and all places he felt were worthy of sharing. Oddly there was a new post at the top of his profile.
It was from today, clicking on the image the park around him changed to that very same bright afternoon. He didn’t take this picture, he didn’t post anything after his call. Somewhere in his mind he remembered doing exactly that. The willows leaves were falling with each breeze as he had hoped to catch them when first deciding to visit the park that day. Friends and family had already seen and begun reacting to the post.
He commented. “Where am I? Something terrible has happened but I don't know what. Nothing is making sense here. I'm scared. Please come to the park, anyone. I’ll stay here till I know more or someone comes.”
The comment is sent, and Emmit watches as time is counted under it. After ten seconds the comment is removed.
The following error is given : “Your comment has been removed for violating our terms of service.”
Hitting accept, Emmit is no longer able to comment or find any way of messaging someone. All apps are accessible but he can no longer interact under any post or in any private messenger. He hopes someone saw his comment.
He pleads. “Just one person, please.”
Sitting in silence waiting for someone to show up. Elsewhere, Emmit saw his friend Kyle coming down the path. Enjoying the sun that leaked through the willow he waved lazily getting his friends' attention. Kyle burst into a sprint seeing Emmit on the ground under the tree. Emmit figured he needed more relationship advice, so he sat up bothered but willing to help. Kyle reaching the tree, he kneeled quickly.
Panicked, he asked Emmit. “What’s wrong? Why’d you post that? I was at the gas station when I saw your comment.”
Emmit had no clue what his friend was talking about. But reassured him everything was fine and to talk to him about it here where he found himself most at peace. Elsewhere, that willow was haunted by someone much like Emmit, but who would never find peace again.