The cove hidden away from the rest of the world seemed to Judge to be the perfect place to forget his problems. With a lovely waterfall in front of him and extravagant flora encompassing him, Judge felt, maybe for the first time in months, that he could relax in this place of isolation. He stood at the brink of the waterfall’s barren rocky coast. Erosion had created a small pool of crystalline water inside a hollow hole of hard rock that constantly streamed into four estuaries that disappeared into the thick forest scenery. Four steps back would be all it took for Judge to be in the “forest” again—this locale appeared to be one of the few places in the world yet touched by civilization, and the shrubbery had grown to the extent nature allowed because of it. The result was an untamed beast of green. This feature attracted Judge to it immensely.
It was hot and humid throughout his long trek up to the cove. But the mist that sprayed from the waterfall, the same mist that constructed a faint rainbow above him, cooled and refreshed his body.
He’d heard of this forest from an online “Top Ten Most Beautiful Forests in the World” list. It was towards the middle-bottom of the list, but it was the closest and, therefore, cheapest to visit. Not that that meant much to him anymore. Scrolling along in the post’s comments, an anonymous user recommended this very waterfall and gave general directions to reach it. So far, he thought the place lived up to its entry.
Not too shabby of a place to die, he thought.
He searched around himself. Dozens of birds varying in color rested along branches near him. Many of them were attempting to excite female counterparts to mate. Specifically, a yellow feathered male dancing and showcasing its wingspan to a black-feathered female caught his eye. She didn’t seem impressed.
Continuing to watch it dance, Judge thought it was like him in a way.
You and me both pal, he thought.
It was opening and closing its beak rapidly, but Judge couldn’t hear it.
He must be chirping.
The thundering impact of the waterfall’s perpetual collision with the ground beneath it drowned everything to inaudible levels. But it wasn’t a racket Judge hated. He was soothed by it. He wished he was able to hear the bird, though.
“I can’t hear you,” he said to the yellow-feathered male. But his words came to his ears as a warble. He lifted his chin slightly and said a touch louder, “I can’t hear you.” But still, the words didn’t quite make sense to his ears.
He came to this place wearing a Dri Fit, blue t-shirt, and cargo shorts held up by a nylon belt with a simple plastic snap buckle. It was plain and easy to put together and it allowed him comfort. He would regret not wearing sleeves and pants, for he would be covered with raging, itching mosquito bites later. However, he hadn’t planned on being able to regret much of anything, so his decision hadn’t seemed so meaningful.
Below his feet, Judge caught his reflection in the crystalline water. He thought it was odd that he could simultaneously view his image and the hard rock that was the pool’s bottom. The water was that pure.
And with the same feeling a child gets when they see something shiny, Judge suddenly felt the urge to dip his head into the transparent water to taste its purity. Judge took a deep breath and, on hands and knees, delved his sandy-brown hair into the rippling water. Submerged, he gazed across the pool’s floor with puffed cheeks, filled with oxygen. Moving his head from side to side, he thought the water was the cleanest water he’d ever been in. He could see every speck of rock and floating particle. He could even see well across the pool to where the falling water met the mere’s surface (a distance of about fifteen feet away).
Everything was visible to him. But his eyes suddenly widened, almost popping out of his head.
Because he didn’t expect to see a hand waving at him.
From the bubbles that spawned out of the crashing water into the stagnate pool, a phantom hand appeared from the foam as if it were a door to somewhere else entirely.
And this hand was accompanied by a girlish giggle that sounded as if the lips were right next to Judge’s ears in the water. His face reddened immensely as the lovely laugh reminded him of his youth. But with this laugh and with this hand came bubbles that formed all around him even though Judge couldn’t discern a source. These bubbles held moving images. Snippets. Replays of events familiar to Judge. And after a small amount of wondering, he realized they were replays of memories of his. Choices that made him, maybe. They were countless but many stood out to him such as his breakup and his firing from his work. Both recent. But some surprised him greatly due to them not being memories at all, but events connected to him through heritage such as the death of his parents by a drunk driver when he was barely three and at home with a babysitter and his great-grandparents meeting one another that would eventually lead to his birth.
He knew that the certain bubble which contained a racing couple, competing towards a wide oak tree, was his great-grandparents because the story of how they met was such a prevalent story within his family—a story told to him by his aunt and uncle who raised him. Within the bubble, the story unfolded before his eyes like a recording on a TV. Stricken by her, both her appearance and nature, the man set the grounds for a game—challenge by foot race, the prize was made to be that whomever the winner was would have the ability to make the loser do any one thing within reason; being smitten, there was no doubt what the man wanted: a date. However, he had a significant limp due to an injury during his military service. The woman only agreed to this game because she felt winning would be little effort, hence, her participation in the race. She thought it would be an easy way for her to have someone do her chores. However, to her surprise and his great joy, she had stopped right before the tree and allowed him to beat her, crossing the imaginary finish line.
The bubble continued to rise. It was nearing the pool’s surface when the man turned with a gushing smile and said, “That was close. I thought you almost had me there.”
It popped as it tried to break the water’s skin.
Judge wondered how different everything would have been if she had won that race.
He wondered how many decisions were made before his life that brought him—not just his body, but his personality—into the world.
Suddenly, he whipped his head out of the water which he thought was the purest he had ever been in, and his seeping wet tresses flipped over his head as he did so; the water dripped onto the back of his shirt, raising the hairs along his neck due to how cold it was.
He searched for the origin of the girlish giggle and the hand that accompanied it, but he found nothing except for the same forest boundaries and waterfall’s rainbow that were there before.
And Judge stood up and began his journey back to the hotel with the thought of all those who’d come before him and the decisions they’d made which led to him being alive at the forefront of his mind. The trek was more than a few miles of unkempt terrain—humid, itchy, uncomfortable terrain, raging with mosquitos—but he didn’t feel the distance was too great nor the environment too harsh for him to bear because he knew that the journey would be another bookmark within his life. A bookmark signifying a choice that would ultimately lead to another after him and another after them.