The birch tree swayed beneath my weight. The view was glorious. All round me was still and covered in white, then a slight breath of wind rattled the skeleton branches too thin to hold the weight of snow. After it passed, the silence continued without a living creature to break it. I sighed. It was beautiful, and I wished it could just go on. But then I seen a flash and slowly the puttering of a small tractor intruded itself. It startled me at first— I must have really gone far to have ventured near civilization. Well, nothing I could do about it except leave and never come back. The tree was easy enough to descend, and I dropped lightly from the last branch to the ground. I would make better speed on the forest floor. Turning to go, I realized my way was blocked by a tall steel fence. I must have climbed overhead without knowing. There was an open gate, and I ran for it, but not before a boy seen me and gave chase. He had been playing with a baseball bat and used it when he caught up to me. He clunked me over the head. I got back up and tried to go on, but with the same result. This time I couldn’t recover, and I blacked out.
When I came to, I was so warm I refused to open my eyes. Of course this was a dream- hadn’t there been snow on the ground? I would have to get up and start moving to get my blood flowing and ward off hypothermia again. I rolled over, but a heavy coverlet slowed my movements. My body was in denial. Why did I have to get up? Why couldn’t I just die like this? Delirious is a good way to go. But my will succeeded in forcing me to move again. This time I pushed back the blanket from my face.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a dream. There on a bed across from me sat the fellow who had knocked me unconscious. An older boy, probably about my age, sat next to him. Both noticed I was awake.
“Why were you on our land?” The kid demanded immediately.
“Lucas!” admonished the older one. “Let him rest.”
“He was trespassing!”
“Why don’t you go get ready for bed?” His younger brother now being sufficiently dispatched, he turned back to me.
“Do you really go to bed this early?” I asked, just to say something.
“He does, but you’ve been out for two hours already. It was actually my birthday yesterday, so I’m going out with friends this evening once Mom gets back from grocery shopping.” He got up and left the room.
Of course I couldn’t stay. The sooner I left, the better. I got up slowly. My head didn’t hurt too badly, considering the blows. I made my way out of the room and up a set of stairs. An older woman (whom I assumed was the mother spoken of) was bustling around in the kitchen now, carrying a baking dish of something across the room. She smiled at me kindly, as if to say, I’m glad you’re up and about; but I can see that you don’t want to talk yet, so I won’t make you. I appreciated that, and forced a half smile in return as I stuffed my fists into my hoodie pockets, feeling wholly inadequate. A glance in the next room told me that her husband was sitting there reading a newspaper. He was looking at me too, but with the same expression of muted curiosity. I crossed the room and opened the door. The expected objections didn’t come, so I stepped out. I made for the gate, which was open, but the older guy intercepted me.
Where are you going? was written all over his face. We don’t know who you are or why you were here, but we know you shouldn’t be leaving.
He stood in my way. I tried to get past, but no. Before I knew it, we were locked together on the ground, a rolling tumble of might and mane. He only wrestled, not fought. I was thankful. He was a good bit stronger than me. I didn’t hold back, though. I was fighting for my freedom— I was fighting for my life. I squirmed, hit, and kicked viciously.
By this time my dream had me so excited that I actually moved— in real life. It was enough to wake me up, sadly. But I wasn’t working that day, so I relaxed, closed my eyes, and let my still-half-sleeping imagination finish the tale.
In our struggling, he grabbed my cap. It came off and out tumbled my full, disheveled locks of hair. He released me as if I burned him and I dashed for the gate, only to have the little boy slam it shut before me. Two of the bars were a little bent, though, and I was scrawny enough to slip through. I ran with all the speed that adrenaline could give me. The first stretch was not familiar to me, but I raced as fast as I could. After a while I settled into a steady jog where the terrain became more familiar, climbing up trees and using the highway every once in a while to throw off the scent.
When I finally got back to my place, I squatted by a nearly invisible designated circle. Digging beneath the drifted snow and cold ashes, I managed to find some glowing coals and blew on them till I got a flame going, and built it up a bit.
Suddenly I heard a branch snap in front of me and the crash of something dropping out of the tree. A pair of hands reached out towards the warmth of the blaze, and the figure of the older boy stepped into the circle of light.
How did he find me? Did he follow me all the way here? Why would he follow me? I thought, but most of all: what now?
He just stood there. Finally, he asked simply, “Why are you hiding out here?”
My mind swirled around thoughts of stories, explanations, lies, anything but the truth I had run from so long— but suddenly my mouth spilled it out.
“I am a murderer.”