The Warmth of the Dead

“There’s this place” we knew about, and it was her idea: we can go walking in darkness; walking in peace. An area forgotten because the trees are too thick. Some folks don’t like only being able to see the trail. We didn’t mind though: uncomfortable laughter (comfortable tears), the funniest things can make you feel naked and afraid. So long as I can still see the road behind me. So we went. I had a flashlight but left it off because I prefer the dark over self-consciousness. It was a deep night, the moon and most of the stars obscured by the woods. Sometimes I wondered if she was even still beside me. Other times it felt like she’d multiplied. A line of souls, their voices floating in the void as we walked. Almost familiar like isolated spirits. Now and again I thought I’d hear someone behind us, getting closer. Something I hadn’t created words for yet. Then, as though somebody snapped their fingers, it was suddenly warm. I took off my jacket as we walked. I could hear her doing the same, so it wasn’t just my imagination, this mysterious warmth. Then (after five steps or so) it was gone, as abruptly as it had come. The cold returned and I stopped. The silence held weight like a scent from my childhood. And confusion, general confusion. I walked back to the pocket of warmth and turned on my flashlight: there were two crosses, standing with an air of the forgotten, like coins in the couch. They paid homage to two high school girls who (ages ago; I remembered them) had been hidden there. In the manzanita, and beneath a breath of earth and Styrofoam. I turned my light back to the trail, beside me. It was empty. I’d been alone with the past the whole time. Another hopeful on town’s forgotten brink.