The golden pendulum of the grand-father clock swung back and forth, relentless like time itself, incessantly clicking and filling the quiet hallway with the sound of it’s machinations. Through the window in the front doorway, a glimmering stream of glistening sunlight came down the hallway from the setting sun, motes of dust floating listlessly in the air as the ray of sun came to rest on the polished rosewood cabinet, the lustrous surface or the dark wood sparkling. There, standing in front of the framed black and white photographs was the old man, lost in a nostalgia for the past. Staring at the old photos, his wandered away to a happier place, a sepia-toned world of happy faces and waving hands where a ghostly stream of images hovered around him; sitting the darkened forest with friends, the flickering light of the warm fire illuminating the barks in orange flashes, the air heavy with the thick fog of cigarette smoke, or standing in front of the vast ocean as it flowed, his breathing quietly synchronised with the dull roar of the sea as he stood by the ocean.
Why is it the memories we remember the ones we do? What happens to the other ones, are they lost forever? Here, in this anachronistic world the old man searched for the missing scenes, like holes in an intricately woven tapestry, lost or repressed. One memory, however stood in his mind, photographic: walking through the autumnal forest, the world moribund and disintegrating around him, the leaves like a mosaic of passing time: the cold etchings of winter, the hopeful watercolours of spring and the oil paintings of summer, all swirling together to form a beautiful canvas of colour.
It was on this road, the track barely visible among weeds and protruding roots, that he first met her. The image of her on that day was as crystalline as if he’d experienced it yesterday. He had no reason to walk through the forest that day, but something prompted him to explore: perhaps a longing for solitude, or just simply coincidence, but he liked to think of it as fate. Regardless he walked, traversing the trees and walking right into the deep reaches of the forest. He watched as the knotted, gnarled barks of the trees twisted and coiled as they climbed towards the canopy, before bursting into a lustrous array of colour; luscious greens, pale yellows and deep, ochre reds and oranges. Leaves fell, drifting to the forest floor with a slow grace, time seemingly half-suspended as he walked further into the forest. Above, the sweet musical birdsong filled the air above the trees, the whole world seemingly swelling in perfect synchronicity, the pantheistic interconnected beauty of nature.
It was here, this placed detached from the low drone of the highway or the monotonous buzz of metropolis that he stumbled accidentally across her. Admiring the colours and the noise of the world around him, he lost track of where he was walking when, suddenly, he collided with something. It walloped into his shoulder, and then stumbled backwards, a meek little “ow” coming from the ground in front of him. Sitting on the leaves, rubbing her forehead after her collision with his shoulder, was a young girl.
“Uh…are you okay?” He asked, hesitantly.Where did she come from,he thought. She had come from nowhere.
“Yeah,” she groaned, “I’m fine. Here, help me up”. She extended a hand, her face still covered by her long black hair.
He grasped her hand and heaved, helping her to her feet as she clambered up to stand. Once she found her feet she laughed and lifted her head to meet his. It was in that moment that he was stunned: Her lapis lazuli eyes looked right through him, both dark blue like the depths of the ocean and light the sky on a clear summers day, sparking with a quiet intelligence. She tossed her hair back and it flew out behind her, shades of darkest brown revealed in the dappled light coming from the treetops. Everything else was dulled, the world around him suddenly boring and uninteresting in comparison, time seemingly slowing down once more as she smiled. The voluptuous frame of her vivacious red lips opened to show brilliantly white teeth.
“I hope I didn’t hurt you…” She said quietly. He blinked, everything came back into focus.
No, no, not at a-all!” He stuttered. He cursed himself for appeared so stupid! His heart fluttered like a bluebird, trapped in his ribcage, desperate to get out. He felt the blood fill up his cheeks as he blushed, unable to control himself.
“Good,” she replied, simply, “I wouldn’t want you to get hurt” She smiled. He nearly jumped.
They walked together for a while through the forest, lost in each just as much as they were through the forest, the whole time the spectrum of colour providing a beautiful backdrop to their conversations; her laughed rang high and clear over the tree-tops, and every time she spoke it was music to his ears. He could swear he would never want to hear anything else. Together, they began the formation of a bond, a connection on a deep, spiritual level but when they came to the opening of the forest the time to part came.
“I hope you’ll be able to meet up again. It was nice talking to you” She smiled again, and each time without fail in nearly made his heart burst.
“Not a doubt in my mind that we will” He smiled sheepishly.
She left, and immediately he felt as though a part of her left with him. He didn’t know infatuation could happen as such a deep level so quickly! Before it was if he was blind, seeing the world through the eyes of the inexperienced but now he was submerged in all the sensations of the world; the quiet whispering off the breeze as it rustled through the leaves, the fresh smell of nature. But most of all that he noticed, now revealed in the darkness of night, was the stars. In a way he reminded him of her, beautiful and mysterious. He guessed love was much the same thing, beyond mostly human comprehension, and in the mystery was what made it truly beautiful. In the arch of the night sky, the stars rotating endless in the hallow, echoing beauty of space he was reminded of her, somehow. They met with each other over time, the colours of autumn giving way to the arthritic, rigid branches of spring, and then eventually to the flaring buds of winter, the hopeful blades of grass poking their way through the hard pack ice and snow. Finally, summer came into life, flowers bursting into bloom and the forest teeming with life. All the while their love only grew stronger, falling utterly in love until eventually they wedded, joined together in marriage in the front of forest where they met. They bought a beautiful house near the trees, and lived together in harmony.
But time continued to pass. Once again they watched the seasons come and go, over and over again, and as they did they watched their youth seep away, dissipating and evanesced into thin air. She grew paler and more frail with each passing day, even becoming fragile, until eventually she lay in bed, her last days upon her. The only sound in the entire house was the shallow, ragged labour of her breathing and the quiet ticking of the grand-father clock downstairs. By her side her husband stood, vigilantly watching over and her doing as much as he could to preserve him from death, but unfortunately he could not stop the passing of time, watching as her consciousness seeped away. Finally, with one long, final, drawn out breath, her body shuddered and she gone, drifted away into eternal oblivion. They came, he staying with her until the very end, and he noticed her body was cold and stiff. As if she had turned to stone.
Now, the only sound that inhabited the house was the husky breathing of the old man, noticing each day how it grows more ragged.
The grand-father clock ticks ever onward.