By now the fog was much thicker. But it didn’t matter. He knew the way. Moreover it wasn’t too far till he was at his home.
The sidewalk ran through a small section of forest that emptied out into a coldesac. On a good night, he could get through the woods in under ten minutes. The flashlight was primarily for comfort, also – streetlamps lit the whole way. Even in the fog, the pavement was clearly visible.
Yet those ten minutes went by to no avail.
And another ten.
Then five more, but the boy continued to walk. He was quite perplexed: Did he go the wrong way? Of course not, he thought. There wasn’t a wrong way to go. He knew the way.
Suddenly the boy became aware of a certain lack of light. Instinctually he spun around, hoping to find a faint ray of light in the mist where a street lamp stood, only to realize such a light did not exist.
Had he gone off the path? He couldn’t have; he knew the way. Sure enough, a glance at his feet showed the sidewalk underneath him.
Maybe the light had gone out, he thought. That was more comforting, for he already had a flashlight of his own. It was more comforting, at least until he looked back at the ground and saw that he was standing on a trodden dirt path.
That was when he started to run. He didn’t know where, but he knew in the pit of his stomach that staying where he was would be worse. So he ran, heart pounding in his chest like a rabbit’s; through the mist into an almost impossibly thicker fog bank.
He didn’t realize the ground had fallen out from under him until his tiny body came crashing into the creekbed, sharp rocks piercing his skin. The boy let out a gasp of pain and sat up quickly. He had broken some bones before in his numerous efforts to “play roughly,” so he was fairly sure (from experience) that such bones were intact. A quick survey of the area showed a small clearing in the forest whose main feature was a very shallow creek. Looking up, he saw a steep slope of loose dirt where he had undoubtedly come from. The creek seemed to trickle from a source well out of his plane of view, and disappear likewise into the night’s haze.
And leaning against a tree was a man.