Tracks, a short story : Part 4

I recoil from the tree, withdrawing my hand, and my breath begins to shorten. Now, I wish that I was back underground. At least there seemed less possibility of a heart attack there. 

I don’t know where to go, what to do. The birds are still circling above the track, they didn’t follow me into the trees. Why?

As I walk back onto the track, and begin to walk along it, they follow. Still continuing their slow circle directly above me. I need to test something. 

Again, I walk into the trees. Yes! The birds stay above the track and leave me be. Perhaps I should stay in the forest. But here there is more there that appears unreal, at least on the track there is just white snow. It’s a tough choice. Which place is creepier than the other?

Then I see it. Her. Leah. The one, or so I thought.

But, it is immediately clear that it is not really her. It is an image, a blur just like the trees. She is shimmering, and that only makes her more beautiful. As she glides between the trees, slowly coming nearer to me, her head is bowed. Her full attention seems to be on something which is invisible to me. I don’t know if it is a thing on the forest floor, or simply something that is within her mind.

My left foot feels like dashing back to the track, but my right is firmly planted, wanting so much to look into her eyes. It even occurs to me that if I could only touch her she would become real, just as the trees do.

As soon as I think it the decision is made and I begin to move towards her. She is close now, only a few metres away. Her fair, brown hair waving slightly as she moves, but in slow motion, as the birds do. Her head is still bowed, then I notice that her feet are bare. The cold doesn’t appear to be bothering her. 

She now stands directly before me, and begins to raise her head slowly. When she looks at me she smiles, and my heart beats a thousand times faster, swelling within my chest.

I have no choice, it is not even a conscious decision. I reach out to touch her cheek and, as I do, her image gains stability. She is no longer shimmering, she is real. But as soon as I touch her I also realise that this person may look like Leah, but it is not her. It is something … other.

to be continued…

Have you missed the previous parts?

Part 1 https://neilhayeswrites.com/2022/01/16/tracks-a-short-story-part-1/

Part 2 https://neilhayeswrites.com/2022/01/20/tracks-a-short-story-part-2/#more-1911

Part 3 https://neilhayeswrites.com/2022/01/30/tracks-a-short-story-part-3/#more-1913

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswrites

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