May 6, 2009
By Clayton Mullis BRONZE, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Clayton Mullis BRONZE, Fayetteville, Arkansas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Whenever I try to picture something in my head, I draw a blank. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I don’t really think in images like people tell me I’m supposed to. I think with my words. People always tell me that makes me different, being a poet and all. When I was just 4 years old, my mother tried to explain to me that we use our words to describe the images in our heads. The people in this world have this idea in their mind that to write poetry well you have to be able to communicate your mental state. Give them your emotions if you will, the words on the paper being their transport. But my mental state is nothing but information, even when I'm sleeping.

The birds didn't whistle me awake this morning. Must've migrated. The calendar next to my bed says July. A drop of coffee sizzles on my thigh next to my boxers. I look down and my robe is covered in coffee splotches leading me to realize that there’s a crack in the mug. The rest of the coffee burns down my throat and the mug goes in the black trash bag sitting next to the sink full of dishes. Outside the window, the rising sun beams off of millions of fresh, already-melting snowflakes. The leafless trees in the imprisoning forest in the distance are a pale brown. The radio doesn't seem too concerned about the snow, or anything to do with the weather. And the snow doesn't really bother me so much either. Its the clouds that catch my focus. They're overcast and form a massive faint swirl in the sky. On the ground below the center of the swirl, a single tree is in half.

I take fifteen minutes to shower and get dressed in a fleece winter jacket. I haven't shaved in weeks and don't plan on it. I don't see people out here that often. The occasional mail man, that's about it. I slip on my black boots. The left one looks brand new, the right one is falling apart. The sole is loose on the bottom and the flaps up to the leg are torn in places. I go out back to the shed to get an axe and knife for the tree. The air is perfectly still and clear. There's nothing but a single lost flake of snow drifting around, trying to find the earth. In the shed, I grab my knife, and my axe.
Out front is an abyss of snow. The single snapped tree is the epicenter of the entire square mile of empty field. I begin to walk towards it, moving through the thick snow rather than over it. As I walk, I think about what might have happened to the tree and figure that it must've been a combination of frozen branches and heavy wind but, the oak must've been a hundred years old. Certainly, I couldn't have slept through such a tough ice storm.
It looks even bigger now that I am right next to it. The trees branches are woven together and frozen in time. The ice tells a story of the tree's demise. A layer of thin ice can be seen under the fresher ice. The thin ice is cracked all over due to the tree falling. The fresher ice paints over it with a fresh glisten. This leads me to believe that the tree must’ve fallen early on in the storm. I look up through the natural ice sculpture and see the clouds again. Their initial faint swirl has become much more distinct and starts to form more of a spiral. The iced tree and the gray clouds contrast well. I hold my shiny knife just in front of my right eye to complete the picture.
I need the wood to live out the cold but, it makes me sad to have to chop this scene down. I will never see it again. I begin to hold the axe in a chopping position when a wolf howls in the distance. I look back to see if its close by, and my cottage is no longer there. Where it used to be is now filled with an empty lot of snow. I rub my eyes hard and look again. The space is still just space. I have no choice but to believe it. My vision has never failed me before, never made anything up, never hallucinated. So, I run back to where it should be. My snow tracks have been perfectly filled as if I'd never even walked there. I stand by the space where my house should be. I step into it, half expecting to snap out of it. But my foot crunches into the snow. I sit down, my butt already numb from the cold. The wolf howls again behind me, and the shimmering tree that had been frozen in time is gone.
The confusion overwhelms me at first, but is replaced by a calm acceptance. I remember that just yesterday it was raining outside in the middle of summer. This forest has trapped me. It is only a matter of days before I die. There is nothing left out here and no way out. I look in my right hand, and I'm holding the knife. It is a tool. My body flops like a flag in the wind, blood staining the snow black underneath me. People always say that the moment before you die, your entire life flashes before your eyes. This doesn’t happen to me. Instead, I think of a poem.

When all I wanted to see was
Coffee splotches
Swirls in the sky
My beard in the mirror
Stories written in ice on top of
Glistening crystal trees
A home.
My brain failed me
And my life is not whole
It is partial and broken.

The author's comments:
This short-short story was inspired after I read the book The Stranger by Albert Camus. I wanted to pick a character that was isolated and is driven to insanity.

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