Shredding Veils

November 14, 2009
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Chapter 4

Matt’s dream rippled like a thin film of water, dispersing the clear image throughout the rest of his dozing mind. The sensations that filled his head during sleep flickered, wavered, and evaporated as consciousness began to overtake his weariness. Somewhere outside, his senses were being stimulated by the gentle touch of nature.
A raindrop fell from the branch of an old, withered pine, fell to earth, and landed on Matt’s face. The drop split into innumerable smaller drops, each delivering their cool shock to the sleeping teenager. He felt the liquid upon his face and realized that he had passed the point of returning to sleep, and with this thought he woke fully.

Matt Parson sat up with a cavernous yawn and looked about him. Everywhere was displayed the effects of the rain that had recently been visited on the surrounding forest. The air had a fresh, sweet scent hinted with ozone and unseen gases brought down from the upper atmosphere. In spring, the air would have been tinted with the light green of newly opened shoots, but now it was April, the beginning of fall. The predominant hue was instead a darker green of dense pine needles after a full year of accumulated growth.

Matt stood up, stretched, and drew in the refreshing scent of the pine forest. An old thought from when he had first arrived here struck him: Back in the city, people used cheap little air fresheners in an attempt to mimic the pungent fragrance that was so abundant about him. “Why don’t they all see it?” he wondered aloud, causing a flock of sparrows to flutter from his tree in a confused mass. That was part of the reason he had left urban areas far behind; too many people believing that they were the center of the universe. Staring into space, he stood pondering the lives of others for a while, forgetting that he had matters of his own to attend to.

He set off at a brisk walk toward his home-which way was home? Oh crap, he thought, I didn’t crash close to home last night. This problem had happened before, falling asleep without drawing a map in the dirt to guide him back to his permanent shelter. Not shelter. It’s home. This is my home now, and I need to get back to it. He analyzed his surroundings and found them unrecognizable. The familiar feeling of panic began to spread through his chest, bringing a rush of adrenaline and speeding up his heart. Everything’s going to be fine, calm down! Just think for a minute…
There had to be some clue as to where he was. Matt strained his brain, willing himself to remember where his feet had carried him the night before. Nothing, he could not remember a thing! Real terror now took hold and he began running from tree to tree, heedless of the sharp needles that poked at his bare feet. A stone, wet from the night’s rain, betrayed his footing and Matt went tumbling through a prickly barrier of thorn bushes. The air whooshed from his lungs and he lay there, gasping for breath until he could rise. In a minute he did so, picking leaves and dirt from his shaggy hair.
A sight of relief met his upturned eyes: His ridge! There it was, not far from last night’s bivouac. Matt slumped over, relieved beyond words by the rediscovery of his home. He silently berated himself. You idiot, you can’t let that happen again! You have a place to go now; don’t throw that away because you’re too dumb to remember it. He closed his eyes, allowing himself to feel his stinging arms and hands. His conscience, if that’s what it was, was right; he had to take more care of himself.

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