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Chilled tendrils cling to barren earth; icy remnants of the winter's long embrace. The
time is just before dawn and the final day of winter ended several hours ago. It has
been an unforgiving season, arduous in length and pitiless with freezing hands.
However, in a short while the first day of spring will be upon us, and such cold will not
break our stride for months to come. The first light breaks through the stark silhouette
of a sleeping forest, and shall soon illuminate the darkest corners of the foreboding
This forest is at once savage and strange in the pre-dawn glow, and it can be said with
near certainty that such a place is unfit for common eyes. Where the simple man would
see only frightful images of grasping thistles and crawling weeds, one with a more
contemplative mind might note the soft breathing of sleeping beasts and the gentle
creaking of noble trees.
Presently, the red sun rises and casts away the grey pall that hangs over everything. It
resembles a long lost friend who comes home from his travels and reveals to us the
long lost splendor of spring. Everything takes on a tender glow and the world brims
with new life. Hearts everywhere rejoice at the sight of the first rays of spring, for the
simple inevitability of the season's return did not quell the doubts held in their depths.
Instead, the tired people must see the light for themselves to believe that spring has
come at last.
For such a chilling year it is no wonder that the rebirth would be a brilliant affair. The
birds and beasts that have been silent for months are now shaken into movement, and
are thrown headlong back into life as it used to be. The gentle sparrow sings as though
hers are the first notes of a new world, and all manner of long dormant eyes flit and
flutter and open wide to the joyous revelry.
A great city of steel and brick rests heavily in a valley bordered by this forest. The
skyline is burdened by towers of metal, and the ground is painted black with empty
streets. The buildings sleep softly as their multitude of occupants begin to stir. The
electric light invigorates the air and calls forth unseen power.
The city wakes gently and cautiously rises from the lethargy left by the cold season.
The grey, stone towers hold the beauteous sun in a lover's embrace; the first of the
season. The world feels a faint tremor, and the blood of men and women alike shift as
thoughts turn from blankets and hot chocolate to sports and passion. These seasonal
movements shake the dust from their desolate hearts, and breathe life back into their
glazed eyes and empty lungs.
This city is Marshal, Tennessee and the men and women are its joyful children. With
the winter at their backs and springtime all around them the people of Marshal are a
brilliant lot. They are the hardworking lifeblood of the city, and their minds and bodies
are born of a simpler time. A time when all that was required was a strong back and a
loving family. But these days such traits are lost on the rest of the world and their
simple nature is often ridiculed by those on the outside.
Even yet, bright eyes and beating hearts punctuate the sky for miles around, and
beaming smiles are all that can be seen. When gazing upon these unyielding grins one
might imagine that such sheer joy must be contagious. Surely joy of this magnitude
could catch. That is until one notices the sorrow inherent in the features of these
people. For they are a people familiar with grief and hardship. Though joy may inhabit
their hearts now, such feelings are as fleeting as springtime itself.
Just as the reverent sun rises into the higher reaches of the heavens it is blocked by
the gloomy outline of rain clouds. Nature could not have afforded for Marshal to be
merry for too long and so these woven clouds seek balance. For the people of Marshal
to have seen the brilliant morning sun and now face the inevitable rain is perhaps too
much to ask, but they press on nonetheless. The men and women rise to the beckoning
day and prepare themselves for their labors.
The old, hard men strap on heavy boots and safety vests, and they prepare for
another long, dreary day at the local mine. These men are held in their ways by
poverty and habit, and have only ever known the hardships of Marshal living. The
younger men and women have come to understand the ways of the rest of the country,
and so they cling to commercial occupations. They toil in the restaurants and hotels; in
the gas stations and the dead-end offices, and they tell themselves that this fulfills
them. Though, when compared to the alternatives of coal and crime, perhaps such
pursuits are the lesser evil.
Many of the wealthier members of Marshal society find solace in the forest that
borders the city. They often hike these woods to escape the smog-filled air of the city
proper, and they breath in the cool, fresh breeze with a passion that is lost on the more
practical working-class of Marshal. Hiking trails circuit the living forest and are often
frequented by health-centric and frivolous people, but few are out on the trails this
early in the day.
The children of Marshal find themselves unceremoniously hauled off to the county
school. This institution services all grades, from kindergarten to high school, which in
turn breeds both community and indignation among them. Each child would prefer to
be surrounded only by his own peers, but instead they are subjected to the influences
of the older and younger children. This homogeny creates a certain unity among them,
but also leads to great displeasure in their minds. Such resentment stems from the
children's naive belief that they are still individuals; even when their education would
show them otherwise.
The languid air blows softly, and the gentle day proceeds without pause. The people
of Marshal will find no rest here, for the day holds no care for them. It drifts through
time without a thought for the souls it harbors, and the only life it can promise to these
noble passengers is that of hardship and toil. Would it not be easier to back away from
this life and all the trouble that it brings? Perhaps, but the people of Marshal cling to it
nonetheless, for in this life they have found some manner of fulfillment. It has become
the only life for the men and women of Marshal, and to leave it behind would change
them. For they have found peace here, imperfect as their hearts and beautiful as the
setting sun, and they do not wish to let it go.