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Red Woods

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The tree’s bark is as lined as my hands. Its branches snaking through the air like the thin blue veins that are visible through my translucent skin. Autumn has painted the woods scarlet and vermillion red. My dress is almost the same colour as the sky above, a thick creamy blue that you can only catch snatches of from under the canopy of leaves yet to fall. Years ago when I was eleven and my Aunt Violet was teaching me to draw and I painted a red landscape like this one. Squeezing out all her tubes of burnt orange and bloodlike crimson till they ran dry and dead as the stream next to my house. That day flickers in my mind like a dying candle that I cannot keep alive for much longer. But the smell of paint and instant coffee, listening to the hungry rain outside and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake playing softly behind me because it helped Aunt Violet. Part of me feels it slipping away already.
I feel my bones sigh as I sit down; hand shaking as I push the CD inside the machine. The opening music of Swan Lake spills out like beautiful whispers, every note slipping through the cracks of the walls and falling through the trees outside. I know every piece in this Ballet. I should light a fire soon or turn on the lights before I forget. Before I forget, those three words fill me with thick black dread. I push it to the back of my mind and as the music charges on my eyes move to the window, outside mountains are just visible in the distance. So long since my old body could walk that far. Slowly my mind starts to drift like a setting sun into dreams.
Such a long flight. My parents took turns in sleeping and explaining. Why we’d had to leave so suddenly we couldn’t miss it we just couldn’t! They exclaimed gripping the arm rests in anticipation. The holiday of a lifetime, a trip to Canada’s Northwest Territories it was. I remember cold biting wind and crowded buses to Yellowknife’s woods. Then under a dark sky my world exploded. Green flashes burning luminous above my twelve year old head. Canada’s Northern lights scorching through the air. Next morning I escaped early went running across the mountains and I found this house. Decayed and crumbling. The search team found me there hours later curled up asleep on the porch. Alzheimer’s disease has eaten so much of my life away but it has left that memory untouched.
My body shivers violently in the cold; I should have lit a fire or fetched a blanket. On my lap a letter sits alone and misplaced. It’s from my brother questioning my health wanting to know if he can help. I might answer, only if I can just recall the colour if his eyes, then I’ll reply. Music is playing but I do not recognise it. When did I put it on? When did I fetch that letter? Only then do I realise night has fallen and I am sitting in complete and utter darkness.




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