The Burning of Fall

Burning leaves carried on the wind, the smell of smoke both a warning and a comfort. The dry words of Henry James, a most-dissatisfied writer by many accounts, were recalled to my mind. ‘The Turn of the Screw’ and its haunting mind-fuck of a tale somehow became part of the day. A brittle walk into November, over a carpet of dry moss and dead leaves, not usually a thing of dread, suddenly turned darker. That gray light of mid-fall, muffled and dim and sad enough to suck the joy out of the brightest countenances (of which mine is certainly not one) descended as the day advanced.

Shadows deepened and the birds grew quieter. The bustling of the chipmunks and squirrels died away, the fear of the nocturnal hunters had set them into hiding.

Goblins appeared in the gnarled trunks of trees that had seen more years than I had. Exposed roots, like the knuckles of ghouls, grasped the ground and sought something more – escape or surer-footing perhaps. The forest casts a strange spell in the fall.

A stand of ferns had turned a ghostly pale yellow. They would fade and fade until they disappeared completely. In the woods, in the fall, that sort of thing happened. They went missing. One day a toadstool was resplendent in speckled salmon, the next it was gone. Torn from its foothold by some hungry marauder or felled by a hard frost, it was impossible to tell – it simply ceased to be where it once was. Holding onto a space in the forest, no matter how small, is tenuous stuff. Even the most ferocious raptor can be pierced by a bullet. That cuts both ways, though, and the forest takes back hunters and wanderers – the trespassers and the lost – with equal recklessness.

A fallen apple, like fallen grace, stilled in momentary beauty, would soon rot, and all the world around it would crumble too. The winter loomed ahead.

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