Another story. The narrator is not well and slips into periods of "extended daydreaming" where they image they're someone else or that the context of their life is otherwise different. I thought about coloring the text differently for those moments but couldn't figure out a way to do it well.
No one walks out to this place. Why would they? It’s too far for children to be playing or for teenagers to sneak away to, there’s no beauty or interesting landscapes or scenery for hikers, and God knows it’s worthless for development. I walked out here because I knew I couldn’t stay at home and I kept walking because I knew I had nothing to go back to. Then, brooding, thinking that I would just continue walking until I died of exposure (which would have taken a while in that day’s mild weather), I stumbled across this place. I stopped to explore it of course, how often does one’s life yield such a whimsical sight?
I started daydreaming as I walked through the trains. They looked ancient, the cars were buried up to their wheels in the dirt and huge patches had lost their paint and rusted over. The interiors were stripped, but I spotted some kind of hatch in the roof (by the pile of leaves and other debris below it) and clambered up. Then I was standing astride the car looking down at the whole scene. Two neat little rows, five cars in one and four in the other, with the only sign tracks used to run here being a small corridor where the trees were shorter.
I loved it. It was a sort of post-industrial twist on the railway bum, you know? They would hitch rides on trains and travel all over the country, seeing everything it had to offer and adventuring everywhere they went. I had, in the past, been disappointed I didn’t live in a time where the vagabond could thrive, and was delighted to imagine the 21st century equivalent. Sitting in a rusted old abandoned train car, the Seeker (I always name my characters like that) sat by his gas fire watching the rain pour down and spatter across the corrugated walls. It was lovely. I felt much better and after playing around a bit more headed back home with a smile, all the while dreaming of the Seeker. The evening passed comfortably and I slid into sleep imagining I was the man sleeping out by the trains.
I pulled my blanket closer, clutching it around myself. I had found something, and tonight II was able to rest peacefully because of it. The night breeze flowed over me in soft, regular breaths. It was sweet and pleasantly cool, and carried memories of cheery days. All else faded always as I walked into them, leaving behind the blanket and the breeze and the night itself.
When I got up the next morning though the levity had vanished. I dragged myself through the morning and lacking anything real to do and completely out of distractions for the afternoon I headed out for another wander in the woods. Alone with just the half-leafless trees to speak to I very quickly fell into my thoughts and my world of pasts, real or imagined. I don’t know how long I walked, just that after a while my breath was coming out in ragged bursts and that I was approaching the top of a hill. Attaining it I realized with gloomy resignation that I was somewhat lost, and that the cup of tea I was desiring now more than most anything would be a while yet. As I started back in the direction I more or less thought town was I imagined how the Seeker had trudged through the same damp leaves and browning grass. Autumn would quickly change from the mild early days to the coldness that marked the start of winter, and this landscape would be unrecognizable. Even this escape would not last. Just like them. More gloominess. Pushing through a thicket of young trees I was surprised to be face to face with the train wrecks from yesterday, and, after briefly marveling at the occurrence started back home. I was throwing off my shoes and starting the kettle in just over an hour.
At home I picked, for some foolish reason, the blue teapot (of memories) and was soon sitting at the table and warming my hands on a steaming cup. I was shivering. Sometimes I don’t realize how cold I am until I’m back inside. I need to dress warmer. For a while I could pretend to be content sipping at my tea and feeling myself thaw out a little, but after a few cups I started thinking about what I would do for the rest of the day. That’s why I had gone out in the first place wasn’t it, that I had nothing here? I didn’t feel warm anymore. And since I had picked this pot (it was three years ago, why should I care?) my thoughts slid further and further back until I was recalling the conversation we had over it. And how I had laughed and taken your picture holding it and you had smiled as the wind whipped your hair back and I couldn’t stand sitting there and looking at it anymore. I fled to the couch and fell face first down into it.
What was I doing? I couldn’t sit here for another eight hours waiting to go to bed and dream, I was gripped with sinking panic just at the thought. No, I couldn’t stay. And I didn’t have to. If I could tell myself a story about it, I could do it myself, right? I could just leave. I could make it real. Go to another town, or sleep in a car, or, go camping. Yes, I could camp for the night. I did tell people I was an outdoorsman after all, even if for the past few years I hadn’t done anything more than day hikes to run from my reality. I had all the gear, I knew what I was doing.
Twenty minutes later I was out the door, heading back the woods for the second time today, this time with my pack slung across my shoulders. As I walked I thought about how unpleasant this would probably be and I was pleased. At least it would be because of something else. Something immediate. I went to the trains because where else would I go and also because I knew they were isolated and I wanted to be sure no one would be out harassing me over lighting a fire or being a vagrant. It was perfect.
And as evening fell the fire was lit. I had set camp in between the two rows of derelict cars to provide some shelter from the wind.
The heat from the flames sank into the metal siding of the cars and soon they were radiating back a friendly warmth. Touching it felt almost like being warmed by the sun. I leaned back against one now and stared at the fire. It was a comfortable scene, even if the ground was cold and hard and all I had to do was sit and think and brood. It was basically what I would have done at home anyway, but now I was not drawn into despair. No, out here all these feelings were beautiful, and if it was beautiful I could enjoy it. Some time and drinks passed and I became outright elated. Considering the whole absurdity of where I was right now I had to laugh. I might curse my life every day, but it was, if nothing else, interesting. Even if I was the only one who would ever know. Just look at where I am! I grinned and kept laughing and drinking and soaking up the intoxicating woodsmoke and tender light that flowed from the fire. I loved that this was something I did. And later as the flames hid back in their coals I climbed into my tent and floated right away on a dreamless, happy sleep. Lord of my little realm of heat and smoke. Good times for all. All for good times.
I sat at the edge of fire’s light clutching my cup closely. It was a bitter tea, what one could brew with just a cup over a camp fire, but I sipped at it greedily anyway, burning my lips on the rim. It would hold the blaze’s heat for a while yet, the cup was almost painful to handle even through my gloves, now streaked with ash. It had been a long, cold day. I had almost lost myself, but now, resting in the half-light at the edge of reality, it was alright. I smiled and, tipping my head ever so slightly up, whistled out a few bars of some song or another. Yes, here it was alright. There was a lot I didn’t know, but that was fine, I knew I was, as was the fire and the smoke and the warmth and the tea.
I refocused on the fire, source of the little world I had found myself in. It was as if I were gazing through into my own light. A welcome feeling, as I had felt a dull cold more than anything recently. I looked more intently, allowing the firelight to wash out the surroundings until I and it were all that existed. Like this I could see hints, now and then, of what had been. Perhaps if I looked too greedily the flames would even take me then, shattering the gracious illusion of the light in the process. No, echos would have to do. They were all that was real anyway. I stared for a long while, lost in burning contemplation.
That was a... number of days ago. I haven’t counted exactly. For the first few I was at home most of the day, only heading out for the trains in the evening. The first morning I didn’t plan to come back at all and tore my whole camp down. But around mid afternoon my listlessness would become unbearable and I’d flee from the prospect of another night in. So I started leaving my tent pitched, figuring I’d do this as some kind of therapy until I got better and figured out what I was going to do with myself. And I did get better! Or at least the more time I spent in the woods the less time I was sinking in the mire of my thoughts and the more I marveled at them. Maybe they were still dragging me down, but I didn’t notice anymore. Soon I was spending the afternoons out as well, and then I was only going back home in the morning to grab food and water.
I’ll probably be forced out by the weather soon. It’s been getting much colder these past days, but I don’t want to leave yet, I like this routine. I like the work of building the little stone wall, or clearing the ground around the fire pit I’m slowly carving out of the stiff ground, or sketching my map of the area around the camp. It was more than I had back there.
As the last of the purple in the sky was swept away by the darkening blue I stretched out alongside the newly rekindled fire. I had known for days that I was not going to find it here. I would have to go back and see what was next for me. But it was comfortable here, and for that I could pretend I had a reason to stay, at least for a little while longer. Yes, I’ll have to leave soon, but for now I can just enjoy the fire. I can walk in dream a little while longer.