Beyond the avenue, the dense woods, and the remains of the old town, a cathedral contained numerous memorials. Flyers of missing persons and letters to lost loved ones covered nearly every available inch of space, including the floor. Crosses, candles, decayed bouquets, and additional tokens covered every other available inch of space. One had to pass the churchyard – filled to capacity – to get here. Despite all these signs of sorrow, banners upon the four walls displayed a different kind of message: “Life,” “Love,” “Peace,” and “Joy.”
The young woman had found herself at this part of the island twice before, and never on purpose. When she attempted to seek it out deliberately, she could never find it. Something about it both frightened and fascinated her. Maybe it was the history it implied – signs of past civilization now in decay. (Aside from her own family, nobody had lived on the isle for decades – though occasional visitors would leave fresh mementos along with flyers calling for lost loved ones to return home, or other various messages.)
Maybe it was the present that it implied – absence of community with her fellow man. Normally, this would not occupy her thoughts. She felt content enough in her strange family and her even stranger home, until certain occurrences would remind her of the outside world. The most consistent reminder came at night, when she would sit in her window seat to watch the lights appear on the opposite shore across the sea. The more sporadic reminder came when the island seemed to bring her here purposefully to show her evidence of a society in which she did not belong.
Maybe it was the future that it implied – loss and loneliness. Surprisingly, this woman had made it 29 years on this earth without knowing those feelings. (Despite lack of friends, she had family and a connection to the land; therefore, she did not consider herself lonely.) It seemed inevitable, however, that those things should come into her life…and she wanted none of it. Knowing perhaps that she could not escape fate, she at least wanted to keep it at bay as long as possible.
But what truly fascinated her about this place – the one real brightness – were the messages: Life, Love, Peace, Joy…They appeared neither ironic nor macabre. They seemed genuine. She wished to understand why people professed these things in the midst of so much death and grief. A bewildering mixture of longing and hope would slowly overtake her in those moments. She would sit upon the only remaining pew for hours to sigh and contemplate, then sigh some more. Then the decreasing sunlight struggling through the windows reminded her that she should return home soon to her window seat and watch the other world light up with life.
She would follow one of the paths through all the papers and relics to return to the double doors through which she came. This part of the church bore more scorch from the fire that tried to destroy it many years ago. Somehow, the flames had only managed to touch it. Structural integrity remained. The visitor liked to feel its scars. She ran her fingers over burnt wood before opening those doors and shutting them behind her.
Then she headed east in the twilight, but the land had a mind of its own. When she traveled toward one part of the island, she would often find herself on a completely different part of the island; furthermore, paths rarely led to the same destination twice in a row. This meant, of course, that she spent her life almost perpetually lost. She did not really mind, though, because she knew no other way than losing her way. Eventually, home would always find her anyway.
That evening, she followed the same road by which she arrived. It ran a curvy course betwixt the tall, ancient trees. She had good eyes, but dusk in such a sheltered avenue could be nearly blinding all the same. When she saw the dense fog roll in from the calculating forest, she accepted it. The island would take her where it would take her, so she stepped into the fog…