When I stood, I discovered a large ceramic pitcher of water, with matching bowl. They bore a woodland motif several shades of green twining into small animals like red squirrels, but with a different tail. Thiers was thick and the base ending in three feathery curls. A herd of deer stood around a pond, some drinking while others grazed the grasses underfoot.
No owls, I thought.
I splashed water on my face and neck, used a green facecloth and scrubbed off yesterday’s sweat and dirt. It wasn’t as thorough as I’d like normally, but enough that I felt some confidence return. All isn’t lost. I dressed. Carrying my boots, I went down and found the cabin empty. A pot of tea sat on the small stove, steam floating upward.
Since she’d left a cup and saucer on the table, I poured and drank tea. This time it revitalized me enough that I grew more curious as to why she was alone in a forest unlived in for perhaps centuries. I spotted crumpets, took one and after donning my boots, walked out the small rear door, down three steps expecting to find her there. I was alone still.
Walking into the forest as I began to concentrate on what to do next, I heard her quiet melodic feminine voice. “If you awoke this morning and learned this was your last day on earth what would you do?”
I smiled knowing she might not see and said, “I’d try to finish the book, I’ve been reading.” I reached for my travel tablet and barked a laugh realizing I’d left it hidden in my electro, locked and secured in a place it would never be found.
Her warm breath brushed across the nape of my neck, and then she reached around me and asked, “This book?” She passed me a true book and I nearly dropped it, as its weight was more than I expected a true book to weigh.
My voice was so quiet when I spoke next, I wasn’t sure I spoke aloud or was thinking. “No one I know has ever seen a true book not to mention actually holding one.” I really didn’t know how to react to what she’d given me especially since it was the same book as on my tablet that’d I’d been reading before I left home.
Then I looked carefully at her, raised the book between us as it if might prove to be a barrier. Against what, I wasn’t sure but I kept it there. “Now that I have this,” I glanced down, “does having it imply that I’ll die when I finish reading it?”
“Is that what you desire?”
She nodded not looking away. Then she blinked twice slowly the way a cat might to express affection.
Grief punched into my chest like the fist of evil greedily seeking my soul, my purpose my desire to live. Tears flooded my eyes and my voice broke when I said, “I’m no longer sure if it would be worse than living.”
She tilted her head, eyes on mine and spoke some words I didn’t understand. The owl appeared flying from the forest in the direction I’d been walking after leaving the cabin earlier. It landed gently on her shoulder, eyes wide but golden not red.
She made a sound that sparked a place in my chest rarely touched by emotion and now not accustomed to feeling anything since my companion Blythe was overcome brutally by the pandemic. Quickly I saw Blythe’s eyes, as she grew aware of death’s cold nails dragging a twisting severing path along her spine.
She had amazing brown eyes always filled with expression and rarely with anger. At that moment the light within them blinked, more like an omen of hesitation and unexpected conclusion. I held her hands, then bones with a layer of fragile skin. They were cold in places, blue there too, and too warm in other spots. As the virus bit into her heart, she gasped, arching her skeletal frame high in the middle. I thought she might snap, but instead she screamed soundlessly. My heart died as I watched life’s light, that tiny spark that forms at the moment of conception shiver and extinguish.