Monday, June 11, 2012


Jed went missing today.

I was walking down one of the stretches of hall, when I saw his mother, Cora. She was crying, sobbing uncontrollably, while several other members of the community were trying to console her, without much luck. She turned her tear-stained eyes upward and saw me and screamed.

"It was him!" she yelled. "He's the reason he left! Always filling his head with stories!" She started to sob again, while one of the men in the group, Richard, walked over to me.

"Jed apparently went for a walk," he said, trying to keep his voice low.

"What?" I said. "Why?"

"I don't know," Richard said. "But I don't think he wanted to, you know...kill himself. For one thing, he packed up food and water."

"That's good," I said. "He might find his way back."

"You know better, Lowe," Richard said. "Nobody finds their way back. Even if he wanted to get back, he'll just become lost in a snowstorm. Or get hypothermia. Or worse."

His mother evidently heard this and started screaming at me again. "Why couldn't you leave him! Why couldn't you just leave!" She collapsed inward, like a folding chair, her knees held close to her face.

I looked at her and said, "I'll find him. I'll go outside and find him and bring him back."

She kept crying, but softer. She knew what I was saying.

I went and packed a bunch of my things into a backpack. Whatever food I had, whatever bottles of water, I stuffed them in the pack. Then I grabbed this journal and stuffed it in my pocket and went out to the front door.

Richard met me there. "You don't have to do this," he said.

"Yes, I do," I said.

He nodded and said, "You realize you probably aren't coming back?"

"Stranger things have happened." I opened the door and looked out into the black starless night.

"What are you thinking?" Richard asked.

"I was thinking of a poem, actually," I said. "Haven't written one in a while. But I just remembered an old one. A good one."

"How does it go?"

"One aged man -- one man -- can't fill a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It's thus he does it of a winter night."

And then I stepped out from the door and started walking.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Went For A Walk

That's a euphemism here. "Went for a walk." It means committed suicide, basically.

Jed's father went for a walk a while ago. He didn't hang himself or take pills (we don't even have any pills to take) or shoot himself. He just opened the front doors and literally went for a walk outside. And he kept walking. He disappeared into the snow and was gone.

Some of the other residents don't believe these people are actually dead. "They might have found shelter," they say. "They might be alive somewhere." I don't try to argue with them. I don't point out that them being alive might be worse. That being kept alive by the Boy might be more terrible then they imagine.

Jed and I were Buddies again today. I think they stick him with me because nobody else likes being around me. I'm a reminder of how things used to be. Of when people grew old. Some are even resentful that I'm old and still around, instead of going for, ahem, a walk.

"Have you ever been tempted?" Jed asked.

"To do what?"

"To go for a walk?" His hands were gripped together and he wiggled his fingers, obviously nervous at this line of questioning.

"Sometimes," I said.

"Why don't you?" he said and then backpedaled. "I mean, I don't want you to go, I don't...want that to happen. But I've heard some of the grown-ups. They say you're a coward. That you take food. That there's no place for you here."

"Because I'm old," I said.

He stared at the ground and quietly said, "Yes."

"Perhaps they are right," I said. "Perhaps there is no place for me here any longer. Perhaps that went away...when Agnes did." He turned when I said her name. I've often told stories about her to him during these lonely nights in the Grow Room. "Perhaps I am a coward for not leaving." I stand up and stretch my arms and Jed's eyes go wide, as if he thinks I'm going to leave right then and there. "But I won't. I won't go for a walk. I just can't."

"Why not?" he asked, as if that was an easy question to answer.

I looked at Jed and said, "It's too easy. It's too easy to just open the door and go for a walk. I've faced that choice before. Back...back before, with Agnes. We could have gone together. But that would have been easy and we were never ones to take the easy way out. Life is hard and getting harder. But even when the world around you is cold and hard, it's better to be alive than the alternative."

I sat down again. "I hope that answered your question."

Jed shrugged and then said, "When...when did you and Agnes face that choice?"

I smiled. "We were in France at the time. And there was a you know what a Door is? I mean a Door to the City." He nodded. "Well, there was this Door..."

As I told him the story, he listened with eager intent, hands on his chin, and together we forgot about the world outside.