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.