by Josh T. Alto
The shadows showed us a glimpse of what could have been our lives as well
|It was late on a Sunday afternoon at the end of the summer, that we first saw the shadows. My wife and I were sitting on the wooden bench under the willow tree in the garden and we were listening to the birds singing in the last rays of the sun penetrating through the leaves of the apple trees.
At the beginning, it was rather that kind of sensation when you feel a momentary breeze in the air or when you feel a bird flying over your head that you can neither hear nor see, but only feel with all your cells. We did not even pay attention to it, we realized only later that it must have been that afternoon when everything started.
It took several days or even weeks that we first talked about it; we waited too long. If only I could forget everything or start from that moment again. The birds stopped singing and for a passing moment the whole world seemed to have frozen dead in its track.
A few days later, on a foggy morning as I walked through the garden the water-drops made a kind of noise as if someone was following me and I saw something faintly moving through the fog. I was not sure, it could have been a bird as well, but I had the same curious feeling as earlier on that afternoon. Before I could come any closer it disappeared, if there had been anything there at all. I did not mention it to my wife; I did not want to frighten her unnecessarily. It was my fault for trying to keep her away from everything that could worry her, keeping her isolated from the outside world.
The next day something happened that made us finally talk about it. As we sat in our living room the old carved cupboard seemed to float above the floor for a few moments and then suddenly a mirror image of it drifted away from the cupboard itself and slowly moved to the other wall where it used to be. Then the whole spectacle vanished.
It was obvious to both of us that we had seen something supernatural but we didn’t have the faintest idea what that could have been. I’d heard about fireballs and their funny behaviour before but I was sure it had been something totally different.
The air was electrified, there was a strange scent all around, and we could even hear laughter and far off noises of a past birthday party. I thought I could even catch a few words that my wife used to say when we were younger and our children were still alive. We once used to be happy, but it was all over, an accident that no one could foresee und no one can undo either, totally changed our lives. Our two sons were buried under the old willow tree in the garden together with our youth, our dreams and our lives.
Since that afternoon, the shadows, as we called that phenomenon, became our daily visitors in the house. Once for example we found an old shoebox on a table that we had got rid of long before. On another occasion when entering the children’s room we discovered some old cupboards that we had replaced years ago.
It felt like our house were from time to time immersed in the past, deeper and deeper, to rise again to the surface even more sorrowful than ever. Sometimes it was difficult to say which part of our world was still real and where the past began. In one moment the house was full of things we used to have, and noises and laughter of happier days of our lives, and the next moment everything disappeared as if they never existed.
It may seem strange now but we did not speak to anyone about it. We lived quite isolated with hardly any neighbours and we were sure the police would not have believed us if we had told them our story. The few friends we still had lived far away and did not visit us too often. We both hoped whatever it was could help us to soothe our conscience for letting our children die before us and help us find reconciliation after all.
One day we were waken by a roaring sound and the trembling of the whole house.
There was a wide abyss amid our house and we could see ourselves, our possessions and the house floating on the other side as if reflected by a big mirror. I had the feeling that we were sitting on a train passed by another one or rather two trains running parallel and I felt we could jump over onto the other one if we dared.
Suddenly I heard the voice of our elder son and we could see him on the other side of the abyss running into the room. He asked something of me, or rather the person who looked like a reflection of me, and ran out of the room again. The abyss became narrower and we both slowly realized that the other world could give us one more chance; it was a glimpse of what could have been our lives as well. It felt as if we could choose another life after all, as if we could undo all the misfortune we ever had.
Standing at the edge of the abyss I knew that my wife also had the same thoughts and she was also thinking about changing the train of our unfortunate life to the other one. The sound was terrifying and the trembling of the ground made us hesitate at the last moment, we could not be sure that we would reach the other side alive and we did not know what would happen to us when we did. We wanted to change our lives and be with our sons again but we were also afraid of the unknown danger.
All of a sudden, with a big explosion, the two parts of the house joined again and we stood there in our old house with our old furniture around; there were no more shadows and everything was quiet. On the floor I found a photo in a frame showing us with our two sons at a place we had never visited. It must have fallen from the other side when the two halves of the house collided.
I thought, whatever it was we could not have dreamt it; this photo was the evidence. I put the photo on the cupboard and sat down to think it over again. I never felt so empty before, after all anxieties of the last few days we were there again, letting our children down the second time in our life. We were too coward to risk our lives to get them back and have a better life after all.
Now we sit on that old wooden bench again under the willow tree. We do not speak to each other because there is nothing more to say. Now and then a water drop falls on our hands like teardrops rolling down from our eyes. The leaves of the willow tree close above our heads.
(Word count 1,206)