Red Clay and Four Doors

3 Conversations

I hold a handful of red clay pebbles as I climb. Behind me I know there is a highway. The sound of cars is muted by distance. Ahead the forest floor rises steeply. There are glacial boulders spaced among the trees, smooth and gray and looming. I detour around them, occasionally reaching out to touch the cool stone. The trees are birch and maple, sometimes conifers. It is old growth forest, with little underbrush. The sunlight comes down green tinged and broken by the trees. I am crushing ferns and moss underfoot as I ascend. The scent of crushed fern is sweet.

Now the land levels off, and I push my way through a thick growth of young trees and tall weeds. I emerge into an empty parking lot. It is night now. The streetlights show me low square buildings across the pavement. Pale yellow, and dirty, they look like a cheap motel. This place feels empty.

I step forward, and I am in a room with four doors. It is small, with off-white walls and faded brown trim around the doorways. I know that I came in by the door behind me, and that I must choose another one to leave. I open all the doors, and look out. They lead back into the woods. There are no trails, or markings. The right hand door seems to lead to somewhere I've been before. Withought thought, I decide. Two steps and I am through the left-hand door.

I am deeper into the forest. It is daytime again. I turn around to look for the doorway, and the buildings are barely visible. I walk. Flat forest floor, dead leaves and small stones. My feet scuff and turn up black earth. Time passes. Abruptly I am emerging from a screen of shrubbery onto a precipice.

Below me, far down, there is an alpine lake. It seems immense. The far side disappears into a mist. The water is an unreal shade of blue. It's actually glowing. I kneel and pick up a large flat rock, shale, or maybe limestone. It is about the size of my two flat hands together, and red clay fragments cling to the underside. I throw it down, flat and spinning, so it will skip. As soon as I toss it, I know that I have skewed the throw. The stone falls, tumbling erratically, and splashes into the water. To my surprise, it skips. It jumps out across the lake and keeps going, out into the mist. I throw another stone. This one is much smaller than the first. Although I am very high above the lake, and I threw far outwards, it hits near to the shore and skips backward towards me. I realize then that there are waves on the surface of the lake.

I want to go down to the shore and touch the water. The thought of cold blueness running through my fingers is irresistable. I look for a way down, studying cliff face and the shoreline. Suddenly I remember that I am dreaming. In dreams I can fly, so I jump.

I land in the room with four doors. They are all still open, the way I left them, but outside it is night again. I am still holding the red clay pebbles. I turn to see which door I came in by, hoping to find my way back to the lake. As I turn, the dream ends.

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