As the words rolled from Rusty’s tongue, I followed him into the forest. The music carried us as if we were floating on magic carpets, and as we moved through the trees, our paws barely touched the ground. The branches that brushed against my face were like fingers—the fingers of long-dead relatives I hadn’t seen since the earliest days of my childhood. They even smelled like them too, and as I turned my head the trees changed before my eyes, and what had been weathered bark became soft skin and where there had been an absence of presence there were now bodies praising the light that shone as if born from some sun I couldn’t see nor touch, but it was there, somewhere, and as the music called to us, it swept every creature closer to that which it sought above all else. Then, as if in keeping with the strange nature of these strange times, a light snow begun to fall even though it was the month of July. Up ahead, a fine mist rose from the muddy ground, and within it there appeared a doorway made of yellow light. The falling snow wrapped itself around its invisible frame, and on the other side, I could hear X’s laughter—laughter as unmistakable as the sound of birdsong.
“Just one door among many” Rusty said, and through the mist, I saw more and more doors.
“But not the one you’re looking for” he quipped.
Moving towards another, we could again hear her on the other side, and as I peered into the light, I even fancied that I could see her—dancing on the shore of some lake not long after we had first met, drunk and against the world and loving every second of it.
“You could lose yourself in the memories of what once was or might have been, or you could breathe life into those realities and them all shine on.”
Eyeing me with that familiar grin, he nodded at the other doors as the snow continued to fall.
“If you wanted to, you could take a step back and live these moments again, or you could find the right door and keep them alive at all times. It’s harder that way, and most never have the guts to try, but I’ve got a feeling you will. You’ve come this far after all.”