The End by Kathryn Swanne

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She wanders down a wooded path. Her feet barely skimming the ground as she admires the beauty around her. The light softly glowing upon the leaves, the deep shadows and rich colors, the soft caress of moss on her bare feet, the cool sunlight gently glistening on her skin, all these beg her to relax, to be at peace. Yet she cries.
It is not the screeching cry of a babe for its lost mother or the keening wail of a widow vainly hoping for the return of a loved one. It is the silent cry of one who knows the world; one who knows despair and grief, expectation and disappointment, love and loss. She cries of defeat, heartache and pain. But still she walks.
Time drifts slowly by as the tears flow freely from her eyes. She can taste the salt on her lips and feel the cool breeze against her damp cheeks. As the sun dips into the horizon she comes across a clearing in the woods.
The clearing is surrounded by ancient oaks that radiate a timeless strength and forms a perfect circle. Rich green moss clings to the sides of the trees and few scattered boulders crouching beneath their shade. On the far side of the clearing there is a small stone bench, around which grow tiny wild flowers. As she walks to the bench a mouse is startled out of its hiding place and sprints across the clearing, but before it can reach the safety of the trees a hawk swoops down and grasps the tiny prey in its talons. It casually flies away to feed in peace. She feels no emotion as she watches this, no triumph for the hawk and no pity for the mouse; this, she has learned, is the way of the universe, predator and prey forever destroying, forever interdependent. She has herself committed acts much worse, much more unnatural. She continues to walk towards the bench and sits although she is not sure why.
The trees around her cast deep cool shadows, and quiet birdsong fills the air. She listens, time slips away, and she is lost in her nightmares. Later, how much she is not sure, some one approaches her refuge. He watches her sit on the bench and sees the tears roll slowly down her cheeks; he knows her and knows why she cries. He watches her for awhile longer before she gracefully turns her head to look upon him. She gazes into his eyes and he into hers, both searching for the person they know. Without saying a
word he walks to the bench, sits, and takes her hand in his. She both loathes and welcomes his intrusion upon her hard won, if melancholy, refuge. She knows that her wretchedness is deserved, she has earned it, she fought has fought for it tooth and nail. However, there was a small dark corner of her heart which had hoped to cling to the peace which the clearing had seemed to offer.
They sit like this, her hand in his cool grasp, as the sun makes its final stand against the coming twilight. Then as every night before, the sun, realizing the battle will not be won today, gives into the night. The darkness wraps around them like an unseen glove. Slowly the moon rises and the stars begin to twinkle against the midnight sky.

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