Moksha Children runs Child Centred Play Therapy workshops. Connect with your child and learn how to communicate more effectively to work through problems. Vinity Gill, child psychologist, runs workshops and private sessions within the Blue Mountains, NSW.
On a very hot afternoon, the soft grey of the path crunched softly under the steady steps of the young man. The dog, scarce more than a pup, trotted eagerly and silently beside him, the noise of her heavy panting long blended in with all the rest. The young man was vaguely aware of the sea of patched green around him. It swirled and warped, revealing sparse trees and some kind of water body amongst the grass, but all of these things seemed to be everywhere in the dream, and nowhere. He could only truly see his feet, walking just above but not quite on the ground, and the dog beside him. There was clarity in all the world of the dream, and only in that world. He looked at her for reassurance. His dog stared back, her tongue hanging out at the side, her eyes meeting his with unquestioning faith as the background blurred on. He would remember that.
I carried myself calmly into the usual office building for the first day after my few weeks off. Another day of the usual mundane work, and the table of close friends at lunch. I approached it with a dull sense of duty. Soon it will finish, I reminded myself, and I can go home to rest. I considered the second prospect with the same duty, and took my seat at my workspace, and left myself there to sort it all out. I glanced back periodically to check the time, until the hour of my return came, and I stood up and headed to the kitchen. There I met my usual table, and my usual friends, who welcomed me back with warmth I took care to reflect properly.
‘How is everybody going?’ I offered to them.
The one nearest me returned on their behalf. ‘Pretty good! How about you?’
‘How was your time off then? Anything interesting happen?’
On a very hot afternoon, the young man padded silently over the gravel path. His dog floated along beside him, perhaps making contact with the path, or maybe not. The sea of grass stretched starkly all around on either side, and the creek snaked along to the right of him, brief but intense spots of light slicing off with the gnarled trunks jutting from the banks. He was aware of the glassy sky shimmering down, but the eyes were on the feet, coated in worn runners, walking over the gravel. His mind staggered with sick unease, though his feet kept their rhythm. He looked at his dog for reassurance once again. He felt the dog look at him, and felt the unquestioning faith once again. As he turned back down to his feet, he envied that faith.
On a very hot afternoon, the young man stood. The grey path snaked to the vanishing point in the infinite void ahead, across a great sea of dirt. The young man stood, afraid for folding on himself if he walked. He felt sick enough that he found and remembered the gag reflex, and almost doubled over to be sick, but he recalled that there was nothing in the hole. The young man ignored the temptation to look at the dog, settling to continue listening to the simple steady panting. That was important, he remembered, the panting. More than anything.
He didn't need reassurance, it was just another day on the gravel path. There were thorns on this path this time, but that was because they needed to remove the fruit. Everyone knew that you need to endure the thorns to remove the fruit. The thorns were nothing, and we needed to remove the fruit.
He suddenly felt exhausted. He felt like he'd been walking for days, and he tried to turn to see his progress, but found he could not, and only stared at the same grey path, snaking to the same vanishing point across the same sea of dirt. A mosquito floated past, and zoomed away as he thought on slapping it. One couldn't be too careful with mosquitoes, you never know what disease they might have a chance of carrying. He listened to the steady panting of his dog, and reflected on its importance. It was precious, like the dog. He looked to the dog for reassurance... and cursed. He tried to undo it. His neck stiffened. Too late, his head was already turned and there was no unturning it. He wailed in despair as the panting stopped. He flailed violently, trying to reach the sounds. He needed to catch the panting! He screamed, a horrible, high-pitched wail that shattered the glass sky. The world crumbled.
The young man wearily lifted his face from his pillow. He stared for a moment, and started sobbing.
On a very hot morning, the young man stood. The grey path stretched to the wooden gate, and the infinite void beyond. He clutched the leash in his hand and stared at it. He felt the familiar burning, but he knew now to close his eyes and simply breathe. Fighting it only hastened the process, and he couldn't let that happen today.
He walked toward the front gate and turned to the right, to the garbage bin. He opened the bin and clutched the leash in his hand, and stared at it. He waited a moment, and then held it over the bin and began to open his hand... then stopped. A second thought came over him.
He closed his hand around the leash, and closed the bin. He stepped back from the bin and stuffed the leash in his pocket. He patted it to make sure it was stuffed in securely, then started off. He opened the front gate, stepped out, and began walking down the gravel path.
Editor's Pick was awarded to this story for various reasons: the rhythm, the surprise, the clever handling of what could be reduced to two sentences, but which is delivered in an intriguing manner in nearly 1,000 words, without it being a waste of text. Truly creative writing.