Funny how it seemed like such a normal day. I woke to see the sun shining through the cracks of the old cabin. The birds were singing, I remember distinctly that the birds were singing, trills and warbles from plovers, wrens and larks and shrill chatter from the jays. I breathed in the crisp, clean air, opened my eyes and felt perfectly content.
Each year, I left my husband and children for a solo writer’s retreat in the mountains. Alone in the most remote cabin I could find, my imagination soared and I wrote. My fingers flew across the keyboard, uninterrupted by whining, fighting or “Honey, can you help me find the Simpson’s brief.”
I was so close to finishing my novel; if I worked all day, I could just eke it out before check-out the next morning. I put the kettle on to boil and scrambled some eggs while it heated. Then, I went out onto the deck to eat breakfast, my mind racing with one final plot twist and my great climactic scene.
And oh, how the writing flowed, like maple syrup over pancakes. The words were delicious, and I giggled when I wrote “The End” just before nine o’clock that night. I could feel it. This one was good. It was really, really good.
I went to the cupboard and pulled out the carefully wrapped white box with the gold ribbon on it. My celebratory chocolate; I always bought See’s candies to enjoy upon the completion of a book. I unwrapped the box, lifted the lid and paused to enjoy the aroma of good-quality chocolate. Then, I chose my favorite — a lemon truffle — and savored the bite. It melted on my tongue, a delightful mixture of sweet and just a hint of sour.
I decided to leave early the next morning, to share my triumph with my husband. I would take him out to dinner, no Olive Garden, no, something fancy this time, maybe even Ruth’s Chris, because I knew that this would be the one, finally, my breakout novel.
I can’t say exactly when it sunk in that something was wrong. I drove into the small town, Mountain Center, and everything was quiet. It was just a feeling at first, kind of like when someone steals your car, and you go out to your driveway and stare, expecting it to magically show up. I felt uneasy, and my mind grasped for an explanation. It was early, people would be sleeping in on the weekend. I passed through before I could put my finger on it. Something niggled at me as I wound down the mountain.
Panic rose like bile in my throat when I entered the outskirts of town. The silence pressed down on me, squeezing like an iron lung. You never realize how much noise living things make until, well, until they’re gone. No cars revving, no dogs barking, no birds singing. Nothing.
The streets were empty, and I found myself flooring it as I made my way home. I pulled up to the curb and leaped out of the car, leaving the door hanging open. The house was unlocked, the house is never unlocked, not in our neighborhood, and I ran inside, yelling, my voice echoing in the dense quiet.
I crumpled to the floor and cried myself numb.
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Today’s prompt: Name three things you are grateful for. I chose four things — my family, the mountains, me time and chocolate.