A Trip Across the Snow

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Chapter 26: Distant Memories

Seven years ago at the Rubin house, a bright future for two began. Oliver stormed to his room and slammed the door. Evelyn sighed from the staircase and chased one-year-old Lizzy before she could fall. Evelyn waited for Lizzy’s nap time, but it seemed like she’d never run out of energy.

In the meantime, Oliver sat beside the trains in his room. He pouted to himself and rolled his trains back and forth. He opened his door a crack, hoping to hear someone coming. Minutes passed with no one arriving. They forgot me again.

A tapping came on the door. Oliver turned around, but no one entered. Noises on his door continued. “Who is it?” he said. He rolled his eyes and continued with his trains.

To his surprise, Lizzy waddled in. She prodded the door open, resulting in a forward fall. She started to cry. “Lizzy? Now, now. It’s okay,” Oliver said. He lifted her and moved to his bed and squared her on his lap. She coughed up a last tear.

“Oliver!” she squealed. She smiled and turned to him. She said my name! She knows me! Oliver grinned.

“Yes, Lizzy?” he asked.

“Oliver!” she said.

“Lizzy, oh Lizzy, are you okay?” Evelyn bursted through the doorway and rushed to Lizzy’s side. She reached over to swipe Lizzy from Oliver’s hands, but Lizzy refused.

“No, go. Stay. Oliver,” Lizzy said, clinging to her brother’s neck.

Evelyn smiled to her daughter. “I see she’s calmed down and wants to stay. If you don’t mind watching her for a few minutes, I’ll go check on Charlie. I feel I can trust you with her.”

“Okay,” Oliver said.

“Thank you, sweetie.” Evelyn pecked Oliver on the forehead. She grabbed the side of her dress and ran out on the tips of her heels.

“Oliver. Love.” She turned and hugged him.

Back in the present, happiness lived as mere memories. Since they had disappeared, so did the great feelings he used to get.

“What do I do with you? I can’t leave you here. I could never leave you here, for the snow to bury you,” Oliver stood above his sister, but he couldn’t look at her without tears streaming from his eyes. “I guess I’ll carry you the rest of the way,” he said, wiping the final tears.

Oliver buttoned her coat and rolled her back in the blanket and lifted her. She felt lighter than earlier. He carried her and trekked on.

Up ahead the storm carried on. Will this day ever end? There’s no getting over this so why do I even bother to continue? Oliver kicked his feet through the snow. He glanced as the hard clumps flew off his foot. Poof! Waves of snow rocked the mountain’s seas. Oliver could’ve drowned in snow at any second, but he spotted a cave before that happened. Finally, somewhere to sleep.

He shut his eyes and laid his head against the wall. Eventide ended and the bitter darkness followed.

“A squirrel.” I can’t believe any animal would go out in this storm. Oliver caught a glimpse of it, enough of a sight to remind him of a little while ago.

“A squirrel!” Ellie clapped on their back porch.

“Where?” Jeffrey asked.

“You missed it!”

“What are we doing now?” Lizzy asked.

“We’re off on an adventure,” Oliver said.

“An adventure?” Jeffrey asked.

“Correct. I’m taking you guys on your first Rubin children adventure. Today we’re going through the backyard,” Oliver said.

“Really?” Lizzy asked.

“In a minute.”

“Will we see more squirrels?” Jeffrey asked.

“Sure,” Oliver said.

“Will I see flowers?” Ellie twirled to the edge of the top step.

“I see some already,” Oliver said.

“Will we sled?” Charlie asked.

“One day.”

“Sounds fun,” Lizzy said.

“Then why don’t you go in front of us, Lizzy. Lead us,” Oliver said.

“Okay!” She marched. “Follow me, to the ice pond.” She winked at Oliver. He turned back confused, but she carried on.

“I’ll walk second in line,” Charlie said.

“Well, Jeffrey and I can share the second-to-last spot,” Ellie said.

“So Lizzy, which way first?” Charlie asked.

Lizzy stopped and tapped her chin. “Hm…I say we move to the trees Follow me, we’re off on an adventure,” she said.

“An adventure!” the others cheered.

“We’re on an adventure, an adventure, to wherever we may feel,” she sung. “Turn left, turn right, we’ll go up, down, west, east, to anywhere I lead. I guarantee, follow me, and we’ll go on an adventure like none other before.”

“An adventure, an adventure! To wherever we may feel,” the three kids sung.

“Oliver, join in the fun,” Lizzy said.

“We’re on an adventure,” he said.

“Yay!” They clapped.

“Detour to the right!” Lizzy said.

“What now?” Jeffrey asked.

“Charlie’s turn to lead us.” Lizzy ran to the back and joined Oliver. Oliver wrapped his arm around Lizzy’s shoulder.

“What poppycock have you got us into now?” Oliver joked. Charlie led them back and forth every chance he could, zigzagging left to right and back on logs and spinning around every tree before moving to the next a few feet in front.

“I’m getting dizzy, Charlie,” Jeffrey said.

“Jump over the log,” Charlie said.

“I’ll leap,” Ellie said, hurdling into a leap over the log. Her legs formed a full split in the air. Jeffrey tried to keep up with Ellie, but caught his foot on the log as he jumped. He managed to stay upright.

“Dear goodness, Jeffrey,” Lizzy said. She skipped over and caught her brother. Jeffrey ran to Ellie, and Oliver caught up with Lizzy.

“I thought you always wanted to lead the way,” Oliver said.

“I do like to, sometimes. I thought Charlie would make it a little more interesting,” Lizzy said.

“And a bit more tiresome,” Oliver chuckled.

“What’s so funny back there?” Jeffrey stopped as did the rest of the group. They all turned to Lizzy and Oliver with their arms crossed over their chests.

Lizzy glanced at Oliver with a grin. “Oh nothing.”

“Really?” Charlie said.

“Yes, really. Now if you ninnies don’t mind, Lizzy and I will lead the way from here on out,” Oliver said, giggling his way to the front.

“Follow me. We’re on my adventure,” Lizzy said.

“An adventure!” Charlie, Jeffrey, and Ellie said.

So on they went, passing the tallest trees, skipping through snow, and hopping past animals. Lizzy led them past arrays of flowers. Ellie ran to the side to see red roses dance in the wind. Lizzy brought them to a pond beyond the woods. Charlie, Ellie, and Jeffrey went out to play with the animals and flowers while Oliver stood back with Lizzy.

“It’s lovely.” Oliver placed his hand on her shoulder.

“I wonder,” she breathed out, “if it’s like the ice pond. The pond appears rather pretty.”

“Come on. Let’s go see it,” Oliver said. He clasped Lizzy’s hand and they hustled over.

“Let’s have a snowball fight!” Charlie said.

“Yeah!” Ellie said. She ran to the group and they began chucking snowballs, ducking, and leaping without a care in the world. Hours passed by. Charlie and Lizzy got out first. One of Oliver’s laser throws slammed against Jeffrey. Oliver against Ellie. His throw skimmed her fingers, which made her the loser and him the winner.

His four siblings congratulated him, but he shook it off. “It’s about time we turn back home. Mother and Father must’ve returned home,” Oliver said.

“Home?” Charlie asked.

“But that would mean the adventure would end,” Jeffrey said.

“We can’t go yet,” Ellie said.

Oliver tried to respond, but Lizzy answered. “Who says it ended? Getting back home brings a new opportunity for adventure. Who says we have to go back the same way we came?”

“What happens when we get home?” Charlie asked.

“We’ll have a brand new one tomorrow. Think about telling Mother and Father about today. They’d love to listen,” Lizzy said.

“Well then, time for an adventure!” Oliver said.

Oliver stole the spot in front, directing them every which way. Lizzy and Ellie skipped hand-in-hand while Jeffrey tottered in between. They pointed at any animal they saw.

The periwinkle sky darkened to an indigo blue. Most of the trees shadowed black as the animals perched themselves in their shelter for the night. All the flowers’ colors faded to a crisp blue to match the sky.

When their trip turned back to the house, their mother waited on the back porch for them. She spotted them and beamed with a wave. She ran out to the top step. “There you guys are,” she gushed. “Come inside. Father’s on his chair. We have a fire and hot cocoa waiting for you,” Evelyn said, turning back inside.

“I can’t wait!” Charlie said.

“Oh Mother!” Lizzy bursted through the door. Evelyn welcomed Lizzy into her arms.

“Father.” Ellie leapt into his chair.

“Mother, Father.” Charlie and Jeffrey ran in together.

“Good evening,” Oliver said. He closed the door without a squeak. He paraded in and sat with his brothers.

“Drink up.” Betty handed each child a mug of hot cocoa. “It’s a little hot, so sip it first.”

“So…” Evelyn said, “tell me. Where did you go this time?”

“Well, we went on an adventure,” Ellie said.

“Even I was the leader at one point,” Charlie said.

“I found a pond,” Lizzy said.

“I won the snowball fight,” Oliver said.

“I saw animals and many flowers,” Ellie said.

“I almost tripped,” Jeffrey said. Everyone laughed a little. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, dear.” Evelyn ran her fingers through his hair.

“Oliver guided us on our first-ever adventure with just us kids,” Lizzy said.

“I hope for lots more,” Ellie said.

“I miss those adventures; they were the one true thing all five loved. Never an adventure we didn’t enjoy, and I’m responsible for their first and last adventure. ” Oliver said. “Yet I didn’t even give them the chance to finish their last one. Why should I get to finish? It’s unfair! They don’t deserve this!” He bit his bottom lip, avoiding further tears.

“Oh Oliver, you mustn’t worry.” Evelyn hugged him.

“She’s right. Nobody did anything on purpose,” James said. Oliver tried taking them down the back stairs, but Ellie, only two, tumbled. She fell into the snow, and Oliver had felt guilty. “This is all my fault.” He paced back and forth in front of his fronts and hit himself in the forehead.

“No, Oliver, don’t do that to yourself. It’s okay,” Evelyn said.

“You’re not mad?” Oliver asked.

“No, dear. She fell while holding Charlie’s hand. Luckily, we could help,” Evelyn said.

“Where did you bring her?”

“We put Ellie down for a nap and covered her bruises,” James said.

“We all know it was an accident. They happen. Do use caution in the future,” Evelyn said, resting her head on Oliver’s shoulder.

“It’s all an accident,” Oliver said, trying to convince himself. As soon as he glanced at Lizzy, he didn’t believe it anymore. I may have caused an accident four years ago, but all this can’t be just an accident. Why didn’t I stop and consider if we should go back, after we lost Jeffrey. Even worse, I still kept going after Charlie fell too. Why didn’t I stop? Why didn’t I listen to Ellie and Lizzy and not travel through the storm? How stupid can I be? I’m the reason everything happened!

He shook his head at his feet and slumped down on the backpack. He didn’t feel worthy of a blanket or pillow. He tried closing his eyes to sleep and rid himself of the thoughts, but they kept him up. He stared out in front.

“Where did the good ol’ days go?” Images floated in front of him. He pictured Jeffrey crawling up the stairs for the first time, following his lead. He move one limb up at a time as Oliver stayed at his side the entire way, encouraging his little brother without growing bored. His tiny brother retained a wide smile on his face the whole way up.

Next came Charlie. Only four, Oliver recalled his brother trying to balance on two feet. He climbed upstairs with Betty on his tail.

“Careful, Charlie dear,” Betty said. He stepped forward, but his foot slid and he crashed against the wall. Instead of crying, he laughed. He approached Oliver and tugged the back of his navy shorts. Oliver noticed his brother pulling at him. He turned right around to see him start to fall. He caught Charlie before he could land face first. Oliver brought Charlie to his feet before Betty could lift him to her arms.

“You saved his fall. Thank you so much, Oliver,” Betty said.

“I should’ve saved him from his last fall,” Oliver muttered, “why didn’t I dive after him? So what if I fell? At least I wouldn’t feel this pain. It hurts!”

“Oliver, come quick.”

He turned to see Ellie dragging him down the back porch to the backyard. Tears fell out of her eyes as she led him to the trees.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Look.” She pointed. “That animal will attack the bunny. Can you save it?”

“I’ll give it my best,” he said. He jogged closer to the bunny. Ellie covered Alice and her eyes. He approached the scene where a bigger animal cornered the baby bunny. The baby bunny looked to run, but found itself surrounded and in a panic. The predator stepped forward, clawing it’s way to the bunny, hoping to enjoy a nice slow and painful meal. Oliver sprung in front of the animal. His daunting size scared the predator away. He lifted the bunny and handed her back to Ellie.

“You did it! You saved her. Oh Oliver, you’re the best!” she said.

Ellie evaporated into dust while an image of Lizzy replaced it. Oliver bit down on his lip and scrunched his eyes. “No, I’m not the best. I ruined everything. I ruined Lizzy.”

“Oliver?” Lizzy glided out on the cobblestone steps cute-as-a-button in her short-sleeved dress. White polka dots filled the top of her navy dress.

“Yes Lizzy?” he asked.

“What’s the city?” she said, sitting down beside him.

“A place. Lots of people live there. I don’t know much more than that,” he said.

“Why don’t we live there? Are there any other people around here?”

“I don’t know. I only know the people who live in our house; our family and the maids.”

“Who even are those people?” Lizzy asked.

“I wouldn’t know. I know as many people as you do.”

“Why do they even go to the city? We live here.”

“I do know Father has to work,” Oliver said.

“Why does he work?”

“To get money.”

“What does he need money for?”

“He needs money for our house.”

“Really? It’s not like anyone would ever take it away.” Lizzy laughed.

“Not for that, but for our toys. Or you know how sometimes a lamp breaks?”

“Yeah? So what?”

“Well, he uses money to purchase a new lamp. That’s why Mother goes with him. To go shopping for food and new things.”

“Oh,” Lizzy said, “I always thought he needed company.”

Oliver chuckled. “That too. From what Mother and Father have told me, I hear it’s quite a long drive.”

“Does he know any of those people in the city?” Lizzy asked.

“I wouldn’t know. I don’t know the answers to many of your questions,” he said.

“You look like you’d have more answers.”

“I wish I did. I wish I could answer all your questions.”

“Why don’t they ever bring us to the city?”

“I’m not sure. Though I went inside their vehicle. It wouldn’t fit all five of us kids, so we couldn’t go together!”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere without you!” Lizzy said, fading out of his memory.

“I don’t want to go anywhere without you either.”

He glanced at Lizzy. How will I bring you everywhere I go? Where am I going? So what if I find the city, what’s there? Who do I know? He huffed one more breath. No more images turned up and he fell asleep for a full night.

What’s that? What’s that sign say? I guess there are lots of places. If I stop at them all I’ll never make it anywhere.

Poof. Many snowballs battered his face. One smacked him right in the nose, sending ice across his face. Chunks dug into his nose, scraped against his cheeks, and cut his top lip before scratching his eyes.

He blinked some of the ice away, but other pieces stayed caught. He removed his mittens to dig the ice out.

“Ow!” he said, trying to snatch a petite piece of ice, but it dug deeper into his eyes. He wanted to close his eyes, but that caused more pain. He tried using his nails, but scratched himself. “Finally,” he said, removing one piece. He examined the piece. He rubbed his fingers and it crumbled to the ground. He fixed his mitten back on and went away.

Whoosh! Whiff! The wind caught his strides and sent them to the left. He began to tip over sideways. No! He stuck his boot into the snow, catching himself before he fell. The wind swept him to the path again. He clutched hold of Lizzy as winds dragged him across the snow.

He peeped in front. The distance seemed further than ever, though he stood further along than before.

He glimpsed at all the snow falling. Soon I’ll go uphill with all this snow. I better get a move on. The mountain used to have steep and smooth trails, but they gained many lumps and bumps. Several times when he peered out, he missed a lump and almost fell.

“Ouch!” A chunk of snow crashed into his boot. He attempted to scrape it, but only a few chips of ice came out. He perched down on a log and removed it.

He laid Lizzy away from falling snow. He removed his boot and flipped it to shake out the snow. He reached in his shoe and ridded himself of any more snow. A wind struck his murky foot. He cringed. He tried sticking his foot back in the boot. “This is freezing!”

“A-ha!” He unzipped the middle pocket of his backpack and drew out an extra shirt. He wrapped it around his sock and twisted his foot back in his boot. “That feels better.”

He turned to Lizzy. “If only everything felt better.” He sighed. He brought his eyes back on the backpack. “What else did I pack in here?”

He opened the top pocket and ducked his head inside. He moved past the other extra clothes and placed the plates and pots aside. He saw another pocket inside the backpack. He unzipped it, to which three crinkled pieces of paper appeared.

He unfolded one piece and stared it up and down, side-to-side. The paper had all the names and trails written small across the diagram of hills. He couldn’t locate where he sat, for none the fog covered all the signs. Green Acres, I remember that. Gee, it feels like forever since we went there.

“The map. If only I still didn’t feel lost with this. The end of this place is still so far away,” he said, folding the paper in fourths and placing it back.

He opened the other paper. “The sun garden.” He gazed at the sky and whispered to his grandma, “I’m sorry Grandma. You’re just one of everyone who I’ve disappointed. I would make your garden, but I’m afraid there’s no sun for me either.”

He placed the letter back and opened the final paper; the letter from his parents. He read it word for word. “How could I?” He shook his head. “They asked me to keep them safe, but I couldn’t even save one of them.” He let the snow hit the paper, crinkling it more. Why save the letter if I couldn’t save what mattered?

He folded and smushed all three notes into the pocket. He zipped the backpack and grabbed Lizzy. He ran from the log and along the pathway. He sprinted across the empty valley. He halted. What good could come out of this? There’s no more life for me to enjoy, especially not if I’m stuck on this haunted mountain. Oliver scoped around him in search of a way off. I had hope when this journey started but none of that matters anymore. There’s nothing to hope for, nothing to look forward to. I need to go; leave this mountain and everything it’s caused.

This time as he ran, no one could stop him. No one behind could tell him “wait.” Running in this storm made him a fool. The wind ushered him back and to the side.

The trees swirled. Half of their leaves fell and the others held on for dear life. With one big whoosh, all the trees combined and sent one large strike. The collection of wind hit Oliver with one force. Oliver jumped to avoid the snow, but in the air, the winds dragged his weight across. He extended his feet to avoid the fall.

“Will the skies ever turn blue?” Up above, he stared as the skies darkened. The sky filled with gray clouds. Snowballs fell out in almost every spot and many of them smacked his face. He peeked at the falling snow. He removed his hand from his face. Right as he did so, a snowball smacked him in the face. He lowered his face at the ground and wiped the ice and snow away. The irony made him cringe.

He felt ice ripple cross his cheek and form a cut with a red mark, stinging his cheek. Several other red patches scattered across his forehead and cheeks.

He grew weary of a snowball hitting him every second. He regarded the trees nearby. I best go under those trees.

Underneath the trees better suited him, but it also shared its down spots. The worst snow fell from the branches. The snow would fall and land on the branch getting stuck, but at any given time, it slipped off the edge. When it did, the snow fell together in a thick clump. Snow struck him from the tree several times. The first felt the worst. Snow fell as Oliver moved to the next tree. Splat! All over his face. He brushed off as much as he could, but didn’t try too hard. Even though the first struck worst, the next three annoyed Oliver more. After the fifth and final, Oliver had had enough and stormed off to the nearest shelter.

He tucked Lizzy in the back. Dents and cracks surfaced every inch of the cave. Its variant gray colors made it obvious that rocks built up the inside. He hit the wall with his mitten, though not hard, as he couldn’t bring himself to cause more pain.

Oliver went back out and stood in the snow. He made himself stand there and allowed the snow to pour on him. “I’m done! I’m done, I’m done! Finished! Anything to make this misery end! Please snow, let these be my final words, and then take me, take me from this world!”

He laid down in the snow and began waiting for it to cover him up. “It’s one thing to make a mistake,” he said, “but to only make mistake after mistake is brutal, especially when it costs everyone else but your life. TAKE ME TOO! I can’t live with the guilt anymore, or the pain, or the emptiness and being alone. I’ve traveled too long and too far! End it now!”

When the chill got inside him, he closed his coat back over himself. “Great! Thanks a lot! You take everything from me, but won’t take me! It’s more painful to sit in the snow and watch myself deteriorate. Now I have to live with all this forever! He stomped back inside the cave, but brought a pile of snow with him. Oliver moved it against the wall and out of his way. He seated himself and picked up a chunk of snow. Oliver wrapped it around in his two hands. Without having to glance, he formed a rounded circle. He examined it. He spun it in a circle and flipped it without spotting a mistake. If making a perfect snowball wasn’t a casualty anymore, he would’ve felt pleased.

He peeked at his watch. There’s no way I can sleep now. Might as well use this darn piece of snow. He tossed it between his two hands. After catching the snowball, he slid it under his mitten and tossed it to the other. He gazed as it floated between his two hands without one crumb separating. “If only I still enjoyed the fun of snow,” he said, whisking the snowball to the other end at the wall. It smashed to pieces.

He scooped another pack of powder. He rolled it into a ball without a second thought. He chucked it against the wall and it banged to the floor. He leaned forward to create another snowball. He grabbed it and arched it up, only so it could land in the snow pile.

He pivoted away and ignored the snow. He felt his eyes blinking slower. I should sleep soon. I need to sleep. Nothing crosses my mind when I’m asleep.

He lay on the rock and rested his head on the backpack. He wriggled his legs and lifted his arms, trying to find a possible comfort. The best way came from taking off his coat and putting it under his body.

Though it brought comfort, it also made him chillier.

Oliver attempted to force his eyes closed. He tried squeezing them as tight as they would go, but that made everything worse. With whooshing winds tearing his face, he remained awake. He shook his legs for they felt sore. He felt restless, but couldn’t sleep. His thoughts had returned, swirling into his brain and bullying him. He sensed his eyes wanted to shut for good, but constant thoughts wouldn’t allow him the rest he craved.

Half of his notions were, “I’m exhausted,” or “I need sleep.” Those feelings didn’t go far as they circled his brain. His other thoughts reminded him of past events. He blinked at Lizzy to make sure she remained with him, but every time he peered over, he was reminded that she wasn’t really with him. He couldn’t talk to her or even face her. He couldn’t help it. “I caused everything and deserve all the blame. There’s nothing more I can do, but I would do anything,” he said.

“What’s that?” Oliver leaned his head closer to the other wall.

The car still sat in the round driveway. He glimpsed as he saw himself follow his parents down the front stairs and to the bridge of their house. His mother ducked under the car.

“Don’t go. Quite the storm awaits,” he recalled himself saying.

“Oliver, I have a commitment,” James said, laying a hand on his son’s shoulder before going into the car.

Your commitment wasn’t that important. I should’ve dragged him with me. I would rather have them angry for a long time than any of this.

The car traveled through the vacant streets. Snowballs lashed the window at once, causing his father to veer into the tree. Oliver reached for the car, trying to move it back to the road, but he couldn’t reach. How could I have known they would crash, and everyone else would crumble after?

Oliver thought hard. I need to see them again, in the car, so I can stop them once and for all. The scene didn’t appear again.

“If only I had stopped them. None of this would’ve happened. I could lie in front of the fire and tell the story of the day’s adventure. Never would I have discovered how mean Ruth was. The snow would remain the most wondrous thing around. We could be comfy in pajamas, lying along the fireplace, and drinking cocoa. So much for taking those days for granted.” He sighed. “Is it all a dream? A constant dream of happiness? If everything feels this awful outside the snow palace, Mom and Pop did have good reason to keep us away.” Oliver placed his hands over his head.

“If Mother and Father had never left, then Jeffrey wouldn’t have banged against the brick and it wouldn’t have been necessary to leave. Jeffrey could have slept safe in our own home. Charlie could have fought his clumsiness and improved his jokes. The storm wouldn’t have caught Ellie and Lizzy, oh Lizzy, she would’ve never gotten sick. She would’ve stayed out of the snow and recovered before it got any worse,” Oliver said.

“How can everything seem so good one moment and in a flash, everything flips upside down? When I thought I did what I needed to do, I did everything wrong. If only, I could go back and change everything. If I had known what would’ve happened, I wouldn’t have let anyone down the stairs. Even if it meant suffering through Ruth to save everyone, I could’ve done it. We may have been miserable, but we’re more miserable without one another. I let them down, but they’re the ones who had to pay the price. This isn’t fair.”

Oliver slumped down and shook his head. “If only I acted like Jeffrey, I could bring the trains back to the station and start the journey over. If I read the situation like Charlie, I would’ve gone back to the beginning of the book and written it over again. If I thought like Ellie, I could’ve hidden through the winter as a flower and bloomed at the right time. And if I planned like Lizzy, I’d have a destination. I never knew where we traveled. I wanted to escape and that got us nowhere,” Oliver said. “I miss them, why can’t they come back?”

“I suppose good things only last so long.” Oliver huffed out a breath. This time when he shut his eyes, his brain shut as well.

Two weeks went by as Oliver remained hopeless. Nothing made him smile or laugh. He glimpsed at happier creatures as he strolled by, but their exuberance brought him despair. For nights he rolled around and stared at the black ceiling with no comfort.

Holding his sister the whole day became harder and harder. He peeked at her. I wish I could talk to her, but she’ll never respond. Should I sing her a song? No, my voice sounds awful in comparison. We share memories, but those are fading away too. No, I can never forget her. No matter what.

With no one but himself, he did nothing but stare out mindless and bored. One day I’ll wake up from this bad dream. Oh no, Charlie. I read too much of that Wizard of Oz book. Some days he sat and stared up at the sky, while on others he banged his head against any surface saying, “It’s all my fault.”

Not much changed over the two weeks. Oliver plodded along miserable, alone, and snow fell. Everything remained normal, except for some of the scenery in front had changed. For more acres than imaginable, lumps of snow stood in his way, but now he reached some greenery. Up front he saw bushes filling the sides of pathways. He could tell when he reached the greenery that he’d have several path options ahead. Yellow-green rows of plants and bushes headed straight down on one side, while another green assortment of bushes spiraled down the rest of the hill. Which path should I follow? Does it matter? I bet they’ll end in the same place.

The storm cleared up too late. Well, what a surprise. Snow stopped falling. The end of the world will arrive sooner than I thought. Too bad mine already ended. Winds blew, but no longer dragged him to-and-fro. Animals ran back out of hiding and fog had cleared up in recent days. Charlie, Ellie, Lizzy, and oh Jeffrey, they would’ve loved to see everyone appear on the scene again. We could’ve played games and celebrated.

Though with the fog gone, something did catch Oliver’s eye. Since he made it far down the mountain, he viewed something beyond the mountain’s land. Several tall gray and black peaks framed the highest end past the hills. They didn’t belong to more hills. He tried getting a closer look, but that made his view worse.

What are those? I bet it’s not much of anything. A plane? Or did Mother and Father fib to us with those fables? Well, there’s no way I can decide without a better view. When nighttime came he did decide on a cave. Tall, but narrow, it made an adequate space for a one-night stay. Oliver entered and placed Lizzy at the far end. He lay at the entrance. He glimpsed out at the darkened sky. For the first time in a while, he could see the midnight-blue sky turn pitch-black. Stars filled the blackness. A long time passed since he saw the golden-yellow shapes sparkle through the night. They illuminated the night, shimmering like all seemed well. Oliver gazed at them as he lay down. “Do they mean anything? If only something good could ever happen to me.” He breathed and his eyes shut. The night rode on into the morning. With another morning across unseen snow would come more unfamiliar sightings, but also one familiar thing…

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