A Moment in Paradise

He stood on the edge looking down at himself. The illusion only betrayed by the occasional breeze caressing the surface of the water. The night sky rained down the light of stars upon the surface. Air bit the tips of his ears. Tightly he gripped his jacket collar against the thick red wool scarf beneath. Each breath forming whispers on the air before vanishing into nothingness. “I never thought I’d find this.” He said. “To think such beauties hid just beyond the beaten path.” Behind him a pot of beans boiled over a flickering fire. The cracking of embers filled him with comfort. Each moment more brilliant than the last. He couldn’t remember where it all began but to finally be here. Another note for the book, another day for the diary. He sat beside the fire on a piece of driftwood. Amazing to think that such a gorgeous thing could be crafted by the chaos of time. Beautifully finished and smooth to the touch. Years of erosion and the hunger of nature had stripped it to the barest of essentials. He reached into his satchel and pulled out a well-worn notebook. The leather-bound cover had scrapes and scuffs from decades of heavy use. Countless notes stuck out with haphazard order from nearly every one of its countless pages. The book grew in many dimensions over the years. Not simply front to back but layer upon layer. The air was lush with the rich fragrance of aging paper, leather, and photos. Chemicals married with chemicals creating a cocktail for the senses. That familiar sense of vanilla filling his lungs. Deeper into the satchel still he rooted around until he found it, his favorite pen. As a child he sat beneath the same tree every day. Within the comfort of its shade, he would contemplate the world beyond and how he would explore every corner. Little did little him realize how large his future would become. Before he left on his adventures, he removed a branch from the tree and carved from it the shell of his pen. Nautical themes garnished the rich polished wood, metal adornments that had patinaed over decades of loving use. That same pen journeyed with him across fiery mountains and frigid tundra. It has seen more corners of the world than a great many even know exist. Like him it has become worn, like him it has grown to celebrate its scars. Life carries a deep weight but with some practice, he found, it could be hauled like anything else. Flipping through the book he smiled at all the journeys that had come before. All the miraculous sights he had seen. The earliest of which had not photos but drawings, the best approximation he managed to what he had seen. He laughed at a few, truly he was not born an artist. But with time the doodles had taken on a life, a character, and he wouldn’t trade them for all the skill in the world. At times he swore he saw them move. The beans grumbled from beneath the pot lid. He turned to them and placed a finger to his lips. “Shh. You’ll be in my belly soon enough, enjoy the moment.” He returned to the notebook and continued flipping. Finally, he reached it. Beyond the dozens of photos, beyond the hundreds of notes, and beyond a few tattered pages, one of the greatest treasures: a blank page. A tabula rasa waiting to be adorned with another beautiful adventure. “So how will I describe you?” He asked, glancing out at the crystal lake before him. Standing at the edge he had peered down into the infinite abyss. He had heard stories of this lake in his travels. A lake in the middle of an endless forest. It is said that if you were to drop a stone within its maw that stone would fall until the ends of time. And yet, the legends say, those who reached the bottom would bring back with them endless treasures. “How does one reach the bottom of a bottomless lake?” He asked. The wind, if it knew, was not giving him many clues. It rustled the trees and chilled his nose, but answers it lacked. He glanced around him at the frigid and dewy trees. Evergreens that lived their lives and names to the fullest. Enormous trees that swayed in the breeze but did not break. It was, in a word, serenity. All alone far from the vaguest semblances of society. Just him, his thoughts, and soon a warm bowl of brown sugar and beans. He had nothing against others, but the life of an adventurer is a hard one. To ask that of another requires truly a different kind of spirit. One he had not yet met. But when that day comes. If that day comes. He was ready to welcome it with an open heart and a smile. Half a page of scribbles and he knew it was time. The pot was grumbling now like an angry Moose in mating season. He didn’t dare to deny its calls a second further. With a grace one would not expect of a man of his stature, he whipped out a bowl and a spoon. Scooping the beans into it without missing a single drop. Immediately he knew he had perhaps made too much. He glanced down at his stomach. “Tonight, you might be going on an adventure of your own. Don’t hate me too much.” With a smile he sat back on his trusty wooden bench and lifted up a scoop of beans to his mouth. Just before he chomped down a realization crossed his mind. He was being watched. One might expect in such a dark place, alone with a spoonful of beans, that he’d feel fear at such a realization. But he didn’t, no, he felt something a great bit more powerful. Something that makes his heart flutter a thousand times harder than a missed grip on a mountain climb. Sitting before him, he glanced down at a small creature. No taller than the length of one of his feet. Well, that is, if you discounted its antlers. The creature stared at his spoon with eyes as wide as the sky. The deep depths of which shimmered in the firelight but otherwise were as deep as the void. The creature’s fur speckled in browns of many varieties and where it wasn’t brown it was a snowy white. “A Calico?” He said. “No, that isn’t quite right. What are you my little friend?” The creature flipped its long fluffy tail back and forth, slapping it against the ground with each rotation. Left and right, lifting, falling, slapping. A faint grumble carried from it. He was not worried by this little creatures grumbles however. Because the noise was coming from a fair bit further south than its mouth. “Ah! Hungry.” He laughed. The creature took a single step back at the loud boisterous chuckle. “Oh, my apologies little friend. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He leaned down with the bowl of beans and held it towards the little creature. “I fear that I don’t know what you can eat. But I imagine anything is better than nothing. Would you like to try some?” As if it teleported the creature’s face was buried into the bowl. It chomped with fervent joy. Each bite mirrored with a jolly growling sound. While it ate, he stared at it. Occasionally the creature’s antlers would hit the side of the bowl and nearly knock it out of his hand. “You look so much like a cat, if not for those.” He put down the bowl and reached for his notebook. “I think.” He reached for his pen and smiled wide. “I might have found you.” In the distance, beneath the cover of thick brush. A pair of pearly black voids shimmered in the moonlight. Staring at the pair, unblinking.