the branches

The wind gusted outside the window, the last of the summer leaves were changing color and being stripped off their branches one by one, it made him feel melancholy. The boy’s fingers curled more tightly around his mug of warm cocoa, it must have been instinctual since the cabin was amply warmed, but watching the breeze made his bones shiver. His eyes fixated on his favorite tree and followed the intricate paths woven by its limbs, each leading to their respective ends. Some ended with crispy auburn petals, others with nothing, and occasionally he found one that ended with a dried flower bud clinging on, refusing to answer the call of autumn. He forgot how long he had been sitting… staring... alone in that apartment.

The cool silence of the evening was interrupted by the sound of a rattling muffler as a truck plowed through the gravel towards the house. He never went into the house, though there was little more than a flimsy wooden door between them. He talked to the family occasionally when they invited him for dinner, but mostly he stayed in the apartment, using his writing as an excuse.

The boy couldn't remember the last time he wrote, no thought found itself worthy enough in his mind to expel into the physical world, but he remembered them still. They might be important later. Replayed, analyzed, thought, rethought, examined, over and over and over, with a different outcome each time, like the branches on the tree.  One ran into another, then split off in two directions, then circled back… none of it made sense. That’s the thing about decisions, each one has a separate path, and once you start on it you don’t know where it leads or where it will end up. The boy liked the branches, he could see each one in excruciating detail.

The cocoa had gone cold, the lights in the driveway dimmed, and the golden hue of the sunset replaced with the icy reflection of the full moon. Had he sat there all day? What time did he wake up? What month was it? When was the last time he ate? He couldn’t remember. The boy blinked. He couldn’t remember the last time he did that either. He blinked again, water pooled at the base of his eyelids and blurred his vision. He quickly brushed it away with the back of his hand, wincing when the vertebrae at the base of his skull popped, as all joints do when they move for the first time in a long while. He craned his neck from side to side, surveying the room that was his prison, and his sanctuary. The soft light of the moon danced around the edges of the furniture, forming silhouettes that invited him into the darkness.

The boy looked back out the window, the delineation of the entwined branches now melded into a single, undefinable shape. He couldn’t see the ends of the branches anymore, the once-ordered network of foliage fell into chaotic disarray. There be some appropriate metaphor in there somewhere, he thought.

The moon was beautiful.

It shone brilliantly in the sky, beams of light filtered through the canopy, and he stopped thinking. He stopped looking at the branches. They didn’t matter anymore because what lay beyond them was so much more important, so much more satisfying.

The only thing he could think to do was get up and get his camera. His footsteps were silent, save for the muffled creak of the boards underneath the carpet. It was the first time he had pulled out his tripod. He had meant to use it before, but he just never got around to it. The sound of clinking metal echoed through the room like an ominous symphony as the right pieces locked into place.

*CLICK*

The aperture needed to be wider.

*CLICK*

The shutter speed was off.

*CLICK*

Still not enough light.

*CLICK*

Perfect.

The boy didn’t know what compelled him to take the photograph.

It might be important later.

It might be important later.