Living In Shadows
By Peter Baltensperger
Had it not been for the wrinkle in a cosmic interlude, Richard wouldn't have heard the thunder. He was running through a dimly-lit forest without direction, wolves somewhere in the distance, the trees forbiddingly close. Mere suggestions of a late afternoon sun were dripping through the thick canopy of leaves, slanting distorted shadows of monsters across his path. The forest kept flinging bushes and brambles in his way, dangling branches, thick roots, fallen trees, yet he kept running even though he didn't know why or what from.
He was circumventing an ancient swamp full of skeletal trees when the indistinct figure of a woman in a black cape and hood on a white steed differentiated itself from the trees somewhere far ahead of him. He tried to force his mind to focus on the unexpected redemption, but his thoughts were too blurred to comprehend the significance. At least he had found a purpose, yet the faster he ran, the further the woman receded into the forest, slipping through his fingers right in front of his tired eyes.
On the other side of the wrinkle, the sun was always shining from an undisturbed sky, his office window glistening. He was sitting at his mahogany desk, his shadow motionless in front of him, trying to advance his career, thinking of forest monsters instead. The image of the woman was always at the back of his mind, but he couldn't make her come any closer, no matter how hard he tried. The sun kept shining in through his window overlooking the city, yet his mind kept dwelling on the darkness, the thunder.
He was running across an endless steppe, a herd of wild horses drumming the parched ground. The woman on her white steed was galloping in the distance, her black cape flying behind her, a marker in his wilderness. The high sun kept throwing black shadows in front of him, glinting off hoofs, desert glass. His eyes were aching in the burning brightness, his vision blurred with desolation, images of destruction, the woman a distant mirage in the confusion of his afternoon.
The shadow on his desk shivered, refusing to answer, even though he kept shuffling his papers, focusing his bleary eyes without seeing, even though he kept running. The papers never held still enough to comprehend their meaning, or the forest or the steppe. Only the sun was a constant, deceptive as its shadows were. He could have found the answers if he had looked in the right direction, if his mind had not been preoccupied with peripherals.
In a different forest, the woman in the black cape and hood was waiting by a quiet pond, her white steed lapping the fresh water, their reflections telling duplications. The sun was glinting off the calm surface, casting soft shadows across the pond, the thunder but a distant threat to what didn't exist.
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Peter Baltensperger is a Canadian writer of Swiss origin and the author of ten books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His work has appeared in print and on-line in several hundred publications around the world over the past several decades. He writes, and has been writing all his life, because he has to and loves to do it, and because it adds a significant dimension to his personal quest. He makes his home in London, Canada with his wife Viki and their three cats.
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