To get back to the stream from the mountains and through the forest. Back nearby the old small house where incense sometimes drifted from the windows. Back to the place where she would float on top of the water. Where she would skip stones across the flat surfaces of side pools of water that collected off the main path.

To get back, she needed to walk a very long time. It took days. As she kept to the path burned into her memory. Yes, this tree and that rock and that scraggly bush. As she kept walking, she couldn’t be sure, but it was the feeling as though someone was following her. Yet, every time she looked back, there was nothing. Just air. Sometimes wind blew through the trees during those moments as if to laugh at her vigilance. But there was nothing there. And so, she continued.

Climbing over large boulders. Dodging low-hanging branches from fallen trees still growing. Dust piling up under her fingernails, her feet. And sometimes it was simply to hot to be in areas with direct sun. She found shelter under jutting rocks, bushes and waited until the ground didn’t burn her feet any longer. During these times, thd coolness of the rock and the warmth of the air from the sun made her sleepy. She often nodded off in these moments.

Walking steadily, she listened attentively for the sound she madeas she moved. She paid so much attention to it that it was hard to distinguish what was outside those steps. Everything wrapped itself together, blending into a cacophony of little sounds. In the moments where she heard a twig behind her snap, she had to ask herself five times is this truly outside of me? before turning to meet nothing. Anticipation building so that every turn seemed to be the one where she would catch it. 

She felt sure of it. So sure that she let the feeling creep up closer and closer. Raw and palpable like she could feel its breath or the warmth of skin. She lowered her eyes during these times and walked slowly. Her breath was slow. Slower still. Deeper. And instead of everything tightening to brace herself against the interaction. She let go further and further. Each release was dizzying and though her heart sometimes raced, she slowed. Occassionally to a halt. Then the five questions and she turned.

Again, nothing. But somehow that felt like a victory in it of itself.

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