“The Forest at Dusk” by Yasmeen Tajiddin
The Forest at Dusk
The sun begins to crouch behind the trees as a man trudges down a forest path. With him, a once sobbing woman lies limp on his pale shoulders. Less than a mile ahead, the same man is walking down the path; although, then, he is a boy about to spill into adulthood (and he does not like it).
The man grasps the woman’s waist as if she can feel his cold, calloused hands, and he walks straight down the middle of the road with desperate determination. His knees buckle every few steps, and he can’t help but wish for home and youth: mostly youth.
The boy, now a shorter distance ahead, walks as if he has never seen a line. He drifts to each edge of the path and allows his toes to live in the wilderness before swaying back in the direction built for him.
The man, now panting, curses whoever is supposed to grant wishes, and they presumably curse him back as he fails to notice a rock lounging in the center of the road. His ankle bends in a way it never has, turning red and green with a tinge of blue. Instead of screaming, he inhales selfishly, pitches the woman to the ground, snatches the rock and hurls it with the rage that got him here. He refuses to be undone by anything he can hold in his hands. His face burns red, and he recites an apology to the trees and the heavily bruised woman.
The boy, tired of drifting, lays on the path watching the sky darken. He thinks vaguely of the future. A job of some sort, maybe cooking or teaching (he hasn’t quite figured that part out yet), but there will be a loft with fancy paintings people pretend to understand, and a wife and possibly children. Definitely children. As the sun pulls back its last few minutes of light, he closes his eyes and promises himself he won’t be one of those sickening people who speak to their children in the third person.
The man, just twenty feet away from the boy, jumps into the safety of the trees. He calculates the chances of this: another person on a path he thought was his alone. The rarity is almost enough to mask his dread. Knowing what must happen next, he takes a minute to marvel over the prospect of so much dead weight in one day.
Yasmeen Tajiddin is a student with a love of stories, whether she’s reading or writing them. She is passionate about theatre, photography, and food. Her work has previously been published in the Scarlet Leaf Review. She currently lives in Georgia.