The air bore its cold tolerably, only ocasionally releasing the freezing wind forward to invade underneath the vulnerabilities of the jacketed students crisscrossing back and forth across the quad. He, however, took no mind to weather patterns or massed humanity scurrying about, as he maneuvered his hulking frame past the frenzy.
He was alone as usual. His roommate had gone home for the weekend again, weighing the comforts of home far greater than the uncertainty of a weekend spent subsisting on generic ramen and the finest in stupid online videos. His roommate also had the luxury of a 30 minute drive towards comfortable domesticity, much more tolerable than the four hours he had. He had originally considered losing himself in the dark of the theater watching whatever the hell would blow up stuff best but his empty wallet spoke louder.
It couldn’t have been more than 6:30, 7:00 in the evening as he had stepped out of his residence hall (dorm rooms apparently the common parlance of poodle-skirted pasts, judging from the quick correction he had received from his tour guide during freshman orientation), but the sky was already fitted with a sheet of black, broken only by the ocasional firefly of light provided from the few remaining buildings he passed on the way off of campus. Traffic was light as expected as most had already committed to their course of action for that Friday night, and it wasn’t long before he could convince himself of his fortitude in surviving apocalyptic endtimes.
The campus opened up to country backroad so that streetlight soon became more like wish fullfillment than reality. Still, he maintained the same pace as he had before, stopping only ocasionally to take a sip of the tea from the tumbler he had brought with him. He heard the strains of a psalm as he passed by the local baptist church but paid no heed to the welcome of its spare notes, his soul having long since felt like a childhood blanket shrunken from age and misuse. It wasn’t until he felt the dark invading his senses that he pulled up by a lone stop sign marking the only clue that civilization had ever passed the fancy of this part of the landscape.
The loss of perspective was profound as the woods threatened to advance on his position from all sides. It was only with the passing of the ghostly shape of some animal’s frolic in the periphery of his vision that he happened to spot the opening of the small clearing about 10o yards deep from the roadside. Venturing forth, he found himself arriving in an area no more than perhaps a hundred feet in any direction. He breathed deeply, inhaling the sweet scent of pine and wild isolation. Ignoring the potential for chill’s introduction, he removed his jacket, setting it opened upon the grass. He sat down upon it, feeling the ground give ever so much under his weight. At first, he stared straight up into the dark, momentarily lost in the effect. Soon, silence matched blackness’ direction, and the effect was so powerful he was immediately overcome by a sudden eruption of despair, the tears staining the front of his sweatshirt. His sobs continued long after the tears stopped, and it was only when he shut his eyes that he found he could take the deep breaths necessary to wrestle his way back into some kind of control.
It was upon opening his eyes again that he noticed the tree in front of him for the first time. It was unremarkable save for the large chip of bark taken off its side, like a shave interrupted. A glance at the others around showed no indication of sharing in this particular tree’s predicament. The tree otherwise appeared no worse for wear, towering at about the same height as the others he was surrounded by. He stared for a few moments, slowly nodding his head as he did so. He got up, grabbed his jacket, and walked to the base of the tree. He reached for the inside pocket, and with a few clean motions, ripped it from the rest of the material. He leaned down, found a small rock and carefully weighed down the jacket piece directly at the foot of the tree. He stepped back from the base, admiring his handiwork for a moment before turning around and walking back out the clearing, his footsteps fading away as a gust of wind ever so slowly swayed the branches.