Fiction by: Jared Rand, Grade 12
Up in the north is a place that my parents called Sound Lake. We used to go there every summer when I was just a kid. I used to play on the beach while my parents watched me. I didn’t have a care in the world. This year, when I came back without them, Sound Lake was not as much a paradise as it had been.
My wife and I headed back to the minivan where we took out the flattened plastic circle. We stuck our bicycle pump into the little plastic knob in the side of the plastic and pumped, blowing it up until the boat was fully formed, bright yellow with a black rubber bottom. We carried it down to the lake together, grabbed our paddles and our lifejackets, and got into the boat.
As we paddled, I closed my eyes. The smell of dew and life and plants filled my nostrils, tinged with the smell of the lake beneath me. I divided the smells into individual odours, gathering the smell of roses, lilies and daisies to draw them in, through my body, empowering myself. I licked my tongue to my palate and tried to taste the smells. I don’t know why, but that’s something I’ve done since I was a kid. I don’t know how to describe it, but sometimes, when you close your eyes and focus really hard you can taste smells. I like to taste the smells of flowers. They tasted sweet that day, with a hint of bitterness from all the elements that surrounded them. I could taste the soft brown dirt around their bases, which nourished the plants and gave them life. I thought of my parents and opened my eyes.
Around me swirled the towering cliffs that are Sound Lake’s namesake. The echoing stone walls sang the noises of the surrounding life, amplifying them to a deafening din that penetrated the mountains around them. Distinguishable from the solid wave of noise coming from all sides was the sound of the life around. The birds chirping, cicadas buzzing, songbirds singing… I closed my eyes again and let the beauty of the life around me sink in. I thought about my parents and how they would never experience something like it again.
I opened my eyes again and looked around. I saw the cliffs again that I knew so well, tall, perfect for jumping off, crashing into the shimmering blue waves, letting the shards of light pierce my skin, the soft seaweed stroke and tickle my feet, the small fish swim around me. I thought about how I would burst out of the water, into the cool dry air, a soft breeze playing on my skin, tickling my neck so that I closed up like the turtles that sat on the shoreline. I remembered how I would look up at the majestic face of the towering cliffs, the deep grey, the soft brown hues, seeing the gnarled, ancient trees which spiraled out of the crevices in the rock face and admiring their startling beauty. Each leaf on the tree would be visible, each vine, each branch, and I would lie back in the water and stare because that was what one did at Sound Lake.
I thought about the trails above the cliffs, the hiking trails, lined with massive boulders hewn from the rock thousands of years ago by the glacier that once found itself trailing through here. I thought about the plants, green and bright, peppered with flowers of all different color, pinks and purples and blues and whites of all kind, some sprinkled with multicolored spots. I thought about the old wooden outcrops we would sit on, me and my parents, shielded from the hot yellow sun by towering evergreen trees, eating sandwiches as we looked out onto the winding lake. We would caw and yelp and listen to the sound bounce off the cliff wall, resounding out into the forest on the opposite shore. We would camp in that forest, green and dark and smelling of life and plants. And behind the forest, I recalled, far off into the distance were the ancient mountains which I had never been to. I would always marvel at them and wondered just what kind of magic lived on those mountains.
My wife and I stopped beside the cliff wall. Here were ocher paintings, thousands of years old, showing the hunt of the season, the bulls and aurochs leaping as humans chased them with spears. These were always the highlight of our trips here. I loved to sit and admire the paintings. I could see the past through them, the painted hunters trying to catch their painted quarry, and I felt deep and connected to the past.
I touched the rock. It felt strong and slightly wet beneath my fingertips. I could feel the power pulsing from within.
My wife and I got off the boat and walked on the wooden docks to the metal stairs. We ascended them in silence and walked along the trail. We got to the outcrop again. The old wooden boards creaked and groaned beneath my feet. I walked across the outcrop and grabbed onto the cracking old wooden railing, preventing me from jumping down the cliff. Splinters danced in the wind.
I closed my eyes and let my hair be pushed back by the wind. I listened to the leaves in the trees and ferns and bushes behind me rustle.
“Will?” my wife asked.
I turned to her and smiled. I ducked underneath the banister and jumped.
The world around me spun, blending into one.