All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
A single, delicate leaf, dyed a brilliant myriad of red and orange hues, floated down through the cold air, thrown to and fro by a sharp wind in heavy snowfall. Drifting, sliding through the air weightlessly, it eventually sunk into the ground, and in mere moments it was buried beneath the snow and the ice.
And with that, the last of the autumn redness was gone.
The house had been built atop a low hill in a lonely valley, many miles from the company of city folk. It was tall and grey. Bits of concrete crumbled away from its ledges. A lawn stretched out around it, with splotches of shrivelled brown grass seeping through the green. A line of luxury cars extended along the single road that led past the house.
Inside, guests bustled about. They sat upon dusty chairs and stood by old stone walls, clothed in shades of black, sipping from cups of burnt coffee and stale tea. They had conversations amongst themselves, quietly gossiping about the old man. The children vaguely stared at the bright glow of their phones, restless.
Frank sat alone by the window, distanced from the others in his ragged old armchair. He gazed through the glass, making out what little he could through the thin layer of winter frost.
He watched a lone owl, as it remained silently nestled atop the old, mottled oak in his backyard. It sat upon the branch, quiet and bold and resolute. Its glossy eyes stared back into his own. He thought about the woman who had died. He’d loved her, and she was about all he’d loved. Now she was gone. Frank wondered if the bird might possess such sentiments.
He was exhausted, and he’d been sitting for too long. He wheezed hoarsely as he pulled himself up, and tired old joints creakily began to pull against one another, like rusted machinery. His step was heavy, his stride long, yet his legs shook slightly as they moved. The shadow of a once strong and regal man. He slowly made his way through the hallway, pushing past the other mourners as he approached the back door.
When he stepped out, he pulled out his old silver zippo and lit a cigarette. The hot, black smoke charred his insides as he stood shivering in the wind and the snow. He let out a puff and coughed heavily into a handkerchief. It was stained a deep crimson. Not much longer, he thought bitterly. Frank turned around, and peered back into the house.
It was full of strangers, family only in blood. He’d had enough. Enough of the phoney, sycophantic hypocrites that invaded his home and hid sneers behind fake smiles. Frank had only hoped to have some time alone to say his goodbyes, to bid a true and honest farewell, one without the empty, thoughtless interactions that his offspring brought on. But even that, it seemed, they would not allow. They had their good manners and their etiquette and their reputation to think about.
There was simply no time for mourning.
Behind him, the door slid open. Leather soles crunched against snow. Frank grunted quietly as he glanced over his shoulder. A beautiful, albeit older, woman approached. She watched him, her icy blue eyes curious.
“How’re you doing, Frank?” she asked. Frank sighed.
“Just… just fine, I think.”
She turned and put a hand on his arm, a suggestive grin creeping over her face. Frank pulled away, disgusted. He growled and walked away. He heard receding footsteps and the glass door slammed shut once again.
Alone again, Frank stared at the trees in the distance, saw nests with bundles of eggs waiting to hatch beautiful little creatures that would soar the skies gracefully and sing wonderful birdsong. Eggs that would likely be devoured by some hungry predator. But that was nature, and at least nature was honest. It never hid behind pleasantries, never claimed to be something it wasn’t, never deceived.
Over the years, Frank had become tired of engaging in such practises, but he did so all the same. He smiled and laughed, and he spoke the words of liars, of men with broken spirits. He welcomed the hordes of supposed family, none of which had for him anything but indifference or hatred, shrouded by a thin veneer of warmth.
As Frank thought about her, about how today would be the last time he ever saw her, he realised just how much of his life had been wasted. How much had been spent either killing or dying, barely ever living. There had been so few, fleeting moments of happiness, scattered amidst the pain. And now there was only enough time left to wait for the end. Only time to regret, to be angry. No time for friends, or joy. Time had passed, came and gone like a drifter in a country town, and Frank hadn’t even realised.
But Frank had had enough. And it was in this exact moment, when his last true reason to live was gone, that he knew. No longer would he please the others. No longer would he smile a fake smile, or laugh a fake laugh. He was done living for them.
Finished, he thought. He dropped the cigarette, stamping it out.
From his throat came more hoarse, burning coughs. Tiny flecks of blood sprayed out through the air. Frank’s throat was aflame. He dropped to one knee. He was alone. No one came. No one even noticed. But he didn’t care. He expected nothing from them. Frank dragged himself up, and looked back at the house. One last time.
“Ah, to the hell with you all.” he mumbled between fits of bloody coughing.
And then, he walked away.
Frank shuffled on, trudging through the snow, quietly watching all around him. As the hours slipped by in a haze of rain and fog, he gazed upon the hills and the forest and the snow as it slowly piled up over the grass. It was cold and harsh, but Frank didn’t care. At least he was finally alone. Alone and free.
Eventually, when he was too exhausted to go on, when his feet killed him with every step, Frank dropped. He sunk into the snow beneath him, and it had become deep. He let out more throaty coughs, and fell to his side. Thick, bloody saliva stained the still purity of the snow. Frank’s body was weak and tired and rotten, but at last, he had peace.
He gazed up at dark skies. The snowfall had become light, the wind gentle. As he lay there, the light of a newborn dawn began inching up over the horizon, the nebulous glow tinting the entire night sky, turning blackness to a deep, regal blue.
He looked around, saw the world. It reminded him of her. The gentleness, the quietness of the snow on the leaves. The light whistling of the birds. The scamper of squirrels over a rough old tree trunk. His coughs slowly died away and as he looked to his right, he saw something beautiful in the snow. Frank smiled, and then he was still.
There lay a brilliant red autumn leaf.