The darkness became deathly quiet. The woods became so silent that he could hear the moonbeams making noises as they pierced between branches and leaves.
His footsteps stopped for just a moment as he thought he heard a voice coming from just beyond the next hill. There was a light coming up from behind the trees.
He reached into his pocket and took out his flashlight now that it was too dark to see without some artificial light to surround him. On the ground, a frog leaped away when the light covered his back. The rocks along the path almost glowed as he followed them up the hill.
From the top of the hill he could see a small wooden shack. There was a small light on inside. He doubted that he would find her there, but maybe they would know where she was or if she had passed by here at some point. After all, it had been almost seven days and there had been no sign of his wife after she left the last ranger station.
He knocked on the door and the door opened slightly and silently. He thought for sure there should have been a creak, but not a noise was made. He knocked again on the door and it opened just slightly more.
“Hello?” he asked politely.
He walked over to the side window and peeked into the living room. There at the table sat a woman. She had dark hair, just like his wife. The same exact color and cut. His heart skipped a beat and he put his hand to his chest.
“Sara?” he whispered to himself, trying not to get his hopes up.
His mind raced wondering if it could really be her. His hands braced his stumbling walk as he made his way back to the front door. He pushed the door open and said her name again, “Sara.”
“Ron? Ronny, is that you…?”
“Sara! Are you ok? Where have you been? What are you doing way out here? How did you find this place?”
“Ronny! I don’t know. I think I fell and hit my head. I’ve been out walking around for quite a while. I think I just keep going in circles.”
Ron had slowly made his way toward her. His hand touched her shoulder and she slowly turned around. There was dry blood on her forehead.
“It looks like you did hit your head. You have blood on your forehead. Are you sure you’re feeling ok? You’re not feeling dizzy at all?”
“I feel fine, I guess. No different than yesterday or the day before. I’m just a little more confused and shook up than anything.”
“Are you hungry?” he asked politely. “I can find you something to eat in here.”
“No, I’m ok. I tried eating and I’m just not hungry. I seem to have lost my appetite…and my sense of taste. Everything tastes so bland.”
“Don’t worry about all that. I’m sure all your senses will come back once we get you to the doctor and have you checked out.”
“I don’t want to go, Ron.”
“I know you don’t like doctors, dear, but you need to at least let them take a look at you. You have quite a gash on your head. There could be more damage than we can tell just by looking at it.
Ron was searching the kitchen for a wash rag or some towels to clean the wound with.
“It’s not that,” she said quietly, “I don’t want to go back. I’m not happy.”
“Not happy? Why are you not happy?”
“Things haven’t been good for a while, Ron. You and I both know that. I don’t want to go back to a life that I’m not happy with. I would rather stay out here forever than go back to an unfulfilling life of mediocrity.”
“An unfulfilling life of mediocrity? We have a good life! We are living the American dream. We have everything we could possibly want…”
“Everything except happiness. Everything except kids. Everything except each other anymore. We live together, but we aren’t together. We haven’t been for a while. You have work. I have…well, I have nothing. I have loneliness. I have unfulfillment. I have a void that keeps growing each and every day of my life.”
“That’s not true!”
“It’s all too true, Ron. It’s very true. And you would know that if you were home once in a while. If you would stop to just ask me how I’m doing and what I was feeling – you would know it is all too true.”
Ron stopped looking for a rag and turned around slowly to see her sitting distraught in her chair.
“I’m sorry. I never knew.”
“No. You didn’t.”
“Well, let’s get you home and I’ll fix things. I’ll be better. I’ll work harder…”
“I know you’ll work harder. You’ll work harder to make more money to buy more stuff. I don’t want more stuff Ron. We already have enough stuff.”
“I mean, I’ll work harder at us. At us, Sara. I’ll turn things around and make it all better.”
“You can’t make things better. It’s too late for all that. It’s too late to fix things. This isn’t an ‘ask for forgiveness’ situation anymore. It need preventative measures. And the time has past for that. You had your chances. You had your opportunities. You had your choices, and you chose poorly over and over and over again.”
“It’s never too late! We can fix this. Let me get you cleaned up.”
Ron turns around again and starts looking through cabinets to find a rag. He finds one in a drawer and turns the water on. He feels the water as it goes from cold to warm.
“I will fix this, Sara. I promise I will.”
A tear slides down her cheek. She ignores it as it falls into her lap.
“The water is warm now. Here, let me get that cleaned up for you.”
He douses the rag with warm water and then wrings out the majority of it, keeping it damp enough to liquefy and wipe the blood away. Ron pulls a chair from the table and sits in it, facing Sara. He puts his hand on her face and brushes her crimson stained hair to the side.
“Your face. It’s so cold. Do you want a blanket or a jacket? I’m sure I can find you one in here somewhere.”
“I’m sure you could. I’m ok. I don’t feel cold at all.”
He takes the warm rag and pats the dried blood streams. A little more comes off of her face with each contact.
“How is that feeling? Is the warm rag helping at all?”
Sara turns her eyes down. She begins to sniffle and cry.
“I’m so sorry, Ron. I’m so sorry for everything!”
“It’s ok dear, we’ll get this all fixed up. We will work together and make this all better. We can do this! We can do it together!”
“I don’t think we can, Ron. I don’t think we can…”
Ron keeps wiping at the blood. More and more comes off still.
“Let me know if this hurts.”
Sara keeps sobbing.
Ron finally gets all the blood wiped off, and looks at her forehead in slight shock.
“What is it?” Sara inquires. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Baby, there is no wound. Not a scratch or a mark on your head.”
She looks as baffled as he does.
“I don’t see a anything. Are you sure you hit your head? Maybe you hurt your hand and wiped your head or something? I’m just not seeing a mark or wound or anything…”
“I don’t know!”
“I’m not blaming you, honey. I’m just stating a fact. It’s ok. It’s going to be ok.”
He sets the bloody rag down in the sink and takes her by the hand.
“Are you ok to stand up? Are you able to walk?”
“I can walk. Let’s just take things slow.”
Sara stands up slowly and Ron is extra careful to make sure she doesn’t fall over. Her first step is a little wobbly, but then she gains more strength with each passing moment.
By the time they get to the front door, she is walking on her own without the need for Ron’s stability.
“You can let go now,” Sara says to Ron quietly, “I’ve got this.”
Ron slowly releases her hand and he opens the front door for her. She stands still staring out into the darkness. Voices are heard outside. Other people from the search party are calling out his name.
“Ron! Ron! Where did you go? Ron!”
Ron stands in the doorway and turns around to see Sara still just standing there.
“They are here to help! We want to help you…”
Ron turns around and walks towards the voices and lights.
“We are over here! Over here guys! Over here!”
Ron sees Jacob running down the hill at him as fast as he can.
“Ron! We have been looking all over for you…”
“It’s ok, Jacob. I just…”
As Ron turns around, he sees nothing but forest. There is no cabin, no light, no table…no Sara.
“Ron. We found her. I’m so sorry, Ron. She’s just over that way about a quarter of a mile. She…she shot herself in the head, Ron. It isn’t a pretty sight. The entire corner of her head is gone. I’m so sorry.”
Ron falls to his knees weeping in agony.