Shadows of a Memory

A/N I'm writing this for an English class project, so if you could give critiques and reviews, I'd be very grateful. Thanks! Also, I'm not sure like the name, so if you could give a better one, that would be great.

The sky had closed. Patches of gray covered the once azure ceiling, permitting no ray of light to pass through. The occasional droplets , falling silently unto the surrounding ground, made no ceremony, no flair as they passed through the air before reaching the hardened wood masquerading as a makeshift platform.

"C'mon, Mikey!" A high-pitched voice beckoned to me. Pulled back to reality, I faced my addresser.

"All right, All right, I'm coming, James!" I said, breathlessly. Where in goodness name does he pull all his energy from? I wondered. His youth must provide him with some sort of miraculous store of vigor. Even thinking it to myself, I knew it to be untrue. At twelve years old, he was only four years my junior, I and could recall that, at his age, I was out of breath as often then as now. Walking faster now, I did my best to keep the pace at which my younger brother was able to maintain.

"I can't comprehend why you'd want to go on this ride, of all things, considering the weather." I said, bumping James on the shoulder. "If we don't drown in the rapids, we'll drown in the coming downpour."

"Cool story, Bro." Replied James, humorously mimicking my own tendency to say those exact words. "What, are you worried?"

"What? Me, worry? Don't be absurd." I said, gently bopping my hand against the top of his head, just brushing his short, orange hair. "Besides, I've ridden this several times before."

"You have? When?"

"O-On occasion." I faltered. It had been four years since I had first ridden, though hardly a few months since the last. "C'mon, are we going or not?"

Moving towards the end of the queue, pausing only to show the respective marks of ink on our hands to the young woman working the entrance, we stepped out onto the platform.

"Whoa! This thing is moving!" Stated James. Indeed, the floor had been built to fit with the theme of the ride, which, in turn as meant to feel as a though it were surrounding a watermill.

"It's a bit disorienting, I know. Just walk slightly to the left and you'll reach the boat… thing." I said, searching for the correct word to describe the circular boat moving slowly at the edge of the dock. It was moving with at a speed that was constant with the gyrating floor. Reaching the end of the dock, I assisted James into the boat before entering myself.

Stepping quickly moving boat, the fellow who stood at present to help us into the boat gave to us the pithy safety brief: Don't jump out of the boat, don't push anybody out of the boat, and don't stand up when the boat is in motion until you are instructed to do so. After he had finished, he left us to ourselves, knowing we both had an intelligence quotient in the positive numbers, and thus didn't need any more instruction. Almost immediately, my mind began to wander, remembering the first time I ever been on this ride.

"Well, what are you waiting for, Micheal?" She asked.

"All right, Autumn, I'm coming! Gracious, don't get your panties in a knot!" I replied, smiling. I looked to her, her bright face seeming even brighter in the light of the sun. "What's your hurry anyway, there aren't any lines, here. For most people, it's a school day, there's no one here to make lines."

"That doesn't mean you need to move at a rate of inches per year."

"Fine, fine, I'm coming." I said, almost laughingly. Autumn, for all her cheeriness, wasn't the most patient of people. She had wanted things as soon as she could get them, and my sluggishness wasn't helping her to achieve that. Moving quicker now, we reached the end of the line, stepping out onto the mill-themed dock.

"What the- the floor's moving!" I ejaculated.

"I know. Weird, right? You'll get used to it." She said. "Just move a few feet ahead of the boat, and you'll reach it just fine."

Moving as my friend had instructed me, I stepped carefully into the boat, and then sat down as soon as Autumn had entered herself. As soon as the man who gave the instructions was finished with his little spiel of not falling out of the boat, we moved, slowly but surely, towards the rest of the ride.

It's cold and raw, the north winds blow

black in the morning early.

When all the hills were covered with snow

And it was winter fairly.

As I was riding o'er the moor,

I met a farmers daughter

Her deep black hair and sloe black eyes

They caused my heart to falter

"What song is that?" I asked. It had a pleasant melody to it, something mysterious, and yet something enticing and pleasing.

"It's an old song, something my mother taught me, from the Emerald Isle." She replied. "It's called The Maid That Sold Her Barley. Just some song about a man who meets a girl and falls in love."

"Oh. Alright, then." I said, then falling silent. I looked at her as she moved her steep dark hair out of the way of her sloe-black eyes.

She looked back at me, possessing a genial look on her face. "Have you ever ridden this ride before?" She asked me.

"No, not yet." I replied timidly. "Mostly because I never really had a want to get soaked."

"And yet you agreed when I asked you." She said, cuttingly.

"Well, what are friends for?" I asked. "What kind of person would I be if I said no? You'd be force to go her alone."

She looked at me with a slightly contemptuous look. "Is that the real reason?" She asked. "Or is it because you yourself would be just as alone as I would be? After all, it's just you, me, and your father, and he's only here to make sure we don't kill ourselves." She said. "Well, that, and to make sure we don't partake in any illicit activities." She smiled.

"I should think that my father trusts us more than that. At least, he trusts me more than that. I couldn't say the same for you."

"Har Har" replied Autumn, sarcastically. Looking behind her, she noticed that we had nearly reached the start of the ride. "Ready to get soaked?" She asked.

I shuffled my fingers nervously. In all reality, I wasn't truly ready. I never really enjoyed getting soaked while I was still wearing my clothing. Then again, I'd never really done it before.

"I'm ready." I lied.

She looked at me confusedly. If anything could be inferred about Autumn, it was that she could sense a lie even before it was spoken. That is to say, her body could sense a lie, but her brain didn't always recognize the hints her nervous system gave her.

Not that she really had time to discern the falsity of my statement. At that moment, the boat lurched forwards, and we were moving down the rapids.

I bowed my bonnet very low

To let her know my meaning

She answered with a courteous smile

Her looks they were engaging

"Where are you bound my pretty maid

It's now in the morning early?"

The answer that she gave to me

"Kind sir to sell me barley."

"Really, Mikey? You choose now of all times to sing?" Said James, pulling me, unwillingly, back to reality.

"Sorry." Was my annoyed reply. "I didn't mean to space out like that." I said. Honestly, I had enjoyed remembering my time with Autumn. It had been years since I had last seen her, something that I still regret. She had been such a amiable person, and even now I wish that I had taken the pains to remain in contact with her.

I suppose you could say that I missed her. Actually, I guess you could say that I miss her now. She wasn't just a friend. She had always been there, always smiling, always ready to offer her advice, advice that I now wish I had given more heed to.

She was my best friend, and above all else, she was my first.

For most of the entirety of my life before I met her, I had made an effort to keep at a distance anyone who had attempted to acquaint themselves with me. Perhaps it was just my nature, but more likely it was some sort of fear of being hurt, some fear of being betrayed or hurt in some way. Autumn had unintentionally shown me exactly how wrong I was.

"Hey, Mikey, are you all right?" Asked James, concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I was just remembering the first time I rode on this."

"Oh? Why?"

"I taught me a few things." I smiled. I must have implied something, either in my body language or in the vagueness of my answer, for my brother's next question was such.

"Taught you things? Like what?" He challenged.

"Such as: You should probably duck now." I quipped.

At that moment, the boat lurched forward, spraying the both of us with a cool splash of water. James shivered from the cold while I snickered, good-naturedly, at him. Although I myself was now cold, I couldn't help but laugh slightly at his discomfort. Noticing that the ride had now given us a temporary reprieve from that last series of rapids, I took the time to look around. Despite the general dreariness of the weather, I could still feel the water in the air, occasionally tasting the individual droplets as they passed freely through the air. I could smell the pine from the trees that surrounded the edges of the ride.

"It's nice, isn't it?" I asked.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah, it's great." Replied James, who was trying to look around the upcoming corner. Peering forward, he saw that the next part of the ride consisted of some sort of tunnel. Nervous, he asked, "What's with the dark tunnel up ahead?"

"Oh, that!" I said. "It's not long, I promise. You just can't see any light in there because the exit to the tunnel is around a corner."

"Ah, Ok." He said, relieved. "It's just a bit dark in there, that's all."

"Don't worry, you just can't see the light from where we are now. Once you get inside, there'll be some light peeking in from around the corner, and right after that there's… Well, I'll let you find that out for yourself." I smirked. Of course, I didn't want to ruin the surprise for him, even if he would be angry at me for not telling him. It would be worth it, so long as he didn't infer it for himself.

"Aww, c'mon! Just tell me!" He said, flustered.

"Nevair!" I said, with a fake French accent, putting my finger up horizontally to the bridge between my mouth and my nose to indicate a moustache.

"Accursed French-man!" He said, humorously. "I shall destroy you!"

"Oh-hon-hon-hon! I zink not! Baguette, Jacques Cousteau, Gerard Depardieu, ordaire end methood!" Granted, that last one was more Belgian than French, but I thought it humorous anyway. Laughing, we began to pass into the tunnel.

"Now twenty guineas I've in my purse

And twenty more that's yearly.

You need not go to market town

For I'll buy all your barley.

If twenty guineas would gain the heart

Of the maid I love so dearly

All for to stay with me the nights

And love me then sincerely

I could hardly see Autumn, yet I could hear the sweeping melody all around me. The eerie tune captivating me, trapping me within its descant. I could do naught but listen to the siren's enticing song.

"Sorry." She said. "You aren't saying anything, did I make this awkward?"

"No, no, not at all. Actually, I didn't say anything because I was just so moved by your voice." I replied. Normally, when I say something like that, I said it only out of the common courtesy. When a woman says "I'm fat.", one is expected to disagree and point out that she is, in fact, very thin, even when she isn't. Naturally, it is then the other person's job to disagree and say that she is fat. Then she gets angry, and the man is then expected to sleep on the couch. In this case, however, I meant it entirely.

"Thank you, Micheal. I'm flattered that you think as much." She said, smiling. (At least, I assumed she was smiling.)

All at once, the sun reappeared, temporarily blinding me. When my vision readjusted I looked at the river ahead. I could see what was meant to act as steep cliffs. Although the 'cliffs' on the right looked natural, those on the left were suddenly cut short by the sidewalk, on which several people walked. Other people, standing at what appeared to be pedestals, perked up at the sight of our boat.

"Uh-Oh, is this the part where other people get to spray us?" I asked, looking leeward.

"Yup." Replied Autumn. "Let's hope their aim is off." She said.

"Fear not, fair maiden!" I said throatily. "I shall protect thee!" I shouted. Moving over to her side of the boat, I leaned over, forcing my body in front of her, as if to take a bullet.

I wasn't expecting the water to come from behind.

"Gaah!" We screamed simultaneously. Moving back to my own seat, I looked at her awkwardly. In my mind, I was wondering why I had done that. She must hate me now. I thought to myself. I stared at her, as she stared at me.

Then, all at once, we began to laugh. It was probably the most I had ever laughed in my laugh up until that time, and, for what seemed like the first time, I had someone to share it with. We laughed uproariously at what seemed like nothing, and we didn't stop until we had reached the lift that was meant to bring us up to the end of the ride. We had calmed down, and now the black flooring moving us upwards towards the exit by the virtue of its friction. Suddenly, the floor stopped moving up, probably so that the people working the ride would be able to load new people up ahead. I took advantage of the hiatus to address Autumn.

"That was fun, Autumn. Thank you." I said, earnestly.

"Thank me? For what?" She asked, genuinely confused.

"If you hadn't convinced me to get one the ride, I never would have had such a good time. So, thank you for that." I said.

"Oh. Well, you're welcome." She said. Then after a short pause, she smiled at me. A genial smile that veiled a sort of sincere happiness. Looking into her kindly face, I realized then that Autumn had shown me so much. She had shown me what it meant to have a friend. Someone to believe in, someone to have faith in. To have someone to hold close to your heart and never want to let go of.

Up until now, I hadn't wanted any of that. My own naivety had surpassed my own primal wants. I had stayed awry of something so wonderful out of a fear of something that wasn't guaranteed to happen. I was cowardly and a fool.

As we started to move up the hill again, I heard Autumn begin to sing again:

As I was riding o'er the moor

The very evening after

It was my fortune for to meet

The farmers only daughter

Although the weather being cold and raw

With her I sought to parley

The answer that she gave to me:

"Kind sir I'll sell me barley."