A Trail of Footprints

I am not sure what woke me up, but I soon find myself laying in my hammock and staring up at the darkened ceiling of the tiny shack. Faint flickering shapes of dim orange dance slowly across the ceiling, the fading remnants of the fire that is still lingering in the fireplace. I debate getting up to put on more wood, but I am warm and the room is still tolerable. Outside it is cold, but not overly so. Our little shack should stay plenty warm enough until morning, and judging by the fact that the fire has burned down as low as it has tells me that morning isn't far off.

No, I shall stay under my warm blankets and wait until the cold begins to nip at my nose.

I shift around, looking for a more comfortable position and for a moment I am ready to fall back to sleep, but then I realize that something is amiss. There is a draft that was not there before and something else is different, but I can't seem to put my finger on it.

Oh, that is what is wrong.

Your hammock is hanging limp and empty, and it is swaying gently in the breeze coming from a window that has been left slightly ajar.

I shift again and lay there staring at the empty hammock and open window. What is it now that has made you dart away again?

Eventually, curiosity gets the better of me and I crawl out of my hammock, pulling my blanket around my shoulders and moving to the open window. I lean against the icy frame and peer out of the frosted glass. It is then that I spot what has pulled you out of a warm bed in the middle of the night.

High above, the moon is hanging full and luminous. It is a sight to see with the silvery light glinting off of the frost that has coated everything in sight. You always were a sucker for a moonlit night.

I sigh and drop my chin into my hands. Outside, stark against the frosted grass, a trail of footprints leads away from the window and out into the woods beyond. As if I needed any more evidence to tell me what has happened to you on this fine chilly night. I shake my head in disbelief and slowly begin to reach up to close the window against the cold, but I stop when I hear the softest of sounds coming from outside.

It is the sound of brush rustling and of jogging footsteps. You are on your way back. I leave the window open, carefully put one small log on the fire, just because I am already up, and then quietly climb back into my hammock. I shall let you think that you have gotten away with your little midnight escape.

I am once again safely beneath my blanket in my hammock when I hear you climb back through the window. You are careful not to make too much noise and I grin to myself. I can almost feel you looking at me to see if I am awake. I remain still and wait until I hear the soft creak of your hammock as you climb into it. I wait until you are settled in and probably quite proud of what you believe to be a successful nightly escape. Only then do I speak.

"Another escape night… You know how much that scares me… Perhaps I shall start locking the windows… I am glad you're safe."

I know that I sound miffed, but I think that you deserve at least a little bit of it. You have been off lately, drifting in and out of daydreams. Several times, earlier that day, you had stopped me to ask where we were in relation to our cabin. You had seemed so confused looking that I worried that you would get lost if I didn't start to pay attention to you and make sure that you were still behind me. Your nightly excursions could be deadly on a night like tonight if you got lost.

You quietly make your apologies, explaining a fact that I already know well. The night was beautiful and the moon was calling. You had to answer it. You just could not resist the pull.

I sigh softly, comforted by the fact that you had not gotten lost on your outing, at least not that I know of, and leave the conversation where it stands. I know that you need your time alone. I know that you have things that you have to deal with in your mind and sometimes the cure only comes from running freely through a chilly moonlight filled night.

And then comes your voice, barely heard in the tiny room, but just loud enough for me to hear.

"I love you more than any fantasy or full moon."

I melt at the words, because they are just what I need. They say everything that I have been hoping, for I do not want to lose you to your daydreams or nightly wanderings. I am not forgotten. I am still your best friend. I am still loved. And that is all that I need to know.

This story was written in response to a story that my friend wrote. I am thinking of maybe asking to put that story up on my page with a notation saying who wrote it. If you would like to read the story that inspired this one, please let me know. The more feedback I get, the easier it will be to convince my friend to put up the original.

Thoughts? Opinions?