For Those Who Run
Nobody laid flowers on Wen's grave much anymore. He didn't even have a proper headstone- just a plain cement block in the middle of the glade. Dmitri and I had once painted his name there, but it had long since washed away along with the ghostly wails that haunted the hollow the month following his burial.
It was a sticky summer afternoon when the two of us finally found time out of our busy lives to visit the hollow one last time before college. Dmitri and I left hand-picked wildflowers on Wen's blocks and quietly paid our respects to the one who had defined both our childhoods. We both cried a little, and Dmitri, through his tears, said that maybe, just maybe, if we dug far enough, Wen would still be alive; we'd dig and dig and find him in his tomb, and when we would he'd look up at us with a curious face and say "what took you so long?". It was nonsense of course: Wen was dead, and he had been for seven years now.
We left his grave hand-in-hand and slowly tracked down a dusty trail in nothing but our bare feet. We hadn't been down the trail in a long time. Once we had spent a whole week clearing it, and our hearts sunk then as we gazed upon the weeds and vines that choked it now. Neither of us said anything, though Dmitri gripped my hand a little tighter as the lake came into view.
It was just as I remembered it- a loch so murky that you couldn't even see your own reflection. It's a wonder we were so fascinated by it when we were young.
We stopped at the dock and dangled our feet off the edge, but were careful not to touch the water. When I was little, that fear was spun only out of the threat of crocodiles and sharks, and it was much later that I learned that the worst thing swimming in Kentucky's waters were catfish and the occasional snake. Now I just didn't want algae on my toes.
The lake may have been an eyesore, but it was always beautiful to us. We just sat in silence for a while, thinking. I suggested that we should try to find our canoe, but Dmitri shook his head.
"It's with Wen now, remember?"
I didn't, but I tearfully nodded anyway as Dmitri put an arm around me and rested his head on mine.
We had made the canoe the summer we had met Wen as a means to quickly cross the lake. Dmitri and I didn't think we had it in us then to carve a whole boat by ourselves, but two months of persistent labor proved us wrong. While it wasn't the prettiest vessel the world had to offer, it was ours. We had even taken the time to carve "S. S. Autri"- a combination of our names- into the boat's side. Though we thought the whole canoe idea to be a bit silly at the time, it came in handy before the end. Now it was hard to accept that it was gone forever.
The only relic that had survived the summer was the totem god Dmitri and I had whittled into the face of an old, old tree. We called her "Palisea", a winged antelope, the goddess of those who run. Palisea watched over Wen's Hollow and the Lakeside, and I knew that She could see us even then as we laid on our bellies, gazing across the water. We hadn't seen Her since the day that Wen was buried. Palisea alone was a testament to that summer… a mark to say that Dmitri and I couldn't be broken. She was the one thing that even Lark couldn't ruin.
"Race you there?" I asked.
"Please? We haven't been to see Palisea in forever, and I'd like to see Her one last time."
Dmitri thought about it for a minute, swaying his mop of hair from side to side. "You know I can't run like I used to."
I smirked. "Nobody said you have to win."
He smiled- a bitter smile, but a smile nonetheless. "Alright. You lead the way."