I left early the next morning, walked up the road that climbed the hillside, and followed the winding route below the mountain. The day was milder, but the oblique sunlight, the woodsmoke tang of rotten leaves, brought hints of winter's approach, and the wind stung my healing face.
When I came to the spot where I had found myself the day before, I was tempted to return home. The wind in the pines hissed like a tide retreating on a hidden shore, and the scuttling of the leaves on the dirt road made me think of something dead that struggled into life. A lingering, indefinable dread had seeped through my mind and it darkened everything around me.
The few farmhouses along the route were boarded up and empty. Staghorn sumac and hawthorns had spread across the fields; grey stalks of burdock and milkweed bristled on ragged lawns. I remembered how, as a child, I could see the sparse lights from distant farms at nightfall, or hear the faint barking of a neighbour's dog; these nights, the fields and hills were black, and the silence gave way only to the baying of the wolves.
On the far side of the mountain, the driveway to the Rexdales weaved through a forest of gaunt maples and cedars until it reached the house, a white, one-storey building with a broad bay window that faced a long and narrow clearing. The surrounding woods were bleak: the scarlets and the orange-reds had faded to a dull copper, and the shimmering yellows of the aspen trees were spectral in the slanting light. Yet thanks to my maintenance work, the house felt unabandoned -- an illusion that died as I peered through the bay window at the empty living room.
I studied the house, hoping to spur recollection, but nothing came to me. The western sky, pale blue with a streak of cirrus, brought nothing to mind, even as I waited at the exact spot where I had seen my shadow leap upon the wall the night before. There was nothing here to frighten anyone.
As a child, I had played here many times with the Rexdale children. I remembered hide and seek, with the sheds and the encroaching woods as perfect spots to watch pursuers without being seen. But our favorite hiding place was the cubbyhole below the bay window, with a sliding panel built into the living room wall. If you lay down you could slide right in and close the panel until only your eyes were visible.
And then the shadows on the wall --
As the shadow of a driven cloud darkens the fields and then fades away, something had loomed within my memory and passed me by.
I closed my eyes to the pale sunlight and tried to see the darkness of the night before.
Shadows on a wall.
I felt a sudden chill, the physiological memory of fear. I touched my face and, prompted by a vague impulse, ran my fingers over the irritable skin. They brought to mind the fronds of a plant brushing against me, the sliding touch of wet rope.
Yes... wet rope.
From "Shadows In The Sunrise."