I sat on the edge of the cliff, propped up against my favorite tree, writing. A storm was coming. The ominous clouds moved across the sky, casting shadows on the valley below. One field fell into darkness, then the next. I watched them disappear. I scribbled away at the pages, determined to fill them before they were drowned. I raced against the elements.
There had been posters along the way, bold face type pleading for attention, big round eyes and an inviting smile. I stared at her picture. I stared at the word “missing.” It is a sad word, a lonely word, a word that pleads with a tender kind of hope. Find her. Help her. Please.
Her body was found at the bottom of the waterfall. The posters stayed up for days. They haunted us.
I didn’t know her. I couldn’t remember ever seeing her at the guesthouse next door, dancing with the others on the porch while they banged their drums and sang their songs to the mountains. But she could have been there. She could have been.
Or she could have already left for her walk into the woods alone. She could have already been on the path to the waterfall when the clouds, swollen with rain, began to slowly emerge above the peaks. She could have already been standing at the falls, listening to the rushes of the cascading water quicken. Faster and faster, it fell.
No one knew exactly how she fell with them. Perhaps she slipped, perhaps she jumped, perhaps the wind nudged her to the edge. No one knew if she was gone before she hit the water, or if it was instant, or if she lay there crying out for hours before the darkness came. Whatever happened, she left this world alone.
I thought of her as I sat alone, perched on the edge of the cliff, another storm making its way into the world. Six large birds flew above me, hovering on the fast approaching winds, escaping those places where the rain had already begun.
I wondered if they had looked for her, if they had seen her final moments on this earth, if maybe she hadn’t been alone after all. Maybe this flight was a tribute to her, or maybe, she was this flight. She was the birds and their wings and the air beneath them. She was the impending rain and the shadowed fields and the earth that shook with thunder below my naked feet. She was the pages of my journal and the words I would fill them with. She was gone, but also still here. She was missed, but also no longer missing.
I do not know what death is. I have no idea what will happen after I’m gone, but I’d like to think, I’d like to believe, that the birds will know the second my heart stops beating. I’d like to believe that they will take me in their gentle wings and, if even for an instant, allow me to hover above the world and know what it feels like to soar. I’d like to believe that I’d see below, poised on a cliff, scribbling away to evade the imminent rain, a young writer who has only just begun the long story of her life.
“Yes,” I will think to myself. “I was only beginning, too.”