Short Story | ‘The Hill’ by Jay Stonestreet, Illustration by Jessica Wilson
Through the fog and shroud of stirring street lamps I struggle on up the hill, bearing my sluggish burdens. It’s a year since my child, whom I loved with all of my newly swelled heart, stopped breathing. Now it’s only my chest that swells in time with these agitated footsteps. I’ve always hated this hill.
In spring I felt like nature mocked me, with her flowers blooming bright in the warm, fertile sun. None of her children wilted or slept too long and missed the bus. I was angry and bitter; I still am to a degree.
This bloody hill takes so long to conquer today.
The further up I get, the colder the air becomes. At least, that’s what it feels like. I’m getting closer to the top, and with each step, the dense wet blanket around me lifts a little. I see faint red that I know to be the cherry tree at the fork in the road. Nearly there.
Like a beast I stumble, hunting for breath, over the crest and onto pavement. I turn and survey my battlefield. Across the valley the shroud hangs still, silent. Almost like it’s watching or waiting.
I have waited enough.
With the first agonizing circle complete, it slowly dawns on me as the sky fades to dusk that nature is in mourning. For all her children. The full, sweet buds are old and thinning, and the sun with its benevolent smile has sunk into stagnant misery. For that I am grateful. Only now can she understand my loss, as it has become hers.
At last all my sighs are heaved and, shaking off the dampness, I watch the solemn descent of a leaf, born out of love, time and effort. It sways only once, then completes its journey to the soft floor. The notion hits me like a train. It’s been a year to the day since the death of my child, and I can say now with conviction that grief is a dull hidden root, but pain has left me. I don’t expect it will grow again in spring, but should it twist itself around my branches once more, I know that I’ll suffocate underneath.
I cannot climb another year.
Illustration by: Jessica Wilson