Where the Shadows Lie
D. Paul Angel
He took Grey off leash, and watched as the border collie went bounding into the woods next to the trail. He loved it up here on the soft ridge. The trail criss-crossed the park below many times; thin lines of brown and gray cutting the large swath of green into crisp, geometric shapes. But there was only the one trail up here. With the steep climb there were far less people, too. You could never be truly solitary when urban sprawl surrounded “Nature” on all sides, but this little knoll was close. Once he got Grey it became even more secluded for him since dog walkers were expected to stroll up the hill and around the woods.
He breathed in the scent of the Eucalyptus trees as he heard Grey rustling through their fallen leaves. The smell was distinct, and overpowered the multitude of scents that any stand of trees invariably produced. It was a peaceful smell to him, one of the reasons why he always enjoyed bringing his dates up here for a picnic. The soothing scent and privacy were an intoxicating combination.
He looked at the shadows cast by the trees across the trail. From a distance there was a clear demarcation. Dark on one side, light on the other. But as you got closer, the line became less clear. The more you looked, the less definitive it became. The black wasn’t solid, nor even consistent. Instead it was thousands of individual shadows of varying depths of gray from each individual leaf, twig, branch, and trunk. He liked to look for the transition. The edge between one world and the other.
It was a comfort.
It was nice to forget.
Except, of course for when you realized you were forgetting. He grimaced as the flood of images came back. The date had been going so well. The cheese, the wine, the crackers; even the smoked salmon had been perfect. He had gently stroked some cracker crumbs from his date’s beard, causing the man to flinch. It was a subtle rejection, but final nonetheless.
Grey’s barking broke the string of memories flashing through his head, not just of the rejection but of the excuses that had followed. What else could a picnic have meant? He realized that he had come here not just to forget, but to remember. It was, after all, just one of many dates that hadn’t been perfect. It just stung more because it was so recent. And because it had started so perfectly.
Grey’s barking continued, distracting him as he tried watching the scene again. Giving up on reminiscing for now, he kept calling for Grey until he heard the dog trotting back to him.
He turned pale when he saw the dismembered arm in Grey’s mouth, only just recovering to shout, “I TOLD YOU TO LEAVE THAT UNGRATEFUL BASTARD WHERE I BURIED HIM!”