Writing Workshop – Red

A red leaf in the mountains of Utah.

Image via Wikipedia

Josie over at Sleep is For the Weak put forward a set of writing prompts based on movie titles – I'm choosing Red as my prompt.

I paused for breath, and kidded myself that the air was getting thinner. It really wasn't that hard of a climb, and the altitude could not possibly be that great, but the side of the hill was steep and the first snowfall of the winter was making it treacherous underfoot. As I rounded the corner onto the final climb of the trail, I look across at the skylift that had been out of operation now for the past six weeks. Anyone who wanted to get to the top of the hill would have to come up the same way I was struggling with. I wondered how many people would try it at this time of year; there were certainly no others to be seen. Not so long ago, there would be people milling in all directions here, but at that moment it seemed I was the only human being for miles around. My fingers and toes were growing numb, the cold was beginning to make its way through the rest of the layers that swaddled me from head to toe. I stamped my feet to dispel some of the numbness, exaggeratedly clapped my hands, and took a slow, deep breath, exhaling, seeing my spirit floating in the air in front of me, until a cutting wind bit across my face, blew the breath away, and started one of the skylift chairs swinging. The creak of the swinging chair broke the silence; in the stillness I heard the sounds of birds who had elected to stay through the winter, scared out of their hiding places by the sound of dislodged snow. A tiny piece of bare metal showed through, painted red.

The natural bridge loomed above me, somewhat intimidating. I still had the most difficult part of the climb to go; the steepest part of the rocks, the most difficult place to find a footing, and a tight squeeze through the crevice between the stone walls. A long time ago, this was the only way up here. There were no steps carved into the rock back then; no cast-iron railings along the side of the path which admittedly still required a significant amount of fitness on the climbers' part. The sight at the top was seen by precious few, but it was not long after those first explorers described what they saw that a way was found to open up that vista to all. I would guess it was the description of the sky bridge colors in the fall that motivated them to create the other way up, so everyone, from the smallest of children to the frail and elderly could take in the view, provided they could overcome any fear of heights they might have. In September and October it was at its most spectacular, all golden yellows and oranges and reds. Yes, the reds.

I had made it to the top, and stood precariously near the edge, next to a tree stripped bare of its leaves. Last time I was here, this tree was aflame. Now it stood here, seemingly lifeless, symbolic of everything that had passed in the two months since the last visit. Two months to the day, apparently. I had not even realized that until this moment. Just two months before, the outlook was incredibly different; breathtaking, vivacious; everything now was sullen in comparison. I trudged onward, more and more dispirited. I paused at that branch. Do you remember the one? Of course you do; it struck us both that day how red that leaf was, the leaf that wouldn't keep quiet and insisted you took its picture? That photograph made the perfect last shot in the photo album, didn't it? No, that's right. The last but one shot. But there was no red leaf there any longer. Anything red on this hillside has long gone. The little red car is not in the parking lot at the foot of the hill; I remember how enthusiastically we had agreed on the color at the rental desk. That little red car, or that little red leaf, or that little hint of red in our cheeks; they simply weren't there any more.

The experience was meant to be cathartic. I had planned to come up here and see that tree, that branch; look down on that parking lot, that skylift, stand where we stood, and bury the past once and for all. Things had indeed changed, just as surely as time had passed. The red that was there was long gone, and seeing this would surely purge those scarlet memories? I must admit, it was hardly the greatest of ideas. The color had indeed disappeared; the first snow had injected some additional finality into the picture, but it was far from final. The tree on the top of the bridge knew all this, and had known it year in, year out. It only seemed to be lifeless; a mere charade, just enough to get it through the darkest of moments. It would survive, awaiting for the return of the warmth, when it would stretch, imperceptibly, absorb every caress of the sun's rays, thrive once more through a spring and summer, and, when the fall colors returned, it would be red once more. Underneath that mantle of snow and ice, the certain processes of life were continuing; underneath the layers protecting me from the cold, a heart was still beating, a heart that knew that not only would it heal with time, but somehow would once again experience joy. At that moment, I knew I would experience the red again, and next winter, it would not fade.

Why not go ahead and join in? Check the prompt page for instructions, and remember to add your link on Thursday.

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About darlingman1970

Born in the UK and a graduate in mathematics from Cambridge University, Chris Nash has followed a career in software engineering which he continued after moving the United States in 1996 and now brings him to California in 2010. However, Chris does not want to be considered as merely a code monkey, and has always been interested in writing; in areas as diverse as factual technical manuals all the way through to fiction. An avid reader, Chris is a fan particularly of mystery novels and enjoys above all the works of Agatha Christie and David Hewson. Chris has recently gone through some significant life changes which, at the moment, he is considering as the basis for a forthcoming novel and as food for thought on his blog. He manages to couple his loves of writing and technology and is particularly interested in how internet innovations have an impact on the writing and promotional process. Chris is a firm supporter of Creative Commons and other 'open' initiatives and believes strongly that such distribution mechanisms are the "right" way to handle intellectual property in an evolving digital world. Chris is a keen Nintendo DS and Wii player in his spare time, and is currently happily attached, living in the Central Coast area of California. Find him on Twitter as @darlingman1970. Don't ask him how old he is.
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