As the two boys huddled close together in the barn at the edge of the orchard that night, they made a silent vow. The kind of promise that requires no language. The kind of thing that is understood...

...understood between boys that age.

The accord was struck with all the clamor of a falling star. A harmony as tough as diamonds. And, having sealed their fate, all that was left was for each to slip their half of the torn snapshot into their pocket, stand up, and take a first step into the solid block of night.

Hung on air as smooth as glass, the moon that night was monstrous. It engorged the firmament, smiling coyly behind every branch, twig, leaf, and apple that hung like lace between the boys and the deepening sky.

Their way through the trees was known to them, though no path lay on the ground in front. The boys had been shown tonight's route on an endless autumn evening three years ago. That night, as the final, falling rind of sun was bleeding it's last splash of vermillion, murmuring and nodding off, they encountered one who was, at that exact moment, encountering them.

It paused patiently, hovering. It's light familiar and strange. There was no desire to catch the firefly. Or to squish it. Or to make of it's guts a glowing warpaint.

Only to follow. Only to be led. Their legs propelled more by lure and promise that muscle or mind.

More fate than feet.

Their guide had led them through the autumn twilight to a destination and a premonition. They knew, as they stood there together, that this would someday be the spot of their final parting.

Where they would say "Goodbye," and really mean it. Someday....

And between that night and this, and this boy and that, there had been no more secrets. Things clandestine no longer hindered their friendship and both boys began to feel a strangeness in this. For, as everybody used to know, secrets in the hands of children are a legal tender. Swapped on a hidden marketplace for capricious wares of figmental value like everlasting sweets, laughter caught in a box, or anything else imaginable from imagination without limits.

And throughout the three years the boys had bartered many things: a priceless ball of unbreakable twine; a school of stones that swam like shimmering fish; a pocketful of cinders that drew red lines on rock and blue lines on wood.

But no secrets. All of the constraints and concealments had ended at the place they were led to on that bygone night.

As would many things on this someday night....

Under the twisting trees and the grinning moon they ran together, toes pointed inward for stealth, towards the place that their glowing guide had led them to all those months ago.

But tonight was different.

There was a static charge to the woods. All of the hairs and needles and thorns stood alert and waiting. The noises crisp, the light sharp, and every detail seemed cut from chrome. As the two boys neared their destination, their steps fell precise and nimble, their breath bright and quick.

Once there they stopped, side by side, drawing in the galvanized air slowly, harboring it pensively, and releasing it like chilled smoke.

With anticipation exquisitely tantamount to dread, each boy keened inwardly at the way he knew the other must take.

The night sounds soothed themselves, and withdrew.

Trembling, they felt the delicate consolation of their symmetry begin to fracture.

Synchronized, they reach into their pockets and pulled out the severed photo.

Resolved, they held the torn edges together and saw it as a single image one last time....

And, with a sigh, a boy eased his foot over the stone ledge at the top of a wiling coomb.

And, with a wink, a boy lifted his foot onto a moonbeam that sliced an edge through the bottom end of night.

And they were gone.

The End.
for Carol Windham {1948 - 2009}