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A View From the Fence
"Good." He says, as we start off towards the distant parking lot. "Y'know something, Jay, you and me are gonna have a little fun tonight..."
* * *
"Coke?" He says.
"Pepsi's better." I reply. He rummages around in the fridge a little longer and eventually recovers the proper item. He tosses it to me. I catch it.
"Just outta the can is fine." I crack the soda and begin drinking. Stockmann sits down at his family's kitchen table, backwards-straddling one of the chairs, sipping at his own drink. Brian's house is a nice house. Way out in the boonies on a couple square miles of untouched land, owned by the Stockmann family. Continental decor. Little plates hanging on the wall, commemorating something-or-other. A curio cabinet. A big door to an illuminated porch out back, open to the sky. I like this house. Having lived all of my life in the shoulder-to-shoulder suburbs, there's something primitive and charming about being out in the middle of nowhere like this, one spot of light in acres and acres of darkness.
Brian turns to me. "You wanna hit the stereo while you're up?" He gestures towards the controls. I unthinkingly go over to them before I remember what time it is. "Brian, it's like two in the morning or something. Aren't your folks trying to sleep or something?"
Brian gazes off into the distance. "They aren't here."
"Oh..." I say.
"Dad's at some Pharmacy conference in Santa Fe. Mom's doing D.A.R. stuff in Boston."
"Oh." I say, with a greater sense of closure. "They... like... ship out right after the game, or something?"
He shakes his head. "They weren't there."
"They missed Homecoming? Your folks? Christ, Brian, you were the star of the fucking show! How could they miss it?"
"Well, ya know." He says. "Gotta have our priorities, right?" He toys with a puddle of condensation on the well-waxed wooden surface of the table.
I blink. Suddenly, Brian Stockmann is not the Avatar anymore. He's just a guy. Like anyone else. Whose drive for success just might be a manifestation of his increasingly theatrical attempts to get his parents to acknowledge his existence, parents so caught up in their jobs and their organizations that they often forget that he's even there. Me, I've struggled against my father's disapproval and impossibly high standards. While Brian, perhaps, has struggled against a far greater foe.
We're actually not so different, Brian and me. I wonder which one of us had it worse.
"Well, shit." I say, attempting to lighten things. "They picked a hell of a game to miss. I wish _my_ dad woulda' been off at some meeting or something so he wouldn't'a had to see me totally fuck up at the last second."
Brian just shrugs and smiles, showing the faintest hint of white teeth. "I dunno, Jor. Hard to say."
"Brian." I say, attempting to relay concern and compassion, "If you ever need to talk, or anything, I'm here."
"Thanks." He says. And takes another sip of his soda.
"Anytime." I say.
Just then, I am distracted by a wash of pale light from the front windows. Brian looks up.
"Who's that?" I ask, idly.
"'Told ya a couple of other guys might be showing up. That's probably Stebbins and Heldeghast. An', with any luck, they're bringing the entertainment."
Something about this sounds wrong. I look at him for a moment, but he's already up and wandering towards the front door, still holding his can of soda. Wandering along behind, I follow him, out the door and onto the front lawn just as the car is being shut down. Heldeghast gets out of the passenger side.
"Everything work out okay?" Asks Brian.
Heldeghast smiles. "Yeah." He says.
Stebbins hops out of the driver's door. "Got him." He says, grinning in that wicked little way that he--
Just hold on one fucking minute.
I turn to Brian in point of explanation, but he's already wandering towards the trunk of the car. "Anybody see you?" He asks.
"Nope." Says Stebbins. "Although he was off an' gonna run like a sonofabitch again. Heldeghast hadda whack 'im one good, else he woulda' been _gone,_ man." Heldeghast chuckles, seemingly in memory.
There is a slow, sickening feeling crawling through my viscera. I grin stupidly and uneasily, following behind Momma Duck Brian, seeing no other choice at the moment.
"Pop the trunk, Stebs." Says Brian. He does so. The other three of us stand there in silence as the trunk glides silently open and the overhead lamps come on...
Illuminating a beaten, bruised, humanoid form that--
Motion. Something slashes at my face. I duck back, quickly. Turmoil all about. A split second of commotion, Brian yelling something, then Heldeghast reaches in and delivers a sound whack and the movement stops.
"Jesus Christ, Stebbins. The bastard got a leg loose." Says Brian, moving back towards the trunk. "Think I got some duct tape in--"
Brian looks into the trunk. Silence falls.. Heldeghast is standing there, looking blankly on. Stebbins has come 'round from the front. I approach as well.
The four of us peer into the trunk.
To look upon Jake Christasion. Kind of.
"Fucking Christ." Says Stebbins. "The little shit mutated on us."
And it was true. For all intents and purposes, Christasion _had_ been a normal, albeit weird-looking, human. I recall my Dad telling me, though, that sometimes extremes of emotional duress can force actual physical changes in otherwise static SCAB's. It's like the virus or whatever can be triggered by stress or willpower or whatever. Fucking weird stuff.
At any rate. The figure lying awkwardly there in the trunk with a glassy, stunned look on its face from Heldeghast's most recent whack, bears virtually no resemblance to anything passable as human. The changes have occurred asymmetrically, giving the figure a grotesque and monstrous look. But despite the distortion, Christasion's destination form is easily recognizable. Jackrabbit. I had pegged it right. Not that I feel much of a sense of accomplishment.
As we watch, the skull flattens itself and reshapes slightly. My stomach turns. I think I'm going to be sick. Stebbins laughs. "Christ! He's still doing it!"
"Heldeghast," Says Brian. "Go into the garage and get the duct tape. It's on the workbench. You yahoos didn't do it right the first time."
"Wasn't our fault." Protests Stebbins. "We didn't know the little shit was gonna be pulling this."
"It's not his choice." I say, quietly.
Heldeghast is still standing there, staring at Christasion in a blank, vaguely bovine fashion. Stockmann smacks him. "MOVE!" He says. Heldeghast does, wandering purposefully towards the garage. Meanwhile, Stebbins and I are still staring into the trunk.
"You with us tonight, J.R.?" Says Stebbins, idly.
I can't even respond. Brian picks up my cue.
"Jay's a little bit pissed at the shit this little motherfucker pulled at Homecoming. Ain'tcha, Jay."
To my horror, I feel myself nodding. Stebbins laughs. "You got a right to be pissed, man." I simply nod again. I'm still staring at that _thing_ in the trunk... watching the flesh crawl over its bones...
"Jey-sus. That's somethin' to make y' lose your supper." Says Brian, setting his can of soda on the roof of the car. I don't even remember where mine is.
"You saying he ain't doing that on purpose, man?" Says Stebbins, picking up on a line I had spoken earlier.
Nervelessly, I reply. "No. He's... um... it's just his body reacting to the stress."
Stebbins gets that nasty little grin again. "So, like the more he's hurting, the weirder he starts looking."
"Sounds about right." Says Brian, leaning against the sideboard."
"Fun." Remarks Stebbins.
The dazed look is fading from Christasion's eyes again. His free leg twitches spasmodically, the nascent claws ripping at the fabric of the trunk lining.
"Heldeghast, get back here with that tape..." Yells Brian.
"Can't find it!" Comes Heldeghast's voice, from the garage.
"Jesus Christ. Stebbins, help him out."
Stebbins goes. Christasion's struggles become more focused. He thrashes wildly. Brian dives forwards and pins Christasion's shoulders down. "Get his leg, Jay." He says, calmly.
I do so. I'm starting to feel dizzy. Vertigo. This isn't happening... I'm not doing this...
All those news stories you see... and you wonder what kind of people could _do_ that sort of thing...
People like Brian. Like Stebbins. Like Heldeghast.
I halfheartedly push down on his leg. But he's still strong, and he struggles it free from my grasp, giving me a nasty scrape on the forearm as he does so. Brian yells at me. "Jesus, Jay, I said _HOLD_ it!" Helplessly, I grab at it again, and pin it down firmly. "Better." Says Brian.
"Found it!" Comes Stebbins's voice, from the garage. He wanders back onto the lawn, tossing the roll up and down as he goes. Heldeghast follows, his arms full of shadowy objects. "Ya know, Stockmann, you've got a _lot_ of fun stuff in there." He remarks.
"Just get the fuck over here." Says Brian. "He's coming out of it again." Stebbins wanders over, and Brian takes his roll of tape and begins working, doing a pretty thorough job. I release my hold on the leg.
Heldeghast deposits his stuff on the lawn, whatever it is, comes over, and smacks Christasion again, for good measure. Christasion's eyes go blank again, and some more spotty patches of fur worm their way out from under his skin. Stebbins is vastly amused. "Cool." He remarks. He proceeds to snigger a bit.
Meanwhile, I'm just standing there, trying to rationalize this away. And it's not working.
Brian is finishing up his job. He's about to go for the mouth. Desperate to engage my brain in _anything_ but sick contemplation, I say, "Don't bother. He can't speak."
Brian considers this. "Oh. Bunny rabbit, right."
"Fucking SCAB's." Says Stebbins, almost parenthetically.
"Done?" Asks Heldeghast, inspecting the taping.
"Done." Says Brian. "Help me with this retard, Jay. Stebbins, you and Heldeghast get your shit. We're going around back."
Once again, I find myself helpless to resist. I'm too wrapped up in sorting through the mess that is my brain right now to supersede the direct orders of Wonder Brian. I take the again-dazed Christasion by the legs and Brian takes the arms, and together we drag the limp, slowly twisting form out back of the house and towards the woods behind.
"Where we going with him?" I say, blankly, as though inquiring after the positioning of a new sofa.
"Spot out back in the woods. Little clearing. Just so there ain't a mess on the driveway."
Something inside me whimpers. But I can't let go.
Well. You're touching Christasion _Now..._ See, it isn't so bad... Brian isn't worrying about it...
Bearing our horrid burden, we wander down a path into the heart of the woods. My mind has started jingling with inane little rhymes from my childhood about Little Bunny Foo-Foo or something like that... Jesus God, what am I doing here Hopping Through The Forest, Picking Up The Field Mice And oh shit oh shit oh shit... I am conscious of Stebbins and Heldeghast somewhere behind me. Brian brings the lot of us to a halt at a likely-looking clearing, well-shielded from all possible prying eyes, even if the vast distances between ourselves and the rest of civilization didn't make this a near-improbability anyway. He deposits his half of Christasion roughly on the ground. Laughing unbalancedly at myself, I take care to set _my_ half down more carefully...
The other two show up, and dump their shadowy parcels on the ground. I notice a garden hoe. Mother of God...
"Whad'ya get?" Says Brian, looking idly at the stuff
Stebbins holds up what looks like a pellet gun. Brian laughs. "Hey. Where'd you find that?"
Stebbins hands it to him. "Top of the tool cabinet."
"Christ." Says Brian, lovingly preparing the old gun and priming it to fire. "Haven't seen this in years. I was looking for it and everything, couple years ago. Thanks."
"No prob." Says Stebbins.
Brian turns and fires. There is a faint cough of compressed air, and Christasion twitches. Stebbins is over there quickly, inspecting the damage.
"The little bastard's got whiskers, now." Says Stebbins, triumphantly. "Ya musta hurt him a little bit."
"Cool." Murmurs Heldeghast.
"No serious damage with this baby." Says Brian, idly, inspecting the shaft of the gun. "Pretty decent pain, though, I imagine."
The language is what kills me. I never expected it to be so goddamn _casual..._
Stockmann tosses the gun to Heldeghast. "You want a shot at 'im?"
Heldeghast murmurs an assent, rapidly primes the gun and fires. He misses the first time, much to Stebbins's amusement. The second shot hits home. Christasion twitches again, and he struggles madly against his duct-tape bonds. For the hell of it, Heldeghast shoots him again. Stebbins gives us another status report, seeming to enjoy this little game more and more.
Heldeghast holds the gun out. In my direction. He's not even looking at me. He's just _assuming..._
The world stands still.
"Take it!" Says Brian, urging me on smilingly. I do so. It sits there in my nerveless fingers like a dead fish.
"'S'amatta, Jay, you ain't never fired a pellet gun before?"
I shake my head, stupidly.
Brian wanders over, gives it a quick prime and hands it bluntly back to me. "Point and shoot. Goddamn Nikon."
Still, it sits there.
"Jay." Says Brian. "Remember the shit this little asshole pulled on you this evening."
With all the force of an opening floodgate, images of my father come rushing back into my mind. I imagine his face. I imagine him looking on as I humiliate myself in front of everyone. I imagine Jake Christasion, standing there in the end zone, clutching the ball to his chest, staring blankly as he neatly annihilates my future...
I feel my muscles moving the gun into firing position. It's like I'm a thousand yards away. Sure. I can absolve myself of guilt that way. "Your Honor, I was a Thousand Yards away at the time..."
I whisper something. Perhaps a prayer or a benediction.
I fire. There is a curiously small amount of recoil. Christasion twitches again. Stebbins hurries over again and takes a look-see. He seems pleased.
"Fucking good shot, Jay! You nailed his eye!"
My guts seethe, boil, and dissolve into the void, leaving a cavernous empty space inside of me.
I feel myself letting the gun slip from my fingers. It doesn't have the chance to. Stebbins, encouraged by my recent success, eagerly bounces over and grabs it from me, anxious to take his turn. He wanders back to point-blank range.
Stebbins never gets a chance to fire. The stress and pain of my shot have twisted Jake's changed leg free of the bonds of the duct tape again, ripping away great clods of fur. Stebbins doesn't notice until too late.
With one fierce, wild, aimless kick, Christasion rips Stebbins's face open.
He screams. Brian runs over to him. Heldeghast kicks Christasion to the temple and he stops struggling. Stebbins is raising Cain.
"MOTHERFUCKINGSHIT! JESUSMOTHERFUCKING SHITFUCKINGSHIT!"
"Shut the hell up, Stebbins." Says Brian.
"I am _NOT_ gonna shut the hell up! You see what that bastard did?!?"
"Yeah. You're bleeding like a sonofabitch. We see. We'll get you to the Emergency Room after we're done. Make up some story about it."
Stebbins is working hard not to cry, it looks like. "I don't care about the fucking Emergency Room! This fucker dies!" Stebbins lurches over to the pile of stuff and removes an dented, aluminum cube. I recognize it as an old-model gas-can, suitable for filling lawn-mowers.
He dumps it on Christasion. The petroleum entering his wounds must sting a hell of a lot, because he keeps twitching for a long time, his one free leg moving aimlessly. Stebbins is swearing a blue streak and searching around in the pile of stuff for something, Brian is talking to Stebbins and helping him look, Heldeghast is watching Christasion jerk, and I, as usual, am just standing there.
Suddenly everything goes still.
"Anybody got a match?" Says Brian, calmly.
I _do_ laugh, then. There's nothing else to do. The other option is to go stark raving mad on the spot. I might be doing both, come think of it. I don't even know anymore.
My fingers close around Dad's lighter. Maybe they won't--
"Jay." Says Brian. "What about that goddamn lighter you were always fucking with before practice?"
Here it is. I can _sense_ it. My brain scrabbles wildly for a hold. I'm crushed and folded inside, all packed away and ready for the incinerator. I have _shot_ another living, sentient being this night. My ego curls into the fetal position, whimpering pitifully. Slowly my hand withdraws itself from my pocket, the gleaming silver case catching the moonlight. I've lost. I can feel it already. I've lost.
So it is much to my surprise that I find myself saying, "No."
My ego looks up, an expression of mad hope on its face.
Another moment of silence.
"Well, shit." Says Brian. "Guess I'll just have to get one."
He starts back on the path towards his house.
I scream. A long, drawn-out bellow.
I throw myself onto the prone form of Jake Christasion.
"You will _fucking_ do no such thing." I say. "You burn him, you burn me too." The edges of the lighter case are digging into my palms, and the gold-embossed Hawk is scratching against something.
Brian looks at me like he might a three-year-old. "Jay, stop shitting around. Get off of him."
I shake my head, the fumes from the gasoline making my head spin. I feel no joy, no sense of triumph. My soul is long gone. But this I must do. Because if this is how the world is to work, I want no further part of it. Throwing myself on Christasion isn't just a threat to get them to stop trying to torch him. I seriously mean it, this time. He burns, I burn too. Either way.
"No." I say.
"Jay," Says Brian. "I'm asking you one last time. Get... the... hell... off... him."
"No." I say.
Brian throws up his hands in disgust. "Heldeghast, get him off there."
The impossibly huge form of Erik Heldeghast towers over me.
I kick him. Where it counts. He thunders like a bull moose. Stebbins is screaming at me. Brian's face twists into a sneer. Heldeghast, on the other hand, takes a more direct approach. Still bent-over and grunting because of my cheap groin shot, he pulls the hoe out of the pile of stuff and advances on me, eyes fixed for the kill. He swings it down in a broad arc. It digs deep into my thigh. But I'm past pain, now. I kick at him again, missing this time.
And then, Heldeghast comes at me again, this time holding the hoe in both hands, like a strangling-pole. I catch it outside of his grip and begin pushing back, trying to keep it from my throat. Dad's Zippo falls heedlessly to the ground. Heldeghast is an immobile object. I might as well be pushing against a brick wall.
Adrenaline floods my brain and my muscles, then, in one last-ditch effort. I call upon reserves of strength I never knew I possessed.
Heldeghast's grip falters. He slips.
I go tumbling forward, down, head-over-heels, my impossible effort sending me flying now that Heldeghast has stopped pushing. There is a sickening sensation of light and sound as I smack my head into a tree.
I am about three meters away from Christasion, staring right at him from ground level, dazed and unable to move. But I can still see.
I can see Stebbins as he calmly walks over, retrieves Dad's lighter, flicks it open and alight, and tosses it in a dizzy end-over-end parabola, falling endlessly and slowly towards the puddle of gasoline surrounding Jacob Christasion.
I watch the lighter fall.
Thankfully, it is at this point that my memory goes away.
* * *
I have no images that I can recall of Jake Christasion's death. They have been wiped clean from my mind. One last action of divine recompense, perhaps, in exchange for my struggle for his life. I am thankful for that, at least.
In fact, the only time I really realized that I had been present at that moment at all was in my Freshman Biology class at the University of Seattle. We were watching a video on the various specialized adaptations that Nature has given the predator. Something taped off of PBS, or something. Anyway. Point being that after they showed us half a dozen different animals slaughtering half a dozen different other animals, they focused in on the example of the Hawk. Lazily, the big raptor circled around in the clear blue video-taped sky, watching, waiting, almost _thinking_.
And then, utterly without warning, it dropped like a stone. One of those famous predatory falls. We did not see exactly what it was going for, but milliseconds after it disappeared into the prairie grass, there came a _shriek._
I can't exactly describe what that shriek sounded like. All I know is that it's a reasonably famous (but dubiously true) maxim that rabbits live life in absolute silence except for the very instant of their death. And at that very instant, with their last expiring breath, they let out a scream like the howl of a damned soul.
It was that shriek that did it. My brain went away. Kaput. Just like that. I leapt out of my seat in the auditorium, spilling my books and the books of several other students all over the floor, and made a mad, insensible dash for the exit door. I couldn't stay there. I couldn't. Not after hearing that shriek.
I went to the restrooms and threw up.
And then I took the rest of the week off.
But I still can't remember the moment of.
Oh, I remember the moments afterwards well enough. My first memory is crashing blindly through the woods around Brian's house, searching for the highway. I recall finding it after about an hour, and limping painfully all the way back to Edgerton, arriving there along with the dawn. I didn't go home. The first place I went was the School, sneaking into my locker and recovering the street clothes I had stashed there not twenty-four hours earlier when I first went to put on my uniform. Then I went out to the Ditch and burned my gasoline-soaked warmup sweats. I used Dad's lighter to start them going. Funny. I guess I must have picked it up or something on my way out. Like I said, I don't remember a thing. Thank God.
Dad beat the shit out of me when I got home. Let that suffice.
Garrick finally caught up with me, and suspended me for the next two games. I laughed in his face and told him to fuck off. He promptly suspended me for the rest of the season. I promptly quit.
As already noted, against all odds, Seattle accepted me into their academic program, after I rather shamelessly pleaded with them. I gratefully accepted their offer. It was as far away from "home" as I could possibly go without a passport. They didn't care about my football record, and at that point, I didn't either. I have never picked up a ball since that day.
One year into my college education, I took a trip back to see my family. My grades were top-notch, in the high threes and sometimes into the fours, and the Seattle folks were pleased as punch that they had thought me worth the risk. But when the academic day ended and the evening came, I couldn't stop the nightmares, not even with prescription drugs. So I decided to try and confront my demons.
Dad and I went fishing.
We had a cabin up on Lake Vermillion in the North Woods. There, far away from any civilization to speak of save other cabin-owners, we readied a boat and our tackle, and spent the day like fathers and sons have done ever since man invented the fishhook. There, on the peaceful waters, alone in a boat with my Dad, the mists swirling around and muffling the distant cries of the water-birds, I finally found myself ready. We were alone. Where no-one else could hear.
"Dad." I said, haltingly. "I was there the night Jake Christasion got killed."
I had intended to make it some sort of confessional or something. To tell good ol' Dad the guilt I had been harboring in my heart for so long. Dad had the power. Dad could make everything all right. Dad would understand how life can sometimes go horribly wrong. Granted, Dad wouldn't approve of the fact that I did something like that (I _had_ to believe that, at least), but Dad would look at me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. I was going to tell him how I had helped Brian and Stebbins and Heldeghast drag him out to the woods and that I had shot his eye out with a pellet gun, but that when it came to actually _killing_ him, I had fought tooth and nail to the last ounce of my strength to stop it.
I didn't have the chance. He stopped me after the first sentence.
"I know." Said my Dad. He always knew.
"I had it covered. Don't worry about the charges." Dad controlled everything. _Everything._
A brief pause.
"You did good."
The bottom dropped out of my brain that day.
I realized, in that one sickening moment of clarity, everything that had happened. How I had unwittingly and unknowingly damned myself by allying with the one man that I thought I could trust in a world gone mad.
I was silent for many hours afterwards. I thought I was just being contemplative, for a while, but I soon began to realize that I simply could not talk. Not in the presence of my father. My vocal cords would just freeze up and I couldn't make a sound, not even upon pain of death. Dad and Gloria took me to a bunch of specialists after they began to realize that something was seriously amiss with their child, and the specialists all said that I had "Acute Idiopathic Hysterical Aphonia." Which basically meant that they couldn't find a damn thing wrong with me so it had to be in my head.
I guess I kind of realized the reasons for it. I got the vague sneaking suspicion that I was somehow emulating Jake Christasion in my silence, sacrificing my voice for his life. But there was more. My father's voice was always his power. His control. His means of shaping the world to his will. And to my horror-struck brain, this was _exactly_ the thing that I would not, could not let myself have.
He beat me senseless, screaming at me, demanding that I talk to him. It only made my silence more complete.
At the end of the summer I moved back to Seattle. And I never went back. Not even after my father was ambushed by a SCAB hooker he picked up on West Street and reduced to about four years of physical age. In any other era of my life I would have waltzed back home, my heart singing, and beat the shit out of him, his physical power over me quite gone, repaying him for a lifetime of pain. I hardly even gave the matter a second thought. I didn't go back home when my newly-young-again father re-took up his political career (his brain was unaffected by the rejuvenation) and was promptly denounced as a SCAB himself after he supposedly shifted some guy that he touched after a political demonstration, in what I will always believe was a carefully-orchestrated plot to destroy his name. I didn't even go back home when my father was diagnosed with AIDS, his lifetime of sexual promiscuity coming to collect the rent at last. (I notice that, despite her grief, Gloria never worried that she might too be infected. Sexual contact between the two of them must have fizzled out long before.) Nothing in the world could have made me come back home.
Not until today.
My father's funeral is tomorrow. And when I have finished my task of helping to bear that impossibly small coffin to the grave site, I will be making a speech. I am the eldest son. And the burden of performing his elegy will fall to me.
It will be the first time I have spoken in my father's presence in over three years.
My name is Jordan. It is a Hebrew name, the name of a river in the Holy Land. My mother gave me that name, I am told. It means, quite descriptively, "To Flow Downwards." I think that sums up most of my life so far. Except now, things are different. My father is dead. The tyrant has fallen. Edgerton was a single community molded into my father's image, the first small step towards his philosophical conquest of all. Had he become mayor of the City, the entire greater urban area would have followed suit, and the same thing that happened to Skippy Martens, and Kim DeJong, and poor Jake Christasion would have happened to a city of millions with a SCAB population amongst the highest in the Western World.
And now, he's gone.
And just like my Angora Rose, Edgerton can finally begin to peek out from underneath two decades of waste.
My name is Jordan. But that is not my only name.
My name is Jordan Robert Atwell Barnes. And I am my father's son.
Silently, I make my way from Piergeron Stadium and effortlessly complete my walk, bringing me to the Fourth Corner which is also the First.
The sun trembles on the edge of the horizon.
And with a deep breath, I finally leave the perimeter Fence and strike my way boldly inwards to the Center.
To where I've been going all along.
To Kim's Tree.