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It had been Edwin’s turn to sleep beneath the tarps one night, but his dreams were disturbed when he awoke cold. He felt a chill unlike any he could remember. His body shivered painfully as he regained consciousness. He felt a tap-tap-tapping on his neck and realized water was dripping on him. His shirt and blanket were soaked. He rolled over, sat up, and looked around. Of all the places he could have chosen to sleep, he chose the one that was directly under a leak.

A single candle burned in a soot-covered lamp and cast wavering shadows on the on the wagons and the flaps of the tarp. The soothing patter of rain on the canvas accompanied the louder splashing of water pouring into puddles nearby. Most of the party lay sleeping peacefully in the cool night, none of them affected by the rain. Only Lansal remained awake.

 

He sat on a blanket looking out from under the tarp wrapped in his cloak, one leg stretched out in front of him and the other held to his chest with locked fingers. Edwin put on a dry shirt and scooted over beside him. As he sat down, Lansal slowly turned his head and nodded. Edwin looked into the eyes of his friend and saw, for the first time, the appearance of one ancient beyond measure and tired beyond degree. Edwin felt as though he peered into the very recesses of time itself.

 

Even as Edwin watched, Lansal smiled and the years melted from his eyes and he once more seemed young and energetic.

 

"What time of the night is it?" asked Edwin.

 

"About three hours before sunrise," replied Lansal.

“What day is it anyway? They are all running together.”

“When the sun rises, it will be Midfall Two and Six,” Lansal answered.

 

"How long has it been raining?" asked Edwin.

 

"It started about two hours ago. It seems to be letting up, though. I think it is just a passing shower."

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Copyright 2018, 2019, 2020  —  Bill Snodgrass