Chapter I

Chapter I

A Chapter by Andrew Schecker

                Derek slept.  Or at least he attempted to.  Eyes opened and unfocused, Derek stared at the ceiling light above his head.   Though the room was shrouded in darkness, he could still delineate the vague outline of the three ring-like fluorescent lights hanging over his head, each within the other.  The longer Derek’s eyes remained unfocused and unmoved the more the lamp began to disappear until nothing was left.  Blinking, the lamp came back into view only to vanish slowly into the shadows once more. 


“Everyone stare straight at me.  Do not move.  Do not blink.  If you follow my instructions you will be able to see one of the great wonders of Estes National Park.  The Disappearing Park Ranger.”  Derek centered his eyes on the ranger’s face.  The sun had just set behind the mountain blanketed in ageless pine trees, leaving the tour group completely in the dark with only the tentative light provided by the newborn stars above.  Unblinking Derek was amazed to see darkness move in from the corners of his vision and steal the light from his eyes.   The trees behind the ranger vanished first with their dark green pine needles losing their shape and eventually losing their color.  The next to leave was the assortment of people standing beside him.  The ranger’s legs and arms began to dissolve into the surrounding darkness until all that remained was his face, but even that was beginning to fade away into the gloom.  “Don’t worry kids, I’m not a wizard.  This isn’t magic.  This is science.  You see things because your eyes absorb the light and your brain processes that light into an image.  But when you’re eyes don’t move they absorb the light in that direction and once the light has been absorbed the image turns dark since there is not as much light to take in.  If you notice, once you move your eyes or blink everything comes back to you.  Pretty cool, huh?”   Derek blinked to verify the ranger’s claims and was happy to see his world return to him.  He did not listen to much of what the ranger said next, he was too interested in repeating the experiment he just learned.  It was not until his father placed his hand around the back of his neck that Derek realized the group had moved on.


                Blinking only when his eyes stung, Derek observed his room repeatedly disappear around him.  Beginning with the curtain over his balcony door and the bamboo tatami mats around him, he would concentrate on the lamp until its evanescence forced his eyes to focus on the long string hanging down above his face.


                Kicking the thick cotton comforter off, Derek felt the chill of a room without central heating.  Following the instructions of the volunteer firefighters in his town he had made sure to turn his space heater and kotatsu off every night before he slept.  Unfortunately, this meant that he would wake up to a cold room every morning as long as winter hung in the air.


 Derek arose and reached for the sting.  With three quick tugs, the lamp was set to its brightest setting and every corner of his small apartment was revealed in a temporarily blinding glow.  Sitting with his back to the balcony, Derek gazed into the far right corner of his room.  An assortment of bags was purposefully placed apart from the rest of Derek’s belongings. 


Why don’t I just throw this crap away?  She’ll never come to get any of it.  I’m sure she has already separated my things and thrown them into the burnable and non-burnable garbage and forgotten about me.  B***h.  Fourteen months of my life completed wasted. 


                “Do you know what this is?”  Derek pointed up towards the ceiling at a small green plant hanging within the narrow hallway connecting his room and apartment door.


                “No, what is it?”


                “It’s mistletoe.  Do you know what it means?”


                “No, but it is very pretty.”  Mio examined the leaves and berries.  She had seen this plant before.  She knew what it was and what it meant.


“Westerners hang it over doorways during Christmas time.  There is a special rule that goes with it too.  When two people stand underneath the mistletoe together they have to kiss.”


“Really?  Why?”


“I’m not sure.  But I like to keep up with traditions.”  By this point Derek’s heart was keeping pace with that of a humming bird.  Leaving a permanent impression on his ribs, Derek could feel his heart clamoring for him to do what he had refrained from doing until the moment was perfectly romantic. “Would you help me keep up with this tradition?”


Mio gazed into Derek’s eyes.  Her skin still red from the cold wind outside, Derek was unable to see if she was blushing due to his proposal.  With an affirmative nod, Mio leaned in and felt her body quickly wrapped by two warm arms that wound about her waist.  Derek gingerly kissed her forehead and chuckled.  “Thanks.  That was nice.”  Mio leaned back and filled her cheeks with air so that she could display of a pout that would make any child feel outclassed “Mou… Deriku…”  “Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”  Pulling Mio closer, Derek placed his brow upon Mio’s, and took one final glance into her eyes.  It was difficult to lean his lips in any further for fear of losing sight of her beautiful brown eyes and the reflection of his soul within them.  Slowing tilting his head so that his nose grazed her own, Derek continued until his lips were a hair’s width away from fulfilling his heart’s desire.  Mio’s lips were soft.  Softer than Derek had expected.  Filled with a warmth unfamiliar to him.  Pulling back, Derek gazed once more into her eyes.  His bliss had only lasted a moment, but Derek knew that he had found her.  He had found Mio.


                “Thank you.  That was nice.”  Derek could not say more than that.  He did not know what else to say.  Having just experienced a kiss like none other in his life his sudden inability to communicate with words and forced his lips and hands convey the joy that had enveloped his body.


                Derek exhaled fourteen month’s worth of frustration and suffering.  Memories never brought peace of mind to him.  No memory, no matter how majestic or jovial, could remain so for long within Derek’s mind.  In only a brief moment he could find a way to have the bleakness of reality sap the memory of its grandeur and replace it with a heavy-handed realization concerning the side effects of nostalgia.  He understood that as long as he lived, any memory of Mio would bring only sorrow, no matter how beautiful the world might have once been.


                It was beautiful.  “Deriku! Hayaku!”  “I’m coming, I’m coming.”  Awestruck by the golden trail he journeyed upon, Derek could not help but stand still and gaze at each bare branch that hung above his head.  Having given their leaves so that the ground would create a walkway worthy of any girl from Kansas, the trees now stood entirely at odds with the photographic euphoria they had created.  Fixed in the ground, and as unmoved as the snowcapped mountains flanking them, the black and brown timber only served to remind each observer that their suffering was responsible for  the colors they ogled.   Noting each twenty-four karat leaf upon the ground, Derek’s eyes worked tirelessly to engrain the scene into his mind.  A deep blue, cloudless sky accompanied by leaves that would shame any New England autumn had brought him to the realization that no photo could ever evoke the peace he felt then.  Only his mind could properly capture the moment in all its glory. He would not only be able to fall back on this tranquility later on, but it would also be his alone to be lost in.  No one would have this but him.  No one would ever see what he saw.


                Everyone saw Mio though.  Enthusiastically playing under a tree that refused to give up its few final vestiges of summer, Mio had gone to kicking and tossing the product of the oak’s failed enterprise.  No less innocent than a child smothering themselves in a pile of leaves, Mio continued to enjoy the crisp crunch of each leaf as well as the dry, smoky smell that overpowered her senses with each new batch she pressed to her face.  Derek could not help but smile.  He loved this playful innocence.  For Derek, there was nothing more breathtaking and wondrous as the innocence of a child.  It’s what made Mio so radiant.  Though twenty-five, she often allowed herself to give in to childish whims that left Derek standing to the side with a shy smile and folded arms.  Swinging his messenger bag around, Derek pulled out his camera.  Digital cameras had been created to capture images just like this.  Taking picture after picture, he imagined the conversation he would have with friends and family afterwards. “Takumi, check this out.” “What is it?” “It’s Mio being Mio.” “What do you mean?” “Just look.” “Ok.  What is she doing? Wow, she looks like a child.” “I know.  Isn’t it great? She’s just so cute.” “Do you think so?” “Oh yes I think so.  What do you think Jess?” “I think she looks adorable!  Why didn’t you invite me along? I would have loved to have finally met Mio.” “Sorry, you know how I am. One track mind.” “It’s fine.  I wish I could have played in the leaves.”


I wonder what Takumi and Jess think of Mio now.

© 2010 Andrew Schecker

My Review

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Very intriguing. The reader can "see" basically everything through Derek's eyes, so imagery seems to be your strong point. I'm not sure if the dialogue is supposed to be in the format that it's in, but I like it because it speeds up the pace of the story. Descriptions are full and well-shown. I've heard a lot about show-and-tell, and you've definitely shown off here. I especially enjoyed the first part, with the flashback of the park ranger story. Well done.

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Added on May 27, 2010
Last Updated on May 27, 2010


Andrew Schecker
Andrew Schecker


I am an English teacher living in Japan. I have a lot of free time on my hands and I want to start filling up that time by writing. I have been told I have a talent with words, but I want to hone th.. more..

Chapter I Chapter I

A Chapter by Andrew Schecker