“I’m the last one,” she realized, staring as the others walked away down the trail. “Thank God,” she said to herself. “I thought they’d never leave.”
She didn’t know why it was so hard for her to have people around her. She liked people. She even liked strangers; she wasn’t bothered by crowds like some of her friends were. In fact, she liked crowds. She felt anonymous in them. She felt … hidden, and safe.
But out here on a nature trail – that was a different story. She had come out here to be alone, for crying out loud. That was really what it boiled down to – that was the why she had been looking for – she just never felt like she got to be alone enough. Sometimes it felt like even her own family were pressing in on her, taking her energy and draining her dry. She just really wanted to be alone.
But all that meant was that the people closest to her felt pushed away. All it meant was a vague, persistent unease at any given moment. There was never enough time for herself, and so there was never enough energy to give to others.
She sat down under a tree by the side of the trail, and looked up at the blue sky through the green leaves and crisscrossed branches. This was her favourite sight, and she often spent hours just lying on the grass gazing up through the trees. Sometimes it seemed more of an obsession than an activity; sometimes she actually wanted to get up and do something else, but felt compelled to stay where she was. “I wonder why that is,” she murmured.
Completely unbidden – almost as though an external voice had whispered it in her ear – the thought came into her head: “That was all I ever saw.”
She frowned. “What?” she asked herself. Where had the thought even come from? But suddenly she saw very clearly in her mind’s eye: a stone tower, very tall and narrow, with a single opening in the roof of the tower. She saw herself standing in this tower, looking up through the little opening at a tiny patch of blue sky dotted with leaves.
“What?” she asked again. She actually found that her heart was pounding, as though she had experienced something frightening. Why would these thoughts be frightening? She searched her memory for any towers – any place she had visited that would have looked like a tower with one window.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” she told herself. “It could be a memory from when I was a toddler or something, a place I don’t remember consciously.” But at the back of her mind lurked the notion that this memory was from even longer ago than that. “That’s crazy,” she said, and laughed nervously. “Like a past life? That’s not possible.” She realized that she was having an out-loud argument with herself, and laughed again. She turned her face upward, and took in the blue sky and the leaves.
The sight was still beautiful, no question. But the obsessive need to look at it had disappeared. For the first time in her life, she felt that she had had her fill of the experience, and came to her feet.
Past lives are not a thing, she thought. It’s crazy.
But she didn’t even particularly want to stay, or see the sky through the trees, or even to be alone anymore. Something had changed fundamentally, for no reason that she could figure out. The only thing that had happened today was the strange, random thought about the tower.
But it didn’t feel random. It felt as though she had asked the universe a question, and it had answered.
Was the tower some sort of prison tower? It had looked like a prison tower.
She walked more quickly, eager to get home to her family. She couldn’t wait to see them.