The sun is sinking in the sky as you make your way down the road out of town. You hadn’t intended to come out this far all alone, but your feet carried you out here either way. They seemed to have grown a mind of their own since yours seemed to be preoccupied, by what your feet were not sure. However, even though both minds were not communicating well, well not at all really, they seemed to know you needed a quiet place to think.
And so you find yourself on the road out of town heading toward Strawberry Hill.
You just notice that this is where your feet are taking you, yet you don’t really seem to mind. Strawberry Hill has always been one of your favorite places. You begin to think about how the townsfolk seem to think that it was named after the wild strawberry fields that grew up there in the summertime, but now that you are thinking about it, you can’t seem to remember a time that there ever truly were strawberries growing up there. From your memory it had always just been a grassy mound with an ancient oak tree at the top. In the fall it rains acorns on your head when the wind blows rattling the crisp copper leaves on their branches. Squirrels scampering around your feet would gather the fallen seeds, too worried about having food to survive the coming winter to be bothered by your presence. You would sit there watching them collect their fare, wondering where they hid their stash. You figured it was somewhere up in the tree. There wasn’t a knot or a hole in the base of the trunk that you ever saw.
As you make your way along the curves of the road toward the hill now you smile at the thoughts of fall that gave you relief from the whirlwind in your mind. The relief doesn’t last long as you begin to focus back on reality. Silently your feet continue to move you forward in an unspoken reassurance that all will be well, though your mind seems to disagree. Carved into the side of the hill near the road is a foot path worn from the many feet that have trampled through the grass up to the top.
When you were young, your parents would bring you here for picnics in the summer-time. Sun would shine through the canopy of scalloped leaves on the branches as you lay lazily beneath them. Golden bars of light surrounding you and coming to rest on your limbs as if you were imprisoned in a cell of sunshine. The checked blanket underneath you was made of wool that itched your skin and let the blades of grass tickle you through the moth eaten holed. It had seen better days, but your parents wouldn’t toss it. They never said why, but you didn’t think to ask them either.
The grass on the hill is lush and bright green from the rain. Clover covers the hill side and the sweet smell of its spiky white flowers mixes with the scents of the early blooming wild flowers. The sweetness and heavy floral mix together to create a gorgeously heady perfume. You wish you could bottle it to wear everyday even though the concentration of it here tickles your nose, threatening to make you sneeze. As you approach the top of the hill you notice that water has collected in the gnarled roots at the base of the tree and your favorite seat looking out onto town has deteriorated into a puddle of mud. Suddenly you long to have that itchy blanket with you, but it sits back at home in a linen closet, neglected, becoming a nice meal for the moths.
You walk around the base of the tree looking for a safe place to sit. Stray acorns are nestled in the knotted roots having lasted the scavenging of the squirrelly residents. Many of them are cracked and broken from where the winter snows had frozen them, leaving them to rot. Further into the roots you can see that some have managed to take root and tiny green shoots are emerging from the darkness; a shining neon sprout destined to become part of the tree. You begin to wonder if the oak is one ancient oak or secretly a grove that has continued to grow as one.
On the opposite side of the tree there is a mass of tangled roots that form a sort of lounge where they have bucked up from the ground. They curve themselves up away from the mud and water before plunging back into the muck. A fork formed near where the roots meet with the trunk sloping in a way that would cradle you, but is smoothed in a way to keep the water from pooling there. You decide to have a seat here and climb up letting the trunk embrace you.
You lean back onto the damp bark and close your eyes. The smell of wet earth and flowers fills your nose, but the flowers smell different over here. There is a tang to them that reminds you of summer time and sunshine. An annoying buzzing sounds in your ear and you absentmindedly swat at it. The sound is lazy as it travels around your head in circles. Something tickles your knee and you open your eyes to find a sweet little honey bee sitting there. Its antenna twitch as it watches you.
Something isn’t right.
The thought is fleeting and you bury it in the back of your mind as you watch your little bee friend observing you. You’ve never seen a bee act like this. It is completely and utterly mesmerizing. A soft breeze blows the warm, sweet, tangy air across your skin. The smell reminds you of something. Clover mixed with something familiar. You close your eyes again trying to place the other scent.
Suddenly it hits you. You jerk yourself forward and off the natural lounge, slipping slightly in the mud as you clamber to the side of the hill. You remember your little bee friend and find him lazily buzzing along beside you coming to rest on your shoulder watching. You look out onto the side of the hill and erupt in delighted laughter. Mixed among the spiky white and pink clover blossoms are the unmistakable snow white blooms and ripe red fruit of strawberries.
Something isn’t right.
Your hand twitches at your side. The thought is stronger this time. Clearer in your ears and the sound of it does not sound like that of your inner dialogue. It’s a deeper sounding tone.
The little bee on your shoulder ponders you curiously. There is a pain in your arm that you try to itch but you find yourself suddenly unable to move your arms. You begin to panic. The scene around you falters, shimmering like a dream as it grows fuzzy at the edges. You close your eyes trying to right your vision, but something is wrong. This place feels wrong. Your memories try to right themselves. You had climbed up here for a reason, an argument, a fight, something but you are unable to remember why. You heart begins to pound in your ears. You look at the world again and find the fuzzy gray enveloping everything around you. You heartbeat fades into a ringing that drowns out the world. You open your mouth to scream, but you hear nothing.
The only thing you feel is the cold damp ground as you fall into unconsciousness and the low pitched words of warning echoing in your ears.