Frost hung off the facial hair of a man dressed in furs from head to toe. He carried a heavy wrap on his back that contained today’s kill.
He entered the mouth of a cave, a place he had called home for many years. In the center was a well used fire pit, he began fixing tinder to bring warmth and cook tonight’s dinner.
Pain weighed heavy on his heart, a pain he had carried for a long, long time. Ahead of him, next to the cave wall, was a neat pile of bones, two sets of them. There were small trinkets laid amidst them that were once used by his wife and daughter.
To his left were drawings his child once created. When his tribe migrated through the area he’d bring her up here, as many would with their children, so that she could leave her mark on this world.
He kept their bones as a reminder. The pain of their death, and the immense guilt that followed, was something he could never let go of.
He had once lived amongst his people. It was a small clan that would sleep together in tents for warmth and would sing as they migrated through the lands. Wooly mammoth skins would be used for tale times, he’d sit with his daughter on his lap, listening to the story man’s words, amused as she was enraptured in the tales he had heard all his life.
Their death, to him, seemed to be a preventable accident. The details were foggy as the man could not bear to think of them. But the pain was there, always there.
He separated from society after they passed, hoping that the storms would swallow him whole one day. But he persisted, and the years grew on.
Several times he had longed for something new, for the comfort that society can bring. He swallowed these feelings, believing himself unworthy of a new beginning.
I could see his wife and child as spirits on the other side. Their hearts ached with his, but not for their loss of life. For his inability to try to move on.
They did not blame him for their death. The chances of their survival were slim to none, there wasn’t much he could have done.
They had planned for him to find another love again, and to have another child, maybe even two. They tried to guide him towards her. They hoped he could try to choose to move forward, not stay in place.
The lesson this soul was supposed to endure was to choose to live after loss. To choose to try to move forward.
But his guilt was too heavy, his pain a shackle. He denied any opportunity to rejoin society. Choosing instead to see their firelight from a distance, to hear and sway to the echo of their familiar songs.
The choice to try to move through the pain would have been enough to put him in momentum. He would have wandered back to his tribe, or been accepted by a new one. He would’ve met the new woman, she’d have experienced loss as well, and they would have bonded with that shared pain and leaned on each other as they began to heal.
The choice to try would have set this all in motion, but the choice was never made.
This story was also posted to Reddit – check it out here.