The Hopeful Wanderer – Call to Launch

Rhythmic, echoing creaking drew me across flat empty plains to a flat, empty house. An untidy row of windows stared out from the house’s weathered flanks at the setting suns blazing orange and purple across the sky. My favorite kind. Next to the house stood a tall, tall tree, beneath the branches of which creaked a swing set.

The rusty swing swung back and forth. Empty. Creaking.

I hovered a wary distance away between a pair of old gateposts, regarding the mysterious swing. But I could not divine its secrets from here. So I huffed an irritated breath and approached, shoes crushing long yellow prairie grass that sprang back up in my wake.

When I got close, somewhere between blinks, a child appeared on the swing, facing the sunset.

Nonplussed, I stopped next to the swing, trying to decide whether the child had been there the whole time. My mind believed both realities at once and it hurt to think about.

I said, “Your swinging is very loud.”

“Only to you,” the child replied, smiling up at me. “You were meant to hear it.”

Pumping little legs harder and harder, the child rose higher and higher. The creaking of the chain increased in volume, roaring, crashing off the ground and careening into the sky. Hands over my ears, I held my breath, expecting to see the child go sliding off into the dirt.

“Now you’re here,” the child called, “I can go!”

At the apex of the next back swing, when the seat whipped all the way above the supporting pole, the child flew off. Kept going, going. And winked out over the horizon.

Silence settled over the empty plains as thrill shivered across my skin.

Gripping the cool chains in both hands, I sat down.

And started to swing.

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