I decided I may be awhile before I come up with another story like "Then Fall Hobbes," but I can still come up with another "Dresser in the Attic." This story has nothing to do with the latter.
Thanks to you all who read and reviewed "Then Fall Hobbes," and for making it a success, thus allowing me to climb higher in the chain at Fan fiction Comics Calvin and Hobbes! BWAHAHAHAHAHACKHACKCOOOUGHAAAACK! Man, I need to stop smoking…
Disclaimer: I do not own Calvin and Hobbes…but Lord, am I trying…
The land had become a depressing sort. The leaves didn't seem as clear as they did so long ago. I guess childhood does that to you. I augments all of the senses, making them better. If the sense of a child were that of an adult, I'm sure the suicide rate would be higher.
This river, so long ago, was swift and thicker, almost seemed to rage when you looked at it. Hobbes and I had braved that river once, and almost drowned in the process. It was the one stream in this forest I could actually call a river. Now, it was nothing more than a trickle that may swell when the spring rains collect.
The smell of fall, the sense of fall, that one that seemed to radiate around you as a child, seemed absent now. Absent, like my childhood friend. I knew it was fall, knew it was because it was October, but it just didn't feel like it. I couldn't smell apple or pumpkin orchards, I couldn't feel a tinge go up my spine as I stepped on the dry, dead leaves on the ground. Fall, for me, was dead.
As a child, fall was like a blanket. You didn't really get it out until it was that time, and it seemed to cover you, and if something was out there, it protected you, and, like a blanket does in the dark, when you know, not just suspect, but actually feel that there is something in the closet, it increases your sense. You can hear a deer step on a dry leaf a half mile away, if the wind hasn't made the leafs sway and make their melodic sound, like chimes.
It wasn't so much as the fact that I was in the forest in fall, but the fact that I had been sharing it with somebody. It just felt lonely that you could have acres of untouched beauty and not be able to share it. The air was crisp, like hot apple pie. Hobbes commented on this almost every time we came out.
This was the perfect time of year. Winter had come yet, and wildlife, albeit some had gone into a deep rest, was bustling about for the cold months. Commonly a deer would cross our path, and yet, they would always pause to look at us, determining if we were good or evil. Whatever it was they decided, it always got them running again.
It was indeed a special time, up until that one fateful October day.
I can remember it like it happened not several minutes before. This event in life, the event that killed my best friend, changed the course of my life forever. I don't know what I would have grown up to be. Maybe a comic writer, or maybe I would have written the philosophy book I one day said I would. Or maybe I would have had some more elaborate career. Whatever it would have been, it changed that day. That event made me the man I am today, a lawyer. As a kid, you know what you're gonna do, deep inside. One day, you might say veterinarian, but within you know you'll become, say, a paleontologist or a writer. I knew I wasn't meant to be a lawyer, not until it changed inside me.
We had been walking, and Hobbes had commented on the apple crisp air. We laughed about it, because that was what we did now. We would walk out, watch the firework display of leaves, listen to their rustling in the wind, and then comment on that crisp feeling.
I guess we shouldn't have been walking on that ledge. Mom had once warned be against walking along those ledges, because the trees on the edge were old and their roots were dying, and although they did hold the soil, they became weaker. Especially in the fall and winter. We knew this. We had seen it before. Sometimes we would walk into the wood and come to a cliff and we would along the cliff side. They weren't the largest cliffs. Only fifty feet, at most, and mostly dirt with boulder in them. They would run along the sides of rivers or a tree line in an old creekbed. We would look down and see some wet soil and boulders, and then see the gap in the old cliff where it had come from. We had seen them fall before too. Once, when jumping the ledge on the wagon, we watched about two hundred feet down as a twenty foot section just shook and slid off, dragging a tree behind it.
Still, we weren't worried. If they wouldn't fall with us with the added weight of a wagon, then off of it wouldn't make much difference.
The blanket of fall had seduced us. We felt so protected, and were blind to see the shifting ground ahead of us. We had heard several gunshot snaps of roots breaking, but they were muffled by old soil. Neither of us noticed the ground begin to slant toward the cliff and to the river, not creek, but that actual raging river beneath us.
It had happened so quickly I had almost missed it.
The crack had sprung between my feet and all I had to do was leap to my right to be back on solid ground. Hobbes, however, was all the way on that five foot section of cliff. He yelped and tiger-leapt while the cliff piece was halfway to the ground. Claws bared, I saw him dig into the cliff side and begin to work his way up.
The ground beneath me wasn't as solid as I thought it was, because as Hobbes clawed his way to the top, it shifted and the clods of soil Hobbes clutched to gave way. I leapt forward and grabbed his paw.
Now, Hobbes was almost twice as tall as I was, and weighed several pound more. I was dragged forward two feet before my foot tangled into a root that had surfaced, supporting the both of us. Hobbes roared in frustration and tried to climb his way up, and almost did, when I felt the root snap and the soil began to fall away.
I never meant to let go. Lord knows I didn't. It had been a reflex, pure and simple. I would have held on for the rest of my life had I needed to, but in a blind panic my hands shot away and Hobbes, caught by the chunk of cliff, plummeted to the river. With a grinding splut, the cliff chunk sank into the river and stood out like an island before the swift current caught the soil between the roots and it finally disappeared.
Hobbes could easily have swam out of there, or ridden the current until he could grab onto a twig or until it grew shallow, but that had been if the cliff chunk hadn't crushed him. I watched with horror after I grabbed a dangling root as the dark river grew crimson under the chunk for a moment, then become its solid, dark color.
That had been many years ago, and I was almost convinced afterwards that Hobbes had never been real, that he had really been a mere stuffed animal, but I knew what I saw when that river become crimson. Stuffed animals don't bleed.
Even if they did, I knew that those special times spent together were real, not some figment of my imagination. G.R.O.S.S. had been all too real, and half of those members had been contributed by Hobbes. There was no way he had imagined that.
I walked down to the trickling creek that had once taken a friend's life. Across the river, on the opposite cliff, I see the small wooden cross that I had made. I remember hunting out in the forest for the thick sticks and the materials to bound them together after I had searched for Hobbes for two hours. I knew I wouldn't find him, though.
The cross still stands, after several decades of rain and snow and several flashfloods, and still it stands.
That blanket of security, of fall, had eluded me that day, and, as I turned to leave that forest, I felt it flood back in me.