Moments later, after a gentle incline, they reached the botanical gardens. “This place is enchanting!” Peter stood in the gateway, almost afraid that by treading on the path before him he would spoil the beauty and apparent wildness of the place, regardless of the fact the path had been specially made to allow visitors to walk around the garden.
Such a rich variety of flora, accompanied by a plethora of colour arrangements; a symphony of the natural kind – the wildest nature, tamed to appease the chaos of the human mind at the subconscious level. Hidden amongst the branches of the larger trees and under the shadows of the shrubbery perched the animals: from the smallest robin to the ever-attentive raven, among squirrels, toads and insects of every species. Dark, shadowy passages interwove brighter patches where the sunlight was allowed to pass through the canopy. It was welcoming, yet commanded respect from the onlooker. Giles headed straight towards his usual spot, beckoning Peter to follow.
As they meandered through what had gradually become something akin to woodland, Giles lost himself in thought. The usual niggling thought kept repleating itself in his mind: Who was Peter? How had they suddenly started talking? And why was he allowing a stranger into his life without so much as background check? No one in their right mind did anything with anyone without at least a skim-read of the other’s history these days.
Being perfectly honest with himself, he also knew that he had had no preparation time and no advance warning that some guy from beyond the confines of the city would stop him and want to know about his unremarkable life. It was also unlikely that he would have ever found anything about Peter anyway. The guy seemed so far out of this world that he probably wasn’t on any register, not even the population list of the Old-Ways Reserve. The Reserve was where Giles’ mother had been born – so she said. He himself had only seen it in the grainy digital pictures of his mother’s childhood.
As his train of thought wandered to his mother and his turbulent childhood, Giles reached the clearing he always went to. He turned to look for Peter. Nothing.
Moments of turning on the spot searching for Peter, looking this way, then that: he had disappeared. Where was anybody’s guess. A great feeling of sadness pervaded him and Giles felt alone. That same lonliness that always accompanied him, the same that came with him whenever he reached this spot, the same feeling he had when he looked up at the majestic totem in the middle of the clearing and asked the same burning question: How can you just stand there, alone, the carved remnants of a tree and smile regardless of the weather, regardless of the time of day, season after season, growing older, but never really growing? How could an inanimate object have an evidently better quality of life that he did? He didn’t even know if it was legittimate to attribute the word “life” to anything with regards to this totem, but in his ignorance he did anyway. It just didn’t seem right to him. Giles sat down where the totem’s feet would have been had they not been roots and closed his eyes, willing this day to end sooner.
End of Part IV
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