Absent dreams, I woke that morning to half-darkness, alone and feeling the last fingers of sleep withdrawing and leaving me cold in the grey pre-dawn. The driver might’ve dropped me at the crossroads while the Buick was still in motion. I was still blinking into the grey night, softened by the dust on the road as he drove off, hastening to get away. I didn’t remember getting out of the car, or having the leather satchel shoved into my hands. I don’t remember the driver’s face or his name; only that he took my fare and took me to the address written on the back of an envelope, scrawled by my mother’s attorney when my mother could no longer write for herself.
The soft cover of dust drew figures in the air, rising like spectres to greet me down the long, straight track beneath the cover of white trees. They knitted above the dirt road in a skeletal canopy.
Behind me were woods, too thick and impenetrable to look into for long. The path continued through the trees, but to where, I couldn’t be certain. It seemed as if, in the darkness, the forest swallowed the path and rose up the mountainside. In the daylight, it would cast everything else in shade.
I wasn’t sure of the walk to the estate, only that there was nowhere else to go except onward though I didn’t know the way for myself, and I didn’t remember the stories that I was told as a girl about Briarhill beyond that it was sinking into the alluvial soil of the lake.