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“Attribute all to the gods. They pick a man up, stretched on the black loam and set him on his two feet firm. Then again, (they) shake solid men until they fall backward into the worst of luck, wandering hungry, wild of mind.”
— Archilochus of Paros ( c. 648 BC )
Derek hated his life. He hated what he had become. He was a tremendous success in the eyes of others but a failure to himself. He didn’t even like computers anymore. They hadn’t become what he dreamed they might when he got into the personal computer industry in the late 1970’s. They had become nothing more than a glorified typewriter/filing cabinet/calculator/pin-ball machine shrouded in a lot of flashy jargon, technical bells and whistles, and big price tags.
Of course he’d become very, very rich selling software to businessmen whose entire purpose for living was chasing the dollar to maintain a lifestyle of buying all the completely useless junk that Madison Avenue copy writers could cram down their already glutted throats through slick glossy magazine copy and boob-tube advertising — the American Dream.
Derek had become a member of this herd without realizing it. He owned a new BMW convertible, a Mercedes for his wife, and a 4-wheel drive monster all-terrain vehicle for weekends. They had a big house in the valley, took vacations abroad, and three day weekend ‘business’ trips. His investments, meetings, and social life were all politically correct. His life was an endless run on the economic treadmill.
It’s not that he needed any more money. Derek’s company, Nimbus Software, had become a mega-success in the first ten years. He had been in the right place, at the right time, with the right product, in the right industry. In 1979 the virgin personal computer industry was just emerging into a marketplace hungry for new technology.
His minor in business administration at Cabrillo J.C. and major in the still new and mysterious computer ‘sciences’ had paid off. He wrote the first successful business accounting software for PCs. He called it ThunderCalc.
The company logo was a small cloud with a bolt of lightning descending from it. Little arithmetic signs hung in the cloud like the positive and negative ions in real clouds which soon became the most recognizable symbol in the software business.
Nimbus had just released the newest revision of ThunderCalc, version 7.0. When it was first released, it was the only accounting software available. Every businessman in the country, who needed an excuse to buy a computer so they could play “asteroids” without having to put a quarter in an arcade machine, bought ThunderCalc. Since then the Nimbus Research and Development team released a panoply of software programs – spreadsheets, word processor, database management, communications, corporate planning, etc. – all the essential programs for American business.
That was a long time ago, Derek thought lethargically. He was tired. Tired of ‘corporate culture’, decisions about which shade of carpeting would be most suitable for an Assistance VP’s office. He was tired of the endless circus of trade shows and hospitality suite cocktail parties, sales meetings, market-share strategies, board meetings, profit and loss statements, tax shelters, hot-and-cold-running attorneys and in recent years, press interviews.
It seemed like every magazine writer he talked to wanted to know the same things: “To what did he attribute the success of Nimbus Software? What about the competitor’s new product enhancements? What do you think will be the future of the PC industry?” The whole business and industry seemed so automatic now. It had all become a sales and marketing game with just enough R & D revisions to keep up with the latest technology.
New computer technology was released in carefully spoon-fed portions to the buying public to ensure that every dollar could be squeezed out of existing inventories before unveiling the next “technical breakthrough” to be hyped dramatically in over-priced, four-color glossy trade magazine and television ads.
The profits kept coming in at 100% or more above the previous year. That made the stockholders happy. But Derek wasn’t happy. He was tired of playing the game now. Been there, done that, burned out.
Derek built Nimbus Software by riding the enthusiasm of his early success in a new and booming industry. There had been a few dramatic moments along the way: big sales deals, new releases, overcoming the threat of neophyte competitors with increasingly elaborate marketing campaigns and distribution deals. The licensing agreement with the federal government that put Nimbus Software programs on every PC the federal government bought for the next ten years had been the crowning sales coup which ensured perpetual income for Nimbus Software, Inc.
But money wasn’t everything. When he first started out in the business he had dreams for the computer. His humanitarian dreams had gradually evaporated from the barren landscape of real world marketing and finance. He had envisioned a vast horizon of technical innovation whose power could be an immense civilizing influence across the entire planet. The technology of computers, he thought, would be the promise and fulfillment of man’s dream to rise out of the mud of cultural and technical barbarism into a new golden age of communication and understanding.
Recently, he’d read in some industry magazine about the unprecedented growth in technology over the past twenty years versus cost of a computer. If the airline industry had made similar advances we would all be able to fly around the world in 12 minutes, eat a seven course gourmet meal, choose from one of several thousand in-flight movies, and be delivered to your own front door, all for a cost of only $3.12. Something like that anyway. Used intelligently, a computer could be made to operate all of the mundane mechanical functions of an entire planet. Not just serve as a personal plaything or part-time business tool.
All of the technology already existed to supply everyone in the world with a pocket-sized computer capable of nearly magical power: a combination of telephone, TV, video camera, personal information center, library and fax machine. Each person could have a personal telephone number assigned to him or her for life which they could use anywhere: home, car, abroad, in airplanes, at sea. By punching in a number on a hand-held, cordless keyboard one could access all of the information held in the Library of Congress, every book ever written: indexed and cross referenced. Everyone would have access to photographs of all of the art objects in the Louvre and all the other great art museums available for instant view. You could dial every phone number in the world. Instant shopping, bill paying, news, music, instruction and information services could be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The world could truly become a global society of individuals connected and in communication with each other regardless of artificial boundaries imposed by political bureaucrats.
Over the years Derek had grown up in the real world he learned the realities of the business and economics of myopic, individuated, selfish people. Too many agreements existed to monitor the civilizing process of mankind based on the whim of financial expediency in a culture bent on surviving from one paycheck to the next. There were no long range plans, no unifying philosophy of survival, no purposes or goals for nations or individuals beyond the next buck. It was just a soulless, mindless stampede from one expedient vested interest deal to the next. It was depressing…
“Brrrrrrrik!” Derek was jolted out of his reverie by the intercom on his desk. He pushed the speaker button and said, “Yes?”
“Your wife is on line 7, Mr. Adapa,” said the voice of his secretary.
Over the past year and a half Paula had proven to be indispensable: a very effective, efficient, personal secretary.
“Hello Jenny. What’s up?” he said, leaning slightly toward the speaker.
“Dear, I wish you wouldn’t talk to me on that awful conference call box. It makes you sound like you’re inside a tin can. Anyway, listen. Don’t forget you must be home by 5:00 tonight. The guests will here for dinner at 7:30 and I have a million things to do to get ready. The caterer will be at the house by 6:00. I need you to be dressed and help me get the drinks ready. I have an appointment with Antonio to get my hair done at 3:30 and God only knows how long it will take.”
“OK. OK, Jenny. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine” said Derek, trying not to sound bored or impatient.
“Oh, and dear, if the caterers get there before I get back, please don’t eat any of the hors d’oeuvres. Those are for the guests. I’ll see you as soon as I get home. Bye.”
Derek switched off the speaker and leaned back into his high-back leather executive chair, absently stirring his half cold cup of coffee, melancholically returning to his reflection.
He and Jennifer were married right after college graduation. They started living together during college to share expenses and sex. They fell in love gradually, like most people do. She was a bright, well organized, athletic sort, a wholesome, pretty, and perfect wife for him. She was his lover, best friend, personal manager, and social coordinator.
Their life together had been a good one he thought, though in recent years their marriage had been consumed by his business life and her charity work. The dinner party they were having tonight was a business/social get together with a few couples from Silicon Valley computer circles.
Derek needed time away from the office to get with Vern Sampson, his VP Marketing, to plan an upcoming trade show. They could discuss it after dinner at his home with fewer distractions than at the office. Their wives could handle all the other guests with gossip about local society news, kids, schools, politics, interior decorating. The usual dinner-party talk. Derek needed excuses to get out of the office more often during the past few years it seemed.
He and Jenny always got along well. They were both too busy to not get along really. They had learned to play the game well together. They still had sex once or twice a week, but that was pretty automatic now too. No magic, no mystery, like when they were younger.
Derek wondered if this had something to do with the incident with Paula one night after hours at the office. They often worked together after hours in his office to catch up on overloads. Their work gradually developed into a close friendship, but they had always maintained a professional relationship
Paula was young, sleek, and cat-like, with long, straight dark brown hair, nearly oriental eyes and full, pouting lips. That evening she seemed to almost purr when near him, unintentionally enticing his attention to her svelte feline form. She leaned over his shoulder to read a document. Her firm young breasts brushed against him. Instantly, he felt like a horny teenager again.
What started as flirting horse-play quickly became kissing and passionate petting. He put his hands under her skirt, pulled down her panties and bent her over his desk. She was filled with hot, wet passion. They made love standing up, then in his chair and finally on the floor. Their lovemaking was frantic and uncontrollable. Their orgasms were simultaneously explosive and all-consuming. Afterward they lay together on the carpet exhausted by the effort. They slept for half an hour in a blissful, semi-naked embrace. The scent of cedar hung lightly in the office air.
They awoke suddenly, alarmed and embarrassed by the realization of what had happened. In retrospect, their lovemaking seemed unintended by either of them and beyond their control. Although they shared a deep affinity for each other, they had a business relationship and friendship which were far too important to risk ruining with an affair. They were both intelligent and worldly: wise enough to know that sex had no place between professionals, especially with a married partner who loved his wife.
Derek and Paula sat for some time talking about what happened. They finally agreed on a reasonable sounding explanation: spiritual attraction between people can be misinterpreted as sexual love. They decided that they must be careful to control their hormones in the future.
Without saying so, she was a very special person to him. He felt he had known her forever, though they had met only two years ago. Although Paula would always be discreet, he was concerned that Jenny have no suspicions of the incident with Paula. He had always been faithful to her till now and loved her deeply, although he found it difficult to express to her in words. It was a knowing feeling, a spiritual bond they shared. He had no intention of losing her.
Derek didn’t think he really knew much about Paula’s personal life. He had never been to her apartment or met her friends. He knew that she had an uncanny affinity for cats though. He remembered when he interviewed her for the job as his secretary she seemed skittish about his office, examining him, the space, and objects in it, like a cat in a new home, confident, but cautious.
Paula decorated her office with all sorts of cat pictures, knick-knacks and cards. Since she started working for him, Derek had given her presents of several stuffed toy cats, porcelain and bronze statues and cat jewelry. She kept several cats in her apartment and talked about them by name as though they were people. Oh well, it wasn’t important. Business is business. And her business was hers.
Derek looked at his watch: 1:35. He didn’t feel like working today. He knew the evening would be tied up with “homework”. He punched the intercom. “Paula?” he said.
“Yes, Mr. Adapa?”
“Send all my calls to my voice mail today. I’m going to the club this afternoon.”
“Can I come too?” Paula teased.
“No. I’ve got a headache.” he whispered. “I’m just going to go for a swim and a rubdown and go home. You know I have to be home by 5:00.”
Derek knew that Paula always listened in on calls from Jenny, and God knows who else, even though she would never admit it. Sometimes he thought Paula knew more about what was happening in his life than he did.
“I’ll see you tomorrow. We can have lunch together” he said pushing away from his desk.
He drove to the health club he’d been a member of for over seven years now: GOODBODYS. Not great bodies, just good. But it was only ten minutes away from the office so he could sneak away for a long lunch to swim or jog a little. Sometimes he had a meeting at the club over a game of racquetball. Derek tried to stay in shape though the years were starting to show around his waist. Every year it was a little harder to get up from the dinner table and get it up in bed. “Well, what the hell”, he thought. “We can’t stay young forever.” The idea depressed him further.
Derek looked at his fortyish body in a full-length mirror in the locker room. His “love handles” were lounging along the tops of his swimming trunks. He pulled them up a bit and sucked in his gut a little more.
“Maybe I should get a personal trainer,” he thought disconsolately. “Ah, what the hell. Who cares?”
Nobody at work cared. Paula didn’t seem to care. Jenny didn’t seem to care either. In bed the lights were always out when they made love, so she couldn’t really see him anyway. Derek was jolted out of his self-abasing funk by the chill water of the pool. The swim did make him feel better for awhile.
Derek left the gym after a lack-luster workout. He just couldn’t get into it. His drive home in the afternoon freeway traffic was a lot faster than the usual commuter crawl. No one was home. Jenny was still out and the caterers hadn’t arrived yet.
Derek trudged upstairs to the master bedroom. He flopped down in the overstuffed chair that had been his favorite for years. So many times he had sat there dosing while he waited for Jenny to finish dressing and primping for some dinner or charity ball or art opening or musical they had attended.
He absently flicked on the TV with the remote control. A white-haired, chisel-faced news anchorman appeared in mid-sentence:
“…and the President, attending the 43rd annual secret Summit Conference of Unilateral Money Manipulators (S.C.U.M.M.) in Geneva, Switzerland today. He is expected to deliver a prepared statement appealing for lower interest rates and increased import duty tariffs on raw materials which have been exported by US Corporations to supply Third World factories, who in turn ship finished goods back into the U.S. at prices higher than the same goods could have been manufactured by American workers. The Secretary of State, in a related statement, said that no significant changes in the declining world economy and decaying trade relations were expected from the conference.
In Congress today…”
Derek picked up the TV program guide which lay on an antique end-table next to his chair. He flipped past the first 30 or 40 pages of advertising to get to the daily listings as he sauntered into the bathroom. He dropped his shorts and sat down heavily on the toilet as he read through the 5:00 programs.
“Whew!” he said out loud as he grunted. The stink wafted up from the bowl.
“I better cut back on the cheeseburgers” he thought to himself.
He flushed and read the TV program guide:
Channel 5 (KCOP) “Cops-R-Us” – Grown men playing cops and robbers at taxpayer expense.
Channel 6 (KFBI) “Justice Behind Closed Doors” – Courtroom cases are decided with a Federal prosecutor in Judge Harold Harlequin’s private chambers.
Channel 7 (KDRG) “Your Favorite Busts” – Video highlights of heavily armed Law Enforcement Agents busting political activists and small-time drug dealers.
Channel 8 (KFBI) Movie: “The FBI in Peace and War” – 1938. Jeff Chandler plays an embattled FBI agent during the McCarthy Era fighting movie stars and communists.
Channel 9 (KLAW) “Attorneys in Heat” – Daytime drama. Brad subpoenas his lover, Jeff, to appear before a jury to testify that he had no knowledge of his affair with the D.A.’s wife in her paternity suit against him.
Channel 10 (KDUH) Really Big Time Wrestling Live! (Pre-recorded) Today’s tag-team match-up: The Bataglia Brothers from the Bronx take on the Tiny Titans from Trenton, NJ in this continuing cross-town grudge match. Real sweat! Real fake fights! Real fans! (repeat)
Channel 11 (KDUM) The Phil O’Donnell Show – Phil’s guests today are members of the “Children of Lesbian Transsexual Hemophiliacs”. Phil discusses the alarming neglect of government welfare agencies of these unfortunate victims of social disease.
Channel 12 (KCUM) “The Young and The Randy” – (Daytime drama) Susan and Sally make it in Brad’s bed while Brad secretly video tapes the fun by remote control while he makes it with Sally’s mother and younger sister in the next room.
Channel 13 (KSIK) Kiddie Kartoon Karnival – Space Cyborgs slaughter each other. Starring: Soldier Sam.
Channel 14 (KWAR) The WAR MOVIE CHANNEL – Movie: “John Wayne Kicks Gook Butt” An anthology of clips from John’s 10 best films of 1956. John defends the American Way for U.S. oil companies abroad.
Channel 15 (KCON) Capital Hill Weekly – News summary of another week of pork barrel politics, lies, graft and other forms of legalized criminality that pass for government.
Channel 16 (KDDT) The 24-Hour News Network – (The public has the right to know!) The latest in zany death, mayhem, destruction, rape, murder and insanity gathered from all over the world. (Sponsored by Psycho Pharmaceutical)
Channel 17 (KS&M) Horror Movie Theatre: (1989) “Eat My Guts Baby”. Robert Ghoul and Sheila Smut star in a remake of this classic pain and sex thriller.
Channel 18 (KGOD) Rev. Jerry Fallenangel. Today’s sermon topic: “Is There Life Without Lust?”
Derek started to feel nauseated. Now he remembered why he stopped watching TV about five years ago. TV programming was bullshit. He finished in the bathroom, returned to the bedroom, flicked the TV off and got dressed for dinner.
Dinner was the typical catered California health food fare: white wine, stuffed cauliflower kabobs with tofu chunks, sautéed in seaweed sauce, avocado salad sandwiches on stone ground seven grain bread, mahi-mahi sushi, and spinach hors d’ouvres and for desert, non-fat red raspberry swirl tofu ice cream.
After the other guests were settled in the living room, chatting over herb tea, Derek and Vern Samson excused themselves and disappeared into the recreation room. At about 9:30 they slipped out the side door and drove to a local Burger Barn drive-thru for a chili-cheese burger, Cajun fries and Diet Coke. They talked about the upcoming fall trade show in Las Vegas for awhile, but Derek just couldn’t get into it.
“Just go with the same basic booth set-up we always use”, Derek burped up some chili which burned his throat a bit.
He farted and rolled down the windows of his BMW and sighed.
“What’s up boss?” asked Vern, slouching in his bucket seat and turning away from the window toward his boss in spite of the lingering odor.
“You don’t seem to have the same old spark lately. Is everything OK at home?” Vern asked consolingly.
“Oh, I don’t know, man. I’m just tired I think. Jenny’s OK. I think I’ve just been working too much. You know these trade shows and new releases just aren’t as exciting to me as they were when we were getting started back in the old days. You know what I mean?”
Derek knew he could confide anything in Vern. They’d been together a long time. Derek switched off the headlights and cut the engine as they coasted into the driveway back at the house. He and Vern returned unnoticed into the side entrance to the recreation room. All the guests were still in the living room.
“I’m getting older. I’m not a kid anymore, you know? Jenny and I have been married for almost 17 years now. Everything seems like the same old rehash these days.”
Derek plopped down on a leather sofa against the redwood paneled wall at the far end of a spacious, deeply carpeted room. An antique pool table, which he rarely used anymore, stood at the other end of the room adjacent to several arcade-size video games and pin-ball machines.
Vern ventured, “Well, why not diversify? Develop a new product. Build up a new R & D unit. Maybe do a new hardware…”
Derek cut in, “No, I’m not really interested in that either. We’ve been over all this before. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel and start all over again from scratch with another product. I just don’t have it in me anymore. I guess I’m just not hungry enough.”
Derek slumped back into the overstuffed cushions of the sofa which creaked softly as only leather upholstery can do.
“You know, just between you and me I’ve been thinking about selling my stock. Maybe retirement. I need something…” he said, running his hand through his thinning black hair and closing his eyes.
“Jeez boss, that’s a little drastic isn’t it? I mean, who could replace you? What would you do? What would happened to Nimbus without you?” said Vern with astonishment.
“Nobody’s irreplaceable Vern. Not even me”, sighed Derek.
“Oh” said Vern casting his eyes to the floor and fidgeting with a cocktail napkin.
“Don’t worry about it. Forget I said anything. I guess I’m just tired. You know.” Derek groaned as he kicked off his Italian loafers onto the carpet. Vern relaxed visibly. After a pause he furrowed his brow, stroked his chin with his fingers, and said “Maybe you should just get away for a bit. Take a vacation. Take Jenny to Maui for a few weeks or something. Take a cruise. Get your mind off things.”
“I don’t know. Maybe Vern. I’ll think about it,” yawned Derek and pushing himself up wearily said, “Let’s go see how the others are doing”.
* * * * * * * * *
At 5:00 AM the sun wouldn’t be up for another hour but Derek was already on Interstate 5 on his way north to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. He figured if he drove straight through with just gas stops he could make it there around noon time, get settled in his rented cabin at the north end of the lake and be set to start his back-packing trip early the next morning.
As the miles droned on under the mild roar of his tires Derek thought back to Friday night. Vern and his wife left about midnight after spending a compulsory half-hour in the living room talking with their wives to exchange the usual social pleasantries and thank you’s and “Gee, I guess it’s getting lates” and “Gotta get up early tomorrow” chit-chat that seemed interminable to everyone, yet none-the-less essential to socially acceptable existence.
The next morning over brunch at their country club, for which they paid a huge annual fee to be seen eating a meal once a month or so, he asked, “Why don’t we go away together for a awhile? I need a rest”.
Jenny insisted that she would simply not be able to get away from her commitments to the L.O.F.T.Y. (League of Feminine Traditions and Yearning) Benefit Concert with the Palo Alto Philharmonic Virtuosi. She suggested that perhaps he could go camping with the boys for a few days to get his mind off work. He thought this was a good idea but couldn’t find anyone who could get away for more than a day as they had already had their lives planned for them by their wives weeks in advance and couldn’t make it on only a few day’s notice. So he decided to go by himself.
Derek hadn’t been backpacking for more than four years, but still had all his equipment stored in the loft of the garage. He went to the Army-Navy store to replenish his supply of freeze-dried foods. When he got it all home he realized it was enough to feed three men for a month. But he packed as much as he could in his $375.00 light weight nylon, magnesium-framed pack along with his $450.00 all- temperature sleeping bag, $175.00 hiking boots, his $750.00 automatic 35 mm camera and all the other boy scout type paraphernalia he could think of that he could stuff in between a couple of changes of clothing.
His father took the family camping in the mountains nearly every summer while he was growing up in California. Derek remembered how much he’d always enjoyed the mountains. The clean, crisp fragrance of pine trees and the fine brown dust that seemed to get everyone so gloriously dirty. Eggs and bacon and burned pancakes cooked on a cast-iron griddle over an open fire in the chill of the early morning mountain altitude. The smell of campfire smoke in his clothes. The gentle roar of wind in the trees and the always amazing magnificence of the night sky splattered with billions of blinking stars above the towering pines. The precious warmth of lying scrunched down fully clothed, in his sleeping bag near the embers of a dying campfire. There was a serenity and simplicity about it that he had almost forgotten. Now he was off to enjoy it again. To renew old pleasurable moments, relax and take a new look at his life for a few precious days alone.
On the map Derek had chosen a range of forest in the Trinity Mountains for his hiking excursion. He knew that amid that virgin timber in the shadow of Mt. Shasta there were still places to hike where no man had ever stepped. Remote, pristine, primeval pine forests.
The drive north was uneventful and pleasant. The broad base and flat volcanic top of Mt. Shasta grew on the horizon with mysterious majesty. Interstate 5 was one of the finest highways in the world, as were most of the freeways in California. It stretched smooth and straight through the center of the richest agricultural lands on earth which were now being steadily covered with high-priced, single-family housing, fast food franchises and shopping malls. The entire countryside was being transformed into a continuous homogeneous stretch of asphalt, billboards, storefronts and parking lots filled with late-model Japanese cars, driven by lower middle-class consumers of non-biodegradable plastic goods.
It had been years since Derek had driven this route. He was more than a little shocked by the sprawling jumble of human habitation marked by freeway exit signs to towns that he’d never heard of and which didn’t exist the last time he’d driven this way.
Derek bought a campfire permit at the ranger station and got directions to the cabin his travel agent had rented for him. Derek had waited his turn in line amid other late season vacationers and early season deer hunters who bought hunting, camping and camp fire permits. Derek had never cared for the idea of killing wild game for sport. Somehow the notion that shooting a beautiful animal in it’s natural environment through a high magnification scope mounted on a semi-automatic rifle was not “sport”, but legalized murder of innocent life forms whose flesh was not needed for food — not in a country overflowing with enough food to feed the entire population of Earth. The table scraps thrown into the garbage every day by restaurants and military dining halls alone could feed millions of starving Africans. Hunting was necessary only to satisfy the primordial, Neanderthal blood-lust of a bunch of red-neck pickup truck jockeys with the I.Q. of an empty beer can.
Derek arrived at his cabin in the late afternoon. The cabin would serve as a base from which his hiking excursion would begin. He wanted to have a bed and shower after being on the trail for a couple of days. He unpacked his stuff and settled himself for a one night stay. He’d go to bed early and get up about 6:00 AM to begin his 3-day wilderness trek.
While he ate a frozen pizza heated in the cabin microwave, and cream-filled chocolate cupcakes washed down by diet soda, he began to relax. He didn’t want to watch TV, he hadn’t brought any books, and there really weren’t any other amusements. So he opened the front door of the cabin and sat in a wooden chair on the front porch and just did nothing. As he sat in the calm of the surrounding forest, the affairs of men and life began to ebb from his mind.
He became aware of the smell of pine needles, earth and brush. He heard the rush of breezes high in the trees, the twitter and chirp of birds and the occasional buzz of a passing bug. They soothed him. The soft evening sunlight filtering through the pine boughs and animated tiny dust specks drifting in the air. He sighed and tilted his chair back against the cabin wall. This is what he’d come for. The purifying solitude and natural aesthetic of the mountain forest drained his thoughts into a universe of serene carelessness. There was a pure, pristine pleasantness about it. He sat.
Darkness drank the forest. The evening chill cleansed the air. Stars twinkled in silence. Calm. Sleep. A subtle scent of cedar lingered, though there were no cedar trees. And through the woodland rushed a winsome, whispered sigh.
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