Fall Leaves – Natsui Ureshenko

A beautiful fall day; the leaves were turning to fire, rust, wine and gold. A magic time of early morning jogs, sunset walks and the rich smell of chimney smoke from fireplaces around town. The birds that stay here were settling in for the winter as were the squirrels and rabbits, foxes and skunks. The streams ran icy cold and the forests still concealed; fishermen and hunters were getting their last haul before winter enveloped everything in frost.

This season was really their time. They’ve been at it for thousands of years. The turn of colors signaled the cycle of life. No one really noticed the missing rabbits or squirrels. Once in a while there was an investigation when a jogger went missing. Otherwise, it was as it always had been.

Every morning, Rachel would go out on her run. She wanted to lose those few pounds before her high school prom. None of her friends thought she needed to lose any weight. Her mother always made sure her plate was full at dinner time. They would argue about the wisdom of this nightly ritual. However, Rachel always had the last word on it even though it sounded more like a retch.

This morning, Rachel noticed more leaves had fallen from the black mulberry tree outside her bedroom window. It always lost leaves earlier than the rest. It never seemed worse for it though. She picked one up to study it on her morning jog. She decided to take the route down by the reservoir.

As she ran, she twirled the leaf between her fingers. The veins in the leaf seemed to subtly pulse with life. Rachel didn’t remember any leaves doing that before. It appeared to turn a slight rust color where she was holding it. The path by the reservoir where she regularly ran was rarely raked in the fall. Leaves from hundreds of surrounding trees collected here. She found herself plowing through piles of them to make headway down the path…