Jim stirred from sleep. The sun was only just beginning to lighten the bruised purple skies in the east. The coals from last night’s fire gave no warmth from the mound of ashes. Though the leaves were still green, autumn was making her presence known. By the time the moon went through one more cycle, the coolish fall air would rob the leaves of their verdant color and the forests would be awash in brilliant reds, browns, and yellows. The leaves would shatter underfoot with a loud crunch with each step. The moist smell of decaying vegetation would be replaced with a new, dryer aroma from the freshly dead leaves.
In another place and time, Jim and his brothers and sister would be excitedly preparing for the new school year. Barefoot adventures, tall tales, and long days outside would soon be replaced with textbooks covered in brown paper, uncomfortable shoes and long pants, and chalk dust.
Jim sat up, uncovered the buried coals and began to feed kindling. The tiny flames licked ravenously at the bits of leaves and dried twigs. Within minutes larger pieces of wood were chasing the chill from the morning air. As he poked at the fire, the boy’s thoughts returned to school preparations.
He wondered what his Mother was doing right now. She was, no doubt, calling for the boys to get up as she prepared breakfast. The kitchen would be warm and bright as she fried up bacon and sausage to go with the eggs. Jim could almost taste her biscuits, hot from the oven, tendrils of steam wafting upwards as she dropped them from the pan to the plate.
Moments like this made him feel more lost than ever. Despite knowing exactly where he was, the time difference made him feel he was on the other side of the globe, trying to get back to his family.
The trip to Carolina had been fruitful and his hopes were high that he’d find his family when the portal opened again.
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