As I approach the hut, I wonder whether I should call out. It clearly is a structure that has a purpose and has been cared for. Yet I don’t call out. I find myself hoping it has been abandoned, so that I can explore it, satisfy my curiosity. So I keep quiet – or as quiet as I can, hobbling through pine needles on scorched soles.
As I get closer, I see a word is burnt into the lintel above the door: Welcome. Oddly enough, I do feel welcome in the midst of these tall, quiet pines, the shade so different from the searing pain and light of the fiery water.
“Hello?” I call quietly, hoping for no response. I push open the door and look around it into the hut.
The small space is tidy, inviting, as welcoming as the lintel indicated. The planked floor has been swept clean and a red woven rug lies between a small bed and a table for one. The space is small, with two or three steps separating the table’s chair from the bed. But it feels cozy, not cramped.
The bed is covered by a hodge-podge quilt of many colors and fabrics. Washed denim coexists with emerald velvet, bleached, pale seersucker and thin linen. On top of the quilt is a neat stack of clothing with a note atop reading, “Please leave your clothes when you depart and wear these fresh ones. You’ll find a stream 20 paces to the left out the front door.” Unfolding the clothing, I find a crème wrap around skirt and a soft t-shirt a few shades darker.
I turn to the table and see another gift: crisp white paper and a pen. This needs no explanation and I find none as I look through the stack of heavy stock.
What I find instead is a table top, stunning in its beauty: the sanded wood has been carved intricately and colored in ocher, yellow and red. As I pull out the chair to sit and examine it more closely, I see it holds a surprise as well. The seat has been upholstered with an elaborate interweaving of fabric. Purples mingle with blues and reds splash through, making this simple space feel suddenly more throne room than hut. Feeling too simple and dirty to use such a stunning chair, I decide to clean off in the stream the note indicated.
As I turn back to the door, what I see elicits a gasp. The door, sanded but unfinished on the outside, contains a white beach bordering an ocean of fire. Bloodred wave wash up on a white shore, licking at the heels of a body laying there.
Too stunned to move, I catch my breath and wonder who did this. How did they know? Did someone see me wash ashore? How could they have known the water burned like fire?
Needing space to think, I head out the door, going several steps to my right before I recall that the note pointed me in the opposite direction.