The two begin to walk away from the stream leaving W on the side not yet crossed, with V and U on the side crossed already. “Where are we going, ma’am?” Kevin asks yet again. “But you already know,” the older woman responds. “Yea, I guess. I mean, I know you said a ‘hillside’ or something, but where is that?” Kevin extends. “A hillside is lost on you?” the older woman asks. “No. I know what a hillside is,” Kevin scoffs with a crinkle of his nose. Stopping for a moment now, the older woman turns to face Kevin who follows all-too-closely and asks, “Then what is your question, Kevin?” “I … I just … I guess I just … you know … like where is this hillside?” “Look into the future, if but only a few minutes,” the older woman responds. “Ma’am?” Kevin stands up straight almost in defiance but something else entirely; “I’m sorry, but what? No one can look into the future.” “Can you not?” the older woman chimes. “Uh, like, no, ma’am,” Kevin speaks indignantly. Amused, the older woman already decided that this Earth-man will know some truth and begins, “Well, in what direction are we headed?” Kevin thinks for a moment, then points, “That way.” Still amused, the older woman further prods, “Excellent. Is there a hillside in view over there?” Kevin looks again in the direction he pointed only moments ago, and then, something dawns on him. He looks directly at the older woman, “That is where we are going.” “Yes,” the older woman affirms. Feeling excited now, Kevin begins to understand a semblance of understanding, “And so, we’ll like, that’s like where we’ll be, you know, in like a little while or something!” The older woman determines that the Earth-man looks all too excited and refuses to participate in his excitement, and instead, the older woman responds with an air of disappointment, “Of course, dear.” Unaware of the older woman’s indifference to his newly acquired knowledge, Kevin still feels giddy and proud. Silently, they walk on toward the hillside.
A little while or something later, the two reach the edge of a thick forest of aspen trees. The older woman stops and turns again to face Kevin. “We’re here. We’ve made it to the hillside?” Kevin asks. The question inflicts such obviousness that the older woman ignores Kevin’s inquiry and instead quizzes, “Do you know what kind of trees these are?” “No, ma’am,” Kevin responds; “Honestly, you know, I have, well, I don’t know anyone who has seen the kinds of plants and trees and such here that I’ve seen over the past few days.” “What do you make of all of these plants and trees and such?” the older woman continues. “Well, sure, like they sure are beautiful. I just sort of wonder though, if I’m like dreaming or like where I am, you know?” Kevin responds. Feeling the depth of Kevin’s impishness, the older woman concedes, “Yes. And yet you have not once asked where it is that you are.” “No, ma’am,” Kevin insists; “I definitely know better than to find out.” Surprised by Kevin’s open stupidity in that he lacks the curiosity necessary for intelligence, the older woman sighs a deep breath of seeming futility. What the older woman feels, however, is anything but. The older woman begins, “These trees are called ‘aspen’ trees. Come, feel the unique smoothness of the trunk.” Kevin walks toward one of the trees and complies, “Ewe. What is this sh-, stuff, that’s like all on me?” The older woman continues, “As a small child, my family lived in the high mountains of a place on Earth with which you ought to be familiar.” “Oh yea, like where?” Kevin asks. The older woman ignores him, “On this mountain hillside, aspens grew like grass on a lawn and covered every square inch of the valley.” “Wow,” Kevin interjects; “That sounds really beautiful. Do you miss it? I mean, it must kind of look, like, you know, right, here, right?” The older woman continues to ignore him.
“One day, while walking through the bright forest, my father informed that the aspens are very unique plants, that essentially, there are only a handful of aspens in the entire world. He further explained how every tree that is seen above ground actually just represents a root that shot up through the ground again to reveal itself as a tree. So, if you touch one trunk of an aspen, you’re really just touching one limb of it. One aspen tree can grow to cover an entire hillside or mountainside, popping up every few meters to reveal itself again, in another place in space while all of its roots connect each tiny leaf to every other tiny leaf across an entire forest. The aspen’s greatest advantage, however, also reveals its greatest weakness. For if, on the surface, one tree becomes infected with some disease, all of the trees of a hillside, which is really one tree manifested all on that same hillside, become infected with that same disease. This means, of course, that one tiny event can wipe out an entire, seemingly multiple, population. What has happened, obviously, is that one aspen tree has died, but the effect of this one tree dying is that an entire forest has been lost.”
Somewhat bored, Kevin says, “Okay. That’s sad, I guess.” The older woman, of course, had been gazing longingly into the forest of fall-like aspens whose leaves have all turned a stunning, vibrant gold and flutter in the synthetic breeze. Upon hearing the words spoken by Kevin, the older woman blinked hard and realized that the decision that was made about him long ago would, in fact, be the fate that she would now have to seal. Kevin, now, indifferently looking into the forest before him, catches the eye of the older woman who looks sternly into his face. “You are meaningless in this realm. You had no meaning from the time when you came. You are nothing in the vastness of time,” the older woman begins. “What the fu-, hell, no, what the fuck?” Kevin responds, defiant. “If time is like these aspens, where do you belong?” “Ma’am? I don’t know what you’re getting at, but I matter. I matter a whole fu-, no fuck it, I matter a whole fucking more than you do. Who the fucking hell are you anyway?” Kevin shouts now. “It does not matter. Everything here and now matters not, to someone like you,” the older woman answers.
“I just like woke up, and I like don’t know, you know, like anything about what’s going on. I’m real sorry if I like saw something I wasn’t supposed to see or something, but really, lady, I haven’t got a fucking clue. I thought, and you know, I was like real excited that someone important wanted to finally talk to me cause I thought, like, you know, like, you would finally give me some answers or something, but instead, I’m just like told all these ridiculous stories or stuff that like, you know, what’s the word, it just doesn’t matter? Like you say that all the time. ‘Oh, Kevin, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. You don’t matter.’ How do you think that like makes a guy feel, you know? I’ll tell ya; it doesn’t make me feel good at all,” Kevin vents.
“Of course it does not feel good, but what good do your feelings do?” the older woman, unmoved by Kevin’s outburst, coolly responds. “It’s my feelings. It hurts, you know, like it hurts my feelings when you say I don’t matter. I matter!” Kevin yells. “How?” the older woman puts to him. Stepping back and away from the older woman now, feeling upset and hurt. Kevin, of course, cannot put into words his own worth or value. “I just do,” Kevin murmurs under his breath. “Proof to the contrary will be revealed,” the older woman states flatly; “There are people waiting back at the stream.” The older woman leaves Kevin in half sobs as the entirety of his worthless life flashes through his mind like small daggers that pierce the mind of the emotionally weak. For a moment, Kevin stares at the dirt path beneath his feet as he contemplates the words of the older woman. “I matter,” Kevin continues to whisper under his breath; “She can’t fucking know anything about me or my life. I matter. I’m good. I’m reliable. I do what I have to do. I show up to work on time. I work hard. I give my all.” Kevin hears the voice of the older woman whom he can no longer see as the older woman has passed beyond a small curve in the hillside, “Come along, dear. You do not have much time.” Kevin considers his options and then the voice of the older woman rings out again, “No, this is not actually the open wilderness. You know not where or when you are. Simply follow. Now.” Feeling hopeless and dredged slightly in sadness, Kevin relinquishes his resentment for the moment and walks in the direction of the older woman’s voice.