Travis smiled down as he wiggled his toes in the mud. The now brown and mud crusted overall’s chilled his ankles as they stuck to his legs. The cool fall breeze rustled the leaves on the surrounding trees. A cascade of orange leaves flowed and swirled like water all around him. He adjusted the straps over his bare shoulders. He bent down and scooped a hand full of mud to smear on his face.
“I only do it because it makes mom mad.” He said into the vacant air. Laughing, he pranced through piles of leaves, scooping them with the top of his foot and flinging them into the air. Halloween was close. It was always his favorite holiday. The earthy smell of decomposing leaves brought memories that weren’t his every year. Even though he was only eight, he knew things about life that shouldn’t be understood by children his age.
His mom had told him that he had a special gift that let him learn from those who had been there. She often would ask him who he was talking to; but by the time he would turn back from his answer they would be gone. The woods offered a safe haven for him it was rare that anyone found him out here.
The golden rays of the setting sun began to dissipate in to an orange hue that encompassed everything. A scraping sound caught his attention before the irritable squirrel began barking at him. “I come here all the time and you’ve never had a problem with me before.” He said shaking a finger at the angered rodent. The squirrel’s tail flicked with every bark for a few moments. Travis was captivated until it twitched and darted away back up the tree.
A rustle in the leaves and a slight chill crept up his spine. He turned in the fading light to see a man standing before him. His transparent appearance told Travis that this was another ghost. The man was standing close enough to seem taller than he was. He stood motionless in a grey civil war uniform. The large mustache flowed over the corners of his mouth. He held a rifle in his hand with a bayonet in one hand and under his other arm he held his hat. His boots were tattered and his pant legs were covered in mud. The man looked shocked when Travis spoke to him.
“Why are you so sad?” the man’s tear filled eyes fell to meet Travis’. The two stared at each other for a long moment before the man broke the silence.
“I have been traveling for a long time now.” The man stopped and gazed out into the forest. Travis followed his gaze then turned back.
“Where are you going?” he scrunched his face as he talked.
“I’m trying to get home to my family in Pea Ridge.”
“You know you’re dead right? My mom says that it’s good that I can talk to dead people because they help me learn.” Travis smiled exposing a missing tooth in the front of his mouth.
“Yes, I know I am dead. What is your name?”
“I’m Travis what’s your name?”
“I’m Robert” the apparition hung his hat over his rifle and extended a hand. “Robert Givans” Travis reached out a hand to shake it but it passed right through. Goose bumps appeared on Travis’ arm.
“Mom said something one time about Robert Givans. She said he went away and just didn’t come back. I don’t really remember everything because I was really sick.” The man perked up slightly looking around.
“Will you take me to see your home?”
“Sure, mom doesn’t see dead people like I do; but wer'e in Pea Ridge so, maybe she could help”
“Sounds good.” The man put his hat on top of his head and reached down his hand. There was a small clap as Travis’ hand connected with Roberts. The two walked for a ways before the small house came into view. Travis began to bounce slightly with excitement as the pair walked hand in hand. He broke his grip and rushed toward the house.
“Mom! Moom!” he cried as he ran. The screen door to the house opened and a woman appeared holding a basket of laundry on her hip. “Mom, guess who I met today?”
“Who did you meet?” She asked sweetly placing a hand on his head.
“I met someone with the same last name as us. Robert.” The woman stood up abruptly dropping the laundry basket onto the ground as her gaze fixed on the man at the tree line. The man dropped his rifle on the ground and pulled his hat over his heart. Tears began streaming down his face. She began slowly walking towards him, tears filling her eyes.
“Robert, I thought you’d never make it back.” She wailed as she broke into a run. The two met and embraced each other as they wept. “Travis come meet your dad.”Travis’ eyes went wide as he slowly walked up to the couple. Robert swept him up and pulled him into the embrace.
“All soldiers find their way home.” Robert said through his uncontrollable sobs before they all disappeared.