It was the perfect weather for leaf-watching, and my housemate Julie and I were all set to spend the weekend with our friends in the north Georgia mountains. “Don’t you want to come along?” Julie asked her 15-year-old son, Mark. He wasn’t interested. “Enjoy the leaves,” he told her. “I’ll be fine here at the house by myself.”
Julie and I drove up in my car after work on Friday. Saturday morning we hiked along the mountainside, drinking in the dazzling colors. “I could spend all week out here,” Julie said.
“Me too,” I agreed. We headed back to the cabin and played cards by the fireplace, keeping warm from the crisp fall breeze. I stared at the smoke rising up the chimney. All of a sudden, I was overcome with a terrible feeling. Go home, a voice seemed to urge me. I couldn’t explain it, but I didn’t want to be here anymore. I wanted, no, needed, to go home.
“Carol, calm down. You’re being silly,” Julie said. But the urge got stronger.
“I’ve got to leave,” I said. “If you want to stay, you can ride back with everyone else tomorrow.”
Julie stood up. “No, I’ll go with you,” she said.
We barely spoke on the two-hour trip back. I felt guilty that we missed the best leaf-watching by driving in the dark. But I'd never felt anything like this urge. Finally, we pulled up to the house. The lights were on inside, but something was strange. The windows were fogged. Julie opened the door. Smoke poured out. “Mark!” she yelled. We dashed inside and found him asleep on the sofa. Julie shook him awake, and I grabbed the source of the smoke—a pillow too close to the fireplace—took it outside and threw water on it. Mark built a fire to keep warm, and some embers flew out when he forgot to replace the screen. The whole house could've gone up if we hadn’t gotten there just then.
I stared in wonder at the smoke hanging in the air. Just like the smoke that triggered the urge to “Go home.”