The old man tidied his home for his dinner party. Slowly, the guests trickled in, and a subtle murmur burbled across the room. He stepped across his woven carpet, antique and intricate like moss burnishing a forest floor. The guests seemed uneasy, whispering amongst themselves around the oaken table. The old man pulled in his ragged coat, concealing its tattered holes.
“Are you adjusting well?” He turned around and saw an old classmate.
“To tell you the truth, they’re taking away my house and car soon to cover attorney costs,” he replied quietly. “I’m really glad you guys came out here.”
“Must have been hard . . . 25 years locked up in p-prison . . .” His friend smiled nervously, glancing down at his cell phone.
“Sorry, I have to run. Family emergency, you understand,” his friend stuttered. They stared at each other for a brief moment before he vanished, the door creaking in his wake.
Suddenly, the old man realized that all the other guests were glancing at him. He padded around the room unsteadily. Somehow he felt their stares following him, cold and cautious, betraying the veneer of their smiles.
“Sorry to leave early, something last-minute came up,” someone abruptly exclaimed.
“I need to babysit for a friend,” his co-worker apologized.
“My wife has something she needs help with.” The chairs scraped against the ground.
Confused, the old man gulped in the heady, wet-soil air as everyone began to vanish. The chandelier creaked with every slight breeze, bathing the dinner table in warm moonlight.
The chairs, rocks, gazed at him with hollow expressions. The walls of his house, towering trees, enveloped him, trapping him with their tall, spectral frames. The plants whispered, glanced, stared endlessly.
The hermit was alone in the forest. He had always been alone.