The August heat clung to the trees flanking the stream and rattled the cicadas buzzing their discontent. Birds chirped and rustled the leaves, while the brook babbled its merry song. The world gleamed with a golden sunset that sparkled like diamonds on the flowing river.
The old man took a long swig of his bottled beer. Closing his eyes, he smiled as contentment oozed like sap down his sweaty chest, and his heart filled with the golden evening light.
Sitting on the squat beach chair with legs outstretched, the babbling brook giggled over his splayed toes, and the soft breeze ruffled his white and wispy hair. The oppressive heat lulled him to sleep, but his eyes flew open when the forest stopped singing, and silence descended like an invisible fog.
The sun dropped beneath the tree-line, and the cool golden stream flooded with a blood-red syrup rolling over skull-like rocks and bony roots. A decrepit barge followed the bloody water and brought the dismal gloom that sank into the river. The gloaming cloaked the forest and drained it of color, tainting it with the blue hues of melancholy.
The old man sat in his chair, but the brook no longer babbled or played with his toes. The flow ceased, although the barge still floated downstream, pushing the blood aside and trailing a wake of black ink behind it. The old man had been on this earth far too long to fear the barge, so he sipped his beer and watched it hover past him and round the river-bend.
A hint of sadness and nostalgia tinged his erstwhile contentedness as the old man packed up and folded the beach chair. He traipsed the well-known path home while the forest awoke from the sinister pause. An owl hooted and animals scurried to safety. The cicadas quieted, but the crickets chirped in their stead.
The old man entered his empty house and turned on the light, flooding it with yellow comfort. He had seen the shabby old barge before, and knew what it portended; tomorrow he would check the obituaries for familiar names.