The sky here is dark, and brooding, just like me. I am Dušan Bratan, and my name means “Soul Brother” in Slavic. The trees whisper in the wind, belying the stillness I feel all around me. As I stand here and study the landscape, I reminisce about how I got here. It hasn’t been painless, and it wasn’t an easy decision. All my life, my mother, Miluša, was my guide. My rudder. I never felt lost with her around. I don’t remember my father, so she was all I had. It was just the two of us, against the world – partners in crime, I guess you could say. I told her everything, and I always felt like she listened. Then, shortly before I came of age, she passed away very suddenly. I felt lost, bereft, empty. I finished my high school days in a perpetual fog, my safe little life cut short. I turned away from what friends I had, and trudged day by day through the rest of school, confused and afraid of what might be to come.
Finally, at the last minute, something occurred to me. I remembered the stories my mother had always told me as a child. Stories about where she came from, her family and the idyllic life she’d had growing up. Until the fire. Even though I felt my life had been destroyed, she had been through worse. Her family, her home, her everything had been lost in one fell swoop and she had been uprooted, brought here away from all that she knew. If she had made it.. than so could I. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to get her – and my – heritage back.
With a little research, I was able to find the town she had come from. Forgotten Hollow, it was called. The land she had grown up on was still there. Still vacant. …. And for sale.
So I sold everything she had left me, and carefully counted out the funds required to purchase it. I was left with next to nothing, but it was enough to buy a tent and a cooler that I stocked with food for a couple weeks. It took two days of travel to get here, and it gave me a lot of time to think. To plan. To dream of the mansion I would build, the woman I would marry, and love for the rest of my life. I imagined the daughter I would pass it all down to, the family I would have, the way I would tell them all about the amazing woman my mother had been.
Then I looked around again. Really looked. I had nothing. No mansion, just a tent and a cooler. A few hundred dollars to my name, and no way to make more money. All the hope I had been feeling left my body in a rush. I felt like crying… standing here without even a chair to sit on, utterly alone. Even the trees stood together, mocking me in my solitude. I stood there for a long time, tears welling in my eyes. I had nothing left. I plopped down on my cooler and cursed at myself in frustration.
Unbidden, a picture of my mother came to mind. I couldn’t give up now. When you hit rock bottom, I guess there’s no where to go but up. It’s in my blood to be here on this land, and I certainly don’t have much, but that will change. Mother survived, and so will I. I have faith. I am not sure what I’ll do to make money, but I will figure it out. First things first. I decide to explore the countryside around me, see what I can find to sell. Maybe an idea will come to me.