We live near the top of the Hill, close to the Wood. When we walk to the Wood at the top of the Hill, we can look down at the candy-colored houses and the Church nestled in the Valley below, and the Water, and the Great Bridge, and the Far Hills beyond. It is always beautiful, but Springtime is the best. And since it is almost always Springtime, every day seems more beautiful than the last.
We walk hand in hand. We are happy walking quietly together; sometimes we speak to one another, sometimes not. We never speak to anyone else. There are other people here on the Hill, but like us they do not speak to anyone unless they are walking with them. We try not to look at the others, nor they at us. We all gaze separately at the Sea, which you can just see glinting beyond the Great Bridge.
It is part of the Enchantment. Outside, beyond the Far Hills, which are the boundaries of our world, are the places we came from. There great storms lash the trees, roar across the empty plains. People live in squalid towns filled with broken cars. There is great Heat, and great Cold. The light is dull and harsh, and nothing shines. The people there toil, and fight, and drink to dull their sadness.
We do not toil. We walk, like the others, looking at the beauty around us. We have quiet meals and listen to soft music.
The Enchantment is our blessing, and our curse. Why curse? Because we have everything we need, and our Hill is beautiful and peaceful, but we are so lonely here. No one to speak to, nothing to do but walk, sit, eat, and listen to music. It is the same bargain everyone else makes to come here. We are all Enchanted. We must not look at, or speak to, anyone we see on our walks, on the paths through the Wood, or we will break the spell.
My mother, my father, my brothers and all my family are beyond the Far Hills. I haven’t seen them for years. For a while they wrote letters, but I was not allowed to respond. That is another part of the bargain. The Doors are closed to all but a few. You must leave everything behind to come here, and then, they tell you, you will be free.
Most people finally choose animal companions because they have no human companionship. If you did not come here with a husband or wife, or find one on your first day, you usually stay alone. You lose the will to reach out to others when you see how they always look away. If by chance you catch the eye of one of the others, you see his warm smiles are only for the elegant animal at his side.
The thing is, you can leave whenever you wish. But once you make the choice to do so, you can never return. The Doors only open for you once.
I think of leaving often. We talk of it sometimes. But beauty, quiet, comfort: how many people have these things in abundance, every day? Each sunset when I look at the golden light etching the Far Hills, my heart leaps. Never to see that again…
So we remain, in our sad enchantment, our golden chains.