A strange nervous energy moved through the crowd, a haunting mood weighing down upon everyones heads, weaving its way from person to person. Save for the occasional furtive glance, nobody made eye contact. Even the chill in the air was not enough to infect them with any sense of camaraderie, keeping their distance from each other in a moment that should have bred togetherness. The only sounds to be heard were from the nervous shuffling of feet and the occasional wail from somewhere in the crowd, as everyone contemplated their grief. Many of them knew in their hearts that someone should say something, and yet, for what seemed to be hours without end, all remained silent, their faintheartedness overwhelming their sense of duty.
Friedrich could stand the interminable silence no longer. Small by no means, he lifted his girth from where he was sitting and waddled to the front of the crowd. What little noise there was suddenly vanished as a blanket of silence washed over the group. Friedrich shuffled his feet along the ground, kicking up pebbles and dirt as he ambled past the last of them. Turning, he fluffed up his coat, knocking off some of the dust that had accumulated in the afternoon of contemplation.
“Afternoon, everyone. I would say welcome but this is definitely not somewhere anyone wants to be.” A wail from the back follows. “Most of you are wondering how things could have ended up the way that they have, a tragic end to a dear friend with so much life ahead of him.
“While many of you knew Peter very well, there was a deeper, darker side that he kept to himself. Only a few of us knew the real Peter, the brooding, melancholy Peter. The Peter who saw his family taken from him so violently and in such a short period of time. The Peter whose heart broke, whose mind fractured, at such a sorrowful loss.”
Pausing, Friedrich looked out over the crowd. Even though heads were nodding up and down, he could see some feet kicking feet around in the dirt in distraction. Listening, he could hear the low murmur that is often beneath a crowd. He even imagined hearing a hiss here, or a growl there, his mind looking for some audible feedback but finding none in this stoic group. Clearing his throat, he moved on.
“I knew the real Peter. We grew up together, with grand aspirations of taking over the world. As we matured, I mellowed somewhat in my ambitions, enjoying the life around me, but not Peter. He started looking for a greater meaning to life, something beyond the humdrum nature of this existence.
“Peter’s first foray into self discovery led him, like many others, to religion. He was not interested in the Christian belief system, nor the pagan, as the sacrificial aspects of both put him off. Even Buddhism he found to be too violent, even greedy, in some of its aspects. In fact, what he found was that all religion was rooted in violence, pitting one against another under the guise of bravery and divinity.
“After passing on religion, Peter ventured out beyond our borders, traveling the world unseen by most of us. He lived in nature for the better part of a year, eating from the land, sheltering within natural dens formed by the canopies of trees and bushes. He returned someone utterly changed, with no hint of the youth that he had been remaining.
“This new form that he had taken caught the eye of a special someone. The confidence he found within himself in the previous year was evident in his courting of Alice. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say he strutted around, he certainly managed to get her attention. It was that courtship that led to the best years of his life, and to its worst tragedy.
Friedrich began pacing in front of the others, searching for his next words carefully, trying to frame his conclusion properly. A brief glint of sunlight reflecting off an object on the ground caught his eye, interrupting his thoughts. Turning away he focused on what to say next.
“You all know the story of what happened to his family, the tragic end to a tortuous journey that started with their kidnapping. There’s no need to go into detail. But, as evidenced by this gathering today, it was not the end of his journey alone.
Looking around, Friedrich spotted the water behind him, pausing to take a quick drink before the last words.
“I was Peter’s best friend. I was with him through all of his joys and his terrors. I know this will ruffle some feathers but I am confident that Peter set out on this last journey of his with the intention of it being just that, his last. He felt such angst over life since his family was taken from him. His intent was to take this one last step, and only one, and end his journey forever.
“The question you keep asking yourselves is why, why would he take such a risk, when there were other options than this? Why would he choose to cross this road here, in this place?
“I hope that you can now see that it was not merely a poor decision in where to cross. He wasn’t actually trying to cross the road. He never intended to get to the other side. This was where he planned his journey’s end.”