Hungry and tired, she waited for the campus bus, the visible world reduced to the lamp light’s reach. The chill made her burrow deeper into her jacket, the library’s warmth only a memory in the foggy twilight.
Decisions yet to be made pressed in upon her. She worried at all the questions as she worried at her frayed sleeve, plucking threads and watching the fabric unravel. A familiar sting pricked her eyes.
Clenching her teeth, she shoved her hands back into her pockets, roughly setting her thoughts against the ache and her eyes to look for distant headlights.
And there, on the sidewalk, she saw them, just at the edge between sight and obscurity:
Large paw prints, like some gigantic creature only meant for the wilds had stepped through paint and then sprinted into the darkening fog.
She half-turned away. It was cold. Late. I’ll take a closer look tomorrow, she decided.
Pinpricks of bus lights cut through the fog. Supper and bed beckoned. Warmth and sleep wooed.
Yet her eyes kept finding their way back to the prints. She could just make out more, faintly marking a path into the distance. A little spark of adventure flickered to life in her heart. A little less weariness weighed down her limbs.
She hardly noticed stepping out from the certainty of the stop.
She followed, up and around, down and back, street lamps lighting her way, one moment certain she had lost the trail only to find it again further up and further in, until the paw prints finally stopped.
And she stopped, breathing deep from the chase, hope of a deeper magic rising in her heart.
At the end of the trail, scrawled joyfully on the pavement, were two shimmering words from her childhood, catching her up in the Story, breaking past all her doubts, filling the ache, until her heart spilled over in laughter and tears and laughter again:
(And repost from the archives, in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death, and based on Deborah Smith Douglas’ mention of finding paw prints on Duke University’s campus and following them to the joyful words. She writes: ”I simply, with all my heart, recognized the transforming truth of the affirmation. Aslan is alive. Resurrection happens. Christ is risen. In a single leap, Aslan had bounded past the watchful dragons of my mind and all the intervening years to return…Because my whole childhood rose up to greet the Lion, my tenuously sophisticated young-adult self had no defenses against the saving “allelujah!” truth of that moment.” –Weavings, Jan/Feb 1997, 21)