Hope — my only child — only looks at me without a word. I ignore her, although I understand what her expression means. Anyhow, she never touches the swing. I never tell her that her life and the swing are somehow connected. She probably can feel it, though.

I keep falling whenever I try to climb the tree. My head hits a big root that surfaces from the ground. I lose consciousness for a while, but then I see images from the past that seem so clear and real. These memories take me to the time I always wish to forget.

About 10 years ago, May — my wife — and I made the decision. We were crying in silence as we decided it, and it was our last choice.

“I wish this would be our last endeavor, my dear,” May whispered to me.

I nodded.

That night, we had a similar dream. I didn’t know why we happened to talk about the dream after the dawn prayer; we rarely, if at all, talked about our dreams.

“He’s an old man with gray hair and a beard,” said May.

“The old man said we can have it if we really want it,” I added.

May nodded and continued, “He spoke of a place in the middle of the forest where all the trees have already died.”

“There are 98 swings on each tree. Supposedly, the number of the swings will never change no matter how many have been taken.” My voice was almost weak and small.

***