She led us to the edge of a giant bowl in the woodlands, a sudden valley that dips away and down. The trees grew at angles that made some of them look like awnings, like giant fans, like someone had chucked a giant toothpick into the side of the hill.
“I used to come out here when I was a lot younger, when my parents and Cassie were shouting at each other,” Grace said. “It was the only really rebellious thing I did until… well, until everything I did was rebellious.”
There was a tree that was growing at an angle that was nearly horizontal. Into the trunk, in a rough sort of block letter carving, was the word GRACELAND. Grace pointed to it and grinned at us. “My mark,” she said.
She led us farther down the slope, all three of us leaning back to counter balance as we scuffed our shoes in the dirt side of the valley, until we got to a tree that had fallen. Judging from the size of the thing and the rot at the base of the trunk, it may have simply died of old age. Grace hopped up on the trunk and balanced her way out onto it. Mark stopped and watched her go; I hopped up after her and followed behind, ready to grab her if she fell. She turned and gave me a bit of a quizzical look and then yelled at Mark.
“You have to come up here, too.”
Mark sighed and hauled himself up onto the log, and came and stood by the two of us, a little close, as though he were trying to stand next to Grace through me. Grace pointed and we turned and looked off the broad side of the log down at the valley as the sun was striking it.
“I have this timed down to the second,” Grace said. I was about to mention how the valley did look really beautiful when the sun was at this exact angle, filtering through the trees and making the valley glow green and shining red off of some metal that must have been buried in the dirt, and white off a hundred sprays of mushrooms I suddenly realized were scattered throughout the valley floor. But the breath to form the words caught suddenly in my throat. The view wasn’t what she was talking about at all. The sunlight shone another scene, as if the light itself was creating a view, or projecting it. Suddenly the valley floor became mapped with roads of gleaming gold and the trees transmuted into houses, but houses like I had never seen before, great hills black as pitch with gold windows from which white light shone, and one great house like a miniature mountain which rose over all of them. There were people dressed in robes almost like kimonos, adorned with stars, robes of gold and white and red, and in the center of the town a great fountain sprayed water into the sky, and above the fountain rose a globe that pulsed with color, more color than I could comprehend, color that seemed to encompass all hues at once and leave me with the feeling that I was seeing more than I could possibly comprehend. I stared at the scene for what could not have been a minute but felt like hours, not sure where to look, wanting to see all of it and barely able to comprehend or contain any of it. Then, the sun passed behind a cloud, and it was gone.