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When I consider my early childhood, the memories don’t really feel like my own. Before about age six, it feels like some mythic age where events are unconnected to real time and space. With the ushering in of the new millennium, I was reincarnated.

Overshadowing all my early memories is the time I spent with my parents in a secluded cabin in the deep woods. That was the transition period between my former consciousness and my present self. I retain very few specific anecdotes from that period, but the atmosphere looms large. I remember it being very cold all the time, and gloomy even during the day on account of the pine trees that towered over the cabin on all sides. I recall our stay in that place as being uncomfortable and unpleasant, but in a vague and hard to place way.

For the first six years of my life my mom and I lived with my biological father. Like the cabin, my memories of him are disjointed. I remember us going through three or four different small churches, before he switched to leading devotions for the three of us at home. He kept repeating the idea that even the small churches had been taken over by the wolves, that much I do recall. He wasn’t abusive or harsh, exactly, just stern and cold.

When I was nearing my fifth birthday, we suddenly moved from our house in rural Missouri to the even more rural cabin in northern Idaho. I learned from my mom years later that not even she was sure where exactly in Idaho we were. My father didn’t even own the place, he just took us to squat at some disused forestry cabin with no listed address. We took only what could fit in our car and a large camper he had recently bought. I had to leave behind all my toys except one: my stuffed blue and yellow elephant that I took everywhere with me.

It was the late autumn of 1999, and the cabin had no heating. For that matter it had no electricity, phone service, or running water. My father brought a couple generator units but those were only for the most basic needs. We spent a lot of time wearing extra layers indoors and shivering under blankets. We boiled water from a nearby creek on a hot plate. We had a large stock of canned food which was the main source of our diet. There was one modern convenience: a radio, which my father kept on at all times.

Like I said, I don’t remember much in the way of specific events. If I had to pick a defining moment it would be when my father made me watch him skin and gut a rabbit. He didn’t seem to know what he was doing, which made it worse.

We celebrated my fifth birthday there. There was obviously no cake or presents, it was basically just my parents singing the birthday song to me before a quick Bible devotion, and then we went back to working at our dreary homestead.

My perception of time wasn’t great back then, but before the spring of 2000, we moved back to Kirksville. I was very upset because I left my stuffed elephant at the cabin. My parents got divorced very quickly thereafter. The divorce itself didn’t take long, as they didn’t have many possessions left to squabble over (our old house had been sold, and we now lived in subsidized housing), but the custody issue was a bit messy. They eventually settled on a visitation schedule acceptable to both of them, until my father suddenly decided to move away and break all contact with us.

Mom got a new boyfriend, and they were married by 2003. We attended a non-denominational church, more lively and inviting than the ones my real father had taken us to. My childhood and adolescence from that point forward was stable and happy.

I first asked about our time roughing it in the wilderness when I was nine. Mom said it was all my father’s plan, and that “I was a lot stupider then than I am now.” I learned more details as the years went on.

The whole excursion had not been due to any sort of technophobia on my father’s part. He was, in fact, an early adopter of the World Wide Web. That’s what actually got us into the whole mess. He got involved with the whole Y2K craze, the people convinced that there would be some kind of apocalypse beginning at the turn of the millennium. In particular, he was influenced by a certain blogger who said the Tribulation was going to happen in 2000 and advised moving to the Pacific Northwest to build a community of Christian survivalists.

He had been having dreams since 1997 which he said were about the coming Rapture. Originally they were vague but vivid visions of the forest, in which we were to find our destiny, somehow. It wasn't until he started following this blogger that he attributed the dreams to a need to move to the Rocky Mountains.

The radio had been to keep track of the unfolding apocalypse. When February of 2000 rolled around and the world still appeared to be functioning as normal, Mom found the courage to take issue with the whole thing. My father, deflated and defeated, agreed to moving back, and to the divorce, without much of a fight. When the global war on terror began the next year, he briefly tried to reassert the wisdom of his vision, if not its execution, but once my stepdad entered the picture he backed off, and then disappeared entirely.

The next time I saw him, he was in a casket. During my junior year of high school, he took his own life. Apparently, his later years had been marred by heavy drinking and gambling, two things which he would never, ever have anything to do with when he was in our lives. Not many people showed up to the wake or the funeral. From what we could learn from his few recent acquaintances, he hadn’t attended a church since we last saw him alive.

My relationship with my mom and stepdad has been cordial but somewhat strained ever since I went away to college in Boston and decided I liked it enough to stay for good, which was not in the original plan. They were also grieved to learn that I had since fallen from faith. Actually, the truth is I have been an atheist since I was fourteen.

I still dwell a lot on that little sojourn in the wilderness. It’s been over two decades since the world entered the new millennium and I entered my current life. I’ve been relatively happy along the way, but I’ve always felt like a part of me was missing, left behind at the doomsday bunker.

That’s why I’ve decided to go back. I've been having recurring dreams about the forest and our little cabin, beckoning me to return. I don’t know the exact location of the cabin or even if it still exists, but my old self is still out there somewhere in the Idaho wilderness. I have to go find him. I’ve stocked up what I hope will be enough supplies for a lengthy road excursion. Unlike my parents, I never had much in the way of worldly possessions to part with for this pilgrimage, just an apartment deposit and some bachelor pad stuff. Maybe I’ll find my old self right away, or maybe I’ll be wandering the backwoods of Idaho for years. Maybe he’ll find me first. Maybe I’ll find God along the way. Maybe I’ll even find my stuffed elephant.

Written by HopelessNightOwl
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