The Edge of Everything
written by: Anna Bivens
DANCING ON A KNIFE BLADE
How far is it from here to you?
A thought, a fear, a breath shared
a common memory, a future possibility
dreaming blind, I dare my mind
to touch you deeply
Can’t you see
that from the silken thread of my thoughts
I have spun a web
your words are caught there
as are mine
like unwary insects
that struggle to escape
or choose quietly to surrender
Don’t you know
I’m on the edge of everything
Dancing on a knife blade
Afraid to fall
How far is it from me to you?
THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING
The sun has just risen in this forest; its angled rays penetrate the early spring leaves shivering in vibrant green on the trees. Raindrops from last night’s storm still glisten like diamonds above me. They fall to earth as branches move slightly in the breeze. The sun touches my legs and arms, bringing warmth and vigor. The earth is cool and damp where I sit, with my back against the rough bark of a giant beech tree. If I put my ear to the trunk, I can hear the movement of water. I look up at the sky, and it is very blue. The breeze carries the song of birds and the scent of awakening earth.
This is a good plan. Very sharp knife, virtually painless. No mess, no cleanup. No interested parties, no one hurt or disappointed. Anonymous and undiscovered. No morbid customs with big price tags. I have practiced plenty of times; the red stripes on my arms speak to this. Once I was stupid enough to scratch the word HELP on my wrist. Help from whom? From where? Silly woman. Don’t let anybody in; the weak are victimized.
English ivy twists up this trunk; huge vines of it, like grotesque snakes, wrap the tree and try to strangle the life out of it. Deadly opportunists. I dig down with my fingers and pull at their roots. They won’t surrender. I love the feel of soil on my hands; the smell and taste of it, a little salty, gritty. Childhood memories flood my mind of better times along these paths and beneath these ancient trees.
I have the day, no rush. Breathe slowly. Relax. My mind clears as the sun climbs a little higher, the angle of its rays increasing. Mist begins to rise with the warming of the forest floor. Colors are more intense and beautiful in the growing light. A feast for my eyes. It’s fascinating that as one nears death or is suddenly rescued from it, the smallest sound, scent, vision, life takes on momentous importance. I love and admire the tiny lady bug crawling along the stem of a nearby plant as much as I’ve ever loved or admired anyone or anything in my entire life.
A cloud passes over the sun and suddenly all vibrancy is leeched out of the day, warmth and passion depressed and smothered. More and more I dream of darkness, where, shattered by the absence of color, I break into sanguine pieces, blood grey and black, swirling around me, covering me. Terrified, I cry out and awake, emerging breathless as from a toxic womb. My life’s elaborate dance has spun inward upon itself and now awkwardly stops and starts in confusion. The inevitability, the long progression of missteps and missed opportunities would have been alarming if even once I could have reasoned with a clear head. Too fat, thin, stupid, late, frightened, loud, always the Idiot!
I am startled by a creaking sound high above, wood stressed and stressing more as the wind increases slightly. The tree is groaning. Does it suffer? Will it break? Will it survive? I run my fingers across the ridges of bark, wondering how many years ago its tiny, vulnerable seed began to grow. I hold last year’s fallen leaves in my hand, brown and brittle. I close my fingers and crush them into tiny pieces that are carried away by industrious ants.
The wrinkles on my hand resemble an endless series of tributaries flowing nowhere. Veins beneath transparent skin. Signs of Decay. Yet there is more below the surface. Flawed genetic roots, learned behaviors, trauma. Twisted, warped, Don’t Think Just Do! Decades broken off, blocked from memory and discarded. Hope, contentment, confidence drowned out by the same self-serving voices that should have nurtured me.
A landscape from childhood comes to mind, dominated by tall, magnificent trees hundreds of years old. Their branches soared skyward in Celtic twists and turns, mysterious and intense. I imagined that my naked body grew from the base of one of these trees, legs then torso then arms then head. Long hair, intertwined with leaves, fell over my face, and my arms sprouted strong branches to form a crown. Both beautiful and tragic. I was the mythological Daphne, disguised and seemingly safe, a prisoner to my fate.
The sun has moved a little higher, and completely covers me in light and warmth. I am handling the knife, its cold grip held tightly in my hand. With the sharp edge of the blade, I lightly stroke an unscarred area on my wrist. It is easy to make that thin red line from which a single drop of blood grows slowly and then falls to the soil. I work on the other wrist for an equal flow, drop by drop, falling ever so slowly, then close my eyes and feel the breeze on my face, moving through my hair. I can hear the wings of birds. When they land on the brittle leaves, I can hear them walking. Their song so sweet, so complex. Like them, I am floating in sunlight, eyes closed, lids blood red against it. I feel the coolness and dampness of clouds as I pass through them. I am immortal.
Hours, days, years pass. I am weightless and white, everything is white. There is no sound except the pulsing of my blood. When will it stop? When will there be silence? No! Suddenly I am gasping for breath, as through a haze of disequilibrium I sense movement. Leaden, my body falls from the sky and violently strikes the earth.
“Don’t touch me!” I struggle as strong hands take hold of my arms. “Leave me alone!
“I won’t leave you,” these words from a stranger.
“Let go of me!” A man is kneeling beside me. He pulls leaves from a nearby branch, then rips two young ivy vines from their place on the trunk behind me, and strips them bare of leaves as well.
“Let me help you. I will keep you alive,” he assures me.
He layers the leaves on my wrists, overlapping them carefully, then wraps the vine around tightly to hold them in place. I see with surprising clarity that he is tall with rough features that are somehow dignified, his movements slow and calm, as if he has all the time in the world. Long, graceful fingers with a gentle touch. Eyes at times penetrating, at others strangely dark and absorbing, as if all the pain and joy in the world had been seen and were safely held there. I cannot help but feel that there is a sincerity about him, a simple and honest manner that even in my altered state is unique and refreshing.
“There, the bleeding is slowing; you will recover.” He sits back on his heels and observes me intently.
“I have been listening to you since dawn.”
“I haven’t been talking. How could you possibly listen?” My voice is sharp with suspicion.
“I heard your thoughts.”
“Ridiculous! Where were you hiding?” I demand.
“You have been leaning against me.” A slight smile.
“Shit, you’re not really here, are you? Just some crazy illusion. Go away!”
“No – I will stay and support you.”
“But how can you talk to me, understand me?”
“I believe that in our present state, our minds are open and welcome the possibility.”
“I want to understand what brought you here.” His voice is a whisper, like leaves gently moving on a breeze.
“Why go over it again, I thought you were listening. And why am I talking to you? I don’t want to talk! This is my story; I don’t want to share it with you!”
“Where are your family, your friends, your support?”
“Damn you! Stop asking questions.” I cover my face with my hands.
“Gone! I don’t like people; I can’t trust them.”
“How can you exist without them? Who warns you of danger, who cares for you when you are sick?”
“I look after myself.” I say, coldly.
“You’re not doing that now. Have you given up?”
“No, I have made a momentous decision to put an end to this fractured mass of blood and bone. It is not a matter of giving up, it is rather coming to the conclusion that NOTHING is far better than the misery that exists now.”
“But what happened? Why today?” he asks.
“I took a stupid chance. I reached out, hoping for connection, and he did not answer me.” My voice falters.
“Reached out to who?” He sits down cross-legged in front of me, resting his hands on his knees. I try not to make eye contact with him. He has such wonderful eyes.
I take a deep breath. “He is an impossibility. A potent, raging storm. A desirous, delirious daydream. I haven’t been able to forget him.” Tears form in my eyes, and I push them away with my fists.
“He answered you before?”
“Yes, with only two words.”
“What did he say?”
“Allez y.” I whisper. “Do it.”
“What, kill yourself?” He is shocked.
“No, he wanted me to live.”
“I see. But was that enough? He could spare you only two words?”
“I was thrilled that he acknowledged my presence. At least in that moment, we shared something. At least in that moment there was hope.” I am embarrassed by the desperation in my voice.
“Why is he so special?”
“I can’t really say. I sense a connection between us. And at the same time, he is so distant, his life so different from mine.”
“You share the same sun and moon, the same sky.”
“Are they really the same, through different eyes?” I say.
He considers my question as he stands to walk between the shadows with the easy grace of an athlete, touching leaves and branches as if greeting old friends.
“You still enjoy the sun, the sky, the breeze.”
“A little.” I admit with great reluctance.
“Then why give that up?”
“Because I can no longer feel joy. I am hardened and heartless, deaf and blind and made of stone.”
“How did this happen to you?”
“It was a way to survive the trauma of daily life; to distance and fortify myself against the crushing death of my child. And while I can no longer feel joy, I also no longer feel pain.’”
“Did you once have hope?” He reaches out to touch my shoulder.
I pull away. “When I was young, I wanted to be special, unique. To be regarded as someone who made a difference.”
“And did you?’ He reaches out again, and this time I let him touch me briefly. Strength and vitality pulse through his fingers.
“No, of course not. I found that I could do a number of things fairly well, but was excellent at nothing. Everything I say has been said, everything I do has already been done.”
“You were not happy with a simple life?”
I take a handful of earth and let it fall through my fingers. “At times I could force myself into a false sense of purpose and joy. I structured my days around little mindless tasks; I imagined that this fulfilled me. I became so trite and mundane that I couldn’t stand myself. Why do you even care?”
“It is in my nature to care. Do you feel afraid, threatened?’
“Yes.” I pick at the vines that bind my wrists.
“By what?” he asks, and somehow, I cannot help but respond.
“I am frightened by treeless streets, violent brainwashed mobs, clouds that are brown instead of white, politicians with big heads and empty hearts, semi-automatic weapons, darkness, the embarrassment of failure. Oh yes, and I am terrified of being alone, because I don’t know how to live. It is as if I need a mentor to tell me the right things to say and do, to keep me in bounds. If left alone, my life would be considered far from normal. A little crazy is a good thing, but not in excess.”
I rarely spoke this much to anyone, nor shared these private feelings. It felt like he had reached inside me and was gently unraveling the weave of my thoughts.
“Are you really male?” I say out of nowhere.
“The structure of my blossoms is considered male, which allows me to fertilize the blossoms of female trees. It is for procreation only, and does not define or limit who I am. Is it the same for you?”
“Increasingly so, but it is still a hard path to follow. It’s difficult for humans to accept the idea that gender is not hard-wired, that it does not define a person.”
“Why can’t you understand that?” he asks.
“Because humans are a narrow-minded and greedy people. ‘Otherness’ is a threat to power. We must keep power at all costs, and blind the masses to the destruction that results.”
“In the forest, otherness brings strength. The more alike we are, the more vulnerable we are as a whole.”
“Then you are certainly more advanced than we are.” Bitterness frosts my voice.
“Perhaps that is so. I am in my second century, considered the prime of life. My crown is the tallest in this forest, my trunk straight and true. I provide sustenance through the interconnection of my roots and fungi with those of my family, and they to me. If one of us is sick or injured, they are supported until they heal or die. I have many children sheltered beneath by branches, and I care for them all.
“You’re very confident. Can you rely on your family?”
“Of course. My family and I preserve this forest. Working together, we keep the ground shaded and moist in summer, alert each other of attacks from insects or other predators.”
“Do you trust me?”
“I don’t know.” He searches my face for the answer.
“Well, you shouldn’t. I have seen humans destroy entire forests. I could light a match at any minute and scorch this earth. Humans rule the planet, don’t you know that?” Bitterness floods my voice.
“Is that your opinion?”
“No, but I wanted you to understand how very dangerous humans are. We kill the planet in the name of progress. We destroy each other and all that is beautiful and good. And even in my own mind, when I am frustrated and angry, I feel that I could do the same.”
“Are you sure all humans are like this?” He asks.
“I think most of them are, or at least have the potential to be. Greed, selfishness, power. It becomes a pattern, a way of life. A web of lies and disinformation that ensnares millions of vulnerable souls and devours them. I shudder to think of a world where lies replace truth. How can you defend yourselves against us?”
“I’m not sure we can. Perhaps with your help?” He suddenly reaches out a hand to steady himself against the trunk of a neighboring tree, and his breathing quickens as if he were in pain.
“Was that you I heard this morning?” I ask him.
“I’m not… I’m not entirely well. Might I rest next to you?”
“And will you help us?” He sits, then touches my arm gently. Again, I feel the electricity coursing through him.
“No, I’m on my way out of here.” I loosen the vines that bind my wrists.
“Now you’re bleeding again.” He reaches over and quickly repairs the damage I’ve done.
The sun is directly overhead, the rays blinding. My eyes close, as I feel strength slowly ebbing from my body. I vainly struggle to remain conscious, and then in flashes of intense light, I see flowers bloom and die in the span of seconds. Trees are torn from the earth with vicious force then thrown on their broken crowns, roots writhing with pain in the air, stark emptiness in the sky where their crowns had been. The horror has just begun, and time is racing like the beating of my heart.
I manage to find my way back to him. “I feel as if I want to bare my soul to you. Do you have this effect on everyone?”
“Often, I do. Please, go on.”
I take a deep breath, then continue. “As a child, my parents took me from my sun and sand, from safety. They drove me thousands of miles away from friends, without goodbyes, without roots, into fear and confusion.”
“Because the earth shook, and they were afraid. Because they were running from their mutual hate, trying to paint an illusion of happiness.”
“Where did you go?”
“To family. To an aunt who I grew to love, to an uncle who smelled like drink, and who was tangibly dangerous.”
“In a penetrating way.” I begin to shiver.
“I don’t understand.” He places an arm around my shoulders, and the shivering slowly subsides.
“Often, I would stand at the window, my finger rubbing harshly along the metal screen until my skin was raw and bleeding. It was an effort to break free. The pain was memory, defining the hurt, making it solid and real. I was not allowed outside.”
“Because outside there were child molesters. That was what my parents told me.”
“But the real monster lived inside?”
“Yes, the ultimate irony.” I laugh.
“You do that still? The tiny cuts all over your body?”
“Yes, the pain makes it real, so memory doesn’t fade.” I close my eyes and hear a sad Victorian melody composed of moaning and tears. The notes play softly in my mind, a starched and proper commentary on the hour.
“Stay with me.”
His voice falls over me like warm, silver rain, gentle and beautiful. He continues to sit beside me, holding my hands in his own. The warmth emanating from him covers my body like a soft blanket. I cannot help but relax against him as he circles me with his arms.
“Do you have a name?” I say.
“No. We have no need for labels to be recognized for who we are. But I know you have one.” He smiles at me. “What is it?”
“Amalie.” I respond.
“That has a very nice sound, like water gently flowing.” He closes his eyes and holds me closer.
“You’re not sure you want to go through with this, are you?” he asks.
“I’ve tried before. I always stop myself.”
“Then do so again.”
“What is it like?” I whisper.
“What is it like to be a tree?”
“As the tallest in the forest, I am as much a part of the sky as of the earth. There is a magnificent sensuality in the warmth and light of the sun on my leaves, the feel of water moving from my roots to my crown, to every leaf on every branch. And even in winter, when little happens above ground, I feel the electricity surging through my roots as millions of wondrous stories are told and absorbed by myself and my neighbors.”
“Do you feel sorrow?” I ask him.
“Yes, when one of us dies. Sometimes no matter how much care we give them, it is not enough. We are part of nature, and nature takes control when necessary to bring us back to the earth for renewal. Yet there have been times when we couldn’t stand the thought of losing our friend to death, so we kept their roots alive for centuries, even after the remnants of the trunk was no more than a vague, mysterious circle on the ground.”
“This is a way of honoring them?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“I hold those I’ve loved in my heart, at least for a time. I’m always determined not to forget, but the passage of time and the dulling of pain diffuses my memories. I can’t even remember loving and being loved by them.”
I can sense there is something in his mind he is struggling with. About to speak, he suddenly shakes his head and stays silent.
“Do you feel love?” I ask him.
“What I feel is the profound peace of knowing that I belong here, and I find joy in the realization I have been accepted and respected as I am, in spite of my wounds and broken branches. I also have these feelings toward others, and know it is important that I express myself to them. Perhaps this is what you mean by love… “
“It seems very pure and simple.”
“Nothing is ever pure or simple.” He speaks as if a brutal lesson has been learned.
“Why do you say that?” I am curious.
“It is difficult to find someone who can love in return, who can love the way you need to be loved. I have at times been disappointed by the boundaries that are placed on feelings.” He sighs and tilts his head back to look as clouds move across the sky. We sit in silence for a few moments.
“Is there a way I can see what you see? Feel what you feel?” I ask him softly.
“Yes, if you will allow me to…”
He gently pulls me to his chest, as I feel his heart quickening, the heat intensifying. My breath comes in gasps as I feel our bodies merge into one and grow quickly skyward. I find myself at the very top of his crown, and can see for miles in every direction. Clouds race across the sky, and their shadows dapple the landscape. Rising and falling, the breeze is cooler than below and more refreshing. I can feel intensely the constant movement of leaf on leaf, branch on branch, a soft, gentle friction I find strangely arousing.
With pleasure I look down at the mass of support below, millions of leaves on branches intertwined, trunks stoic and ramrod straight. Insects and animals live in these branches, thriving on the nourishment and safety they provide. Sunlight flows through me, captured by the flutter of leaves then racing, dancing, like mother’s milk pulsing through my roots to be offered and humbly shared with those around me. I have never in my life experienced such pleasure and purpose.
Suddenly I am back in his arms.
“You are incredible! I could have stayed there forever.” I say breathlessly.
“No, nature is incredible; I am just a small part of the immeasurable complexity and resourcefulness that defines it.”
“Why can’t humans be like this? To have a noble and generous purpose instead of the vicious and selfish acts we commit every day?” I say.
“The more evolved a species, the more susceptible they are to deviations of the heart and mind. Simple truths are replaced by axioms contorted by the ever-changing landscape of artificial power. Bonds are broken and replaced by razor wire. Love becomes a sign of weakness and so is hidden and repressed. Hearts atrophy and die.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I have been listening for a very long time.” He answers quietly, and without pride.
“I’m not your first then?”
“And did you save them all?”
I can see his hands trembling, although he tries to still them by clasping them tightly together.
“There is something wrong with you, isn’t there?”
“I’m fine.” His voice is increasingly deep and rough, as if forced with great effort.
“You don’t look fine. Come closer, so I can see you clearly.”
I try to lift my hand to his face, but am hesitant to do so. He takes mine in his own and places it there, to touch, to feel the warmth. There are deep wrinkles around his eyes, like the ridges of bark on his trunk. I am lost in the depth and gravity of his gaze.
“Please, tell me about a time when you were very happy,” he says.
After a few moments I respond. “It was summer, early evening, and the sun was just setting behind the neighboring houses. There was still enough light to see, and I remember birds calling goodnight to each other. I had just had my bath, and instead of putting on pajamas as I was supposed to, I pulled my fanciest dress from the closet, and clothed in nothing more than that, ran outdoors. I spun around and around in circles under the trees, the grass soft on my bare feet, arms high above my head reaching for the sky. There was a wonderful coolness as the moisture on my skin evaporated into the air. I was clean and beautiful and part of the twilight.”
I pause to savor the memory, then after a few minutes, “How about you?”
“I remember an early spring when I was very young, no more than ten years. There had been a terrible ice storm, and our branches were thickly encased in it. There was such a weight upon me, and I felt I could not breathe, feeling powerless to help myself. I was so afraid the wind would rise, and our branches would crash into each other, shattering like glass.”
“Instead of the wind, the sun began to rise. Our branches experienced a slow, delightful lightening as the ice began to drip, and later fell in diamond-like shards, to the ground. I never felt so comforted, so relieved. I was delighted.”
He takes a deep breath. “But back to you, to what we were discussing. Everyone has light and darkness inside of them, joy and pain. It is sometimes difficult to find a balance, to embrace and experience all in an effort to find opportunity and meaning in life. Sometimes living leaves scars.”
I reflect on this for a few minutes. “Whenever I let someone close, I say to them: These are my wounds, see how deep they go, see how many strong layers of scar tissue I have laid down to keep them closed. Do not go there, do not touch me in these places. Do not presume to understand the how and why until I am ready to tell you. It may be soon. It may be never. Respect this!” I take a deep, wavering breath. “They never do.”
“You are beginning to understand that your internal darkness blinds you to hope and possibility. Bitterness, fear and mistrust at times weaken your vison. It is the absence of light inside of you that you fear most, even more than the absence of light in the world.” He turns again to look in my eyes.
“I’m afraid nothing is worthwhile any more. Even this discussion, if it is really taking place. What is this going to prove? How is this going to solve anything? With all your years of wisdom you continue to pontificate, and what will you achieve?” I am losing what little hope I have gained. I look down at my hands as he places a leaf there. I lovingly trace its veins with my finger.
“But you’ve seen the light and purpose that I have inside of me. You have experienced it. This is what I can share with you. This is what you are capable of. Why do you have to hold onto the pain?”
“It’s not that simple. You can’t just inject me with happiness. It often feels like I’m sinking beneath a huge weight, knowing there is no bottom, no end, nothing to hold onto. Imagine your leaves have turned to stone instead of ice, and your branches are so weighed down they touch the ground. No matter how hard you try, you do not have the strength to lift them, and all the light you need to sustain yourself cannot penetrate the stone.”
“It is a terrible thought.”
“Are you really here?” I’m feeling lost still.
“Each of us is here in this space, this moment, and while we may be vulnerable and insignificant by ourselves, this tenuous bond, this conversation we’re having, is important. You have not come to the end of your usefulness. I need your help,” he says.
“Ah! You want something from me.”
“When we first came together, I didn’t tell you everything about myself. I have been living with darkness as well. Many years ago, harmful fungi entered my body through small, moist wounds on my trunk. I ignored them as they worked their way to my heart and began consuming my energy and weakening my skeleton. Even so, I made the choice to divert most of my resources to growth during that time, as the canopy was open and I had a chance to grow tall and fill it. Unfortunately, the wounds on my trunk grew larger over the decades, and even though I tried to cover them with wood, I could not keep up with the damage. Now I am dying.”
“Can’t your family help?” I ask him.
“They have done all they can for me.” His hands massage his temples, then wearily cover his eyes.
“I don’t know what to say.”
“The decay has been slow and internal, but I’m afraid the end will be sudden and violent. My trunk may shatter when the thunderstorms arrive at dusk. I most certainly will injure or kill my neighbors as I fall to the ground. They have done so much for me; we have been connected for so long. My death will cause them great harm.”
“Are you afraid?”
“I am terrified of what will happen to this forest after I have gone. I’ve always been strong and in control, they have always been able to depend on me. I don’t know how to let go; I must keep fighting to survive.”
“Then you will continue to fight.”
I watch him struggle with his thoughts, and am saddened to see the sun begin its descent from the apex of the sky, and the breeze come stronger from the south, bringing clouds. Emotion begins to whisper quietly inside of me; empathy, sorrow, fear. I want to slow the passing of time, for this connection to continue.
I have fallen deep into a trance, yet my mind has never been so clear. I whisper to him in wonder, “I can see there is a slender filament, a dream, a memory, that binds you to me. It is beyond logic, or reason, it is a hope, a love, a desire for lasting truth.
He smiles. “Can you do something for me?” His voice is tired yet hopeful.
“What is that?” I say.
“If you choose to live, will you watch over this forest? Will you protect it from all the danger that you spoke about?”
“Yes, if that’s what I choose. You know they will no longer trust me after this, they will watch me closely and not believe anything I say. Those who pretend to care will make changes to protect me from myself.”
“Yes, but that won’t last forever.” He shifts his position so we might lay comfortably on the ground. “I think we must rest now, and watch the sun as it descends from the sky. Keep its light inside of you, let it shine there throughout the night. Let it nourish you as it has me for centuries.”
Thunder threatens in the far distance. Wind sweeps the ground and swirls dead leaves playfully into the air. Clouds build slowly, tall and ever more menacing. Branches paint black lace against an ever-darkening sky.
“We’re on the edge of everything,” I say.
“Don’t you mean the end of everything?” He asks.
“No, there are still possibilities.”
“Like what?” He says cautiously.
“That the storm might pass us by…”
“I think not.”
I begin to pull the words from a place inside me I thought had died. They come tumbling out of me as my eyes lock onto his with sudden strength and compassion. “Then have courage! The wind has shown me the underside of your leaves as it rushes through, and I know how full you are. Your soul arches like the neck of a full-blooded, uncut stallion as you sense the approaching storm. You will hold strong as you always have, tossing your crown in defiance. I can hear the whispers of the others as they prepare to soften your fall. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for you, for the good of the forest. Their roots will resonate for centuries with your story. It is an honorable one.”
I continue, more gently. “I would have loved to see the full moon rising through your leaves, delighted to see you bare so I might trace the lilt and promise of your branches. Perhaps there is still time…”
“I need you to go now; it’s not safe.” He interrupts me, his voice hardening and strong.
The wind rises, the rain starts pounding down. Deafening thunder rends the clouds into shreds.
“But I don’t have the strength to walk.” My voice is faint against the outrage of the storm.
“I think someone is looking for you, getting closer,” he says, then disappears from my view.
“I don’t think-”
“Scream!” I hear his shout from above, and with it the brutal stressing of wood.
“Scream so they can find you!” he commands me, his voice rising then fading into the wind.
I only hesitate a second. I open my mouth, and with all the power left in my lungs and voice I scream out the pain and anger, loss and heartbreak, and vitriol of broken dreams. I scream over and over again until I am exhausted.
Then bound in darkness, shot through with piercing light, the storm with a great roar comes upon us. Rising with difficulty to my knees, I circle his trunk protectively with my arms, my fragile face upturned to the virulent and beautiful fury of rain and wind.
My eyes are blinded as lighting strikes. My skin tingles, a metallic taste fills my mouth. Screeching sounds from above me, almost a scream, and a deafening crack splits the air. I can’t hear his voice but his presence surrounds me, and I know he is fighting to the end. His trunk shakes violently, then there is movement above, the whooshing of air displaced by his enormity. I ride the wave down with him, and feel the branches of the others reach out to soften our fall. I hear no sound or vibration as he strikes the earth, but instead absolute silence, as if all of nature is paying him a final moment of respect.
The air becomes colder as the storm passes, and there is much damage to the forest, not only from his fall. As the sun rises, so do I to sit quietly upon his body, allowing myself to remember the wonder of these past hours. The rain has washed away the leaves that bound my wrists, and all signs of blood. The wounds are healing, and I pull my sleeves down to cover them. I notice a tiny green bud atop a stem that emerges from beneath his body. This is certainly one of his children.
“You will be well nourished and grow tall and strong, just like him.” I say quietly.
I am startled to hear voices coming closer, and eventually see a pair of vibrant young men with walking sticks briskly treading the path. They are surprised to see me there, and rush over, asking if I am well.
“I was lost”, I tell them simply. “Then the storm came. But I am not lost any more.”
They are so concerned for my welfare, and their eager faces and bright eyes delight me. As they help me cautiously to my feet, I ask them if they love this forest, and they enthusiastically agree.
“We have so much work to do”, I tell them, smiling. “I would be grateful for your help.”
Latest posts by Anna Bivens (see all)
- In Dreams - January 30, 2023
- Nothing When in Doubt Do - September 29, 2022
- The Edge of Everything - July 15, 2022