Elethea needs rest. There is no peace, no repose in this prison of her soul. Pain comes from within, while suffering comes from living without. It’s all around her, inside her. A single tear falls from her burning eyes onto her cheek. Speaking of words, no one will hear or know how it feels when dreams fade to grey. All she wants to say becomes lost in the distance of time.
She was looking for a place to hide and found it. There was space inside the umbrella, so she lay there with her face turned towards the light. She cannot help but dream as she admires the firefly-lit lantern from the lamppost on the corner. Above all others, it is virtuous in golden light. Down, down, down into the darkness of the silken parasol. So it goes as she settles into her bitter bed. Several people walk by, uninterested in her. None of them bother to look in through the silk.
It’s a joyous awakening from the darkness of night, which Elethea finds in her sleep. She sees visions of beauty, the sky’s pale blue tint. Elethea is flying through the air like a bird on its wings, soaring backwards in time. Her hair streams out in long grey plaits, which fall around her face, neck, and shoulders. She feels the soft touch of the wind all over her skin as she travels at a speed that makes no sound.
Viewing miles of endless expanses, flat grassy land at first, then rising in the distance, majestic trees dotting the horizon. A quiet place without people or buildings. The sun glints off the surface of a lake that runs along one side of her path, making the water dance in flashes of light as she flies over it.
In front of her is a vast plain covered with flowers. A sea of living blossoms that undulate as its colours bleed into one another. It moves with a breeze, as if the air were alive. As orange melts into yellow, it finds its way toward red. Soon, all those colours will disappear as the browning of autumn begins. She looks down and sees the earth far beneath her, an extensive expanse of green that sways and dances across her field of vision.
Trees and bushes stretch out in every direction, but there are no signs of human habitation. A deserted planet, save for the flowers and birds that fill it; the majestic sun overhead, shining in a clear blue sky without clouds or haze. Elethea touches down and steps forward as the flowers close in behind her, vibrant yellow and violet, a barrier she cannot break through. She can only soar above all that holds her back.
It was a dream she’d had many times before, always in the same place, but now transformed into something different, where the darkness would recede, replaced by an infinite light. A place where everything is beautiful and harmonious, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
The dream is over, and she drifts from her slumber into another world. All around her are only dreams of an imaginary paradise where she can be at home and feel safe. She can sense clarity and calmness as the smell of a smouldering wood fire rouses her from her slumber. Its beautiful harmonies rise and fall, their final embers crackling and popping the dwindling warmth away, beckoning her awake to a new day’s experience.
Elethea revives with visions of fall’s beauty and the welcoming warmth of golden light; its splendour and elegance are in harmony with the sound of settling leaves. Notes in autumn’s eloquent song, singing a lullaby to sleep this age away. She discovers how to dream by remembering how to soar above a painted landscape, resplendent with tones, tender and alluring, amidst October’s delicate golden light. She is like an odalisque in the arms of an invisible lover, one who has never worshipped before and will never know the pleasure in the giving of love’s adoration.
Migratory thoughts of a lost generation flying southward towards tropical liberation, soured by a lifetime of winter hibernation and the renewal of contracts or commitments she left unfinished. The time has never been better to break away for good. The new plains beckon the old one, not quite dead yet. Her senses are awash with memories of seasons past, with love songs, whispers, and promises from a bygone era that she still holds in her heart even now as she ages.
Love and happiness live within these confines of time and space, existing outside her conscious realm, permeating it in ways she cannot comprehend. Always with faith that it will unfold in its perfect and timed fashion. The present moment untangles itself around her like an infinite golden thread, as it has for thousands of years past and future. She is free to take on new roles and possibilities in this state, becoming one with herself and nature’s infinite design in an eternal quest for wisdom.
For all her youthfulness of soul, she is not the same as before, no longer that little girl in need of protection from the world. She seeks those who share her yearning for knowledge and insight. To understand their surroundings by listening to the echoes of nature.
The years pass, with an underlying sense of movement and momentum, carrying her through a vast tunnel into the unknown. The destination is another horizon, another life cycle, in which she will be reborn anew as part of the entire process. A continuum until the day when it all returns to one great unity, transforming her into a new generation, ready to face the upcoming journey on the path that leads from this world to the next.
There is peace in knowing that what she has learned is only part of who she is now. There is no separation between herself or any other being. Everything is part of her, including her soul’s memory, an expression of the collective wisdom and consciousness stored throughout time, making up her existence, thus the universe itself.
Fertile soils offer her a cocoon under obscurity, the transformative abdomen of autumn, acknowledged as the season of patience. A cyclical command of existence as the wheels of change carry her into the depths of serenity. She shifts towards preservation of presence, leaving her loneliness behind in the petals’ absence.
Elethea floats on the sea of desire that surges inside her, with only a few wispy strands of hair framing her face, which looks like the moon as it sets over the horizon at dawn. The sun beams through a window as it heralds a new day, with hope for a new year and the longing for possibilities in life that she continues to explore. It is a joyous awakening from the darkness of the night.
As fears subside with the seasons of change, Elethea drifts toward barren landscapes with cold October skies. A blue-grey hue—extensive scenes of desolate trees, voiceless in their solitude, relieving branches of their picturesque foliage.
Elethea pauses by a pair of large boulders, watching autumn turn the still-green forest floor into radiant embers of red and orange. Trees are aflame with the fall’s vibrant colours of change.
Another season of development reaches its end as Elethea reaches hers. There is a moment floating in limbo between what grows and what begins to die—it becomes impossible for her to discern. Elethea’s origins are inveterate and slow-growing. The act of dying is also often prone to taking its time.
It is a beautiful moment, a rare glimpse of complete serenity amid life, where she feels her contemplative experience in complete silence. Sometimes, stillness is one way to be apart from the changing seasons.
Trees stand muted and motionless in the middle of a hollow, rooted in the ground, which is no longer soft soil—a black rock that cracks underfoot, swallowed up in the sky’s infinite darkness. It is a once peaceful canyon where only an impenetrable grey cloud now looms—a storm bellows over their flesh of bark with all its force, but they do not stir nor bend.
Dormant amid this tumultuous storm, like goliaths planted on a rock, waiting for winter’s frozen hibernation, a giant whose heart beats with stubborn fury. They remain immovable; one would imagine they were about to fall, for some limbs have already detached from their trunk, suspended in space like lifeless bodies.
Cracks in her skin appear through layers of clothing. Within each crevasse lies the ghost of someone unique. Elethea’s skin was smooth—now, grown slack and bent to the ground from lying dormant for so long, as though her new home was cold and dark, and her life was one full of pain and struggle. An ancient past has caught up to her, where her love and memories lie dormant, buried beneath the soil.
The long, slender strands of yellow wild mustard seed spread across the grasslands and prairies. Weeds are not among the most celebrated items—nothing is as meticulous in its execution. They find their way up onto the desolate ground, beside sprigs of wild onions and leaves of wild purple Polynesia that have survived winter and snow.
They hinder, immobilise, and cut down their countless brethren. She wonders if—when the earth saturates, the delicate plants, much like herself, can survive. Yet, they have persevered, outlasting Elethea’s ability to cope with the irregular winter cycles of her world.
Time has set them free, and they now seep through her skin like water through crevices. She lies strewn across the earth between a present and a past she cannot remember. Elethea’s life is a large expanse of dead grass, decaying leaves, and tree trunks—nature’s worn and wounded down to the earth. There is no colour, only dull grey.
Across the horizon, dense clouds streaked with pale white pallor protect the earth from a rising moon. They dissipate—as has become their custom, the moon drops low to fill the forest. Yet it doesn’t brighten the green expanse but darkens it—it is a comfort, and its cold, crisp night forces Elethea to remind herself that her time is near. She stands up from the bench.
As the night falls, Elethea becomes pallid—everything vanishes as a solemn tone reverberates through her. All she can do is look down at her body, breathe, and thank her creator. And she does. The music of the trees fades, leaving only the quiet clarity of her nocturnal world.
A hallowed decline in soundless dissolution, assembling amidst life’s decay—her life dissolves into the earth where it was born, only to rise from the depths of the sea, becoming soil, plants, and animals. Forever is the perpetual process of becoming an ever-renewed growth, which is as fleeting as the breath she draws, her heart beating, blood circulating, and thoughts fluttering in her head.
A tree whose wood has long since rotted and washed away, whose growth has lost its lustre, stands in Elethea’s path. Through it, she has a breathtaking view of the valley—serene and peaceful.
She stands in the grass, listening to the new wind in the distance as it trills the call of spring, still bearing the scars from when the ground moved. Elethea watches a large, vertical root sprout from the earth for the first time as she hesitates—afraid. It continues to grow, taking root in the next generation of wild grasses.
Time has the answer to Elethea’s questions. Nature rises from the earth with brilliant flowers in full bloom—unlike any other day. To her, it is the first of many that will follow.
As she dreams, nostalgic waves pass through her thoughts, rising from someplace concealed without understanding. Elethea wanders down unfamiliar streets and back alleys of words with no purpose, leaving her light-headed as she melts away.
Thoughts occur when unstoppable forces meet immovable objects.
Sounds of breaking ice awaken her mind as she settles back down at her table, with its cracks and pops as faults move forward at increasing speeds, revealing hibernating secrets. Inspiring streams—reverting from their crystalline form, fish returning from the spirit world watch crimson grass and creeping Phlox in efflorescence.
It all becomes irresistible when provided ample opportunity to cultivate.
Rain taunts her from all directions as she watches an ascending pale moon through her window in its most majestic phase, serenading the earth with its planetary influences. Its songs flow upward against the rain and are everlasting in their melodies. With welcoming pulsations, she felt her heart stir again as its frozen arteries struggled to kick off winter’s cold embrace.
It begins again in March, the seeds of thought she planted in autumn before winter’s isolation had its relentless way with her. Restless feelings start to grow from someplace inside. The roots that have taken hold of her mind have now spread. Vines of desire have made their way down into her stomach, germinating the fertile areas both above and below. She waits for it to bloom as she hungers for something new.
Shedding off the fears of change is as easy as undressing in front of a strange lover she will never lay eyes upon again. Her feelings are like articles of clothing. Old sweaters and woollen socks get packed away for the season, labelled ‘in case of emergency!’ Rarely did she return to unpack. It becomes easier for her to find new containers for another season’s wardrobe, another winter of mindless desolation, and another place to call home.
In spring, certain base feelings begin to grow and take hold, a yearning for the warm touch of lips like petals returned in kind. Winter-frozen dams are finite. Elethea can only hold back so much as the spring thaw trickles into icy blue pools of desire.
The surrounding sounds of forests and early mornings become the only music she understands. The chattering of life’s personalities scores the chorus of a forever-changing song, searching for that understanding. To let go of her past and learn how to dream once again. With that, she will remember how to take to the skies. Without destinations in mind, without intent, choosing life without judgement is impossible.
She is like a kite caught in the clutches of passing trees. It’s not the kite that moves, only the items beneath, grasping at her strings, always tethered with voyeuristic wings. Conformities dissolve away, surveying the memory of a dream high above harm’s reach where her spirit is only a sojourner.
With her eyes, she speaks with intent as new words come forth. “I want to begin again as something new. Something different.”
She can feel it growing. All that exists is born of thought. It starts slow and deep, pounding, hiding somewhere in the recesses of her mind. Everything buried from years past mutated into fertile embryones, vibrating and taking on a life of their own.
As March’s end nears, thoughts of isolation waver. An unexplored world awaits those willing to embrace its damp offerings, fertile grounds to transplant the seeds vaulted away, protecting them from winter’s crystalline grasp as new vessels transport thoughts, pollinating all those they touch.
When she spoke these words of longing, all the broken pieces that had been the only parts of her being for so long fluttered and withered away.
Elethea sits and dreams while staring out her window, the picture of life’s great desires now drawn within.
Iner Souster works as a visual artist in Toronto, Canada, as a painter of landscapes and portraiture, a sculptor who creates musical instruments out of reclaimed materials, metal dresses out of hand-spun metal, and a collection of upcycled FauxBots. He is also an illustrator, photographer, and mixed-media artist. As a musician, Iner has recorded with his Junkstruments, producing film and television work. He spent a few years in the theatre as a performer, set designer, and prop builder. As a writer, J. Iner Souster's work has appeared in Spillwords, Friday Flash Fiction, 100 Word Project Issue 2, The Drabble, A Story in 100 Words, Free Flash Fiction, and 101 Word Stories. Iner's short stories have appeared in Wicked Shadow Press's anthology Rise: Stories of the Undead, Flash of the Dead, and Soulmate Syndrome. Iner's short, The Great Mystery, was published by Written Tales Chapbook VII: All About Life. Iner is the winner of the 2022 Friday Flash Fiction Edinburgh Festival Competition.