Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tears of Knowing (Part the First)


    She kneels next to me.  Her blond hair made grey by the moonlight yet haloed with a trace of campfire red.  “Come,” she says.
    It is not cold, but then I am warmly dressed.  The wool that hugs my body stopped scratching long ago, and the leather that guards my back and neck protects me from the wind.
     She is confident and sure, so I stand and follow.  We step through the trees quietly, our breath visible as whispers where the moonlight penetrates the leaves.  These woods are unfamiliar, but she hints at something from my past, someone I should know.  As I watch her this hint becomes a loud itch in my head.  I may not know these woods, but I know that I know her.
    “I know you,” I say with more certainty than confidence.
    She does not turn, but she does talk back to me, “It would have been unwise to follow a stranger.”
    “No.  Really.  I have seen you before.”
    Walking backward, she turns to face me.  I can’t quite see her face, those features shadowed by her dusky cowl.  “You will see me every night from now to the end.”    Such a subtle tone.  Such an ominous prediction.  Yet it suits the setting.
     I am still convinced I've known here.  After hearing her the air seems warmed by honeysuckled tea.  Hers is the voice of my fondest memories.
    “Promise?” I ask.  "If you visit me every night, my dreams will come true."
     Her head shakes gently.  “Careful,” she says.  “You may curse me before the end.”
     I stop and frown.
     She turns and begins to run.
     I call to her, “I’ll curse you?”
     “Time runs short, keep up.”  She yells back.
     My first steps are slow, but she is fast, so I must speed up to follow her.  The further we go, the more the forest grows into dense silence.  I'm protected, and numbed, and as we run my blood beats warm.  Underneath my grey cape and hood I feel the rush and flow of life.  The colorless leaves strike at our faces as we pass. The night must be bitter cold for each exhale falls to the ground in crystals.  It is a blessing that I feel warm.
     She dances in front of me, light as only dreams can be.  I feel it too, this perpetual sprint.  And we run long, until there is no longer much light at all.
     My exhales falls in darkness.  Only with great concentration can I see the thin grey outline in front of me.    Suddenly, it stops.  I jog up to the outline, marveling as it becomes her form once more.  I stop behind her, whatever light there is, she’s blocking it.  I take a moment to catch my breath only to have it stop when she steps to my side.
     We are at the end of the forest.  The trees have finished; the edge of a cliff preventing them from journeying further out into the horizon.  A deep ravine falls before us, the stars shine above.  There is no moon.  Wisps and splotches of nebulae cloud the night sky.  But there’s something more.  Something I can’t express.  Something like a hole in the sky.  A strong black presence.
     As I adjust to the twinkling lights I recognize the black as a shadow.  A shape that is taller and darker, stronger and deeper, than anything I have ever seen.
     “It is the tree.”  She says.
     So she says.  I’ll take her word for it; words escape me.  Even actions have left me.  A dumbfounded glaze tries to slug its retreat across my eyes.
     So awesome is this sight, so complete.  I finally manage to look down where the ravine ends.  A lake pushes up gently against the rock wall.  Soft colors in the water reflect the brilliance of the night above.  There is no moon here; no shadow of the tree touches the rippling lights in the water.
     Somehow the water surrounds the tree; the tree with branches twisting and curling in long swept arches across the night.  It stands rooted in the middle of the lake. If it rests on an island, I cannot see it.  All I see are the lights and the empty space.
    I can sense that she has been equally enraptured, but unlike me, she is able to speak.  Her voice drops like iced gin in water, it pools thick with a cold and bitter threat. “You must come here.  And you must save it.”
    Vaguely, I nod.
    With her right hand she pulls down her hood and shakes her head at my non understanding.  Her brow is proud and her eyes are wise.  The stars bounce off her skin in the same colors they reflect from the water down below.  “I will be here, waiting.”
     The wind picks up.  The cold catches up to us at last, the brisk strike of frigid dark slapping my face.  I shiver while my lungs burn.
    I cough into a fist before I manage to reply.  “I do not understand.”
    Her smile is an endless day, “You will.  Now, rise and shine--”

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