The sky was the hardest azure overhead. Alli watched the faintest trails of clouds go by in the grass. The blades swayed around her head. From every which way, came the smell of new growth. A grasshopper bounded into view, and just as quickly, vanished.
A biplane puttered across the vista, made its way from one side of the sky to the other, leaving a ghostly line of exhaust. Alli lay there, with her arms stretched out on the ground. She closed her eyes. The world was alive, bustling, quaking with life in the summer – but at the same time, the land was tranquil, still, breathing.
A tiny flower touched Alli’s nose. Alli opened her eyes and saw Lara reaching over her. Lara in a white, lacy dress. Lara wearing a big, joking smile.
“Sleepyhead,” she said, reclining next to her.
“It was a very nice dream,” Alli answered.
Lara motioned for her to get up. She grabbed Alli’s hand and play-dragged her across the field. Green hills loomed in the distance, but Lara pulled her toward the forest-edge.
The forest was dark as the meadow was bright, damp and cool as the grass was dry and warm. Some yards away, they could hear the gurgle of a brook. The soil was darker, covered in wood chips. The heavy wood also breathed, enriching the air with a deep, musky scent.
Alli ran after her, the trail of Lara’s dress flying as they ran. Lara had woven more tiny white flowers into her own hair. She had long, nearly, sunburnt arms, covered with freckles. She let go of Alli’s hand and turned around, twirling her dress as she walked. “I found something,” she said.
Lara pointed at a spot near the edge of the woods, hidden in the shade. Creeping weeds and vines curled around it, but the area itself was empty and bare. No vegetation grew there, not even lichens. The ground was perfectly circumscribed by a line of mushroom caps. “A fairy ring,” Alli said.
“There’s a couple that grow around here,” Lara said, “The earth is so moist all the time. The fungi just take root.”
Alli made a wish and began to walk through the ring. She stopped in the center, staring at a skull in the ground.
“It’s a deer,” Lara explained. Near the skull, Alli could still make out some scattered ribs. “It seems to have died right here,” Alli said, peering at the bones in the gloom.
Lara walked beside the edge of the ring. One might imagine tiny fairies skipping from mushroom to mushroom. Or sitting cross-legged on them, holding a council. “The body fed this ring,” Lara said.
Alli felt a chill, and skin prickling, she looked once again to the yellow-green grass basking in the overexposed light. The wind blew the heat of the afternoon sun into the hole in the woods.
The white of the skull glinted in the dimness. Alli stepped out of the fairy circle, and followed Lara back to the vegetable farm, where her fellow graduate students were working, tilling their gardens.
– String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11: 02 Andante cantabile, Arranged for orchestra by Marriner — Tchaikovsky
– U2, “Mysterious Ways”
– Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56: “I know that my Redeemer liveth” — Handel