The First Ocean

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The wind blew into the woods, an invitation into the darkness. Bern stood between two trees, one foot still in the clearing. She looked behind her. The cabin – her cabin – looked inviting and warm. She had told “Jerri” she was going to get more wood for the fire – and for that strange meat in the pack. But who knew how long it would be before “Jerri,” – that creature – grew suspicious. And yet, standing there, facing the abyss, Bern hesitated.

Bern heard something clink inside the cabin. The monster picking up the kettle, perhaps. Gasping between the reverberations of her heart, Bern moved as fast as she could and carefully as she dared, through the two-foot-deep snow.

The path sloped downward, into the wood. It felt colder, the exact opposite of how it should feel. The sky was clear; it had stopped snowing. Bern climbed over fallen branches, her boots snapping twigs. She jumped. Was that a shadow behind that tree? She strained her ears to fathom whether the creature was following, whether it had picked up on where Bern had gone and had begun tracking her scent.

Somewhere, to the left, there was a crack, and Bern took off in a dead sprint, scrambling through the underbrush, getting covered by snow dropped from disturbed tree limbs. She ran for several minutes in a straight line, before darting off in a completely different direction and clambering beneath an ice-covered log.

All was silent. Bern heard nothing, besides the heavy scrape of her own breathing. She was sitting in days-old snow, and only then realized she was sweating and shivering.

She couldn’t go back to the cabin. She wondered how she would find her way back, even if the creature was not there. Her eyes darted around. She needed shelter. There were underground snow shelters one could dig, so as not to die of exposure, but there was also the chance of never waking up. She had to keep moving, keep her body moving. Had to keep warm.

Bern struggled out from under the log and looked around. Between the trees, a light glinted. Bern squinted. The light flashed again. A flashlight? Bern heard nothing from behind her, no rushed footfalls. There was the light again, moving steadily away. Another traveler? Apprehensive, Bern pulled one foot out of the snow, and then the other. The hiker with the flashlight picked up speed. “Hey!” Bern yelled, “Hey, you!”

Weary, Bern pursued, nearly stumbling over roots, and rocks, rolling underfoot, “Hey, you – stop! Hold on!”

Held by a frightened carrier, the light only began to recede into the night. Pushing her chest to expand faster, Bern tumbled after the figure. The trees rushed past alongside her; the pinprick of light was all she could see.

Bern found herself out, in another clearing, blinded by the sudden moonlight. An expanse of flat snow stretched out before her. Bern scanned for another human being, footprints, anything. Instead, there lay the crumbling ramparts of an old mansion, rotting there, in the forest, sparkling with snow.

Dumbstruck, Bern blinked her eyes. Her arms hung limp at her sides, heavy, swollen. The stars twinkled unabashedly. Body temperature falling fast, Bern pulled herself toward the sunken door and kicked it open. Once again, she was at the threshold of a new darkness. “Hello?” she said, peering around, eyes adjusting from the outside light.

Inside opened outward, like a cathedral. The foyer stood as it had before, but with shifted tiles. Frigid air blew in from broken windows. A hole in the ceiling provided a natural skylight. Twin staircases ran up to the second floor. Bern crossed the once-beautiful room and took the stairs up to one of the open bedrooms.

The room was a child’s room, with dolls and a rocking horse. Bern dug into her coat pockets, one after the other, until her numb fingers closed around two small magnesium-ferro rods. She broke the rocking chair into pieces, tore off the doll’s hair and heaped the rubbish in a small pile. She scraped the fire-starter together until a minute spark ignited the offering of kindling.

She blew gently on the flame and fed it with chips of board pulled up from the floor. She put her hands to the wave of heat, trying to get warm. She fed and fed the insatiable flame. She couldn’t let it go out. She eyed the bed posts greedily.

“Will you burn down the whole house?” a voice said.

Bern turned on her heel, fists balled. A woman, in a gown from ages, past stood in the doorway. She was made of light.

The fire went out, letting off black smoke. Water flooded the room. Bern looked around; water had flooded out to the entire horizon. She was standing in a sea, under a tumultuous sky.

Bern sank into the brine, her knees hitting a sandy bottom. The woman was at her side. She cradled Bern in her arms. Bern looked up into her face and saw that it was “Jerri.”

“You’re a monster,” Bern whispered.

Jerri smiled and looked down, right into her eyes, “But, I’m your monster.”

Batman Forever bat

Songs:

“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

“Dazed and Confused” – Led Zeppelin

Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 66 – Chopin

Continued from Spirit Science

Subconscious Spelunking

inside our hearts

The first tendrils of the sunset crept across the sky. Orange fingers of clouds, set on fire by the dying sun, sunk lower in the oncoming gloom. Alli put her paddle in on one side and then on the other, kayaking down the slow river.

The water was clear in this part of the river, whereas, where she had started out was muddy. She had almost capsized then but had righted herself.

The river had started out a backwoods stream, tangled up in the mangrove forest, before widening out and cutting, like a scythe, through the landscape. Bushes on the banks gave way to trees. Houses dotted the shores.

Nothing escaped the sun’s rays, before it was enveloped in darkness. Water birds, restless, took off from their perches. Distant crows cawed, out of sight. Frogs burped and bellowed in the tall marsh grasses.

Alli paddled on, bright yellow kayak headed for the rushing mouth of the river, where the silt delta met the sea. The air was warm, and the occasional blue dragonfly darted by, zooming away into the humid night.

The dock materialized out of the stale air, and the mists of heat rising from the river. Alli got out and tied the boat to the dock, stowing the oar. The sun was well on its way down by now. The sky blazed a painful red and Alli knew it would rain tomorrow.

Inside the riverside cabin, Alli powered up the gas stove. Outside, the fiery blue mosquito light singed and zapped bugs in its cage. Alli put beans from the can on the burner in a tin cup and broke an egg on top of the beans. She ate the meal, and a slice of bread, with a pat of butter scraped across it.

When it was about to rain, Alli’s hamstring acted up. Nealy had sewn it back together a year ago, dabbing away the warm blood and calming down a hysterical Kaan. A year ago. Alli had worked her way back to full health then. But every time it rained, there was that old twinge.

The river carried old logs and tree branches by the house. The debris caught the posts of the dock and was diverted momentarily, tumbling and spinning in the water. Alli made some thin soup from a ham bone, before putting out the fire and going to sleep.

In the dream, ants flowed in between her toes. Alli chased after the boar in the wilderness. During the night, in the jungle, Alli cornered the red-eyed pig and speared it, the tear-shaped blade sinking into a roll of fat on the beast’s neck.

Yet, in its death throes, the spirit beast, of shadow and smoke, lunged and struck Alli, again on her hamstring, with its serrated tusk. The animal collapsed, crumbling into dust and ashes. Cicadas screamed in the underbrush. Cataracts vaulted into their basins. Every drop of moisture in the forest resonated. Alli’s skin grew cold and she sat down heavily on the ground.

Then, in that Hades, the goddess Artemis appeared, and held the wounded hunter. Light filled the woods. Wind battered the trees. Alli fainted and the gash healed, leaving no scar behind. Fountains of water gushed up from the earth, cleansing the blood away.

“Where were you, when I needed you the most?”

psychic thunder

Songs:

豊平区民TOYOHIRAKUMIN – 夕暮れsunset

Eagles – I Can’t Tell You Why

Wham! – Careless Whisper

Utada Hikaru – Simple and Clean