There is no
If the trees of our soul
With no ears near
Be the voice
Of your song.
Let the air move
There is no
If the trees of our soul
With no ears near
Be the voice
Of your song.
Let the air move
The dream took almost a decade to fulfill.
And there it was. Reality.
She could scarcely believe it.
First there were the logistics to overcome: savings to secure, the children to raise beyond immediate dependency, paperwork and releases to organize, complicated details to ensure such international travel would even be possible.
Then there was the soulmate to find. Or rather, to have find her.
She looked around. At the deep calm. The ripples in the water. She’d pinch herself, only it would rock the boat and she had no intention to fall out. Not when it had taken so long to get in.
“You’ll have to adjust,” they’d told her.
“Some things you just won’t be able to do,” they’d said.
Well … stubbornness had gotten her through the accident. It got her through years of being a wheelchair-bound single parent.
It got her back into a canoe.
They none of them could explain when it had been built or how it had been done. The standing stones were magic enough, but the slab of solid rock perching above their heads against the laws of order and human power — it went beyond what anyone understood.
Even The Sage did not know.
And she knew everything there was to learn and some of what could not be taught yet she ascertained anyhow.
“Though I heard say …” The Sage stretched the words as every child and many an adult leaned into her speaking. It was the mid-of-day that followed the longest morning. A time of pause and story. “… that it could have been the Angel Bird.”
The elder’s wisps of hair haloed her face. The oval itself was shadowed by the relative darkness under the stone overhang.
A child shifted in his mother’s lap. An errant toddler was reprimanded. A baby’s wail was quieted by its mother’s nipple. The people settled.
The Sage lifted her chin and many eyes followed. Soot and marks of time tanned the gray expanse above.
“In her beak, the Angel Bird can carry many men into the sea. Her wings can mask the stars so fishers lose the way back to their hearths. She can lift a whale and place it on the shore to feed the people. She can bring the howling wind. She can ice the river. She can slash the fire in the skies. Yet she can also pluck a clover and carve a snowflake. She can blow a single hair off of an ailing person’s forehead and lead them back to health or to the place-of-no-more-breath. … ” The Sage paused and filled her own lungs with air. “Perhaps the Angel Bird was the one to lift the slab atop the pillars.”
“Can she take it down?”
An admonishing murmur rose. Young voice or not, saying a thing made it. Now the notion hung above them like storm-clouds. Fear thickened the air but to state the worry might make it, too.
The Sage raised her palm but let the silence linger. Her eyes wandered over the cracks and small crevices of the ancient stone.
The questioning child was not to blame. The Sage had wondered similarly herself. Had her thoughts manifested through the young one’s mind? It had been known to happen. Sometimes it was a sign of too-easy a persuasion. At other times it signaled the nascent perceptiveness of a future apprentice.
The girl met The Sage’s eyes with tears brimming at the unfairness of collective condemnation, but stared on, defiant.
The latter then. The Sage allowed a corner of her lip to twitch. She’ll take it on herself to observe the child. In the meantime the girl deserved the response that had chased away many an hour of The Sage’s sleep.
“Indeed the Angel Bird can …”
People gasped. More frowns were directed at the girl, who pulled herself straighter, pushed a mess of tangled hair off her face, and squared her shoulders.
The latter. No question now.
“And she likely will. In time,” The Sage added.
An audible inhale rippled through the group as more and more faces lifted to inspect the heavy ceiling. No longer a taken-for-granted solid refuge, but a slide-between-the-fingers sand.
“All things die,” The Sage pressed on, aware that the answer had become the opportunity for its own story. “It is no curse nor blessing. No different than the change of seasons or the leaves that bud and green and grow and brown and fall. In early summer it may seem that foliage had always been and always will be, and yet we know that time will come when the leaves will die and the branches be laid bare.”
“This is no leaf,” a woman murmured, eyes uneasily on the rock and her body curled over a nursing infant.
Several other women fidgeted and darted glances at the sunny meadow at the shelter’s side.
The Sage sighed. Panic tended to have its fingers intertwined with knowledge. She knew it better than most.
“Life requires faith,” she said. “Every person who ever took shelter under this place of magic — from the first ancestors to the persons sitting here today — accepted that it is not of our doing. Whether by the Angel Bird or a different magic, this marvel means that our people do not suffer in the rain or ice or burning sun. We did not build this. It is our home but we do not own it. The most we can do is ensure we keep it well and are not the ones to destroy it.”
He was an amateur in
Of the heart.
Oh, he prided himself on being
Of the physiological
And perhaps a tinkerer
But he was not even
He lacked all expertise
In the understanding of
I glanced across the chasm. For someone born and raised in the Alps amidst sharp elevations, I was woefully unequipped. Sometimes I wondered what Karma I’d accumulated to explain it.
“You are protected, Dania.”
I looked up desperately at my mother, who wore an encouraging smile and already had one foot on the swaying bridge and a hand held out to assist me. Even as a baby I’d been known to tremble at the sight of any height, yet Mother’s optimism never wavered that one day her offspring would overcome what to her was an incomprehensible fear. She adored climbing.
Why she took me to Bhutan.
“This bridge is blessed,” my mother tried. “You’ll come to no harm.”
“I cannot,” I whispered, my legs shaking. Each prayer flag a flutter to match mine, the river vertiginous miles below. “No prayer will suffice. My very soul knows it’ll die.”
No amount of soap and water could clean up this mess.
Even if I were to try, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d go about it, or if the effort was worth the results. Perhaps it’d be better to burn the whole thing to the ground and start from scratch.
I eyed the matches on the stove and looked at what I could no longer justify keeping around.
I wouldn’t miss most of it. Or so I had to hope.
My fingers struck a match and I held the small flame to the ring, amazed as always by how easily it grabbed hold and circled to make a blue-yellow-purple circuit of heat.
The fire leapt and danced and hissed.
It was time to wave good-bye. I needed a fresh beginning.
I set the kettle on to boil, sat back down, and hit “Delete.”
“What’s wrong?” I burst into her room with uncombed hair dripping from the bath and my bathrobe hanging half-opened.
She was sitting in her bed, sheets all tangled, the pillow clutched against her chest.
When she said not a word, I felt the terror rise inside me, too.
She’d had good cause for nightmares in the past, but it’s been years since any of those had woken her in such a state. Why now?
“What is it?” I crossed the distance from the door in three steps but dared not touch her lest my hands make her remember other ones, a lot less loving. “Can you tell me?”
She shuddered as if coming back from a great distance.
“I dreamt I was the moon,” she whispered. “Vast and cold and deathly airless.
“and,” her breath caught, “I dreamt that he found his way there.”
For the dVerse prosery challenge
“It is time yet?”
Prissy frowned. Alia always never had an ounce of patience. “Look around. Does it look like it is time?”
Edna glared at Prissy. That girl would not recognize patience if it sat right in front of her and introduced itself by name.
“Anyone want a snack?” Deena reached into her bag and pulled out an assortment of wrinkled potato chip bags, a crumbling granola bar in a zipped bag, and apple slices that had seen brighter days.
Alia’s look of horror was so comical that even Prissy smiled.
Count on Deena to diffuse the tension, Edna thought.
They all had their roles in every little drama life presented. Whether like players on a stage or play-pieces on a chess board, she wasn’t sure. Only that they slid into their respective places with predictability that was both comfortable and disconcerting.
Perhaps not so surprising they would do so now, when it might be the last opportunity for it. Their dynamics were about to change forever.
As soon as it was time.
A door opened at the end of the hall and they all jumped.
“Alia Marquette?” a uniformed woman appeared. “Your shuttle to Mars is about to depart.”
For the Sunday Photo Fiction prompt
“You might as well open your eyes now.”
His gravely voice was somewhat amused but carried in it the edge of impatience she’d recognized from her own father. A dismissive tone that simultaneously mocked and tolerated females’ flair for the emotional while also warning said females to not mistake momentary patience for leniency.
Muriel swallowed any sign of sigh. Her body ached from three days rattling on wooden wheels over rocks and gravel and muddy ruts and unexpected pits. To make matters worse, the girl-servant who’d been her companion since childhood, hadn’t been allowed to accompany her, and the rough hands of service women who did not know her, had tied her stays too tight and left the knots digging at her ribs and the small of her back.
She’d closed her eyes in part to manage the ever present nausea of travel forced on her at the opposite direction of movement. However, a goodly bit of it was in order to allow herself at least a semblance of private space in the confines of the carriage. His eyes undressed her either way, but at least she could pretend to not see it.
Her time for privacy was up.
She forced her eyes open and nodded the politest smile she could manage at the man who would be her lord and father-in-law (and if his leering told her anything, also the master of her body, son or no son).
He scared her and his eyes were cruel, but she’d learned at a young age to hide revulsion under a lowering of lashes and to nod compliance as means to reduce inevitable harm.
“You are a girl-child, Muriel,” her mother would soothe and scold her as she gently rubbed salve onto what new welts and bruises another lashing had left on the child. “No matter what they do or ask of you, you must not disobey.”
And yet even her mother, the mistress of the manor, who embodied the balance of stately conduct and humility before her betters, sported the occasional split lip from her husband, Muriel’s father, along with other wounds in areas best left unmentioned. All a female could do was walk the tightrope in attempt to limit scope and frequency of pain.
Muriel raised her eyes to meet the heavy brow of the man who occupied the seat across from her. She calmed her voice so it not reflect her fretting mind.
“Have we almost arrived, My Lord?”
His eyes flicked to the window and she leaned to look through the opening, acutely aware that this brought her body perilously close to his lap.
The lake sprawled at the side of their conveyance, the water undulating lightly in the breeze as afternoon clouds gathered. Into it grew a spit of rock and on top it a castle, stout in stone and strong in somber presence. It was far larger than the house she’d left behind. Gloomier and more glorious, too.
She wondered how long it would be before she could once again see it from this or any vantage point. Some lords did not allow their women to leave their rooms, let alone the courtyard. Especially not the newly arrived, who might attempt to steal a path out of marriage by seeking the luring company of nymphs at the bottom of lakes.
She let her gaze linger on the castle before straightening.
“It is beautiful, My Lord,” she said.
His eyes narrowed then relaxed and she was glad she didn’t need to lie about it. He’d probably know if she had.
“Your new home,” he noted, almost kindly.
Her stomach lurched. Home or jail, there may not really be a difference. Still, as the carriage continued toward the future that this man had proposed and her father had accepted, she felt she may have passed some test that if she managed to maintain the credit of, could bring her — if not safety or protection — then perhaps a lesser measure of misery.
He was enthralled.
His fate decided
By those who bought
The humans they preferred
To see as lesser than,
In order to exact a price
For their own
His slavery was still
Held against him
In deliberate inequity,
His struggles mocked
As ‘proof’ he hadn’t been trying
never judge a girl by her weight
original fiction, rhyme and photography
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