This is a short story I wrote back in 2010/2011. It was conceived as a love story, in the manner that a poet conceives of a love poem, but it morphed into an experiment where I attempted to avoid gender and proper nouns. I posted an edit here, incorporating what I’ve learned as an MFA student.
A forest, permeated by a soft mist. Soft rays of light shine through a mixed canopy of conifers and deciduous trees. Ferns grow quietly on the floor, capturing moister that is then wiped off on any passing creature, while moss is seen crawling slowly up trunks and across logs and stones. A small brook splashes gently through the grass and ferns, in which is concealed a wealth of life. The forest is a canvas of greens, browns, and ever so light shades of blue. The air is still, allowing for the mist to settle in stasis. The only sounds heard are those of the little one, flittering playfully through the peaceful woods. It flies alone, but not in heart. It is keeping company to a quiet being who carefully finds delicate paths through the pristine landscape. Naked in spirit and body, little matters in this reality. There are only the senses fluidly feeding the surroundings to a limitless power, desperately at work.
While the being follows the little one, it is not a chase. An infatuation attracts one to the other. This is an infatuation born of dreams and fantasy, of an idealization that is only entirely real in the limitless confines of the beings brow. A love born on natures back, but moved forward on the winds of change, the being is enthralled in this ethereal power. Its magic and its beauty are not all consuming; curiosity and yearning drive the being forward. It is a desire for a soft touch, a sweet song, a fleeting glance. The being follows the little one. But the little one is youthful and never ceases to move. So in a calm quiet the little one is trailed loosely through the woods.
How many moons and how many suns these two must have witnessed. They both seem secure in their footing, their shared knowledge of these woods seemingly infinite. But as much as they might have in common, the little one is painfully distant to the being. The quiet sadness that emanates from the beings breast quickly makes its way to every limb, seeping into every pore and resting on its shoulders. The being is too controlled to allow such pain to elicit more than a desiring sigh, yet internally the storm seems to brew. This storm is neither violent or unpredictable but lovely and peaceful. It is a storm full of dreams and passion. Yet that storm seems to be held at bay by an insurmountable obstacle, a mountain of confusion and circumstance. If only there were an answer or a response, some telltale behavior that would let the rains and the winds free. There is no such revelation.
There is a moment within the calm of the woods where the being stops. Looking forward, then back, and then to the sides, the being gazes quietly as a soft wind wrestles a few leaves loose from their majestic perches. They gently glide down towards the moist earth, swaying back and forth through the mist that is now dissipating in the warming air. The being’s gaze shifts skyward as the leaves sway to the earth, its eyes following the rays of light projected through the mist. On high a figure circles patiently, observing and calling. All of the sudden its expanse quickly closes, forming a bullet that begins to plummet, faster and faster. The being freezes, a pounding sensation swelling in its firm cavity. Then with a great swiftness the being takes flight, racing through the forest silently calling for the little one. Where has the little one flown too? Why had the being stopped to gaze, to feel? Now a grave danger sped towards the earth and the little one was desperately vulnerable.
The once serene woods spring to life, lashing out at the being as if to slow it down, as if calling to the being and saying, “such is life, take no haste. It will only cause you harm.” The slender limbs of the trees whip forward into the beings path, lashing at the tender flesh. New hues are seen; shades of purple and black, dots and streams of red. But the being pays no attention to the clawing of the woods or the birth of new colors. There is only one focus, yet no amount of racing seems to close the gap. And then there is a deathly silence. The being crisply stops as the muted air begins to suffocate its senses. Standing tall, the being is not aware of anything. There is no straining of senses, simply a dazed state of helplessness. As the air begins to thin and the soft breeze awakens once again, the being is brought back. Looking forward there can be seen a clearing framed by the trunks of two great oaks. Around the feet of these two oaks life begins to stir again, picking at the tender soil and playing on the branches. In the field a steady stream of light washes the tall grasses as they sway in the wind. Specks of pollen shower down on the stems and alight on fine razors. It is as if nothing occurred.
As the being slowly steps forward the playing creatures part to form a path. Stopping at the rim of the field, the wind takes haste and the grasses murmur in protest. Their swaying turns to a dance, calm at first but progressively more frantic. Arms outstretched they fling themselves in every which direction, then pulsing forward, beckoning the being towards them as if pleading for salvation. The wind begins to twirl in consent and the stems yell in frustration. The dance, ever more chaotic, continues to beckon to the being, still standing firm at the edge of the clearing. So the being moves forward, stretching out to caress the hopeless dancers in their now mangled fury. The wind, sensing its presence, shifts to a mad path of confrontations and racing, tearing the dancers from the earth and flinging them on high. The air is now full of screaming and begging, the lifeless stems catapulted into the obscurity of the surrounding woods. The being knows not what to do, frozen as it is in the center of the clearing, surrounded by the confusion and carnage of life. Finally, as if frustrated by the beings inaction, the wind in its mighty fury gathers its strength and plunges headlong into the beings chest, sending its mass straight back to earth. And like that, silence.
The warm rays have now dissipated beyond a firm horizon. The being, still laying, listens as the sounds of the dark work their way through the landscape. Lying catatonic, it again knows not what to do. A memory full of yearning and dreams flashes before its eyes, the little one flittering back and forth. There are no tears to shed, yet its entire body begs that they be released. The pain feels insurmountable and the being has no desire to move because of it. But after some time, it is no longer possible to simply lie in a state of abjection. Feet must be planted firmly on the ground, brows must be held high and facing forward, bodies must move. And so the being arises, carefully dusting its weary limbs and taking the first few steps forward. Life is not new, nor is it the same anymore. It simply is. The being, knowing this, takes its pain and quietly envelopes it in the deepest recesses of its psyche. And with that, its shadow slowly melds into the darkness of the forest.