The branches look like roots, bare and twisted and tangled, laying on his back, on her own, staring up down, some sacred gift to see through the dirt to the foundations, those tendrils that feed and hold up the gentle beasts, gracious shade and shelter bearing woody monsters, a gift to see for the dead girl who smiles and never whimpered once though it hurt terribly and is tender even now, though she is dead, she laughs again, proud and humored by what hundreds, thousands, would cry at “tragic, shameful, horrific”, to her she is the lip sealed devoted and secret agent or trustee of some knowledge that would save or destroy, the old and noble knight who died at the hands of some fat animal like man and woman, her own life had been so rich she only smiled as she was destroyed, and though the wounds still ache and some still bleed, she is on his back, lying on her own back, her blessed horse, her faithful friend, staring through the roots of the giant trees and at the silver reflection of the moon that hails from the center of the earth.
He slows, and stops once his hooves sink into the sandy earth lining the river, the sandy earth between his hooves. He knows the way. This is where they stop, to drink and swim, to nibble on young greens sprouting by the banks. He kneels, she rolls off onto the soft beach: cooling, soothing to the bruised and inflamed. Wind brushes the reflection of the moon and stars, broken mirrors drifting downstream, staying there too; the wind brushes the water, rustles through the reeds, over her face and hand, keeping low, not playing with those sleeping trees, their branches, fingers, hands, crowns; open, reaching, closing somewhere in infinity; or reaching over and again at their roots, lovers, providers of nearly everything. The girl, she continues rolling, turning over with eyes closed: the world spinning two times over, sudden collisions that make her burst out little laughing fits; with eyes open: the stars, the river, the sand, her friend the horse, the stars, the river, the sand, her friend the horse, the stars, the river, the river, the river, into shallow water, through shallow water, into deeper water. She in launched; she becomes very still, a rigid board, the hull, the deck, the ribs, the stern, the mast, the “stiff”, that sole passenger with ornaments, silver over her eyes, not coins to pay the ferrier, she is her own boat, has her own river, the silver jewels are collected along the banks, plucked from stalks that bear flowers that pop.
From the beach, between mouthfuls of touch-me-nots and nettle, her one dear friend watches her drift. A patient departure, the current is not swift. Were he mournful and mourning he would have long since tortured through hysterics, nostalgia, separation anxiety, lonesomeness, depression; she drifts so slowly that for every length she traveled a single gust of wind could easily carry her back halfway or more; had he of been mourning, after processing her passing, he’d decide to take his own life, and by elaborate means, leaving a carefully constructed dissertation describing his love for the girl and the instinctual need for an animal to give up life when their dearest sails off leaving the living, laying down, neither eating, nor drinking, his body dries and becomes brittle until it crumbles to the dust and sand of the small shore, and even then he would have time to swim after her and catch her and sail with her to fantastic new adventures, instead he chews the young greens sprouting by the banks, and between mouthfuls glances up to watch her drift, eventually she becomes that speck of light, indistinguishable from any other silvery reflection or broken mirror in the river, and in that moment her funeral is finished, so she swims back and wrestles with her best friend and nudges noses and shares apples and takes naps waiting for the sunrise.
In the morning, only moments since she has fallen asleep- the terrific sun soaring up, piercing through and burning away the fog and the remnants of night, piercing also through her; neither rested nor met with dreams, almost unconscious but awake and alert with a certain psychotic glee. It is of this mind that today is chosen for revenge…
It is not with a malicious heart that she has decided, there is not an ounce of malice, she is neither vindictive nor does she bear the slightest grudge; is revenge the right word? justice? Never the less, it is the right thing to do, if not only that she was murdered, an extreme, inappropriate punishment for swimming on what seemed like the hottest day of the year. Any horse or person of sound mind would prefer the shade and cooling wafts off the water, to the dusty, loud, crowded, sun baked arena. Who would jump fences when simply sitting makes one sweat? Neither herself nor her horse were inspired by such insanity, she had collected enough metal statues and ribbons to dress the river lining trees in silken blues and gold, tying the fabrics from the twiggy branches and stuffing the small golden riders in the nooks of lost branches or wedging them between some and others, they took sanctuary, remaining in the river until pruned and under these trees until the cool night returned, then they made their way back home, thundering at a record setting gallop through the dark forest and through the long grass meadows and over the tall neighboring fences and stone walls, jumping and riding at the appropriate hour for mid summer, certainly not during the sleeping hours surrounding noon. The frustrated and greedy and fat and perfectly paired man and woman beat her to death, now revenge, or justice, or at least an appropriate and entertaining haunting is due. For her it is logical and story book and humorous and she laughs thinking about it with a good heart, not mean spirited or devious, but spirited and kind of ridiculous and fantastic as well.
For now, it is approaching the sleeping hours, the morning swimming hours are past, her fingers are old ladies, her stomach rumbles, it is the eating hour, that gives the sleeping inspiration. Berries first, raspberries are past, now wine and mulberries, later blueberries, then (now) roots and thistle from the closer meadow, nettle and sweet flag from the waters edge and in. She claws into the harder dirt with a stick and rock and her tough fingers pulling up Queen Anne’s small white carrots; it has been dry for weeks so making a fire is easy, she boils water and cooks off the stingers and softens the roots and stiff greens, she adds dill and thyme and salt that she carries. There are early fruiting apples that she picks from the back of her dear one for herself and for him, which he swallows down in one mouthful and little chewing, she pears and slices each fruit to keep from biting into worms that like the tart shelter. They drink peppermint tea that sat half the day in the sun and the other half in the shaded part of the mountain spring.
The food sits, full and happy and sleepy eyed. There is nothing but the bright sun, those eyes have no chance- they give little struggle. Once closed they see the deep red which is warm over her front, the cool earth over her back. A deep and long breath to feel things calm, from her own chest and belly, full and happy, and from the great lungs beneath. She listens and feels for the pulse so that she might breath along side and know his thoughts or feelings at least. That enormous palm. Breath slow- it is an enormous lung. So slow that only the trees might notice, and they are preparing for bed already. A mid-afternoon nap for the patients ones- should they be busy flowing their water and sugars? How could any in such heat? The pig lady and man with spit hanging about their lips, heads nodding, roasting in sweat and stink, propped up by their tall fat chests, their short necks and pillowy chins, even these two give in to the siesta. Even? Naturally they do, the same as after ever meal, the morning one too, and the tea meal that is only an excuse for eating cakes and cookies; this one the dead girl had agreed on- especially dipping the hard ginger snaps in her orange blossom tea, with a bit of honey in it on special days, not so much on occasions that guests would arrive and the fat ones would dress up in their “slimming” attire, more in the late winter when she first could smell a hint of spring, or his brother on the other side with his first browning dirt smells and drying leaves. A bit of honey was right: that coming and going sticky and sweet, the heavy bodies and light minds lifting up and out, so easily carried by a simple and subtle fragrance from the honey suckle or the evening blooming lilies. Here also stands the marsh covered over in lotus flowers and lily pads. The passage through would lead to friendlier places, even a small town in the water. Today these small boats scatter looking for the way. Their small lights shining back on the blackened surface, outlines of their handsome sails waving gently in the short puffs of wind, ripples in the water too. Along the shores the fat bunches of hydrangea flowers, bursting colors even in the greying light of deep evening. The marsh might narrow from an overgrowth of dead trees and fog, and so pressing on becomes mysterious and she’d breath deeper and she feels her cheeks and chest and nerves in her shoulders. It is a chill that covers her and fills her up, the nervous feelings are from this spirit who’s place it is to haunt a person who is traveling through. So she breathes to calm herself and with such courage sails to unknown things beyond. Her heart gives that steadily pounding urgency even with her deep breathes to keep him calm, and her eyes have to close again and again only peeking out so they don’t bump into anything. And now that cool chill is over her head making her shiver and ache like she is sick or her body is infected with sickness. Is there blood coming down her crown? Has that spirit cut her head and now blood is trickling down? That is ridiculous, the spirit would not- it is inappropriate or untimely. It is something else. She hears the trickling, it is not so much coming from her head than something she hears. The trickling is not her blood, that has clotted some time before noon. Trickling, it is only the river and the mid hour sounds of night: crickets and frogs of course, then too in the dense trees those unnatural birds who sing and carry on while their brothers bury their ears to the bark or leaves, struggling to sleep through all these lunatics’ chattering.
The tickling was only the river twisted round by wandering thoughts that come between evening and dreams. But now she is clearly awake, this is the hour to be up in mid summer. After the relentless sun offers a moment’s pity, the trees and water pull the edge off the heat, now she can think clearly, with reason returning, perhaps rational decisions? No, she will still choose revenge. She can not even blame some temporary insanity for any mischief she might commit. It is midnight, there is no more fussing around. She thinks it is midnight because she hears the ringing going on for a long time and resolving in a musical way. It is the church bell rings in the small hamlet. Their mad bell toll strikes the deafening hammers with all his might deep into the sleeping hours. It has been the subject of heated debate in countless town meetings, when more attention should have been paid to the structural stability of the one bridge leading in and out of town, or the lack of children in the population to carry on any hope of providing for their elders in years to come. Half despised their consistently disturbed sleep, the other half agreed it was worth the beauty for those nights they would wander just about the edge of town and the forest. After all, once midnight passed it was only one ring, then two, then three, by the time there were enough tolls to disturb you again it was time to rise for work. What they all could agree on was that they were subject to hour to hour sleep and as a result a mid-day nap was frequently taken, and everyone went about in a half dream state that resembled the beef cattle just beyond the parking lot for the cars just beyond the crumbling bridge that hung precariously over the shallow stream people would forge to drive further out into neighboring villages.
No more fussing around, the pig man and woman will be waking from midnight hunger and the incessant bell ringing. They will eat, and fall into their deeper sleep, only interrupted now by shorter tolls. This will be the best time for the well deserved haunting. When waking suddenly shakes a person so well that it is seemingly eternal moments before they can regain bearings as to where or who they are; so deep with in that place, only one compartment of the mind shifts from dream to this world at a time, the others turn to panic as they wait their turn. If surprised then the shock will last for hours rather than just that one moment.
Her dear friend is awake and eager. A beast dependent on ritual, it is the hour for his late night run. He is warmed up, from jumping about and running circles with deer, more a dog than a horse. Now the two of them, at hurried speeds with no urgency than to go faster. Over and through that dark fields and forests and marshes and fences and what other obstacle or beautiful thing that they both know so well that lanterns serve nothing but a imitation of the lightning bugs, or a dreamy vision for a wanderer behind the trees who might catch this dashing deep orange flicker as it goes in the wind. So quickly she can do nothing but bear down. Holding firm to his long hair which is become a comfort or pleasant massage, and her legs squeezing down on his broad back, his brisk two beat gallop and her light body make for the best of pounding and kneeding. The speed is a joy, but her touch makes for something far more.
There is no moon, or stars, which seems common, a clouded mass of black, flickers of light from those fireflies in the warm grass and straw but little more until they are upon the hamlet and cross the bordering stream and dim lights from the bell tower are visible as the mad man readies his most restrained striking, which is only one time, then the light from the dining room, the porch, the bedroom, the kitchen, the den, the study, nearly every room of the pig man and woman’s house. In a moment they are washed over with the light, having torn into the dinning room at that same gallop, faces torn from sleepy moments and full bellies gasping up at a horse and daughter on their table. And in that moment she is torn down from her dear one’s back and struck again, and the dear one is drug by some insane strength from the fat man to the barn and is beat with a stick that gives nothing to flex or softness, it is the dear one’s bones and skin that give to the strength and anger until his body is a dozen times more destroyed that his sweepea’s the night before. Until he has no life and has become so heavy that in all the sudden realized sorrow that comes over her she can not return the kindness and carry his body to his funeral or a grave at least. He has no body, he has no soul remaining for her to play with. He is a pile and she is beaten again and without. While the fat man and woman return to their beds satisfied by the justice delivered and relieved by the parting of the devious pair she returns to the wilderness finding that the way is so much further, and direction hard to find without the speed, and with her fastest run she can not begin to move fast at all. And is tired in seconds, while he could run for an hour or more. And the sorrow is heavy, which she has never endured, and her shoulders and head hang down and her legs hardly move, they shuffle rather than step and her mind is clouded and she can not think or imagine, only noise. And sorrow? It is heavy. It pains all of her, in places she can not breathe into or brush with her hand. By morning she finds the stream, but is too far up or down, and exhausted. So she waits.
After agonizing dreams, more weighty and inescapable, not even symbolic and humorous visions or nightmares, only the terrible feeling of loss and sorrow and guilt, sometimes filling her up so terribly that she half awakens to scream out and thrash about, but she is so tired still she sleeps hours more, never truly resting.
What seems like morning comes, there is a sun, but it is gray and dim and nothing really like summer but the heat and humid air. She stumbles blindly along the river and back into the forest, only to move about, and be stung by yellow jackets, and bitten by mosquitoes, the wilderness shows no sympathy. The night before, her own funeral was something completely different, elegant and fluid. Today she is tortured and there is no beauty to any part of her travels: the nettle stings, the skin burns, the mouth is dry. The cruel and stupid woods, she doesn’t have a care for it now, not for the delicately woven spider web that she might step carefully around, she barrels through, why not?
And just as quickly as she has ruined his home, or torture chamber, or what ever it is to him, she is on the ground sobbing and filled with regret for the harm she has caused. She has died twice now, but for all that her dearest friend is dead a thousand times more, and even does not exist, or never has and that is far worse than the pain she has thought very little of in the past.