The reflexion of the sound-waves due to their incidence on something denser than the aerial medium in which they were propagated
She sits, back to the same aged tree which had supported her vision of beauty and grace not a full day hence. She, of course, avails herself of the opposite side of the trunk, a fact which the romantic among us might attribute to a reverence for the moss and mound against which that sweet flesh had pressed. They would be wrong, but there are worse crimes than to believe overmuch in the superstitions of youth caught in the throes of infatuation. There is a stillness to her rest, a stillness often seen in the Wild Ones. It is the stillness of the deer, head-up and eyes-wide, the stillness of the coiled snake. This stillness has so much motion wrapped up in it, motion imminent, eminent, immanent. It is the very actualization of potentiality.
She sits, her mind's eye tracing the path graced by that which she would not (could not) name. Just there, the rich soil did curve and cup the memory of his weight. Ah, but what weight? Can light, can love, can beauty itself be so confined as to be subject to the crude rules of matter and form, and so bound leave hard mark upon the very floor of her forest home? But there, the twist of a branch grasped a sudden, when she had too near the flame been drawn.There was, as well, just round the base of that trunk against which she did recline, precious twinned proof of the reality of his solidity. She could, even now, turn and with her hands trace the shape of his curve, perhaps even lay her cheek there upon the ghost of his own in hope he had left some of his warmth in his wake, for how could one so bright not sear the very ground in his repose?
She stirs, and makes as if to reach around the trunk, but no. The Wild Ones know. The Wild Ones remember. A pool in a grove in the old forests of the world is not a place to be entered at a whim, however heart-pure that whim may be. Night has just tucked the forest beneath her cloak, and the air still carries the warmth of day's life, but creeping from behind her is a chill where the soft light of the moon and her sisters falls upon a still pool, as petals scattered gentle on the skin of a sleeping lover. Where their light falls on leaf or loam it does glisten as though a premature frost had stolen into this grove alone, in all the world, but where the light falls on that cool surface of the water it falls indeed, as into an abyss, without reflection, a black hole in the hidden heart of the forest.
The Wild Ones know. There are tracks of neither scale nor paw, no nests or burrows, nary a flower even. The Wild Ones remember. A starlit pool in the old places of the world straddles the border between worlds, and borders have always held to laws of their own devising. Even as the nightly mist obscures the waterline in the dark, so too was the future obscured from those who dare such places. All that could be said of such futures is that they never stayed what they would have been, had the soul endowed with said future chosen else wise with their steps.
That is a lesson that this Wild One knows, perhaps better than some. She had not been born into the wild. Once she had been a girl, with a family, and a future, and a name. She had carried her future and her name into the grove, and in that mist were both lost. A Wild One came back from that grove, no more fit to live with humans than a wolf with goslings. What remained of her humanity she carried in the thinnest sliver of her voice, and that but to reflect words back upon their sender, a walking mirror.
Bright Apollo does return from his leisure, driving his chariot hard into the somnolent sky, and beneath his charge the forest stirs, fern and faun alike waking to his call. She rises, a feline stretch and a canine shake, and step after deliberate step through the receding mists, disturbing neither the mist beat retreat toward the grove, nor the precious evidence of her light of love.
Her life is the forest which has clothed, sheltered and fed her these several years. A bush offers a cluster of berries, fresh and clear, a red so pure as to recall the perfect lips of her nameless love. She rolls the idea of his namelessness around in her mind like so much blood of the fruit, comparing the taste to that of the namelessness all her own, and found that the flavors played well together upon the palette of her imagination. A root protrudes from the ground in invitation, giving thanks to bush and bough she slides soft through the half-light of the early morning.
It is a day like any other and at once like no other day in her life. Her berries whisper in the voice of her beloved, the clear creek from which she sips stares at her with too-blue eyes. He is everywhere and no where, and she would not have said (could not have said) which she found more intoxicating, or more maddening. Even in her cave the sparkles of the very rock cry out of his golden curls, set so delicate around that face, a priceless frame for such perfect art.
Too much. It is too much. Another moment without him will surely crush what remains of her heart and mind. The day has somehow slipped past the turn in the path which carries Apollo back down to his palatial home. Impatient steeds! Has the afternoon missed her entire? What if her love had come and has already from here gone again? What if he should come not at all this day? A panicked hare does she bolt from her hole and zag through trees even as she does zig past thorny briars, all conspiring to seize her, and hold her, and deny her bliss. Her passing leaves no more of a mark on the soft ground of the forest than would the hare, or wind, or even love.
The suns swings ever closer to that western edge of the world even as the precocious moon peeks up over the edge to the east. The wild child reaches forest's end with a silent crash, grasping trunk as though grasping her lover himself, arms a-wrap and cheek abut. Breathless, scratched and torn, hair snarled and caught about with twig, leaf, and various flotsam of the wooded folk. Earth-worn and earth-wearing, never had she looked more the Wildling princess, in as much as wildlings are given to such. Which, as it happens, they are, but that is not, as they say, here nor there. Which is in turn a rather silly expression, as it is almost always one if not the other, and more frequently, both.
To the point, here, she clings to a tree, and behold, and bemoan, she has not missed her love, for even now as she regains strength and breath beneath the eaves of the wood does he come, there. He does seem to glide rather than walk, his passage marked by the wave of heads attuned to his wake, so very like the sun passing before the meanest of light starved plants. Limbs sweep with a willow's grace, but those eyes for which she has longed are cast down, shoulders bent almost as burdened. Brow, sweet, smooth brow, how then are thou furrowed?
Scarce a thought and she has scurried up the tree to which she clung, and flits she from sturdy branch to branch, closer ever to her font of now abundant joy, for said source of joy has now entered the wood, her wood, and see how does his back unbend, brow unfurrow, and eye aglitter. His stride finds a purpose, which does give her pause, but that play of light unique to filter of leaf and limb has improbably both heightened and deepened that which, if put to prior question, she would have (could not have) declared with confidence could be neither deepened nor heightened, and the momentary hiccup in her blissful peace was banished to the dark corner of her mind she kept all her cold, hard, ugly truths. The same corner, in fact, to which her name had been banished, all those years ago.
There are shapes of joy which can fill a human heart, or even a heart still human in shape, and defy mortal tongue, finding their expression only in the magic of song. As her heart was still human in shape, and her tongue by no account mortal, she did surrender to the moment, and lift her soul to the forest in song. An orchestral balance of the gentle nestle of one verdant blade on another, the subtle hum of a million leaves rhythmically collaborating, over the deep groan of a giant oak shifting his balance from one foot to the other. A heart swelled in a throat and let loose, floating out on the evening breeze. Where it fell into the voice of the forest, and disappeared.
It chanced that at that moment when she felt the slight twinges of a heart as it tenses, anticipating the crushing descent of despair at the realization of the hopeless unattainability of bliss, at that very moment he who carried her heart with so little effort came abrupt to halt, hunkered again as in the village, as though sudden and unexpected enburdened. Same burdened heart-troth did then shiver, as from the soul out, straighten, and call:
A heart tight with dread, and prepared to face that precipice of despair did pause and turn to look once more to the hope of hope. Frozen amid the limbs of the tree, clad in skin of both plant and beast, for all the world a feral force debating flight. Dare she speak? Aloud, with what had once been words? Might she? Must she. With the strength of a winter restrained river testing the grip of her icy suppressor, she tests the human language.
Beloved rounds with a quick whip, golden locks a flutter, setting the forest speckled half-light a flame as a spark struck in darkest night. Those eyes catch the sun in a stuttering pattern as brilliant shots of midmorning sky fire into the evening, a firing a staccato pattern that must either echo or dictate the uneven pounding of her own heart.
Cerulean fire scours the woods, flashing past the trunk above which she perched once, twice, and a third time as her heart threatens betray her even to his ears, before his eyes settle into shade, dousing their flame but not that which they had lit in her. His sight, though seeming all-seeing, is anchored to the ground as completely as is her Beloved himself, indeed as anchored as is she to him. He shakes, again, and if possible, stands taller in the half-night. His voice, with the power of the large cats and the graceful melody of the smallest of birds, rings out again, filling the world with his challenge:
"Come this way!"
His words rang deep into the not-quite-so-early evening, and deeper yet into the web of cords that held together the fabric of the story that she told herself about who she was, on those levels that we don't quite admit even to ourselves. It is a raw and invasive thing, to be so stricken by another. It feels like one is exposed, as though they have taken the mask off and stared full into the very face of the god, and have been truly and deeply known
. As one summoned, she does fall straight to the verdant undergrowth, a sudden reminder of her existence on this same mortal veil as he. She stood. Hair askew, her skin as tattered, dirty, and torn as the skins with which the forest clothed her. Never had any child of earth and man stood so defiantly on the border of one ancestry and the other.
It is a sad truth that even the youngest of the Wild Ones know, that borders are places of change, and where more than one of those places fall at once the regular rules of the world do not fit in the same manner that one might expect
. Here, where Earth meets Man, and the half-light meets the half-night, in half-sight, things can get Lost. There stands She, proudest daughter of any wood, heart held in the shimmer of her eye, the flutter of her breath, in the quiver of her hand, and she offers:
It is often the case in stories that the courage most lauded is that of the physical pursuit of glory. A hero is garlanded, laureled, and paraded down the avenue for charging the dragon, or daring the lair of some mythic beast, or raiding some poor village and carrying away the fairest of their maids. It is a courage of a different sort, to spread ones dreams beneath the feet of another and accept what tread may there fall. A courage different, but no less, and so let us not forget the bravery of a woodland child who dared try to love in a loveless world.
Eyes flared as they swept through the intermittent bars of light littered around the forest, flashing as they found one such bar exactly as they pinned her firmly to the ground, even as that tree before which she stood was by her own roots pinned. Blue flame flares through the half-darkness, through her, as the full light of the dying sun fell upon the explosion of limpidity that is the eyes of her one beloved.
There are moments in a story and in a life when things stand upon a knife edge, and it seems in reflection that things could have gone in an another direction altogether. As lives and stories get jumbled in the chaos of living, it can happen that more than one story and more than one life may stand upon a single such fulcrum, and for those caught up in the living of such stories it can be as if the whole world might stand upon a pin, and for those in the story such an impression might not be that far from the truth. But a world so balanced might fall, and some things upon falling shatter, and not all that is broken can be then put aright. To fall and break, though, is by some the preferred end to such a fall, for the alternative is just to fall and keep falling, and so be lost entire.
In such delicate moments the smallest of details can push a story, can push a life, one way or the other. Who are we to judge if sun-drenched eyes, for all their brilliance, did miss a forest-clad forest child, standing heart in hand? Had a bird chanced, at this precise moment, to fly o'erhead and temporarily block the sun which blinded her Beloved as surely as his own brilliance blinded her; had he stood but four inches in any direction; had she lit upon any other tree in the copse this might have been a different story. It is true that it might not have become a story of young love blossoming in the twilight and carrying two youths off into an adventure of discovering their bliss in each other, but I like to think that it could have been that kind of story.
Such a bird did not fly, nor moved he, and neither did she descend anywhere but where she stood. This is not a story of love discovered, paths merged, and joy shared. This is a story of the forest, of paths diverging, a story of breaking and of tears. Though the one tear even now threatening to over spill her eye and forge a track down a cheek browned in turn by both sun and soil might be the first so spilled, it was not to be the last such, as all who now live do have reason to mourn that this story did not happen to proceed as it might have, but in this our story is hardly alone.
Such is the privilege of those who stand outside a story, the voyeur as critic. Our Dianic beauty standing so tall in the forest eve had no such benefit and so she stands, heart in throat, pierced to the core by eyes bluer than anything for which her young life had prepared her. Every string of her self-identity strained and knotted about her heart, the beating of which sending ripples shooting back down those strings to the utmost reaches of her soul, waiting for what he might say, how might her dream be received? The whole future of the world hung upon her Beloved's next move.
Which was a half-step back, away, away from her, and an almost panicked look over that meticulous shoulder, back toward that accursed grove. Those strings strung too tight began to fray. His glance stretches into a gaze and a third shudder cascades down her Beloved's back, an audacious flaunting of the muscles wrapping that frame. Unseen, behind that same back does she reflect that same shudder back to him. Words barely reached her over his shoulder, asked as if of himself, as if of her entire future:
"Why run away?"
Barely able to force the words past her heart-stopped throat, where they fell from trembling lips straight to the forest floor,
"Why r-run away?"
If these words stuttered and skipped in their descent from lips to loam like autumn leaves loosed too soon, then I would ask that you remember the first time you bared your heart for another to either cherish or disdain, and the terror there. Consider also the solitary life of those Wild Ones who used to be human, as years pass between interactions. But here is another who also seeks out the solitary world of the wood! Was it too much to hope that she might find one, and such a one, who might find it within himself to choose to be alone with her? That there might be hope of a togetherness amid this isolation? Surely even Diana, immune to the companionable needs of mere mortals, could understand if such a heart, so young, so frail, might quiver when first voicing such a hope to the very object of her hope.
Another golden explosion of light carries his head back around. Azure hammer blows to her heart shake the trick-tight framework of cords valiantly holding her soul together. Beloved scans the forest, shoulders square as a cut cliff. She could hear the breath forced between grit teeth, his eyes impossibly brighter, as if lit from within. He wore the dappled half-light of the forest like a cloak, almost glowing. Those eyes defied the very coming of the night with their intensity.
The intensity packed into so soft a word hit her like a fist, and mentally she stumbled, searching for the meaning of the word. It had been so long since she had been forced to keep track of all the little meanings humans tucked into their little symbols. He couldn't be suggesting... Well, and why couldn't he? Do not the birds and beasts come so easily together, sharing their joy with scarce a word between them? Has he heard, in her whispered hopes and soft sung dreams, her heart's cry? Could he have come to be with her, or at least to not not-be without her? What now can she do? Here stands Beloved, wrapped in the loving light of her forest home asking her to join him. How has she ever wanted anything else? Her heart pounds a pace fit to catch one beat upon the very heels of the last, setting her soul to quake.
The word explodes from her lips even as she explodes from the shadows, all the grace and beauty of any creature that has ever sipped a brook of a morning bound up in her youth and her joy and her hope. Be! her heart cried; stay! her eyes plead; let US be! she prayed, to him, arbiter of her soul. Her lips strained to tangle with his even as her fingers ached to tangle in those blessed locks of gold and her soul strings reached to tangle themselves with his. She saw his eyes widen, and jaw (sweet, strong jaw!) drop, and her heart began to bubble over with joy, almost escaping into a chuckle stifled for fear she might dissolve into bliss and drift away like the mist even now creeping out of the darkest corners of the grove surrounding a certain pool. Her fingers atingle as they reach for her love, where they are met by
Nothing. Suspended amid air, her fingers refused to close the last small distance to their goal. She waggled them in the air, exploring whether they were still hers to control. Even as her eyes tore away from the magnetic depths of his to trace their way down her hand from her fingertips she became physically and visually aware of the fists closed round her wrists like shackles. A small part of her was surprised that she did not notice the moment his skin made contact with her. This small part was in turn observed by a little girl locked away in a dark corner of her mind, a girl who remembered a family and books and stories and this little girl was suddenly very concerned that this story was not going the way it was supposed to go, and she tried to let the rest of her mind know, but the rest of her mind had become quite good, in fact, at ignoring that little girl in the dark corner. Eyes now afire with sun-adjusted clarity stabbed at her, yet set off like a song without a tune, a room without books, a mother without her cub, a look not quite grounded on a principle of sanity.
"Sever your roots from me! I abjure thee, harpy! I'll haste it along that plutonian road myself ere I allow my soul be bound by yours!"
Cut by these words, the poor strings that hold together a soul raw and unweathered by age, already tried to their limits by the internal turmoil of the early evening, give out all at once and she collapses from the inside out. Those twinned vise-grips that froze her supplication release their hold, and if they do not ease her fall, let it also be said that they do not hasten her descent.
At his feet, shattered as a thin sheet of ice beneath too careless boots, she lay, unseeing and all-seeing as his feet turn and disappear into a growing mist until she could see but the faintest outline of his flickering still flawless form. Her breath staggers, as uneven as the beats that the scattered remnants of her heart take turns in beating. From a head pillowed once more on a bed of leaf and limb, drop the last words of a life given a span both shorter and sparer than it might have hoped.
A beat, and another, as uneven as the call that returns from a canyon wall.
For an eternity she lay there, for time ceases to refer when separated from that background against which it flows. In a world not so unmoored a forest spirit comes to investigate the heart-knell of one of the forest's own, a keening which even now reverberates through the chords which hold together the life of the Wild. The sprite looks down upon what is left of one lost who loved, and shakes a head in sorrow. Thence to the grove does look, where the hint of what might have once been a man drifts in and out of sight in the rolling billows of the mist, despite the absence of any sort of breeze, and then back to the pile of child on the floor.
"Oh, Morœ, may his soul so hunger, and ever go unsatiated."
The sylvan youth dips and gathers in arm what just a moment and a lifetime ago might have been a sister, now but a husk, bearing no more resemblance to the vivacious creature once held therein than a house from which love has fled bears a resemblance to the home it once had been. So cradled, she is borne to that hidden heart of the forest where the Wild Ones remember their own, the very twin of that grove where even now her Beloved kneels. The Wild Ones do love their princesses, and such courage as is often overlooked in the ballads of the great and the bold is honored among the children of the forest. She is gathered into the spirit of the Wild and given seat in that host which does ride in the space between dreams and between worlds. To this day does she ride, to and fro across the land, warding the hearts of the young against daring too much, too soon, lest such fragile hearts give way beneath the strain. Such aid as she can she does freely give, to those who but call upon her name.