Running, I became deer-light and lithe, springing over fallen logs, legs striking me through forest, away from Apollo, from his shining face, from sunfire burning under my skin when he approached, from dark-wet urges, terrifying closeness, base smells. I flitted through the trees faster than moonlight. Yes! This was all I wanted, this here, now, loamy earth, scent of leaves, trees my only friends, the True Ones who serve without passion, who unite earth and sky unthinking, who never hate or hunger or dangle their prey between claws like cats do, watching animal cries in curious delight. Trees give and take in equal measure, clean, stronger than hurricanes, anchored yet pliant. Yes, I was right to run from Apollo.
But somehow he caught me, his skin hot surrounded me, scent of hay, of sweat, flash of white teeth, eyes burningest blue of hottestday sky, muscles rippling feline across my back, around my shoulders, voice surprisingly soft, purr of fire and lion. And pleading, not rape. I twisted in his arms to get out, but ended up facing that sweet concave at the base of his neck now drowning me. Even as my heart burst with terror, my vagina sprang slippery. For just a second I could have melted, could have merged, could have tongue-to-saltness followed the blood down, tunneled into a world of flesh eaters, baby-birthers and pollution.
Father, save me! Purity my power, I pushed him away from me, a cataract tumbling tidal storm of falling.
Two steps, and my thigh muscles woodened, my skin thickened, gray roughening to scale. My legs caught on each other, twisted fast, became one. Torso lengthened, arms shot skyward, muscles cramped as they twisted around bone becoming branch. Feet sprouted roots probing earth, pushing aside rock, agrip of earth, afirm of firmament. Barely could I feel his arms around me now, beating on my hardening trunk. His cries faded as my ears vanished. Pain drained out of my flesh as blood thinned to sap, and with it, all of blood's dark messages of desire, envy, fear, love and — hunger — most dangerous, devious, creative and confusing of all.
Replaced. By quiet, by orderly mineral messaging, a muttering of equations, a murmuring of measurements, directions on how to sprout branches and, with my thousand furry fingers, leaves. How to turn sun to sugar.
Language last to go. Human away the drain. Where what of all words for their meaning from? Cambium green under bark, phloem and xylem coursing earth's ancient dictums newly clear, and order of sun my leaves branchifying to sunfit to best advantage. Downsink I to darkness and stillness, most planetary, most pure. Earth-pull-sky close and toxin translate to oxygen breath, Sweet. Slow. I no more, but allmind knowing and nowing until only sunhumming I this.
's stories and essays have appeared in The North American Review, The Little Magazine, Phoebe and Artists Unite, Eclectica Magazine
and The Collagist
. Her magical realist novel, The Ciphery
, was a finalist for the Heekin Group Foundation James Fellowship. She teaches fiction writing, public speaking and composition at SUNY Adirondack. She collaborated on the novel Feeding Christine
by Barbara Chepaitis (Bantam
, 2001) and wrote the libretto for Billy and Zelda
, an opera commissioned and performed by OperaDelaware