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Warm Dark Earth

 

They sat together on a tree branch dripping over the edge. They were slowly being pulled into the earth like spilling honey. She glanced down at their feet and saw a red fox streak through the woods like a comet against the plush green grass. They sat above the cosmos, watching, waiting.

"When do you think they'll come for us?" she asked him all the while never taking her eyes of the ground.

"In a week, they're waiting for the sun." he said to her. Turning his face towards it, he could feel the air around them cool, his lie ate 10 degrees. Light filtered in through the leaves throwing constellations on the forest floor like wedding rice. She pulled a grain from her hair as she swung her feet over the ground, a great green ocean that spread out before them, endlessly expanding and contracting under them, winding through the trees to a point they couldn’t see. He looked at her trying to see behind glass eyes.

"Are you upset?" he asked her, a question answered in sad shoulders, hung head. She never took her eyes of the ground.

"No it's just,” she stopped, choosing her words carefully, pulling them from the silent spaces.

"This happened sooner than I thought, I mean did you think we'd end up here, now, today?" Whatever ghost held her gaze let go and she turned to face him. White silk snagging on wooden teeth ripping into the facade to reveal the earth underneath.

His suit was tearing at the seams.

"I didn't, I don't understand how we got here."  A mushroom grew on her arm and she glanced at it with a vain curiosity. The long grass rippled like ocean waves lapping at the shore waiting to swallow them whole. The earth was waiting like it always waits to take us back into loamy depths. Back from where we came.

“Do you think there’s something after this,” she asked him “Or is this it, is this forever?”

“I imagined an entirely different forever for us, but if this forest is forever for us,”

he didn’t finish his thought, spongy green patches were wrapping around his throat as a wolf stared hungrily on.

All he could do was watch. All she could do was watch them grow.

“I remember the day I met you,” she said sadness staining her words. She remembered that inky blue sky and the lights and the music. She remembered gold leaves crunching beneath their feet. We always break the precious fragile things.

“You stayed all night in the cold to watch me play,”

“And I took you home with me, you were my stray,”

“I slept on your couch, you remember, you were engaged to be married the next day.”

“And I never showed up in that white dress you found me in when you stole me away”

His hand found his way to her, resting on her cheek, brushing away the dirt, dried blood and broken glass with calloused fingers, the remains of the day.

There was a buck in the clearing, tall and proud, antlers merging with the tangled branches. It didn’t move but stood statuesque and still, a sentry to guard them, to watch them and to wait.

Pairs of eyes gathered around the edge edge of the clearing, glowing like so many stars. The night sky filling the air between tree trunks, water spilling across the forest floor, rising and reaching for the branches.

The water rose to meet her, tickling her soles with dried wheat brushing back and forth in the wind.

“I don’t regret any of it, I would spend any forever with you” she said, pressing her cheek into his hand, burying herself in his sadness, in their loss. A tear rolled across the landscape of her face, a small river cutting through bone, dripping into the flowers on her shoulders, clusters growing from green mossy patches that now covered them both. He leaned across to kiss her, remembering their first night. The nights they didn’t sleep to have more time, racing the clock and trying to outrun fate when she ran away with him in that long white dress.

She tasted the earth on his lips, coming to claim them both

He tasted the salt in her tears, the water coming to claim them both.

Their clothing grew heavy, pulling them towards the ground with the weight of oysters and clams and algae that crawled up the tearing fabric.

She gripped his hand tight and nudged him.

“Look out there,”

They turned towards the darkening treeline and

locked eyes with the bits of hungry starlight that stared out of the encroaching black, watching them, waiting.

“Why are they waiting” he asked, not to her but to the world. The light was dustin g the tree tops, refusing to sink into the black, the sky grasping at the fleeting moments before nightfall.
The world held it’s breath for them, the light and the eyes and the dirt were all waiting for them.

She curled into him, head on his shoulder, knees into his chin, curling into the hollow of his body, that empty space that was always waiting for her to fill it. Their hands were clasped, grasping at each others bodies, refusing to ever let go. Fingers like vines, melding bone to bone.

The buck knelt in the clearing bowing his head in solace, in mourning, in acceptance, antlers encircling them as they lay in the warm dark earth.

She whispered into his ear, “I forgive you”

They came out through the trees as ink spilled out across the sky.