Letting Life Lead
Note: I write in a non-linear way and sometimes I am at a loss for where the story is going and then something else will pop into my head. I write it and then see where it fits into the story later. I wrote this today on a tangent. I intended to write a scene that occurs after this one, but as I wrote this one sort of just spilled out first and I rolled with it. If you have followed the pieces of this story, Inez has left Troy and as far from where she had been living. She is in a poor state having lost her hair and several teeth and is experiencing black outs and nosebleeds. She’s in a constant state of pain and has a fever. She believes she is dying, and in this scene she has returned to a familiar place to die–the first place from a conscious memory. The journey to this place had triggered a lot of recall.
The familiar terrain prompted her to turn back, but to skirt around another way with more cover. Though this was not the fond remembrance of formative years, this place was freshest in her mind. The time after the dark. Her awakening. The brook, not more than a trickle, led her to the old tunnel cave just as she remembered. Rubble, old trees, and scraggy brush made it difficult to find the small opening set down low and overgrown with moss. Inez had to unbutton her coat and suck in her breath as she squeezed through sideways slowly–barely now able to fit without the shape of a gangly girl. Inside she waited a moment to adjust to the darkness until she felt her pupils widen and the black suddenly turned to gray shapes.
The space reeked of small animals and moisture, but none of her kind. When light could no longer reach the center dark, she felt her way along with hands and feet and ear. Crawling and squeezing at points and stooping or standing at others. Now and then when she reached a point she couldn’t remember or felt unsure where no bioluminescence bloomed nor light could penetrate, she clicked her tongue in the darkness and waited for the echos. The lingering ache deep in her ears dulled the feedback. It was like trying to read a newspaper under amber. Thankfully, the peeks of gray returned as she reached the end. She hadn’t known if the exit still existed. No fresh scents reached her senses as she crawled and climbed up and out to meet the fading light of the evening and the fresh wood air. Two hours more found her at the base of a great tree of massive girth with a hidden hollow beneath it where the earth melted away. A fitting place to die.
Here she’d been buried and here she’d awoken.
The recurring nightmare manifested into a tangible, vivid recollection: How the pouring rain choked her to consciousness in the twilight hours, the way mud oozed into nose, mouth, and ears and how the flooded ground heaved beneath her.
“Don’t be afraid! It’s only torpor–the long sleep. Just like I told you. I’ll come back for you.”
Inez spoke the words out loud to herself from her memory in a croaky whisper as the snow froze her own blood on her lips.
She had screamed, cried, and clawed, “Don’t leave me!”
Her mother (she was sure of it) had held her face and squeezed it hard until her cheekbones grated under flesh–shaking the hysterics out of her until the cries turned to snotty whimpers. “You will do as I say! You will be as dead; the dogs will pay you no attention. I will lead them away.”
“We have to go back! He’ll catch us. It’ll be worse. Let’s go back!” Inez begged.
The memory of her mother’s eyes came into focus so clear and she saw in them shock, disappointment, and guilt.
The bite upon her neck was like a searing brand. No matter how she howled or contorted her mother would not release until euphoria made her child’s body into a ragdoll. Whispers tickled in her ears and the fear and desire to return to the place they’d left was replaced by the sudden drive to flee though her legs could not move. The words that were spoken — lost in the black hole of those memories. But, Inez recalled in every detail how had she been hidden under the great tree. Pushed into a hole dug into rich humus deep enough to allow oxygen to penetrate, but deep enough to hide the whole of her body, Inez was turned onto her side into the fetal tuck. Then her mother pierced a vein and took her blood until the blissful effects of the toxin became shaded by the rubbed edges of a swoon.
“It’s torpor; not death,” her mother whispered so close to Inez’s ear that the lips tickled against it. “If you wake without me, run until the skin on your feet becomes bone.”
Her mother’s hands stroked her hair and were gone. Instead the earth wrapped Inez from head to foot, worms turned leaves to rot around her, and burrowing critters licked at cold flesh to test if such a thing were edible only to be repelled by the bitter sting on their tongues.
How long she slept in the hollow under the roots of the tree she didn’t know.
Inez pushed her body into the space there with the green scarf wrapped around her face and breathed in the scents of Troy trapped in the fibers. She talked to herself in a fever, “The dirt crunched in my teeth and I couldn’t open my eyes at first. My nose too, I couldn’t breathe. Everywhere hurt. It was summer, I think. Yes, because the air was warm. I was so cold though. My fingers and feet felt numb and I was shivering. My dress was in rags. So afraid! My heart beat so fast. I didn’t know why. I just ran. I remember thinking, ‘don’t let the dogs find you’. And I cried for my mother. I couldn’t remember her face or her name, but I called for her. I ran until my feet bled.”
A familiar scent caught her attention as she pressed nose to knees exhausted and fevered. She lifted soggy, slushy debris to her nose. An adrenaline rush injected renewed energy into her body and charged her already heightened senses. She lifted bunches of the humus to her nose seeking and searching for the faintest whiff. Had she imagined it? Damn the weather! There it was again in a handful of debris. Almost not there. A faint, fading signature. Recent or months ago? One of her kind? A female? Inez crawled from the space and leaned against the tree for strength until her feet found the way.
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