The breath was different that day. It came from the east, to the west. Earth was, somehow, askew.
Then the news came tumbling over the hills, the land. Boats had blown across the great ocean. Trees no longer stood. Life had been turned asunder. Again. It was the fall before the dawn.
She did not know this, or so it was believed, when she woke. Hair wild to her waist, knees pink, goose-bumps running from shoulder to shoulder. She traversed the landscape from mattress to door into that world and shuddered deeply. A gust from the North swept dust into her eyes.
This storm had been like no other, or so it was understood. Shock ran its tremulous way through the village that day. It turned inhabitants to stone. Silence was forecast for the weeks to come.
She clambered her way through the small holding, forlorn and grey, no playmates waiting gleefully on doorsteps ready to gallivant and explore. Eyes of her neighbours fell downwards as their hearts dragged despair around the streets in the age that followed. She longed for words of wisdom to find their way towards her. She needed to know what had twisted life so fervently upside down and searched for a gaze of comfort to catch and anchor within. But no one met her beautiful brown saucers of light in those splintering hours.
Loneliness echoed its way through the evening. She lay in bed with chest beating furiously and mind wandering curiously. Solace for the day’s events chose not to be found. There was no being to offer guidance. Nor gifts or pearls to be in receipt of. Only baggage that night was claimed. For the first time, at the ripe fiery homecoming of eleven years, she had touched the ravines of a heart collapsing and, upon waking the next morning, felt the brittleness of cold running through her gallant veins.
As the hurricane ripped its way over the hillsides the following autumn, she was awoken by a jolt in her pelvis. It galloped from tail along vertebrae, past each rib and towards her crown. She made her way through the village, calling as before for fellows and companions. Yet this time, whilst searching for the eyes of others, something shifted within. The morning’s rumblings had snaked and steeled their way to her tear-ducts. Yes. A solitary drop of saltwater started to roll down her left cheek.
Don’t worry child, an old maid heeded. Do not fret. Dry those eyes. All will be well. She was passed a small square of embroidered cloth to wipe the tear and heard a distant background choir order, HALT!
She duly did. And, hastily, the small droplet crawled up her cheek and found its way back somewhere safe to hide.
That night in bed once more, do you know what happened within her heart?
Indeed. It grew heavier, as if a rock sinking deep, deep into the river. Her limbs lay more densely on the bed, her breath laboured its way through her torso. Life struggled to oxygenate her soul.
The years spun as the world flew past and it was not until many moons more when she woke to the judder in her bones. It were ginormous. It was spectacular. Her whole body drank in the vibration. She jumped from her bed to tell her brethren what had happened but as she made passage through the village that morning she found heads down and a deathly blanket of desolation hovering upward in the sky. The tornado had taken dwellings, farmsteads, old birch trees and cattle in its wake. And, just as before, a lonely tear drop emerged from her left eye.
Child, STOP! The chorus sang. NO! They urged. Go back from whence you came!
And as before, for she loved her peoples dearly, the tear found its way back in.
She tossed and turned in bed that night, though her body held tight. Her mind running, her voice in chains. She had not known trouble such as this. No words of it were spoken in the books. Invisibility had started to reside within her.
There were local newspaper headlines the next time. Young woman seen crying at catastrophic events. Stay AWAY! They demanded. It even made national news in later years. By now her brown locks were starting to lose their colour and the globe had changed many times over. She had lost loved ones and witnessed trauma that no being would wish to imagine. And, despite knowing somewhere in her heart she felt something for those around, she was torn between loyalties.
As you might imagine, tiredness found its way through her bones too readily on most days. Bed became a familiar ground. As did the far crevices of her mind. She found solitude here, most days. But on those she did not, rage tore inside her. Belonging knew her but she did not know quite where she belonged.
The following morning, as if an electric shock shook her awake, her limbs sprang out of bed. Her heart was beating faster than she had known for many a while and her blood was charged with something of old. Her cells sang a dance as she gathered herself and made way out of the front door.
The earthquake had shattered many homes. Many lives had been lost and broken. Many animals no longer. Woodlands destroyed. Birdsong simply a ghost. Joy was only to be found elsewhere.
But today was the day. Today was when courage ignited her heart and came to dream her, dream her anew.
She strode through the village. Salt and pepper hip-length locks, fire fronds and ocean ripples as one, fell into the shadows behind her. Sun ablaze, within and without, riding the wing tips of everything she had ever felt. They came, these city-folk, as she long knew, to tell her to refrain. NO! They implored. But as wisdom married with daring and made love to her fury, do you know what happened?
The little lost tear made its way down her cheek. And, as it ran past her chin and along the arc of her neck, she felt the earth quake within. With an inner-squall that blew cobwebs out of her ribs, a small trickle of tears began to heave their magnificent way from her lungs and, as if a parade of merry elephants, charted the pathway of their comrade before.
The headlines turned global. It was declared an International State of Emergency. Police officers from all corners of all regions were summoned. The army stood poised on standby. It was predicted the wide world web would crash as satellites across the lifeless cloudscape above could not cope with the influx on social media.
SHE MUST STOP! READ ME. OVER. WE HAVE TO STOP HER.
Anyone would have imagined The Third World War would have started. But what do you imagine dear reader? Do you think she might retract?
You’re absolutely right and yes, her spirit soared as this once stream, now river, soon to be waterfall, ran from neck to breasts to belly to hips to buttocks to thighs to old croaky knees to shins to feet and her fucking glorious, beatific toes. Hallelujah! Called Earth.
And with it, she melted a little. I think I actually mean she melted A LOT. She could feel the soil beneath her soles, it moistening and softening as heart finally broke open. She could feel her torso, pelvis and treasured sacrum yield into the gravitas beneath her and, as she inclined downwards, the muddied floor beneath her rose upwards to meet her buoyant, jubilant flesh.
She did not notice the noise around her. She did not notice the searchlight shining down on her. The TV crews, photographers, reporters. She did not notice the cacophony of mobile phones ringing, the endless flurry of messages pinging back and forth from one nervous onlooker to another. No.
All she noticed was the tiny thirsty seedling below sucking her tears into the roots of it’s being. She felt the sun shining into her from the South and watched in awe the majesty of minute buds in their infancy forming.
Whilst the world worried and fretted. Whilst court orders were drawn up and other planets within the galaxy notified of this disaster, no one noticed the forests that grew around her. No one noticed how the crops were beginning to bloom as the soil found its replenishment. No one noticed how the winds eased howling, the seas stopped flooding and the tsunami’s withdrew their descent. For attention was elsewhere. It was consumed with a media’s obsession of a woman who’s avalanche of tears never ceased flowing. They quaked at her volcanic nature, they tremored at her fearlessness and still they forgot to see the flowers at her feet.
Long ago, there was a little girl. She knew well how cold toes feel in the rain. She knew well how legs stiffen when they have forgotten how to run. She knew well how caged ribs feel when the air around is stultified. She knew well how spines and jaws and hips lock when there are no keys in sight to release their play. And she knew well how eyes become drawn when there is no light to mirror them.
But many moons have passed since then. Many days have broken in these years as have many hearts. And as joy has birthed courage in abundance for many, sorrow has birthed bountiful rivers of grief. This woman-child has learned the seeds that are plucked in the rainbow of her inner-scape by the wind are not hers for the harvesting. They come through and past her instead, some for the fertilising and growing, some for the tending and nurturing and others simply to watch and let run by to be caught or drift as the weather currents wish.
In days from now this woman will be sat beside her daughter and her daughter’s daughter. News will soon just be in of another storm ascending on the horizon. Her grandchild’s wild screams are transmuting ecstatically into tears. The woman sweeps her snow-white ankle-length hair around the darling girl, cloak-like and bejewelled with freshly wept teardrops, and, peeking out from the spider-web of tattooed lines on her face, reaches inside her chest pocket. Something is burning. Something is aflame. She pulls out an old worn piece of cloth. It is time, she knows, to unfold this long-forgotten keepsake from a dear one, for the embroidered words have before now not yet been seen.
Then, within a whisper that comes from the hail beyond, she sees before her a seismic wave ricocheting across the room, landing itself between her small valiant frame and the two she cherishes aside her. She holds them in the pools of her splendid brown eyes. Breath comes to breathe her one last time.
Yes, with a cascade of tears erupting and a thunderous gut-curdling howl, the daughter cups her beloved mother’s hand’s in hers. You and I remind her to go ahead. Shakily she opens the square of cotton. In the colours of sunlight kissing rain, it reads,
This child, is yours for the undoing.
Image: Monica Berengo