“The Huntress in Moonlight” – Story #6

Artist: Agus - http://psdholic.deviantart.com/

“The Huntress in Moonlight”

Copyright 2012 by Shan Jeniah Burton

She seemed to have forgotten  I was there….

I sat on the wide  branch, my back pressed into the trunk – cushioned and cool where the  mosses caressed my shoulders; rough and warm where my lower back pressed against bare bark –  watching her.

She never seemed to  notice her  beauty,  yet she wore it naturally, with  ownership  I had never seen before.  I couldn’t pinpoint  what differed  from the beautiful, petulant queens of the high school court…Shirana,  Beverlee, and Aspen, who made the boys slobber over themselves like fools, and dismissed the rest of us with something that might have been contemptuous if they didn’t look at  walls and teachers  the same way…

~~ Perhaps  those girls believe  their appearance entitles them to privilege.  I find that attitude most – illogical.~~

I clutched my head,  nearly falling. “H-How —?” I asked, pressing myself backward, as if Tisira was going to attack.

I felt her, now. She was amused – and concerned that maybe she had lost my friendship.   She found me enjoyable and interesting.

She walked a little away, her tank top revealing just a bit of a midriff that was slender and muscular. Her long skirt swayed  with her, and she bowed her head to study her toes, making her short, shiny black bob fall across her face…

She was silhouetted by the enormity of the full moon, which leaning in  as if to tell Earth some wonderful secret….

A sceret about Tisira, maybe……

Without  warning, a small flock of birds winged straight at us.

I yelled, and this time I did fall out of the tree- well, half fell and half rolled, but, still, I hit the ground with a rattling, graceless thump.

When I looked up ,  Tisira  had a small, hawkish raptor  perched upon her shoulder.  She was whispering to it, and the bird seemed to be listening. The rest of the flock circled, then landed in several trees around the edges of the clearing.

“I am not a human high school student,” Tisira said. Although I hadn’t seen her move,  she was  offering me a hand up, which I gladly took.  Hers was calloused and strong, and I noticed a long, fine scar running from the back of her hand to just short of her elbow. “I am a Tacivaarii Huntress.”

In my mind, there was a sense of what that meant, but I could also tell that there was more – much more than I could ever understand.

“You read my mind, and command birds of prey.”

She steadied me as my knees threatened to collapse.

“It’s not reading your mind, exactly.  I could, but I wouldn’t.  I share the strong thoughts and feelings you project outward…..Father says that I always will, no matter how hard I attempt to shield myself. I’m sorry it troubles you.”

She helped me to sit  on a low stump where, hopefully, I could keep from further embarrassing myself with my clumsiness.

“As for the bird, I don’t command her. We have a symbiotic relationship. We share information about prey, when there is mutual benefit in doing so.  And we share feelings, sometimes.”

“Tisira – I don’t understand. About you, about this huntress thing; about reading my mind – or whatever the hell it’s called; about that bird. But most of all, I don’t understand why you’re telling me this.”

“There is something within you that needs to know, Sarah.  You care, and feel, and seek.  We are kindred, in ways that language can’t express.  You’re ready for what I am, and what I have to offer –  a symbiotic relationship of our own.”

That made me nervous. We were a long way from help – there were no houses for at least a mile in either direction. No one to run to for help, no one to hear me scream -

Tisira looked at me with glowing eyes, as the bird cried into the night….

And suddenly, a lynx crouched where she had stood…..

For a moment, I stared, and then a shaky  whisper emerged.

“Wh- what do you want with me?”

“Bus Station” – Story #4

And somewhere out there, he awaited me…..

My stomach was doing a twining dance with itself, and I asked myself if I was really going to go through with it. I knew that I could back out, anytime before I was expected to be at school. There had been a rash of skipping, lately, and attendance was being taken at the beginning of each period, and parents were contacted for every absence or tardiness.

Yet another part of my life that felt like a prison; like my opinion or needs had nothing at all to do with what I was required to do.

Just as Mother insisted on serving Hamburger Helper and calling it supper, even though I have avoided meat since I was ten, and learned how animals were treated and slaughtered.

Just as cleaning the house and not bothering her when she came home hung over were my job, even though I had never asked for them.

Just as the bills sat unopened and unpaid unless I pleaded with her, offering her foot rubs.

Just as she smoked in the house, even knowing that the smoke made me cough and gag, and gave me migraines.

Somewhere out there, a man waited. A man who wanted a very young wife, and wanted her just as he imagined her, without her own overlay of personality over that.

For a moment, I asked myself if that was really what I wanted for myself. But, in truth, I didn’t know any other way to be. I had my books to escape into, and the stories I made up in my head, but never seemed to find time to write down.

There was something wild and new that had risen up in me, that had pulled me out of the house, and, as I strolled around the bus station, trying to look as though I belonged here and not like a runaway, I felt it surge up again.

I had only a little extra money; it might not even be enough to eat regularly on the three-day trip, but suddenly, I didn’t care so much about that.

I knew what I had to do, one little thing that would bring me some measure of peace that I could carry with me whatever and wherever life carried me, from here.

This was a major bus station, the central hub for the entire region. It had a full-size drugstore, two wall shelves of books, and I ducked in and browsed through…..

“Is there something I can help you find?”

I gulped quickly, feeling a hot flush of shame and fear and apprehension spread over me face. Pretending I was calm and collected, I half-turned, hoping my thick curtain of hair would cover my face well enough. “Not really…I was looking for Shakespeare, but I don’t see any here.”

“No, sadly it doesn’t sell.” She was a middle-aged woman, a little heavy, but with dancing blue-grey eyes and deep dimples where she smiled. “But you’re in luck. I like Shakespeare too, and I happen to have an unofficial lending library in the stockroom. Will you be here long? My son will be back from his break in half an hour; I can’t leave the register until then.”

I tried to study her from behind my hair; I was trying to figure out if she was trying to hold me here, if she was the type of adult who thought they had the right to meddle in kids’ lives, even when they didn’t know anything about them.

“I’m not going to ask you anything about your plans. I saw your cheek – I never knew I COULD walk away, when my mother backhanded me. She always said it was because I had been disrespectful, but there is nothing respectful at all in slapping a child hard enough to make their head snap back, is there?”

She said it almost as though she were talking to herself; and with enough old pain that I knew she wasn’t making it up.

Without another word, with hardly a sound, she turned and went back to the little cubby her one register was in.

I wandered for a minute, finding where the notebooks and pens were, and wondering about the woman’s story. Wondering, too, whether I was going to have the courage to walk up to that register and pay for them.

She had a small laptop in front of her, and she was typing quickly, in bursts, then she would smile or frown at the screen while toying with her hair.

She seemed to have forgotten that I was even there….

“Everdeep” – Story #3

As I looked up at the night sky, a star fell….

I wondered what it was, a star. Such tiny things sparkling out in Everdeep, past the waxing and waning moons.

Mother – my gut wrenched and I gagged sourly as I thought of Mother, and tried not to remember the taste of her blood in my mouth, after i had severed her Bloodsource and Breathsource…

I retched again, and, this time, I found myself pressing my belly hard into the sea-soaked rocks, the entirety of the three fish I had eaten at nooning pouring forth from me, all at once, and with great force.

And there, out on the island, were the Canivaarii – far enough away that I couldn’t prove they were trailing me.

Except that I could feel Hallii, there was no doubt.

She followed me, staying just out of Tacivaarii holdings, just within the lands of the Canivaarii.

And she wanted me to know. Know, and wonder,and worry.

That thought was only slightly less sickmaking than thinking about Mother – I’d heard two merchants talking as they went along the Road with far more than their usual haste, and twice as many bodyguards.

“She’s gone and had the AllQueen placed in her own jeweled walk, although rumor has it her throat was torn out, and she won’t be ordering anyone, anymore, ever.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the beast killed her, herself. Where was the child, all these years. And where is Jeniah, who is meant to be the Heiress-Princess. Where is she? Has her throat been torn by the savage, too?”

I had been low in a tree, only a twentypace from them, hidden by arytana blossoms and my coat, which mimicked the sun and shadows. But the merchant women, like most of the Untribed, only saw their own fears and dreams, and not the truth of these rich lands they hurried through, on their way from one Untribed and helpless settlement to another.

Now, though, not wanting to think of either Kaitiiraan and what I had done, nor Hallii and what she was doing to the Untribed, now, at Kaitiiraan’s Keep, I held to the memory.

“Merchant women. Fine thing I pick to waste my life upon,” I told myself. But, still, there was Hallii, with two large male young Canivaarii flanking her, silhouetted there on the island. I could see moons silvering their stiff neck ruffs, and glinting on their fangs.

Better to think of the merchant women – No.

Everdeep.

Everdeep, where he awaited, dreaming of her as she did him, and thinking her nothing beyond a dream he treasured, and feared for its intensity and naturalness and persistence.

“Well, my reality is just those things, my Chosen,” I whispered now, as I decided that there was no logic whatever in giving any more attention to Hallii, since there was nothing I could do to curtail the shadowing. Why not give it to he who makes me feel a though a part of her had slipped Aletris’ gentle embrace and flown, as free as the winged nectar-sippers that fluttered about the arytana when spring warmed them into life, out into Everdeep to join with him.

And, suddenly, I felt him again, had that weightless, spinning feeling that I always got when I felt his thoughts…

Because he was traveling THROUGH the Everdeep – to him, it was as rich and varied and powerful as the Huntlands she loved. The tugging of his call to it was a thing I understood; maybe that’s what first drew us, one to the other, across the vastness of Everdeep – that which all others thought as an emptiness, but I knew, from him, that it was a fabric, a world, a living thing as any world -

I rinsed my mouth with the salt water, and then went to chew on some seagrass, before slipping back into the woods, heading more deeply into the Huntlands, where Hallii was not yet daring enough to follow.

I found a circle of spicepines, releasing their sweetly sharp scent to blend perfectly with the night-blooming arytana, which drew potency from the moonlight….

I wove a bower of branches and vines, my breath coming too fast, but I did nothing to slow it. It fed my awareness of him; he was asleep, and slowly overcoming his own resistance – it was not something he did easily; he was no easy prey.

But he couldn’t resist as strongly as he had, once – as I could feel Everdeep in him; so, too, could he feel Huntlust and arytana and spicepines in me…

He wanted me, and was compelled by me -although he still held the distance between us, and would only come to me when his aloneness was too much to bear…

When the bower became watertight shelter of arytana blooms, I curled into it, and allowed sleep to come….
And somewhere out there, he awaited me…..

 

“After Supper” – Story #2

“I will harbor it, and shelter it, as the shrub outside my bathroom window harbors the sparrows and chickadees and cardinals that take refuge there…..”

“I don’t even know what that means,” snapped my mother in irritation, and her lips tightened and thinned as her jaw set. Her teeth were clenched when she spoke again. “I know what will happen. You will end up forgetting it, and leaving it somewhere, like outside, in the rain. I am NOT paying a hundred dollars for some damned book about Shakespeare. You’ve got plenty to read, right here, and, if you want more, go to the school library.”

“Neither of them have this book, Mommy.” People have told me all my life that I am a born optimist, like my father – but i never met my father, so I don’t know whether that’s true or not. But I figured calling her Mommy might -just might – get her to allow me to use my own income, garnered from watering a neighbor’s collection of fowl, from babysitting, from a summer job I would soon begin, and from cleaning my grandfather’s house – to buy the book. “And the book isn’t just about Shakespeare. It has ALL of his plays, all of the sonnets, and a lot of history. It’s a book I could treasure for the rest of my life.

“Besides, I don’t want you to pay for it. I just want permission to use my own money to – ”

CRACK! I registered the drawing back and surging forward of her hand too late to do anything at all to avoid the backhanded slap that rocked my head and, although i couldn’t see it, a fire-red, heated imprint on my right cheek.

“YOU don’t have your own money, you ungrateful little BITCH! So long as I feed you and pay for your clothes and put a roof over your head, I am entitled to decide what you get and what you don’t. And you are not getting some stupid book by that idiotic Shakespeare. Besides, you would just sit there, sucking your finger and twisting your hair, reading THAT BOOK instead of doing your homework. And you are supposed to be so smart! HA! You’ve got no common sense at all.”

She stalked away, and I thought that might be the end of that – but, before I could draw two breaths, she was back. “Now, clean up this kitchen, take out the trash, and do the laundry. Then get your disgusting little self clean, and DO YOUR HOMEWORK, and go to bed. I don’t want to hear another peep from you until morning…..but I know how you like to run your mouth and act like you’re smarter than everybody else, with your fancy Shakespeare, so I’m going out.”

She said it like it was a surprise. Like she didn’t go out every night. Like she hadn’t been wearing that slutty scrap of fabric she called, “my little red dress.”

I didn’t say anything, just put my head down and started cleaning up the half-burnt Hamburger Helper pan, and emptying her ashtray. She would want it to gleam like crystal when she got home, as though her ashes and butts must be cradled in luxury.

When the door slammed behind her, I counted to a thousand – better safe than sorry – before I allowed myself to whisper my thoughts very softly. “I’m pretty damned sure I’m smarter than YOU, you bitch.”

I had long ago developed a system to get the work done as quickly as possible. I flew about quickly, tending to all that she had asked, making sure everything was just as she expected it. I made sure her bourbon and glass were set at her place at the table, so she could have her “liquid breakfast” when she got back – long after I was in school, usually, and then she would sleep until just before dinner, the one meal she insisted on feeding me. I thought she did it just so she could complain bitterly about it until she left again….

It only took an hour and a half, and then I went to my room, where my laptop sat. It had been a prize in a local poetry slam, and Mother liked to brag about how I had won it – not to me, but to the other barflies and whores she hung out with. She even paid for the Wi-fi, just so she could tell them all what a generous mom she was…

And, best of all, she never touched my computer; she didn;t even know how to turn it on.

I went to the site I had found last night, my fingers trembling and an excited sweatiness shivering over me.

I had already drawn up my profile; and used my webcam to take a few shots of me in what I hoped were “fetching” poses.

Now, I opened my file – and saw that I had been searched six times, already.

And, fifteen minutes later, I was slipping out of my window, past the bush that sheltered the songbirds my mother never noticed, my backpack filled with my few precious things…..certain I would find joy and peace at the other end of my journey.

As I looked up at the night sky, a star fell….

First Story – Beginning

For now, I will just copy and paste the rough-hewn story here.

Tomorrow, I will come back, edit, and prettify things…..

Beginning 

I’m writing a story every day for May……trouble is beginning….I feel full of ideas, and yet blank, all at the same time…hmnnn…..maybe that’s the place to begin….

Now, to begin. The problem isn’t that I have no ideas – it’s that I am in a period of intense input and swirling ideas….

But, for me, these times are subterranean, subverbal, beneath the layers spoken or written language – or maybe even body language – can easily convey.

Easily?! The truth is, they can’t convey it at all. This is at the level of dream, of in8tuition, of the basic senses and the way they mingle to gether, endlessly shifting, combinind, separating.

Just as words can never get across the true nature of vivid dreaming, or love, or passion, or soul-deep, shattering sorrow, neither will they work here.

I have stories to tell. They are welling and surging up within me – and I have learned not to force them.

Prying open a bud to cause an earlier bloom will fail. All that the vibrant blossom to come needs is contained within the time capsule of the bud.

Prying open my thoughts to coax forth a premature story will not work any better. All that the nascent stories need to flower forth fruitfully is contained in the buds held, right now, within the time capsule of my mind.

When the bus is forced, the most vital ingredient is lost – the natural, unhurried, free flowing of time.

Time is integral to the fully fledged flower folded safely inside the shell of the bud; time is just as integral to the fully fledged stories curled safely into the shell-buds of my thoughts.

It might seem silly, then, that I have just committed to writing a story every day for 31 days.

It might even seem foolish, or as though I am torturing myself.

But those same thoughts and ideas, instincts and sensations that urge me to wait, to allow simmering, composting, and coalescence to happen in their own times and manners, also said that this challenge would be, for me, the shaking-up, catalytic force of spring.

A bud cannot be pried upon and still remain intact and healthy.

But a sprig may be brought inside in earliest spring, and, given warmth, sunlight, and plenty of water and nurturing, be brought to the loveliness of its full promise.

This is called forcing, in the world of botany – but it isn’t. It’s simply altering the manner in which the plant’s needs are met.

The parameters change, but what is needed is provided. The plant is urged along, but not forced.

So, perhaps, this is why I feel it’s a worthy goal, personally, to attempt to write a story every day. Because the stories can’t be forced out, but the parameters of providing them the nourishment they need to grow can be altered. Things can be shifted, urged along, enticed….

This is a fresh burst of new energy, and a focus point that will shine, for me, as brightly as the sun.

I will know, at the beginning of each day, that I will birth a story each day.

I will be pregnant with stories, all month long.

And, when the month is over, I will have 31 literary children who are yet to be born – perhaps yet to even be imagined…..

OH!

I just had an idea!

This, the beginning, was hard to find. There seemed to be so much at stake, in the beginning, and all of existence to choose from….

But, beginning here – and begun I clearly have – I will end the day’s story with the beginning of tomorrow’s….

This will allow the swirling story-energies within me a point to coalesce around, to weave and twine and pull apart just as they please, and I might not even be aware of it.

It’ll allow the next beginning to inhabit my dreams, to play, to bound about as freely as Annalise bounds about the yard, a wild free creature delighting in her natural environment.

I’m not sure that this story of the birthing of a story is what I thought it might be. I won’t know, until later, when I reread it.

But the contractions are coming quickly now, and soon, the birthing will be over, and i will hold the result of my labor, and I will belong to it as surely as it belongs to me.

I will harbor it, and shelter it, as the shrub outside my bathroom window harbors the sparrows and chickadees and cardinals that take refuge there…..