You fix your eyes to the summit. Stone steps wind down into murky darkness at your heels, yet, above your head there is light, cold, crisp morning light. You push your head out of the earth’s black skin and breathe the new air. From underwater you came, no longer drowning in your own darkness but pulled up by some miracle into the first signs of daylight. It grows slowly, gradually becoming brighter and harder, like the window-pane, the glass, illuminated but very solid. You chose the sill. All else besides, you must enjoy this moment and so you sat and there you stayed a while.
On your lap, your left hand sleeps gently on endless tulle sunshine, and the back of your head presses into the unwelcoming boundary between wall and window. Your finger is their oppressor; warm-blooded, emitting fire as it presses red against translucent ice – tiny fragments of liquid diamond, run for dear life down to the bottom of the pane. Their dissolved squeals can be heard as they chase each other away from the predator which taunts their tracks. Your eyes are contemplative; their shadowed lids stare idly at their escape, yet the tiny warriors persist - millions of the sky’s suicide bombers bounced off the stricken shield. Pointless. They fall in soft defeat. Broken poetry lies at the base of your bare feet; the window-sill cracked and the water advances into the new territory, through the weakened castle walls. Your eyes follow the droplets to the base of the window and further. Only a foot drop and their death feeds life into the moss below. The moss then climbs, with the ivy, up the neighbouring walls, for years plotting their attack, stealthily gaining in number and leaving a trail behind. You would stop the attack today, and call peace; the rain must stop.
Breaking the light’s gaze on the sill, you glide your hand up towards the lock, key fitted neatly into your palm, then draw it out, tracing the edge intently, and fit it in. Your strengthening arms force open the sieged window pane and the light grows until you can taste it, yet the palpable unseen through tainted crystal is fractured. What a while ago had been a crisp liquefied glow, now has golden wings and is painted in its fractions as an archer to the sky. Your barefoot pushed through the borderline and met moss with a flourish. It was cold and water dripped onto your exposed skin. Pushing your body through a gap in the window isn’t the easiest, you struggle a little, leaving your arms outstretched on the other side of the fence, drawing them through the spider-webbed gap last. You are no longer protected; nature’s arms have become your own.
The trees began to whisper their salutations. You picked yourself up from the ground, and spun in their welcome as the light thickened and the rain subsided, leaving only the final warriors to journey to the floor under the weight of gravity, falling from leaf to leaf. Your steps along the forest floor were gentle. The trees were your company, and the wind carried their letters as they wondered about their guest. The woods deepened.
The little oasis in the centre, where the light broke through like an exit to a rabbit tunnel, was carpeted in bluebells. You stepped forwards and they stepped back to create you a path, pointing their sabres to your sky. A gleam grew on your cheeks as you stooped down you whisper thank you. You walked the carpet to the centre-ring and sat at the edge of their attentiveness.
“Watch.” they hummed.
She began to dance in front of you, with him – arm in arm. She was dressed in floating pink as she waltzed across the moss and mud with birds and blossom chasing her hair. He held her in admiration in embrace, their faces locked and gliding past you. Leaving behind forget-me-nots as their footprints, both became like wind and their adoration was carried like fallen maple leaves on a whispering breeze.
Yet another was dark, and tired, with wounds wound up her arms, a story in scars. She sat down by the dogwood tree and leant against it and the branches wrapped its arms around her whilst from her mind fled awful images: tall and ominous people all in black, thick smoke and fire, the invisible was orphaned – and the white flowers swallowed it all up. The girl, hugged by the branches, was slowly becoming a part of the forest, black tulips decorating the base of the pine tree, kissed by the bluebells.
You moved and walked to the dogwood tree. You brushed aside the fallen leaves, petals, and rotting twigs and from the midst sprouted the beginnings of poison ivy. Muttering to yourself, you plucked its roots from the ground – its place was not there, this was the place of her. The dead on the tulips you removed carefully, leaving their tearful petals to soak up the sunlight. Then you turned and sat, leant against the tree just as she did.
Another figure. He was a gentleman of old, yet came whilst the sun shone in full heat over him. He took off his top hat and lay his cane against the same dogwood tree taking no notice of you, it immediately began to fall but you caught it in your muddy palms and held it tight. His breath was heavy and he lay down, looking up to the sky in the clearing. The clear summer heat above his head spun, but he lay stationary, warmed by the tree’s breath, everything singing – ‘life’. The heat was met with sea-water, the oceans rolled down his flushed cheeks and landed on the moss; plunge pool – the ground below was eroded and his tears formed a pond. As his fingers dissolved into its depths, marsh marigolds sprung up around the still-water’s border, drinking the glittering surface through its embedded roots. You leant in over the pool. Sitting at the water’s edge and staring in, his reflection smiled back at you a moment before it vanished into you own. You leant back upwards as the light grew to evening, and watched the fireflies dance on the air as the butterflies lay down to sleep in the buttercups, and the trees, like new-born babies, curled up their fingers to sleep.
Gently you rose to your feet, walked around the pond-edge, staff in hand, and towards the bluebells. You walked as the day became night, whispering wishes to the flowers, removing death and making way for new life. However, eventually the ground beneath you became cold and the petals from the sleeping trees began to whimper, swirling down towards their whitened grave lightly. Time does not heal what is already blooming. Years of unrest, caring for the resting place of the broken, and it was all fading like the second of midnight.
You felt life grow old and bury into the place you came from. In almost despair, you lay against the dirt and stared across the rippling surface. Then water leapt. Shattered – and a struggling figure gasped in the glass. You sat up and reached out your hand as his breath exhausted anxiety. In desperation, he struggled to grasp it, so you let out your cane and the hook dragged his panicking figure to the banks. Placing the staff down, you dragged his body into the shade of the trees, and light of the fireflies, then, his head on your lap, you whispered:
“Stay calm, here is safety.”
He breathed out and his eyelids grew heavy.
“No, you must stay awake. Don’t sleep, people who have slept here have not woken.”
Jasmine began to curl around his ankles, and up your wrists. His voice muttered “But I will, see the life that reigns inside me.”
“But poppies grow from your chest. Let me heal the wound.”
“Their thorns only pierced my skin, my heart wears the armour of my King.”
You took the corner of your skirt and water from the pool and washed the blood from his skin, his heart still beat within him. Your fingers grew scarlet with roses.
“Who is your King?” you asked.
“The one who ordered these trees to be rooted.”
“These trees are dying, so are you.”
“Death will not keep me in its depths no longer.”
“You have such bravery; all others give in to peaceful sleep. I do not understand, but it is beautiful.”
“Come with me, back home, live with me forever and you will understand.”
“Yes, let my crown fall as these blossoms do, let my heart wear the same armour as your heart does, let your King be my King, let your home be my home. Take me with you and do not send me away again.” You said all these things in hope of never working for a fading world again, in hope of a new dawn, in hope of keeping a friend forever, and in hope of a love indescribable that greets you into your new home like you belonged there before you came. Then you kissed his forehead and with practiced hands, stitched back up the wound on his chest. As the last bluebell fell asleep, he stood.
And you walked, hand in hand, home.