written by Steve Ferguson
I first saw you chasing suitors away with a flick of the wrist. They always seemed to pass in and out of your life. But you also saw me, which was strange as you were so full of life. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be here.
But I’m never wrong.
It was uncharacteristically warm they tell me. I saw trickles of sweat on brows of the young men. An inconvenience for the sake of pleats, bows, and hats. You were sweating, more fiercely than the others, as if you had caged fire inside your heart and even the coldest arctic frost would never put out that flame. It intoxicated me.
I moved from place to place, seeing the very young and the very old grasp to life like opium. Sometimes fearful and sometimes playfully. But your time was running short and I felt remorse at what couldn’t be right.
But I’m never wrong.
I went to meet you in your dreams and you ran right to me and embraced me.
“I was so worried,” you said.
“There are so many questions I want to ask you,” you breathed.
“All I ever hear are questions,” I admitted.
“You’re beautiful.” You seemed confused, but you shouldn’t have been. You left with a fancy of your mind, and by morning it was all forgotten.
I went to visit the woman down the lane while I thought of you. I let my ledger rest against the windowsill and studied how much time she had spent bringing life and order to her house. Tickling a plant, I marvelled at her mundane tasks and her love of them. She sang a wordless tune and moved closer to the top of the staircase, closer to our meeting.
She fell. To me.
I moved on and still I thought of you. If I could reach out and taste the bittersweet pill of flesh, I might, just to join you.
When I caught up with you, you were holding the oil lamp and its flimsy glass casing outside your bedroom, the floor boards so close to splintering I could see the fractures of wood and spark joining as if frozen in a moment of time. I spoke to you in that frozen moment, sitting with my ledger.
You weren’t afraid.
You pushed past through the air and sparks, viscous like treacle. Setting the oil lamp down on the desk, there was trail of lit oil like a rope connecting the ground to the lamp. Connecting me and you.
“A little light for your reading?” you smiled.
“I haven’t been able to read since you walked in,” I admitted.
I brought out my collection and beckoned her to see. They tell me it smells of papyrus, tiger lilies, and loss. I will never know.
“Take this,” I told you, reaching in and removing a smooth crystal swan with oils trapped within. I pushed it gently to you.
“What is it?” you asked.
“A connection between what has and what could. Never lose it.” In that frozen moment, you held the artefact close and you heard its
story. You went to race through the house and back outside, but stopped when you could go no further.
I could never imagine being free like you. I am the one who is held on the ground by gravity forever, but you soar into space unfettered and free. The raptor sees everything and chooses when to act. The breeze is your companion and carries your minutes. I am my ledger.
You are the Earth, cultivating your desires and fears. Every brushed nerve is a crop to be fed to those around you. The suitors could never chain you, for you are the maker of chains, the breaker of chains, the dancer of flames. I am my work.
“How does this end?” you asked.
“It’s not a story,” I tried to explain. “At least, not one you can read. This ledger only captures fleeting moments.”
You grasped the crystal swan harder, and I worried your palm might bleed. “Can I keep it?”
“Look again,” I urged you.
Your palm was empty, with only the faintest impression on your skin. In that moment, two swans swam past us through the ether, nestling each other and seeking solace in this, the longest night. The smoke branched out slowly like a great oak, the sparks from the flames framed us a sky. The seconds caught up to us, and everything was ash.
Morning broke through and I sat outside your burnt house with my ledger, aimless marking the pages and watching the etchings form and reform. I watched your revenant as you hesitated stepping out into the daylight. Perhaps you were fearful for the first time. I tore your page in anger from my ledger and crumpled it into a ball in my hand, as if to undo what happened to you. But it blossomed again from the binding.
You came into my boat and we sailed off through the uncharted
reaches. You reached your fingertips out and traced them through the clouds.
“I felt like I could run forever,” you said to yourself.
“You will,” I said.
And I’m never wrong.
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