California School of the Arts

Short story: The way that nature made her

She traces each leaf in the sky above her, circling the branches and their roots. She becomes enmeshed in the spine of the maple tree’s leaves; their threading. She outlines the delicate and aging leaves faster and harder. Her uneven body jolts forward, a hiccup in her chest, a thumping in her vertebrae, a pinch in her lower back. She arises. Not adeptly at first, as she adjusts her clothing and swats at her disheveled hair. She’s in love. She’s in an unrequited state of lust indebted to the trees, the forest, the dirt, the dancing of buzzing insects. She’s in love with the grain of the soil, streaking brown dye residue across her crackling and callused hands; now infected with bacterial spreading. She watches it with uprising impatience as it sinks into her veins. She breathes in the feeling. She breathes in the unity of the earth and herself. She screams, egregiously jovial, for the unintelligible length of miles. She stands at the epitome of loneliness.

A bird calls. Its voice breaks into a thousand straggling pieces that fall atop her head. She grabs, bear clawed, at the peak of her skull, searching for the reminiscence of its melody, and, in turn, trips across an intruding tree branch. She falls along the vulnerability of her spine. The bird calls melt into the air just as she was about to grab it with her hands. They were tangible, as her swats brushed up against the cut glass edges of the bird’s voice that left bloodied cuts across her scalp.

The leaves, despite the lack of consent, envelope her. They caress her. They sensualize her infatuation. They cover her torn clothes and cover her face and they cover her whole. A large mound, as a person would recall, a mound of autumn yellow and orange maple leaves encapsulating her cadaverous figure. As she peacefully rests, she creates the images of her life across the blackness of the inside of her head. Nothing to remember. Nothing to try to materialize again. Not the greasy black plastic phone that wails 50 times before reaching the next hour. Not the sins of slimy textured voices seeping through the receiver and through the chord and to her ear where they wet the sides of her face. Not that. Not the sound of her own repetitious voice that she hears from the inside, for seven years, for too long. Now she has earth. Now she can thrive. She arises.

She smirks with a monstrous gleam deep inside her thick chocolate eyes. The golden, caramel swirl that spirals around her black pupils brightens. The look of her God. Her savior. The leaves. The bark, gripping to the sides of native colossal trees. She licks the wooden shell and savors the earth she just acquired. She licks it again. She turns away delighted at the delicacy. A cackle escapes her mouth. The taste of earth. The air of earth. The feeling of earth. The sound of it, echoing in the distance, echoing closely at her face. She grips the edges of the tree and sways it back and forth. She screams again. She walks down the sides of the river bed, the edges of the wet swamp near the victimized tree. She bathes in the emerald water, unclothed. A scene of disturbed serenity.