By Olivia Nitti | TW: Depictions of struggle |
Once there was a garden. In this garden lies an old woman, awaiting her last breath. Holding her weight, was a garden bed of roses, vines and a thorn here or there. Surrounding her was a circle of trees that stood taller than the sky. A soft, white light glowed at the perimeter of her body. Her wrists and ankles were tied to the garden bed with vines; not invasive, but necessary. Walking through the gates was a young girl, no older than nine. She wore a small, yellow dress and tiny, white shoes to fit her tiny, white feet. Three birds seemed to follow her wherever she went. She saw her mother on the garden bed amongst the trees and skipped towards her, three birds at her tail. The girl walked through the trees and knelt beside her mother, then began to stroke the soft, white light. A distorted smile broke between the old woman’s cheeks.
Mamma, what is wrong? the small girl asked, What are you doing here tied to a garden bed? Why are you glowing?
Nothing is wrong with this, my love, the old woman said to her daughter. She tried to reach and touch the girls face, but the vines withheld her. When she shifted her position, a thorn touched her skin. She winced. The trees whispered, pain
You’re scaring me, Mamma. The young girl’s name was Ona. Ona and her mother lived alone in a small cabin in the misty woods. She slept with her mother each night. They lived in a ritual that kept them very close.
My Ona, there is no need for fear at this time, Mamma said, What is happening is true. The trees surrounding the old woman whispered acceptance. The light of her body began to shine a little brighter. Ona put her head to her hands. The three birds each grabbed her soft, white hair and gently tugged her head from her hands. Ona looked at her mother’s body which was less, much less than it was before.
This place has become too small for me, Ona. It is time for me to find the space to be, Mamma said, I am going to be carried from here. The trees started to inch closer together and the light began to shine a bit brighter. The space was becoming too small. A tear rolled down Ona’s cheek. The water shattered as soon as it touched the ground. Ona reached for mother’s heart. Mamma winced. A thorn had reacted to the movement. The trees whispered, denial.
You don’t leave me here, Ona said, I cannot be alone here. You always told me, I could never be alone. Do you hear me, Mamma? The light began to shine much brighter and the trees whispered, greed.
Ona speaks again: Why are you leaving? You told me I gave you more than father ever could. You said my fingers brought you healing. Were you lying when you said my milk would bring you immortality?
Ona was crying much harder now.
My child, you must stop speaking this way. My time is going to be over soon and there are things I must tell you.
Ona obeyed her mother, balancing herself with the light and the trees. Time stopped. Mother, daughter and nature were in an equilibrium.
Ona, go to the creeks. Do you remember? The creeks we used to put our feet in?
Go, put your feet in. Walk until your thighs are wet. Then sit down. The only thing above water will be your chin. Close your eyes. Then you will receive my will, Mamma said. She tried to smile again at her daughter. Vines inched further around the old woman’s body. She was slowly disappearing. The sun set and the moon rose.
Go, child, the old woman spoke. Ona got up from her knees. The only thing still visible of her mother were her lips. Ona leaned over and kissed her mother on the mouth, long and hard. Their tongues grazed, soft and smooth. Ona felt her mother’s icy breath at the back of her throat. The light grew too strong and pushed her away. The trees threw her out of the circle, and locked Ona out, forever. The old woman’s body was nothing but distorted tree trunks, seemingly loving one another. It was quite the ugly contraption. One of the birds whispered in Ona’s ear, enough with your tears, you will see her soon. Ona ran as fast as she could to the creeks, just over the hill and through the tall grass field. The absence of her mother’s touch itched her skin.
The water was milky and the moon was bright. Surrounding the creek were trees with wild branches and vines crawling from the ground down to the river bed. Ona stood at the edge of the creek. Her birds were with her. Other animals began to approach her little feet. Fish underwater caught the reflection of the moonlight which made all their scales silver. Ona stepped in the water. The temperature was warm, warmer than she thought it would be. She walked further until her thighs were wet. Her yellow dress floated around her. She could have been a flower. A puddle of pearly water formed in her underwear. She heard the trees whispering, submit. Ona sat on the river’s bed. Only her chin was above water. Vines were making there way around her ankles and wrists, slowly creeping up her arms and legs. They wrapped tightly in between her legs and around her torso. Ona’s head jerked back as a vine caught hold of her hair. She was completely devoured by the creek.
Ona started to struggle, her hips and chest thrusting in attempt to break free. On top of her, flower petals started to float. The water glistened with moonlight. Her skin, so pale, looked almost silver. She began to omit a white light. The trees were whispering, their leaves bristling. Then everything became still. Ona emerged from underwater and began to gently float. Her eyelids were clear, her lips purple. She was so very still. The kind of still that makes your skin crawl. The three birds lay floating, placid. To take a step back you would see, everything was serene.