|The sound is like cool metal sliding down a length of ice. A delicate noise of such succulent smoothness that it draws you closer, makes you feel sheer and cold. It places you flat against the flawless floor as a river of water slides over you body. It chills the skin and relaxes the soul. It is winter and heaven. These were the words my grandmother would say to me when she tucked me into bed.
My mother and father would both be busy at their forms, scribbling numbers and perfecting figures in their heads out of reflex. I would sit in the living room watching the colorful figures dance and swirl on the television screen. The program’s content was lost on my young mind. My attention was on the old grandfather clock anyway. Sitting there so silently, waiting for the clock to drag its slow hands to the number nine.
So there I sat, holding my breath as the minute hand slowly clicked along its path. As the hand passed the top number of twelve something within that massive thing would click and grind, coming to life with a moan and finding the small bells that would ring to mark the hour. Under my breath I counted along with the clock till we both fell silent on the ninth chime. My head turned towards my grandmother, the old woman sitting wrapped in her hand-knitted cover. There was always a brief moment of worry that she would have succumbed to sleep and I would be left to my parents for my goodnight ritual.
Grandmother never let me down though. She would be hefting her heavy body out of the chair, telling me it was about my bedtime. I would go to her and we would both looked towards the dining room; towards the table that was cluttered with papers.
My parents, both accountants by profession, sat in their equation induced daze. The rhythmic sound of fingers punching away at small calculators was the only communication I often heard from them.
Our fear was that this night (this night being every night grandmother and I did this) they would wake from that daze and decide to play the mother and father role. They would push grandmother away and lead me off to bed themselves. We got lucky that night. We got lucky almost every night.
The two of us moved down the hall as quickly as the old woman’s legs could carry her. We would be through the bed room door, closing that door quietly behind us and making sure to lock it. I would jump into bed and pull the covers up to my shoulders. Grandmother gently placed her weight on the edge of my bed. She tucked me in by pulling the covers up to my chin. There was always a brief moment as she settled herself down. Her gaze looking longingly towards the window, as if her heart’s desire was only beyond the panes of glass.
This was our ritual. It was what we did together nearly every night. I couldn’t know that this particular night the ritual would be slightly different. I couldn’t know how things would become more than a story told, but in fact a story lived through the eyes of another. This night…
I am tucked into bed and I’m watching my grandmother with that familiar dreamy look she gives the world beyond the windows. Minutes pass before her attention turns back towards me again. With a deep breath she finds her memories and begins.
“It is the sound of cool metal sliding down a length of ice…” were her first words. Her voice was crystal clear, so unlike the gruff speaking voice the rest of the world heard from her. Only I have the privilege of hearing this voice. The voice came with the memories and with the memories came that gaze that she turned on me.
Such a gaze she had! Her eyes were so bright and clear peering out from that aged face. I could only imagine the things those eyes had seen. Better yet, I wondered what those eyes had seen that other eyes could not see. My grandmother was special because of that gaze. She was a woman who had seen something beautiful and secret.
A few minutes passed and grandmother was now lost to her memories. It was almost as though she had gone into a trance. The words she spoke were always the same as were the images. I needed to hear this story as much as my grandmother needed to tell it and for that reason her and I were linked in an intimate way that the young and old were not suppose to know.
The story she told was of a memory from her youth. Back in this time grandmother was known only as Marilyn. Five years would pass before she was to be known as mother; twenty-three years before she would first be called grandmother.
Marilyn was a young woman around the age of eighteen. A beautiful young thing who often hid behind her long mane of auburn hair. Her features were small and attractive, features that would one day be mirrored in her daughter and granddaughter.
Marilyn had been at her own grandmother’s home visiting for a month in autumn. Her grandmother was a cruel woman and there was no love lost between her and her granddaughter. Each fall the old woman had to suffer the company of the product of her son’s marriage. She did very little to make a secret of her dislike for the young woman. To her Marilyn was nothing but a beacon to the demons that belonged in a past the grandmother would rather not remember. To a set of memories that she could not seem to distance herself from. What those demons or memories might be Marilyn did not know. Though now, as grandmother retold her tale in her twilight age, she thought she knew what they might be, because my grandmother suffered the same demons.
The grandparents and their visiting granddaughter had just finished with cleaning up that evening’s dinner. As she washed dishes she noticed the full moon outside. On the third floor of her grandparent’s house was a balcony, well at least they called it a balcony. It was actually a finished section of roof over top of a lower floor porch. The balcony was just a flat, open landing with no guard rails to protect anyone from a fall off the edge. But it was situated in just the right spot that the view it offered was breathtaking. Marilyn put her dishes away and made her way to the balcony so she could go whisper at the moon.
The autumn was a beautiful time out in the place Marilyn’s grandparent’s lived. The area around the house was heavily wooded and secluded it from the modern world beyond. The trees had all begun their seasonal change from green to various shades of crimson, gold and every color of orange under the sun. The autumn air carried with it the earthy smells of that season: A hint of burning leaves, the scents of a changing nature, and beneath that smell the underlying nip of cold in the breeze.
Marilyn opened the door and stepped out onto the landing. Perched low in the sky was the full moon. So close was it she thought she could just reach out and touch it. She moved to the edge of the balcony and let her toes dangle over the edge of the landing.
The wind picked up and there was an odd noise carried on the edge of it. Marilyn stopped breathing and tried to listen harder. At first the noise reminded her of dogs howling in unison, but it was somewhat more shrill. Maybe like a whistle blowing in the distance being somewhat distorted as it was carried along on the wind. She thought she could just make out words in that sound when she was pulled backwards with a jerk.
“What’r ya doin’ girl?! Dontcha hear that noise? Git inside now girl. Git!” Marilyn’s grandmother yelled in her sloppy broken English.
Marilyn pulled her arm from the grandmother’s grip. She pushed the old woman away from her and stepped back towards the ledge. “What are you talking about eh?” Marilyn asked “I can hear that sound just fine. It sounds like singing in the wind. There are words in it. I’m sure of it. If I could just hear it a little better.”
The grandmother took a step towards Marilyn, the old woman’s face a mask of anger and outrage. She stabbed her finger into the wind and spit her words out through clenched teeth. “That ain’t nuthin worth hearin’. It ain’t nuthin but the sound of hell that the fool headed girls like yerself hear. Bunch of banshees beyond the river singin’ ta git you down there so they can drown you! Steal your memories!”
Marilyn laughed softly, shaking her head. “Banshees? Well now I have proof that you’re nothing but a crazy old woman. Can’t speak right. Can’t find it in your heart to love your own kin. And you can’t even open your ears to hear something so beautiful as the song on the tip of the night wind.” Marilyn took another step back and her heel stepped into thin air.
There was a brief moment when she thought she would fall backwards. A small voice deep within said that isn’t all that bad, is it? To fly that short flight before death carries you on over to an eternal flight. Marilyn felt dreamy as she listened to this thought. Her mind was growing a little hazy and she had to admit she liked the idea of flying forever.
The grandmother grabbed her granddaughter and pulled her forward with a jerk. She took Marilyn by both arms and the look of anger was removed from her face. In fact, Marilyn saw nothing but the look of utter concern and compassion that suddenly overcame the old woman’s features. But the look of sudden fear was more worth noting. She tried to draw Marilyn closer to her as though she might wrap her arms around the young woman and squeeze her tightly. Her voice trembled when she spoke.
“I knows what I’ma talkin’ bout Mari. I knows so well it hurts my heart. I ain’t no old fool. I heard that singin too many times to count and sometimes I wish I would just go deaf. Call’um what you want, banshee, devil, dark angels, it’s still the same. Death is down past that river and the singin will lead you the way. An I don’t hate you enough to see you go like that.” she said.
Marilyn eyed the old woman coldly. She was lying and the lies angered her. She gave the old woman such a hard push her withered old body almost fell down to the balcony wood.
“Lying old witch! You hate me as much as any being can possibly hate. And with that hate comes jealousy. The jealousy that they should come singing to me and not you! They don’t sing to you anymore old woman. But I hear them clearly now.” and she did. As her grandmother tried to reason with her, the voices in the wind became real and very clear in her ear.
This was always the point in my grandmother’s storytelling when my young mind started to get sleepy. I would stay with her until the end of the tale, but the things she said would slowly become harder for her to describe. I would understand them in a place where my mind was half asleep and the dream world was threatening. This was probably the only way I was able to understand the things she experienced.
I didn’t become sleepy this night though. No, something very strange happened to me. Something that is hard to put into words, but very real all the same. You see, I became one with my grandmother and it was not a memory I was looking at, it was the event itself.
As my grandmother described pulling her hand back to slap her own grandmother, my own world seemed to fade to white. Like closing your eyes to sleep except that the darkness is a brilliant white that blinds me. The feeling of the blanket pressing against me fads and in its place the feeling of a cool wind blowing against my skin. I can feel my arm swinging around, coming into contact with the paper dry skin of the old woman who would be my great, great grandmother. When I open my eyes I am there, hiding behind my grandmothers own eyes.
There is for me a startling realization of hearing the crickets chirp and smelling the musky odor of Marilyn’s grandmother’s perfume. Not far away a river flowed and I could hear that too. I was there in that moment as it happened and how I came to be there I will never truly know.
The old woman regained her composure and looked at Marilyn. There was no trace of the compassion or concern left in her face. Now there was nothing but a desperation to keep the other woman from finding a fate she had missed out on. The old woman grabbed her granddaughter again set on pulling her into the house.
Marilyn let her grab her but pulled hard against the grip at the same time. Such was the motion that if the grandmother let go Marilyn and I, as one being, would go tumbling backwards over the edge. The drop, though not very far, would still mean death. On the ground below the landing a collection of the grandfather’s tools lay scattered about. To fall there would insure that at least one tool would be landed on, most likely finding a delicate organ within Marilyn’s body to shred and kill.
The old woman’s fingers bit into the skin of Marilyn’s upper arms. Little droplets of blood pooled around the old woman’s yellowed nails. I wanted to yell at the old woman, to tell her to stop hurting my grandmother, to stop hurting me who felt the young woman’s pain just as vividly as if it were happening to my own body. At the same time I didn’t want the grandmother to let go or Marilyn’s pulling would cause us to go flying over the edge.
Somewhere in the distance, either my own grandmother, safe in my bedroom back home, or possibly in Marilyn’s mind as she spoke to herself, a voice said don’t be afraid.
Marilyn laughed at the old woman “It didn’t want you.”
The statement was meaningless to me. To live in the moment was to hear fine details that were not always in my grandmother’s storytelling. However, it stung the old woman deeply.
The grandmother frowned. “So go to them.” She said and let her grip slip from Marilyn’s arms. Together, Marilyn and I, sharing that young body, flew backwards over the edge of the porch and into empty space.
There was a brief moment to look on in shock as the grandmother allowed for an action to occur that could prove fatal to her granddaughter. There was no time to focus on that shock though. The fall was very real.
How do you explain the sensation of free falling in a place that exists twenty-some years before you will even take shape in your mother’s womb? Marilyn and I fell towards the ground and her mind was moving the whole way down. In her mind she thought of something she wished she had said before letting go. To tell that hateful old woman that she had messed up. You missed them once but you could have found a place with me if only you had not allowed the hate to fester. Now they shut you out, give you the coldness without the comfort of their embrace. I pity you. These were Marilyn’s thoughts.
The fall should have not been so long. It should have lasted a moment before the earth raised up to hit us allowing one of the old man’s tools to find its way into our back. But the fall was happening in slow motion and the ground was a far way off.
Somewhere beyond the trees a loud whirling wind was forming. An invisible mass of motion and voices, each whispering to one another. It pushed through the forest and caught sight of its target falling over the edge of a roof.
I wanted to feel the earth quickly, to have the fall done, but there came no impact for the wind broke from the forest and swept us up like a feather caught in a breeze. From falling to flying through the forest faster than Marilyn’s legs could have ever run. The wind wrapped itself around Marilyn’s body like a blanket and snuggled itself close to her skin.
Marilyn cried out in joy not fear. She called out answers to the voices that whispered to her from inside the wind itself. She caught herself sighing as the wind glided over her so slowly, almost seductively. It pressed against her roughly then seemed to slide down over her spine with a lover’s touch till it came to rest in the small of her back. As if that wasn’t enough, the invisible hands sought out more intimate spots to touch and stroke. It passed over her breasts and lapped at her naval.
Marilyn laughed even harder, enjoying the intrusive touch. I could only experience it with a sense of wonder since I had never felt or known such sensations were possible of the body. Even though my mind was quickly growing up with the telling of this tale, my young body was still not equal of the task. All I could do was marvel over this living wind.
The wind pulled us through the forest and pushed us into a clearing. I could hear the night life making its noises all around. It seemed louder here. I could also hear the faint sound of water running over rocks. Then, a moment later, the river was there before us.
The wind’s whispers disappeared as we approached the water and with the loss of the whispering we lost the wind as well. It left us floating some twenty feet above the narrow body of the river. As each moment ticked away, Marilyn’s body dipped a little lower, a little closer to the water’s surface. With the whispers gone, Marilyn began to think more clearly. She heard her own grandmother’s words in her head, the talk of death at the river. She felt a sudden sense of panic.
I wanted so badly to calm her. To tell her that even now, as she lived this here, somewhere in another time a much older version of herself sat next to me in my bed, telling me this story. But I could not; my voice was silent here.
Marilyn’s body came to float about five feet above the surface of the water. I could feel the coolness coming off of it, smell the freshness of the stream. Time seemed to slow down as everything died around us. The present kept on moving but we were stuck in this spot. The noises became more and more distant as all the noisemakers traveled on with the world.
We were caught in the spent moment. A place of time used up and left discarded to rot.
We were in a groove and could not move, but at the same time this used niche in space wanted very badly to spit us out. It was like this place of decay could not function properly so long as this living flesh was stuck. There was pure unseen energy building up behind us that gave off heat and an odor that smelled like burned metal. The energy pushed into Marilyn’s legs as it beat at her belly and chest. Marilyn was beginning to cry. Her tears were being pulled away by the energy as soon as they overflowed her eyelids. We were slowly suffocating under the weight of this strange force.
The wind was returning though. It could be heard in the distance again. A dull collection of whispers steadily coming forward and getting behind the energy. The first time the whispers had come and grabbed us. This time they threatened to plow over us, tearing Marilyn’s body apart with their deafening roar.
The wind pushed against the energy and the energy kept building behind us. It felt like being the cork in a bottle of soda water that needed to be opened. Marilyn cried out in pain and I was sure the forces pushing at her would eventually crush her. But as it heightened to a peak it all exploded and Marilyn and I were propelled forward like a bullet being shot from a gun.
Marilyn, moments before locked in the past, now pushed through the fabric of the present and soared into the future. Her body once again moved over the water, the speed of her motion increasing till the air pressing against her seemed to burn. She let her arms move out as though she were letting her wings out to catch the breeze and take flight.
All the while Marilyn screamed with laughter. It was the flight that most people only knew in their dreams. I’m not dreaming this, she cried over and over in her mind. The idea that maybe somewhere, back there on that porch or maybe on the ground below, her body lay dying didn’t seem all that bad. If this was death then dying was under rated. It made life seem more like a punishment and less like a gift. None of that mattered any longer, none of it. She couldn’t feel the ability to worry or feel upset by the things in her life that had stuck out like sore little wounds. Nothing mattered any longer and there was a great measure of pleasure in such an idea.
The wind guided Marilyn’s body around the bends and turns of the river, leading her towards the place at the river’s end that let out into a larger body of water. At that opening the night sky seemed to grow brighter. Not like the sun was somewhere peeking out to lighten it, but more like the curtain of night was no longer as dark as she once viewed it. I could feel Marilyn’s curiosity, wondering what thing could take away the dark shading of the night sky.
The trees disappeared as did the land that ran along side of the river. Our speed was still increasing as a calm overcame Marilyn’s whole body. With the calm came the feeling of the body giving way. The skin that imprisoned her was tossed off. The rope like veins that encircled her limbs was pulled away like so much thread from her muscle mass. Then the muscles themselves were pulled away like meat from a carcass. A layer of solid, brilliant yellow glowed around her inner body; the protective energy that covered the soul. The glowing wrap held on for a moment before bursting into a million points of light that fell away into the water below. All that was left was the purest form of energy that was the real Marilyn and that form soared closer to the water as a spirit.
I continued to travel inside of this woman, hidden somewhere in that energy. I wondered if I would wake up from this experience at some point. Was it just a dream? I found the idea of having to eventually wake and return to my own body a very cruel thought. In this form I could imagine why some ghosts stayed close to the earth.
The water below us began to hum and the night time sky lightened even more. We were almost there, wherever there was. It was just a feeling.
Up ahead it seemed as if the water went on forever, though if you looked real closely there was a drop not too far away. Possibly a water fall that took the water down to a lower level.
I held my breath knowing where we were, what we were about to see. This was the thing my grandmother was first describing when she began her story. It was this thing that was made of cool liquid and running glass. Something so smooth and sleek you could cut yourself on its curves. It had three separate bodies as well as three separate minds, yet it thought as one being. Grandmother always had a hard time putting this thing into words. I couldn’t believe I was about to actually see it.
In the distance I could just make out three figures. I began to relax just as the spirit of Marilyn began to tense. She was at first upset because of their presence. She wanted this to be her place and her place alone. She wanted to order the wind with a simple command to touch her in all the ways she’d never been able to make a man touch her. Most of all, she wanted this experience to be her’s alone. Like a spoiled child she didn’t want to share.
It was at that moment of her anger that she heard the collective voice of the three figures. The jealous thoughts kept crossing her mind and the voice told her this was natural for her to feel, but she should push such thoughts away. It would only weigh her down till she fell into the waters below. Below the waters a spirit would simply sink forever and ever.
The idea of being lost below the water startled the woman. Marilyn did her best to still her thoughts. She tried to concern herself more with seeing what was in front of her. What this thing looked like.
At the edge of the water, were it gave way to a water fall, three female forms hovered above the surface. They appeared to stand on an invisible platform some ten feet above the water’s surface. The tops of their forms were quite defined but as you moved down their bodies slowly began to fall apart into a gas-like form. The legs merged into one limb that stretched casually down to the waters below. Each form was slightly shrouded by a brilliant thing of light, whose colors swirled in and over the women changing constantly. They looked like the visions people described as angels. Angels that floated slightly apart from one another in the shape of a triangle.
Marilyn looked very hard to see past the glowing shrouds to the faces hidden within. The act of focusing seemed to encourage the trio to be better seen.
The woman at the middle, who stood before the others, had no defining traits of a woman in her body. She had no hair upon her head or nipples upon her slightly slopping breast. Her skin was as white as ivory and her features were very feminine and beautiful. This woman smiled at Marilyn as the two met one another’s eyes. Then the colored shroud seemed to burst with light and erase the vision of the woman behind it.
The woman to the right did not want to be seen and she kept her shroud bursting so that Marilyn could never quite see the figure behind the colored swirls of light. Ever so often she could just catch sight of the woman briefly. Her skin was the color of lilacs and her hair long strands of silver, almost metallic like. Her hair was long and wrapped around her body, slowly losing its solid form as it came to the legs that stretched into the water. Her face was severe though, too cruel to be very beautiful.
The last woman to the left only hid behind a faint glowing bit of the colored shroud. Her skin was a lighter shade of ebony, smooth and polished looking. Her hair was course and pulled into cords that wrapped about her head. Her face was painfully beautiful and wise; the vision of a long dead Egyptian queen.
The wind pulled at Marilyn and began their probing a new. It tried to whisper in her ear but she would not take her gaze away from the three visions before her. The wind pressed more urgently.
The air hummed as the creatures spoke again. “They are jealous of you. They would have your attention instead of me.” the collective voice said to Marilyn.
I thought that I could just make out the individual voices of each woman. But just as I thought I could pick them out they meshed into one voice again.
Marilyn willed herself to stop, her free flight coming to an end. She let her body stand so that she was facing the vision instead of floating on her belly. She looked at each individual.
I could feel a sadness inside of Marilyn, something that made her feel bitter. Moments later she was crying as she addressed the figures.
“You’re the banshees that crazy old woman told me about. Each of you are so lonely, I can feel it. It’s choking me… this loneliness causes you to act as one so you can fool yourselves.”
In front of Marilyn the colored shroud glowed brighter and it seemed to pulsate. I believe it was either shocked or saddened by the young woman’s words. Yet I think Marilyn was speaking with a bit of knowledge. The women, lost out here in this water filled nothingness, seemed hopelessly lonely.
The colors swirled and the four spirits (and one mental hitchhiker) that occupied this space stood in silence. Marilyn continued to cry and the ladies continued to gaze past the shroud at her. Finally there was a collective sigh as the women spoke again in that eerie singular voice.
“It surprises me that you should come to that conclusion so quickly. Most of the guests who visit me do not utter such thoughts until much later. But I ask you this: Would you not be lonely if your place was just beyond the present? Do you see anyone other then me in this place? And do not mention the wind for that is only the gathering of lost souls who found their way here. They are nothing of value. There is only me, myself and I in this place. There was a time when each of those words referred to a different person, a different identity, but that was long ago.”
Marilyn let the tears glide over her phantom cheeks but the sobs had stopped. She was trying to understand what this being was trying to say to her and in part she did understand. “And were you always here or are you trapped? Did the three people you once were come as one or did you find your ways here alone?”
The vision sighed and seemed to smile. It was as though it were pleased with the questions.
“In the time that I was three identities we found our way here alone. First there was I…” and at this the black female glowed a little brighter to show it was her being spoken about. “I found this place to be so peaceful that I could not leave. Then the loneliness began to overshadow the bliss. And then I found my way here through magic and mistake…” The middle woman bowed her head to show this was her tale. “And I found myself here lonely so I befriended myself and there was bliss once again. It only lasted a short time even though there is no time measured here.”
I held my breath because I wanted to hear the cruel looking woman speak about herself. How had she found her way here and why had she stayed? She did glow brighter but a moment as though she wanted not to draw attention to herself as she told her story.
“And then when even the bliss of myself and I was not enough to keep me content I heard the sound of something approaching. And then there I was coming quickly across the waters and I was able to know bliss again. It lasted much longer. Alas it is the same now as it was before. There is no joy in my condition and my only hope is that I can find myself once again, to find the joy of being more than one. To feel my bliss.”
Marilyn found herself drifting away from them somewhat. She took a comfortable distance away from the vision, keeping in mind that she could turn and leave if need be. She laughed to herself as she tried to find the right words to express her thoughts.
“I think that I understand. There was you but you became lonely and wanted a companion. When a companion finally arrived you enjoyed the company of one another here. But the isolation here caused you to eventually devour one another till it seemed there was only one being. And when the third spirit found its way here it caused you to remember that you weren’t always one being. It saw you to be two individuals and again you briefly enjoyed this place before devouring that third being. You made this place a hell. And yet I wonder if others have come here. What happened to them if they did?” her voice fell silent.
The wind was picking up and caressing her. A smile spread across her face as she indulged the wind and its intimate touches. In fact to my fascination she seemed to taunt the three entities with the attention she got from the wind. She allowed her body to be spun in slow circles as the wind became excited by her attention. Slowly the wind glowed with a million pin points of pale light. Maybe a small sign of just how many souls had lost themselves to this place.
Marilyn turned her attention back to the being before her and offered it her widest smile. I could not enter Marilyn’s mind. I couldn’t see the thoughts forming in her head. I could only act as the passenger who saw through her eyes and felt the things her nerves felt. But even in that position I could feel something within my grandmother’s young body that suggested she had figured out this puzzle.
She approached the three entities once more. “I know what happened here.” she began. The glowing shroud dulled and thickened so that the woman were totally hidden behind it. A grand poker face that wouldn’t allow their visitor to see its individual reactions.
Marilyn lifted the glowing figure of her head, motioning for the wind to engulf it like a trained pet.
“I think you learned something of your nature as the third woman was lost to your collective self. I think you wanted the brief bit of bliss each new soul brought you. It wasn’t even bliss, at least not the initial heaven that you originally found here. What you felt was yourself, the person you once were. You saw memories that you knew to be yours but could have been from one of the others minds. You wanted to feel yourself, something you had forgotten. But with each person you devoured into yourself you enlarged that memory, that collective being. I think that you have had more then just the three of you here. I think once you were a much larger beast to have this utter sadness. Maybe little bits of that greater beast have died over time. I think maybe, in a manner of speaking, you are the banshees that are spoken of…”
Marilyn paused for a moment as she tried to pull the rest of her thoughts together. Her gaze drifted back to the vision “Maybe you finally wised up a bit. Looked to the beings that found their way here as a thing to revive you. You didn’t want to let them into the fold though. You would steal their energies and leave what remained to the winds.”
The wind roared in agreement, swirling quickly all of a sudden which, caused Marilyn’s body to dissipate and reform as it blew through it.
Marilyn laughed softly. “Oh yes, you steal, you take, all in order to remember what you once were. And even now the three of you are all that you have. You probably can’t even appreciate all of the memories you hold because you have no idea if they are your own or would later be found to belong to those parts of you that have already died off. It’s a fine hell you’ve created for yourself.”
The shroud thinned and once again the glowing bodies of the three ladies stood there. None of them seemed upset by her words but then Marilyn did not speak them as an accusation. They were said matter-of-factually. I’m not sure how she came to this conclusion. I couldn’t begin to comprehend the thing I was looking at through her astral eyes. It felt like being lost to a fairy-tale that had been tucked neatly away into a dream. There had to be logic and reasoning to be found, but both things were lost on me.
“And you think this is hell? Then you would be right. I sit here looking at the approaching present that you live in, waiting for it to catch up to me and yet I always stay just far enough ahead to never touch it. It is a hell and this is a relief. Don’t pity the wind. It was the force that brought you here. It had needs too.”
Marilyn shook her head slowly. “I don’t pity you or the wind. I simply do not understand your situation. Why do you do this to yourself?” She fell silent.
The entity was puzzled by this statement. “And what would you do if you were me?”
Marilyn came closer to the being, much too close for safety. She no longer cared about her safety. She was mesmerized by this thing… this place. How even though this seemed her first trip there, she’d been making this first trip and discovery over her entire lifetime. Every time she sat down to tell this tale. I had to wonder if this was not my first time too. It made no sense.
My grandmother moved a little closer, smiling. “If I were you? If I were you I would take another being into myself. I would let it give me that moment to find myself again and then…”
The entity held its collective breath “Yes?”
Marilyn let her astral arms fly out to her sides and she lifted her head high to the night sky.
“Then I would forget about the present behind me and fly into the future before me. I would just fly, just like I flew to get here. It was heaven in that moment and I never wanted it to stop. Maybe eventually we would fly so far into the future we find the past. And maybe then we could fly fast enough to finally catch the present. And as we flew we could talk to one another and enjoy each other as companions and always know that I was me. That we are us. Not a collective being. My memories, my life, everything that is me would be mine. I would never get greedy like you. Somewhere in that collective mind of yours I’m sure you can see what memories are yours, even now.”
The women wanted to hear this. Maybe they knew one day someone would find them and help them from their despair. Maybe they had seen this moment over and over waiting for the young woman to understand those things they could not explain to her. And now? All they needed was someone to offer. Marilyn was making this offer.
“Then this is what you want? To have a place among us so that you might always remind us of who we are?” The entity paused for a moment.”You would do this knowing that you too could fall prey to the fate we have here?”
Marilyn nodded. “Yes. I mean, for the first time since I started coming here, you referred to yourself as ‘we’. I have spent a lifetime waiting for that. What more do you need?”
The entity again sighed, its release so close at hand. The shroud seemed to pulse even more as it anticipated the embrace of Marilyn within its body of three. Marilyn moved closer and a sweeping sensation passed over her. Her chest became tight and for the first time she felt as though she needed to catch her breath. When she inhaled it felt liquid and heavy, weighing her down and filling her lungs. She looked up at the three women in panic, she thought they were betraying her.
The front woman leaned forward, placing her arms around Marilyn’s materializing body. Her embrace was warm and comforting. “Try not to worry my dear one… it is only the feeling of your body being lost in the waters that drown it. It is something we all have had to go through.” She leaned closer, for the first time speaking for herself “I can remember my fear, my fear alone! Imagine that I can feel it for myself and the other two cannot.”
Something was wrong though. Marilyn was becoming heavy in the woman’s astral arms. She was feeling a heaviness about her limbs as though wet burlap had been flung over her. She looked at her arms and the glow of her phantom self was being replaced with the solid mass of skin that imprisoned her airy body. She cried out as did the three women. The other two women came forward to grab at the falling body of Marilyn. But she was falling into the waters and there was no way to stop her.
“Not again.” one of the three whispered in her despair.
The collective grip and desire of six astral hands could not keep the young woman from falling into the waters below. My grandmother looked up through the surface to see the three faces looking down at her, all the misery returning to their features. One woman was crying, the others trying with all their might to bring her back. The waters continued closing over her head.
Marilyn’s mind lost its ability to think as a thick coating of red splashed across it. This was something I felt in a strange secondary way. I imagined that blood was seeping over her brain to cause such a sight. Her lungs were filled with water and yet they burned with an intensity too vivid to stand. The wounds on Marilyn’s arm once again began to ache as she clawed at the water over head. The women were no longer there. Just murky water that was filled with its own brand of wildlife.
Two hairy arms broke through the surface of the water and grabbed Marilyn, first roughly by the hair and then by the shoulders. As she came near to the surface again my ride was suddenly over. My eyes withdrew from her eyes and continued to move away as I watched the old body of Marilyn’s grandfather pulling her body from the river.
Then I was back in my room. Once again I was nothing more than a small child looking up at my ancient grandmother’s face. As I looked at her I could still see some of the beauty she had in her youth. When she again spoke all I heard was the voice of an old woman. An old woman who had lived sixty years after she had wanted to become something very different.
I knew my grandmother had tried to forget that night. She tried to live a life and forget the beautiful women in the waters and the possibilities that could have come by joining them. She forever tried to forget her grandfather who had saved her from drowning in the river near his home. Those thoughts were placed in an area of her mind that would forever suggest the event had been a dream. But there was the hope to one day prove that she had not been dreaming. It couldn’t have been a dream. She simply didn’t know what she needed to do to find it again. In the waking world dream reality had no place in how simple humans carried on in life.
“Such comfort in the coolness of the waters. I have never forgotten that. I have never felt how free the feeling flying. Oh my sweet dear, some beings were never meant to wear these skin suits and live in such a mundane fashion. I once understood a magic that would draw me away from it. I no longer know how.”
My grandmother looked down at me with such a sadness in her face. There were mysteries she had known and she couldn’t find her way back to them. She had waited too long to try. This was something I realized and I still don’t quite understand why.
“Alas my child, that is something you will have to learn for yourself. Perhaps like me, you’ll one day hear their call. Maybe you won’t grow old like me and come to realize it was all just a dream. A very cruel dream.” grandmother said to me.
She kissed me goodnight and gave the covers one more tug so that I was tightly tucked away for the night. Then she was up and moving out of my room, leaving me alone for another night. I felt the exhaustion of a child who’d spent an entire night running around when she should have been sleeping. I fell asleep.
Hours later I woke up with a start. I had been having a dream that was explaining something to me but I didn’t quite understand. As I woke I lost all that had been the dream but the understanding became very clear to me. I climbed out of bed and left my room.
The house was calm, everyone had gone to bed hours ago. Quietly I made my way down the hallway to the very small room that belonged to my grandmother. The doorknob turned under my small hand, it squeaked loudly as it moved. Or it could have been that everything I looked at seemed so much more vivid to me in this moment. I crept into the darkened room.
The window curtain was pulled open and the moonlight was shining in through the uncovered glass. It offered little light to see my grandmother by. She lay in bed asleep, her breathing even and slow. I moved up next to her and climbed up onto the bed. Gently I gave her a push, trying to nudge her from her dreaming. Her eyes rolled underneath the lids, fluttering before finally opening. She gazed up at the ceiling for a moment before life seemed to slowly seep into her. Then she looked over at me.
I smiled at her and put my little finger to her lips so that she did not ask me why I was there. I felt as though I would forget what I had to say if I had to search for answers to her questions.
“I understand grandma.” I said to her. My voice seemed so small and frail to my ears. “You weren’t dreaming grandma. I know because I was there with you each time you revisited that place. I usually would forget after falling asleep. But the ladies finally called to me and I did not forget this time. The ladies remember you, they’re still waiting for you to come back to them. They want you to come back because you kept your promise to them.”
Grandmother’s face pulled into a question and even I didn’t quite understand what I was telling her. “What are you talking about Ashley? How did I keep my promise to them?” grandmother asked.
I smiled at her as I saw the images of the three women speaking to me in my dreams. “Each night that you shared that story with me they were able to remember who they were. They had thought they’d lost you when your grandpa pulled you out of the water but they didn’t. A bit of you stayed there and is there right now. Every time you told that story you went back to them, to that moment. They said I helped you remember. They asked me if I was ready to take you there. I can come too. I can fly into the future with you.”
Grandmother leaned back slowly, a smile crossing her face. When she smiled I could see the young Marilyn the most. “They are ready to fly then?” she asked me.
I shook my head yes and told her “Nepurteety is anxious but Sloan and the Magpie can wait a little longer. They believe now that if they can fly fast enough into the future they can catch up to the present. Just like you told them. And when we do that there is no more time. Every moment is one moment and they can be experienced however we please.”
She shook her head in wonder “And those are their names? I often wondered, even after all these years, what their names were. Well then, let us not keep them waiting any longer. Come child, take my hand.”
I took my grandmother’s hand and together her and I made our way out of the house. We walked side by side through the city, making our way to a spot just beyond the end of our street. This was a place my parent’s used to take me. A small river, a pleasant body of water were the future, the past, and every moment in-between would be waiting for us.