Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
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Gold Dust City: 3. (Into Trees)

Daylight gives up the Sun; the air no longer hangs humid. The saw grass has tapered off and given way to tall, arching, bowing, blossoming trees. A path widens before me. The maddening chatter of many different birds becomes clear the closer we move in. I feel as if we’ve sailed towards some great metropolis consisting of the forest itself. I feel safe, though; these trees seem uninterested in my presence. The ship slows and I know this is where I must head, into the impatient rustling of leaves. I press my lips and my hands to the ship, along her wonderful azure and golden-threaded wood. I thank her in a quiet way. She has taken me far from where I started, far from where it could have ended. Her spirit hovers along the hull impatiently. Perhaps another creature is in need of passage through the twisting, shape shifting water. It’s time for me to revisit my feet, and use them, hard. So, I move from water to earth, not that the ground won’t change under me, not yet anyways.

The creatures that live in the water are planning an upheaval. I’d gleaned a bit of knowledge from the wind-songs. They weren’t all songs of love, in the end. A vibration, unseen, rolls along the surface becoming louder, as fish swim faster, furiously putting things together. Long-broken treasures rendered useless, now buried deep under the constant rippling of the dark water.

Water is seen as a place to drop things into, so that they might be forgotten, some artifacts as enormous as vehicles, and others as indistinct as teardrops. You cannot see what rolls along, quietly, at the bottoms of the oceans-were there bottoms ever to be reached. The songs carry promise of Overflow. Sea levels will rise, and purge themselves and all their contents to every shore. Shores that will become scores of technological graveyards, watery and rusted, begat from years of urban sprawling, wars, waste, emotional turmoil… No room left above ground, now no breathing room left for their Gills, anymore. The Waters will have their say one day. They have learned some things still work, even after centuries in the deepest pools, tangled in the stingiest reeds, and battered about by the toughest hide, and fin. I disembark toward the trees, in search of things from the pools in my dream, my own little private undoing, the one that pulls me so. It is fading, again. I must catch it before it’s gone for good, gone the way of the Waters.

I feel much like Stuart Little, venturing into the big city, as I walk off the shore and into the trees. I see Evergreens, Redwoods, Great Oaks, and Pines-trees that have no sound way of existing out here in the glades. Hundreds of them shoot up into the sky and, to my eyes, seem to mingle within the clouds. I hear many voices; chittering in some birdish dialect. All around me voices circle. I feel dizzy and insignificant. I was in the midst of some urgency under this living canopy. Water isn’t the only element in an uproar. Bird voices echo up tree trunks and spread throughout every branch and leaf, causing many wonderfully shaped leaves and flowers to shiver and drop. I distinguish the cry of the Pileated woodpecker, a favorite winged creature of mine, from a life I can hardly remember. I never forgot the sound they make. Their cry is loud, and distinct in its lunatic’s laugh, amongst the many other bird calls. The wind floats down and swirls around me, dancing seed pods on each curl. Up high, colorful blurs shake the air into panic. There runs a winged speedway in the sky. Feathers fall at my feet. I begin to collect them. I’d saved Wren’s red ribbon that had once held my bread snug, and was presently tied around my neck. Using her ribbon and various pieces of twine, I weave together a necklace of assorted feathers. They give my neck slight warmth and I take comfort in their smells. I wish Wren could see this place of wonderment. Maybe she’s here though, attending business of her own. Shocking pigments, giant plumes, and small tufts of downy feathers, each with its own agenda, now compliments my withered frame. The air feels cool here. No Sun could fully shine through such dense forest tops but it tries, in little stabbing beams here and there.

Again, it confuses me that some of these trees and plants are living, flourishing, so close to the marshes and canals, and the heat of the deep southern Sun. Here they are, regardless if my eyes lie. They are in full force and full bloom. They’re drawing forth energies from within all the birds that nest in them, creating life pacts with the trees. I was also fast becoming covered in bird shit. It was warm; falling hard from either far above where I walked, or as close as the birds moved, fearlessly, near my face. The close proximity of their wings to my skin raised goose bumps, instantly. My hair became plastered in a colorful array of goop that faintly glittered. I smoothed it over my arms, my body. I’m now adorned in my own special version of war paint.

Various pieces of clothing can be found scattered in bushes and the forest floor; doll-sized (bird-sized) adornments. They drape off of leaning towers of what looked like vibrant Monkshood. Top-hats, multicolored scarves, socks, shoes, and knit caps were strewn everywhere. I collected these as well and mourned their size against my own. My wardrobe was threadbare, and I felt shivers from the wind songs that followed me still, cooling the bird shit as it hardened to my skin. I walked along what seemed to be a path.

Everywhere I looked I saw new plant life that breathed and puckered. There were mouth watering berry bushes to pick from. Hemlock taunted me with its despair, from between rows of shiny bluebells. Nightshade laughed at me as I stopped to inhale all the hues of passion flowers, and honey suckle-tendrils wound around many tree trunks. There were bright red spires, spiny plant stalks, and egg-shaped floor plants with mouths that gently opened and closed, revealing tiny rows of teeth. Giant, fist-sized bumblebees moved from flower to flower, oblivious to me, to all but the work ahead of their legions. Many bushels of colorful flowers now joined the feathers around my neck, and wrists. I fashioned a feather-belt at my waist, courtesy of several tiny conjoined scarves from all the abandoned piles of them. None of the birds were clothed. They took their wings back in this place of flying, free beasts, adorned in naught but feather and beak.

A light mist fell and washed some of the bird gunk away. When the rain touched my skin it burned a little. I tried to shield my eyes from the droplets. I dared to look up from tree to tree. The light between them pooled brownish red. It turned all of their branches black and in instant things changed. Was a new madness raining down on me? I stepped through giant toadstools, ever careful to go around the rings. The grass was high and soft against my legs. You could see others had been here, prior to me, as certain sections of the grass had been laid flat by someone’s steps. I was grateful that a lot of the pine cones had been arranged in rows to the side-as if to outline this path. It resembled a lovely, overgrown, English Garden. The further in I walked the more I noticed how organized this place is. Perhaps it was staged. How else could I account for all the beautiful plant life I could actually identify, and all the birds soaring around with hearts clutched in their talons? I wasn’t just aimlessly wandering into the woods. I was heading somewhere, where others had walked through before me. I knelt down to wrest a pine cone from its place in the earth and held it up high. Gold flecks. Always gold, and slices of emerald and the brown-red that I saw in the flash of rain, representing this forest. I was walking where you walked. Your hands lay before, where my hands now move. I was walking the path you paved with your feet. In your past, my future unfolded. I attached the pine cone to my feather belt at its center. I began to walk faster.

Tiny, black hummingbirds suddenly surrounded my head, like a dark, living halo. They came in on a storm, or so they sing. I plucked one from the air, and held it near my mouth. I sang back, “What do ya say little bird, little bird? Where are the wind and the man of the wood?”; Not a word did he hark, but tunneled straight to my heart. He will beat in its stead, now, until we are dead, keeping me in step with you.

I walked until the trees thinned out and wondered at my luck. There is no sound now but for my footsteps. The bird calls have faded away. I breathe into the air. It steams all around me. I’m walking fast to beat the cold. I can feel the bird fluttering in my heart. It’s becoming anxious. It matches the pounding of my feet, into soil, into grass. I slip in the wet parts-must be more careful. My thin shoes are caked with mud. I can hear the bird in my ears. He chitters and I know he lies, but I listen anyway. He is my heart now. Here is my heart held together by the beating of his wings. My ears are so cold. It’s gaining on me. I’m always near tears. I keep on walking. You fill my mind.

(Is this all that is left of our own kind?)

You fill my mind. You empty it like a sieve. My fingertips are numb. This cold will get me soon. I have to sit, to think of it. I am emptied into your vase. (You hang me about your neck).

I’m kept within this ender’s place; I am also here at the edge of the clearing, racing against the wind.

(I am on your night stand)

(I am in your walls; I breathe and sigh with them)

I cannot feel my feet.

(I am in your bed)

As near to you as the birds will allow, as near to you as time knows how. I look up; the birds just wink and pass me by. I cannot feel my face. It’s such an empty place. Mocking birds have led me astray with their imitations of sounds, alive in my memories. I can hear your music far away. I move towards it, always behind. I close my eyes to the sound of your fingers hitting things, strings, keys, and my skin. It drowns out the noise in my head. Now draws it to my black-bird heart.

I can feel it, under my skin, rippling like a river’s surface.

(A vast desert, an empty bed)

I am so eager.

(I push my face against the window glass)

When is he coming? When will he be here? I can’t think. The chittering has gotten so loud that I no longer hear your melodies. Only my thoughts, meshed in with the birds. I concentrate hard on another memory.

I can see my mother in my minds eye, shuffling through her broken garden. Can see her wavy, silver mane illuminating all around her face and down her back. She is wearing a white, gauzy nightgown open down the front. Dozens of hummingbirds suddenly burst through her chest, startling me. Every color I’ve ever imagined and more. I can smell their feathers. They smell like dust and sunshine and tree bark. They surround her like a veil, a queen, lifting up sections of her hair, creating a wild-crown. My mother smiles and talks to them. On she walks, admiring the flowers that rise up through the dusty earth to greet her. At her side is a giant, grey cat. Dark black tiger stripes shoot through his dense velvet-like fur. He bears a white star on his chest and almond-shaped, green-golden eyes, knowing eyes, eyes that stare at me far too long for comfort. The tears come. He smiles as a cat would smile; blinking his brilliant eyes several times and walks on. Guarding my mother as he always has.

Cities couldn’t last. You could feel tides shifting, as angry as the fish that rock back and forth. To know this is our end. From the moment we are birthed, in whatever way each of us wiggles into being. When we’re aware of having thoughts, and a need to breathe something in; air, water, the earthy bits. To know we have had a beginning. With that comes the uneven, uneasy stumble toward an end-simply because, there was a start. I think you are my end. I don’t see my path without you there, in the matter. In the dark, coursing amongst thousands of silverfish, contained within the fluid of my lungs. You could vanish and I’d keep walking, straight to you. No matter where you are. If you are gone, I would have your ghost, your essence left behind in the scent of your clothing, the things you’ve touched, the past you’ve walked through, and the future I am chasing. It’s in my head, but I can’t see it straight. There are scattered pieces of stained glass everywhere I look. I keep following the pieces, these colors I chase; a keepsake here, lifeblood, promises of more. It’s intoxicating. I have no end, I run to no end. I’m stuck on a road full of uncertain light and shade that carries a hefty gait. I cannot see the day. The Sun has gone and I’m left with a song.

Come be my painter. Paint us our home, a place full of wonder, no more alone.

Harness the full-moon, with werewolves at play. Watch them weave nets, while they circle, and bay.

A bit about the author:

I enjoy whimsies, animals, the bizarre, surrealism, cinema, photography, and am often found seeking out the darkest corners of the literary world. I argue with my inner monologue all the time. Visit author page