Spirited Away (October 2o16)

A bird’s song echoes from tree to tree, its notes catching the attention of a little girl wandering along the forest’s path. She whistles with it; the tune drifts through her thoughts as she meanders along.

Moonlight slips through the cracks of heavy tree branches just enough for her to step over the gnarled roots that spill around the forest floor in a pattern she has nearly memorized. Her sister had always liked to sneak out to the pond curtained by wisteria vines and wade into the water. It’s her magical spot. Alice would find her floating on its surface, one hand brushing through the lavender flowers that hung down and tickled her forehead. Alice would join her and listen to the beating of dragonfly wings and think about how she never saw Dalia look so peaceful anywhere else. Alice is sure that is where she would find Dalia – she had been missing from her bed.

Twigs snap beneath Alice’s toes, damp and sticky and scratchy. She could faintly smell the thousands of wisteria flowers further ahead and runs faster. Even as her footsteps kick up fragments of leaves and dirt and ash, the forest around her seems to be asleep. The trees and the bushes are still, not even rustled by a breeze let alone an animal. The only sign of life is the bird singing its longing melody.

Alice draws nearer to the wisteria flower smell, anticipating the pond’s edge to come into focus, to see the silver shadow of the moon reflecting in its clear depths, but comes up short. It is almost as if Alice is standing in a wisteria graveyard, their scent becoming overpowering, even as there is not a trace of them, or the pond, or Dalia.

All that Alice finds instead is a bird with inky black feathers and blue, marble eyes. Its song begins again, and Alice joins in, stepping closer. She screams when she suddenly drops down, a splash accompanying the rush of water around her. She thrashes as she begins to sink, but all she sees is the bird as it ruffles its wings and stares back at her. She has no idea where the pond begins or where it will end, but she knows it’s there. The taste that rushes into her mouth as she splutters and tries to breathe is distinct.

In its invisible depths, Alice feels something float past her. Wisps of what feels like hair brush by her, and when she reaches out for anything to hold onto, she wraps around what feels like a wrist.

She wonders if Dalia looks as peaceful in their magical spot as she always did.


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