What's better than a story on a cold winter day? I thought I'd fill my posts for the next few months with a serial story. It's not long and I'd love to hear what you think of it as we go along.
Episode 1: A Cherry Tomato
A cherry tomato.
That’s what I want.
For the entire cold, dark winter, it’s what I’ve craved.
A fresh-picked, sun-warmed, red, ripe cherry tomato. The subtle pop between my teeth as the marble-sized, red globe separates from the calyx. The delectable crunch and the sweet explosion of tangy, blood-warm juice.
The sky today—as nearly every day of my exile—threatens a cold rain. Spring is late and my spindly plants need more light. I mound mud around the delicate stems, patting it gently.
Solanum lycopersicum of the variety cerasiforme cultivated by the Aztecs in the fifth century and brought to Europe by Hernán Cortés in 1521—unless Christopher Columbus beat him to it nearly twenty years earlier. Valued for soups and sauces, elegant in salads, and a distant relative of belladonna, the deadly nightshade––the witch’s herb. Hairy stem and dog-toothed leaves prickle my palm, their pungent odor a greeting and a warning.
A flutter in my belly reminds me I’ve crouched in the garden for far too long. I sit back on the soggy ground, lift my shirt, and inspect my distended abdomen. A tiny foot-shaped bulge blossoms beside my flattened, stretched navel. She doesn’t like being cramped and she’s not shy about letting me know.
With a rolling undulation from one side of my belly to the other, she curls into a comfortable ball. I caress the firm mound where she nestles just out of reach, moving my hand over her indistinct outline.
“Not long now,” I whisper to her.
“It will be alright,” I whisper to myself.
A chilly wind fingers the back of my neck. The fine hair on my arms prickles and a buzz in my head drowns out the cawing crows. Between one breath and the next, a vision rises from the garden mud. Beyond my control, these visions have visited me often in recent months-- horrifying replays of devastation and death.
The phantasm twists it’s tendrils in my hair before I can run, holds me in a sticky embrace, unfurls fronds of color and light and fear. All I can do is clutch the ragged tufts of last year’s grass and hold on.
Episode 2: Burning
As always, the
vision begins in fire. I’m standing just inside the castle gates looking back. Flames
fill the windows, acrid smoke streams from the turrets. Heat flushes my face,
glitters in the crystals sewn into my gown, scorches me through the gauzy
fabric. Soft ash filters onto my face and embers bounce across the gravel path
between the castle keep and the gates.
somewhere inside. I gather my skirts and trot toward the massive doors of the
keep. We’ll live or die together. The crystal slippers slide on gravel when a
sharp warning cry rings out from above
“Run for the
forest, Allium.” Maddock stands atop the gate tower, a shadow against the
moon-bright sky. “Run. I’ll find you.”
A gentle push
on my back, a warm caress on my cheek––half fancied, half magic––and he is
plea, I linger, mired by indecision.
head, Lucia’s mocking voice repeats Maddock’s words.
I’ll find you. I’ll find you both.”
Lucia casts a
spell like a strand of spider silk from the heights of the burning tower.
Instinctively, my fingers coil above the pure, sweet atom of life in my belly.
I wrap the spark in a satin shield, but Lucia’s magic is potent. I can’t hold
the protective glamour for long. Escape is my only choice now.
Out the castle
gates I fly. Magic snaps at my heels, loosed by a foe beyond my craft.
The broad road
leading to the forest glimmers red. My discarded silver slippers flash as they tumble
into rushing stream beside the road. I
run for the dark, cool shadow of the forest. Gravel bites my bare feet. The
train of the crystalled gown streams behind me, catching on stones and twigs. The
delicate fabric rips free. I run until
my knees wobble and my breaths come in gasps.
sheltering branches spread over head at the forest’s edge but I am spent.
“I’m sorry,” I
whisper to the tiny life huddled inside me.
Join me next month--January 2, for two more episodes.
If you are enjoying "A Cold Spring," you might like my BIG BOOKS. Read all about 'em HERE.