The softly duskening sky hued the world in amethyst and celadon. The trees reduced to pencil-sketch silhouette, their artful hands grasping for empty purchase. Frost rimed the vessels of earth-tossed leaves, icy echoes of purpose now death-painted cold.
A bird flew overhead, an enormous swath of ebony against the dying of the light. She watched as the bird, a hawk of some sort, coursed against the sky. Back and forth he flew, cutting the jeweled air so cleanly the rent edges of atmosphere sealed invisibly in his wake. Lower and lower he flew, growing larger with every pass, until, at the point at which she could have stood and reached a hand to touch his swooping feathered wing, he was more than a swath against the sky; he was the sky.
An impossible giant of a black-night bird, she saw now.
She lay down upon the frozen ground and stared up into the sky that was hers, awaiting the sky that was him. When he arrived, there was a familiarity to the totality of his velvet-coal embrace, and she fought surrender to place the feeling. As the sky passed over her, she waited and strained for the contrast of the day’s ending glow, needing that contrast to place the eternity at which he hinted.
A dimly luminescent afterwards lit the way.
Once, she had descended below the earth into a cave.
The memory of the road that had led to this particular roadside attraction was lost to her, but the story of the cave lingered.
A man of long-ago, a man of small ambition and limited talents, once sat beneath a tree to eat a shaded lunch. After he finished eating, he leaned back against the tree, putting off for a few minutes whatever his life might next require of him. He thought of a nap, and he ran idly curious fingers along the earth beside him, wondering of the welcome his recline would receive. His fingers caught at an edge in the surface of things, and in an instant, he had slipped his hand beyond this world into what lay beyond. He scrabbled and gouged and clawed, revealing a tunnel that seemed to widen as he pressed.
The man came back with tools.
The man came back and he descended.
And with every descent, he was less inclined to return to the world above.
There was more to the story, but she remembered standing in line to buy a ticket to the underneath, scoffing at the lunacy of the long-ago man who had fallen in love with and escaped into darkness. The underground tour was just a tour – she was shepherded, along with the other tourists, past the points of interest – here are some rocks and here is a cavern and here is a waterfall and here are some crystals and here is a tunnel. Toward the end of the tour, the group was crowded onto a small railed landing above a large open cavern, and the tour-guide told them to stand very still.
And then, as they stood deep within the earth at the edge of an abyss, he turned off the lights.
He might as well have turned off the world.
The darkness was immense, and it pressed against her being with an insistent embrace. She stood still, as she had been directed, and she felt the nothingness reach for her, felt it strain for her with velvet-ebony hands that smoothed over her skin and her consciousness with a sensuous knowing want. It was the most amazing thing she had ever experienced, that embrace, and she felt an urge to surrender, to give herself over to this enveloping emptiness.
The emptiness and dark would dispense with her solidity.
She would fly.
She felt certain she would fly.
Just for an instant, she was certain.
And then the lights came back on, and the tour guide smilingly ushered them up the ladders to the surface.
The group moved up and on and out into the world again.
As did she.
As one did.
She lay now, on the frozen ground, and awaited the sky that was him.
He pressed himself to her, the coal-black bird, and the darkness was just as she remembered.
How had she ever walked away?
She reached up and smoothed silken feathers in the dark, felt the rimed edges of their icy truths. She pressed with aching want past the softness to the hollowed bones beneath, felt the curve of breast and the beat of heart. She reached with invisibly silhouetted hands for empty purchase.
She would fly.
She felt certain.