I’m awake and staring out the window at the snow, wishing I was asleep and not witnessing horror. But instead I am, and so are the deer busily scampering, their hooves a clip clop of wood on wood against the asphalt. It’s cold and my smoke is dwindling, but I stay anyway with teeth chattering and bare skin rippled It’s eerily quiet at this time of day; enough that I can hear the downy whoosh of the Great Owls flying as I watch them silently soar. The rabbits scarper, too, suddenly prey, and I, a lowly human, observe thoughtfully, wondering exactly why we sleep through the loveliest time of our cycle. The answer is that it’s warm and when someone you care for is beside you, it can be paradise; A lost paradise but one nonetheless. It can also be an abyss and one too vast to traverse without adequate supply.
The flame from my torch looks turns the window into a mirror, and the reflection is the true horror. The tip of my home rolled jitters nervously in the light, that makeshift looking-glass tells more truth than any I’ve known since my youth. I can’t turn away from the woman in the window. I want to but she isn’t something I’ve seen before, and like all humans, we covet what we can’t have by imbibing with our eyes. A terrible sort of beauty, she smiles as though sadness were a garment made for her. Her face is a maze of scars and pitfalls; this resplendent monster wears her mask without shame. Her bare skin is mottled with wounds that never heal, punch stains and splintered soul, this wonder affects an air of resilient strength that truly stuns. Broken, beaten she stands before me with that sad knowing smile and cries tears of blood in my honour.
I know her; this creature who stands and bleeds on my palms is a woman I recognise from auld lang syne, and I inhale again in hope that she will fade away with the smoke. It’s selfish but I wish she’d go to Source or just leave, or – and I sigh in a cloud of regret. Selfish indeed. The poor thing didn’t, doesn’t ask to remain here, would rather be forgotten in some unmarked grave but I suppose the tears I cry awaken her spirit. To my own regret, because there can be no tears in the presence of the world and she is a part of that world, corporeal or flesh, there are still eyes to see them. Behind the gate and beyond fear, a buck openly observes my inner struggle with unblinking eyes and steam jetting from his muzzle. Moments like hours’ creep by and then he dips his prodigious rack and gracefully trots out of view. A message or a dismissal, of this I will never be sure, and perhaps I don’t need to know the answer.
All that I need to know is that the fire is out. The smoke that I had lit is gone and the woman is still here. I also know that I am sitting here in front of an open window watching the snow fall and wishing that was something else. The woman still stands nearby, sadly smiling with her hands behind her back like a chastised child. After years of talking to a ghost, there are no more words to say that will make her understand that she was in no way complicit. That she should move forward and move on but she just regards me with pity in her eyes and a wince that makes me cringe in sympathy. No one can convince a soul, no matter how tortured and desperate to believe they are, to give up the grip they have on life.
Above my head, the floorboards creak; the clock strikes five and still I sit here in the cold, thinking. There are things that no one seems to understand and I never want them to live it, let alone comprehend it. How do you explain the way that I crawled out of the same grave I willingly leapt into? It sounds insane; but is it as insane as the emotional re-emergence, covered in moss and gasping for air? Crazy it may be but I crawled out of it nonetheless. I bear the scars from digging through years of dead flowers and the rotting corpses of fallen leaves, digging through thousands of apologies and wasted words to finally breathe free air again. Buried alive is not as far etched as it seems.
The sun will rise soon and I am finally tired enough to sleep. Turning to bid her adieu, with my hand raised to blow her a kiss, I complete the action to an empty room. My muscles creak and bones crackle alarmingly, as I climb the stairs towards my bed and some rest. I should be exhausted, but it feels more like coming alive. As I drift to dreamland, I wonder if she’s trying to send me a message.