“The great blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach; but we shut our eyes, and like people in the dark, we fall upon the very thing we search for, without finding it.”
It is nothing to you, the ground beneath your feet. Nothing but matter made to carry your weight and the weight of those like you. I see how you go about each day, with your mind as closed as your seemingly open eyes. Everything you could hope to find is not so far out of reach, but you couldn’t see it anyway. Why, you won’t even listen to the gentle, probing voice resounding in your very soul. But no matter. I’ve done all I can, and the pity I feel for your young is the last of feelings between your kind and mine.
Dappled sunlight, like pure ambrosia from the hand of Helios himself, cascades through the treetops. A mosaic of fiery reds, vibrant oranges, and rich golds scatters itself across the forest floor. Stones of varying sizes and structures rise from beneath the leaf litter only to submerge themselves once more: the spines of slumbering dragons. Little white lilies spring up from the earth and spread their petals greedily towards the light. Feathered moss gropes across every visible surface. Tendrils of the lichen feed on the dead and decaying while higher forms of plant life stretch out their leaves for one last glimpse of the sun before they fall. Life and death mingle here peacefully.
A whirlwind of fawn and onyx slashes through the stillness, sending leaves aflutter with each bounding leap. Shoulders thrown back and spine held erect, she whips through the forest with unnatural grace, ease, and speed. The mild chill of late autumn grazes and raises the hairs on her bare skin. Cracked lips create canyons as they stretch into a concentrated frown. Umber eyes that stare too far further reflect her personal drought. She knows she’s searching, though for what she isn’t entirely sure.
Nothing is what she sees, neither the sunlight nor the shadow. She cannot feel the crumpling leaves beneath her calloused feet, or even the prickle of the cold across her body. Her ears do not detect the rush of the running creeks. She doesn’t smell the rich, damp earth that she kicks up with every stride, and she doesn’t taste it on her tongue. She could not tell you that she is running. She is unaware of the long wave of black tresses that undulates behind her. Her senses are useless.
And she is the one who renders them so.
For as she flies across the trickling streams and over gnarled roots, she does not fall. She is only aware of the states of being that precede her, only recognizes the world as having been scribbled in with the worn-down crayon labeled “existence.” But this bare perception that allows her to navigate seamlessly through the forest does not save her. Her distant eyes only have room enough for that which is before her, and it is over her very self that she stumbles.
Each stride leads her into a snare of her own tangled mane. She continues forward. She ignores the retardation of her self-determined progress. She searches without consideration. And though they are thin, the shimmering strands drag her down until she falls, sprawled across the dirt and leaves in a web of her creation.
She writhes and wreathes, only ensnaring herself more. The struggle strings her dark hair taught about her ankles. Trying to free herself with her hands, she pulls and locks her wrists into manacles of pitch that cut into her skin. Desperate thrashing drags her body against rough earth, and light freckles become marred by blood. She tumbles over protruding roots and jagged stones, tearing her own flesh like cheap fabric. More fighting leads to more restriction. The matted chains cling to every exposed surface with coagulated blood as their adhesive. Alone in the wood, she falls still and screams in vain.
Shadows dance across her contorted figure. Her lips drift apart in resignation. Tears seep from her eyes, and, suddenly, through the salty pools she sees what has been in front of her all along: a white lily, what she came to find. The moisture on its soft petals glimmer in the sunlight, creating spots in her vision. The girl smiles bitterly in the face of her own ignorance. She sees for the first time the forest that surrounds her and the hundreds of white lilies that dot the area. But there is nothing to do now. Nothing she can do.
Submerged in the leaves and soil, stained in the blood and tears of her own negligence, the girl lies on the forest floor, defeated. There she remains as fiery colored death cloaks her corpse from the seasons yet to come. With time, her body and her chains decompose, falling into the earth itself. Spring sprouts one white lily where her heart would have been. And once again, life and death are free to mingle in peace.
Olivia Konopka is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is a junior at Bethany College in West Virginia. She is currently earning bachelor’s degrees in History and the Cross-Cultural Development of Story while minoring in Religious Studies