fiction

Dig Your Toes In. {fiction}

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Dig your toes in. Work your beautiful bare feet deep down into the soft dirt and get as much purchase as you can. Balance your weight evenly.

Cling hard, now, while you can, because the tide is coming and it will do everything it can to drag you down. Oh sure, at first it will be nothing more than a thin, shallow trickle around where you stand. You’ll glance down at it for no more than a second, contemptuous of its ability to distract you from your objective in any possible way. But be in no doubt: it will rise. Inexorably.

To your ankle bones, and then ever higher, gaining in strength with every minute and hour. I’m sure of it. It will do its best to wash you away. This malign tide is the combination of Love and Forgiveness. Of me and for me. And you must resist it at all costs.

Stare. Lock me in your gaze across the clearing in the forest, unblinking, unmerciful. Your eyes are more eloquent than any spoken rage. They scream without pause for breath so they give me no pause to offer a response. A response I don’t have.

I left.

I said I wouldn’t. Ever. So, slowly, somehow, you’d found the courage to tell me about the times you’d been left before. Men and women who had meant the world to you, who’d come into your world by birth, by happenstance, or whom you’d drawn towards you by the sheer force of your own will. Each time, you’d trusted that they’d been there to stay.

The telling of these stories was so painful to you as to have made it almost impossible. What kind of courage is this, I wondered as you spoke. In which corner of the universe do they manufacture such steel-cored spirit? That which contains the strength, time after time after time, to push oneself back up onto the knees, to wipe the eyes with the back of each hand, smile thinly and move on?

I gently cradled each narrative, each piece of your heart, like a newborn. I kept each one warm and safe inside me. And as you saw that, like a frantic mother on a sinking lifeboat, you threw out more and more for what you thought was eternal safekeeping.

Can you smell it now? Lavender, jasmine, vanilla perhaps? It has begun. Far upstream, the mothers of the earth have rolled up their kaftans, pushed aside a couple of logs in the crude dam, and have started to drip their nectars into the slowly building stream. Each bottle took a lifetime to distill, and they weep softly as each one is emptied.

“Forgive him, and let your heart be at peace,” sobs one. “Time heals all wounds, however deep,”cries another. “This bitterness and anger only hurts you in the end,” says a third. Then, with sad smiles, and heads slightly angled to one side, they watch the water through their kind green eyes as it swells and bubbles through the break in the dam, absorbing their liquid messages of love and carrying them down towards us.

A month ago (Or was it a year? My task is to retain the memories, not to chronicle them). We sat in the searing heat on top of the hill, and your first story-infant was surrendered into my arms. My rapt stillness for the duration of that birthing was enough time for the sun to burn my face and head red and raw. It was a price well-paid, because after the story came the best of all your lessons. The last one I’ll forget.

You told it simply, in a matter of seconds, but it was the summation of many lifetimes of learning. This: That all feelings are equally important visitors and should be welcomed accordingly. That the constant search for things that make us feel good blinds us to the nourishment that comes from things that make us feel bad. How well that feeds me now!

The stream begins to rise and swirl around you. Songbirds begin to sound the alarm. Your eyes continue their assault on mine. As long as they do so, my wounds cannot begin to heal. I am safe. I am spared the burden of forgetting, of moving on. I can continue my daily work of keeping my memories of you alive inside me, tending them.

Don’t falter! Don’t be beguiled by the torrent that is now a little higher than before. I need this. I need you to see the pleas for forgiveness and reconciliation, and have you reject them. Again and again. To release me would be a bigger act of betrayal even than mine, a cruelty of which you are not capable.

The water will rise, and grow sweeter and cooler with every passing hour. It will beg you to let yourself fall slowly backwards into its liberating embrace and be carried, weightless and free.

Dig your toes in.

***

One morning, Samuel Sed Barclay woke up and began to wonder why his life, replete with first-world problems that others would kill for, left him with a nagging unease that he’d somehow misinterpreted the directions on his cosmic GPS. That somewhere, buried deep inside him, is a being with more to offer the world than a meticulously planned schedule for changing the batteries in his smoke detectors. That instead of silently weeping inside when he reads something that corkscrews its way into his heart, he should have written it himself. This is his first work of fiction.

***

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