This thistle-thin fissure beyond the brown grooves and spongy moss hollows out a river that spreads, becoming a cavernous crack through which eight tiny pink finger pads emerge and flatten against the widening gap. Thumbs appear, and amber sap, wet and sticky, drips down both sides of the earthen brown bark, trailing through the tawny gouges as fingernails scrape furiously until a fist punches through. A large chunk of bark and moss, launched by that violent blow, sails beyond the thickest of roots and disappears into the tall, emerald grass below.
Hands come first, palms browned by mulch and dirt, then arms—the same, with elbows of crusted sandpaper skin—next then, the legs, long and skinny like pale twigs, and the head big and round below a straggly mess of threads like burgundy anger, and finally, the trunk. She falls to hand and knees and screams out like a banshee announcing doom, her other hand reaching above her toward the sky, palm upward as if to catch rain.
She looks back at you, Mother, like a prison she has escaped, your sap upon her skin, your slivers cutting her fingers, your smell infused in her hair. She sprints through the trees without a backward glance, her stomping fading quickly, but by dusk she returns to sleep upon your bough.
In the morning, she presses her cheek to rough bark and breathes in earth, safe from the dangers of the dark, nestled under your canopy, far from the burning rays of the sun. The days repeat like so, until one day, she does not return from the forest though darkness comes.
You do not see her for some time.
When she returns, the last of your leaves are brown and brittle, and some their veins frail, skeletal memories scattered across the forest bed, remnants of a harsh autumn and bitter winter, years ago.
When she returns, your bark is gray and porous, gouged by ant trails and termites’ hunger and blackened by lightning and rain.
When she returns, her shadow is long across your roots, her limbs like the regal birch tree, her hair a crown of crimson, her eyes pools of dismay. She kneels at the foot of your trunk and grasps the bark there, unloosing it, her desperation crushing your skin into tiny fragments, into little more than sawdust. With a soft gasp, she presses her cheek once more to your body, her fingers moving upward until she finds that fissure from whence she emerged.
I came from here, she whispers to you. I was a part of you. I was… you…
Tears fall to your roots.
The warmth of her love foreshadows the depth of her mourning soon to come, but you stay with her, clinging to the edge of her breath, through the night, a comfort for her slumbering form until morning comes again. You leave her as the sun breaks through the brush.
copyright 2019 A.H. De Carrasco. All rights reserved. Stock images used from Depositphotos, Inc., dpaint and iulia shev. Additional art pattern from my personal collection.
Special thanks to Hot Tree Editing for proofing this story.
For my mother. As my mother was dying, my perception shifted. I saw things through her eyes and through mine, a duality of being in her mind and observing, while being connected to her soul, witnessing her. She sacrificed so much, without words, and her love gave me life. That’s all I can say. –Ann