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An Enchanted Lilac Forest


Blood from his forehead dripped in streaming streaks through the slipper orchids and deer ferns that lined the rocky spring. She watched, nervously, and waited. His bare skin wouldn’t last much longer exposed to the icy creek waters. A bright luminous moon foretold his fate. It had been many years since she strayed from the protection of the mighty Sequoia. She would expose herself. He extended a lone arm, but even her elongated limb, couldn’t reach him. He was dying. After hundreds of years hidden among the towering groves, she would allow herself to be seen in the clearing. She stepped slowly from the shadows of the needles and rooted trunks. Grabbing his cold, frozen hand from the flowing brook, she lifted the man easily, slinging him over her immense, broad shoulders.

A warm fire would not be sufficient. She took off all his clothes and covered the bare body with her bushy warmth, careful not to crush the man under the weight of her bulky frame. He felt so slight and narrow, fragile. The fleshy body without underfur or coarse hackles would never endure more than seventy or eighty years. He smelled awful, so she grabbed a handful of lilac blooms beneath the fat sprouts of the forest floor, rubbing them gently into his delicate skin. She covered his body with her thick, warm outer guard hairs. Caressing his smooth white cheeks, she sang songs of the Narragansett Indians. Just four hundred years ago, the Chiefs, Sachems, saved her from the horrible blaze that destroyed so many of her kind. The Indians used magical spells to heal her wounds and dress her raw membrane. They did not fear her breed or the color of her blood.  The silver faced moon shined down on them.  Delicate pearls of light. Tonight she would save the man and make up for those she could not save. The last Narragansett and Pequot, the helpless children slaughtered and women raped by the men that had arrived in boats. She had traveled west alone. The journey to the Redwoods had taken many years. Moving from forest to forest tasting the delicate bark of so many native species. Sweet syrupy red and balsam fir in the Green Mountains, then bitter ponderosa pine of the Sierra crest. At the edge of the world, the majestic Sequoia brought her safety and shelter, the sweetest of them all.

Moonlight faded with the morning sun. Covering his body through the night, feeding him drops of milk. Nourishment made his heartbeat grow stronger. She made a list of herbs, berries and vegetation to gather for him. Gently, she licked the caked blood from his forehead; she understood that these men had grown weak from meat and so little sustenance from the earth. His naked form, she held him near her sandy brown breast, a newborn nursing from all six nipples. Touching his skin tenderly, careful not to scratch the delicate film, she sang a Narragansett ballad to soothe his nerves, “With foam as soft as maiden fog, the baby of the crying bog.”

His eyes were blue and petrified. Squirming to break free from her grasp, she was twice as strong. As he screamed for help, she whispered to him and caressed his forehead. She wanted to keep him. She spoke softly and called herself “Lily” after the lilac blossoms that now coated his skin. Of course her kind never used names, they communicated in a way that men could never understand. He whispered back, “John.” He was important to his people, “a religious man.” Reminding her of the tribal shamans, the healers, she asked John if he possessed magic or explored the spirits of the forest. Instead, he talked wildly of gods and “the book” he often read. The people in his town listened to him for hours and he “gave them hope.”  Claiming he “saved” many of them, Lily could tell John truly believed his words. She wanted to hug him every time she looked into his sky blue eyes. She stood up, walking though the trees in the night air, holding him in her arms and showing him off to the grand Sequoia like her own child. The Sequoia could not feel him and there was no connection between these men and the forest. The trees spoke back to her, “one more night.” The radiant moon looked down, flushed and luminous. Maybe she would bathe him in the morning, and then feed him ginseng rootstock or bright pink huckleberries.

It was time. Bravely, she left the shadows of the tall trees. They held hands and strolled together into the bright sunlight of the clearing. She looked down at him, smiling. John wanted to walk himself and she was careful to hunch lower so they could grasp hands. She loved him. When they emerged from the forest, the men who knew John began to shout. John suddenly released her hand and ran towards the voices of his people. All she could hear were his cries of “god help me” and “save me.” The last word she heard was “shoot!” Pieces of molten metal felt like rain. A warm summer rain or heat from a summer sapling, maple dripping down onto her chest. Shotgun cartridges were loud, exploding in her ears.  Falling to the ground, she began to cry. She closed her eyes. The fuming lead powder ignited, setting the brilliant blue blaze that caused the men to run. Some of them tried to drag her and shouted about “pelts” or a head for the “mantle.”  She was too heavy and there was no time.  Flames burned swiftly through the dry brush. Lily burned fast and bright. Without her wooly coat her smoldering bones looked just like human bones only a bit bigger. Few could tell the difference.

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