by Christina Martin
Swatches of orange without interruption raise morning to the skies in a haze of lemon mist. He cannot distinguish between the bloom and the core, the root and the medium, the beginning or the ending. There is no ending, no beginning and no passing of moments here in this forest. The Man can be certain of one thing — he will die here.
Uncertain when any of this began, in the telling he can only try to explain about the Gift, the magic. The gold, the light; the darkness at the roots, the threat. And finally, how nothing matters.
Naturally, nobody at the pub understands what he is on about, but they can see the grain of fear in his eyes, the haste of mania in his speech. Look at your neighbour, shake your head: he’s finally done it this time. Well, want another, Tim? Good story you’ve got there, mate. Tell me some more sometime (roll of the eyes).
Tim doesn’t get it though, and goes right on with the orange stream, totally soaked in petals and leaves, in the strange rank smell of giant plant life that grasps your knees when you least expect it. They pulled him in, made him a prisoner all night in the field. Then next morning let him pass as light. Like them, he cannot tell how he came back to the red and brown house some woman came rushing out of, yelling where had he been? Home is a field of sunflowers.
Then the Man Tim grows outwards, alone in this preternatural dreamtime, but he notices something. Something wonderful, it must be the Gift. He knew about it in the field but forgot about it until now, when he feels it in his own long fingertips that sway in the wind, and in his arms which straighten to a bound, pliable stiffness.
The Touch is what it is — he can touch people and animals and know what is amiss with them; if they stay long enough, the touch heals them — but only if they can bear to be near the Yellow Man whose touch is like tough, furzed paper. Then he can heal them; they will not suffer the same sickness again.
Clouds and rain more frequent now, sweetpeas in the gardens fading a little, stringing out, pansies and busy lizzies leggy, looking for longer brightness as the sun sinks. Ruby and amber sunsets draw the Man Tim out onto the road, unwilling, tired, bronzed. Barely able to walk, he scrapes his long strung-out limbs against the roughness of the stones, but no one helps him. He has become invisible to those he has lived among, a true stranger now, unlike these.
As he passes outside the pub, the men sense a dry wind passing, ask, do you remember that Tim? A shake of the head. Tim passes. On, stretching on and on an eternity of tarmacadam and bends. He must reach the end before tonight. The end of this road, the end, the end, the end.
No more rain today, he is dry and flaking, his skin stripping off his bones, in a strange sallow trail behind him as he moves. Soon he can sleep. Wait for me! even though I don’t want to come, don’t want to arrive. How can I be so tired? No gold, no Gift, all a lie, a lie.
A dark lie that covers me. There is a wind that rouses the fading flowers in the field, quickly passes, is gone, another lie.
Copyright © 2008 by Christina Martin