Saturday, May 16, 2015

Salamander.

"I sure wish it would rain."

With a dirty face covered in ash, Sal brushed the hair out of his eyes and sat on a soiled log. For the past few hours, he'd been clearing brush behind his father's old tool shed. In that time, Sal had amassed a titanic pile of limbs, leaves and briers. Now set ablaze and properly stoked, Sal took some minor comfort in knowing that the hard part of his task was complete. Only some minor raking and clean-up was required to finish his undertaking. The summer had been inexplicably dry, so Sal knew to carefully watch the fire for any stray embers. Should the tool shed suddenly become a sacrifice to the rain gods, Sal's father would not be pleased.

Taking a gulp of water from his thermos, the disheveled lad let the coolness drip down his stubbled chin and into his shirt. For a moment, it was nice to take a break. He'd worked himself too hard and had started to feel light-headed. Behind him, Sal could hear the creatures of the forest scurrying about, tossing leaves to find acorns and insects. Though, a discernible pattern could be detected, should one's ears be properly attuned. Sal could tell there was something with intent moving through the woods. He turned around expecting to see a coyote or feral cat, but saw no such animal -- just a shaded, overgrown thicket. The smoke from the burning pile of brush wafted deep into the winding growth like a trickle of water pouring over a dimpled river rock. Steadily, it seemed to possess the entire opening, leaving a heavy haze.


In the fog of soot, Sal began to wonder if his eyes were playing tricks. As the white cloud of smoke began to settle, he could make out a figure standing inside the clearing. The dry, uncaring wind blew more smoke into the green void, thereby allowing the figure to take on increased clarity. It seemed to be walking from within the trees and entered the glade Sal had cut out. Rising from his log, Sal stepped into the murky fog. Each step let slip a swift crunching sound. Yet, the shadow that seemed to be coming towards him made no such noise. Sal was anxious; his hands became damp. Upon pulling together enough nerve to speak, he did so.

"May... muh-may I help you?"

Oddly, the walking apparition took on a more corporeal form. Its steps began to generate the same crunching noise. The foot steps were certainly softer, with less force. 

"Hello? Are you o-"

Before he could finish, the figure in the fog spoke back.

"Share some water, would you?"

As if the fog was a heavy set of curtains, an invisible team of stagehands parted the mist. Through the opening emerged a pale young woman. Her raven hair gleamed with a celestial starfall. Two of the brightest, most piercing green eyes opened on a face of pearl. The heart that beat in Sal's chest skipped a beat. Fumbling to unlock his thermos, he passed the metal cylinder to his guest. Raising the cold container to her peach colored lips, she seemed to endlessly swallow the liquid. Upon emptying the container, she passed it back. Sal took notice of her thin, elegant fingers. They were not adorned with jewels or paint, but nevertheless were the most delicate hands he had ever seen. As she returned the bottle, the two figures were drawn together in the smokey forest. They locked eyes; in that moment, Sal seemed to have known her forever.

"Aster."

The name escaped Sal's mouth before he even had a moment to think about it.

"Salamander."

His eyes widening, Sal was slightly perplexed.

"Only my brother calls me that anymore."

"Now, I do too."

Her words were comforting to Sal, but an empty pain rested in his uneasy stomach. What was happening, he wondered. As Aster wrapped her left arm around his backside, he squeezed her tightly. A stirring in his heart stabbed his brain like an icicle; another heartbeat was skipped. Her colorless fingers rose to grip his face, tracing Sal's cheekbones and the bridge of his nose.

"I have terribly missed you so. I thought I'd never find you."

She placed her head against his chest and motioned for Sal to begin walking.

The forest, now completely silent, was calm all throughout. The two figures twisted and merged in the haze, becoming one solitary union. They were lost in the fog -- together. As if inhaling the smoke from the fire, the woods seemed to swallow the white cloud and completely fill the gap in the brambles.

A young boy emerged across from the opening, rake in hand. He propped the tool inside his father's shed and grabbed another to stoke the fire. Fumbling through the glowing sticks of amber and crimson, he blew into the flame to increase its might. Once roaring, he returned his poker to the building and walked away from the fire. A lush field of wild lilies stretch for many acres before him. Walking a few hundred feet, the fellow stopped at two stones set erect in the meadow. Their facades began to glisten as a light sprinkle of rain started to fall from the dusky sky. As the water fell over the monuments, their words became epitaphs. Here rested two lovers, separated in life.

A brother, standing silent, softly wept for his kin... his best friend.

His dear Salamander.

-------------------------

I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [1798]

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