“Please come with me,” she whispered softly.
And who could say no?
We drove in silence, her eyes straight ahead: focused, determined, anxious, but also frightened.
The forest was dark, the evening cold.
“Here,” she said. We pulled over. Stepped out.
“Wait here,” she said, and vanished into the trees.
There were no stars. If the moon shone, it did so darkly. It was eerily silent. Bitterly cold.
Nothing. More silence.
But it was too dark. Too cold. Too long.
I stepped into the forest the way she had gone.
Darker. Deeper. Deeper darkness. Deeper silence.
I continued blindly.
Until, carried on the wind, a soft song. A humming, whispered, thrumming chant.
I aimed in that direction.
A dark prayer rose through the trees like smoke. No language I had ever heard.
I drew closer.
A hint of light teased the corner of my eye.
I drew closer still.
A glow rose now with the prayer, the song, fire-like it flickered, but smaller, though also rising.
Then I saw her, and here was the moon, shining almost blue on her bare back, lotus legs, arms out like Guanyin.
I pictured candlelight dancing with shadows across her chest. I watched. And waited.
Her arms went down, raised up again, holding something now. Glinting. Sharp. She raised it high.
And then a scream (mine? hers? someone else’s?).
I tore through the forest, limbs and blackness ripping at my clothes and skin.
Had she seen me? Observing her observe her mystery communion with…whatever?
I made it to the car. Got in.
And then her door opened, a powerful waft of incense and pine, cool air and a salty, familiar tang.
I was scared to look at her directly, but thought I saw her lick something dark and red from the corner of her mouth.
And, despite myself, all I could think about was how my hands would feel against her still icy, just-dressed skin.