Dora Simpson



        Last night, I dreamt I went to Jivanta again. I emerged from the womb of the old ash tree—reborn, in a sense, on the eve of my thirteenth birthday into a realm where time moved like a raindrop creeping along the green of a fern. The path wound deep into the forest in front of me, snaking its way through as it had always done. Plump clusters of soft, purple-black fruit bowed thin branches. I could almost taste mother’s fresh baked bramble pies. I inhaled, half expecting to smell the sweet aroma of wild blackberries simmering in their juices in a flakey crust. Instead, the smell of damp moss hung heavy on the foliage. The Beltaine sun sat low in the sky, producing a soft, diffused light that evoked pleasant memories of long ago. Memories from a time before I was born, of people and places I shouldn’t remember. I sensed the connection, but the only trace I caught sight of always dissipated with the dream.

        It seemed to me, I stood in the twisted woodland as hours past. Waiting, as long shadows crawled across the thick, scaly bark of aged pines. For what? I never quite knew. But, I wasn’t alone. I never am. I was aware of his beating heart pumping in time with my own. The air around me was the sound of power lines, in damp weather. The hairs on my body stood on end. Charged. As if called forth by the raspy hum, he emerged from the trees. A spark flickered and danced around the ancient tree on my necklace illuminating his half-naked body. The markings of a lynx tattooed on his arms and chest. His hair, the color of melted caramel, was spiky as it always is in these dreams. He gestured with a head nod to follow. Before I could resist, the wind squeezed around me and rested its cool palms at my back, nudging me in his direction. And, like all my dreams, I followed him deep into the woods where others waited.

        “Welcome, Nettle,” their wispy voices called out to me. A nickname only my father used.

        I always feel him there among them. But, he’s been dead for six months. I had watched his taillights from an upstairs window swerve toward the woods, and then, black fumes assaulted the glistening treetops. I had descended the steps two at a time that evening on my quest to save him. I ran. I ran through the yard and cut through the field. Even the popsicled-cornstalks didn’t slow me down as they waged their assault on my arms and legs. I ran. But, I could only stand there that night as the ache in my crisscrossed arms began to pulse.

        The heat from the flames had warmed my skin, I remember, but inside I trembled. It was so intense, so overwhelming, so deep that my muscles burned as if I had just run through the meadow and up the hill to my favorite tree on the edge of Friary Wood. I bit on the inside of my check, tightened and flexed fingers around my biceps, inhaled a deep breath, let it out, and then swallowed hard. I searched the crowd for Dad’s smiling face, looking for his wrinkled eyes that grew metal-gray when he laughed. I could still remember the time we spent the whole afternoon fishing on the bank of Nagy River, just beyond the bridge. I was ten. It’d been a blazing hot day in Bromwalla. When the clouds rolled in and turned a menacing, deep purple-black, we’d left everything and gone for ice cream in the pouring rain. He had bought me a sundae with extra, salty pecans and laughed when my rain-soaked hair dripped down my nose into my sundae. He always did that—found joy in everything. He’d always made time for me. He loved me. The memory of his stubble face filled my heart with sadness. My eyes burned. I rubbed at them, but large tears broke free and rolled down my checks. I sucked the salty liquid off my upper lip and wiped my nose on my coat sleeve.

        “Please,” I whispered, my voice cracked.

        “Get on that, Sam. Over there. Guys, get that hose there.” Firefighters had yelled out commands over crackling wood. My eyes locked on the fireman closest to the tree. Strange, I thought. He knelt on his back knee and leaned further backwards as water gushed from the nozzle onto the twisted metal and bark. I waited for him to topple over. I waited for my knees to give out, for me to topple to the ground. I waited until the last flame licked and spat, and then choked in the icy bath before relinquishing its hold. I waited.

        With metal cutters, the firefighters made their way to the mustang—a charred marshmallow sliding off its stick. The crowd had thickened. Strangers pressed and pushed against me. Murmurs rose and fell as opera music builds and climbs during a battle scene. Someone yelled, “Nobody could’ve survived that!” I wanted to scream at them to shut up, to tell them that’s my Dad in there. Instead, I backed into the cover of Friary Woods. Away from the crowd. Away from the moaning metal as it gave way to the biting grip of the cutters. Away from the truth. What I didn’t want at that moment were people talking about my family. What I didn’t want were people thinking they knew everything about our situation. At that moment, I didn’t want questions about who was in the car, worried faces staring at me, strangers asking me if I was okay, or adults telling me I shouldn’t be there. I didn’t want their comfort. I stopped begging God to have pity on my family, gave up on the Airi Gods of Mythology to save Dad, and didn’t bother the Neit Gods for help either. I didn’t want any more empty promises of any God.

        “It’s not fair!” I screamed, kicking at the crusted snow.

        The sharp sting shot through my toes and traveled up my calf. I reached down and grabbed my foot. “Ahhh! Stupid ice.”

        The tears came again and I let them fall. When I had cried myself out and wiped my face on my sleeve again, I meandered through the trees until I came to a tall, ancient ash. I leaned against the diamond-shaped ridges of the bark. Finally, when I breathed, something serene seemed to settle in my bosom and a feeling of peace washed over me.

        The tall, ancient ash in Friary Wood with the diamond-shaped ridges on the bark that I leaned against that tragic day, the one that brought me a sense of peace, is the same tree in my dreams—the portal to the world in which I know I belong. I know Jivanta is real. They say I’m crazy; that the medicine must be causing me to have hallucinations, but I stopped taking my meds two months ago.

Copyright 2013 Dora Simpson

Dora Simpson is working toward her MA in English and Creative Writing at SNHU; she received her BA in Creative Writing at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL. in 2011, and her AAS at UWSheboygan in 1999. At UWSheb she was a Phi Theta Kappa member and elected Secretary, Dean’s Honors member, and Student Ambassador. She served as Luce Literary Magazine editor in 1999 and 2000, and Senior Editor in 2001 and 2002. Awards consist of the TRCC Award for academic excellence, the Writing Award from the English Department, and an Honorable Mention – Third Place in the August Derleth writing contest. She has several poems and short stories featured in Luce, and her poem, “La Rue Cler” is featured in Manatee, and Penman.