By Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black
Written for Alexis Virginia Blickenderfer-Peck
Hers was the kind of angst that wracked deep, anguished sobs from the depths of her soul and left a longing emptiness inside of her heart and an ache in her stomach. Like many a new teenaged girl, her grasp of her own emotions was far beyond her mastery, years away. She ran through the woods to a quiet, secluded pond fed by several small visible streams and a large one that was hidden from view, deep within the marshy ground. Such was the self-absorbed nature of her concern that she was completely unaware that her progress was carefully observed by many a glistening eye.
Upon a rock next to the pond, heedless of the effect of nature upon her designer clothes, she sat and gave way to wrenching sobs. When this torrent calmed, she pled the case of the colossal unfairness that have been visited upon her, yelling her distresses to the surrounding forest. Her nose was too long and pointed, she was teased by most of her classmates for every conceivable reason, and she was given a large number of chores to complete at home. Surely no one else could understand the magnitude of her trials, so she moaned her woes to the strangely silent wilderness.
Unseen, the eyes continued to watch, the ears absorbing the words. Heedlessly, she poured out all of her adolescent complaints, culminating in a seemingly sincere wish to “end it all,” since that would “show them all” and make those who offended feel a small measure of her pain and know the weight of their own guilt.
With these words, the smooth surface of the pond broke into a consecutively larger series of circles with a gentle sigh and splash. The water glistened enticingly in the dappled sunlight, undulating like a flamenco dancer’s skirts. A small greenish head was the source of the disturbance, a head whose unblinking eyes were unmistakably fixed upon her. Sad little bundle that she was, the sudden appearance of the emerald scales surrounding the compassionate onyx eyes startled her to silence.
With a voice like apple blossoms floating on a gentle spring breeze, he reassured her, telling her that her woes reached his ears. All of the creatures of the pond, he simpered, felt her pain and disappointment keenly. He flattered her, calling her “little beauty” and implored she confide some more in him. Unblinking, he cocked his head to the left in rapt attention.
“You can talk,” she marveled, tears drying on the lovely flesh of her healthy cheeks. She suspected that, as in many a fairy tale of her reading, this gentle creature had fallen in love-fallen in love with her! A romantic heart is often struck with such fantasies. Her tongue loosed further as she warmed to a conversation that explored the deepest reaches of her heart. She blushed as he continued to flatter, finding herself enamored of his sympathetic nature and deep, kind voice. She revealed all of the torment of her young life, the bitter disappointments and rendezvous with rivals, the unachieved ambitions, the longing to have and be as well-endowed with blessings as her classmates. As she outlined the many disservices that she’d endured, her anguish returned, and with it the desire to be done with all of the pain.
He of the pond moved closer, pulling a bit of his smooth body from the water to rest his beautiful green head against her muddied converse high tops. He nodded in sympathy, understanding each feeling, and seemed to shed tears of his own with water from the pond washing over his eyes as dark as a summer evening. His own bitterness at the great and unacknowledged distresses of her life he added in honeyed tones. As a friend, he commiserated. He mounted indignation and piled upon her already heightened emotions a greater feeling of entitlement, encouraging her to explore the direst of circumstances and consider their even deeper and more disturbing meanings. A slight was certainly not an innocent oversight. A misspoken word was in truth malice scarcely disguised. There were plotters and conspirators, people who envied her and misjudged her, forces that wished her to fail.
Her tears fell upon his scaled head as he gently pulled ever-so-slightly further from the pond toward her lap. Quite suddenly, with a raucous clatter of wings and a cracking tree branch, a crow the color of autumn twillight swooped upon this idealic scene, cawing and cawing and cawing again in grating, unpleasant tones. This cacophony startled them, causing him to silently retreat into the water and her to spring to her feet with a girlish scream.
The crow circled and called, seeming to implore her to remember the love and friendship that she’d experienced, the many blessings of her life. Eventually, in greater despair, she loudly and angrily cursed the crow as yet another example of the great despair of her life. She crouched into a miserable ball, sobbing, never noticing the crow’s sullen retreat to a nearby birch where his black feathers contrasted with the papery bark.
With silence again restored, she lifted her tear-stained face and searched the surface of the pond for the friendly face. It was not there. “Oh, no!” she lamented, calling for the beautiful friend to please return to her. After many anguished minutes, the sincere return restored her sense of peace. She bravely stretched out her French-manicured hand in a friendly gesture. His gem-like lips seemed to smile. With a sigh, she moved closer to the water’s edge where he renewed his assessment of the many wrongs that she outlined. There was no gratitude for the blessings bestowed, only coveting of the blessings of others. Instead of self-examination, criticism of the motives and presentations of others was the order of the day.
The crow cawed and cawed and cawed again, but the girl was so enamored of the voice of her sympathetic friend that she did not heed its calls. It came close and closer, trying to catch her attention. He gathered some golden straw to remind her of home and laid it at her side, but she only heard more of the dangers of loving, since love was, according to the denizen of the pond, only another lie, a way to control her, a way to make her feel guilty. He slid his long, green body further from the pond, seemingly to use his body to comfort her.
The crow brought leaves to represent the fine clothes that sheltered her so stylishly. He brought a leaf from the last season so bug-eaten that only the thinnest skeleton of veins remained, a symbol of the many who did without even simple comforts. She, however, heard only of the finest luxuries that she lacked in her own life. He brought her a worm, be it as a show of food or a warning, which she did notice, leaping to her feet with another scream and much waving of arms. Her anger poured out of her and washed over the crow. She vented every concern in a hot blast that left the crow abashed, his intentions clearly not only misunderstood but also reviled.
How dare he interfere! How dare he bring her such disgusting things! Straw and leaves and a worm? She could not imagine their meanings and misjudged the crow, determining that its black feathers represented a dark personality and lack of concern. He of the pond encouraged her disgust of the crow, even suggesting that she find some way to rid the world of such a meddling fool. She picked up a small, hard rock and threw it at the crow. Finding her target surprised and unmoving, the rock struck. The red of the blood that washed over the crow’s glossy feathers was so dark that the self-absorbed girl did not recognize the damage that resulted from her hasty action.
She turned away, curling up with the white plastic toes of her black high tops disrupting the clarity of the pond water by dislodging some of the surrounding dirt, her head resting on a clump of spongy green moss. She closed her eyes, ignoring the weak cawing of the injured crow, and listened instead to the melancholy and turmoil of her heart, soothed by the relaxing voice of her beautiful emerald friend. She did not notice that the beautiful voice, continuing to utter dreadful half-truths, was increasingly close to her ear. The sadness that she permitted to consume her heart as she gave way to despair seemed to leave a huge lump in her throat around which it was becoming difficult to swallow. Her tears seemed to wet her entire body.
Her eyes flew open with realization. She could not swallow, indeed, for the glistening coils of the denizen of the pond were securely wrapped around her throat. It was not her own tears that soaked her body, but the cold of the pond into which she was being drawn. She could not cry out, so constricted was her airway. Her heart pounded with indignation. She wanted to live! She did not truly wish to end her life, did not want to stay at this pond where she was flattered and mislead! Her hands were too small to remove the great snake’s many loops from her neck and chest. His words continued, honey-coated and reassuring. He would take her to an underwater world where she could meet others who could share her woes, who would understand the inequity of life. The water closed in on her shoulders as she struggled.
With a flutter of feathers stained dull with blood, the crow landed on the topmost coil of the snake. With a wickedly long beak, she pecked at the unblinking onyx eyes, causing the snake to loosen its grip. The girl, with a tremendous burst of will to live and a strength born of good health and excellent nutrition, pushed off and broke free of the insidious grip of the snake and rushed to the nearby shore. Thus freed of its tethering, the snake used its full body to advantage, attacking the injured crow. Valiant was the struggle put up, but with a wide, crimson mouth, the green scales covered the black scales and disappeared under the now-murky waters of the pond.
She sat, soggy, eyes wide in disbelief, mouth agape, heart still pounding an agitated beating. She had escaped a terrible fate with the help of an unwanted friend, a friend she not only misjudge and despised but personally injured, a friend who was now dead. She looked down at her hands and saw beside her the mossy growth on which she rested her head, and beside it, straw and leaves and a worm. She collected the straw and leaves, but not the worm and left the pond with a backward glance. She was now aware of the danger of giving in to despair, of self –pity and not counting the blessings bestowed upon her. She returned to her life, much more grateful, much less judgmental, much improved of character.
Often angels arrive unrecognized and demons undetected, and it is easy to confuse the two.
Written for Alexis Virginia on 16 April, 2012, as a result of her challenge word.
Thank you, dear girl, for indulging me in this game of the written word! I love you so much more than I can say, and I greatly look forward to reading all that you have to say!!!