The girl was found among the sweet tick of night, picking the local flowers with the light purple tint. The villagers knew not why she had ran away, only that when they found her, she professed a deep unhappiness. She had been gone for three days, and in that time missed the whole harvest of the grain. It should have been a joyous occasion--the harvest festival was for most the highlight of the year, one in which petals and leaves were strewn about the streets, and no carts drawn through them, so that the only music was the laughing of the children, and the chirping of the birds. But this time her absence overshadowed the festival like a stormcloud at noon, and though all the children were still instructed to play, they could sense by the whispers of the grown-ups, and the way they were handed their plates at supper, that something was awry.
The unhappiness she professed was only with her eyes; her body and mouth bore a new and resolute muteness that shocked the grown-ups, who had all considered her so bright and lovable before. “But sweet thing!” they proclaimed, “why on earth all these tears? You’d think you were trying to water some imaginary plant with those eyes.”
And, in some ways, she was. Her attempts to give life to what she knew just must exist, caused a spasm of droplets to fall from her eyes. But wherever she went, those tears fell upon dry concrete, that meanly let them lay, unabsorbed, unloved. The girl, not understanding that this meant her efforts were in vain, continued to cry a whole watershed, hoping that even just one tear might be the key to a sprout, and that that sprout might grow into a tree that would bear the sweetest fruits, and provide the softest shade.
“Mother,” she whimpered, as they dragged her away from the field, “I don’t want you to see me like this, but what choice do I have?” The flowers she had picked were dangling around her unevenly cut-locks, which once tresses so fine, stuck out with the empty stubbornness of hay. There was no doubt about it--she wanted to be this way. But why, why, was beyond all the rest of them.
“Mother,” she whimpered, “why would you think I want to hurt you? But can’t you see I’m not OK? You kept saying I was so, and I had to show you that no, no, I most certainly am not. And now what am I waiting for--your wrath? Your sympathy? Neither, I do not want to face. But now they drag me away, and I have not the strength to push back.”
When the villagers presented her to her Mother, the Mother began to weep. “You!” she screamed, “I’ve done everything for you! And this is how you repay me? I just want you to be happy, I’ve given you everything, everything, and you pull this kind of trick? I don’t even know how to respond. And how could you do this to your siblings? Making them worry so? And your father? He has enough to worry about already--you nearly made him sick. Nobody could sleep at night, not knowing if you were safe.”
The girl looked at the ground, a million thoughts swimming in her head. “But mother, I…” she began to formulate. But it was no use. They had dragged her back. There was nothing to say. She had not the will to escape. And was it her fault that she had never had it? Such questions were of no use now. And so she just looked up at the moon, and imagined how it might be called so many other names, just like she might be, if once again, she could just summon the key, the key that made her multiply with the rhythms of the Earth.
The girl bit into the watermelon and felt the succulent flesh against her immature teeth. What fun it was to eat this way, with one’s hands and fingers, and juices falling on the ground. Her friend at school, before she had told her that she was not, indeed, her friend, with a look of pure and delightful emptiness in her eyes, had told the girl that it was not proper to eat with juices all over the ground, for the animals might come to lick it all up in the night, and it was not appropriate for little critters to run this way and that among the secrets of the dark.
“Secrets of the dark!” cried the girl, “Well, you’ll have to tell me what are those!”
“Shhhh,” said the friend, “we can’t let teacher know that I know what they are. But if you trust me, you can meet me in the creek after school and I’ll tell you all about them.”
So the girl waited patiently in the creek after school for her friend to arrive, until the sky turned light red and the mosquitoes arrived, and even then, scratching the pink lumps across her neck and forearms, she waited, for her friend to arrive with the secrets of the dark. But as the clouds turned from red to purple to black, she began to wonder if her friend had not come in order that she might discover them herself, and that her friend had known that the creek in particular was the source of such secrets, and thus the best place to see them--and, if she was lucky, catch them.
It started with the crickets. The girl had eaten them before, so she knew they were crunchy, but she had never seen them before in reality, with their inky black backs, and magnetic souls, able to surf upon the winds like little flying rodents. So this must be one of the secrets of the dark! She began to feel some butterflies within her, and a sweetly encroaching swelling below, and she thought--I really must stay, to find out what the rest of all these secrets are. Thank God for my friend!
And next there was the water. It began to swoon in a way she had never expected--had she just not looked, heard, properly in the day?--but that couldn’t be it. The water began to ooze and flow it’s own being upon the glassy stones, as if it was trying to communicate something, sing something to her of it’s longing to be found. But found by what? She dipped her toes into the water and felt immediately a mighty sense of relief, although she did not know she held any tension. “Water me,” she whispered, and sunk in her legs deeper. “Water me, teach me how to be alive.” And suddenly she understood that pumping through her veins was the purest blood--blood made of stars, and eggs, and tortoise shells, and rain, and violets, and daisies, and the moon… and she began to laugh, at the way the circulation tickled her from the inside out. “So this must be another one of those secrets of the dark!” she proclaimed to herself. “But I must wonder, if this is so wonderful, why doesn’t my friend want to share it with me here?”
So she stayed a bit longer, suspecting that her friend might appear after all. And that is how she found the last secret of the dark, emerging with red eyes, in between the two bent-over trees, splayed out right before her. At first she did not see it, but only sensed its two red pupils, staring at her from its torso tall. The little hairs upon her arms began to raise themselves, and she wanted to look around, but of some sudden and intense fear, she could not. She heard the rustling, the encroaching thing, and with the sureness of winter storm, knew that nothing would ever again be the same.
“Little girl,” it whispered, “I’m here for you.”
And looking up, she fell before it’s feet, awash in a trance she knew to be hers. “And I am here for you,” she whispered, syllables still preciously uttered in the way they are in those days before the world corrupts. “I’m here for you too, and always will be.”