Heartwood by Jeff Gardiner
And then one wondrous night she hears the voice of her lover calling on the wind. She creeps into the night, enraptured by the hardness of the grass on her bare feet. The cold breeze tingles her skin through her thin nightdress. She wants to merge with nature: be the rejuvenating rain falling upon the earth; the fire that devours with a raging lust; the adamantine rock which endures with a spirit never-ending; the libertine, invisible air that flits and gusts so wantonly. She desires to lie with her love and know his contentment. Then she reaches the forest where the leaves flow silver with moondrops.
A tantalising sensation fills her with longing. With a soft rustling, a figure emerges from the greenwood: a beautiful naked man with copper-coloured hair. His skin glows mottled silver, covered in tiny veins. His limbs are strong and wiry and when he moves a barely perceptible sound makes her shudder.
Beneath the lushness of his graceful arms she becomes comfortably entangled, invisible to the outside world. As she enters his outstretched arms the wisdom and meditation of many centuries overwhelms her mind as she dissolves into his heartwood. And lying down she understands the aching slowness of fulfilment within the timelessness of aeons. Their silence is an eternity – not an emptiness – a pause of serene quietude.
In the darkness she memorises every inch of his silvery grey body; each glossy oval leaf raised up in celebration of life from those strong, slim boughs. Tendrils brush her nakedness with a tenderness never felt before.
Where she touches the strangely warm bark she feels her flesh fusing to the trunk, as if she is the scion being grafted onto the bole. Her limbs become ligneous: hard-grained and static. She finally understands the tentative pleasure of being in harmony with the languid rhythm of nature. She hears the adagio of patient fulfilment lasting for millennia. Now part of the tree – part of creation – she feels joyful in her completeness: a glimpse of the infinite, she has found her place within it.
The delicate fronds of her lover gently caress her.
© Jeff Gardiner 2010
Jeff Gardiner has had a dozen stories published either in anthologies by Elastic Press and Crowswing, or in magazines such as Twisted Tongue, Estronomicon and Fusing Horizons. Now that his kids are getting older he hopes to spend a bit more time concentrating on his writing. He has had lots of fun being distracted though and playing with his daughters has helped to keep him feeling young -or at least in terms of his mental age.
Photo Credit: Rodolfo Cartas. This photo was used with permission via Creative Commons License.