Spirit of the Dead Watching
“If you dive this spring, it will be the death of me!” the greying woman nagged as she glanced at the snow melting on Mica Peak. “I lost your three older brothers to spring jumps. I don’t want to lose my youngest.”
Their relationship had seasoned as Griffin learned of his gift. Once he passed through his first bubble in the plasma walls between dimensions of space and time its pull gripped him.
As winter broke in Griffin’s 17th year, he wandered the black pine forest near home more frequently. A few pockets of melting snow lingered in northward facing depressions. Hangman Creek flowed with fresh vigour out sizing its banks.
She could sense his restlessness. “Fewer young fools return from spring dives. Please wait until mid summer.”
“But mom, you don’t get it. I can handle this.”
“Don’t forget the risk of bubbles within bubbles or green frostfire. I lost your father to frostfire. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I know how to fine tune and dodge.”
She hugged him. “I share the curse of the vision my blood passed to you. I will never hold you again if you leave now.”
One cool and warm April afternoon the pull that comes with the gift hit Griffin exceptionally hard.He had not planned to jump as he approached the first bubble any more than an alcoholic plans to break the seal and dive into the shining new bottle. He gingerly closed his eyes to peer through its taupe shell into a fierce empty desert. Griffin only intended to glance at the menu while he pretended he was not ravenously hungry. Suddenly, he sensed the presence of another deeper bubble two klicks to the west. Its shimmer glowed harsher than the first but of a subtler hue. Closing his eyes to feel its edge, he caught glimpses of a tropic island, smelled clean sea breeze and felt pleasant temperatures. A sudden passion twisted his will as he grew immensely curious about the angle of that world’s sun.
The strange ground was soft. The vegetation glowed with a tangerine tinge. Griffin took cover immediately in the forest, watching for snakes or tigers or this dimension’s equivalents. At a short distance a woman in skimpy orange clothes jogged along a serpentine path followed by a dog like creature wagging its tail. Griffin traced the trail back from the direction she was travelling to a small village of thatched huts. Since swimmers can only dive possessionless and naked, Griffin covered his nakedness to the same degree as the brown skin natives who wore their black hair straight. Not sure of how peaceful the reception would be, Griffin felt for the bubble wall which was shifting ever so slightly. He could pass through in an instant if need be. As he waited in concealment, he probed the minds of villagers to piece together the rudiments of their language. Their myths felt comfortable.
With a glib tongue that belied his meagre experience, he concocted a story about swimming ashore from a shipwreck. The best approach as an alien to each world is the truth, which as his uncle would boast, is a matter of keeping one’s story straight. Griffin watched and learned their words and signs for peaceful greeting. Suddenly he felt sorrow for his mother. His impulse did not leave time for him tell her he was leaving. Still, with her vision, she would have known already. As Griffin felt his entrance ripen, he staggered into the village acting confused and limping slightly.
Two young men came forward with raised arms and sticks, their faces hard. Griffin started to cry, a gesture he had been taught to calm natives. An older woman came to his comfort. He greeted her in rudiments of their language.
Unsure of their customs with sojourners, Griffin's mind probed and flickered across their closer consciousness. He felt nothing hostile. He would probably enjoy a jaunt for a week or two at this quaint way station then head home.
In his powwow with the elders, the head woman of the village insisted, however, that he follow their customs and quarantine before mixing with them. They thrust Griffin into a thatched hut and sealed the door. In the corner on a black bed woven with lemon yellow designs a brown naked girl about his age lay on her stomach, weeping softly. Her long ebony hair shone bright against the lime green sheet.
A pale crone wearing a black habit sat behind the bed watching over her. As the stark woman faced him, her green phosphorescent eyes fell on the shapely back and smooth legs on the bed. The old woman raised her eyes to meet Griffin’s gaze. The piercing tone of her stare reminded Griffin of his mother. She turned sharply away. The girl sobbed and moaned. Griffin fell to his knees to comfort the girl who cried louder with his approach. He could not see her eyes smiling. Was she frightened of the old woman or of the old woman’s vision or of the change she would wreak from his coming?
Tyson West has published speculative fiction and poetry in free verse, form verse and haiku distilled from his mystical relationship with noxious weeds and magpies in Eastern Washington. He has no plans to quit his day job in real estate. His poetry collection “Home-Canned Forbidden Fruit” is available from Gribble Press, http://www.greymaredit.com/.
The Ekphrastic Review
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