First of the Creative Writing works inspired by the most disjointed first paragraph I have ever half-read in She will build him a city by Raj Kamal Jha (someone please get me a copy.)
The trees offered no respite. A mother, rocking the child, blameless, possibly lifeless, scalding waters in torrents under her feet, which, not the child knew, would be the resting place, scorned, strong, limp, breathing still. When the pools of her green hue, sometimes blue, mostly sage, lathered favourably on every bite, waxens, whitens, disappears, like the colour of the moon, the howl of a distant predator, begone, begone, did the trees finally ask the question, may I cover thee, an outcry of the once-child comforted by a once-mother, no more then, remembered now. Breathing. The child. And breathing still.
Beneath her feet (or was it another’s?) was a long thin string of once the colour of soot, now covered in red that followed the trail of bodies amidst the mass. She fingers the material.
It cuts her finger and she bleeds. And it flows in a trickle, like the colour of the boy who once upon a time lived next door, not crying, never crying, but the one cradling him, like a torrent, a deluge, of blood, blood, blood.
With a mind focused, the wound closes as fast as it opened. She takes the soft gauze from her back-pocket and she pinches, in authority, the arms away from the bleeding boy. Let go. You must let go.
Or he will die, she tells herself but not out loud. You must never frighten the trapped prey. Or they will flee, and take the carrion with them.
And her purpose is no more.
The deep greens, like a forest under the mountains, so green, so full of life, sees another life, this one, much older than the boy, stronger, sitting up, scratching, she falters. She is herself. The little girl. A leg gone, two, three fingers, caressing her mother’s bandaged head while she itches. Itches to help another.
Stop, she wanted to scream. Get away from this place. Get away!
But she must never frighten the trapped bird. No. She must nurse them upon her breast. And they will take flight, finding a branch for the ark of another’s life.
Like her, once dead, now living for the dead.
Her apron is covered in a hundred men’s blood. Her fingers, sanitised, cleaned, still smelled of foul decay of young eyes going still, of maternal hands limping as hers tighten stronger. She is an angel. She is mine. I see her in white. Glorious, healing in touch.
I will take away your pain, but you must trust me. You must.
And some are frightened. Old men grasping, choking, heaving, hands pumping, I want to live! Live!
She takes their hands and offers them life. Then let me help you. And she takes out another roll of soft gauze from her back pocket. And she lays it over their eyes.
And it waxes, whitens, disappears, like the colour of the moon, of gauze of white, and darkness.
She chooses them, whosoever has chosen to live. Not many, all children, some men, their crosses are no refuge.
An angel, once a child, where the trees were too late to offer respite.
Of death, now saviour. Of life, now dead.