This is a short one, and deliberately so. In my self-training to become a better writer, I’ve decided that one thing I need is to learn more efficient storytelling. So in order to do that I’ve started imposing stricter limits on my word count. This particular story was written with a hard limit of 750 words, a far cry from the 7 or 8 thousand word stories I’ve been doing. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but I’m finding it to be very much worth the effort.
The location of the story is inspired by a real place in Nova Scotia.
I woke up restless, my nerves tingling. It was like waking after a nightmare that you can’t remember, but the feeling didn’t pass.
My wife was still out cold; I hate waking her, and as edgy as I was I couldn’t stay. My clothes were handy, so I dressed and headed out for some air.
The moon hung low, bright enough to read by and cool enough to give the mountain a different kind of beauty. No hot streetlights here, past where the power poles end, to warm those stark, unreal shadows. The August air felt soothing, although I still felt the itch to move. A walk, then.
My first neighbour wasn’t far. Clara, her name was, moved up here two years ago looking for a place to hide like a wounded animal. So much pain in those eyes, but we didn’t ask. That’s the way of it here, nobody questions what you’re running from. She hid in that little one-room cottage for a month before the wife and I started coming with food, and to teach her how to tend her plot of land.
She was skittish at first, but once she felt the soil in her hands and learned to make it fertile she opened up. Never saw anyone take to it so naturally, and while she still found it hard to trust, she was grateful. I’d see her out every day, sometimes fussing, sometimes just sitting. At times she’d touch every tree. I never saw anyone love their land so much.
The creak of her door made me stop walking. I would have called out, but held back when I saw her, barefoot and dressed only in a light gown. A walk wasn’t on her mind, and I didn’t think company was either. So I stayed silent and still.
Step by slow step, feet sinking into soft earth, she walked and began to sing. Not a song I knew, and likely never would again. The sound made me feel restless again, but wanting to stay still at the same time. The more she sang, the more intense the feeling. Soon she began a slow, improvised dance and it became all but unbearable.
All at once, when I thought I would speak up despite myself, the tense sensation flowed out of me, toward where she danced in her field. There was a gathering there; I could feel a pull in the air and under my feet. Soon something started to move there in the field, although Clara didn’t hesitate in her steps.
First a mound, which soon became a column. Then a part of it split away, smoothly becoming first an arm, then two, then the form of a woman who wasn’t there before. She was tall. Too tall, almost three metres, but lithe and graceful. Soil and bark and grasses formed her body, not flesh. But I knew somehow she felt no different. Not to Clara.
The giant woman moved then, taking her partner’s hand in her own. The two looked at nothing but each other as they danced, touching each other lightly here and there. Whoever she was, I knew this was my neighbour’s lover. I remembered times with my own wife when we looked at each other like that. Still did, sometimes. But to see that wounded woman letting someone come so close, let alone run gentle fingertips along her cheek and neck, was astonishing.
The wife and I worried for her that first year. Even now, we felt like we were taking care of family. But now, seeing them together, we could let go a bit. She’d be all right. Taking her cue, the giantess ceased dancing and sank to her knees, bringing their faces close. They hesitated for a moment, and in that space she glanced not at Clara, but straight at me.
Reminded that I was still there, in that private moment, I flushed and turned away. The restlessness from earlier was gone. I wanted nothing more than to leave them in peace and head home.
There was a lot in that look, I thought as I arrived at my door. She knew I was there from the start. Did she bring me there to start with? The message was clear though, part she’ll be all right and that’s all you get. She wouldn’t show herself again; once was enough to put my mind at ease.
I chuckled as I stepped inside. Now how to explain this to the wife?