In a Man's Womb
Flash of white.
I need you.
Don’t break me.
What is this?
The words pile around her wet form.
She is drawn in the damp sand.
She is nothing but lines.
Soon a shadow falls over her, a blanket of cool precision.
Caring emanates from the dark of the covering.
Remembering roughness, she realizes, belatedly, that it is a coat.
A tweed coat.
Words and letters lap around her bare feet. They are the water here. They are the breath. They are the sea-life, and the sand. There is rocky white land beyond the surf; but the ocean has cast no denizens up from its depths onto the calm, calm shore.
When she opens her eyes, she is not blinded; instead, a figure sits blocking the harshest of the light, a triangle of form. Contrapposto, but for the crouching. Waiting.
The man-shadow’s peridot eyes glitter like their namesake stones, saying something like, “I believe this is yours. I had to swallow it, to save your life. It was all that was left of... well, of you.”
There is something in the hands. The fists loosen like silk ribbons spilled from a table… the fingers, squarish, longish, only partially manicured, they wrap around a...
There is a point on the bottom, where the roundness tapers. It pricks her thumb when she picks the thing up.
It has a thick cap on top, where a… small curved stem rests.
It is glinting in the light.
All of it.
She looks down; another word floats nearer, sliding in with the tide.
The man-shadow shakes his head and a soft curve of his lips regards her, playful.
“Marron. Some people call it an acorn. It’s a type of nut.”
She stares at him. Her hand falls back with the… nut in it. She stares out at the water throwing alphabets and equations up on the beach. She pitches the nut away from her, over the wide waves.
The man just laughs, a soundless sound. His shoulders lift and fall in endless little fits of mirth. His arms fly out; he spins and falls back on the fine, unending white grains of mineral stone and glass.
He lies there a while, then his finger sticks itself up and points to her feet again, waving his limbs back and forth in the sand like a…
The words snow and angel are flowing and floating around her long toes like seaweed caught on a shoal.
“Back to sleep, my little Flamme,” the man murmurs, and suddenly she feels a weight drift over her, in low-hanging veils of fog. “… now is not the time for a forest fire. Sleep now.”
Her eyes depart from the light. From the sun overhead. From everything but the surf and the sea, and the chalky clay-silt scent of the sand.
Her fingers roll open beside her, new leaves on a fern.
The water runs over her fingertips, carrying with it a golden object that settles into her palm.
Two hands pull the tweed coat over her, till they are sure she sleeps. She does.
Then the triangle shadow resumes his post at the head of her, to vigil again. Like a blackbird.
But first, he reaches over his charge and slips the golden acorn under her head, for sweet dreams, combing out her long white locks so they spread like poured cream across the white ground.
His shirt is folded under her white hair, wrapped with his red suspenders; it makes a comfy pillow.
“And now, Alice, for our first lesson,” he says, settling down into the sand his seat, “I shall tell you of four girls who sought a bird’s nest…”