without attractions. Organic and full-breathed are they, and from them life is
constructed, powerless against attraction’s robust hold. Sweet and bloody are
attractions, candy and metallic tasting. Love sighs and bends down, powerless
before attractions, a feeling or force made alive in a stuttering instant
before being extinguished by its suffocating gales.
Before full dark emerges, the snow moon impatiently arrives in the bluing-black February, and the still shifting balance between afternoon and evening keeps her dense tracks visible in the muddy pasture. He follows the trail heedless of the danger, yet cautious in every step he takes across the soil and its slippery pliability. The struggling day still carries enough of its earlier identity to keep him from reaching for the heavy flashlight tucked in his belt just yet. He hastens along, knowing that he is easy prey in the open, heading for the forest, knowing he is easier prey there.
“I love you, I love you, please,” he begs between whispering lips when he enters the woods’ face. The day’s final lids close behind him, bringing him owl-eyed and wanting into her world. Shadows bend unreal in the barren forest. Everything within the forest moves at once: together, separate, running towards, and likewise scampering away from him. The man is anxious, paranoid, and petrified – he has reason for every emotion. Shaken, he finally draws the flashlight’s uneven weight from his belt. His strong hands marry the metals when he pairs the flashlight with the rifle’s ready barrel. His face is clammy to the touch, but the sweat stays away; his heartbeat is steady and purposeful. The air’s silence is as deafening as the half-frozen limbs’ snapping, as are his feet sloshing through the muck of the early winter thaw, as is his even breathing.
“I love you,” from his steam puffing mouth the words attest; and, in his mind, the face swirls forward and clarifies; her dedicated voice spills rich and aromatic in his famished memory. Pure and unblemished was her skin: inquisitive and watery, her eyes – and years younger – their simple high school years when the only worries were dressing attire for dances and gas money for weekend drives return to his thoughts. Photograph snapshots – she clutching her round knees in her long fingered hands, profiling for him, smiling for him, posing for him – their first weekend alone the summer after graduating with the world around them vanished, fallen away, blurry edges in her presence; and only she existed.
His senses are attuned to the dormant land he navigates. His meditations on times past do not make him unfocused. He has been here before – hunting her. He knows every tree’s angle, every slope’s pitch, every possible spot she might lie in wait for him. She never stayed close to their woods, this he knew from experience. She always preferred the high country and that which lived and died in it; but he had commenced the hunt at nearly the moment she started from home. His scent is strong with her this time. He hopes it is strong enough to conquer her thirst, to force her to turn back to him instead of traveling away to slake it elsewhere. A bird’s breaking free from its roost and casting its silky silhouette against the full moon’s hoary glow to his right and at a distance does not deter his step. Her tracks are still laid out before him and pointed unvarying toward her preferred haunts.
“I miss you,” his memory hears; her breaking words filled his heart with longing and sorrow, and her miles from him and his work, her photograph in his hand, his head laid against the phone’s cradle. In those lean years, long before the now, the job moved him, and many times she could not follow. The words at first were the only distance between them, but eventually the traveling became a greater cost than any living expense, and I am sorry became words as desolate sounding as the nights spent alone. Attractions are ferocious, demanding, unquenchable – the bringing together and the tearing apart of the wary and the unaware alike. In a moment she was his, and in the next, she was just another stranger to him, barely recognizable at a crossroads.
Their years apart were too much to bear, but he bore them.
The sweating starts in his hair, breaches his widow’s peak, and unhindered, rolls down his blanching forehead. A few drops momentarily embed in his eyelashes until flicked free by his rapid blinking. He is ascending now; past the white skinned and rigid bark of the leafless hardwoods he trudges. He works the climb as a middle aged man – struggles. His breathing becomes uneven and coarse, the slope rising steeper by the step; and the danger here is great. She has the ground if she waits for him somewhere above. The flashlight’s beam might as well be a watchtower beacon; his position is effortlessly given away. In past hunts, the prepared ambushes for her, his waiting in the woods on her redundant routes all proved unsuccessful. Too smart, too cunning was she, always avoiding him and his advantages.
And he was not a man who could kill his wife, no. The world could die as long as she might live. But his wife was gone. She had been gone for a while. It is easier to hunt her now than it was before. Everything that made her human, the woman he loved, was almost ended. It was a disease without cure; a dormant affliction, genetic or mystically marked, awakened by her first killing. With each lunar cycle, pieces of her, the pieces he loved, were being eaten by the curse she suffered.
The call he never expected came on the prettiest day he ever lived. The weightless air made the drinking of it smooth tasting. The marshmallow clouds remained unmoving, content to share the sky’s powdery blue repose. Hearing the awful words she spoke could not tarnish the ambrosial memory of that moment, the sun spilling lustrous treasure troves through his wind swaying curtains, blanketing his face with memorable comfort. He understood it all, everything…the reasons for her killing the man. Poisonous can attractions turn. Wait there, he cautioned her, and from the land he had made his own, he went to her, helped her hide the evidence, brought her home with him and made all that was his, hers.
He reaches the ridge and his feet for the first time in unknown moments find even footing; her tracks are evaporated on the firmer highlands earth, and he realizes the fool’s errand he has assigned himself. The snow moon casts crystal reflections into the valley’s cup below him; the treetops of the effete forest glisten from the afternoon rains and the moon’s twinkling; and he has never been this far into her territory or felt so alone. His age and the vastness of the land are against him finding her. The blanketing blackness and the crowded country provide him weaker resolve in continuing the pursuit than that which might lurk there. The rifle is casually slipped from his fingers when she appears through night’s window and beside him, and he for that one instant is unguarded against an attack. Always crafty and waiting for the proper killing moment, she nibbles his shoulder into pieces before laying him on the ridge’s floor with the flashlight’s narrow beam dancing across his screaming face. It impartially bounces off the ridge’s edge, and the winter darkness quickly swallows it whole.
Through his pain, photograph memories of their new life together leap forward: sparkling, shiny recollections of second chances and both bearing the vitality of seasoned lovers, the maturity of cautious, respectful caring. Untold hours were spent in simple staring, playful giggling, stealing cheek kisses – and dutiful catching up for time lost. Her transformations started the sixth month, the sixth day, and in the full moon’s sixth hour waning before the dawn’s breaking. The changes brought on by her killing of the man – an awful recompense for her sins? Perhaps…probable. She barely had time to bolt from bed when the first change occurred. Her claws raked the air inches from his face while he sat upright and stiff against the bed’s headboard; and that agonizing metamorphosis tore on his heart’s strings much worse than if she had ripped the heart from his chest during that brief alteration of herself. Time cured her pain during the changing, and each month following the first becoming easier for her body to solve. All too soon she craved those coming nights as an addict desires the newest fix.
She starts feeding on him while he is dying. Her fangs burrow in and across all the familiar kissing places. Her eating of him is intimate, careful; and as if she knows him, she takes her time enjoying him. There is nothing gallant or heroic left of the husband’s carcass when the spark extinguishes from his eyes; his hand’s twitching near the fallen rifle only the last stages of the body’s internal system shutting down.
She will return to a creaking home the next morning with his life’s blood lipstick splashed in bold strokes on her pouting mouth; her lover’s skin-bits will be buried under her broken fingernails. She will grieve and grunt while digging his grave and find the underlying levels of dirt still frozen and the shoveling difficult. She will spend the following days holding his tear streaked photographs as close to her as the ravaged memories, yet coupled with hopeful wanting. For her, living and dying thoughts will surface as often as the interchangeable sunrises and sunsets. She will unremittingly cry; the budding moon will be her faithful and only companion. She will longingly watch the lunar phases as February is drowned by March rains, and the familiar craving will build with the full worm moon’s irrevocable coming. In the moments before its arrival, she will become blissful in her forgetfulness of him, her husband, and of their life together. The world around her will vanish, fall away, become blurry edges in her presence; and only she will exist for a time. The short spells of amnesia while she hunts in the highlands will sustain her sanity, restore her soul to health as the pangs of guilt fade and are replaced with a constant bloodlust as the days fade into years. Attractions can be everlasting as the changing seasons, the planets’ revolutions, or as fickle as forgotten love.