Down by the willow tree
She turned the volume up on her iPod so that the beat of the music might bolster any hidden energy and she could finish buffing the hard wood floor in the living room. The mesmerizing melodies of the bass guitar coupled with the thump, thump of the bass drum and haunting melancholy chants of a dozen monks quickened her pulse. The twang of steel strings on the electric guitar assaulted her ears but stimulated her at the same time. The quickening blare of the rhythm guitar until the lead vocal growled his dark poetry. The blaring music in her ears worked its magic, she picked up the pace. Before long Sarah had all but finished the first floor. Only the hallway remained.
Sarah stood halfway up on her knees, dropped the rag on the floor and wiped off the dust from her hands. The intoxicating music had her body swaying intuitively to the dark rock beat as she regarded her ancestor’s portrait, free from dust and shining. The artist had captured all the beautiful exotic traits of her façade. Her hair was golden and lush; she had nonsensically high, proud cheekbones that gave her an air of nobility, dazzling dark blue eyes that could see into your soul. The artist had rendered an air of innocence all about her as well.
The discoloration on a large portion of the wall told her, her family had taken a large picture, presumably of the entire family unit. She saw the similar discoloration on the walls in front of her. That led her to deduce that the family had taken individual family members down off the wall, taking the pictures with them when they fled, only leaving the beautifully rendered portrait of Alicia behind.
Why was the portrait of Alicia the only picture that remained on the wall? It puzzled her. Two semesters of psychology had her entertaining the thought that the head of the household had subconsciously forgotten Alicia’s portrait in a passive aggressive attempt to discipline the child.
She could just envision some sort of catastrophe that was brought on by Alicia’s actions. The psychological mystery that left her desperately wanting to read a little bit more of her diary. She had had enough of the stuffy dusty living room for a while. She got up and retrieved the diary on the floor by the screen door.
She managed a weary smile, “Well, I think I deserve a break.”
Sarah wiped the sweat from her forehead, then clutching her diary she opened the screen door and stepped out onto the deck. She had moved an antique rocking chair out on the deck so she could get some sunlight and fresh air during her breaks from working in the old house. She loved the smell of fresh paint drying on the walls, of the house’s oil-based sealant on the deck, and the smell of freshly cut grass soothed her immensely. For just a little effort and for such a low cost she had managed to revive a decaying estate and though still uninhabited the house felt like a home again.
“Every chance I can, I sneak away from my family …” Sarah read out loud, “I travel to the forest, so I would not be seen with him, my love, Aticus.”
She took a long, deep, breath in then stopped rocking back and forth in her chair. She knew her friends were missing…but here, on her inherited land, the reconstruction and remodel keeping her mind preoccupied it had a calming effect. The scenery so quiet, so serene, she had not a care the world.
“Aticus… Aticus. He has such an exotic and unusual name. He tells me he was not born of this land, he tells me secrets that I think he has never told a soul but I think he is still hiding something from me. I do not care what he is hiding; I think he is my soulmate.” Sarah whispered with a sigh.
The leaves of trees swayed back and forth, she imagined she was back in a simpler time. She imagined herself as Alicia. She couldn’t help herself, as she began to read more.
“It was a beautiful night and I could see the stars, the moon in the sky was at its crescent. I was alone in the forest, at night, but with Aticus I felt safe, secure. A clear cloudless night I saw brilliant stars falling from the sky. Dozens upon dozens of shooting stars fall… I couldn’t help myself so tantalizingly close to me I kissed him.” She paused, crossed her legs, and licked her lips. Then she continued to read on, silently this time, “Our lips lingered; the electricity was almost too much for me to endure. Goosebumps surged throughout my body. I knew this night would be the night that I surrendered to him, my lover.”
“My soulmate takes me by the hand, to lead me further into the forest. I should be scared the further away I get from the well-lit star filled sky. We moved closer to the growing darkness but excitement kept me trudging through the blinding obscurity until I adjust to the miniscule light.”
“Aticus turned around and held out his hand to me. For the first time I could see clearly. His dazzling emerald eyes glowing brightly like flashlights. Those unusual green eyes sparked a flash of memory of a black Wolf in a life-and-death struggle with an alligator. Then I saw something amazing, confusing moments where a human arm splashed out of the water and eventually saved my life. His eyes were same as the wolf, animalistic eyes filled with ferocity before he blinked. Then when he looked into my eyes his vicious eyes melted away.” She carefully slipped a bookmark into the pages of her book, time for an intermission.
Sarah kicked her flip-flops off and hopped off the porch, careful to secure her diary in the process. She could feel the soft grass between her toes. She walked. About a hundred yards from her house there sat the woods. A small, ambiguous dirt road led to the Wisteria trees their vines finally blooming to a royal purple leading to the concealed barn also owned by Sarah. The invisible barn with rows and rows of vines that resembled swirling white and purple cotton candy falling down would be ignored making a great den for Aticus’ brood. She moved gingerly while searching for landmarks Alicia had written about. Clearing the sticks and debris so she could comfortably sit, Sarah picked a Cyprus tree and rested her back upon it. Now In the middle of the peninsula, in the heart of the forest she felt peaceful and quiet, a good place as any to continue.
“Instead of this sullen, temperamental creature that I had come accustomed to, he turned into a caring, loving, deeply compassionate lover. In fact, whenever his eyes fell upon me, his deep dark green eyes, I could not look away.” She paused for a second as the robins chirped and sang somewhere in the distance.
She flipped the pages until she came to another passage that interested her, continuing, “When I looked into his eyes soaking in his fragrance something wild, exotic and exciting. I felt like we were the only people on earth we were alone figuratively and literally in the woods. In the woods even Poppa couldn’t find us, stop us; stop the love that we had for one another. Tonight I determined to seal our love, desire intermingling to become one.”
“Though the darkness was enclosing us, he somehow scratched our names into the bark of a gigantic Weeping Willow tree. Alone, standing tall in the midst of several Cyprus wisteria vines his glowing green eyes were all I saw as I explored his body. I ran my hands through his thick, black hair and in the safety of the canopy of the huge weeping willow tree we made love, for the first time in my young life I gave myself to a man body and soul.” Sarah closed Alicia’s diary, careful not to lose her place.
She had found the tree, a huge weeping willow tree which had their first names scratched deeply into the bark; Aticus + Alicia. It had come to life from the pages of this diary. Its branches had grown until they touched the ground and swayed back and forth blowing slightly in the wind.
Aticus and Alicia were real, not just a fantasy written from a young girl’s imagination, scratches on the bark made the story more carnal. She skipped a few pages, a few weeks going by in a flash then read aloud this time, “In one of our many trysts by the Weeping Willow Aticus stopped, twirled me around and took my hands. What happened next tested my sanity.”
“Aticus told me a secret in confidence; he said he had come to the Americas for vengeance, that we were the descendants of a family who had done unspeakable torments to his family. They had hunted his family just shy of annihilation. Our family slaughtered all of his bloodline so he was hell-bent to exterminate all of ours. My love Aticus, coolly confessed without any emotion whatsoever; I will never forget those words… I stalked you, waiting to end your life… but thank the alligator for moving, for setting off my instincts to give chase… Then when I got out of the water and looked into your beautiful face…”
“I couldn’t comprehend what Aticus confessed! Did he confess to being the black wolf? Had he confessed to plotting to annihilate my whole family like my family had murdered his relatives? I should have been sick, thrust in a dreamlike fairytale, horrified and scared for my life…”
“… Silence, my heart melted at the same time I fell forever in love with him he said, ‘your innocent eyes, I fell hopelessly in love with you and I swore then and there that I would protect you’…”
A crow cawed its warning at the same time her cell phone wailed, startling Sarah.
“Hello?” Sarah half expected to hear the county sheriff’s office calling her back or her long-lost friends finally checking in, but she heard AJ’s voice on the line instead.
“Hey, Captain Rogers took our report. I’m in the taxi and I am picking you up. I need to talk to you. Stay put, okay?” AJ said.
Impulsively smiling Sarah responded, “Okay, bye, fill me in when you get here.”
As she pressed the end button on her reflective phone she caught the reflection of the sun’s light. She beheld her reflection, straight raven black hair and her dazzling deep green eyes; she imagined Alicia and Aticus’ love affair, Alicia’s descendant?
Aticus had transformed into a mammoth of a Wolf. A huge and vicious, sleek-lined canis dirus a “fearsome dog” mimic, true form in almost every way save for the shorter than normal muzzle and bushy tail. Aticus’ ankles/feet converted into reverse knees. Shorter than normal, even though the actual foot had lengthened and his toes now rested on the ground, converted into paws the balls of his feet changed to thick pads. But in the distance Aticus’ huge Wolf looked normal, normal save for its missing eye and ear.
The Wolf stalked Sarah’s every move. It peered at her through the concealment of the dense trees, mesmerized and captivated by her hauntingly familiar looks. He stood up on his hind legs, converting back to human. He clutched an Onyx pendant in his sharp pearl white teeth.
Aticus excitedly stepped forward, and then froze, anxiety getting the better of him. He touched his missing and scarred eye socket and then his horribly scarred and mutilated half lupine, half human, ear. Aticus’ strong heart raced with panic, fear and anxiety. What if Sarah was horrified with his appearance? What if she ran in fear from his grotesque mutations? His blood boiled with reservations and misgivings. He couldn’t help it, he was shaking uncontrollably. His eye dilated with adrenaline, with rage, his black hairs stood on end again. His nervousness hit him like a tidal wave and he couldn’t stave off the involuntary conversion to a bipedal wolfman, a release for his anxiety. He retreated back into the shadows of the trees so he would not be seen by Sarah, so he could calm down enough to convert back to a human again.
She put her cell phone in her jeans pocket then rested against the scored tree for just a second, head swimming with outlandish thoughts she clutched her family pendant then turned around and ambled toward the treeless meadow and her estate.
She stopped in between the woods and the clearing, eyeing her house in the distance. The cab sped by, disturbing dust on the ground, like a vacuum small granules flying up, getting stuck in the undercarriage.
She clutched her necklace as she met AJ and the cab halfway from the driveway to the house. AJ pressed the passenger side button rolling down the window and rested his left elbow on the passenger side door panel. He paused for a moment, smiling nervously, and then spoke.
“Well, I met Captain Rogers at the van. I must have been really sauced last night because I couldn’t find the tavern to save my life. I think this Captain Rogers guy is taking the disappearances seriously. He left a cell phone number to reach him.” AJ smiled ear to ear, “can I offer you a ride?”
AJ, being the unceasing gentleman, opened the back passenger door for Sarah. With an outstretched hand AJ coaxed Sarah to get in the cab. She held his hand and jumped in the back passenger seat.
“Why, yes, thank you, I’m starving!” She exclaimed to herself as she shut the cab door.
“Good.” AJ instructed the cabbie where to go and the driver turned around onto the road and they were off in a cloud of dust.
Aticus beheld his reflection on the back of the pendant, his skin quivering like the sea’s tides. The bones popping and cracking back into place until it resembled a human chin. He clutched Viddarr’s amulet in his long black talon hands, he stole the runic talisman to make her remember as if she were Alicia in her past life … Then when the perigee Moon is full So-seti would also invoke the mother of lycanthrope, the necromancer, Aisos, to heal his ear and eye so he might have the self-confidence to finally meet the incarnation of Alicia, the woman responsible for his haunted dreams.