fallen

by dm gillis

She stands on the road, back from the ditch that separates her from the cow field, remaining alert for signs of ghosts, lurking in the rural night. There is dirt beneath her fingernails and mud on her shoes, from scrambling up steep hillsides on all fours and climbing trees for better views. That was earlier, before it became dark and the clouds began to conceal and reveal the stars, before sounds became menacing, before the air grew so cold against her bare legs and arms.

Now she crouches down and watches the road for headlights, approaching from either direction. She listens for the distant rev of an engine. Is it a stranger at the wheel? In his universe of darkness and the dashboard’s glow, accelerating behind the roll of a hill or a stand of trees, with only the engine’s sound as proof of his existence? Is he looking for her? She listens. There is only the silence, and her shadow cast by the moon.

The voices are quiet, for a moment. The voices that belong to no one, but that are adamant nonetheless. The voices that drive her into frenzy, lie to her, calm her with false friendship and relay bitter secrets that drive her to self-destruct. Voices of an inner society endeavouring to ruin its host. She listens. They are quiet, but they will return.

Then they will move slowly, dragging themselves. She will hear them, far-off, gasping, mouths open, snaggle-toothed, skin pitted and grey, their eyes moving too quickly and struck with rust. The voices will return. But please, she prays, not here in the dark.

Above her again, the stars come and go. One falling, burning, tearing itself apart in a blazing stripe across the sky.

Devon and Seth say she’ll climb too high. Devon, the voice that hisses like a snake, always sounding calm as he makes predictions.

“You’ll fall,” he hisses. “In and out of rivers flowing through outer space, whirlpools and zephyrs. Physics will distort you, and no one will know your name.”

“I can’t go so high,” she says.

But then Seth tells her, “We will take you up. We have wings, we are rockets, we are comets. Take my hand, and let me take you there. I’ll release you when it’s right. I will follow you down, sing you songs, And in the end, I will weep.”

“Weep?” she asks. “Why weep?”

“I will weep for having let you fall.”

“Then leave me be,” she says, desperately. “Do that, and there’ll be no need for weeping.”

“But I enjoy a good cry,” Seth says. “And it is good to be seen weeping for a fallen creature.”

“Insanity,” she sneers.

“Is it? Wouldn’t your pills and injections work, if it were insanity?”

“No,” she cries, hands on her ears. “You don’t exist. You’re leaking out from inside of me. You’re rain water.”

“You’re ours,” Devon hisses. And she feels hands on her, a multitude of hands, pulling her up. She rises fast like a planet. The lights of the countryside are under cast stars. She passes through rivers in the sky, and soon sees the sun bleeding over the arc of the Earth, fingers reaching into the valleys and canyons. Filling her eyes with a golden throbbing.

“You think we are the product of a disordered mind,” Devon whispers into her ear, calmly and quietly, as she ascends. “But we are legion, my beloved.”

“Following you from your childhood,” Seth says, “to this place. Can you see us now?”

She can see them. Two at first and then thousands, dissolute angels, cruel faces and extorting hands. Then she’s let go, falling toward Earth, an incredible speed. She has a tail of fire. Seth does as he promised, and follows her down, singing strange songs. She lives lives she has never lived. She is men, forests, starving children, messiahs and wasteland. All of them placing grief into the palms of her hands.

She is falling past unseen things, suspended on the wind. Their minds are childish. They are dark.

“Look now,” Devon says, pointing down. “See how the Earth rushes at you like a bullet? Feel your stillness in space.”

“Yes,” she surrenders.

She closes her eyes. She stands in a field. Dawn. Lost, but looking. A car sounds its horn as it stops on the road, nearby. A man gets out. He smiles and waves, elated to have finally found her.

She has fallen.

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