By Aubre Lawless
Beside a stream, among the trilliums and moss and damp fingers of ferns, a tiny woman grew. Her legs were translucent and frail as the first shoots of a vine, pushing through the earth in secret dark. Her hair was crumpled, leaf-like, shielding the delicacy of flesh from the sharp new air. She had no arms.
In the pulsing of days, of dewy moist mornings and dusty rustling afternoons and the frisson of silk-slipping nights, she grew. Her face turned upward, absorbing sun and raindrops. The tiny golden hairs on her body shivered, vibrated like cilia, crackled electric as they followed the sun. Her legs twined and bent in the puffs of breeze, pale tendrils of surprising strength.
Her belly grew, a strange fruit. She arched her back and turned the swelling globe to the sun. She felt shot through with heat and life and rushing new-made blood, and she was glad. She flexed her roots and opened her pores; she sucked and sucked the water and soil and sunlight hard into herself until she felt she must have sucked the earth dry.
Then a creeping verdigris began to crust over her skin. Cracks developed; she ached for rivulets of rainwater to cool them. Her neck began to droop, her shoulders to sink. Her bones felt brittle; she could no longer lift her head toward the sun. Still, her belly grew. The dry skin grew thin and brown around it, a rustling husk. Exhausted, she sank to the ground.
From this crumble-dry sheath, a tiny person crawled. She shivered to free herself from the rough scratch of her mother’s skin. She stretched her arms, legs, hands, feet. She was perfectly formed, intelligent. She looked around with bright eyes—calculating, hungry. She washed the crust of blood from her skin in a cool puddle. She drank deep from a gleaming sphere of dew nestled in a nearby leaf. Everything around her was green and huge and alive. She ran her delicate palms over the yellow-grey scallops of lichen; the dank chill of a mushroom; the hard, gleaming swirl of a deserted snail shell. She trailed her fingers in the icy stream, wondering. It was too much—too big, too bright, too saturated with color, with living and needing and dying. She felt tired.
Under a salal bush, she found a pad of moss. It was faintly cool and dusty-soft. She curled up and twined her thin arms into the kinky green tentacles. It smelled sweet. She stretched her legs, hanging them languidly over the side of her cushiony bed. They scraped against a layer of bark; she dug deeper with her toes, enjoying the feel of the powdery dust on the soles of her feet. It was cool there with her feet under the earth. She would sleep awhile.
As she slept, her body tensed and then stretched. Her legs burrowed deep into the soil. The fibers of her muscles unwound and spread, feeling delicately of water, for easy sustenance, nestling her snugly into this chosen place. Her limp arms began to tingle and fell pleasantly numb; now useless, they were slowly dissolved and absorbed by things hungry for life-blood.
In the morning she would awake and, wondering, turn her face to the sun.