White Moths Fluttering
By Susan Dale
Above the indentation in the earth, the trees and the underbrush shifted position; all together and at the same time. There was a great sound like the earth heaving. Rabbits and deer jumped high before they raced off in frightened flurries.
The eyes of the Cherokee son widened to see the earth cracking open with wide gaps and fierce sounds to swallow the soft circular ground. Crashes and billows of smoke. The earth shook to wide gaps that cracked open and sunk deep. The dry river bed began filling with water. Astounded, the Cherokee son realized that he was witnessing the ground collapsing into a sink hole, half a mile long; a chasm that shook the river back into its long trench. He heard the splashing of water and saw it coming in an onslaught. Hurriedly, he jumped out of the now dry river bed before it filled with water. Then he turned to watch the water fill the trench and splash along merrily.
The smoke puffing above the sink hole cleared for him to see that below the earth that had collapsed lie the barest remnants of a long-ago village; primitive and abandoned to the ages. He saw too the stone steps that climbed down into the ground, as was he. Down he descended to inspect the long-ago buried village now being revealed.
He wondered- ‘How far is the village below the earth; twenty, twenty-five feet?’
All around him a musty smell of the bowels of the earth. In front of him waved the roots of trees trying to climb back into the earth; thin and silvery; struggling to find the ground to sink into. The roots waved eerily above him; they gave him the willies, even as he realized that they were only looking for directions on where they should go.
And when he bent to inspect the earth around the forsaken village, to his amazement, he saw the ground was composed of living soil. The patches of dark, knobby growth that formed tiny circles in the earth was crypto soil, composed of living organisms. He ran his hands over the top of the soil, and closed his eyes to hear the soil speak to him of the primitive village and of its peoples. Once alive, their presences were still within the soil. The jolts of energy coming from the beings once inhabiting the stone dwellings were Asian ghosts with the background of the village showing through their white-washed presences. Here they were before him, eating, drinking, hunting, and hiding from their enemies beneath the earth. Propagating, nourishing their young, etc. The soil lived yet with their present selves; unspoken, unseen. He saw some climbing out of the ground to watch for enemies, to hunt, to forage. Some were coming down the steps for protection from the elements.
Hunkering on the rocks, watching him now.
The Cherokee son blinked to the white moths suddenly replacing the ghosts. Fluttering about the stones; white wings to the cave; eternity to the villagers.
Stones were stacked to form walls five foot high to separate the dwellings of the individual families. In the middle of the cavern, over a stack of piled twigs, swung a community pot for cooking. Piles of ashes were scattered below the pot. And to the far left of the abandoned village, stretched other steps; they were going further down. Wondering where those steps led, the Cherokee son walked over to see the steps descending to forty feet or better. He squinted through the darkness to see another dwelling place of stone walls and a cooking pot.
One built upon another. One world over another. Time gone by into time reborn within the living soil. In this habitat beneath the earth, birth and death - sleeping, awakening - eating - consummating. And more. The buried village was brimming with life thereafter. Life to death, and death and life colliding to merge inside the living soil. And all flown into life on the wings of the white moths.
And then, something shining up at him: something compelling him to climb down the steps to have a better look. And in the shadowed darkness, as though it was meant for him, lie a knife with a wooden handle and the long blade that coaxed him down with its gleam. All the way down the steps, he descended to walk over then bend to pick up the knife. He ran his fingers carefully over the blade; his now. With the knife in one hand, he looked around to see but another set of steps.
‘Can it truly be,’ he wondered as he felt his way down yet another set of steps.
The mysteries of time taking him deeper into other mysteries of other times. He was so far down now that he was having trouble seeing. He lit his lighter then jolted upright. There, below both stone villages, one stacked over the other, lie a burial ground of skeletons. Their grinning white skulls and rattly bones lie scattered about in mad disarray. The sight of those picked-clean bones took the Cherokee son from revulsion to speculation.
‘Can this be the remains of a mass sacrifice? Or simply the burial grounds of the village?’
No matter. The anxiety running rampant within him told him that it was time to turn around and go back up the way he had come down. With knife in hand and fear in his heart, he hastened to climb the steps. From one set of steps up to another, and then up another. Up through the stillness of here and gone. Up, and hearing the river of time back in place and splashing into infinity. The river running from and back into time. And the Cherokee son running over the living soil with its breath of life. In transition he was, and within a cyclical bond with the earth.
On the top step it lie coiled in a cyclical ring. Arrested while waiting with coiled muscles; taut and motionless. It waited on the step between exit and entrance; between life-giving sun and the dark village of yesteryears. Between escape and joining the white moths of eternity. Writhed up from the darkness of the underground, the Burmese python waited for him on the top step. A haughty look on its face, as though it knew that the Cherokee son had not a chance of escape. Thick muscled with its head weaving on its neck, it moved with an exquisite grace, ever so slowly writhing while moving forward. Slowly, surely, moving towards the Cherokee son who was zigzag backing down the steps, his heart beating dirges of fear. The snake up quick with a twisting motion. Wrapping quickly, tightly around his leg. Twisting and climbing with utmost purpose, squeezing off the circulation of his leg. His leg burning like the fires of fear that jump-started his heart now beating furiously. Gulping, swallowing his fear. The foot of his freed leg dangling in mid air, searching for escape. The snake inching to the top of his thighs, squeezing, wrapping.
Unconsciously, quickly, and from somewhere not known, the knife came down with a force of rage and desperation into the body of the snake. Spurts of blood flying in the air. But still the snake hung on; heading towards his groin. Again, the knife came down to stab once, twice, and with such force that the blood was spurting everywhere at once. The snake gurgled a death cry and fell back. It collapsed as though the air had been released from its heavy body; the muscles lying limp, lifeless. The Cherokee son let out a wail of release. And looked to see that he was covered with the snake’s blood; baptized with blood into life. He was shaking uncontrollably when he stepped over the lifeless creature. His hands, his chin trembling. His leg numb and hot; he drug it along behind him. Over the bloody snake and out. Silently, he said goodbye to the spirits in the darkness. He was leaving behind the village beneath the earth. Heading into the light of life he was; moving into the sunbeams coaxing him forward.
- - -
Susan writes regularly for print magazine, WestWard Quarterly, Pegasus and Hudson View. Online she has poems and fiction on Ken * Again, Smoking Poet, Eastown Fiction, and Jerry Jazz Musician, Tryst 3, Word Salad, and Pens On Fire to name a few.
Labels: Susan Dale