You are hunting or maybe you are camping,
it is too dark to tell and your car
is still running
with you sitting in the passenger seat.
The driver’s seat is empty,
it has been empty a long time.
Your windshield is broken
and your buckle is still clipped in.
There is a man,
at least you think it’s a man
with a face you forget every
Time you look away
standing outside your window.
His long crooked fingers draw omens
in the accumulating foggy glass.
He is speaking to you about his village.
A lovely village
The best of the best,
and you see the moon peak over the pines
Only to hide again as she casts her
milky light over the man.
Your car door is open.
You don’t remember opening it but
the bite of late summer’s night
settles in your bones.
You shudder and the man smiles.
Perhaps smiling isn’t right,
you don’t remember him having lips
and then you remember nothing at all.
He steps back and holds out his hand,
the perfect gentleman.
You take it.
You don’t remember stepping out of the car
The moon still refuses to come out.
Your feet have become bare.
Your legs are kissed by ferns and the downy hairs
of ancient foliage.
His body is lost to the darkness of the night,
the forest shadows swallow him.
His hand is the only source of lumination.
So is his head.
The thought comes so fleeting.
You crank your neck up to look to him and find
you do not know what you are looking at
and then voices
Steal your attention.
Up ahead the forest is alight with warm
Blazing pyred fire
crackles invitingly as elongated forms
dance around it.
Their tall shadows twist around tree trunks,
claw at the earth.
It smells like it’s about to rain.
He announces your arrival with relish and
the forms you cannot quite distinguish into
recognizable parts— beyond
Knobby tree twig
Flash of pearly bone
Moss sticking to something dark—
usher you with their hands.
Hands like his.
Long and crooked.
You do not think they are human.
The hands comb through your hair
Over your back
across your cheeks and eyes.
They guide you like the gentle tugging of
Wind toward the fire, and there
at the foot of the pyre
is a platter of fruit.
Don’t you want to remember us?”
The trees lining the pyre
are thick trunked
from the ground to beyond the reach
like yawning mouths.
Fingers you know
in the dark corners of your
Twitch along the opening.
Their knobby knuckles give the yawning mouths
and the fruit smells so good.
One is open,
It wasn’t open before
but now it spills
its juicy purple-red contents across the platter
dripping over the edge into the dirt.
You recognize you are meant to eat it mixed with soil.
You kneel as their hands smooth down your back
tangle your hair
brush your cheeks
cup your sides hungrily.
You squeeze the two halves of fruit.
Glass-cuts, on your fingers.
You crashed your car.
The road was so lonely and—no
you were not camping
Something ran across the road
large and hunched over like an elk,
deformed front legs curled up
against its cavernous chest.
Its face had been so white
And you kept hitting a brake that would not stop
that would not give.
You were not alone.
You mix the pulp and runny skin of the fruit
into the dirt.
It is so warm.
The soil is alive.
You feel it breathe beneath your fingertips
and the voices keep saying
You will remember them.
They are all so tall
Their faces so…
The soil trembles
as the last of the fruit melds muddily at your knees.
But back to the car.
You had been in a car
it had been yours
though now you cannot recall the color—
White like his face—
Or the make—
Crumpled against a tree like
Or the tires you worked two summers to customize
Or the groceries in the trunk,
you’d bought milk hadn’t you?
“Eat” curls around your ear.
The soil is in your hands,
cupped and loose running like blood.
It is so close to your lips your tongue aches
The corners of your mouth drip
You’ve lost your sight.
The fire has gone out.
The air is hotter than before,
Humid with breaths.
A single finger runs down your spine.
You know it
You have known it all your life
So you do.
Alba Sarria is a poet and flash fictionist fascinated by all things eerie and disquieting. Alba is the 2018 CSPA Gold Circle Award winner for freeform poetry and an avid lover of orchids.
photo by Max Saeling (via unsplash)