Morgan O’Donnell-Curry
Forest Story: Part Two

It wasn’t very late into the morning when mother decided she wanted to take an excursion off into the woods. Father footed after her, dragging me along under the pretenses of an adventurous, midmorning rollicking near the pond behind our house, deep within the woods. She’s simply swimming towards grandfather’s pond, darling, he said to me, more for himself as he held my wrist and pulled me forward. Looking only straight before him with his vision hurried, his voice hesitated, he continued with the most unnerving, We must catch her before she gets too deep.

There is a swing near the pond, a glorious, old, wooden, lavender tree swing. One my father says he strung up himself upon the tallest and thickest tree he had ever seen, long before I was even born. I have never seen it, but back before he became distant and diffident, he would tell me of this swing times I was unable to fall asleep. He would go on in long yarns of this marvelous treasure he hand-carved for my mother when they were courting. He wanted to make something timeless and thought it ironic to make a pendulum of whimsy, carried by the weight of all the eluding spells of life. He told me of times he would furtively meet my mother under the umbra of nature, veiled from her guardian with feeble secrecy. But those days are not recent, and the swing had slowly rotted out of familiarity.

We were in the woods now, caught up to mother, but only because she had reached as far as she was willing to go. Father paused to convince himself it was indeed his wife before him, but not wholly persuaded he impelled me in the direction towards that aged and alluring swing before I was able to have my chance at recognizing her. It was not until I sat and began to swing, becoming translucent in the uneasy world that cradled me that I realized we had all drew nigh unto grandfather’s pond, and it would be a long time before any of us would find our way out.

His wife had seemed to misplace her existence. She had changed from the collected and whimsical character he had come to idolize and was disappointed in how events were now unraveling. But it was not his place to hold judgment as he was not nearly as strong as she was. Not even when compared to her at this time when she was flouncing around with an old rhyme her supposed grandfather had sung to her, dripping like crude oil from her ruddy lips. The husband looked back to the daughter he had selfishly brought along with him. He watched her as she found her way to the old lavender swing and climbed upon it. He turned back towards the woman, and tried a few steps closer to her, checking his pocket watch for courage. As he got closer the seconds seemed to become pregnant with perturbation, the ticking becoming more tenacious, and her singing, ever the more…sinister. He attempted to speak, but she responded indignantly, abruptly ending her ballad to spit at him thick blame. He reached for his pocket watch again, but she snatched it and tossed it into the pond as she smirkingly began to tramp and splash around. She yelled to him, asking why he doesn’t join her, why he no longer fashioned her sweet music out of all the melodies he had swimming in his head; why he had become so dry.

The little girl just continued swinging.

The husband, filled with false offense grabbed his wife’s arm, whipping her to face him. Her veiled visage splitting beneath the shadow his sullen and shambolic face engendered became evermore tragic, but not at all perceived. There was a moment in which she hesitated. A slight kind of second where she glanced into the glassy eyes of her husband, where she opened her mouth to sing to him all of the sweet words he had so barraged her with, what she believed to be the essence of why hula hoops hugged hips and why blankets never had a cold thing to say. But, time was cruel and where her hesitation was so quick, her decision was sedated and leaden. The mother slipped her reedy hand from his grasp and as her face transformed to one filled with riled discontent her hand strained against the dead pace of time and reached for the gun in her right pocket.

The husband had fully lost himself in that moment. He had been so preoccupied with his own shortcomings and trying to understand his own psyche and reason for doing things that when it came to his wife and trying to process what exactly was going to happen in the next instant, all that he had learned had been reckoned useless. Sound everywhere dissipated and all he could do was pay attention to the motion of things, their continuation. He saw the strain she had put her arm through reaching and raising the gun. He saw all the misery within her become more dense and fathomless. He watched as the raw muzzle of the revolver teased her pallid temple and her lucid hair itching her trembling hand as it caught the sallow, dusty rays of the sun. He saw the tension of her wide, unfocused eyes pooling with tears. He watched as a tear broke away and swam down her face dawdling around her soft, trembling, copper lips, which were gasping in overwhelming perturbation. He watched as she tried to say something to him, to fully and most completely break off from what was keeping her, but he couldn’t hear anything, not a word, he could only watch as the corners of her mouth effortlessly rose while her finger plainly fired the gun.

Every bit of sound reverberated off the congested forest. Triggered by a whispered secret, a silent shot stole away all of the wife’s stamina, leaving her weightless to drift down upon the unruffled pond behind her. Her cool body was laid aglow in the warming sunlight. But all the husband could hear was the faint ticking of his pocket watch subdued by the pond water now laced with blood. He would never forget the moment in which he clearly heard the watch stop and the creaking of the swing taking its place. He turned towards his daughter as his heart began to blacken and evanesce. His person was swallowed up by the shadows of the woods.

The little girl was at the crest of her swing, lost in between the lightweight lift of the morning rays kissing her eyelids and the somber silhouettes of the ruddy earth embracing her back. She was lost with her eyes closed.

        — excerpt