The Burning Field, Part 2
It was Saturday, the 16th of May 2015 when Cathy Dean drove the family SUV into her driveway and shut off the engine. She got out and went in the house, hung the keys on the peg by the door in their usual place. As she poked her head in the door she listened. She heard her husband Noel watching baseball games in the living room, as usual. Her son, Tommy, was upstairs on his cell talking to his significant other, Genvieve, the red-haired Irish…what was a good descriptor for her? No! She refused to label another woman, no matter how she acted. Cathy hated the double standard.
Anyway, no one in the house noticed her. She eased the door shut and walked down the sidewalk to the street and to the waiting car with friends. She got in the backdoor of the old model, squeaky Chevy, and they rattled away from the Dean’s house through the quiet middle-income residential area of River Bend, Indiana.
She kissed her lover. “Nervous, my sweet?” Marianne asked her as she settled in the car.
“Of course, I’m nervous,” Cathy said. She leaned forward and spoke to the driver, Richard Alterman, Marianne’s brother. “You know the way, right?”
“For the fourth time, yeah, I got it,” he said looking in the rearview. He smiled and nodded. “You two make a cute couple.”
They looked like bookends. They both wore flannel shirts and jeans with hiking boots. Cathy and Marianne were both forty-something, short, small women, dark-haired, and had similar facial features. Cathy’s hair was short, but Marianne’s was shoulder-length. But other than that, they could be sisters instead of lovers. They both had thick dark eyebrows, small noses, and brown eyes.
“You broke it off with Jackie?” Marianne asked. Jackie Scribner was Cathy’s former lover.
“Finally. I couldn’t pin her down long enough. Want to know what she said?”
“Let me guess,” Marianne said, “she knew.”
“She said she found out from somebody, who found out from somebody.”
“The lezzie phone tree. The lezzie Mary-go-round, literally,” Marianne said. They laughed. They both sighed at each other.
“The dreams,” Marianne said breaking the silence.
“Muddy feet in the sheets again. Where did we run to this time?”
“Naked! Our little titties flopping around and running through barberries getting all scratched up.”
“And laughing. I never laughed so hard in my life!” Cathy said.
“And the meadow.”
“Oh my God, the meadow. It sings to me, to us.” Cathy pulled Marianne over to her and kissed her. Marianne laid her head on Cathy’s shoulder. They rode on in silence.
They reached their destination and Richard parked the Chevy at the entry to the ranger station parking lot out of range of the CCTV camera. He got out and opened the trunk. They put on ball caps and pulled them low over their eyes before getting out of the car. Richard insisted he see their cell phones so they showed him. Satisfied they had a way to contact him for a ride home, they donned their backpacks and said goodbye. He turned the car around and drove away. The two women walked into the woods on the far-right side of the station as far from the tourist trail as the fence would allow, as if they had been here before.
Their arrival and entry into the forest was not on camera or noticed by anyone.
It was dark when they found the valley. They had come close to it many times running in their dreams, but never found it. Being awake, it pulled them straight to it. If they had not run at night in this forest so much, they would have gotten lost.
They zig-zagged their way around footfalls and thorny brush down the northern ridge into the valley, beams bouncing from their flashlights. Steam rose from their heads and shoulders from the exhausting hike as they went to the stream, wiggled out of their backpacks, and drank from the stream on hands and knees gulping the cold clear water.
When satiated, they sat back on their knees in the grass on the bank. “It’s lovely,” Marianne said. “Look, there’s buds of purple Prairie Aster, closing now it’s dark.”
“Over there is golden Lance Leaf,” Cathy said.
As the two women spoke of wild flowers, Tani the Faun watched them from her front window, her beautiful horns reflecting in the glass, far across the Enchanted Meadow in her cottage nestled in the oak grove. The two women could not see Tani’s cottage. The Pixie builders enchanted it with invisibility as the last thing they did when they cleaned up the construction site last year. She hummed a tune as she worked another bundle of juniper berries to hang in her storage room to dry for winter. She never stopped preparing for the long winter coming, as it caught her lacking last year. She watched as the women unrolled a sleeping sack. She had seen those before but this time both women got into the same sack. That was new.
As the night passed and the women slept, Tani busied herself with her stock. Remembering how cruel last winter had been, she swore she would not to go through another one with so meager rations. So fierce was her cold and hunger, she reached her last resort and looked to the constellation Aries and called the god Pan to save her. He came, of course with his golden fleece and his male charm.
And after she was warm, fed, and well stocked with food, she gave herself to him. It was such a night of debauchery… well, she will consider with forethought before repeating it, but, it’s not totally out of the question. She grinned to herself. At least there was no kid from it because she was not ready to be a nanny. She hung the last of her bundles in the stock room and went out the front door of the cottage.
She walked to the sleeping women, her hooves sinking in the soft grass and her small tail swishing, and saw them cuddled together in the sack. She put her fist to her mouth and blew into her fist showering them with golden sparkles, flecks of stardust which evaporated as it fell on them.
“I cannot interfere with your Pulling, good women, but I can help you rest,” she said. Her voice was deep and smooth like pouring chocolate out of a pitcher. It was just last night when the Pulling went bad for a Pixie, at least she thought it was a Pixie. The thing was a ball of gut and bone when its cries died. The Pixies came and took its remains. It was unfortunate to watch a human crushed to death, but she could not interfere.
She walked away a few yards, knelt as goats do, and sat on her hooves watching. She groomed her long blond braids over her horns and took her flute from her belt and played a quiet tune.
Soon, a Fairy circled her head sounding like a big bug and lit on her shoulder. It’s dragonfly wings glistened with moonlight. Tani winked at Beezip as she played. Beezip’s friend, Feedleboo, flew to Tani’s face and kissed her cheek and she winked at her, too, while she played. Feedleboo lit on her other shoulder. They sat on her shoulders listening and waiting.
After some time passed, a moan from the sack interrupted her fluting. Cathy’s arm came out of the sack and unzipped it all the way down. Both women climbed out and began removing their clothes. This was a normal sight for Tani and she had expected them to do it. All humans got naked. The two naked women went to the stream and gulped water, again, normal. They peed and went back to their belongings and laid on their backs naked in the grass, burning up from the fever of the Pulling.
Cathy squirmed, as did Marianne. They rolled and moaned as the fire within them burned hot. Marianne wiped sweat from her face and shook her hands. She turned, looked at Cathy’s grimace, and wiped sweat from her face. They kissed, rolled away from one another, and moaned. The pain was so hard, the fire so fierce!
They rolled in a fetal position in sync as if choreographed. They tightened all the muscles in their body as they rolled into a ball compressing themselves. They pressed harder and Cathy’s backbone snapped first, then Marianne’s. They screamed.
Bones began to snap and they screamed and shook with each one.
Their bodies shrank some, and shrank a little more. And the skin tightened around their shrinking muscular and skeletal form as they slinked down, shorter, to four feet, nine inches on the dot. Their arms and legs became sinewy and strong. And they grew younger. Their hair both grew and shortened, and blended color until both women had the exact same brown hair cut the exact same length, a short bob to their earlobes. Their ears grew long and pointed. The points grew above the top of their heads. Their eyes grew larger, rounder, and the irises turned yellow. Their shoulders were smaller but much more muscular and their breasts were small and pointed. Their faces were identical. The two were identical in every way down to a mole on their right shoulder. The pain subsided and they got on their knees and looked at their hands, their chests, and at one another.
The creature who had been Cathy cleared her throat. “Ala. Gi mit mir a was.” She took the other creature’s hand. They smiled at one another. Tani rose and walked behind them with the two Fairies circling. The two creatures went to the water and squatted. The one who coaxed the other waved her hand and the stream turned into a mirror.
That was easy, Tani thought.
“They have hairy armpits,” Feedleboo said. She looked at her own.
Tani whispered. “What will I do with you? Every creature has fur or hair of some kind. Look at me,” Tani said.
The new creatures looked at their faces in the mirror and gasped. “Da an’na am!” one said.
“An da an’na am!” the other said. They looked at one another, mouths agape. They burst out laughing. They remarked in Elven they were identical to one another. (You are a copy of me!)
“Excuse me,” Tani said, “What manner of creatures are you, and are you supposed to look the same?”
The two new creatures looked at one another and frowned. They looked up at Tani and shook their heads.
“You don’t understand English. Say some things in your language and I’ll try to pick it up.” They stared. Tani put her fingers to her mouth and gestured outward, “Speak, say,” she said.
One of the small girls took Tani’s large hand and folded her fingers into a fist. She put Tani’s fist to her small mouth and blew golden sparkles all over the other one identical to herself. She laughed and laughed. The other creature grabbed Tani’s fist and did the same. She laughed and laughed.
Tani looked at her hand in wonder. “How did you know to do that?”
“I think I know,” Feedleboo said. “They are Elves.”
The one who had been Cathy cleared her throat. “I think the Fairy is correct,” she said.
“You do speak our tongue. Marvelous!” Tani said.
“We did not speak it until we blew your magic on ourselves. You have language magic. Did you not know? We have names in our memories, don’t we my love?”
The other Elve nodded. “We have deep memories stretching back through time. My name is Meann. She is Kaitee. We are a mated pair.”
“Are we in any immediate danger from witches?” Kaitee asked.
“Goodness, no!” Tani said. “There are no witches I know of.” She looked from face to face unable to tell one from the other. She knew the one on the right was Meann, she said so. If they changed places, it would confuse her.
“None have come through the changing?” Meann asked and gestured all around her.
“You mean the Great Pulling?” Feedleboo asked.
“It is what we mean, yes.” They both nodded. The small faces looked like young girls, teenagers.
“We have been here for most of the events and there have been no witches,” Beezip said.
“Good,” Kaitee said. “You must kill every witch created here, at once.”
“I am Tani, a timid and peaceful Faun. I am the ambassador. I watch over the Pullings and I collect the new mystical creatures, and unite them with others of their kind already here.”
“We are warriors, among other things, and we are not timid,” Kaitee said.
“If a witch comes through, we will call on you to come kill it,” Beezip said. The twins nodded in agreement.
“Is it the right thing to do?” Feedleboo asked. They began a three-way argument over the ethics of killing a vulnerable newly-formed creature.
Kaitee and Meann looked at one another and realized they were the alone. What Tani said struck a chord. “There are no Elves but us. We would feel their magic if there were more,” Kaitee said to her lover and mate. They put their arms around their shoulders.
Their yellow eyes allowed them sharp night vision. They scanned the east ridge and the rocky outcroppings far down the meadow toward the southern end. Satisfied, they gathered the human things they brought and let the others argue.
But, there was something forgotten. Kaitee rummaged through her human things, Meann did the same. They both produced their cell phones. They sat and placed the phones between them. They hummed a tune and put lyrics to the song in Elven, harmonizing. They sang, and while they sang, all the GPS coordinates, and all the calls they made disappeared from their servers. They removed the sim cards and they burst into flames in their hands. They put the phones back into the packs, shouldered them and set forth.
These two Elves, Kaitee and Meann, born adult and naked on this night, held hands and walked the bank downstream toward those rocky outcroppings.