Sunday, January 5, 2014


Snow fell. His feet were getting very cold. He was practically covered now, in down, drifting feathers insulating him from the bitter wind.  During the battle, one night he had slept in a bathtub in an abandoned farmhouse without windows in a featherbed like this one. When he had fallen now, his gun had been thrown from him. It had discharged in a sudden burst. A deer nearby had bolted, leaving tracks no longer there. The gun was leaning oddly against a tree as though he’d placed it before lying down for a rest.
            As light faded he knew he had to get up but his body lay thickly inert. He could not see himself. When he looked down, he saw nothing but the cold, white blanket gathered in lumps where his body should have been. He could only move his neck in a small circle. He was resting on a pillow, studying where he was like children do when they first awaken in their rooms.
            Looking around he saw the faintest small place between the trees. The place moved in a rhythm that wasn't connected to him. It breathed in and out like some living image he should recognize but couldn't so he watched it rise and fall beyond him. "It is only space in the branches of the trees," he thought. But the life there suggested more.
            He lay transfixed, watching. The life-place grew brighter the longer he watched. It was coming to meet him in those intervals between the trees and himself. But then it retreated, advancing and retreating with his breath. It was a living thing suspended there, fluttering with wings about to take flight.
            He must have slept, his neck stretched out, craning toward what he had seen there in the trees, because when he awoke the snow had covered him, so
that he had sunken deeper into his pillow of leaves and dirt. Its starched fabric covered his cheeks. He took his hand and brushed the stiffness from his face. He could no longer see or feel much of anything outside his mind. His body was somewhere in-between his thoughts and the world swirling around him, a billowing shroud. When he was hungry, he chewed on his shroud. When he was thirsty, he stuffed it in his mouth my the handfuls, where it melted and slithered down his throat.
            He faced the life-place again and again, breathing in and breathing out with the swaying of the trees. Then after resting the night, he opened his eyes and saw that it was gone. He suspected that it was no longer there because he couldn't see the outline of the trees for the snowing. The entire panorama before him was white light. Maybe he was blind or maybe he was in it now. Maybe the life-place grew into him.
            He must not sleep anymore, he thought. He must get up but he couldn't because he had no feet or body. But he did sleep and when he awoke, the trees were there in front of him clear and alive. The snow had stopped and the sun had turned the world green. The grass swayed and sorrel and anemone lay just beyond him, dotted with dew. A fawn came, smelled his face, his hair and left. He heard the sound and smelled the breath of it long after it had fled.
            When he was finally found, he saw one of the young soldiers walk past him to the gun leaning against the tree. He lifted his head enough to see the space between the soldier’s body and his bending arm. The space there expanded into light as a shock drove his body deeper into the bed where he had been lying. He was being moved or perhaps finally flying away to the trees.
Weeks later in the hospital, when the doctors came again and again asking him to talk about it, he said nothing.
            "You can’t give up now,” they would say. “You must fight on. Nobody could survive what you have without a sense of destiny.” He said nothing
because he had nothing to say to them. He lay without moving, simply watching the comings and goings around him. It seemed they were children playing with life in their dollhouses.

“And how are you today," they said over and over weeks later, patting his hand. "You'll be fine," they would say, looking into his eyes gently with thin smiles. “You are recovering beautifully.” What they meant was that all his body parts were being restored. But what he understood and they did not was that he grew too cold there in that place where his life lives on.

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