The initial somnolent groan of thunder rose and faded just as she took her first step onto the trail. A small toad – roughly the size of a dime – leapt directly in front of her boot and the amphibious duality of all her existence coursed through neural pathways with an insistence she’d erroneously assumed shed for at least these few hours of the afternoon.
Connection, she sought. Communion with life outside her head and her experience. The tangible as opposed to the cerebral. In theory, anyway…
Within minutes, the rain began; big sultry drops, steady but without malice. Soon she found herself warmed by the as-forecast sunshine, stalwart in its refusal to abate. Yet, the moderate deluge rendered her thin cotton shirt slick and cool as a second skin.
The dual sensation triggered in her the raw and recent memory of a perfectly sinewed limb wrapping fully around her compact rib cage to draw her tight against heavily inked smooth flesh intent on pressing ardently to her chest.
She drew a sharp breath to shake off the recollection; turned her attention to a fuzzy lichened stump on the left side of the trail. A means of focusing her senses toward eyesight in reality; an attempt to diffuse quickened pulse due to sublime connection in reverie.
After all, the purpose of this rural sojourn was to put time to good use; to avoid obsession or brooding or pining for an opportunity the likelihood of which had been abandoned dozens of years prior. However, that very rarely (if ever)-imagined fantasy was now…fruition. Right back into the marrow of bones. It was so stupid, really. So…inexorable.
Back to planet Earth; exposed tree roots provided an ersatz stairway down the steep incline. The tendons in her knees screamed in pain and she welcomed the visceral experience with a scowl. Now, her mind again… a quarter century had passed since their entangled so-very-young-but-old-enough-to-know-better intensity, an interval during which she’d given hardly a bare-minimum of consideration to the concepts of causation or consequence (not true: she contemplated these things constantly. Life, and especially love, was an eternal exercise in calculus and statistical analysis; though, inevitably all outcomes were systematically rationalized into dismissal in favor of education through experience) and now – NOW – suddenly, a need to make time pass and get to the next Development.
“Junky,” she chastised herself.
The connotation of such conjured an exceptionally large and ugly spider to creep into her sightline along a rock, providing a reasonable distraction as she lamented the innumerable tiny toad lives probably lost to the savage arachnid mandibles designed expressly to feed an empty soul.
She rolled her eyes and sighed at her own impatience, at her understanding of the intrepid monstrosity’s dissociative cunning she envied, and all too often falsely believed she possessed.
Even as she left its horrific visage in the past, she could feel its shadow slowly inch toward her jugular vein. Whispering in her ear the myriad paths to heart-break. As if she hadn’t submitted the list herself; as if she’d not penned a dissertation on how to thrive despite the shattering of foundational love. Still she felt the electricity of fingerling traces toward bloodletting; she scrutinized the feasibility of exoskeletons and whether they kept horrors out, or treasures in.
That rumination ended abruptly as the trail took a sharp left and she found herself face to face with a large black quarter horse, identical in ebony hue to the eight-legged demon she’d encountered a half mile earlier. The mare’s bulk steamed from the heat of muscle exertion met with the cool mist left behind from the rain (the sun had finally given up and barely mustered a wan glint at this point). Her rider, clearly rough at every edge, began speaking immediately without greeting nor introduction.
“We got four we’ve raised up what won international dressage titles. This one here though, she’s training for a 500 mile trek in Colorado. And a thousand mile go after that,” location unmentioned, “Needed a rest though. She’ll letcha know when she’s needin a rest…”
He went on about the saddle he was using, and the mare’s owner, and sundry other details, but the woman only listened to the horse. Usually she made an instantaneous deep connection with such a creature but this one didn’t really want to be bothered with all that. She was well-kept; good feet, tack well-fitted. She had a scrape on her nose but it looked to be from a calculated sovereign act committed without regret. So the woman engaged no further than to silently remark on excellent confirmation and demeanor. She stepped aside as the pair continued on their trail, mouth slightly agape while recalling the White Knight from Through the Looking Glass; the rider continued speaking as though she walked beside them, until he was out of earshot and most likely continued then even still. Her brow furrowed once and she very nearly ran after to catch up and live a different life entirely.
Rather she continued on, now juggling three disparate modes of existence in her sun-baked waterlogged mind…armored aggression, cool consideration, and the idea of a hybrid in-between (not necessarily in that order)…
She arrived back to her conveyance to civilization. Out of the rabbit hole. Across the chess board. New perspective, change of scenery…a sleepwalking dreamscape fraught with illusory information. A day in the life, really. Opportunity to chisel these events into answers that suited questions not yet on the table. Oh, but they would be. Art has a way of finding its painter; its writer; its actor…its muse. She smiled suddenly, at realizing that having a muse was going to be all of the fun – and finally none of the work – of being a muse.