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Becoming I

beginning togetherness

By Caroline JanePublished 24 days ago Updated 14 days ago 9 min read
Top Story - March 2024
39
Becoming I
Photo by Jayden Yoon ZK on Unsplash

As dawn breaks night's terror with a sure and steady hand, the harbinger's scream has faded to an echo of memory. In its wake, nothing but a buzzy chirp and coo of conversation scores the canopy of my trees. The day rolling in is gentle, the air calm and cooling, with skies a soothing powdered blue. Dew glistens in dapples along my mossy pathways, coaxing the rising sun's warmth into the last of night's shadows where blood, splashed from kills onto the loin of my trees, remains wet.

I watch you as you sleep. Fingers of golden sun reach between my branches and caress your naked body. You lie flat on your back with your face toward heaven. Your limbs, smeared in mud and blood, stick out around you like a star. Motes and midges float above you, angels hanging in your breath, drawn by the sweet nectar of your sweat. Your heart beats a slow, contented rhythm, each stroke trembling my grasses and enticing the worms beneath their roots to wriggle upward in mesmerised meditation. I can feel the bones of me sigh. It was a long night for all of us, but I don't need to ask how it was for you because, for perhaps the first time, I know.

Ever since I crawled into this glacial gorge to scratch out an existence as milk-white lichen, leaching life from striated stone, you have been here, passing by, occasionally looking in. Sometimes you are many, and sometimes you are one, but you have always been here, notable by the degrees of your separation.

Aeons have passed since I was mere speckled blooms clinging to rock. Now I fill this vast gorge and tower and wind around you in knots, swathes and bursts of flora, writhing, twitching, and fluttering with endless variations and fascinations of fauna. Within me are a hundred thousand eyes and ears that watch constantly, forever alert, taking in all that surrounds me. I watch the clouds roll along the heavens, shifting shapes, growing pendulous and dark, pouring out their hearts and flashing in rage before turning to strands of sugary, feathery whimsy. I hear the bones of this great gorge creaking beneath my sodden and sullen muddy blankets, hear the last of the winter's ice cracking in ancient crevices and melting into trickles that rush to coalesce with the gush of my river. I hear the song carried in the breeze and the agony screamed by the wind. To each, I empathise in symphonic harmony, bending, bracing and soaking in every last bit with grace and magnanimity. Yet, despite all of the sight within me and all the senses of me, it is only today that I started to know and understand you.

You who swaddles itself in sheep's fleeces and wraps dead cow skin around its feet. You who rarely stray from a pre-trodden footpath and always carry a light at dark. You whose fleeces may these days be coloured like berries and bluebells and moss, but rarely ever do you mingle, for you do not wish to mix. Your fleeces are a mimetic misdirection neither for camouflage nor flattery. You wear your fleeces and skins to conceal what you are, to mask your true animal self, to hide in plain sight, and to distance your kind from mine. Any mimicry is merely a mockery by misappropriation.

Even on the occasions that you have stayed the night, you ensure your separation from me is defined. You come equipped with bubbles of cloth to slip into. You tether them in the dirt with needles and make fires to stave away the cold and my flora's folds of darkness. I watch you inside the amber aura of your flame's halo, bemused at how safe and protected you feel in your transparent cocoon. It is absurd. As if it could save you if one of my many decided to creep, crawl, or slither in. The smallest tick within me comes equipped with the means for devastation.

I have no clue how you have lived such a redacted existence for so long. While you have spent your time devising the means to protect yourself from every element, pulling the strings of your sheep's fleeces tighter and tighter around you so that not even the rain can reach you, I have thrown all caution to the wind and embraced every changeable element that life has to offer. I have gestated, bloomed, and unfurled into woodlands of wonderment, teaming with all sorts of remarkable life. So what if I break a twig or a branch? I shall grow another, and that too will be remarkable. Life is all about renewal. When one of you dies, another is born. Why can't you embrace what you are? I long to show you what you are missing.

I hear tales told by ill winds, stark stories about how your addiction to the degrees of your separation has intensified beyond that of simple fleeces and dead cow-wrapped feet. They howl with milieus of concrete jungles where all the blurred lines necessary for change to blossom have hardened. Places where life as me and mine know it has been stripped back to rock, and I returned to lichen, eking an existence. I wonder what extreme your addiction will reach before you feel safe.

Life's wavelengths are meant to mingle in an undulating symbiosis of ebb and flow, of give and take. Even the mighty Moon gives herself in whispers, singing to Earth through the rhythms of the ocean's waves. The Sun, the greatest star of all, draws my oaks toward heaven to drench their leaves in light until they seed and feed the scampering squirrels. Even the smallest of my creatures, the timid, big-eared shrew, twitch their whiskers while grazing conversation with the breeze. We are all united by the wavelengths of ebb and flow, of give and take. It is both our language and our currency. It is the fabric of our togetherness; it binds our universal family together. And you, despite your disguises, are family.

Of course, I understand that family rarely travels together in a straight line. It is an implicit part of our wavelength to meander and to overcome. Waves crash against the sea's cliffs, rivers curl around sediment, animals migrate for the seasons, and the bees go where nectar is sweetest. It is natural. But in the end, the sea destroys the cliffs, the rivers move the sediment, the animals return, and the weeds and dandelions attract the bees. Where family is concerned, nature will always intervene.

Last night was the start of my intervention with you.

As the sky began to rust at the end of a long summer's day, I saw you sat on the bank of my river dallying, your fishing line slack in the water, your toes wriggling free. Your gait was uncommonly easy for one of your kind, especially so late in the day and so deep inside my wood. You inspired me to begin.

I sent a gnat for closer inspection. One that had feasted well on my new berries. They confirmed that the glimmer of hope twinkling around the ease of you was true. You barely lifted a hand to waft the gnat away. There was no scent of fear in your stale sweat, and you showed no sign of wanting to move. You felt close. The gnat chanced a nibble—one tiny little nip. You barely felt it.

And just like that, our wavelengths began to mingle.

At first, I was not sure if I had gone too lightly. As the night crept deeper into the sky, thickening the last of the day with blooded swirls of charred clouds, you pulled your sheep's fleece tightly around you. I thought you might be ready to up and be off, but then you laid back, and together with me and mine, you watched the embers of a summer's day bleed out in dark red rivers streaming toward the pit of the pushing night.

I could feel your heart pumping inside your chest, the gnat's blood racing through your veins, rippling within you like the water beside you, mirroring the broody and bloody streams of the sky above. A crow flew low through the windless air. Her passing shadow made you shiver. Spooked, you sat up and looked about at the darkness climbing in around you. Tendrils of purple, inky shadows and cold ghostly greys had replaced the gilded honey of day.

I felt your heart skip its first beat as your blue eyes darted about, looking for the last of the sun's safety. The crow circled overhead, watching you before landing on a branch inside the last seam of fading crimson light. She cocked her glossy black head back, and with her beak as wide as she could part it, she screamed. The noise tore from her into the night like claws down taut black skin, ripping away the fleshy clouds, searching for the bone it knew lay beneath.

Bats fell to the earth like lumps of coal raining onto the dry mud. Every heart in my whole stopped beating. We listened, unmoving, to the scream keening onwards and outwards, ricocheting through the valley, sailing through the trees, drowning the babbles of the river, and scorching up into the hillside into the pits of night.

Behind the crow's cries crashed an almighty silence—a flat, weighty, spaceless void of the kind that comes with death, exposing every conceivable fear with the grip of its grief. It was an all-seeing silence that judged which way the storm that followed it should blow.

The moon scythed stealthily through her fleshy veils to watch, cutting a crescent into the blackness. As every breath within me hung in anticipation, a loud, centrifugal crack came from the middle of the silent judgement, as though lightning had struck a great oak and split it in two. It pierced the deadened trails of the harbinger's scream like a claxon, signalling an emergence, a freedom, a rising.

It was the beginning of the end of a thousand lifetimes of separation.

Between the sheets of heaven and earth's most profound darkness, we beat as one uncurling pulse: howling, hooting, bleeting, buzzing, wailing, screaming, and roaring through the still black night. We chased our way through our collective depravity to a frenzied, feverish score writhing in twists of carnal fear and angelic freedom. We ran with abandon, spurred on by feral rhapsody.

You were incredible. Your change was magnificent. You shed your human chrysalis entirely—the perfect skinwalker, merging osmotically with the animal pelts you had worn for so long. No longer hiding behind them but owning them, becoming one with them, showing all of me what you truly are. It was an immaculate shift, smoother than I could have ever imagined. How wildly your yellow, slit eyes wandered from the first moment they opened anew. You took in everything, ran everywhere, accepting all of what I am, weaving the wavelengths of our togetherness so they are forevermore entwined. For just like every sheep, you will always need your flock.

Fantasy
39

About the Creator

Caroline Jane

Warm-blooded vertebrate, domesticated with a preference for the wild. Howls at the moon and forages on the dark side of it. Laughs like a hyena. Fuelled by good times and fairy dust. Writes obsessively with no holes barred.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (26)

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  • Christy Munsonabout 23 hours ago

    Congratulations on Top Story! Brava!

  • Jay Kantor3 days ago

    So, Lefty this is Human in its own Way. Me being a 'Late Bloomer' I had no idea Trees had 'Loins' - will step-high as I climb carefully so not to scrunch anything vital. Cj, where in the world did you cook this up from? Greece-Greased up pans? Such a terrific 'fiction' writer; or is this true? i/enjoy/u ~ We're both Full of Foliage ~ j.in.l.a

  • Gina C.13 days ago

    Caroline, this is breathtaking! The language of this is divine. A bit spooky too, which I love! Amazing work!

  • Anna 17 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Ameer Bibi20 days ago

    Congratulations for top story I explained very well that sometimes we are one no one with us

  • angela hepworth21 days ago

    You write so eloquently and ethereally! I absolutely loved this you had me captivated.

  • Tiffany Gordon 21 days ago

    What a masterpiece Caroline! Brilliantly-constructed & gorgeously-penned! BRAVO! 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

  • I was enthralled by your creative exploration of the essence and relationship between humans and environment; it's an insightful look at our enduring bonds with the natural world.

  • Abdul Qayyum21 days ago

    Well said, Keep up the good work. https://vocal.media/fiction/the-writer-nobody-sees

  • wow congrats on top story! this was amazingly written.

  • Linda Rivenbark22 days ago

    I read this piece, then I read it again. It is magnificent in its wandering seamlessness. Pictures flashed before my mind's eye as your words created scenes of nature's variety and oneness. The voice's awe of the human who seemed so trusting and yet so clueless was clueless is captivating. Great read!

  • L.C. Schäfer22 days ago

    Well done on t.s.!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Cathy holmes23 days ago

    Congrats on the TS.

  • Lamar Wiggins23 days ago

    Well now, That was quite the literary experience! Like I’ve said before, I always learn a thing or two from reading your work, this was no exception.

  • Lindsay Sfara23 days ago

    The way you write descriptions so poetically to tell a story never ceases to amaze me. Beautiful. I have no other words. Congrats and top story!

  • This prose is almost poetry, as always excellent work

  • Dana Crandell23 days ago

    Caroline, your eloquence is astounding! This is a beautiful, engaging tale, full of vivid imagery and wonder and transformation. It even has bonding through fishing, which gets bonus points from me. I have to give a shout-out to this powerful alliteration: "Any mimicry is merely a mockery by misappropriation." Congratulations on a very, very worthy Top Story!

  • The perfect skin walker...this will definitely need another go round to get all the goodies. Congrats on such a great top story

  • Oh my goodness! This was so philosophical and poetic! This is art! This is brilliance in it's finest form! I freaking loved it!

  • Phil Flannery23 days ago

    I too will need to read this again. The writing was deep and engaging, absolute poetry.

  • Hannah Moore24 days ago

    I particularly loved this idea of needing the soft edges to allow a space for change in here. And change came!

  • Babs Iverson24 days ago

    Awesome!!! Brilliantly written!!! ❤️❤️💕

  • Call Me Les24 days ago

    Social commentary... check... poetic lines for the ages... check. Ah yes this is a Caroline Jane story! Wow! I think I may have to read it twice to soak all that in. "Bats fell like lumps of coal" really took me by surprise. But only one of many lines that did. This is genuinely spooky stuff. I felt like I was looking over my shoulder at the trees out my window. Well done 💕💕💕

  • Cathy holmes24 days ago

    Ashes to ashes, earth to earth That was incredibly well written, poetic even. And also, a little creepy at times. Well done.

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