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Chapter 15: Surrender

April 19, 2013

After the strange business of the Women’s Tent, Fatima gladly surrendered to the music of the drums.

Some people think you have to put a bit of yourself into the music. They were wrong: you have to take yourself away. The emptier you become, the more it can flow into you – through you. That was what she liked.  But you had to submit.

She wondered if it was a kind of magic. And then she wondered if the magic was  like that, a kind of music.

The boy was not found. There was to be a search.
“I will go to the forest,” she said.

The forest was bigger than Fatima had expected. The English woodland of her experience was shallow, scrambling, shot through with human pathways, spiked with way markers, barely more than a straggly copse. She had seen jungles, but not in England.

This was not an insignificant English copse. It was more than that, and more than any mere leisure-ground woodland.  It was a Forest. Deep, thick, wild.

The searchers split up, walking the paths separately to cover the space more quickly.
“Falcon!” they called.

Deeper into the forest she went, the calls of her fellow searchers gradually fading out. The trees were dense, and muffled the sounds. A boy could easily get lost here. And how would he ever be found? She looked around, nervous. A grown woman could get lost here. It was heading towards late afternoon.

The ground began to slope upward. She climbed. The incline steepened. It was hard work. The thick trees hid the summit. She hoped it was not much further.

At the top, she thought, I’ll be able to see.
Then she could decide where to go next.

The hill got steeper. She used branches and the trunks of saplings to drag herself up. She thought about going back. Giving up. But then, a hint of sky up ahead: she could see the top. Stiffening her resolve, she soldiered on. The ground became almost sheer as she stumbled towards the sky. She held onto roots and the occasional out-jutting rock. She could see the top.

And the climbing was a kind of music. She forgot herself in it. Forgot who she was, and where she was going, and why. There was nothing but the ground: the handholds and footholds, and the ground. One step, then the next. A private battle of wills – hers, against the very shape and nature of a planet.

Crawling now, clinging with her hands and sliding on her knees, fighting gravity, she was a dauntless mountaineer.

She glanced over her shoulder – down – and saw how the earth fell away behind her. She realised that it was up or nothing. There was no choice now – no will – no battle. She had to submit.

At last, panting, Fatima heaved herself over the final ridge of near-vertical ground and lay down, weak as flesh, catching her breath. She was hot and red with the exertion of the climb. The damp earth cooled her back. She sank into the chill of it.

She listened to the chirps of insect life around her ears, and the far-off calls of an occasional bird. There were no other sounds.

Above her, the canopy thinned out enough to show that the sky was still blue. She was surprised. It did not feel like blue-sky summer here in the forest. It might be warm and care-free up there in the fluffy clouds. Down here, it was as still as a grave.

After a few minutes she sat up.
“Well, now,” she said out loud, wanting to break the cool, dim silence.

She was on a narrow ridge of ground, lifted high above the rest of the forest.

She imagined the forest as a massive, godlike being that lay on the ground with its hands extended in prayer. She was standing on the fingertips. She looked back the way she had come, admiring her own strength and persistence. But then – she didn’t have much of either any more. She’d spent it all on the climb. It was a hell of a long way down.

She looked down the other side of the ridge. There were very few trees on that side. Steep, but perhaps a shade less so than the slope she had climbed up.

She stood up, careful of falling. She wanted to see further.

Fatima now realised that the ridge curved away from her, left and right. It seemed to curl around and form a sort of circle, and she revised her view of the forest god. She was not on the fingertips of a giant, prayerful forest. She was on the rim of a bowl. Before her was an enormous, grandiose, impossible hole in the ground. Like a massive crater, deep as time.

“Falcon!” she shouted.
She had long since given up expecting to find him in this place. A little boy could not have climbed that hill. But she shouted his name anyway.
There was no reply.

She had no wish to go back down the way she had come.
She did not see any point in climbing down into the bowl. She would only have to climb back out again. She didn’t have the strength for either.

Lost, tired, and having no better idea, she decided to walk around the top of the ridge. Perhaps there would be an easier descent somewhere along to the right or left. Randomly, she faced to her right – attracted by a flash of colour. There was, over there, a little patch of hopeful yellow flowers that had found a place where the sun would sometimes shine, a place where they could grow.

She began to circumnavigate the empty bowl of earth. Widdershins, she thought. There was a word to call out magic and witchcraft. It reminded her of those odd women she seemed to have fallen in with. They were nice enough, well-meaning and earnest. She liked them. But when she tried to imagine any of them taking this path, a thousand miles above the camping grounds of the festival, she could not.

She wondered if they would have had the stomach for it. A little grain of pride sparked into life: these arms and legs, this stomach – we made it. Whatever happens now – here was a climb to be proud of.

Fatima came to the flowers. Froze. Horrified.

They were not growing on the precipice, clinging to an unlikely existence. They were not, as she had thought, a beacon of optimism in the face of the dank, flowerless undergrowth below.

They were not even flowers.

It was a hat.
A child’s yellow baseball cap.
New, and clean. Freshly dropped.

“Falcon!” she shouted.
There was no reply.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 19, 2013 10:57 pm

    Wordcount – 1130
    Prompt – (1) a hole and a change of opinion (DichotomyOf) and (2) a search party (cont.) (BrendaAlicante)

    Please leave a comment with a prompt suggestion for Chapter 16
    (Check the sidebar for a link to more info about this interactive project!)

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