Mădălina Gilca participates in the “Short prose” section of the International Literary Creation Competition, 4th edition, from Chișinău, Republic of Moldova. Mădălina is 20 years old. We thank her for her participation and wish her success.
The Cursed and the Lonely Ravenne had this twisted instinct, almost maternal, to take each drop, pet it and apologize for it having to touch her body. She was drenched from head to toe. The tree she was seeking shelter under, the only one in the grass field, was stingy with its protection. It was also the most lively thing there. The field itself, with its rare, dark and mean grass, looked like a ripped tapestry that would one day turn into the perfect cemetery. Maybe that was her place of burial. It was hard to tell which tears were hers and which belonged to the sky throwing up polluted water. I have no medicine to give you. I am sorry. I am sick too, she thought towards the sky. Both crying and rain used to make her feel less dirty on the inside. She had felt dirty for a long, long time. Since her parents died, actually. Since her parents died and she had the unlucky, cursed impulse to feel relieved, because them dying meant that there was no one to disappoint ever again. But that thought was dirty, and she has been infected since then. Slimy. Cold. Part of her wanted to shove the clouds down her throat. It wasn’t her tears that felt dirty, but her skin. Lately she has been feeling like her face was covered in peach fuzz. It would be funny if people called me that. There is no one to call me anything, good or bad. A piece of paper slapped her face softly and she laughed with her whole body. I cannot escape misery even for a second, can I? Though I don’t deserve to either. I do not. The drops were almost needles, and the harsh wind seeped through her bones howling: “You are so, so lonely,” but it didn’t matter. She stayed. There was nowhere to go and no one to go to. Why should she choose to walk and hear her bones, organs and blood all rattle like coins inside of her? Why should she have to hear them as they try to keep her alive? The warmth of any place she could hypothetically go into to “warm up” would be a well-schemed, cold delusion - a slice of bread cooked on the sides and raw in the middle, well covered in sugar. But one that she still chewed on most of the days to not starve. Yes, each human-made shelter was nothing but an artificial bubble allowing her to ignore and pretend. Pretend. How do people live? How do they not just incinerate in suffering? How do they not shut themselves in dark rooms, rebel against life itself and simply refuse to get up? How do I not? She was grateful there was no mirror in front of her. That morning when she looked at her reflection, she seemed sick. It was scary. She wondered if eyes could become smaller from too much crying? Hers looked smaller and somewhat pushed back. Her skin looked distorted, pulled. She looked older. Her finger tapped her nose from the mirror and it sent goosebumps down her spine. Even a nose boop..No one was there to give her a nose boop. It seemed that there was no affection for her in the world. None. Peach fuzz, and dirty, frizzy hair, and no wrinkles on the forehead, but a heart like a dried plum. I am only 22. Only 22. She pressed her back against the tree stem as cruel, double-edged sparks filled the sky once more, frightening to bite from its blackness and making spectacles out of their violence by zigzagging like demonic snakes. The tree was vibrating almost like something was smoldering inside. She anticipated the possibility of both of them becoming martyrs with a single stroke of lighting. It’s okay. No one can see me now. No one can see the peach fuzz, or the hair, or the eyes. It was dark enough, around 6 in the evening. She wanted to not feel her weight anymore. She wanted for her body to turn boneless and drop. She wanted.. A sharp jolt ran through her, and she found herself on the ground with her nose in the dirt. To her surprise, it felt like she had been pushed by something. She picked herself up and turned abruptly, only to see two gnarled palms stretching the bark from within, right towards her. Oh God. Suddenly, she felt like she was little again, carrying her book about fairies and praying to them when she had misplaced the smallest thing..The plea from the book went like this: “House fairies, elves and maroons, search north and south, west and east, and help me find my things.” Suddenly, she felt like she was little again, having dreams about flying on a broom after reading Harry Potter. Her mom has always been into witchcraft too. That’s why she named her Ravenne. Suddenly, all her pain turned irrelevant in a mere instant, because she was thrown this magical, extraordinary moment in her life. Except that wasn’t the case, was it? It couldn’t have been. She could almost touch them. Despite the bark of their skin being rough and darker than the rest of the trunk, the palms looked young. Not like a child’s, but maybe someone in their twenties. They remained suspended in the air after pushing her, stuck, like they couldn’t quite go back. They weren’t meant to erupt out in the first place. The fingers were long and thin, a bit like a dreamy caricature, with well kept nails and..a ring. There was something alluring about them. Before she could study them farther, they broke their trance and slowly retreated back into the bark. A few days have passed since then, but she went back to the tree each night. She put her hands on the bark, pressed her ear on it in place of a stethoscope, and she could feel something quivering inside. She could feel someone pressing some kind of weight back, even if the hands didn’t come out of the tree for a second time. There was a soul buzzing. She wondered if it’s a boy or a girl. She wondered if it was human at all. Maybe she really was losing her mind. Then again..the hands looked human. “It’s a curse, isn’t it? What did you do?” She pressed her hands on the bark again. Did the being inside do something bad? The buzzing energy seemed to stretch and moan underneath. After a few days, she decided it was a boy. She told him a bit about her life to nourish a connection. She told him about the constant sense of doom above her, and how his hands woke her up, how she needed them, how older people sometimes needed magic to make life a tiny bit bearable, and that even if she knew that others would want to cut the tree down, because of all their fear of magic and their destructive tendencies, he could trust that she wouldn’t tell anyone about him. She felt like she was little again, asking her teddy bears to speak and promising she will keep their secret, leaving them bread and honey overnight to catch them in the act, only to find it untouched the next day. She asked him if he could see the sun, or if all he saw was the dark insides of the bark. She wondered if he ever saw anything, the field, the rain, even his own tree. “Can I ask, did I make you up? Can you tell me if this is real?” The leaves rustled and a soft wind started to quietly sing. “Can you show me your face?” She had a feeling the answer was no, and the lack of movement confirmed. “Well, I’ll still visit you. Even if I won’t ever know who you are.” And she did. She went back for months. She started to look in the mirror again too. The peach fuzz was still there, but her eyes seemed more lively, they seemed bigger. She read the tree poetry when she could. She told him how many poems there were written about being buried, and that he would probably beat them all if he wrote one. One day, he finally showed his face. The first thing that she noticed were the ears, slightly sharp. Then there was the forehead, deep and large. Sharp and angular cheekbones, the classic features of a Roman nose. His hair was rich and spikey, though made of wood too. It was just like staring at a carving. His head was slightly tilted aside, as if he was examining her carefully too. Squeezed by cowardness, she turned around and ran away. She felt like loneliness itself running on the field, which laid beneath her silent like death and long like a never ending desert. She was like loneliness who came face to face with magic and didn’t know what to do. But at least her loneliness had feet to run, while his was lodged into roots. That must have been torture. She didn’t get far before she turned back crying, apologized and embraced the trunk. Rain kept them company, and the field did not seem like a desert anymore. For the first time in months, the grass seemed puckish and shiny.