Of Stars and Reeds

by Marie H. (aka. Phantisaeii)

The one thing she would remember most about that night was that her bonnet had fallen off. Caught in the reeds the pristine white fabric tripped over them, a clumsy ghost. Elisabeth Kohl would remember in the afterlife how reluctant it seemed to leave her, how it struggled so valiantly and clung to the tall grasses until the air conquered and sent it twirling away forever. She sighed, hands hung forlornly on her apron, but her feet refused to move elsewhere as they were frozen to the ground.

Perhaps the bonnet was the final straw. Perhaps it was the sharp wind and incessant swish of grass in her ears, driving her mad with their static, natural noise. She fell to her knees and begged at the dark satin sky with pleading brown eyes. The soft voice was raw bitterness, the voice of a girl left to choose between two worlds.

"Would God have me make my peace here and now with my decision, and not let me wait until I have touched that which is told to bring sin?" Elisabeth muttered, yet ruined the dark and dramatic statement with an unladylike scratch at her woolen stockings. "Would He have me whisper my repentance to none but the replies of reeds, have them absolve me of this intention to sin? So then I may merrily trot back to my cottage with Him at my side and only a chest torn with deep secrets of misery to keep me company?"

The stars proffered no solutions, and the reeds kept up their lush gossip with a fresh swirl of gusto. But to her mind this absence of words, though none were to be expected, seemed to condemn Elisabeth for her questions and desires. Every sandpaper rough scratch of plant against plant sent her into an individual fury- was it she now who was forsaking her faith, or was He forsaking her? The swatches of midnight sky seemed to jumble the scene and her vision, two separate puzzles with the pieces mixed together.

Her fists beat and clenched at her side helplessly, searching for the will to stand and turn her back on the life that antagonized her misery. Why was she chosen to be Amish, when the rest of the world was born to fly by them in cars and buses? Why were they jammed in the past, a wedge in the door of a history exhibit? She didn't want to be some ancient study on display- every time Elisabeth caught the sight of some school or another flitting by in a tour bus, pointing at them, her stomach churned with fury and embarrassment. Why should she be damned to that life; why were the children given no choice if they wished to give up technology or not?

Her hands unclenched, opening weakly at her side as wilted and defeated flowers. No, she decided. Perhaps her escape was not to forsake God but to forsake her upbringing. The moment she touched a bit of modern equipment she would no longer be Elisabeth Kohl of the butter churn, Elisabeth Kohl the cow milker, Elisabeth Kohl the one not handy with mending clothes. She would be a modern girl, a girl who could turn on a lamp instead of light a kerosene lantern. A modern girl who could take hot showers with plumbing and learn other languages and see the world and live without a husband to command her about. A young modern girl who would maybe even ride in a car. Who would wear trousers instead of skirts. With her upbringing, she would shed her damned itchy stockings.

Her heart split open like an egg, her unhappiness oozing out in a gooey mass. Elisabeth stood with a timid smile on her face, her leather boots no longer trudging as she began to slowly carve a path away from her home, from the fields, from the agony. And her heart emptied out, hollowed and prepared to be restocked with new and foreign experiences. She twirled around in joy, her skirts fanning out around her thighs. This was it. Her new life was to begin-- starting now!

Elisabeth Kohl's first touched technology only moments later. Her torso took the impact of the car bumper first, and she thought for only a brief moment that a roaring metal monster had come to shatter her marrow into little pieces to make puzzles with. Her vision faded only three seconds after impact, registering the drunken topaz eyes of technology made to kill her.

The car meandered to a stop two hundred and thirty three meters away as the reeds grew even louder. They crowded round the gnarled body that was becoming prime gossip tonight and the stars looked on grimly, still having the indecency to shine.