The drip, drip of sorrowed rain sliding through the trees awoke her that day. She held out her hand, and caught an iridescent jewel of rain in her hand, and after staring at it a moment, she let it roll from her palm to the earth where it always had belonged.
The earth, where the trees grew from angels' tears.
The rainfall was steady, not wild, nor feeble, just there. It was cold, and eternal, and soaked her to the skin. It fell as silence, yet hit the earth with but a whisper of the stars from which the fell. If she listened hard enough, she could almost hear the weeping of the angels. The chill reminded her of the rainbow-shine morning dew in the winter, in places she had vowed to forget, but for once she found herself seeking comfort in the hazy past.
Rising from the mossy loam of the forest, she touched her hand to the bark of the nearby elm, relishing in the throb of life beneath its bark. When the trees cry, that is when the world is unbearable. Until then, the sorrow could wash through her to the earth like the droplets springing from the leaves of the high trees.
She pauses by a puddle, to acknowledge the lost face staring back at her, hauntingly distant. Are you the face of an angel? She silently asks the reflection in the water, for surely it could not be her. She was too divided from everyone, from even herself, to be but a shadow these days.
Plucking a crimson berry from a winding branch disturbed by her wandering footsteps, she bit without thanks or a sway in her temperament, into its juicy flesh. Once the wild strawberries had tasted sweet, of freedom drifting on her tongue, but now they just were.
Shivering, she dreamt of the sunlight flitting over the spring-flower plains. Once, in a time lost, a time gone, a time that really could not have ever happened, she had stood in a plain, where blue sky – was the sky once blue? – touched a pink-dappled horizon of flower and meadowgrass and where there was a certain honeyed warmth on the breeze. Perhaps, was it – happiness?
But it was not real, never could have been. Warmth had never touched the forest of angels' tears. Though there was that time…
She would admit that it was becoming foggy. It was hard to discern what was real, and what was a dream, in a wood where perhaps all was a dream. Where even life itself seemed strange and disconnected, like a glimpse of stars through the leaf-clouded sky, perhaps not even there at all.
But sometimes, when her mind was more willing to traverse the turning, gushing rivers of memory for a last gold-autumn leaf, he seemed real enough.
As she studied a slow shaking tear as it ran down a murky leaf from the dying sycamore, she recalled that his eyes were the same colour as the grey land she knew as all the world. But there was something else about his eyes, that were akin in hue to the angel's mourn and the forest's misty veil, but that also held, something special – a spark.
Yes, perhaps it was a twinkle like the glittering of the face of the moon dappling the forest in ghosts. Although, she pondered, as she crouched to cup chilling water from a puddle, letting it run down her chin as she drank, perhaps that was all he really was. A glimpse of the moon through the distortion of mid-summer silhouette.
If – if, he had truly walked this forest, then he was surely out of place among the gloom and despondency that was imbued into the very soil, the very earth where saplings were sprung. She recalled with a faint stirring of nostalgia, as a rare shaft of sunlight flitted through a cloudbank, the way the afternoon colours had spun and danced above his head of blond curls. He was a walking beam of light, a pillar of the gold of the plains that dodged around the edges of memory, never quite immersing themselves in her waves, but always watching from the shore.
Something about him, that drifting emotion he dispersed through the berries and the leaves and the dew, an emotion, after so long with just sorrow and pain and reflection, it whispered that perhaps there was another way. A way out of the sobbing fern and grieving willow. A land beyond the forest that grew from angels' tears. But if there was those plains so splendid, woven of fire-brand flowers and endless grasses, she did not belong there. Those plains were for people of radiance and fire, people like him, not for a girl of the weeping woods.
Yet her footsteps always thrummed against loamy earth, and always she kept going, walking, oh, she had walked forever, beyond forever. But she never stopped to stay in one place. Everything before her was behind her, and everything behind her was before her. It was all the same forest, the forest of angels' tears.
Skirting a grove of bracken, she sighed, and licked a raindrop from the air. It's a long road to no-where. She wondered how the boy had gotten here in the first place.
He had loved climbing, and had swung to the highest branches of the tall elms and had traversed the network of the willow. She had ran beneath him, watching, but never did she dare to join him. The earth was hers, she did not belong in the sky, in the land of the stars.
It was there that her memory frothed and gushed away, twisting over stones and shore around a corner where she was wearied to follow. Fog shrouded the forest, fog shrouded her, until she could not see, and none could see her, and for all she knew, she wasn't there at all.
Settling down by a patch of sickly, poisonous toadstools, she briefly wondered what it was she had been thinking about. These days, thoughts didn't seem to follow the paths of time, sometimes twisting in upon themselves, getting lost between their heads and their tails. They too had the habit of vanishing into the fog, leaving her doubting whether they had ever been here at all. Even he was elusive, swept down the waves, ducking under the water, until he remained at the very bottom of the river, never to be seen.
Who even was he? She thought. Who even was she?
It was all too hard to chase after those autumn leaves. They always got away. The rain picked up its pace and she was a swimmer of the drenching fog. It saturated her, swirled around her, washed her clean, and the last amber of many seasons ago sank to the impenetrable depths.
Who knew how much time – days, moon, seasons – had passed before the girl settled by a morbid puddle one day, and watched the rain pitter-patter to the undergrowth, the falling of the tears striking a bell that lay lost, forgotten, discarded at the depths of the deepest pool of thought.
He had seemed to float away into no-where. One day he was there, raspberry stains on his grinning cheeks, and as the sun glowed beyond the clouds the next day, he was not to be seen – banished like a broken wish.
She had searched for him, but as time passed, had forgotten. What use was there of hope when you know the forest never ends. When you know that tears are forever.
She stepped through the puddle, and the image of the angel in the water distorted and wavered away.
She ran through the woods. It was strange, really. When she ran so that the green murk surroundings blurred to a single shade, she herself seemed more real, the only being in the world aside from the angels that always cried through the stormy nights. Yet when she stopped, she herself faded even as the forest grew defined, stronger again, overpowering her until she was a shadow; less than a shadow.
It was like they could not both exist at once. But they were one and the same, the berries, the boy, the woods, the girl. The forest of angel's tears.
Stars danced and glittered through the thick leaves. Insects stirred in the bushes, ignoring the shadow – was there a shadow? That lay there.
How did I get here? The girl wondered.
The image, a mere flash of a distant dream, surfaced briefly, ancient slime rotting at its russet edges.
He laughed in the golden sun that lit the golden plains. But he kept getting further away, she was getting further away… the sun faded. An angel took her hand, and she felt his tears on her neck. But it was not an angel, it was the rain. The rain that was always at the edge of the sky, waiting, always waiting, always watching, always there.
But so was he.
And what was she thinking. There was no fiery plains, no lea of the childhood day. All she had was the rain in the sky and the grass of her feet.
Was it? Could it be? A glimpse of moonshine through withered winter leaves?
No. There was no moon, not here, not on this night, not as the heavens sobbed, as the tender fingers of an angel brushed her cheek with tears.
Her face was wet. The trees were cold beneath her groping hand. She remembered that once… or was it never? She had found a heart in the knoll of an oak, had found a beat in the twist of the willow.
Had she? What had she been thinking about?
She did not know.
Tears welled in her own eyes, perhaps for the first time, merging in the rain. She welcomed the darkness as it descended over her shadowed figure.
The girl puts her pen down. Outside the window, wind shrieks of loss and hatred, rain taps mercilessly on the windows, endlessly searching for a way in. She is tired, and sighs as she feels the tug of the storm in her marrow, luring her to the edge.
In all truth, it was a cliff-edge she had sprinted over long ago.
She glances down to the crisp page for the last time, thinking of the sweet caress of the boy, his gentle kisses.
You are the best thing that ever happened to me.
Her writing is soft as a spell, like she possessed not the strength to put any more pressure on the page.
You destroyed me.
The wind and the water and the tumultuous branches of the tree at her window clasp at her cold flesh greedily. They beg her to let them take her away, to a better place, where the angels play.
Without the will to fight, she lets the river of night lead her beneath its waves.
She lets the winds spirit her down, down, rushing through her hair. Then there is a pause and she is going up, up, ascending into the stars beyond the storm clouds.
She lets them take her away from the forest, away from the darkness of ever-night.
And he watches her soar by, high above the firebrand plains.
Behind her, the forest of angels' tears drips in sorrowed silence.