(For the Land and the Trees)
Martha ran. She didn’t know where she was running anymore, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered, was that she run– keep running. Her shoes were gone now, long since having been pulled from her feet by the slimy mud. It had rained that night, even if the weather girl said different. Why can’t they ever get the weather right? Why was Martha thinking of something so irrelevant now? Why now, when she was running through the mud that wasn’t supposed to be mud? Running, barefoot in the park, along a trail that probably hadn’t been tread in years.
She was tired now, and cold. And afraid. How did she even come to be here, running through the wind and mud and skinny, scratching tree branches? Her new dress was ripped, she knew that much. And her arms and legs would be scabbed in the morning– if she survived.
Turning her head, she could see the rustling advancement of her pursuer. He wasn’t far enough away. She’d lost so much ground. Her head swiveled back and forth, looking, looking for an escape. All she saw were the tall leafless trees surrounding her, and the thick grasping earth below. Martha slumped onward. She could hear him behind her. It wouldn’t be long.
How did she get here? What led her to this place, to this conclusion? Was it the dress? Was it the shoes? Was it her pretty smile? Martha sobbed. She’d held it in as long as her beating heart had allowed, but now…
She wondered if anyone would find her body, or if she would remain in this secluded spot, alone, forever. She decided that a place like this wasn’t really so bad. The trees were tall and beautiful, like clawed hands reaching up to heaven. Martha didn’t believe in heaven, but she had always loved the trees.
The wind picked up. Hearing a low grunt from the psycho behind her, she continued to claw forward. Branches snagged her. She bled. She cried. She screamed. He came. He grabbed. She kicked. He lunged. Missed. Was caught up in the hanging branches. Martha ducked and climbed. It was so dark on this moonless night. She couldn’t see anything, save for her hand in front of her face. Still, she climbed roots and branches, keeping herself just inches away from vile, desperate hands. But he was closing in.
There was no place left to run, no place left to climb. She never saw his face as he made his last grab for her. She never saw his face, or heard him speak a word… but she would always, always remember the sound. The awful sound of a man shrieking to his death, as the moist earth fell away beneath his feet, and the grasping branches released their grip, while Martha, standing upon strong, able roots, was, by providence, spared.
Shaking, Martha carefully made her way back to firmer ground, and sat there in the mud– stunned, feeling, living, thanking the rain, and the earth and trees. The trees. The earth. The rain. She cried, and her tears and keening were full of gratitude, and after a while, Martha could have sworn she’d heard a soft “you’re welcome”, drifting like a whisper on the wind.