I walked and walked across a landscape with very little to recommend it; that looks dull and embarrassed even in the most glamorous HDR photographs. Tall grass whipped my shins and hid the prairie-dog holes that kept wanting to catch my toes and dump me all over the ground.
I almost felt relieved when the arrows came. Eight of them, right out of the low gray sky.
You always hear them called “arrows”, but that would imply delicacy, precision, handsome fletching, and an inclination to stay airborne. These things, huge and heavy as petrified wood, desired the earth badly. Specifically the earth directly behind me. The path of least resistance led them straight through my breast with a brief battery of stony-cold thunks. Their shafts protruded in a semicircular henge a little to the left of my personal center, their points buried deep in the pebbly hardpack soil beneath my shoulderblades.
I wouldn’t say it hurt exactly. It felt like a tremendous fever-dream heaviness. I remembered the date then, and would have laughed if I’d had room to.
I could still wiggle my fingers and toes. My body still held most of its blood, though that would change in a hurry if I tried to pull the arrows out.
I counted my blessings. When night fell, you came. Oh you glorious monster. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I loved you in moments. You, perhaps the one who wielded the bow in the first place, a bow as long as a prairie county, the only instrument capable of loosing such weapons. Iron-gray cloud cover blew away, revealing a white waning moon and also you, creating yourself out of those falsely-named arrows. Your substance just like that strange material – like wood, like stone, like something craggy and glassy-translucent that needs the earth, even if certain drifters get in the way. I saw starlight right through your terrible and marvelous self. Rock and stars, rock star. Your body replaced the henge, with all its terrific mass. Now I couldn’t wiggle anything.
Get up, you said. Get up and dance with me.
“I can’t,” I said. “Not with you sitting there.”
Stop making excuses.
“I’ll bleed to death!”
But I love to dance.
“What about the Rules?”
You put your head to one side. I guess this place does have Rules against dancing. What a shame.
You didn’t move. You just sat and looked at me, and I thought of everything I knew about you. A love of dancing, yes. A dislike of cupidity. I could see your heart, behind the stone-tree-glass wall of your chest – a fine and shining thing. If I opened it like a book, I’d get glitter all over my fingers. Your weight felt like magma.
Just get up, you said. Dance.
“I would if you’d let me!” God, I wanted to. I wanted so much to dance with a formerly-spearshafts giant lover whose face reminded me of postcards of the Rockies. I’d become a sticky red flood for the prairie dogs. Besides – the Rules. What would happen if I broke the Rules?
You heard me thinking that last bit, and let’s find out you said. Rise. And reached inside your mighty front with immense, oddly-gentle hands, and pulled – mist of heart-glitter – and I did what I was told, rising, rising to my feet on top of that desolate, dancing-less land, right into your arms.
I heard sirens in the distance. I saw a dim flash of blue light. I bet we can dance faster than they can come, you said. No music but the wind and approaching howling, no beat but that made by our heels in the dirt. We had so little to work with, but I felt so light and so warm, right then.
You ready? you said.
Oh yes love, yes…
Damn the Rules. Let’s do this.
When they came, they found nothing but a patch of red mud.
Written by Emma Ray Rand with artwork by Pavel Gitnik
Inspired by: Valentine’s Day