By Clarence Jennelle
I awoke lying face down on a plush green carpet of grass speckled with pine needles. My head hurt and my eyes were having trouble focusing, and all I wanted to do was lie there and not move. Slowly my vision stopped swimming and the headache lessened and I took inventory of my body starting at the toes. I wiggled them; there was no pain. Next the ankles and so forth till I reached the left shoulder. A searing pain lanced down to the fingers and back to the shoulder. I let that lay and moved over the rest of my body and discovered the only other pain was from a lump and cut to my left temple!
Slowly supporting my left arm, I rolled onto my side and up to a sitting position. Cradling the left arm in my lap gingerly, I probed my temple and came away with dried blood on my fingers. The spot was still tender, but whatever bleeding there had been seemed to have stopped. Next was the arm. It still moved and could be lifted, so probably not broken. A light cursory exploration through the hole in the tattered red shirt showed again dried blood around the edges of a deep cut that seemed to have also stopped bleeding. Moving it hurt, but with more movement it seemed less and less painful.
Sitting there I took stock of myself and my surroundings. My feet were covered by brown soft leather hiking boots, legs in faded blue jeans; a black T-shirt under a rich deep purple flannel shirt finished the ensemble. A ball cap lay to the right with the bill almost cut in half. A few feet from the hat were a pair of wire rim glasses trampled and cut in half by something very sharp–no jagged edges showed. What could have done that?
I turned my head to the right and immediately regretted the action as my head throbbed and black dots swam in my vision. After a pause and a few deep breaths to calm both the headache and nausea, my eyes roamed the space where I rested. First it was dim, not completely dark, almost like moon light from a full moon. The shadows were deep, but the area was illuminated enough to make out small details. Pine tree’s dominated the above space, their bows bending towards the ground under the weight of their needled limbs. Flashes of the full moon’s light created a star scape look when looking above.
To left and right were nothing but the plush bed of needles and grass, but in the dim light could be seen the signs of the struggle that must have occurred. Scuff marks where the glasses and hat sat. A few of the lower pine branches sprinkled the ground as if they had been cut from above. The area itself was small, maybe 30 feet by 30 feet, just enough room for maybe six to ten people to rest with in.
Slowly, I rose to my feet and thanked God for not being quite as nauseated. Walking over to the hat and glasses I loosened my shoulders and felt a few more bruises, as if I had been hit repeatedly over and over again. Stooping to see if the hat or the glasses could be salvaged, I tried to remember what happened before I found myself on the ground waking up.
The day’s events flashed through my head from the alarm going off at 5:00 am, working out with the ropes, ladders and ending with kata’s and sword work to stay in shape. Going to school and having a rough day with the students that did not want to work on their art projects. Followed by a couple private lessons and finally ending with a burning need to get away from it all. A walk in the woods under a full moon in the state game lands felt like a calling, a burning desire to just share in the solitude and moonlit beauty of the night and her sounds. Images of parking the car, walking in and seeing the moon balanced on the edge of the lake, her shape reflected by the mirrored surface, creating an otherworldly effect. The lighting seemed to make the edges of living things glow and sparkle with the merriment of life.
I remember walking, the light was such there was no need for a flashlight to illuminate the path. To the left was a path leading to a pine grove on the side of a hill, one I had gone to many times to be alone with my thoughts. While walking the path I remembered the air seemed to grow colder and the shadows darker, but at the same time the moonlight sharpened the living objects, creating a surreal effect that made the hackles on the back of my neck stand on edge.
Just when I thought I should turn around I heard a beautiful voice echo through the pines, and they began to sway as if there were a wind that flowed from the hauntingly beautiful melody. It was like a moth being drawn to the flame, the voice was so lovely so alluring, and even the animals of the forest followed its call like the pied piper. A buck and a herd of deer with two fauns stepped in beside me, as if it was a natural thing for wild animals to walk beside humans; rabbits, foxes, wild dogs, owls, two hawks and even an eagle winged into the clearing at the center of the pines all led by the siren voice on the wind.
The last turn to the open expanse came as the group traversed an incline uphill into the open. We all, all of us, froze. My mouth dropped open and there were words that wanted to come but none would. Before us, standing in the center of the clearing facing the moon, was an angel of otherworldly beauty. The moonlight seemed to play off of her pale arms. Sandy colored blond tresses wound down her head over her shoulders and midway down her back. Two thin braids entwined to either side of her enchanting face held the rest of the silken strands from covering her beauty. They wrapped around behind her ears and met to form a knot work of such craftsmanship it was hard to tell where it began or ended.
As she continued to sing, she turned towards the gathering crowd of beasts and I; blue-ish, hazel, chestnut colored eyes fell upon us, and all creatures great and small bent knee and head to pay homage to this vision of heavenly splendor. The moon’s light reflected in those mesmerizing eyes, and when she smiled the world melted away to nothing but the face of a goddess among men and the creatures of the earth.
She wore a gossamer silk shift the color of the pale moon light, not quite white but not yellow. It was sleeveless with an open back to her waist line. The material seemed to flow with a life of its own around her as she moved towards the crowd. The melody of her voice continued to flow on the winds, becoming even more beautiful as she smiled a smile of love and adoration for all life and those with in our mother earth.
As she approached us, the music slowed from her voice and the last syllable hung on the air like a lover’s touch. The angel of this night bent knee to each creature and spoke to them in their own language. Somehow the line ended with me alone in the clearing with a being so lovely my heart wanted to crack open. Tears flowed down my cheeks as with head still bowed, I awaited the melody of her voice.
With a gentle touch her finger slipped under my chin and brought my head up to look at her and I knew from that moment on I would love no one else. This was the other half of my soul, this was the creature put on this earth whose overall beauty matched my own. This was my soul mate. I would die for this goddess, and looking into her eyes I could see the same emotion reflecting back at me as tears washed down both of our cheeks. We leaned into each other, foreheads gently touching, and a spark of hope and light exploded with in both of us. It could be seen for miles around like the birth of a star. Like hope coming back into a world of darkness.
Hand closed on my shoulder, I was yanked from my love and spun around. Before me stood six huge shadows of billowing cloth. No true shapes, just shades and the smell of death and decay. The nearest one reached for the goddess, but my arm blocked the reach and struck something harder than flesh but softer than bone. It yielded and moved from her whom I would protect.
With a palm strike to what should have been the head sent it staggering back into its fellows, and they become a jumbled mess of darkness. Turning from them, my love slid into my side and the chase was on.
Into the pines to the right we flew, dodging low branches and the roots as our feet seem to move out of the way. They trip and fall, and a high pitched keening accosts the night and grates on every nerve as a curse towards living things.
We broke into the clearing and a great shadow of darkness rose up from its center with a blade of pure midnight. The blade arched threw the air towards my love and I pushed her to the left and down a small hill. Continuing the motion, the blade nicked my temple and the hat and glasses leave my head. The spin takes me completely around, facing behind where the six shades break into the small space.
The first reached for me. I stepped to the side and drove my fist into what should have been its temple, and the entire head exploded in a cloud of decayed leaves, dirt, meat and bone.
The next one jumped and I rolled forward under it as the giant behind me sliced through its flying form, and it too disappeared into a cloud of decay. A hand or claw grabbed my right shoulder. Spinning again, I expose my left side the big shadow so I can deliver a sidekick to the knee. The strike crippled my attacker, but as I tried to spin once more I felt the bite of steel in my left shoulder. The spin took me away from the deadly slice but into something dark rushing at my head. I tried to duck but felt the impact, and stars spin into my vision. Then another struck my ribs, and another my shoulder, and then I felt nothing as darkness took me to unconsciousness.
Oh no. Where is she? I spin in circles ,trying to remember what direction I threw her in. There to my right now and down the little incline. No hesitation. I have to find her.
Before me a path opened up as if by magic, and I know she is not dead yet or the forest would not be leading me. The wind rustled through the bows and branches, and I swore I could hear, “hurry, she needs you. Her guardian is down and the lady is wounded.”
I felt my heart clench in my chest, but that drove me to greater speed! I saw a clearing ahead and pushed till my lungs felt like they would give and fly out into the openness of the bright moonlight lake shore.
Before me was a site that almost took me to my knees. A great black hound with dark spears sticking from its flanks had its jaws clamped around the last of the decayed shadow corpses as it turns to dust. To the left and farther away was my lady battling the giant shade but with one arm limp and bloody at her side.
The creature facing her was at least nine feet tall, and as broad as two of me. Yet she was holding her own but growing weaker. In a split second in time I saw what I had to do, and I raced towards the hound, grabbing a spear from its flanks in each hand while racing by and avoiding its snapping fangs. Two more steps and I was in the air. Its sword rose up, my foot landed in the small of its back; the sword went back for the swing, my feet planted to either side of the monster’s head as I stood on its shoulders.
The blade started forward as I drove both spears with all my weight, momentum, strength and desire down into the creature’s neck. The spear in my right hand hit something hard and stopped and the sword fell from the monster’s grasp to the ground, inches from its intended target. We lurched forward, me riding the dark shoulders, it reaching for the golden light of hope.
I let go of the right spear and with all the strength I have left, pushed the left spear down into the body to where my hands held the end. A scream of rage emanated from its dark shape just as like all the others it dissolved into decayed dust. I fell, tucked and rolled to land at the feet of my love.
She smiled up at me and all aches and pains left my body as I knelt and gently took her in my arms. Her head cradled on my shoulder as I picked her up gently. With her good hand she stroked my cheek. She rested her head against mine, and I heard her beautiful voice whisper like the strings of a harp.
“We must check on my champion please?” Her eyes looked over my shoulder to the large hound.
I turned and was taken aback, as the hound was more the size of a horse.
She smiled at the look on my face and said, “It is alright. He likes you because you took the barbs from his flanks!”
We moved towards him and he sat up on his haunches. When we were beside the hound it rose to all fours, and my lady beckoned. I put her on its back. The hound had a saddle that she sat in. She looked so regal sitting on the great beast that I began to cry once more from her beauty
She turned the great black hound towards the lake. I felt her leaving me and my heart started to crumple in on itself. She turned in the saddle and smiled back at me as she began to fade into the misty water as the sun rose over the edge of the world. As the hound and her lower body dissolved into mist she said, “Fear not my brave love, this is not the end. It is just the beginning. We were meant to be together, here or in the life to come. Know that I will be with you in spirit.”
I looked into her eyes as her face became ethereal and shouted at the top of my lungs and with all my heart and soul.
“I LOVE YOU!”
Her shimmering eyes and smile were the last thing I saw as the sun crested the horizon and I woke from the dream!
I sit in the bed for a few minutes figuring out where I am when I realize I am not alone. In my arms with her head nestled against my shoulder is the goddess of my dream. She stirs in my arms, and her sleepy eyes open to look at me and it is like falling into the dream all over again.
My eyes tear up and she looks worried and starts looking for something that is amiss. I smile at her and say with all the conviction in my heart, “Annie, we were meant to be together. You are my life and I would give it up for you in a heartbeat!”
Annie smiles that smile that melts my heart and says, “I know you do, and I love you too! Soon we’ll be together the way it should be, and our love will shine brighter than the light of the full moon or any star in the sky!”
We kiss and then both fade off to sleep once again.
The next morning I wake and reach over to find Annie, but she is not there. I sit up with a start and frantically start searching for her. Then it hits me. I had a beautiful, glorious dream within a dream.
It makes me sad that Annie is not here.
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, in a little town with forest and farm land all around, Clarence quickly developed a love for Greek and Roman mythology eventually adage to that Norse and Celtic. He lives by the adage “Mistakes will always happen. How we react to those mistakes builds the character of who we will become!”
Presently, Clarence resides in Houston, Texas, where he works for a local field hockey club as a coach and administrator. He still finds time to let his imagination loose, and hopes that this little dream helps to inspire others to never give up on those dreams.