Rise (A Short Story)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Bonnie gets lost. Bonnie's mom becomes a hermit. Some stuff in between.

Submitted: December 19, 2011

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Submitted: December 19, 2011

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Rise

Jonathan Koven

Hold your hands against me, my precious darling. The rush of august winds brushed the water upon her arm hairs, threatening to drown her body in the warmth of the ocean’s chest. She bent her neck toward the edge and dipped her fragile fingers in the stationary liquid mirror of light. She shivered at the warmth gently sucking her fingertips and clothing it in the melting summer’s saliva. Tilting her head behind her, she gazed at the familiar scene.

The grass lead straight to the calm of still summer waters where the shadows of the greenest tree leaves met and ended with the shoreline. Rejecting the great weight of darkness, the surface boiled with the heat of coming dusk. The light of a sleepy sun pounced off the carpet of sea-green and blue. It was all in a frozen scene, crisp with the golden rays of daylight melting the edges of the natural utopia. Happiness, truth, and safety resonated off the eyes of bubbles surfacing on the shallow coast of ancient sky meeting sea.

She held in her breath and felt passion drive her legs to the edge of the shoreline. She sat with her feet hanging low; her toes tracing the lines of a calm wave. Yet, the water was magnetic in the way it wished to engulf her, so it traced the figure of her toes in response. And it tried and spoke in the language of the wind. My love, my sweet… She giggled as her tiny legs coated themselves in the hot water. Skinny ribs soared and descended, flesh meeting liquid flesh, glimmering against the stolen light of the sun. Her long hair flowed against the surface, separating individual strands as they followed behind her. Her bony shoulders sunk into the water’s insides. Where her collarbone met with her rising neck, the ocean’s lips opened and shut upon her chin. Its tongue pressed against her neck; a slow-moving gentle wave gracing her clean body. The water brushed against her cheek, caressing her, touching her, feeling her untouched body with lips and fingers of the sea. It was her solitary lover and rushed to sound and then again, hushed. She was the love of sunlight’s cloud hitting sea, kissing, holding, breathing close enough to feel every exhale and every rise and fall of sun-drop ridden and glistening wet chest.

I want your everything. I want your everything. It spoke in swallowing waves. It nibbled her soft white flesh with crescent shaped waves. Its body ascended and dropped, crashing onto her light blonde hair. As the strands of her fair filled with foam, they began to appear darker.

She opened her lips in pleasure and giggled. She threw her head back as her shoulders danced under sheets of water. It coated her, drinking her skin and bones and shape to pour into the grand treasure of ocean. She was lifted and lowered into its mouth; the tongue of the deep warmth wrapping around her body until she was surrounded.

The sand was not so far below her. Bubbles elevated from between the pebbles to the rising surface. Her unclipped toenails cut across the floor for the first time. With the weight of her upper body, she launched to the surface, her toes flicking the sand from the earth. And with lips half hidden beneath the surf, she spoke for the first time but the tiny sound was not arrested by the air. It sang off-key musical notes and echoed into the heart of the brine. A hum crawled out into oxygen and crooned to the late afternoon above, though no sounds were left as she was enveloped by the cheerful warmth of the sea.

The twinkling clouds broke half-stream in the sky. They floated dead in the colored milk of sun.

So swallowed into the stomach of sea, the girl vanished into the lustful waves – the powerful gulping of earth’s arms. It was embrace, met with the love of a thousand desires. Still, she had drowned. She had drowned into the constantly vanishing and appearing sail of the world – deepest, into the emerald shining sea.

A tall woman with dirty blonde hair sped to the spot where the girl drowned. Her ankles were muddied and cut to the heel. Her face, painted with dirt and grass and wet sand, convulsed. She froze, facing the water, and felt a breeze pass her cheeks. A heat spread from her legs to her ears and she felt a great discomfort swell in her throat. She watched a leaf fall from a tree and touched the surface of the shore. It played with the skyline, balancing along the portrait of the beyond. It dipped and woke until it was seized by the rush beneath. The woman’s shoulders trembled. Tears exploded from her eyes, showering the soil and falling between her knuckles as she clasped her palms to her face. She screamed into nothing and her cracked voice pained the tendons in her leg as they expanded. Her muscles clenched for something in the atmosphere. Something. Screams burst from her mouth but her cries broke its path of sound. Her bony fingers shook and rattled in the warm air. Hairs stood straight but only to reach out and grasp for help into the floating somewhere. Her veins pulsed and quaked her body to the sound of the waves. And she fell to the floor, her knees scraped and desperate falling onto rock and grass. She slipped and cuddled with herself, her hands squeezing her thighs. Crying and frantic, she stared into the horizon of the sea and witnessed in her ball of hurt.

Calm, momentarily, as the ocean’s eyes rose to attend the sprayed golden august sky.

***

It was then that my own mother took my hands and crumpled them into two balls of useless existence, when I awoke with twenty stitches and a half smile. That was the right time for anything.

She squeezed the knuckles of my fingers and I looked up at her yearning face as if it told me to get up. I stood and she led me to the door. With soft feet, she stepped quickly to the tune of the faucet leaking. The room was filled with little light, as I remember. The house always looked like a yellowing photograph the way the light hit every object. Everything remains in my memory still, as if they were built intending to bring nostalgia. Even fifty years later, that old home sometimes serenades me like it has waited for my hands to pull back the past. Maybe I just imagine it that way.

She brought me outside. My little feet were still hurt from the accident. She took me to the water. I was frightened of it because of what it did to me. Out by the bench, where Bonnie used to go before she was taken away, before the bench was brushed into the waves, she sat me down as I shivered. I asked her why.

She told me it was to teach me. My feet trembled on the floor beneath me. Why? Why? I still question it. I don’t know.

She took me closer. I didn’t want to. I told her to stop. “Mom, stop, please. Mom, this is not what I asked for. Please, I think I need more time. Mom.”

The clouds ripped bloody muscles from the atmosphere, tearing one from another. The trees blew. The water rushed. The sound of its whistle terrified me. I was not ready.

She grabbed my arms and squeezed them and I knew in that moment that something terrible was to happen. I curled my toes into my foot trying to root myself into the soil. I plugged my nails into my palms, aiming for blood to spill, begging for my mother to release me. I screamed. I tried to distract her. I told her to stop. But my feet were swinging in the air and I felt like a puppet. My own mother, my puppeteer, my manipulator, my mother; she made my limbs move. She made my limbs freeze. I watched the sea in horror behind her back as she tossed me over her shoulder, my legs kicking and twisting. My ankles felt numb after scratching against her side so much.

The crashing of the waves. The rolling of the deep, waiting to claim me again, to break my bones, to break my heart, to break everything that is me. I knew it was laughing and snarling. I knew it wanted to rape my innocent body one more time before I died in its arms.

I knew it.

My mother’s wrist never felt like a weapon when she pulled it backward to drop me into the water. Tendons never strained. Her bones did not crack as she charged her shoulder. Her back did not lean. Yet, when her fingers released me, I felt a betrayal unlike any other. With my arms, I grabbed at whatever of her clothing I could. I pulled her. Her right foot lurched toward the edge. Her left leg rose in anticipation to fall. I heard only a single shriek in the great divide. It was a scream that stole all of my courage, all of my faith, all of my great love for the world…

It all had dissipated.

My mother crashed so quietly into the water. It swallowed her up. Her frail hands pulled at the skin of the water but it seemed to suck her in deeper. My feet were so easy to move. I cannot explain why she was being pulled away as I was being pushed toward shore. The sea hated me because it wanted to save me.

With its teeth, it dug deep into my mother’s flesh and carried her into the depths. I pulled myself up on the coast and coughed my last few coughs with my mother. The eternal taste of salt dries my tongue and loving words are always too difficult to utter with such a great bitterness in my mouth. I can never take that day back. I can never get my mother back.

That is why I never left, may she wash up upon the banks of grass on water’s edge. That is why I remain in this cursed old home. That is why I never showed Bonnie the sea. That is why when she came to find it, I pulled her. I screamed at her. I took her away. And she went back. And now she is taken away too.

Well, we mist the room from time to time. The air is punctuated with invisible algae and fog. I hear pendulums knocking within my skull. It wants to escape, while I am here, waiting.

For what, now? For what am I waiting? Because whatever it is, it cannot come.

***

With speckled drops all over skin, glazed across her body, like sunflowers on field, were the kisses of ocean water. With arms wide, legs long, and neck directed to the stars, her body was an arrow to the deep. The frost air cooling her in the mid-winter, she rested her eyes in the wake of the warmest sun, underneath a haven of trees. This was a simple place; this was a better place. A place to remember. A place where it began. She visited often, though she was never spotted. She wanted to remember. She wanted to learn from the past.

Because it happened and she wanted to remember the day she became more than human; but more so to remember the old and grow from it. What made her Bonnie and what made her love the universe. Once the storm came, and when it stole her away... She wished to remember.

Staring deeply into a maze of iridescent clouds, her long hair fell down her back and spilled water down her naked spine. It was cool in the wind, but it was brave. It was all brave. And with the first chirping bird of spring, Bonnie held her right hand in her left and paused to wish for the first bird of spring to chirp and tell her mother to come home to her.

She shut her eyes. Underneath eyelids grazed with salt and the shimmering water of sunrise, she pleaded to the world. The world said back:

And so to celebrate the tragedy of the past, she must remember the worst of it all and she must make her leap into the deep. All will be forgiven when she forgives herself.

So it answered.

***

Storm clouds burst into incandescent shards of crystal shedding from the sky. The rain captured leaves as they raged into the wind and sky. Anger was the ocean as it rose to bury the land.

Concretes were flooded by the dialect of infants born in the sky. The sky screamed, as the babies did, and do, and hurt until the murderous tantrums subsided. Yet, there was no end to the power in the toned arms of fury. They flung rubber punches at glass wind and pulled it into sand-splashes of exploding clouds. Cuts ruptured the skin of evening and split seams into the atmosphere, to drown and flood the world with the sea’s wrath. Flashes of luminescence derived from lightning strikes and lasted merely seconds before the forced strums of misted dusk. Surging from pools adjacent to the rushing floods in the street erupt the torrents of grey and blue spiral. Chips of wood collected in all of the spaces between foam and flashing liquid lightning. A strike of wind slashed through the paved streets, bellowing loud enough for rocks to fly and gust in the salty air. Another gale of sound scraped into concrete and tore into the fabric of earth. Nature’s screams: like a city of laughter. Both trees and buildings fell, regardless of name. For Tempest had returned to claim its kin.

The sky opened up from behind the great black blanket of blazing wind and water. Out came a shadow of a strong man against the land, refracting from the naked sun. The man was gargantuan – his figure fluctuating, becoming sort of a wave against the remote sunlight. His chest appeared wide, conquering the scene with its massive shadow, swallowing hills and trees. His arms spread far across the landscape and hands casted a shade over the house on the hill. From out of the front door, Bonnie’s mother’s eyes took to the vision. Underneath the darkness of the shadow of the man, she felt both terrified and blessed. Magnificent splendor sent itches across her arms, trickling down her thighs, stabbing the backs of her knees, squeezing her calves, and pinning her feet to the dirt outside her front door. The man’s hand was lifted above her head, freeing her skin to bask in the brief sunlight. The figure appeared to walk, like a giant born from the sunlight and shadow. It stepped and crushed nothing with nothing feet and nothing hands embraced nothing with huge strong muscles that were nothing at all. Yet, fear spilled from its contact with the land. With shifting movements, he rose and fell and crashed onto the earth. Inches from the body evaporated with the presence of clouds, again disappearing back into the air. His movements poured onto land, filling empty spaces with shadow, wetting the hillsides with darkness, the strength of his desire and rage.

Bonnie’s mother was stunned, matted into the scene. From the giant’s eyes, the world was a painted mosaic and she was merely a single tile in thousands. Her fear, her blossoming dread was invisible to him. Her love was blind and blinded. It was nothing to him and he was nothing to the world. And the giant was fighting back.

She knew who he was, she had almost forgotten but she remembered those steps and those sounds in the midst of pounding rain and crashing waves. The sounds of a god angered. The sounds of an unrequited heart bleeding in the gapless wind. It once was her.

The giant was only a shadow of the day. That was all it was, factually. But she fell to her knees to it. She begged with mute pleas. She let her heart be the arrow to his chest and wished for it to shoot. She aimed her chest to the empty light. She faced frontward and let her bow pull back, her spine bending, and her bosom toward the sky. A strike of lightning cracked in the darkness. All that was black was forced yellow and then white. And then black again. Again. Her head tossed behind her shoulders with eyes shut and mouth wide open. The rain spat against her neck, scratching her skin with every cutting droplet. It streamed from her collarbone and then down her chest, groping and stealing her skin. The cold of the water splashed and licked at her ears, curling into them, freezing her brain. Glazing her heart with coldness. She wanted out. I broke your heart. I’m sorry. Please.

But no.

The sky was void of sunshine again. The shadow of the man disappeared. Gusts of water and black storm gripped her arms. Water splashed at her ankles. She opened her eyes. Alone in the everlasting span of emptiness, she colored an expanse so miniscule and insignificant. She was simple. A mother - haunted.

Again, the silence of the heart of weather haunted her ears. “Bonnie?” she called. “Bonnie!” All that made noise was the beating of rain against her skin. Her clothes were soaked, pinned against her body. They dragged as she pushed away from the door. Her eyes went to the tree. It bent in the shape of wind with rain patting every leaf to the edge of the earth. Just land. She stepped to the grove and searched behind the bushes. Bonnie was there just that morning but she was not there then. Nor at the bottom of the cliff, nor at where the road began; Bonnie was nowhere in sight. “Bonnie? Where are you?”

But all she could feel was the wind pushing her to the east, where the rain droplets were aimed toward the sea.

***

The colors of the sky were constantly rising, silent and quiet against the backdrop of the sleeping island, for years. It lasted so long.

***

One day, the crunching sound of a branch fell outside of a home on a hill. It woke a tired woman up. The wounds of the past felt themselves grow in her throat. It was unlike the others, though. The sound pierced everything she loved. It panicked her and made her think of storms at seas and loved ones leaving. The horror of a lifetime lived, achieving only sadness and loss. A nightmare played out in front of her own eyes, in a projection of the morning sky through a window combing over her eyelashes. Symbols formed from the earth in the eyes of the woman. For a moment, she was a girl. She was innocent but hurt. She was naïve and also cynical. She was hopeful and at the same time, hopeless.

Then, a chirping sounded, blinding all that was heard before in the heart. What was the winter at all? She wondered. What was the purpose in sadness?

The pain subsided and the woman rose and felt a wonderful breath upon her. She was a train. She was a mountain. She was a mother and she was to save all of herself.

***

I can taste the salty air around me. It’s freckling my shoulders and coloring them with droplets. I can feel it now. The branches are not twisted. They loop and pull around trunks of wonderfully adorned green trunks and swing to the leaves near the sun. The leaves don’t vanish beneath thin layers of mud. They are colored green and they do not live on the floor. They drink the sunlight as it pours upon their thirsty soft epidermises. They do not laugh at me.

No.

I must wake up now and understand that Bonnie can hear my cries when the remembrances pain my ankles and twist my wrists. And when the memories that live in the ground grope at my eyes and try to pull my tears to the floor; I won’t let them. She needs to hear me climb the waves and find her. Please.

My feet move to the sound of the paintbrush currents. I remember this sound. I know it all too well. My toes press into the dirt, making stamps into the metallic cold mud. I reassure myself, “The grass will not leap and bind your legs. You are the only one who has the power to do so.”

I remember you, ocean. You were in my dreams. You molded my shape. You broke me down, you did everything. Do not pretend you do not remember these things. My hands were once washed with your waters. My hands were once lost in all of your color. You were lost in all my transparencies. We found each other in between, where droplets peeled off into your waves from my arms, only inches before contact. I loved you. You loved me. It was real and it happened and we cannot forget these things no matter how much they hurt. Because they do hurt. I am reminded of the old pain every day.

Pollen drips from baskets of leaves floating in the branches. They fall like teardrops into silent quicksand waters. You filthy trap with your golden decorations. You home of life and good. You.

I trust you. Even if I once hated you. Even if I once loved you.

The trunk of a tree before me stands, bound by wires and ropes of green vine. I can see its gratefulness in the form of tree sap. It leaks and bubbles into collages of amber down the trunk before interrupted by vines. My feet pick themselves up to move to touch the trunk, to touch and feel its happy safe body. I drag my fingers along cracked shafts of flesh. Oh earth. You have been so good to me.

But sea, you have never left me alone.

The water is still and flat in the breath of nothing and silence. It remains quiet in the death of my fear. It feels my aching resolution, oh how it does. And Bonnie will wake and see me above her new home.

The ground is falling. It rattles. It shakes and cries and sees its fate before its poking flowery eyes. Above, a cloud parts along a frozen portrait of lush white and snow in the sky. There it builds its gate. Untouched and glistening porcelain knobs wait among reflections of light. There is no black. There are stars though, and their shine’s brightness is dependent on how tightly I grip the knobs. Don’t you know? I thought you knew.

That everything will be mine again. That I will get her back. That I’m not afraid of the past anymore. That I loved you but I don’t anymore. That everything is falling beneath me now. I can feel it. It’s beginning. Didn’t you know? Couldn’t you feel it too? I’m not really sorry anymore.

The floor will seep into the earth beneath me. And I will rise and rise and rise into the sea above me. And I will be free.

***

And the woman, guarded by the music of chirping birds, alone in solitude and peace, let her toes dip into the motionless water before her. So she could find the one she loves.

To breathe the blue of sky-high ocean and begin and end, again – it was all an endless, but worthwhile, climb.


© Copyright 2017 Jonathan Koven. All rights reserved.

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