- Vol. 09
- Chapter 01
There is something in the woods, I tell my sister. I have told her every day for a fortnight. She won’t listen to me, because I am smaller than she, and I have lighter hair, which she believes to be unserious.
She never listened to me, even when we were close, when she taught me to hear things in the woods. This was years ago before she shot tall fast like the road they are building to ------. This was before she turned on her heel and leapt into tasks such as starched sheets and milk for the horrible cat, before she went industrious with a needle and sharp with a knife. Then, she took me across the meadow. Birches, alders, wild firs and a latticework of ferns parted before us. She scraped aside moss with her fingernails and pressed her ear to the ground. Listen, she said. I listened. I felt the prickle of some insect in my ear. I heard the rush of the earth. And my blood. I sat up and my sister was running her fingernails down the skin of her wrists. Raising gooseflesh. You see, she said. I don’t hear anything, I told her. She arranged her features into that face of hers. Of course you don’t, she said.
I tried to hear. I scrunched myself up like a handkerchief every time I passed outside the house. I drowsed against the ground, falling asleep in boredom and frustration. I wrapped my hands around a birch, as if I could throttle it.
And then, one day, I could hear it. It settled on me, a film of ice. I told her and she said, what? She had forgotten.
Now, I tell her again, there is something in the woods. It’s the noise from building the road, she says, but no, it is not, I hear it in winter too. She puts an embarrassed look on her face. Pru, she says. Come now. You’re nearly eleven.
Should I pretend with her that the woods have no sound? Swallow it down, eat it into my flesh, until the world dons its normal face?
Should I bother her until she can no longer arrange embarrassment onto her face but rather worry, until there is talk that the road will be done just in time to take me away?
Should I wait until she has stepped outside at nightfall to call in that horrible cat, and then lock the door, count on our father’s deafness, keep her outside until she hears it again and must remember what she taught me?
Or should I sit on her chest in the night, while she’s dreaming of needles and milk, and stay quiet so she does not wake up, and blow and hiss and spit the knowledge she gave me into the cup of her ear, until I am rid of it, and it is no longer within me, and then I can be the one to walk free?