She finds herself standing in the middle of a field that opens up to a dusk emblazoned sky. It could have been any field in any town. People are milling about, some have camps set up around small fires. Various music from throughout the decades can be heard playing on small transistor radios scattered across the field – seventies disco falling into seventies rock clashing with the doo wop of the fifties and punk of the eighties. It could have been any field in any town.
A bone thin man who has more stubble on his face than meat on his bones sits on an overturned crate and plays a banjo while six children in knee patched jeans and grubby faces chase the fireflies that are beginning to light up the field. A woman with a haggard look and weary eyes tucks the strand of hair that has escaped her bun behind her ear as she holds her baby to her partially exposed breast. She bends over a large cast iron pot and the light from beneath the pot illuminates her face so that she looks like a dying angel. Steam rises up and with it a smell that makes the mouth water and the heart feel at home. Sunday dinners and family, laughter and conversation, and grown up conversation where children can get lost in the safety of each syllable passing through the lips of those great giants.
Her eyes move past the dying angle and settle on a man dressed in a suit, a finely pressed suit of pinstripes. He has a wireless hands free in one ear and his finger is moving furiously across the small screen of his blackberry. He is oblivious to the music and the flaxen-haired woman dancing circles around him in white harem pants and a top so sheer her nipples can be seen. The contrast of the dark flesh against the white fabric is enticing and the only diversion away from them is the way she moves her long graceful fingers. They caress the air as she moves in circles around him. She thrust her hips forward toward him as he wipes the sweat from his creased brow and continues tapping. A baby cries and she sees the flaxen-haired Goddess dance gracefully to a white-flaked wooden crib where in lies a baby clad only in a cloth diaper. The woman gently picks up the baby and once again begins her dance. The once seductive sway of her hips filled with unnoticed intention becomes softer now. No longer caressing the empty air, she touches the soft skin of the baby’s back, tracing circles with the tips of her beautiful fingers. The baby is quiet as she continues the dance around the white crib, flakes falling to the ground.
She takes it all in, the sights and sounds filling this field. All of the different people. The associations tied to the soft skin of a babies back, or the delighted glee of firefly catching in the light of a disappearing sun. Her own memories of giants before they had fallen are stirred of in the cast iron pot of the dying angel along with her own memories of unnoticed intent like that of the swaying hips of the dancer.
And then they begin to leave. One by one, nearly half of the people in the field begin walking to the line of trees bordering the edge of the field. Brother leaving brother, daughter leaving mother, husband leaving wife, families separated from one another. Those that are walking towards the trees do not look back. They walk with purpose, their heads up and their gaze straight. Those that are left behind seem to be unaware of what is happening. The man keeps tapping away on his blackberry while the flaxen-haired woman resumes her dance. The baby cries in its crib. The banjo still plays as the children make rings that glow from the stolen firefly lights. The pot stands unattended.
That is when she sees the dying angel making her way toward the trees. She is sobbing and holds her arms straight by her sides her fists clenched as if she is willing herself to go forward and her clenched fists are the only things keeping her from going back. She is no longer holding a baby and there is such an emptiness now along with the tired, haggard, worn look in her eyes. Tears have made streaks down her dirty cheeks. The brown strand has come loose once more but this time she leaves it be and it sticks to her cheek in one of the tracks of her tears.
She shouts to the woman. She shouts for her to stop.
“Don’t go! You don’t have to go!”
Then she runs. She catches up to the woman before she reaches the opening in the tree line. It is dark. She cries for her to stop, and though the dying angel continues to sob with such exquisite anguish, she does not look back. And then she is gone.
She wants to follow the woman but she is afraid. She looks back over her shoulder at those left behind in the field. They are oblivious. She is filled with an overwhelming urge to stay with these people, to not leave them behind, and at the same time is drawn to the dark opening in the trees, to follow her dying angel into the unknown. As she is frozen with confusion and an awful indecision a man comes to stand beside her. He is nondescript with no distinguishable characteristics other than the sound of his voice. It’s the tide rolling in and being pulled back out, filled not just with his own voice but that of her father’s who has long been gone. It contains that voice and so many other unrecognizable voices all blended together, all speaking in unison.
“What has happened? Why did they leave?”
He looks at her with kindness and explains quite plainly, “We are all dead. The people who have entered the trees have realized that. They are moving on. The people in the field have yet to realize it, so they will continue to relive everything over and over. They will be stuck until they too come to realize it.”
She does not find herself filled with horror or shock or disbelief. She does not find herself filled with anything but the image of the dying angel sobbing with grief, her calloused hands clenched into fists. Then she looks once again over her shoulder and sees the baby that once laid in the tired arms of the dying angel, surrendered in the grass at the feet of the banjo picker.
She finds herself standing in the middle of a field that opens up to a dusk emblazoned sky. It could have been any field in any town. People are milling about, some have camps set up around small fires. Various music from throughout the decades can be heard playing on small transistor radios scattered across the field, seventies disco falling into seventies rock clashing with the doo wop of the fifties and punk of the eighties. It could have been any field in any town