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Time in a Bottle
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Time in a Bottle

©Keith David 2010 ©Virginia Alison 2010

 

V-

Deep within the confines of the old oaks roots, the floor swept clean, vials and old iron pots litter the nooks and crannies where the roots meet the earth.  A small litter strewed with straw her only resting place. Beside the grate hewn from stone and dirt by her own hand, stands a blackened kettle, besides which sits a small three legged stool. The seat worn by use from her many hours huddled beside the meager warmth, which emanated from the fire in the long winter months.

 

She had been aware of his presence many moons ago, the hunter, his aura compelled her to venture from the bowels of the tree and she watched and waited.  Day upon day she followed in his footsteps as he tracked the wildfowl of the woods and at night, she sat before the fire, her fanciful thoughts feeding her fevered mind.  He belonged to her alone; fate had decreed that they would roam these woods together, for eternity.

 

Today, the day of the summer solstice she had felt his presence, stronger than ever before and her enchantments had lured him to her lair as a spider to a fly, his head filled with dreams of beauty from the spell, woven around his heart and as she pulled the strings, he came to her bed.

"Mine, all mine", she cackles as the fire before her rises to greet the challenge. Blue sparks fizz and spit as his sleeping form wavers in the glow, his hand slung casually over her side of the empty bed that she occupied not two hours hence; still she feels his warmth within her depths as she busies herself gathering the makings of her potion.

 

K-

Going back through the ingredients to be sure; a pinch of rosemary, 2 teaspoons of honey, 1 drop of blood from a turtle dove, 12 rose petals, 1 cup of glacier melt water, 1 cup of red wine and the final most important ingredient is a lock of his hair. Reaching over to the slumbering body, she slowly and gently extracts a small bit of his golden locks. Throwing it into the pot as a flash of lighting and thunder crashes outside and she giggles with delight. Chanting the ancient words over the bubbling and boiling concoction, it settles to a simmer over the crackling fire.

 

He will be thirsty when he awakens from his dreams, his fluids expended in the ecstasy of union. She will be ready to feed him her potion, trapping him in endless love. Suddenly she remembers a twist on the potion from the ancients. Her eyes dart around the room in search of…

 

V-

....the amphora of mangrove, the rare heart of the forest that her mother bequeathed her. As the old woman lay on her death bed she spoke, "this is yours by birthright, use it well my child for within lies great power, use it wisely, heed my warning,” as her last words trailed, she closed her eyes and breathed no more.

 

Thus gathering her meager belongings she retired to this dark and forgotten forest, her home beneath the roots of an ancient oak she scratches a living with potions of healing and love for the village nearby, in return they leave her in peace, whispering cautions to their young in the deep of the night.

 

The small jar, hidden and forgotten for these ages, sits alone in a small cranny set into the roots. The tree groans as she takes the small vial from its place of rest, the cobwebs grey and dusty fall away and the oak sighs as it awakens from its slumber.

 

Her auburn hair gleams in the firelight, as, clutching the vial to her bosom she gazes at her love, should freedom be his, or must she doom him to walk these woods with her, never again to see the light of day, eternity is a long time. This thought weighs heavy on her mind as she...

 

K-

…considers her options.

 

Adding this will certainly trap his heart and soul forever. Without it, the potion may be too weak, or wear off one day leaving her alone and lonely. The choice tears her soul as she paces the room. Sitting next to her beloved, she strokes his hair with one hand holding the jar to her breast as the words of her grandmother echo in her mind, “…within lies great power that you may not abuse.”

 

…’use it wisely, heed my warning,’ the words ring again through her mind. Certainly, he loves me, she thinks, so this will make it easier for us both. The rationalization begins and she becomes more secure with her choice. Yes, she will do it, he would want her to, she is sure of it.

 

Opening the jar slowly, she peeks under the lid as it is cracked to the air for the first time in generations. Air, sucked from the far reaches of the forest; fill the jar with a swirling vortex of wind.  The surrounding roots tremble, sending the branches and leaves fluttering as if shaking off a chill from within.

 

Cackling to herself, she peeks inside and reaches for the…

 

V -

 

...the gnarled mangrove root, pulsing within the dusty glass.  Dry with age it feels the warmth of her hand as she reaches inside, the tendrils wind themselves around her fingers, greedily grasping, eager for the light.  Withdrawing her hand from the jar and holding it up to the flickering light, she watches with fascination as it winds its way over her fingers, feeling, tasting her skin, absorbing her aura until it glows with a florescent blue light.

 

Now emitting a glow of its own, the root takes on the contours of her hand and settles pulsing, awaiting her command.  Turning her hand, this way and that, she studies the glove that now feels warm and welcoming, its essence seeping in through her pores and calming her soul.

 

The potion awaits and as she holds her hand over the heated liquid, the mangrove elongates from her hand and a single drop of dew, falls from the tip of the winding tendril.  Blue flames shoot up from the blackened pot causing her to stumble back, but just as quickly as they come, they are gone, swallowed into the maelstrom of love that swirls and bubbles in from the raging fire below.

 

The wood on her hand begins to eke into her skin, feeling a little discomfort she notices that her hand changes, tendons rippling as she becomes one with the blue glow, its luminescence fading until finally it disappears within the confines of her body.  Slowly its power oozes out and as it begins to course through her veins she...

 

K-

…feels alive like never before.

 

The potion sits still in the pot, slowly changing colors from blue to red to yellow in a repeating cycle. The energy and wisdom of a dozen generations pulses through her and she turns back to the bed as her lover begins to stir. Taking a small ladle from the table, she dips a cup full of the potion into a silver chalice. For the potion to work, both lovers must taste it, and then seal it with a kiss.

 

The potion is sweet from the honey, but leaves a bitter aftertaste and she wonders if somehow that foreshadows love itself. Sitting next to the naked man on her bed, still groggy from his sleep she helps him into a sitting position as he pulls the covers over his naked body.

 

“You must be thirsty after your nap. Here, have some of this my sweetness”

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he looks around the small room under the gnarled tree and wonders how he got there. This place is unlike any he has seen and he has no recollection of it or her, but he is thirsty and almost involuntarily, he reaches for the chalice. Holding the potion near to his lips, he sees her eyes widen in anticipation, but is confused as to why.

 

“Who are you and how did I get here?” he asks and holds the chalice waiting for an answer.

 

V-

“My love, do you not remember me?” Her lip quivers as the tears brimming in her eyes threaten to fall, “Please say you know me for you are mine and I am yours, forever, these are the words that came from your sweet lips not so many hours ago.”

 

He looks confused, her eyes watering with love for him; yet, he feels nothing, no pull towards this woman whom he is unable to recall.  She is faintly familiar but his whirring mind cannot fathom why.

 

“Who are you?” he repeats, she folds her hands around his as they clasp the chalice and raises it to his lips,

 

“Drink, this will soothe your body and all will become clear, drink,” but he resists and looks quizzically at her.

 

Taking the chalice from his hands, she raises it to her own lips and sips the burning liquid, although bitter it is not unpleasant and she feels the fire as it descends her throat, warming her soul. “You see, nothing to fear my love,” and again she offers it to him.

 

Whether comforted or not he takes the cup and inhales the heady aroma as she looks on smiling. Tenderly putting her hand on his forehead, stroking the skin as one would a child, murmuring sweet nothings in his ear, his thirst, urging him on and he takes the goblet to his parched lips...

 

K

…and with squinted eyes and wrinkled face, he cautiously tastes the bitter potion. The first drop passes across his tongue, burning and pungent, but curiously attractive to his senses.  Another sip and then another and his expression unfolds into a smile. Memories form in his mind of her touch and scent. She caresses his forehead and takes the near empty chalice to her own lips to finish the potion.

 

Suddenly his stomach is on fire, bubbling and stabbing pains well up from within as he curls into a tight ball on the cot, arms wrapped around legs. Deep moans of ache, he screams out in agony. She looks on in horror as the procedure and contents of the potion race back through her mind. ’What have I done?’ she wonders as sweat beads raise like bubbles on her upper lip.

 

A final scream and he stretch to his full length, arms and legs splayed out on the cot before he goes limp and unconscious from the pain. She bends to touch his heart and it thunders steadily in his limp body. The tears well in her eye at the horrific scene as she takes his head in her hands, places a kiss to his lips and her tear falls to his cheek.

 

Closing her eyes to avoid the anguish, she weeps silently wondering what to do. When she opens them…

 

V

...he lies before her smiling, his eyes glisten with love and he reaches up to kiss her tears away.  His hand reaches for hers and as their lips meet and their fingers entwine, small tendrils creep from her fingertips and slowly sink into his skin, more slivers ooze from her pores, her eyes, her mouth, each one finding its way towards his body, joining them together in the oneness of love.

 

A blue glow rises from between them as the wooden mangrove creepers flow. Their bodies entwined with each other, their souls together forever and as the final tendrils wrap themselves around the lovers, the last vestiges of mortal remains disappear. The breeze whispers and her spirit sighs, whilst swallowed by the hardened bark that surrounds them.

 

Slowly the glow subsides. Beneath the giant oak tree surrounding them, the wooden mangrove roots have entwined and engulfed the lovers, forming a new life all its own. The tendrils tentatively probe their new resting place, roots seep into the dry earth as the branches reach for the streaks of moonlight above. Together forever within the mangrove, her wish granted as a small bud erupts from the earth and unfurling it greets the dank air, water glistening on its surface slowly rolls down and forms a tear drop, teetering for a second it falls to the ground as the whisper comes from the forest, “You were warned.”