The air is crisp. It smells of dry wood, and too much soap. The burnt, orange leaves crunch. They disintegrate under deliberate footsteps. A cool chill wedges its way under your jacket. It crawls across your dimpled skin. I feel you shiver. It ripples across the space between us.
Your lashes flicker. They dance downward, directed by your gaze. I follow, blindly, like a moth with damp wings, spiraling into dusty moonlight. Your pace is steady.
You walk this path often. It clears your head. It leaves you breathless. It leads to a quiet clearing.
You asked me to come, with eyes sparkling like shattered emeralds. The quiet corners of your mouth curled in a shy grin. I nodded, and I knew you had been watching. I knew, because I couldn’t stop performing. I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to fill that open wound that oozed, delicate and deadly, like dried blood beaded on porcelain skin.
I follow, like the crashing thunder after a splitting shock of lighting. A stormy, desperate showing jolts through my constricted veins. My spidery fingers tremble.
Your shoulders drop. Your footsteps slow. You stop in the opening. Slanting rays of sunlight pierce like thorns through the trees. The shadows carve a perfect X across the dry, rusty leaves.
You turn to face me, your chin tilts to your right shoulder. Rich curls cover the damage flaring in your eyes. Your silence contaminates. You dig its splintered shards from the tips of your fingernails. I grit my teeth. My tongue slips through like sandpaper, licking the peeling skin from my chapped lips.
“You shouldn’t have come.”
You clinch your wrist behind your back. You lean against the nearest tree. You chew desire, like old blood, from the soft insides of your cheek. You slide down the worn bark, fraying the perfect seams of your jacket.
“You would have hated this if I hadn’t.”
Your back curves into the trunk of the Pine. The Wind gently breathes the Oak’s painted leaves across the skyline. A single leaf dances down the slope of your shoulder. It’s electric yellow surges into the void, illuminating the pallor of this delicate existence.
I crash down onto bruised knees. Crawling, I crease the shadows of the fading X. I slither into your quivering skin, sticking like tree sap. Your knees slide apart. I edge against the comfort of your smoke-grey jacket. I arch into your angled chest. Your pumpkin-spice breath caresses the back of my neck.
Your fingers scratch like the bark of the white oak across the edges of my cheek. My sandy tongue pries open your fleshy lips. The smell of pine and of biting cold lurches down the back of your throat. My vision flickers. Your edges smudge. I fade into the eclipse.
I awake, leaves tangled in my worried hair. My cheeks indented, red against the hard ground. I palm the heavy sand sticking my brittle lashes like glue. A grainy, black stains the ridged lifelines coursing through my hands.
Small, delicate branches snap. The hollow echo rings in the back of my ears. I swallow. The pressure builds, streaking up the back of my neck. A scorching acid churns through thick saliva. It swirls down the back of my throat.
A devouring grey falls like a shifting ghost, heavy and suffocating through the chilled air. Its blackness curls like fingers, long tendrils, reaching deep into my lungs. They cinch, and form a deadly tourniquet, each breath paused, and stagnant.
The flame hisses at the edge of the leaves. The Pine writhes and scrapes the scabbed flesh of my exposed forearms.
The bitter rush of smoke clings to the air like an offering.