by Raven Walker

Chrysalis Literary and Arts Magazine
Ferrum College, Spring 2016
Ivy Rivero, Editor
Selected for AppLit by Abigail McGovern, 2021-22 editor

Raven Walker, from Franklin County, Virginia, graduated from Ferrum College with a major in English and minors in Russian and history. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, and kayaking. Her story is reprinted here with permission after appearing in the Spring 2016 issue of Chrysalis Literary and Arts Magazine. Another story by Raven Walker, "The Tire Swing," is also reprinted in AppLit at this link.

        I cannot see and I cannot hear, but I can feel. I can feel the warmth of the sun kissing my glossy green needles tenderly. I can feel the wind gently brushing her fingers through my branches. I can feel the rain when it falls from above, washing away the sticky humidity of a hot day. I can feel moisture as it seems into the ground around my roots, the thirsty fibers soaking it up greedily. I can feel the snow falling delicately around me, coating me in a fluffy light blanket. I can feel the earth shake around and beneath me with each powerful clap of thunder. I can feel birds perched softly on my limbs and the prickly little claws of reptiles as they scale my trunk. I can feel the soft tickle of worms as they  burrow through the soil around my roots. 

        But today I feel something new, something I’ve never felt before. It’s hot, but not at all wonderful like the beautiful warmth of the sun. This heat hurts. This is torturously blistering, melting away my pine needles and peeling away my bark. This heat is scary and not at all pleasant. The heat is suffocating, blanketing me, but not all comforting like the cool wetness of the snow. My roots try desperately to drink, hoping for anything cold to soothe this burning, but the ground is dry. I feel pinecones drop from my scorched branches. Encased safely inside are my precious children, surrounded by their protective armor. I can only hope that they are safe. I hope they are not feeling what I am feeling, that they do not have to suffer as I am suffering. 

        The heat is finally gone, but my once sprawling branches are now burnt to charcoal nubs, and my fragile roots have shriveled. 

        I cannot see and I cannot hear, and soon I will no longer feel.

- - -

        I cannot see and I cannot hear, but, for the first time, I can feel. I feel the soil give way around me as I break through to the surface. I feel the wind welcome me with gentle caresses as I emerge into the world for the first time. I feel the sun wrap me in a blanket of warmth. I feel my roots spread out beneath me, stretching and probing, searching for water.

I feel the smooth scales of a small creature brush against me as it slithers by. I feel the soft mist of morning dew settling down on my delicate needles. I feel a curious insect touch me, perching upon me briefly before fluttering away. It all feels beautiful. 

I cannot see and I cannot hear, but I can feel the world around me as I stand here in my mother’s ashes. 

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