And Therefore, You May Come In
Copyright © 2014 by Michael Litzky
They paid $7 apiece to walk beneath the rustic “Welcome to Muir Woods” sign. Sally was still in her wonderful mood, thinking about her solar powered beloved and how she might become superhuman herself soon. Lavinia had not tasted a drop of blood since they discovered sunlight, didn’t miss it, didn’t crave it, wasn’t hungry.
At a planning meeting for the rally, Charla had specifically asked her, “You’re not still suckin’ blood, are you? I want that nailed down, cause I’m no part of this if you are.” Charla had given Sally a look just before asking that, as if she thought Sally was an accomplice to crimes unknown. (With Lavinia’s revelation that Charla would hit on Sally if she only knew she wanted to, Sally wondered what she’d really been thinking.)
Lavinia had responded with a cheerful “Fuck, no. Would you eat McDonald’s when you got a combo Noma, eBulli and The French Laundry?”
Charla, with a blankly smug look (she had never heard of any of those restaurants), said, “I’d take a Quarter Pounder with Cheese over fancy French shit any day. So I ask you again. Are you still drinking?”
Lavinia never got flustered by Charla. (Had she simply imagined her tied up and panting with helpless lust, Sally now wondered). She only said, firmly, “I said no. This is like a time when I was on a meditation retreat for a few months.” Sally had looked at Lavinia in shock. “After a while, I got the amount of food just right and I wasn’t hungry but I wasn’t full either. That’s what this feels like. It’s, it’s like I got space inside me, like I got all kinds of potential.”
Sally had taken Lavinia’s hand, mouthing at her with raised eyebrows the words “meditation retreat.” “Checkered past,” Lavinia had whispered back, amused.
Seeing Charla watching them with an unfathomable expression, Sally had added defiantly, “I’ll be asking my wife to let me join her soon. As a vampire. As soon as we get a few more–”
But Charla interrupted, “Well don’t let that bit of felching information out to the world yet. We’d have a worldwide epidemic of, Christ Almighty, of felching conversions. It’d be a new religion.”
A new religion, Sally thought, then shook the idea from her mind. Inside Muir Woods, they found themselves on a boardwalk. The further from the entrance they got, shoes thumping softly on the well-laid wood, the slower Lavinia walked. Sally fought off a vague sense of unease.
Finally Lavinia stopped and Sally, arm still linked in hers, stopped with her. There was nobody else in sight. The park had absorbed the seven or eight early visitors without a trace. “What’s up, darling?” asked Sally.
Lavinia’s eyes were closed. Sally scanned her face nervously for any trace of the empty darkness and despair which Lavinia still had to fight off each time she woke up, but Lavinia just seemed to be listening intently.
Finally, she said with quiet amazement, “This forest is a home.”
Sally started to ask what she meant, then realized that she understood. Peaceful energy seemed to lace together every tree, every rock. No lumberjack’s saw had ever whined here. Nothing had ripped that peace asunder, at least not for decades; cars had once been allowed to drive in here, she’d read, but their intrusion seemed to have been healed long ago.
She remembered suddenly a trip taken with a lover named Julie, who had really been straight but had dated Sally briefly in what she later described as a “born again lesbian phase,” whatever that meant. Julie had had a fascination for “the old road, the original route,” and north of Prairie Creek Redwoods in California, she’d insisted they take old highway 101 instead of the freeway which had replaced it. When Sally had come through as a little girl on a road trip with stodgy parents lumbering grudgingly from attraction to attraction, determined to miss nothing, the freeway hadn’t been built yet. Sally remembered nothing special about that stretch of winding road along which she and Carrie had whined, bored, watching the trees slide past, asking when the next bathroom would be.
But as she and Julie drove that same stretch of road many years later, green essence from the forest on either side seemed to pour in and meet above the now quiet road like hands reaching out and clasping. She and Julie drove through peace as thick as hanging moss, none of which had been there when hundreds of cars an hour drove through.
Muir Woods had that peace even deeper, though she could hear a couple of people talking in the near distance. One man with a sweet piping furry voice, like Piglet’s in the old Disney cartoons, lamented that he just didn’t know which trail to take (there were only two). A deep voice with a French accent said something which ended with, “ah, ah?” But the energy of the forest simply enveloped the people like a soft blanket.
“Do you need to be invited in?” Sally asked softly. “Remember, our home is wherever we’re together.”
“Nah, nah,” Lavinia said, pushing the words away with her left hand (the old Lavinia wouldn’t have even let Sally finish the sentence) without opening her eyes. “I think I could keep walking. But I don’t want to, not without asking permission.” She slit her eyes and looked sideways at Sally. It was a reflex gesture: she already knew by now that Sally wouldn’t laugh at her. “Meditation retreat,” she mouthed.
As Sally smiled, she knew that she too wanted (but did not actually need) to ask permission to enter, and that this was the source of the vague unease she’d felt. “Let’s do it,” she affirmed.
They had reached a plaza laid out like a wooden sunburst around a central patch with several baby trees in planters. At the far end stood a varnished cross-cut slice of redwood tree with the year rings marked by date: “909: tree starts to grow, 1492 Columbus discovers America, 1930: tree falls.” An old woman in a wheelchair was just remarking in a midwest accent to the tall heavyset man pushing her, “1930? I was nine years old.”
Lavinia stood perfectly still with her eyes closed, so Sally closed hers too. Asking a forest permission to enter. Jesus fuck, as Lavinia would say. But she felt that velvet-soft something that filled the air between the trees and, as sincerely as she could, said May I come in? May I walk in your beauty?
With perfect three-dimensional clarity, the little fairy from her dreams appeared on the black screen of her inner eyelids, head cocked as though listening to what Sally had just said. Sally gasped. This was just how Sally had seen her in that first dream, with her pert head tilted, listening to something. But in the dream, one moment later, she had welcomed the vampires in.
She spoke in a voice like tinkling silver bells. “You have understood,” she said. And then she said exactly the words Sally remembered. “And therefore, you may come in. Welcome.” But she said them to Sally and to Lavinia. Not to the vampires. She radiated a power which made Sally weak inside and filled her eyes with tears.
Sally was suddenly sure that if she opened her eyes the little fairy would still be visible. She would be faint, perhaps, a part of the backdrop of trees, but she’d swoop in (not with wings, of course, but with something that would gleam like liquid gold) and lick Sally’s nose, like Cinnamon used to do. On that crystal clear screen of inner vision, she saw the fairy do just that, and then wrap small perfect hands around Lavinia’s face and kiss her forehead.
How she longed to see the little fairy! Her presence would mean something that supernatural things like vampires did not. It would be magic, childhood dream magic.
But in the dream, at the moment when the fairy had said “Welcome,” an evil form had slipped in through the roof. And as Sally lingered now, unwilling to actually open her eyes and destroy the dream, a low ululating moan of horror rose to the level of hearing again, just as she had heard it yesterday. Nauseating, familiar, dreadful – she almost placed where she knew it from.
Her eyes snapped open, and she crouched as she scanned every direction but, as before, the scream seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. She associated it, she realized, with thick trees, and with dark wood. Why? Why?
She almost had it, almost knew where she’d stood when she first heard that sound. But it slipped away like a dream you try to remember in the morning, and she was left in the suddenly echoing silence with nothing. And of course there was no sign of the little fairy.
She felt a sense of loss so deep that she wanted to cry.
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