By Cleo Mikutta
– II –
‘You remind me of him,’ she said quietly, speaking to him through the flames, saying the words more to herself than to him.
He watched her, from the other side of the fire. She had learned from the others that he did not speak. He seemed to communicate solely through the movements of his body, and once surprised her by solemnly placing his fingers on her cheekbone, outlining her ear, and tracing her jawline down to her chin. Afraid, she had pulled away.
She glared at him, ready to accuse and defend, yet there was nothing to be seen in his expression that she was accustomed to responding to. He gazed at her. In the distance two eagles sailed the gusts of wind sweeping over the mountains.
She tried, in desperation, to read him, finding herself at a loss to decrypt a character that seemed written in the indecipherable alphabet of a long-forgotten language. Fragments of a song carried over to them, woven into the tune of the endlessly running currents of the river nearby.
She dared to reciprocate his stare, and his eyes did not release hers. Thoughts of what he might be seeing when he looked at her hung in her mind, heavy as storm clouds.
The ability to find reassurance in an exchange of words had been taken away from her. She sought escape in physical distance, yet with every step, the blindfold of uncertainty grew thicker, and her unease was anything but diminished.
Hating her helplessness, she had turned to look back at him, and saw that he stood rooted to the place she had intended to flee from. A lost sensation branched out through her entire body with a rapidity that frightened her. She froze. They stood watching eachother from a distance, for the longest time, not moving towards eachother or away.
The song had ended, and all that could be heard were the rushing river currents.
‘What do you see when you look at me?’ Hypnotized by the dancing firelight, the words were whispers that slid defiantly from her lips.
His expression unreadable, he stood up. Her pulse quickened as he approached. He offered her his hands. Wordlessly she took them. He led her away from the fire, past dark and dripping pine trees, until they reached the river, swollen and thrashing from the heavy rain.
He was kneeling in the mud now, immersed in something he had found. He looked at her. She averted her eyes, and found herself mesmerized by the subject of his immersion. A majestic bird, half buried in the mud, body rigid, wings, beautifully feathered, twisted at a painful angle, a milky white shimmer in its eye.