Thursday, March 8, 2018

“Gray Hill” by Anita Gelarie

“Move along, move along,” a surly voice shouted.  It, for Meredith could not tell if it was a man or a woman, wanted her to cross over the next gray hill.
“How you do it doesn’t matter; just get into the next,” the voice said.  Meredith imagined the voice coming from a plump, worn out Irish woman.
“Why?  Why do I have to listen to you?  I don’t know you.  You don’t have any authority over me.”
“What did you say?”  It snarled.  And It was a plump Irish woman just as Meredith imagined. The Irish woman swooped over to Meredith and cut her face with both hands. The slashes ran high across Meredith’s cheekbones to her eyes.  Meredith cowered, covered her face with her hands – but nothing happened.  The woman was gone.
Meredith felt her cheeks.  Nothing.  How was that possible?  The attack was so violent.  She looked at her hands expecting to see blood, but they were clean.  She flipped them back and forth in a sort of short hysteria, because this wasn’t making sense.  Nothing, no blood, no scabbing, no pain. How was this possible?
Her attention quickly shifted to a presence she felt behind her.  The presence said no words, but silently prodded her over the gray hill. Beyond the hill lay a long trek to the bottom of a canyon.  Finally there, Meredith gave in and lay down.
She tried to make sense of what had happened that day.  I was attacked, she thought.  It didn’t hurt. I didn’t bleed.  It seemed so real. Was it real?  She hadn’t I screamed.
And why hadn’t anyone come to help or see if she was okay?
Her swirling thoughts made it difficult to sleep despite her exhaustion. But eventually her tired body won, her mouth gaped open, her limbs fell limp, and her mind floated into sleep.
When she woke, It was there, the Irish woman.  Meredith was frozen with fear.  Was she going to be attacked again?
“Get movin', “said the Irish woman and turned away.  But her voice was not as demanding as the last time.  It seemed tired.  Meredith felt tired too.  Maybe she could just lie there a little longer.
“I said get movin’,” the Irish woman repeated. “You only do things when you feel like it, huh?"
Meredith heard her this time and was up on her feet and ready for a fight.  She wasn’t taking this fatty’s insults.  
“Lazy, lazy you are,” she said, sort of swirling these words under her breath.  The hiss of those words was broken by a booming shout: “MOVE!”
Meredith stood her ground, and responded by almost spitting the words at the woman: “I’m getting sick of you bossing me around.” 
Meredith had thought she was ready, but she wasn’t. The woman kicked her left leg out from under her.  Meredith hit the ground with two thuds, first her hip and then her shoulder. Then the woman was gone.
Meredith pulled herself into a seated position and pulled her pant leg up.  Her knee was twisted to the right.  It didn’t hurt; it was just twisted in a weird way and had two half-inch pink scars on the top corners of the kneecap.  It looked so strange twisted that way, almost like it wasn’t her knee. 
She didn’t have time to think about her knee. She felt the presence again and knew it was time to move.  Fighting back had not changed anything; she still needed to get over the next gray hill. 
She started the journey, though it was difficult with a bum knee and took a long time.  When she needed a rest, Meredith leaned against a tree. She never sat down because she worried that she wouldn’t be able to get back up.  Though why did that matter?  She wasn’t sure, but she could feel the presence in the distance silently prodding her along. 
At the bottom of the next canyon, Meredith collapsed to the ground and was almost instantly asleep.
Sleep was short, for the Irish woman was back and nudged Meredith.  “Let’s go. Got to get up and go.”  Her voice was slow and deliberate.  She almost sounded like she cared.
“Go where?” said Meredith, still lying down and not fully awake.
“Let’s go.  Time to go,” the woman repeated with a hushed voice. 
Meredith used the woman’s voice to imagine her as old and almost sweet in disposition. “I think I’ll rest a little longer and maybe go later,” she whispered and closed her eyes.
The woman smacked Meredith’s face. 
Meredith couldn’t figure out what had happened; she was disoriented.  Her mouth and cheek felt pulled down.  What a weird feeling.  And again she felt the presence silently prodding her to the next gray hill.  This time she knew she couldn’t do it.
“Help.  I need some help getting up” – that was what she tried to say, but instead a garbled ball of constants and vowels came out. 
The presence did not move.
“Help, please help,” she said, but this time she heard her own voice echo back, “leph, pelhs leph.”
Meredith tried to push herself up and couldn’t.  Her right arm was useless.  She looked toward the presence in desperation.  The presence started to walk down the gray hill towards her. 
“Help, I need help.  I can’t get up.”  Meredith’s words were still unintelligible, but her thoughts made sense.  Between her inability to speak and the threat of the approaching presence, Meredith began to panic.  Her breathing was quick and shallow; she didn’t feel she could get enough air.
Now the presence was there.  Meredith rambled out some sounds. “I can’t get up,” she wanted to say. “I know you want me to go, but my body isn’t working. I can’t get enough air.  Something is tugging down the side of my face.  What am I going to do?”
“Nothing,” said the presence.
Meredith thought of when she was a child in bed at night and would hear a noise: the radiator gurgling then hissing in a low tone; a creak from a window frame hit by a gust of wind; a car door slamming outside.  She’d start to think the noises might be an intruder and would pull the covers over her head and breathe very softly. If she could just pretend she was dead, the intruder would pass by her and not hurt her.
She had figured it out; she would do nothing. Just like when she was a child, she would lie very still and hide under the covers.  The intruder would not hurt her.  The fat Irish woman would not hurt her. The Presence would not hurt her.
Why hadn’t she realized this sooner? All that fighting over all those years – and all she needed to do was lie down, very still with the covers over her head.

Anita Gelarie is an aspiring writer.  As a newcomer to the authorship world, she is eager to learn.  Anita lives in Oakville, Ontario with her husband, twin sons, and two dogs.

See Brian Henry’s schedule here,  including writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.  

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