“Yes it’s true,” the cricket said. “But no matter this small discrepancy. It is the price you must pay for this type of love…one of the seven types of love… Although that is a tale for another time…”
I fell silent. Even in my mind, no thought formed itself into words.
Sailor closed her eyes remorsefully. She would have reached out to touch me, but she did not. She kept her hands on her lap, her body curled, her space small.
“You still have one question,” said the cricket.
“What if I don’t?” asked Sailor.
“What do you mean,” asked the cricket, “You must want to know something!”
“What I mean is…what I really have is not so much a question…as a wish.”
“No matter; they are the same,” said the cricket.
It was always I who did the talking, and she who stared with fascinated eyes… It was I who poured myself out to her, and she who listened. That was how I knew I loved her more. With my mouth attached to my heart, I gave away my love in endless babble; it was all I could do to force a moment’s pause, to hold my breath for an instant before going on. I needed to tell her everything..everything. And she so graciously accepted. And she loved me passionately…but not the way I loved her. Not the way my world was turned upside down, the way I breathed and walked in a state of colliding ecstasy and despair.
Neither lover desires their part in this unequal relation. The lover who loves more only wants his lover to love him as much…and the lover who loves less wishes subtly for the transformation of her lover into something more. That same lover wishes she had no such wish…and bitterly guards the secret knowledge that her love is the smaller of two flames.
We reclined in the soft, dry grass, and looked up into the vaulted labyrinth of blonde roots, clustered with mushrooms, edged by emerald-colored moss, and packed with rich, dark earth. The red cricket emerged from the earth, crawled to a prominent, knotty turn in one of the roots, and stopped, as if surveying us.
The cricket spoke. Sailor and I lay frozen in awe.
“I shall grant you three questions,” the cricket said. “What is it you would like to know?”
Then again I was screaming. Fear was pouring up through my throat, up through my mouth and eyes, pouring out of me; it was a white-light fire, streaming across the dark corridor, out of me and into the eye-holes of the ghoul, rending it, destroying it.
I lurched forward and gasped for breath. Sailor sat with me, close to me; she looked into my eyes. We sat on the dry grass in the warm hollow we had entered to take shelter from the rain.
(Back door: Go back one post to Sideways, or back two posts to We turned.)
We have to turn and look back. We have to face it, I thought.
Sailor pulled on my arm, hard. We lurched to a stop, whipped around.
The streams of light on either side of us poured down the corridor into the eye-holes of a face; the eyes were twin black holes, whirlpools, pulling everything in. My body froze. I tried to open my mouth, but no sound would come out. My throat was paralyzed. Sailor lifted her hand, pointing. Her arm trembled. I did not need to see her to know her terror, to know the courage it took to call out this face with a gesture of her tiny hand. I forced a scream. I looked into the wavering eyes and screamed into them until I poured out of my body and in through the eye holes of the ghoul. Sailor whispered my name inside my head. I had gone into the body of the ghoul.
The sound of wing beats filled the corridor. A chaotic black shape sped toward us, covering and uncovering the caged lights as it flew. In a burst of flapping wings, a crow alighted on the floor of the corridor, just short of where the cricket walked ahead of us. The crow spread its wings low along the floor. The bright red cricket took hold of a wingtip with its tiny feet, and crawled to the crown of the crow’s head. The crow took off in a deafening chaos of wing beats, and vanished down the corridor.
“Follow them!” I cried.
Just as we had been impelled by the cricket’s song to run up the side of the mountain through inky blackness…now we rushed headlong down the corridor, the lights racing past our eyes, blurring into a bright stream. Our speed transcended human speed; the tempo of our feet on the concrete became so light and rapid we felt that we could have flown.
Dried grass rustled beneath our feet as we stepped down into the hollow. Overhead the blonde roots made a deep, vaulted ceiling, studded with mushrooms and textured with moss. Still cold from the rain outside, we huddled. The space was warm, and soon our shivers dissolved, and our clothes began to dry. Although there was no torch or fire in sight, a golden light bathed the hollow. The light seemed to come from the roots overhead. Nestled into the dried grass, we fell fast asleep, holding each other in a spooning embrace.
We slept for what seemed like hours. I do not know whether we made love, or dreamed that we made love, or both…but I do know that my body became a rigid crescent, and that her body enfolded mine…and that her softness nourished me, and that my blood surged within that softness.
Later, Sailor’s body became hard…and she shuddered, and cried. Afterwards we were both soft together, our cheeks hot, our bodies locked tight.
Then we were conscious, and our clothes were dry again, and soft against our skin. We sat upright in the hollow, and stared into each other’s eyes. As we did I felt an echo of the surge I’d felt before. My body was hard again, and I knew that I had held my potency.