Illustrated by Monica Johnson
As she walked through the tall grasses of the meadow, her elongated shadow following her progress and slicing the sunlit greenery, Marietta stopped for a moment, her eyes scanning the ground below. Her long black hair, dressed hurriedly into a bun, was starting to loosen, and she placed an offending strand behind her ear in a practiced motion just as she spotted her quarry. To the right, partly obscured by a collection of alder saplings, was a nest holding within its hollow a single brown speckled egg. She took a step, stooped down to pick up the warm offering and placed it into the large pocket of her apron.
Quickening her pace, she ascended the low hill, her bare feet delighting in the softer grasses that grew there. Marietta stopped abruptly after reaching the flattened top. Kneeling down, her long skirt swallowing her legs and feet, she carefully took out the egg, a perfect ovoid of potential, and put it down in smooth brown contrast to the deep green of the wind cropped grass. A small smile crossed her face. Her burden discharged, she stretched out onto the grass, closing her eyes against the now overhead sun. She relaxed into the ground, letting the weight of sunlight mold her loose clothing to her body and the hard cross breezes battle to dislodge even more of her hair. She lay motionless, tensing only her hands, closed now into tight fists.
Marietta could speak to the wind, and sometimes, but only sometimes, the wind spoke back. She had once posed a question to which, as of yet, she had had no answer.
In order to hear the wind’s reply, she needed deep silence.
Above her, beyond the fragile blue of the sky, the vast cold space between stars and galaxies was filled with the noise of time, a hiss and spit that reverberated endlessly. Within the earth below her, slow steady pressures from the liquid metal in its heart threatened with impatience to dissolve the weight of her flesh and return her bones to the hard rock. All the sounds of inescapable pressure, all the weighty noise of the flow of time fomenting change and contracting possibility, was the true nature of the world. Within it, true silence, absolute silence, could only be found in that small precious moment when her heart paused between one beat and the next. In each instant of pure, true, absolute quiet she strained to listen. Each pulse was a failure, a shattering return to the noise of life.
And then, a faint sound, a single word. Her answer.
Opening her eyes, she blinked against the raw sunlight. Standing upright, she absentmindedly replaced a recalcitrant strand of gray hair behind her ear while noticing the jagged eggshell fragments at her feet. She started walking hurriedly down the slope into the meadow. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a speckled brown long-eared hare watching her, eyes nervous, nose and whiskers twitching. A small smile found her face once more. As the creature raced back into a copse of alders, Marietta continued walking.