Heather walked on the road that passed the meadow, the one place she remembered the most from her time with Travis, the boy now laid down under in his family cemetery.
Gone in a week at Seaton South from a virus. Alone in the night.
The enormity of her tragedy, signified by Travis’s death, weighed on her mind. Today marked the second anniversary of his passing. He was the only tie she had to what existed before the hurricane transformation of her community. A change that was slowly breaking her. The pain in her chest after Travis was intense for weeks. Sleep was hard, dreamless, with rapid, usually unstoppable thoughts.
She researched broken heart syndrome and went into therapy. The therapist recommended she go to her GP. Unfortunately, she canceled the first appointment and missed the second.
On the third, she struck a particular providence. The EKG was expected, and after a referral to a cardiologist for further testing, they found no abnormalities. Afterward, the physician recommended a follow-up in six months and for Heather to discuss dealing with her sleep disorder with the therapist.
His grave faces the outskirts of Kyle, the city that was only a little town thirty years ago. Situations change like the temperature when a blue norther blows down from the Canadian prairies. In the morning of life, one could wake to endless plains dotted with scrub brush and cedars; in the afternoon of existence, you wake from a nap to see the surroundings transformed into a labyrinth of concrete and corrugated steel.
She looked toward the solitary live oak at the crest of the hill overlooking the meadow. It stands now sick and fading.
She suspected poison again. The land was expensive, therefore, profitable. Although the tree was a historical landmark, it stood in the way of speculators and landowners wishing to embrace their offers.
Before Heather was born, the ranchers had already sold out. Now the horse farms were bailing out for the bucks. So now, the holdouts are under pressure to sell.
Heather awkwardly stepped through the rusting barbed wire fence, pulling her green knapsack behind her. She moved through the tangle of brambles to reach the meadow and walked toward the live oak.
She felt it was time to do the work here. The Hunter’s Moon was tonight, which burned brightly in the sky shortly after Autumn Equinox. For Heather, the Moon is vital in understanding its linkage with the past, one’s ancestors, and in particular, those close who were now gone.
Heather spoke a little about it with her therapist, who had a sympathetic understanding of what Heather wanted to do to heal herself. Heather believed the time of this Moon was an opportunity for catharsis, a transformative experience that would help her recover from the loss of Travis. In so doing, they discussed change, rebirth, and the need to move on.
Heather felt that Laura was different and younger, perhaps a punk rocker or a Goth in an earlier time. However, Laura did have multiple ear piercings, and in a couple of sessions, Heather spotted a glimpse of tattoos exposed at the edge of Laura’s collar.
After initial hesitation by Heather, they got along very well. Laura asked the right questions—the kind parents and friends avoided, such as How are you feeling? Where do you see yourself in the future?
Everyone has a past, as now do I, Heather thought, believing finally heard.
Especially important was in asking: What is your day like tomorrow? Heather wanted to hear these questions during unbearable sorrow and loss, mainly when people did not listen to her. Still, though, Laura was sometimes not asking the right question for her to answer. But she was patient when she could unveil herself to the therapist.
She reached the oak, caressing the scaly texture of its grooves and ridges with tenderness. She grew sad when she saw the bark crumble to her touch, indicating that the oak was dying.
Heather opened her knapsack to pull out what she needed for the night. She spread the white cotton sheet, tapering down the corners with stones, and brought out the things she needed for the night.
After settling down, she fanned herself with her grandmother’s fan. The weather is hot in October, although cool down enough to be comfortable in time for the Moon’s rising.
By nightfall, the temperature had dropped. In the meantime, Heather played music she and Travis liked. One song, in particular, was a country song by Jerry Jeff Walker, “About Her Eyes.” Her friend Billy played it often on his guitar, signing it to her late into the starry Central Texas night. Something magical about it was his voice, and playing the haywire background melody with his bottleneck took Heather to a different place.
In this time of sorrow and memory of loss, the song brought comfort, helping Heather narrow her focus to making an invocation.
To make this and achieve its intent was not anything elaborate. Heather wanted to say goodbye to Travis and for his spirit to hear her.
Starting with her mothers’ books on magic and searching for more information at the magical bookstores in Austin and Dripping Springs, Heather believed she had learned enough to get the ritual correctly. She feared opening the door to the malevolent, yet was willing to take the risk. As darkness began to fall while sitting under the live oak, Heather felt safe.
Heather chose rose quartz they found together on a trip to Arkansas to summon Travis and an Amethyst to protect her. The crystals lay in front of her on the sheet.
When the orange Moon rose above the horizon, Heather recited the memorized incantation and waited.
Heather received a response from Travis.
She screamed and ran from the meadow.
What Travis told Heather was not what she expected—and wanted—to hear.
Because the dead know to ask the right questions
Mike Lee is a writer and editor in New York City. Work published and upcoming in many journals and anthologies. His book, The Northern Line, is available on Amazon.
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