Come to the Temple
by Linz Vandermeer
The scent of the flowers was heavy, nearly cloying as they were crushed beneath tramping feet. She stopped, thorns tangled in the end of her skirt. Gentle fingers trailed over the bruised petals, regret on her face. "Come to the temple," sighed a barely audible voice. "Come to the temple and drink it all in." The petals leaked, staining her skirt as red as if they bled, thorns clinging to the edges.
"Come to the temple," whispered the voices, light in the darkening air. "Come to the temple, and see the light." Wrapped in fragile scales, the voices tugged at her hair and the the bodice of her blouse, pulling her faster and faster. Tiny feet trailed across her skin, dancing their joy as she conceded, sweeping away with them as twilight wrapped itself around the world like a warm blanket and they settled around her body, wings barely twitching.
Lights began to spark in the shadows, bringing with them small, buzzing voices, faster and more urgent. "Come to the temple," fizzed these new voices. "Come to the temple and hear the song." Lights tangled in the tresses of her long hair, clinging to the curls and dotting her forehead like a crown. Impatient, flickering up and down her arms and launching from her fingertips to light the way.
The breeze picked up, bringing with the soft sounds of bird calls. "Come to the temple," lilted the voices, trilling softly. "Come to the temple and take your place." They swirled around her, pushing her faster, faster, leaving feathers in the ends of her hair. Their music guided her, blending with the lights, the buzzing, the whispers. Louder and louder.
With a crescendo they broke into the clearing. Thorns, moths, fireflies, birds. Swirling like a maelstrom, and in their centre, there she stood. Arms raised as the moon crested, her face bright and upturned, her lips parted in wonder. Ancient trees formed the walls and ceiling, arching with arms of their own, reaching for the light. "Come to the temple," burbled a spring at the centre of the clearing, as it danced over weathered stones. "Come to the temple and change."
She knelt at the pool, hands stained with broken flowers, with insect dust, with bird dander, and dipped her fingers in the clear water. Everything washed away, whisked downstream as fast as it touched the surface. She cupped her hands, raised the cold liquid to her lips, and drank deeply.
Eyes closed against the sudden light, a chill running through her, down her throat, pooling in her stomach. Then it spread. Up her spine, across her shoulders, sprouting from her skin. When she opened her eyes, her bare feet hovered above the trampled grass, her shoulders strained from unaccustomed use, and her voice broke into laughter, like tiny bells ringing. Her winged companions swirled around her, proclaiming their joy. When she opened her eyes, she was suddenly free.
An agender asexual from Ontario, Canada, Linz has not yet been published, though they have been writing privately for over 25 years. Their preferred medium is descriptive prose, though they have dabbled in both poetry and novel-writing.
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