3 The mother with cold eyes
With fewer and fewer visitations from travellers, I tend to sleep a lot. My soft slumber is only interrupted by the birds that perch on me. I see the sun come up in the morning and trace its progress through the sky. In the evening it disappears, plunging the sky in a deep red.
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My dreams are long and full of love, war and life. When I am in the land of dreams, I feel it again; leather shoes around my feet, a horse' torso between my thighs, metal around my chest and a sword adorning my hip.
The ornaments on my harness are heavy and inconvenient again, showing a simple fact: I don't need to dress conveniently for the battlefield. I have others to fight my battles for me, I don't need to unsheathe my sword. Grass plains would be covered under bodies at my command, but it was never me who committed the act.
Then the first fell... my son, my darling son. Your brothers mourned you, your sisters mourned you. Until they fell themselves. Not with their swords in hand though, in their beds and bathrooms, a red smile adorning their throats. I remember walking in on my eldest, naked, her body twisted into the bloodied sheets, as if she was posing for a gruesome erotic portrait.
After that, my mind and my days grew dark, I spend them in the dungeons of my palace. Handling a whip against naked men, unconscious in their shackles, hanging against the cold stone. My macabre wall decor, appalling and shocking to anyone who passed them.
It became a daily ritual, the torturing, as common as eating and sleeping. Whips became insufficient, I needed burning steel and ghastly devices to abreact my anger on these men, these traitors who I welcomed in my palace. Why do I still dream of my children? Why can't a parent mourn and move on?
Then I see her, the mother with cold eyes. Her hair, thin and tightly woven into a plaid, swings over her back in the rhythm of her unsteady steps. A dozen times I'm sure she is going to trip, but her legs refuse to halt.
How are you, Mia? Welcome back to my hill. How is your son, your handsome boy? Did he build his palace, or did he follow my advice? 'Are you planning to tell me about your gods and angels again?'
Mia sits down. "No. Though they have been good to me."
'It feels nostalgic to have you rest in my shadow again.'
"Ah yes, though my old skin is able to withstand some sun rays, it has grown used to it after living here my whole life." She waves in front of her face as if she wants to waft away a wasp.
So you didn't follow your child to the city? Have you seen him since he left? Or have you never left your little village, with your little marketplace? You probably spend your life between the stalls full of greens and fabrics, selling your goods. When you pass a stall with exotic merchandise, do you ever feel the need to halt and wonder where the products came from? You must have felt the need to travel to these places. I know your son did.
'Did he build his palace yet, your handsome boy? Probably not, seeing he hasn't invited you to join him. A palace is too big to live alone in.'
"I know nothing of a palace," Mia says to me, "I know he never lived in one, neither is he buried in one."
Where did they bury him? Certainly not at the village' burying ground, I would have noticed. She doesn't seem that sad when she tells about her son' death, indicating it's an old grievance. So, the handsome boy who rested naked under my leafy crown has already returned to the earth. Here we are, two mourning parents on the edge of a desert.
'Do you miss him?'
"I'm consoled by the thought that he is in a better place."
Idiot human, you are still as naive as when you were younger. How do you know? Who has told you, have they been there? How do you know he wasn't gifted with a wooden body after death, just like me? Perhaps he has returned as one of the beetles under my bark.
"I'll probably leave this world soon as well. I'm old, there's no point in denying it," she continues, "I live from day to day."
'So, you live for today. No responsibilities, no plans or ambitions. Why?'
Silence on her side.
'Have you given up on life or are you going to keep dreaming and planning for your future?'
A tear runs over the deep aged lines of her face, "you tell me, what do I do? What do I still have to live for?"
'I shouldn't be the one to tell you what to do. You are welcome to rest in my shadow and listen to what I tell you, but I have never and will never give you a command.'
"Then what is it that you do?" She turns and lays her cheek on my bast, "what purpose do you have?"
'My purpose? Why do you think I have a purpose?'
"Everything does, everything has a reason."
'My dear, why do you think that? Why should nature bend to the will of men, and their desire to have a purpose?'
"What else is there? What are we doing here if not fulfilling some purpose?" She cries, drawing lines with her index finger in the sand.
'Nothing has a purpose, not you, not I, not life itself. The reason of life? Reproduction.' I can see she isn't happy with what I tell her.
"Then why are we here?"
'I have a far more interesting question: why do you need a reason in order to enjoy or give meaning to your life? Life is life, it's not because there is no reason behind it that it's a waste of time.'
I don't take it to heart when she leaves me, fisting her skirts and huffing through her nose. Whether that comes due to her efforts to descend the hill or her anger with me, I'll never come to know. I'm horrible at comforting people, aren't I?