The Dead but Alive Woman
She woke up every morning only seeing what was behind her. She sometimes would try to turn her head but could not. It was as if she was made of stone. So, she looked back. She remembered the many signs telling her not to go in that direction and how long the journey down the road had been. She cried remembering when she so terribly wanted shade and found only tree stumps. She was disgusted when she remembered going through the trash looking for something to eat and finding only rotting food, which she ate. She saw the snake and was scared all over again. She remembered the pain of the bite and the dizziness and fever she felt almost immediately afterward. She wondered if her eyes were fooling her because she didn’t remember the coyote being pink, though she did remember it howling as she fell in the hole. She didn’t want to look at the river at all, but couldn’t help it. It was where she drowned after she stumbled out of the hole.
The Woman in the Cabin
The woman in the cabin lived alone. The cabin was small but still had enough room to bring in strays that needed help. She had such a stray now. It was a dead but alive woman she had found in the river. The woman was dead but alive, a phenomenon she had seen many times before. There was no heartbeat, no breathing. She was cold but not hard. The woman in the cabin poured warm water over her and then laid a blanket of orange flowers on her naked body. She sprinkled grass on top of the blanket, then very fine pebbles on top of that. She left her alone and went to carve the rock.
The Indian with the Limp
At the edge of the plateau there lived an Indian with the limp who the woman in the cabin was friends with. She would tell him about her work carving the rock and he would sometimes help her move the broken stones to the waterfall so they could be washed away. He didn’t understand what she was carving but he enjoyed the sound of her hammering in the distance during the day. He sometimes brought her rabbit for dinner. She sometimes brought him corn for breakfast.
The indian with the limp asked her once what she was trying to do with the rock. All the woman in the cabin would say is she was working on creating a new face on the other side of it, facing the hills and mountains, similar but not exactly like the face facing the dry land. He didn’t see anything resembling a face yet but it didn’t matter, he encouraged her anyway because he liked her. She knew he didn’t see it but she didn’t mind, because she liked him.
The Indian with the limp had collected the orange flowers and the pebbles and brought them to the woman in the cabin the day before, when she had a stray coyote with a twisted tail come in. But the tail had straightened itself out with just a little burnt crepe myrtle paste put on it so the flowers and pebbles weren’t needed. The Indian was happy about this because he knew they would be helpful to the dead but alive woman from the river.
The Indian with the limp loved to gather things for the woman in the cabin. It was a chance for him to explore and have a purpose. He didn’t know what jobs were but if he did he would have called it his job and he liked his job very much. He also liked that he was helping animals and people heal. His favorite thing was to collect the little pebbles from the river. He often thought about how he helped her throw the big rocks into the river after she chiseled them off the carving, then he would bring back little pebbles that were just those big rocks having been broken down. The Indian with the limp thought that was amusing and would smile as carried them back up to the plateau.
The dead but alive woman took a long time to recover. She stayed at the woman in the cabin’s cabin for many months. She would sit in a chair and look back over the plateau to the dry land below and feel no better than the day before. The woman in the cabin saw what was happening and one morning moved the chair to the other side of the plateau. The dead but alive woman then was forced to look over the hills and mountains and to watch the woman in the cabin do her carving. She learned about the carving and would watch the woman in the cabin chisel every day as she sat in her chair. She met the Indian with the limp and thanked him for help the woman in the cabin get the supplies to make her better. When she felt strong enough she asked if she could be of any help and the woman in the cabin told her it would be helpful if she would sing for her while she carved. She she said she only knew 2 songs. The woman in the cabin told her not to worry, she would teach her many songs, which she did.
The dead but alive woman loved the new songs she learned and would sing them beautifully. The Indian with the limp started coming by each morning and would play along with a drum he had. The coyote with the no longer twisted tail would even come close once in a while and howl in harmony. The woman in the cabin was able to work faster and longer with the beautiful music being sung and soon the new carving was almost finished.
One morning, well before the sun rose, the woman in the cabin awoke the dead but alive woman and told her to get ready, she was going on a journey. The dead but alive woman asked what sort of journey. The woman in the cabin said she wasn’t able to tell her what sort of journey or how long it would last. All she said about the journey was that the Indian with the limp would help her as she got on her way.
The woman in the cabin had packed a nice backpack full of food, clothing, and supplies for the dead but alive woman. The dead but alive woman wanted to take one last look around, to remember where she had been healed. The woman in the cabin let her do that, but would not let her go to the edge of the plateau and look back at the dry land below.
The Indian with the limp was waiting at the other edge of the plateau with a lantern to help them down to the hills below in the dark. The dead but alive woman hugged the woman in the cabin and said she would see her later. The woman in the cabin said nothing, just smiled and gave her a kiss goodbye. The indian with the limp and the dead but alive woman hiked down the side of the plateau until they reached a trail going up the hills towards the mountains. They traveled over three sets of hills until mid-day. Then they took a break, sitting down for lunch. The Indian with the limp told her this was where he was going to leave her.
The Alive Woman
The dead but alive woman was about to ask why when she saw the carving in the distance. Up on the plateau, high and strong in the mid-day sun, was a beautiful face facing her. It was her face but it wasn’t. It was the face of an alive woman, not of a dead but alive woman. She forgot what she was going to ask the Indian with the limp and just stared. Then she looked in the direction the face in the rock was looking. It was looking towards the mountains.
The alive woman said goodbye to the Indian with a limp and asked him to make sure the woman in the cabin knew how grateful she was for her love. The indian with the limp said he would. Then he said his goodbye and went back towards the plateau. The alive woman hiked the backpack up onto her back and set off. As she walked she could hear the howl of the coyote with the no longer twisted tail. She started to sing along.
Drawing and story © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com