The trembling mirror is broken by her body as she puts on the the shimmering liquid dress; the water enmeshing her in a gentle embrace, pressing it’s silvery depth against every curve. Her teeth shudder with cold and her back arches as the icy water pours itself into her mouth, steeps her in its molten chill. She spreads herself, augmenting in the water, now taut, now slack as she saturates in the froth. She thrashes and gasps swallowing its’ abundance. As the gooseflesh rises on her arms, the color rises in his cheeks. He stands in the shallows, watching, hungering.
His hunger becomes desperation as he longs to touch her, can’t help but touch her, caress her as the water does. He lunges for her, fumbling in the water with clumsy hands.
She thrashes and gasps at his disturbance, his savagery. Crying aloud, pushing him away, slipping as she runs, slowed by her muddied feet, the syrupy bog, pleading for the aid of her goddess. She runs on, slipping more and more, losing whole parts of herself, a big toe here, a shin there, until only her head is left. She registers the puddle of self she is, a trembling mirror of jade wenge, a body broken into the formless infinite. She thrashes and gasps as silt and small particles tear through her. She begins to weep, at the immense loss, her tears melting away her cheekbones, jaw, face. He arrives at her meager puddle, both of them assuming her more helpless than before. She feels an insistent tug in the wind and follows it, trickling away from him a little. And there, hovering in her new self, she understands that Artemis, in her infinite wisdom, fury, and kindness, has given her a complexity in form to match her mind, has made her a woman so uncontainable as to be ungraspable by man, and she rushed away.
In the thick torpid heat, water pulses incessantly, lapping against him where he languishes in the tall grass. He watches as a bead of sweat lazily trickles down his back and notices for the first time it’s fine muscular shape, notices it’s gentle taper, it’s texture, somewhere between marble and oil. He stretches, watching as his supple muscles tense, absentmindedly stroking the fine gold down covering his body, this form which drives all who see it to madness. Even now, the oppressive sun beats against him, swarming him with its rays, condensing on him in an attempt to possess him; the tall grasses collectively sigh when the wind blows them away from his direction. In the water, his eyes slowly raise to meet his gaze, taking in his heavy lids with dense curled lashes, the sumptuous lips, the carved ivory bones. As he drinks himself in, he too, begins to yearn, wishes to possess, to contain himself. He contorts his body, wishing to see himself from every angle, writhing in satisfaction at the wealth of his own form, the plenitude of hair, rich follicles drenched in honey hues. How grateful he is, to have found the one who will always be with him, who could never try to leave him, the one who completely understands and agrees with him. And yet, as time passes, boredom settles like a fine dust around his weakening frame, a stagnancy that comes with a love unchallenged, an ego unchecked. Years pass and he spends them all riveted by himself. He has known every inch of himself, now no longer the youth captivating to all before. His nail beds curve with the weight they carry, thin hair fraying at the ends, the sallow lined skin matted and caked with his own waste. Unseeing mycelium grow over him, a man unnourished by the thoughts and presence of others, a man who didn’t think to look at another, and when he passes over, there will be no one to remember his love, his life. In his last sigh, he finally looks away and realizes the beauty of dependency, the hollowness of self-reliance.
The Dryads and Pan
The air sizzles with heat and anticipation as Pan wakes up drenched, his body quivering at the thought of girls. He had been dreaming of them, their laughter still echoing in his half-wakened mind. He dreamed of the mischievous games they would play with him, calling to each other in their dew-dripping voices, hiding from each other so that looking at them, you might only see here, a glimmering fin, there a willowy frame, the whole forest a kaleidoscopic riot of women. Arriving at the fabled forest, the air is deflated, stale. He takes out his flute to draw forth women and mirth, to banish his loneliness…his flute made from the last girl he loved, the last girl who refused him. He draws his breath through her once-body… playing beautifully, shyly. Who will love me? Who can love me? The innocent charm of his playing draws no response and the air begins to curdle, no one answers. Plunging into self-pity, he plays a vulnerable song and a nymph, touched by this unvarnished song approaches to listen to the song his heart has sung since the day he became a monster, since the day people called him monster, gazing at his half-form, and the thought occurred to him to be one. Sensing attention, Pan catches sight of her, and begins to chase her, wretched with desire. Her empathy evaporating, she rises in the air, clutching at all that can save her from his lurching attempts. He pleads with her, alternately seducing her and taunting her when he fails to elicit a response. As she escapes, Pan picks up his flute again, and watching her, plays again a song, an ominous harbinger of the dangers of rejecting insecure volatile young men such as himself. The atmosphere comes alive with girls again as Pan leaves, materializing from the air, water, and brush to resume their lives. What for him was possibility and play, was for them an end to freedom and self-possession.