Today’s flash fiction is inspired by one of my favorite songs, A Mháire Bhruinneal, by the wonderful, Susan McKeown. Here are the lyrics, in case you read Irish. They’ve also been loosely translated to English for us monoglots. If you want to listen, here’s the song that I love so much.
David pulled his knit hat down over his head, ruining his carefully mussed style. He’d been hoping to see that guy again. Now, if he did, his hair would be completely jacked up. But it was fucking freezing out here. Why the hell had his parents thought moving to the middle of fucking nowhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula had been a good idea? According to the kids at school, there wasn’t even a Starbucks for a hundred miles. Who lived like this?
Shoving his gloved hands into his coat pockets–his coat that wasn’t nearly warm enough for this bullshit weather–he wandered along the shoulder of Highway 28. Highway. He snorted. Two-lane roads passed for highways around here. But whatever. His father was likely to get transferred again in a year or so. And he could once again be the new kid at school. And if this job lasted until the end of his senior year, he’d be noping out of here so fast, his parents’ heads would spin. There was no way he was going to college in his culture-deficient hellscape.
A flash of movement darting between the stark black and and white birches caught his attention, and he thought he saw a glimpse of golden hair. Was it the guy? David jumped the frozen ditch and started into the woods, his feet making deep indentations in the snow and fallen leaves. He trudged forward, walking faster now, sure he’d seen someone on the distant sloping hill.
“Hello?” His voice sounded thin in the cold air, and he walked faster. As he moved deeper into the forest, he realized the world around him had grown eerily silent until the crunch of leaves and the squeak of snow beneath his boots was all he could hear. The scrabbling of squirrels and birdsong that had filled the air when he’d entered the woods had ceased.
Icy fingers slid down his spine, and he started to turn back the way he’d come. Movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention, and the sound of some sort of stringed instrument–violin? Fiddle?–followed by intense drumming rose over the tops of the birches and pines.
What the fuck?
He pushed forward, following the haunting sound of a woman’s voice weaving through the branches. There was slightly less snow here as if the thick growing trees had prevented it from hitting the ground, and as he pushed on, he noticed that there was only the crunch of dried leaves beneath his feet. And now, he was sure of it–he saw people up ahead.
Suddenly and inexplicably nervous, he crept closer, then peered around a tree. His gaze fell to the forest floor, and his mouth dropped open. Green grass and small purple flowers had erupted from the ground, and there was no sign of snow. His hands sweated inside his gloves, and he yanked them off and unzipped his jacket. He was far too warm to keep them on. Briefly, he wondered if he was dying of hypothermia. He’d heard that once your body dropped below a certain temperature, your brain convinced you that you were overheating.
The music pulled him forward until he was standing at the top of a rise, looking down into to a sun-dappled meadow filled with people wearing flower crowns and shimmery, gauzy clothing. He glanced behind him. The sky was overcast above the snowy woods. But here, the blue was painfully bright, and people danced as if they’d never stop.
A woman appeared before him. Long, red hair tumbled over her shoulders and she wore a swirling gown that looked to be made of dew drop-covered spiderwebs. She took his hand. “Come, dance.”
“What is this? Some kind of low-budget, backwoods Coachella?”
She frowned then trailed her fingertips over his chest. “Come, dance with me.”
He shook his head. “No thanks.”
Tilting her head to the side, she studied him with deep green eyes. Then, her hand still on his chest, her features and body structure began to shift and morph to that of a gorgeous, auburn-haired guy.
David’s blood ran cold as the man slowly smiled at him. “Now, you’ll dance with me.”
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