By Rina Palumbo
As she walked through the meadow, her shadow slicing the sunlit greenery, Marietta stopped, her eyes scanning the ground. Her long black hair, dressed hurriedly into a bun, was starting to loosen, and, just as she placed an offending strand behind her ear, she spotted it. To the right, partly obscured by a collection of alder saplings, was a nest holding a single brown speckled egg within its hollow. She took a step, stooped down, picked up the warm offering, and placed it into the large pocket of her apron.
Quickening her pace, she ascended the low hill, her bare feet delighting in the softer grasses. Marietta stopped abruptly after reaching the flattened top. Kneeling down, her long skirt swallowing her legs and feet, she carefully took out the egg and put it down in smooth brown contrast to the deep green of the wind-cropped grass. A small smile crossed her face.
Her burden discharged, she stretched out onto the grass, closing her eyes against the now overhead sun. She relaxed into the ground, letting the weight of sunlight mold her loose clothing to her body and the stiff cross breezes battle to dislodge even more of her hair. She lay motionless, tensing only her hands, closed now into tight fists.
Marietta could speak to the wind, and sometimes, but only sometimes, the wind spoke back. She had once posed a question to which, as of yet, she had had no answer. To hear the wind’s reply, she needed deep silence.
Above her, beyond the fragile blue of the sky, the vast cold space between stars and galaxies was filled with the noise of time, a hiss and spit that reverberated endlessly. Within the earth below her, slow, steady pressures from the liquid metal in its heart threatened with impatience to dissolve the weight of her flesh and return her bones to the hard rock.
True silence could only be found in that small precious moment when her heart paused between one beat and the next. In each instant of pure, true quiet, she strained to listen. Each pulse was a failure, a shattering return to the noise of life.
And then, a single word. Her answer.
Standing upright, she replaced a recalcitrant strand of gray hair behind her ear while noting the jagged eggshell fragments at her feet. She started walking hurriedly down the slope into the meadow and saw the speckled brown long-eared hare watching her, eyes nervous, nose and whiskers twitching. A small smile found her face once more. As the creature raced back into a copse of alders, Marietta continued walking.
* * *
Rina Palumbo (she/her) has an MA from Queen’s University. She has published work in Survivor Lit, Beach Reads, and local magazines and journals. She is currently working on a novel and has two other long-form works in progress while continuing to write short-form fiction, creative non-fiction, and prose poetry. Forthcoming work in Stonecoast, Milk Candy, and Amethyst.