Driving into town for my Saturday errands, I saw the white fleck of her dress long before I made out what it was. It was a lovely morning, one of those first spring days that prove you’re a survivor, and overnight the trees have transformed themselves from a black and gnarled mess into a lush watercolor. I had the windows rolled down and the blossoms were blowing in and at first I thought her dress was just a fallen branch leaning against the tree. What a shame, I thought, feeling regret for the tree as I drove nearer. From about fifty meters away, I made out her hair. It hung in long brown locks against the front of her dress where her head was slumped. Not a branch, a girl, I realized and pressed the gas pedal harder, lurching the last few meters. I jerked the steering wheel as I pulled off next to her and I jumped out of the car.
I dashed over to her and sure enough she was a real girl, not a branch of petals, although I did find petals in her hair and clinging to her dress. She had been tied to the tree with a pale rope, on which I found a few birds resting. I shooed them away. She was bound hands and legs to the tree, and she slumped forward so her chin rested on her chest. She was lovely.
I paused a moment before I touched her, not wanting to disturb her. She looked indescribably peaceful. Finally, I drew two fingers through her hair and pressed them to her neck to check for a pulse. Her skin was the same temperature as the air and I felt no movement.
I removed my hand and wanted to go for help. I found I couldn’t move. I stood rooted to the spot, staring at her, absorbing her. Time passed and finally I heard a car door slam behind me.
“Sir? Do you need some help, sir?” A kind voice said next to me. The woman was small, with short dark hair. She held a cell phone in her hand. “Sir, I’m calling for help right now,” she said earnestly. What a blessing she was, that woman. Who’s to say how long I would have stood there staring?
Even now, days later, I don’t know. I still can’t get that girl out of my mind. Just now she’s driving me to pick up a spool of jute at the hardware store and telling me to take it to the tree, now shedding its petals in favor of unfurling young electric green leaves. I don’t question. I press myself into her trunk and she ties me there with the rope.
When the kind woman finds me days later I can no longer hear her earnest voice. I’m inside the tree. I can only feel her dark eyes staring, rooted before me holding her useless cell phone and wondering what to do next.
My second submission for Tipsy Lit, on death and her limitations. I think death is contagious, what do you think?