St. -- raw-- berries

Grace Chia

The Wolfman had a basket of strawberries when he entered the forest. He was searching for no one in particular, though he had noticed that the trails in front of him had been made -- scratches in the soil with the familiar marks of a human. His scent was bad for his nose had been running; his eyesight poor for he had been crying. But soon, as he could make out the view of an approaching figure, he found that he could see who it was -- a pale, wispy figure, short like a bush, enveloped in the canopy of a cascading red cape. A heroic figure with an anti-heroic figure.

The Figure piped out salutations in an unfamiliar language, but even though unrecognisable, the Wolfman could make out the tunes of a friendly tone. He was greeted by the alien in a red hood, and he said "hello". While the forest was dark with arms of wrestled foliage and sparse light, he now saw that the Figure had black tresses tucked beneath the hood, with tawny skin and alluring eyes - a child nymph in disguise. Standing in the same spot facing each other, the Figure and the Wolfman regarded each other with respect, and as the leaves rustled and nestled with one another, somewhere beneath one's hairy groins and the other's wet loins, thighs spliced, and sensations of a different kind triggered a response. Strange, how yearnings sprout in the forest, like mushrooms exploding from the earth!

"Where are you going?" the child-nymph asked, eyes fluttering wide with innocence.
"Nowhere," proclaimed the Wolfman, "for the destination is less intriguing than the journey which I have, henceforth, begun."
"Surely you must have an idea where the next point you seek?"
"Unsure, unclear, unbeknownst, even to me," the Wolfman lamented, "all I do know for a fact is that I have food for the next meal, and my legs are strong for the next mile. The sun is up; the forest infinite; and I have the trees for shade and as roof for sleep. You are the first experience I encounter on this journey, and I have yet to enter the core of the forest, but something about you tells me that you are about to etch on my memory and alter the course of my actions. And then again, maybe not. Who is to tell what happens in the next moment, momentous or not."

The Figure paused, looked down at her tiny feet shrouded by the blades of wild grass entwining her ankles, looked up again, and met the eyes of the Wolfman. In his dark pearls, she saw a sunflower in each of his eyes; and he saw in hers, galaxies. Nature meets the infinite Heavens, and the clouds sighed, and shook some feathers down like confetti. White snow enters the blackforest and the nuptial cake is baked. All slush and deep purple juice. Sliding and gliding into a mutual moist. The berries are berry ripe for biting. The cinnamon sticks ready for a chew and a gulp.

For hours, the two stood there regarding the other with an unhealthy interest. Desire reeks pungent from the pockets of the child-nymph in the shape of chocolate bits melting from the repressed heat. From the pockets of his eyes, the Wolfman was in an enraptured, soulful trance. In his hands, the strawberries trembled with crimson hardness and soft flesh. They were to buy the shadowed lives of granny, the hunter, the hut and the axe, in another fabled forest. But now pregnant with promise, the strawberries are his only dowries to the child in the red cape -- superhuman or not, the Figure was a force to be reckoned with -- and their seeds his gift. Between the two, if they each had a bite of the bewitching fruits, they might collapse into the earth in gnarled longing, for the strawberries, cupped in the hands of the Wolfman, in the stance of a dark matrimonial offering, are fruit foods of desire for the hungry. And now that the suns' rays have shifted, and the noon sun is high, teatime draws nigh. Time to feast.

So the ceremony begins: the Wolfman, shed of hair, is reborn as a querulous worm naked pink and white. The Figure, shorn of hood, is revealed as a wild waif with a womanly pout and knock knees, and a mane of hair black and mad. With their red breaths crushing the red juices as their white teeth sank into them, and into each other, bloodjuice flowed down their faces and onto the sweet soil; flowered the wild oats on the ground; and the two sowed their solitary desire. Longing is sweet when the sour bits come. And in this infernal coupling, the couple's internal berries stirred and bore fruit, and bloodjuice was the colour that bled -- which was which, what matters?

In this forest, a potent blackforest, the cries of consumption between the animal and the girl were heard as they ate their way into a dionysiac frenzy. Knees rubbed dirt. Hands grabbed grub. Hair bristled and met somewhere in between -- somewhere in between). The carousel's horses rode high; the hot dogs' spread with mustard; pop corns exploded. The screams from the roller coaster inserted the scene and came in between.

Slowly, the smoke from the toy guns fizzled; the cream's spread thick on the pie; the carnival came to a close. And the train from the roller coaster came down to earth peopled with sighs.

What was left, were strawberry stains, and a lot of dark hearts broken up in bits and pieces. The forest has only just begun its religion.

Published in womango (1998)

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Grace Chia