Evening dew seeped through her hospital gown as she eased herself down, still shaking, to sit on the grassy bank. Blood traveled from spots on each arm where she had torn away tubes, dripped from her palms and soaked into the earth.
Sounds of water spilling over rocks offered a welcome change from the harsh beeps of medical machines that had too long controlled her life. A soft wind played with the gray hairs freed from her braid. Scents of balsam and pine circulated in the breeze, putting to rest the antiseptic odor she had once thought inescapable.
She kicked her slippers over the edge and watched the river whisk them away. Her toes slid through the green and dug at the soil beneath.
Coughing, shivering, she remained until even the sun chose to retire behind the trees. Until flashlights blinked in the distance and approaching voices called out a name that now meant little to her, or to anyone else still drawing breath. Until growing whispers of footsteps in the brush promised to carry her back to the place she’d only just left, and her eyes searched the darkness for deeper escape in the direction of the rolling current.
She slid toward the water and tensed, preparing to squeeze the last bit of strength from her aching limbs. Tears ran down her cheeks and fell, drops hitting the earth with the gravity of unfulfilled wishes.
At once, all noise ceased. Chirping of forest creatures, rustling of approaching people, bubbling of rushing water, all muted. And a cricket, barely visible in the dim, climbed her knee. It played a tune, high and light, a tune that promised all futures would remain at bay, in this place.
The cricket played. It wooed. Its melody churned and tweaked her tired insides, waking something both new and as old as life itself. Her eyelids fluttered closed as the tug of its song increased by multitudes, ringing in her mind until it became the only thing she knew.
Her world rocked and swayed, she curled and shrank, until she crawled out from under the woven cloth of an unnatural existence. She stretched her many new legs and walked over to meet him face-to-face, beneath the canopy.