Rhona of Old
By David Edward Nell

My bride had returned. There she was, in the flesh, passing before me in the distance. For minutes, watching by the window, I waited in glee for Rhona to turn her head, run up to my arms. Yet, as if stricken with amnesia, she never glanced once at her home. I left my cottage atop the Torridon Hills and pursued her.

“Rhona,” I cried behind. “Have you forgotten your husband? Answer me.”

She vanished up ahead into the swamp, its croaking ills deceiving enough to have me believe those were her calls, that, as I then entered, it was alive. I found her footprints next to a pond. Her pungent lavender fumes lingered, overwhelming even sulfur's decay, setting my senses alight and my awareness keen. When I stood again, I was startled, and then that surprise became ecstasy, for she was right before me, my Irish gem. Her lips were full and inked in a subtle red. Pale white skin like soapy bath water, hair a bounce of fiery curls. An outcast against earth's disease.

“Talk to me,” I said, the mud tugging at my feet, seizing me. She looked away, began to leave. Desperately, I bridged an arm to her shoulder where her garb was loose. Memories of my lip's nurture seemed to glow there. An old connection. My hand went right through, wringing trails of ectoplasm that quickly disseminated, sailed off. I announced my presence again, reached out several times more. Contact was useless. I dropped to my knees.

Rhona was met with company, greeted by a well-dressed man.

“Thought you'd be here,” he said, marking Rhona's hips. “We have to go before father and the guests scold.”

“Dinner can wait,” she replied, and he cupped her hand but she resisted. “I swear I saw him wandering these parts, Jacob. Yesterday. Maybe the inspector didn't search right. We should really look again.”

“Darling, won't you put this behind you? I fear you're gambling with madness.”

She looked down. “You don't understand. I think I can...sense him.”

“Please, Rhona,” he urged. “Stop being a fool. For the sake of our future, move on. I beg you. You know I love you.”

Their eyes met. It was a lovers' carnal exchange, and one spring day past, such an embrace was familiar to me. Thus, I couldn't bear the sight, thrashing from my strange, new soil entrapment, before I fell to my hands. Then I was locked in by the elbows, forced to watch the marriage of their lips.

“The horses grow weary. Go clean yourself up.” Jacob daubed the wetness from her cheeks, warmed her to his red coat, and she left first.

Rhona faded away into the sun. As I tried to have one last gander at the gem of my existence, light rays shot forth into my vision; it was as if I was forbidden from seeing the rest of her departure, as if there was hate in that light.

“Rhona,” went my final effort, my mouth tasting the salt of my misery.

“Erroll,” I heard in response, and it had come from elsewhere. The swamp. It was having its way with me. Madly, I chuckled and hacked, inspired by the increasing distortion of this reality, the wind feeding an appetizer of granules down my throat. And I laughed at Jacob, too, who was sifting through a patch of leaves, who thereafter gave some hard, fallow object a punt into the pond. Then he went, leaving me alone.

Outside the swamp, the sun turned blue. I heard a tune mimicking my inner hopelessness. I knew the soil was hungering, wanting me inside, for then it had me in its filth-spattering grip. I felt the dirt creep into my sockets, hugging me tighter, pulling me inward, into the nightmarish mire lurking beneath, below where no man had ever ventured. My lungs brimmed with its sourness, and no longer did I drown; the baptizing evil began to sustain me. Hands, as beautiful and silky as Rhona's, came over mine, and they came to mill at my limbs, to rip me asunder, to mould my body into some perfect shape to make way for tree roots. When the harvest was done, I understood the necessity of this union, for it would see the swamp flourish again.

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Having spent years trying to evade the Equestrian mafia, David Edward Nell now writes from a nameless hideout in Cape Town, South Africa. By night, disguised as numerous pop culture figures, he can usually be found scouring the African plains for loving. Stalk him at http://davidedwardnell.blogspot.com, but keep this a secret.

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