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Dark Moon's Courage

by Lawren Leo



Last night I had a dream:

At first, I was the night, as if emerging from a bottle of black ink. My arms, a dark blanket cradling a forest of tall trees. They seemed naked and vulnerable, perhaps stripped of their leaves by a dishonorable fall wind. Dutifully, I stretched my arms wide to keep them hidden within my darkness. How fierce a protectress the night is, I thought as I stared at a sickle-shaped moon. And then, I started to change form.

Dead twigs cracked beneath my knees as my body became solid and took human shape. I was kneeling now, alone, in the forest among the trees. I looked up at the beauty of a deep purple sky punctured through with starlight. While all the time feeling gravity’s cruel pressure burdening my shoulders. Was I kneeling in wonderment or supplication? Oh brother trees, have pity on me, if only my knees could take root and join you in such sublime solitude -

A flash of unexpected light accompanied by a sharp pain in my forehead cut my woe mid-sentence. Was it a hunter’s arrow? Maybe the goddess Diana? Or, had the gods slung the sickle-moon at me in a moment of myth-making drama? Then, I heard these words:

Courage. That is all I have ever taught you.

The voice conjured an image in my mind. If only you could have heard it - commanding and melodious, admonishing and accepting, a youthful woman yet a mature warrior. How close I felt to this voice whose mystery was hidden in self-contradiction.

I can’t entirely explain what happened next; except that all my emotions, good and bad, were soaked up by something otherworldly. It was as if a black hole had opened before me, sucking my soul clean of all debris, leaving an immaculate vacuum for her words to germinate. Courage. That is all I have ever taught you. And then, I changed form, one last time.

A desire to locate something was my first sensation, then thirst. I was moving at a fast trot, snapping my way through indignant branches with a shake of antlers. Direction came easily. The smell of moist soil and bark made the wind a detailed map. A wild energy heated my body. This is what it feels like to be untamed, I thought with a joyous burst of freedom.

Slowing pace, I reached a pool of water where the river came to a stand-still. At its edge I leaned forward to drink, but stopped just short. The face of a white stag stared back with searching eyes. Courage. That is all I have ever taught you. This time the words were mine, spoke in unison with my proud, shadowy reflection. Our lips met in the water as I quenched my thirst.

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