A simple walk in the woods last week took a turn when an old nemesis stalked me and I found myself at a choke point.
Others stroll down the trail, oblivious to its menacing presence. But it lurks in the forest, skulking in the shadows, waiting for me to approach.
How do I sense its presence when others don’t? It’s a curse, not a blessing. I’d prefer to be like those innocent others, going about my life unaware of its threat, but I’m cursed with this ability.
I can’t hear it-I’m not sure any human can-but my nose knows what my ears don’t. Its fragrance wafts through the air and tickles my sinuses.
I see others inhale deeply, even close their eyes and smile as it fooled them with its sweet odor. No, I want to scream. Don’t fall for its guile. It’s evil!
But they breathe in its noxious fumes in their unwitting state. Their ignorance protects them from knowing its evil. The savory scent for the clueless is malodorous to me.
Nor can the unknowing souls taste it and feel it the way I do. The toxic scent settles on my tongue and coats my skin. My body tenses, knowing its attack is coming.
Even my eyes see what others can’t. With the sun angled just so, the beams of light dancing under the trees, I see its essence floating in the breeze. A clueless family, unaware of its menace, walks through its shadowy specter, scattering particles in the breeze. But they come together in their wake, a gathering shadow stalking them for revenge.
It assembles behind me as well. Some days it lacks strength, but its power grows this time of year. The danger in the woods burgeons until it strikes its target.
I became its victim this week.
The sun shone through the leaves of the trees. Birds sang their sweet songs. The creek gurgled its background melody. What should have been a peaceful day turned violent. It slipped behind me during a walk down our path.
My body tensed in anticipation of its attack. I looked around for help, but no one else seemed to notice. They didn’t sense the growing danger. They weren’t aware of its shadowy specter stalking me.
Its hot breath slithered across my neck. Close. So close. I searched for an escape, but nothing offered sanctuary. I could run for home, but it was too far. It would catch me before I closed the distance.
It reached around me and brushed my cheek with its bony fingers, teasing me with the knowledge of the looming assault. A chill drizzled through my body as its claws encircled my neck.
No, I cried, leave me alone. Except the words didn’t escape into the world. It already had its grip on my throat, tightening and choking the breath from me.
I gagged, a sputter of sound slipping into the world. If only I could cry for help, tell others of my plight, but the vise clamped harder.
Air. I needed air. Fresh, clean, cool air. Oxygen filling my lungs. Relief spreading through my limbs.
But air I couldn’t get. My diabolic attacker pressed hard, its grip crushing my ability to breathe. I was suffocating.
My vision blurred. My eyes watered. Tears flowed down my face.
Battling a demon such as this required knowledge, the wisdom of the long-suffering, the experience of those who’ve been its focus for all these decades. I needed to utter its name in order to escape its hold. If only I could loosen its purchase, perhaps I could escape to the safety of my home and live to face it another day. A day when I would be better prepared.
I reached deep inside myself, summoning the will to fight back, to resist.
I know who you are.
The words were barely audible. A whisper. An escape of air. And yet, its clasp loosening. A chance.
I know your name.
The pressing on my throat relented. Not a full release. I wasn’t free from its claws. But enough to gasp a desperately needed flow of oxygen. It was what I needed.
Release your talons, you evil spirit.
Startled for a moment-a fleeting second-it slackened. I broke free and fled.
Escape would not be that easy. It screamed in frustration and pursued me, desperate to sink its tentacles deep inside me. Encircling. Swirling. Claws tearing at my face.
I reached the house. My hand on the doorknob. It loomed behind me, trying to prevent me from slipping away. With the last of my strength, I pushed through the portal and stumbled inside. I slammed the door shut. Twisted the lock. And sank to the floor, inhaling and wheezing.
It clattered against the door, its frustration palpable. I leaned against the frame and uttered its demonic name. Words that strike fear in the hearts of those of us familiar with its evil presence. With its desire to crush us. I whispered it, loud enough for it to know, but too quiet for others.
Heinous, vile, wicked, scurrilous.
I sucked in lungfuls of air, savoring the freshness, before venturing further inside.
My smiling Ever Patient Partner-In-Life greeted me. “Oh, hi, you’re home.”
Yes, yes, I made it.
“Isn’t it a beautiful day?”
Gorgeous, if you can breathe.
“It’s so nice outside that I opened the windows and let the air flow.”
The pollen is here. It has made it inside my house. I can’t escape. An abominable laugh echoed off the walls.
Yes, the pollen count has gone through the roof here and it’s wreaking havoc with my simple desire to breathe. As always, this story of my allergy attack this week is absolutely true and factual-except for the parts I made up.
Vocabulary Word Of The Week: Opsimath
With our educational system focused on our youth and young adults, we often think of learning as something for early in life. Many people, though, develop a love of learning later in their years. An opsimath is a person who learns late in life.
The word comes from the Greek opsimathia which derives from two components: opse (late or after a long time) and manthanein (to learn).
Despite the saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, I’ve come to believe it’s sometimes easier to learn as we age because it’s easier to admit we don’t know everything. The more I learn the more I realize how little I truly understand which is why my appetite for learning expands.
Hardy rhododendrons love our cooler temperatures and heavy moisture, so they grow throughout our mountain regions. Most bear a lilac-purple flower, though various colors appear. These brilliant red blooms are not as common, but they are stunning.
Interesting Links: Answer The Public
Ever wondered what people were searching for on the internet about a particular topic? One tool to see that is Answer The Public. Simply select a word or phrase (e.g., pollen — eek!) and it will provide a number of graphs showing some questions being asked.
This information is primarily used for marketers, but it can be good fodder for story ideas. “Pollen vacation” certainly sounds horrid. “Pollen won’t come off my car” could be a great opening line for a short story. And “Pollen for bearded dragons” sounds like a great name for a band. And, yes, those are all results I received.
Books Read: Do No Harm
I read 100 novels a year and share the best with you.
How far would you go to save your child? Would you break the law? Endanger your life? Harm others? Dr. Emma Sweeney must decide.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
Is it obvious His Royal Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey thinks highly of himself?