May 10, 1981

A Man and Woman glide slowly on a porch-swing while sounds in the Pennsylvania woods are of natural uneasiness: throbbing chirps and chops of buzzing crickets; deep, and sour, and mournful moans of creek-toads; maddening swoons and howls of dogs, or wolves, or monsters. She is covered to her shoulders in a wool blanket. His eyes direct themselves to an owl on a branch of an oak tree in the front yard.

MAN: I wonder what goes through their minds?

She thinks for a moment, digresses.

WOMAN: We never should’ve cut down that tree.
MAN: Yes – but then, my darling, where would you swing every night?
WOMAN: We were very selfish. It should still be standing there, next to its lover.
MAN: But – it was a dying tree.

He reaches over and cradles her left hand between his two.

WOMAN: And here I am – myself dying. With too little time to give back.

She traces the fingertips of her right hand back and forth across the swing’s armrest.

She closes her eyes as he sits quietly, his own eyes and mind fixed in thought. He leans over to kiss her on the forehead, rises, and then heads through the front screen door.

Sounds of commotion push through the darkness from inside the house. He returns to the porch while holding a few items in his arms. He sits and gently pulls the blanket from her body. She is in a thin nightgown, which he slips off of her delicately, over her head. She gives no resistance. He then wraps the blanket back around her body, after which he wraps two heavier blankets brought from inside around her. He makes them snug against her body by means of electrical tape. He gives a soft kiss on her light-colored lips, and then he places a strand of tape over her mouth. He picks her up and carries her toward the oak. As he reaches the base of the tree, he kneels and places her inside a large swollen hollow in the trunk.

MAN: I love you, Angelique.

Her eyes are open like moon craters. She makes an awkward moan, as if trying to speak. A tear forms and sinks down her face as she slowly closes her eyes. He rises and looks up, to speak to an owl on the tree’s thickest branch.

MAN (con’t): Judge not, Mister Owl. It is of her tears that you all will drink. Because only from death can the living be nourished.

He then turns around toward the house and is startled to see a young girl standing at the top of the porch stairs.

MAN (con’t): Jane – go back to bed, my little angel. Please.

C. Aloysius Mariotti @Lonesome_Noise was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Arizona. He studied creative writing at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he also listened to a lot of Rush, Radiohead, and PJ Harvey. He resides in Massachusetts with his wife Kristen and Westie Bella Francine. He once recorded a stoner rock album, and he’s finishing his first novel, Collapse the Light into Earth.

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