Blue is braiding grasses between her 1ngers.
It looks like purest idleness: a long-haired woman at day’s end, painted in sunset, cross-legged near the river, weaving for pleasure. She is not making baskets or nets, not even crowns or garlands for the children running barefoot nearby.
What she does is study. What she does is play, in six dimensions, a game of chess in which every piece is a game of Go, whole boards of black and white stones dancing around each other, pushed, knights turned rooks, iterations of atari carefully constructing checkmate. She lays grass over grass over grass and studies, not only the geometries of green, but the calculus of scent and heat, the thermodynamics of understory, the velocity of birdsong.
While so enmeshed—knotting grass to grackle scold, the smell of leaf mold to sun’s azimuth—a tree swallow swoops near, scissors her peripheral vision, severs her from trancing reverie with its dissonance. It Aashes blue at her eyes’ edge, stuns her with its unaccountable presence. There are tree swallows aplenty, but this one is wrong: This one approaches an empty nest in autumn, a nest that she was near to harvesting to show her nephew and teach him about how much weaving can be learned from birds.
She stands, and the grasses fall from her hand like seeds. She follows the swallow, watches as it deposits a damselAy in the nest and Aies away.
She climbs, plucks the insect from the muddy twigs, hops back down. In the damsel’s needle-body, checkered in black and blue, she reads a letter.
She looks from the dead damsel to the scattering it’s made of her thoughts, 1stfuls of green and gold heaped uselessly together, and feels nothing but a kni1ng, knotting happiness as she opens her mouth to devour it, wings and all.
Years later, a seeker shadows the grass where Blue lay. She scoops up a handful, then melts away.
I have read your 1rst three sumac letters. I cannot let them go unanswered, though I fear to write without knowing what comes next. (I taste the letters still. They linger. They undermine all other Aavors, pipe them full of you.) Perhaps I’ll ask a question answered later. Perhaps I’ll write a sentence that oPends.
But if you hunger, I swell. You have me watching birds, and though I don’t know their names like you know them, I have seen small bright singers puP before they trill. That’s how I feel. I sing myself out to you, and my talons clutch the branch, and I am wrung out until your next letter gives me breath, 1lls me to bursting.
I miss you in the 1eld. I miss defeat. I miss the chase, the fury. I miss victories well earned. Your fellows have their intrigues and their passions, and now and again a clever play, but there’s none so intricate, so careful, so assured. You’ve whetted me like a stone. I feel almost invincible in our battles’ wake: a kind of Achilles, Aeet footed and light of touch. Only in this nonexistent place our letters weave do I feel weak.
How I love to have no armor here.
You wish you could hold me at knifepoint again. You do, still, in a way. So long as I bear these last three seeds in a hollow behind my eye, you are a blade against my back. I love the danger of it. Besides, I am not so naive as to think your posting to this strand entirely lacks purpose. Your Garden works slowly, works through lives. It burrows you deep, and through you wreaks great change, while we strive upon the surface.
And in your absence you are deadly as a blade. Lacking letters, lacking the tremors of your footsteps through time, I seek out your memories; I ask myself what you would say and do if you were here. I imagine you reaching over my shoulder to correct my hand on a victim’s throat, to guide the braiding of a strand.
I am being watched. The shadow, my Seeker, steals after me. I glimpse it in the purplish gloaming, but where I chase it, it is not. Smells: hard to say, though hints of ozone and burnt maple. It takes many forms. I worry it is just a phantom, a consequence of my breaking mind. I had hoped to catch it, kill it, prove myself sane (or not) before consuming your next letters. I cannot endanger us, endanger you, any further. But I am the songbird running out of air, and I must breathe.
They’ve freed us from sleep as from hunger. But I like exhaustion, call it a kink or what you will, and in my work upthread it’s often convenient to impersonate humanity. So I tire myself with work, and I sleep, and dreams come.
I dream of you. I keep more of you inside my mind, my physical, personal, squishy mind, than I keep of any other world or time. I dream myself a seed between your teeth, or a tree tapped by your reed. I dream of thorns and gardens, and I dream of tea.
The work waits. They’ll catch me here if I remain. More soon, after I’ve put this shadow to bed, after we’re safe.