A jogger isn't quite sure if he is imagining a forest nymph.
The alarm sets off in a blinding light behind his eyeballs like a protesting scream.
His knee is pounding with every footfall, and he curses between a hiss when they threat to collapse. Spotting a bench, he quickly drops himself onto the wooden seat, immediately stretching his legs out in front of him gingerly as an apology.
His shirt is sticking to the trail of sweat running down his chest like a waning river. He yanks out the ends of his headphones, greeting silence from thick rock and roll. Flicking his mop of wet hair off his forehead, he leans back and arches his neck over the top of the bench as he regains his breath. A ripple of warm aching rushes up his calves and he flexes them to stave off the prickle, gulping deep inhales of air to cool his steaming body.
A rustle interrupts his concentrated breathing, and he almost chokes from the startle. He twists his neck awkwardly to the bushes behind him and stills.
Fantasy was never his interest, but he's completely certain he is watching a realm unfamiliar to his own.
She hums, oblivious, and he can't recognize the foreign tune that chimes sweet and light. He can taste it on the center of his tongue, melting quickly with a sugar coating that lingers.
She snaps a flower from the plot, the stem between her bright, short fingernails, and sniffs the white petals. They gently caress her blushed cheeks and pollen speckles the tip of her tiny, button nose. In a swift motion that counters her previous ease, she weaves the stem through the floral crown piled between her hair.
The mass doubles her own scalp, interlocking pure black, shiny, straight hair and a cacophony of brilliant brights and silent pastel petals. Varying shades of fire edge the masterpiece, popping pinks and clashing against the dark violets. Like an affectionate, extra extremity, an emerald vine escapes the blossoming sphere, uncurling against her temple and grazing the tip of her thin, slanted, charcoal eyes.
She easily brushes the hanging leaves, twirling and tucking the vine back into her headdress with an absent hand, her light, puckered lips glowing with her hum. She picks up an auburn leaf from the autumn pile, studies it and brushes off any dirt, blowing a light breath as a precaution before sneaking it into her hair.
Blinking wildly, he wonders if he's seeing right. His phone buzzes in his shorts pocket and his focus wavers as he checks the text message. Dismissing the message, he whips his head back, dragging his legs with him this time at the ache in his neck.
She's gone like a fallen leaf blown by the wind.
She's not in sight, her presence lost except for the few leaves and flowers she had plucked but forgotten. His eyes scan for any sign of her escape, but not a branch from the bushes reveals where their exotic autumn goddess disappeared.
His phone vibrates again, this time relentless and he shuts the phone off, rubbing his eyes with his palms. He pauses his merciless attack to peek between his lifelines, miffed when the leaves and flower petals don't move. Sighing, defeated by the mirage, he pulls himself to his tired feet, stomping to revive them.
He glances once more at the window in the bushes with a twisted mouth and huffs a breath before hiking his knees up for a jog back. Through the eased pain, he muses at the extent of his imagination.
But the hum sticks in his mind, softly blowing like a rustle between the trees, and he can almost see her disappearing through the foliage like the nymph she probably was.