She was standing at the trailhead, where she had stood years ago. The slant of the light amidst the pines was reminiscent of another day, another time. There were only so many ways to express one’s grief, to heal, and finally forgive. She started out, up the mountain that fell away steeply on the other side. The old tennis shoes crunched the frosted mulch of the trail, and a baggy navy sweatshirt guarded her slim body against the cold. The cuffs of her jeans were frayed and the knees threadbare. Too much time had passed and not enough had happened. She could wait another decade, maybe. Another lifetime under the influence and desire for closure. It wasn’t fair the way she had made him wait all these years.
She quickened her pace, hearing the voices of the tendrils that he had called fey. Some held a distinctive shape, like that of a human, but many times smaller. They tugged at her hair and clothes, almost pulling her up the mountain. To an observer it appeared as if she were caught in a solitary windstorm, a cyclone that engulfed her, and only her.
It was her freshman year of college and she was stuck in a history lecture because she needed the credits to graduate. She hadn’t chosen a major yet, but everything required some form of a history credit. The class was on medieval history, which she had selected in hopes of getting a fairy tale of some sort. In her mind the past had very little to do with anything. The auditorium style lecture hall was stuffy and smelled of the sweat of too many bored, hot bodies. The professor merely read from the text and ran slides of famed battles and buildings.
“Why do they even make us take a history course? Feudalism sucks- I get it.” She muttered to herself as the professor droned on.
“So we can know where we came from- lest we forget.” The boy behind her replied.
He was pretty, after a fashion. He was delicately featured, with a pointed chin and high cheek bones. His hair was brown and no more than two inches long and curled softly, like a vine. His eyes were slanted but their color was odd. They were…orange…maybe. She looked again, they were green.
“Yeah, I know. I lived part of it.”
This intrigued her. Her mind whirled, time machines, is this kid a maniac, rip in the time space continuum, what the hell? “Quit the shenanigans. How?"
He leaned forward, and spoke in the most confidential tone: “I’m a demon.”
Nearly an hour now that the fey had been tugging at her clothing. The sun was rising higher, dispersing the fog and the sunbeams. She looked at her watch, and noted that she still had some time to spare. The fey stopped suddenly, as if having sensed her thoughts. Fine, they seemed to whisper, these five minutes we shall spare for you.
She sighed and slid down the trunk of a young pine tree. The feeling of not having any weight on her feet was simultaneously relieving and painful. Her socks were probably stained red by this time and if she were to tend to her sore blisters she did not know if she would be able to go on. What she had done had been inexcusable, so irrevocably wrong, how had she dared to do that deed?
Time, the fey whispered, the time is now. They urged her on and slowly she arose, wincing from the sting of her feet. Before the fey began their tug of war she held herself up with the aide of the young pine tree, and she patted her front pocket, where the bag that held her sin resided.
In her second year of college they moved in together. She still had not chosen a major, but hoped they would eventually give her a degree if enough credits accumulated. Their apartment was small, but not cramped. Though many people who knew them assumed they had slept together, they never shared the same bed, and even slept in separate rooms. Whether Samson was a demon, as he claimed, or merely an eccentric man was still undetermined in her mind, but had also sunk to the back of her thoughts, so it was inconsequential to their relationship. He rarely ate, but preferred to prepare exotic meals for her and watch as she slowly, relishingly, consumed them. She had never seen him get a haircut or seen him shave. He kept no razors, and she was sure she would be able to tell if he used hers. His eye color was still undetermined.
The flatmates kept each other company and neither one tried to romance the other. She assumed that after Samson had his English Literature and Creative Writing degrees, they would get married. She had read some of his works and could tell that there was a charisma to them, something that drew the hapless reader in and kept them captive, well until after the last word. In his writings there was also an anger towards god, a questioning helplessness that often referenced stories from the Old Testament, particularly the one of his name sake, and his downfall. She wasn’t concerned by this. She had emerged from her teenaged years an atheist, and tried not to concern herself with what others believed.
Samson encouraged her to study psychology, so she could understand how others thought, why they did the things they did. He was taking a course on it himself so he could “give his characters more depth.”
One late night he introduced her to the orbs of human shaped light that flitted around his bedroom, and told her they were called fey.
“A demon must always have his messengers,” he explained, as if that was why his eyes glowed, or why the fey hummed softly, weaving her hair into his.
Between classes and social obligations both managed to find time to go for a long hike, each and every weekend. These hikes, of course, had been Samson’s suggestion. A way to escape the rumors and other stresses, and, more so, that the fey could see the trees. The fey grew cagey and restless amongst the concrete and the dead wood and the plastic trees. By the end of the week, the fey would ricochet off of each other and the walls, causing the electricity to flicker, and, once, go out.
It was on one of these hikes that he told her that his power was stored in his hair. It had been a chilly day in mid March, and when they reached the pinnacle of the mountain, which was also the end of the trail, he kissed her the way the rumors said they kissed. She couldn’t feel her body anymore, and grew lighter and lighter, until she feared that she would be torn away by the blustering winds and transformed into something beyond this world. Her mind filled with the buzzing of many voices, some familiar, some foreign. They fey encircled them until they were a tower of solid white light.
“There is no fear of god in you,” he murmured when they disengaged.
The terrain began to flatten out as the pinnacle approached. To rise so steeply and then to come level, like the village fool turned wise man, now talking with god. The trees had fallen away and the colligate town spread forth miles below. Her legs ached but the fey pulled her forward. Come, they whispered, you’ve been so long, dear human. And we cannot wait much longer.
She cut his hair that night.
She snuck into his room with a pair of old, rusted scissors and a prayer that he was human. The fey stuck to their corner, exhausted from the emotions of the day.
She knelt beside him and as each lock fell, she deposited it into a plastic bag. His eyes fluttered open as the last lock was shorn.
“Why?” He murmured looking into her eyes. “Why?” He asked hopelessly, repeating himself, his eyes the blue of the edge of the ocean where it meets the sky. “One year more and I would have been free. A demon lives a thousand years in one immortal body, and if they have lived well, they are given a chance at mortality. I had only one more year.”
He grew lighter and lighter, and then dissolved away in a burst of light. The fey hummed angrily, but did not move from their corner. She stared on, at the place he had been moments before, still too shocked to acknowledge what she had done, what she had been a part of.
When she awoke that morning the fey were gone.
They lingered behind her now, fearful of the power she held in the plastic bag in her hands. They brightened with the sunlight, now coming from over head, beating down upon the cold, spring earth. The wind was strong and the town was lain out beneath. The time, they whispered, the time is now.
She felt awkward, because there was so much ceremony to this act, and yet that did not seem to be fitting. She opened the bag and let the locks fly out. A stiff wind took them, and carried them beyond the reach of her comprehension. She had lived a warped decade and now, was finally redeemed. Her body felt lighter and lighter until she could hear his voice: "You were nearly too late; we haven't much longer."
She smiled, pensively, and spread her arms wide, ready to embrace that which she had so long desired.
His words swirled around her, bright and up lifting. " I forgive you."
And in a burst of light, she joined him in the wind.