The backdrop of peace.
The air is still; not chilly nor overly warm, yet there’s a life to it that imbues happiness into those who partake of it. The light is perfect and unsourced, touching everything, though unequally. It behaves as normal light, yet we know it differently.
I follow behind her, emotions content, and unworried as we break the soft hills of the receding forest to drink in this new scene. We don’t stop…that is to say, she doesn’t stop, though we both have time to appreciate the grandeur of the natural setting.
It’s a small valley amongst gentle hills covered in tiny and lush white and yellow flowers. A diluted grass eases its way across the ground, filling the spots it chooses and disregarding patches deemed unworthy for reasons only it knows. A shallow, calm, moving, sapphire-blue river flows against the far hillside. It runs with energy and joy, heading uphill in a wide bed. It flows with commitment and focus, never spilling over to threaten the world just beyond.
And in the clearing, a pristine patio laid out evenly, decorated in washed stone, seamless, unbroken, and level with the soil. Round tables—too many to count—reside within the short, formal fence. They’re draped in radiant white tablecloths and covered in exotic flowers, savory food, and elegant cutlery. Well-dressed patrons sit in those chairs, as bright and contented as their surroundings.
Everyone talks and no one yells. Everyone smiles, and no one fakes. Everyone enjoys, and no one overindulges.
The woman I follow runs between them to the river with no alarm raised by the restaurant staff, or worried expression conveyed by the patrons. I follow still, eyes full of the world around me. I don’t yet realize that she sees much more beyond what we’ve found, and when I understand this, I experience for the first time adverse emotion.
She runs to the nearest bank of the river and stops, but my eyes move past her beauty to see the large, female moose splashing its way up the riverbed. Headed right toward her.
I feel panic. I feel concerned. I had personal experience with this same situation when I was a child. A male moose tromping past me, only feet away, and feeling stuck and mesmerized at the same time. I know the stereotypes, the warnings, the advice. In one moment, the voices of an entire civilization committed to the defense from these creatures ring in my ears. All as this moose walks up to my eager woman.
“Watch out!” I cry.
“Turn around and come back this way!” I yell.
She reaches out her hand to the beast. I have no more chances to intervene until the nose and muzzle of this creature’s cradles into her soft, gentle hands to the astound and awe of the group.
Yes, the patrons could see us. Yes, they’d watch these few seconds unfold with the same terror as I. Yes, their reverie had shattered as many stood or moved away, anxious to distance themselves from the voices of reason as assuredly as I’d heard them.
And yet, the creature coos into my woman’s embrace. It folds under her touch. The two appear made for each other, sharing their intimacy in a simple moment…a genuine gesture of trust and love.
I stand now with a new sense of emotion, entirely overcome by curiosity and intrigue, after momentarily disregarding my fear and surprise.
Oddly, those last two, particularly, didn’t last long.
The moose starts to morph. Almost in response to her touch, the creature changes. The gallant, powerful head becomes that of a chick’s. The neck and shoulders adjusting to the youth and newness of featherless wrinkles and the innocent pink-white hue. However, the four legs, body, and haunches of the beast don’t transform. Sure, they appear to try, an effort that ends as soon as the desire was created. The creature remains more moose than chick.
The new creature chirps and clicks its beak, taking playful and loving snips at my woman who accepts them with smiles and more graceful touches.
My intrigue and curiosity heighten.
I have a natural, intrinsic desire to meet this beast, interact with it. I hope to discover what would happen upon my touch. No sooner do I wish this than it detaches itself from my woman and comes over to me. And no sooner do I see this than my hand reaches out, meeting a brand new creature.
Before me, a wolf, adorned in gray, white, and silver, with full and healthy fur around a majestic head. It appears the size of a wolf, nothing out of place. I not only see every detail, but I feel them as well. The wolf laps with mouth open, eyes now closed, enjoying the attention and the love. I run my fingers through its fur, overjoyed.
My mind wonders now if it will change. My eyes move down from the face to the haunches, and I find a discrepancy. The fur dramatically ends, and the body does not reflect that of the upper half. The distorted, unfinished end of a hyena resides there, in all its stumped and course glory.
Unlike when my woman had touched her moose, my touch did not encourage a change. I see now that my creature came to me this way.
Before I can have another thought, it bounds away to another anxious soul, eager to discover what exists within their hands. I watch it selflessly run to them, and I can’t help by smile.
The danger inherent in the creature never seemed to dissipate while with us. It also was never needed. Love drives it, just as love created the place we found it. Fear wasn’t dissuaded from existing, but it wasn’t supported in thriving.
I can’t see the patrons anymore. They’re gone from my vision, though I swear they’re still close. My woman still stands on the riverbank…at least, I can’t imagine her anywhere else.
My vision is filled with a dog chasing a frisbee, engaging with its new human beyond just a touch or a thought.
And the wildflowers bloom as steady as they did when we arrived. The air holds a gentle breeze now, I think.
And now I know what lies beneath my hands.