“You don’t look too well. You’re more pale than me.” He chuckles at his attempt at humor. And sighs when I don’t join in. I feel a cold hand on my forehead, too small to align with the deep male voice beside me. “And hot as well. Hotter than a human should be. You should have come to me sooner.”
I open my eyes in confusion, but nothing I see makes sense. I close them to focus on sound instead. I was at home, in my bed. Alone in the house. Who is this that talks to me? I try to sit upright but my migraine asserts itself cruelly and forces me back down.
“Slow down, Soft-Skin. You are still in the pain’s grip.” The small cold hand now lays on my chest. A moment of pause, the hand withdraws.
I should be in my bed. Sheets worn into comforting softness surrounding me. Sounds echoing off hard walls and hard furniture. But the sounds here are swallowed up by soft surfaces. A wave of pain flows over me. I involuntarily clench my fist and find something crumbly between my fingers. I leave my eyes closed and explore with my hands.
I’m laying on dirt. Dressed in my night clothes, but laying on compacted dirt. A slightly higher lump serves as a pillow. The dirt is cool to the touch, just damp enough to hold together. I smell wet wood and stone.
“Know where you are yet?”
“I’m not in my room.” It hurts to talk.
“Not completely.” He chuckles at my confusion.
I reach out and feel dirt above me. “I’m not in a stone cavern. A dirt hole. I know there is a name for it, but I hurt too much for fancy words.” He chuckles again. “Ah, dammit. I know you, but my head hurts too much to recall your name.”
His small, cold hand again on my forehead. “Don’t worry girl. You remember enough to know you’re safe.”
A wave of nausea forces me upright. I don’t toss, but the vertigo tilts me over the raised dirt. A child-sized figure catches me. Such cold skin. I bruise my jaw on his shoulder. He lays me back on the dirt bed.
“You’re here enough now.” I hear him digging into the wall and roof around me. Dirt falls on top of me.
“You going to bury me?”
“What!” I struggle in a sudden panic. Despite being 2/3 my size, he is able to hold me down with ease with only one hand. My burst of energy is quickly swallowed up by the ravenous pain.
“I’m going to bury you, but only up to your face. You humans tend to panic when your face is covered.” He continues pulling dirt over me. The dirt is as cold as he is, and strangely comforting. Like the earth itself was enveloping me in a great loamy hug. He piles dirt and pats it down. Piles dirt and pats it down. Starting with my feet, he slowly cocoons me in cool, moist dirt. Until all that was clear was my face and ears. The chill was sinking into my flesh, clashing with the internal heat of the migraine. I was shivering and sweating at the same time.
“Ok, you’ve entombed me. Now what?” I peek an eye open and see his face looming above mine. Steel gray flexes into a patient smile. Mica eyes glint at me. Even though I’m glad to see him, I have to close my eyes quickly before the vertigo strikes again. (Still don’t remember his name!)
“Now, I teach you how to sleep.”
The oddity of his statement combined with the even severity of his tone strikes me as hilarious. I try not to laugh too hard. Didn’t want to disturb his careful packing around me. Didn’t want to be so loud I aggravate my pain.
He is patient, however, and waits for the humor to leave me. I settle into the dirt blanket. It prevents me from moving about, but it is very comfortable. I peek an eye open again. He is watching me as if watching stone erode. “Alright, you have my attention. Anything to keep me distracted from this pain. How do I sleep?”
He begins to talk to me. His voice already devoid of most inflection, he settles into a low and even rhythm. He speaks of tree roots seeking underground water, of tubers hibernating through drought, long patient seeds dormant until the proper conditions envelop them. The more he speaks, the less I feel of my body and my pain. He speaks of things that burrow through the cold, wet dirt. Things that eat decay and leave behind the bedding of spring. He continues to speak, his words pulling me further and further away. I can feel worms and larvae crawling over my body through the packed dirt.
This does not frighten me.
His words cocoon my mind as the dirt cocoons my body. I don’t know when he stopped speaking. I still heard the earth around me, the roots in the soil, the dreams of seeds waiting for spring.
I don’t know how long he leaves me in this state. I know he never left my side. He would busy himself with things to tinker with, but never did he leave me alone in the enveloping dirt.
A cold hand brushes my forehead. I open my eyes and look clearly into the steel gray face. “The glint is back in your eyes. Did you pay attention to my lesson?”
I realize the pain is completely gone. I have the lazy taste of deep sleep in my mouth. The cool dirt has now warmed to my body. I’m comfortable. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out later.”
He nods. “Do you think you can find your way out? You don’t need my help anymore.”
Gruff bastard. “Yea, I know where I am now.” And I know better than to ask his name. If he wants me to know, he’ll tell me. And he hasn’t told me yet.
He turns his back to me, and I will myself back to the reality of my room.
I wake up fully in my bed. Echoes of the scent of moist dirt tease me. I am delighted to find the migraine fully gone. I start to proceed with my day, but a sudden recall of the dream gives me pause. The dream demands to be recorded, and so it is. Make of it, what you may.