“Ro?” I whisper quietly, glancing over to the woman who is staring deeply into the flickering fire. Her eyes, shadowed by the dark night, rise to meet my own brown ones with a question shining in their depths. I let my head tilt, curly hair several shades darker than my eyes sliding over my shoulders to drape across my chest as I ask my question.
“How long has it been now?” I can feel my head falling forward, my body moving along with it. The woman presses her hand against my front, pushing me back up into a sitting position. Running her fingers along my hairline, I can feel when she reaches the bandages behind my ear.
“They need to be changed again,” she says quietly, keeping her hand on my shoulder as she reaches into the bag by my feet. When she removes her hand, gauze and tape is pinched between two long fingers, the tape dancing in the light wind of our campsite. A small pair of scissors, pulled from her pocket, cuts away the old gauze and the stomach-twisting scent of my own body fluids overwhelms me.
“Hold in there,” she tells me faintly, though if she’s the one who is quiet or I’m drifting away I cannot tell. I can feel wetness swipe at my skin, and a murmur of words meant to comfort me as she presses the clean absorbing pad into place and begins wrapping my head again. I am moved, I can tell as the world shifts, onto my side and Ro gets up to toss the bloody wad of materials into the flickering flames.
“How long?” I ask again, and she brushes my sweaty bangs away from my eyes, staring into them.
“Six more hours. Six more and it should be over. You’re doing such a good job,” she says, her hand caressing my cheek. I feel a tear escape my eyes, the pain and exhaustion pressing against my breaking point.
“’m s’tired…” I moan, closing my eyes. I can feel it all around me, the anger and misery that is the Earth Mother who is angry with her children. It was four months ago when the reports started flooding in. Hikers and campers vanishing to reappear mutilated days later. Strangulation within people’s homes. Children massacred in playgrounds. Farmers found buried in their fields, their crops tinted red from human blood. The animals, plants, insects, the Earth itself, were out for vengeance against the ignorant humans and we were losing.
That was why Ro and I had come here, come to Nature herself to try to appease and balance again. She hadn’t wanted to listen, but I’ve been working almost two months now out here, and I’m not giving up now. Old spells, forgotten in time, is my ally. We built the circle last week and tonight is the last night until the old Magicks grasped Her and appeased the anger.
“Stay awake, I know you’re tired, but don’t let this all go to waste.” Ro, blessed woman, had refused to let me come alone. Which, in hindsight, was for the best. I had been attacked by an ancient maple tree, resulting in a head injury that would most likely have ended in my own demise. She’s been keeping me healthy, motivated, and on track. Several times I have almost given myself over to Her, the allure too strong for my human weakness.
We stay like this, my head cushioned against her leg, staring into the fire, until the sun breaks the morning sky and I can feel the Earth snap back into place. Back into balance. Many lives had been lost, but with time, we could become a better people. I can only hope for the future of my people, that we do not ignore Her again as we had in our past.