The Woman – Janae Windsor

The woman plunged her knife into a tree. She meant to strike the white rabbit. But she missed.

There was a raven perched above. Looking down.

The raven wasn’t impressed.

The woman spotted the raven and said, “Say my name. I know you know my name.”

The raven kept calm. The raven didn’t let on.

“Fine,” said the woman. “Be like that.”

The woman caught a snake sleeping in a rotted-out log. She took the snake by the tail and began to whirl it around and then snapped its head against a tree.

She went back to her cabin in the woods, and made snake stew.

Her children did not like snake stew.

So she threw her children into the pot and ate them.

Then she cried herself to sleep. “No more husband, no more children. I am all alone.”

The woman rubbed her full belly. She wiped the tears off her cheeks, and slept through the following day.

Awakened by the sound of her broken heart, she stretched and went outside. The stars were bright. The moon was sliced through. Only a fraction of its whole.

There were creatures watching her. The raven was there. The porcupine was there, too.

Since she was well rested she walked down the trail.

On her journey she met a man. The man’s name was Russ.

Russ was a guy with few words who happened to be wearing a mask.

“Take off your mask,” said the woman, threatening to stab him. “I don’t trust you.”

“Why don’t you trust me?”
“How could I?”

“If I take off my mask will you trust me?”

“I don’t know,” she said. It was a good question. Did the mask have anything to do with trust?

“Fine,” said the man.

His face was scarred. One large slice ran from above his right eye all the way to his jugular vein pulsing on his neck.

She immediately fell in love with the man, and his scar.

They had three babies. And they were happy.

The woman mostly forgot about her other children and the other man. The ones she ate. She was too satisfied for regrets.

Whenever the woman and the man got into a fight they would wrestle and eventually they would make love.

Sometimes the woman would start a fight just so they would make love.

The children grew. And soon they all moved away.

The man was sad. But the woman was practical. Little children need to grow up and leave their parents. It was the way of life.

But the man missed his children and was burdened with loss.

The woman said, “It’s time to make love, man.”

All he could do was roll over and fall asleep. He could not make love. He could not eat. Life itself tormented him.

The woman went out to hunt, like she used to. When in doubt, hunt. There was a raven in the tree.

“Kathy,” said the raven.

The woman stopped, looked up, and threw her knife at the raven. But the raven could not die, for everyone knows a raven is not a raven.

“I knew you knew my name,” she said.

The raven flew away.

After fetching her knife she walked back to her cabin in the woods.

“Man!” she called out.

But no one called back.

She looked under the bed.

Under the kitchen table.

Under the sink.

The tub.

The tree he loved to pee on.

The man was nowhere.

The woman was alone.

The woman started a fire in the fireplace. After the flames rose high, she used a shovel to move burning logs onto the marriage bed. The blankets went up in flames.

The fire ravaged the cabin, burning it down forever. And the fire was so hot it pushed the woman far away from the heat and her past lives.

She came to a prairie and slept in a red barn.

The following morning she awoke to the farmer holding a gun to her left temple.

“Mornin’,” said the woman.

“What on earth you think yer doin’, missy?”

“Sleep,” she said. “I needed to sleep.”

The farmer was about to say something but his wrist was covered in a sticky red residue.

“You cut me? When did you do that?” He dropped his gun and fell over in the hay.

The woman dragged the farmer’s body over to the pigs. It wasn’t so bad watching him get eaten up; it reminded her of the time she ate her first man and her first set of children.

“I know,” she whispered to the pigs. “I understand.”

The woman took over the farm. It was a hay farm. And during harvest she made a killing. Enough money to last her the remainder of the year.

The townsfolk invited her to public gatherings like church and potlucks. She went with them and worshipped their god. It just made sense to the woman. A lot of things make sense. And singing and praying and listening to bible verses were just fine by her.

But the woman got old. Her fingers were arthritic. Occasionally she tried to conjure the memory of her old hunts, but whenever the vision of a rabbit or snake or deer was about to surface a white frothy wave came crashing down, washing it away.

“I know I used to hunt,” she told her friend. They were sitting in front of a woodstove, knitting little scarves for little children.

“I can’t imagine you hunting, Kathy,” said her friend.

“I think that was me. I don’t always know what has happened. I think I may have eaten my children.”

Her friend opened her toothless mouth and laughed.

On the day of her burial all the townsfolk were there. The coffin was lowered gently into the ground. The people sang a hymn about salvation and glory.

Afterwards, everyone went back to their homes bowing their heads out of respect for the woman’s long life.

It wasn’t long until everyone the woman knew died. And when they died, all memories of the woman died with them.

The woman didn’t like being forgotten. She wanted to be one of the few that were remembered.

It’s not easy crawling out of a grave. But if you really want to, you can.

The woman crawled out of her grave, stretched her arms, and waited for her eyes to adjust to the light of day.

There were some children stepping on graves. When they saw the woman crawl out of her grave they pointed and laughed, and soon began mocking her. They called her names like Creepy, Ugly, and Skinny.

“I’m hungry,” whispered the woman. “I could eat the eyes right out of your little heads!”

The children ran away, laughing, insulting her with high-pitched screams.

The woman walked down the highway. Right down the center of the dotted yellow line. Cars whizzed by her in both directions. Some drivers beeped horns. Some yelled obscenities.

The woman waved. She smiled. She gave them looks.

A gray pickup truck pulled over. “Need a ride, pretty lady?” asked the man. He wore a dirty baseball hat and was chewing tobacco.

“I’d love one,” said the woman.

He drove her to the nearest motel.

They entered room 115.

They watched game shows on the television and shared a bottle of Jim Beam.

They walked down to the country bar and got on the floor and stomped their boots to the music. They were line dancing.

“I like this,” said the woman. “I should have been doing this more. I should have been dancing during my life.”

The man was too caught up in the music to hear her words. He was now wearing a cowboy hat and waving it around as he stomped and kicked and spun around.

The woman went home with a different man.

He lived in an apartment above The Pizza Parlor.

“Do you like movies?” he asked, pepperoni and cheese smells wafting through the atmosphere.

“I don’t know,” she said.

They watched three movies together. It was thrilling to see all the action and shoot-outs and kisses. It reminded her of the days she hunted, made love, and it even reminded her of rocking her children to sleep after they had nightmares.

“We can go up on the roof,” said the man, after watching the third movie. “We can see everything from up there.”

The woman said she’d like that.

The sky was clouded over. For some reason the streetlights were out. It was so dark it felt like they were on top of the world.

“Here we are,” said the man.

“Sure,” she said.

“Do you remember me?”

“I don’t think so,” said the woman. “Should I?”

The man cawed like a raven.

“You,” she said.

“Yep. It was me all along.”

“So?” she asked. “Am I supposed to be impressed?” Actually, she was impressed, and a little turned on.

“Thought you might want to know is all.”

“I don’t care,” she said, bluffing, but not knowing why.

She heard the man morph into a raven, a swooshing and a click. Then she heard the wings flap in the air, drift off, leaving her all alone, again.

Her first impulse was to climb down the roof, head back to the cemetery, and get inside her cozy coffin. There’s nothing quite like the feel of your own coffin.

But instead she leapt off the edge of the roof and flew over the town. She made circles and did loop de loops.

The clouds were separating above exposing the big old moon.

“I’ll land there,” she said. “And after I’m there I’ll move on to Mars. And then Jupiter. I’ll fly wherever I feel.”

The moon’s sand was soft on her bare feet. The craters protected her from high winds and dust storms.

She met a man on the moon. His name was Charles. He was known for his seasoned stews and raven black hair.

She preferred being on top when making love.

“I love you,” he said, looking up at her. “You know that, right?”

She loved him, too, but wanted to prove it without actually saying it.

She smiled wickedly, unsheathed her knife, and with both hands raised the blade above her head. The moonlight shone upon her breasts.

“Please don’t,” he said, crying; he thought she didn’t love him. It was more than he could bear. But the thought of dying brought relief, for this man could not go on knowing the woman never loved him back.

“Don’t cry, my love,” she said, and brought the knife down to the moon’s crust, right next to his neck. “This is our home. This is where we will live.”