The ferns were as tall as I. Slapping at my face, their green leaves filtered the sunlight, as it peeked through the trees overhead. I couldn’t see my feet, or what lie ahead of me, through the vast expanse of foliage. All I could do was push the bushy leaves away, as I parted them like a green Red Sea. There were no deer paths where I was. The deer had a well worn trail near a deep flowing stream, which was now a hundred yards to my right. I pushed on, knowing at any moment I could step on a large snake, and scare the hell out of myself. Or run into a spiders web, with a huge arachnid in the center of it. Both were possibilities. I felt the adrenaline pumping in my veins, at the thought of such a confrontation.
The ground became marshy. I hopped clods of grass between water pockets. I could see the marsh reeds ahead, they were seven to eight feet tall and made the giant ferns I was among seem like upstarts. I made a beeline for them, hoping I didn’t see any bees on the way, or anything else that can bite. The ground was soft, it felt like walking on marshmallows. The mosquitoes were large and obnoxious, each one vying for my arteries. I mashed them against my arms and my neck, depriving the unlucky ones of a luxury such as my blood. The lucky ones drilled me, then got crushed before they could escape. How lucky is that? I could feel welts on my skin. Nasty little buggars, buzzing in my ears, swarming me. How did she manage to make it through this jungle? I had never seen as much as a scratch on her body. Here I was, mosquito welts measling my hide, scratches from briars connecting those mounded mosquito dots, burdocks and stick tites clinging to my clothes, sweating profusely. Using will power, she persevered, and so would I.
The marsh reeds were true to their name, growing in leach and snake infested marsh. I hesitated at this thought, unsure of how to proceed past this predicament. They say, to face your fears head on, is the sure fire way to conquer them. Can’t say that I believe what they say.
I began oozing my way through the thick muck, sucking mud, lying beneath a carpet of floating ground cover. The mosquitoes were destroying my concentration, as I wondered, were there any leaches on my legs? I couldn’t tell through the mud. The water was sickening warm, the enormous marsh reeds a curtain I had to constantly push through. All I could see was green and golden brown, as I shoved them out of my way. Damned weeds! They tried to tangle my legs, twice I almost fell face first into the soupy goo. I was five feet into the marsh, surrounded by reeds, when I heard a rustling on either side of me. This is how it must have been for her, add the crushing weight of knowing what came next. I knew this rustling sound. Had heard it before. When you have fears, you get to know those fears. Sometimes you know those fears better than you know yourself. I stood still, the rustling stopped. My heart hammered, as I told myself that it was too late to turn back now. I had made a promise, that whatever it took, I would do this for her. Whatever she asked. I had sworn an oath. I intended to fulfill it.
The next step brought back my fear, as a swirling black torpedo shot away from me, through the floating weeds. I saw it’s scaly skin, as it weaved between the tall marsh reeds. Shuddering, I pressed on, telling myself it wouldn’t bother me, if I didn’t bother it. Fifteen more feet of this abuse, and I came to a clearing. A large box was at this island’s center. Around the center of this marsh reed forest, sunning on the edge of the clearing, on a small circle of land, were an enormous amount of snakes.
I froze, debated what to do next. Not wanting to bother any of them, wondering, how did she manage to do this? How ? How did she have the guts to go through with this? How did she get the box here? Were we both crazy? The smell of gasoline hung heavy, in the still circle, between the tall marsh reed fencing, and the large wooden box.
I hate snakes.
I fear snakes.
I was surrounded by snakes, very large snakes. I knew – they knew – I hated snakes.
I approached the little island. The snakes did not move. I forced myself to take another step, expecting them to strike at me at any time. One more step…
…and like a watch spring being freed, they scattered all around me into the water. I leaped onto the dry plateau of land, looking nervously behind me. They sunk into the murky water, to be stepped on later. My heart pummeled my rib cage. Should have brought a walking stick along with me! I exhaled a nervous breath, pushed my hair back from my forehead. I looked to the sky overhead. A beautiful blue, framed by golden wheat heads of marsh reeds. A breeze stirred, and swayed them gently back and forth. Maybe it was the loss of blood I was suffering from the mosquito bites, but I suddenly felt a peace there, seeing the blue and gold and green colors, it was a beautiful secluded spot, where no man may ever walk again.
So this was it. This was where it happened. This was where her world fell apart, where her heaven began, where all the pain left at once, forever.
I took the photo of the rose from my pocket, slipped it through a crack in the box, leaving the edge exposed. Without much ceremony, I said my goodbye to her, forever, lit a match to the edge of the photo, and pushed it into the large box. As the flames consumed wood, I stumbled through the steamy muck, under a smoky cloud, as I cursed snakes that writhed in brackish filth.
She had a lot of guts – more than most – to come here alone. And die. I forgave her for the snakes, as I swatted a rogue mosquito, who had not got his fill. And said a prayer for her, under my breath. The box crackled, and I knew she was better off.