Pulling Secrets from Stones
by Beth Goder
In the lakebed by the mountains slept stones full of secrets. Waiting memories. Dissipating memories. Rachel could feel the hum of them, their longing for closeness, pressing against her as the sun pressed down.
She slid down to the lakebed. Dust rose around her, obscuring her truck by the side of the road. The air stagnated, heavy and dry, baking itself into the earth.
Her memories were dying–the secret ones, the memories that let her touch the sky, the memories of how to cast a branch to find missing things, or summon a flower in her hand. All of her most important memories. Gone.
She pulled a geological survey map from her pack, jostling her water bottle and a squished peanut butter sandwich. Unfolded, the map stretched farther than her arms. Red marks showed where she had searched. Not much of the map was marked–perhaps half an inch.
Rachel hiked until she reached the edge of her last red mark.
She turned over a stone–memory shaped–then cupped it in her hands. Ordinary. The next stone was the same, and the next. The lakebed stretched for miles, with huge cracks like fractals in the dust. Endless.
Stones, stones, stones. None of them memories.
Wind brushed past, and for a moment, Rachel feared that the woman in the mountains had found her. This close to the mountains, the woman could feel the land as if it were her body–the sweep of wind along mountain backs, the plants that thrust themselves through soil, the intrusion of sun into shaded spaces. The woman in the mountains had described this connection to Rachel, back when she had described everything to Rachel. Before the anger. Before the woman had discovered Rachel putting memories into stones. Before the rift that separated them as no mountain could ever do.
When Rachel looked up, only the sun was above her. Her relief was empty. Dry. As much as she feared the woman in the mountains, she wished to see her again.
And Rachel did fear her. The woman was like a crash of rain, an avalanche, soaking everything in her path. Unaware. But Rachel had come to love her wild kindness, her fierceness. The woman would mix the colors of the sunset beautiful and bright. She would send goats to look after the elderly, those who had no children. With a splash of soil and a whisper, she could cure sickness in trees, but never death.
The memory of the woman hung above Rachel like a dark sky, full and treacherous. Waiting.