THE DEVOURED HEART
It was nearly midnight as I hiked up the trail into Coyote Hills.
It was going to be October 16th, my mother’s birthday had she still been alive.
During my climb I stepped aside for only one traveler, a whirring night-bicyclist, her bright light beaming as if she were a falling star descending past me.
A fog had begun to engulf the lower Coyote Hills.
The fog luminescent in the moonlight, the peaks of the higher hills still visible darkly, the stars sparking above, I arrived at the crest of the trail where the great Weeping Willow tree spread.
The great Weeping Willow was often a campsite for homeless people but I never saw the same person there twice. Or ever again. This night there was no one; only the debris of previous habitation.
I stood beneath the great Weeping Willow and sighed at the unbroken view. I inhaled deeply the perfume of sage brush.
Then I caught the scent of wild onion. I thought, “This is odd. Wild onion grows near streams.”
I turned and I chilled with a shock.
There stood a young woman, her long pale hair like fog cascading over her shoulders, her pale skin pearlescent in the moonlight, her eyes eclipsed beneath long dark lashes, and just as dark were her lips. She wore a short pale dress that might have been satin.
I said, shaken, with a nervous laugh, “You startled me.”
The young woman’s expression was of indifference.
I offered, “It is beautiful up here, isn’t it?”
The young woman did not reply. I felt that she was studying me. She raised her slender arm and with her fingertips she delicately wiped her dark lips.
I offered, “My name is Adam.”
The young woman then softly said, “I am Jannah.”
I asked, “You aren’t really dressed for hiking, are you? I mean, it’s a great dress… You know… Just, uh… Not typical.”
Jannah said, “I am not hiking.”
I asked, “I’m not ruining your night here, am I? I won’t be long. I just came up here to say a prayer for my mom.”
Jannah seemed to shudder imperceptibly. Then she said softly, “Then don’t leave because of me. I don’t mind.”
Jannah stepped lightly toward me. I was mesmerized by her manner, her voice, her truly haunting presence.
I thought to my imagination, “Down, hound.”
Jannah stood now not far from me, looking out at the moon. I still could not discern her eyes under her long lashes and averted gaze. I thought her dark lips looked more… more wine-stained than made-up. She was an unnatural beauty. I smelled wild onions again and I liked it. I felt myself flush.
Jannah smiled and she asked, “Should we talk the moon down?”
I laughed, “I’d like that.” I suddenly wanted to howl at the moon like a coyote.
I said, “So what brings you up here tonight, Jannah? You could be dressed for dinner.”
Jannah answered after a moment, “I did dress for a late dinner. And I often appear here on nights like this.”
I said, “Yeah. It is a unique place. That is so cool that you think so too.”
We both watched the creeping fog below.
I finally asked, “Are you up here alone, really? Are you meeting your boyfriend?”
Jannah whispered, “Yes. And no.”
I joked with intent, “You do have a boyfriend, right?”
Jannah delicately wiped her lips as she answered, “I have had many men. And women.”
I laughed in astonishment.
I said, “Jannah, you are totally something else.”
Jannah suddenly seemed sad.
I quickly added, “But in a good way. I’ve just never met anyone like you.”
Jannah smiled again, “Obviously, you would only meet such a person as I once in a lifetime. Ordinarily.”
Once in a lifetime. She was right, I thought: Love at first sight. I felt giddy.
I ventured, “Would you like to go out together some time?”
The scent of wild onions became overwhelming. Jannah answered, “We are out together now.”
I took that with perplexed encouragement and I asked, “Well then… Again, some time… Again?”
Jannah tilted her head as if pondering a great conundrum.
Had I been presumptuous? Had I misinterpreted her friendliness? I suddenly felt foolish.
Jannah then said softly, “No.”
I fell inside myself and I blurted, “But why?”
Jannah replied, “Because… I have a… feeling for you…”
My heart leapt. I quickly affirmed, “And I have feelings for you.”
Jannah turned and took a step toward me and she raised her face.
Jannah’s eyes were sewn shut.
I glimpsed moonlight sparking off of tears.
I gasped again and again in anguish as Jannah turned slowly and left me alone on that peak.
She had devoured my heart.
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