The Red Goddess
by Melanie Rees
My Red Goddess first died in front of me when I was six. The tiny wooden men with red heads brought her to me. She sat on the dry lawn and cackled a hearty laugh that set my heart ablaze.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Mack,” my voice quivered with excitement.
“I’m Kardla.” Her cheeks flushed as rosy as the sunset. Her hair flickered like wisps of candle light in the breeze. And before I could tell Kardla how much I adored her, Dad approached waving a hessian sack in his hands.
“Get inside!” yelled Dad.
“I’ll return,” she whispered to me.
Return? Where are you going?
“They fear me.” She crackled upon the grass. “And they should.”
“I know…” her voice trailed off as Dad held the sack over her amber head, choking her.
“Dad, what did you do?”
He grabbed the scruff of my t-shirt and dragged me away from the sooty black mark that was once my beautiful goddess.
“Mack, are you insane!” he yelled.
I guessed love was a kind of insanity, but Dad never understood.
At university, I met her again. I spent a glorious night watching my goddess dance on twigs and logs piled high. Drunken teenagers surrounded her naked body. She twisted and turned in ways no man could imagine possible. Jealousy grew in me, but as other students passed out, I sat and waited for our chance to be alone. As the night deepened, she faced me. Me alone. Wild eyes, wild hair and lips that would put Snow White to shame turned in my direction.
“Hello again, Mack,” she spluttered, inebriated from too much alcohol forced down her tender throat.
I approached with the naivety of a boy never touched and rested my hand upon her heart. Her warmth radiated through me, but it did not hurt.
I missed you, Kardla.
“I know,” she whispered and held me tighter.
We danced as if we were the only two on this earth until I could stand no more.
When I woke, some stupid boy with stupid glasses was drowning her with buckets of water. Her head lay in the ashy mud, the light fading from her glorious eyes. She glanced at me.
“They fear me,” she hissed with her last breath.
I turned on the murderous four-eyed boy and smashed his glasses into his face. I defended her and the university expelled me. Like Dad, they didn’t understand.
“Run!” Older and wiser now, I know everyone hates her. She must flee.
The orange halo surrounding her supple body deepens to a divine scarlet. “I’ll crush them this time. We will be the last two standing on earth.” Her raspy tones echo deep within my chest until I can feel my ribs shudder with every heartbeat.
“There are too many.” My hands grip the steering wheel until my knuckles throb. “I can’t see you die again.”
Pain fills her amber eyes. “For you.”
She brushes her fingers through rank fields of wheat. A gusty hot wind excites her, gives her life, and then she is sprinting, flying up the hill.
I follow in my car up an old dirt track towards an ironstone ridge. I would follow her to the end of the earth. I would drink the entire ocean so she could leave this land if she wanted.
Her voice crackles as she wraps her arms around a gum tree and climbs high. The eucalyptus scent clears my head and fills my heart. I climb the tree and embrace her warm touch. For a moment, I am lost in a haze.
Wailing interrupts us: a monotonous high-pitched squeal that saturates my ears.
I drop from the tree and brace myself as a truck approaches. Its red flashing lights blink menacingly. I glance up. She leaps with a ballerina’s grace from tree to tree, trying to flee the truck.
A stocky man disembarks and strides towards me. He barks orders to other men inside the vehicle.
He is a devil in yellow overalls. His hard hat obscures his horns, but it cannot conceal the loathing in his eyes. He wants her dead. The other men that pour out the vehicle, dragging hoses and knapsacks, want to drown her.
“I guess our time is up again,” she whispers.
“Mate, get out of here! It’s not safe,” the chief yells over her beautiful voice.
“Defend yourself,” I plead with her. “They want to hurt you.”
“What the heck are you yapping about?” asks the chief.
The other men shoot her with their fire-hoses. The water knocks her from the tree branch. She lies on the ground; her eyes bloodshot; her ruddy complexion begins to fade. Her agile flight is reduced to a sombre limp as she struggles across the ironstone towards the truck.
Kill them first!
For a moment, it looks as if she hears my warning. She rubs her back against the truck leaving a sooty trail of hatred, before turning on me. Her approach dazzles me. My face flushes with lust and longing. She knows the end is near, and in her dire time of strife, she wants to be with me. Only me.
Before she approaches to say goodbye, someone drags me away and takes me to the local town hall where everyone has fled out of fear of my beautiful goddess.
I wander down the street, and light a cigarette to console me.
On the edge of town, the old football oval is dry and lifeless. I flick the cigarette onto the grass and see her ignites again giving the world life.
“Mack.” She spreads her arms wide, touching every blade of grass, inviting me to her.
I approach and relish in her sizzling embrace. Her touch is warm, but she will never harm me.
She climbs twigs and leaves, fence posts and trees. They think they have won, but like a phoenix, I will make sure she keeps rising from the ashes.