I gasp and cling to Chimera’s hand. She squeezes tighter and whispers, “We must find a way across.”
I turn to look at her and nod in agreement. “Where did all these bones come from?”
“I’m sorry; housekeeping has never been my strong point.” The voice is thick and oozes across the air into my ears sending a shiver down my back.
Spinning around, I say, “Who’s there?”
“I believe you are in need of my services.”
I still can’t tell where the voice is coming from. There aren’t any trees this close to the edge for someone to hide behind. I turn to the right and notice a giant boulder that I could swear wasn’t there before. “Where did that rock come from?” I whisper to Chimera.
“I don’t recall seeing it when we first reached this precipice.” She’s getting nervous. Her speech patterns always get more formal when she’s nervous. When we first met, it was like trying to talk with one of the writers of the Constitution combined with Charles Dickens. She was overly formal and procedural in everything she said. Now that we’ve known each other for so long, she is more comfortable adapting to my speech patterns. I have become less casual in my word choice, but we’re much more relaxed than we used to be.
“Do you think the voice is coming from back there?”
“It must be as I see no other reasonable hiding location.” She squeezes my hand tighter, and the bones rub together. I wince, and she eases her grip, but it’s not by much.
“I can help you cross the chasm. Would you like to cross?”
“That is a brilliant question. Has anyone told you you’re really quite bright?” A leg emerged from behind the boulder first. A hairy, black leg that was clearly not human. Then a second leg. A third. A fourth. As the bulbous body peeked around the corner of its hiding place, I could see eight legs in all. A giant spider was walking towards me. A giant spider with a man’s torso and a woman’s face.
He/she is looking at me with a face full of some emotion I can’t place, and it’s making me more nervous. I take a step closer to Chimera. I don’t think I like this spider creature. His/her insistence on speaking without showing him/herself is off-putting.
“Do not fear me. I want to be your friend. You’re far too pretty to be looking so scared.” He/she holds out her hands for me to take. The hands are hairy at the knuckles. The forearms are covered in dark hair that I can’t help but notice. She bats her eyes at me in an overly-feminine way, and it’s more unsettling than the male/female dichotomy of her human half.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” He/she pouts and crosses her arms over her chest.
I look at Chimera, and she shrugs.
“GAH! Why are you looking at her? She’s not even your true friend! She just shows up one day, and suddenly she means more than I do? Seriously?”
I have no idea who he/she is supposed to represent from my life, and I feel guilty for not recognizing him/her. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I can’t recognize you, but I would be honored if you would help us across.”
“You.” He/she points at me, “I’ll help you. She,” she waves a hand at Chimera, “can follow if you want.” He/she bounces toward me with his/her eight legs scuttling. “I am so glad I found you. I’ve been a little lost without you around.” He/she takes my hand from Chimera, so he/she can hold both mine in his/her man hands.
“What’s your name?” I ask as gently as I can.
“Names aren’t important. Just call me friend, and we’ll be fine.” He/she looks at me with a doe-eyed look of innocence, and the hesitation I felt before is gone. I want to be friends with him/her. I don’t really know why, but it seems like the polite thing to do.
“Okay, friend. This is Chimera, my Dream Guardian.”
“I know who she is.” He/she leans in to whisper, “You should watch yourself with that one. She doesn’t feel like we do. She’ll betray you the first chance she gets.”
I dismiss this as jealousy and say, “How far across is it to the other side?”
“Oh, far too far to make it alone. I will help you. My daughter is on the other side, and she is going to love seeing you again.”
“I’d love to meet your little girl,” I reply. How does a he/she spider creature have a daughter? The mechanics are not something I really want to focus on, so instead, I take in his/her face trying to remember. He/she has long, dark hair with blonde and red chunks scattered randomly. His/her eyes are hazel and subtly shift colors like a mood ring as we talk. He/she is talking to me, but I’m not really listening. I’m focusing on the dark hair on his/her forearms. I’m focusing on the lack of definition in the pectorals. I’m focusing on any clue that might reveal who this is supposed to represent from my reality.
He/she looks at me expectantly, and I have to back-pedal. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I was saying you wouldn’t believe how old I am. I look far too young to be a mother and bearer.”
“Yes, my job is to bear you across the chasm of course. How could you have forgotten what an important job I have? Do you care about me at all?”
Guilt pangs in my heart again, and I mumble an apology.
“It’s okay. I forgive you. Again.” He/she pats my hand, and smiles at me in the most condescending way. He/she leans in and kisses me on the cheek. “We’ll stop fighting like this eventually. You just have to stop being so jealous of my achievements.”
And then it hits me. I realize why I can’t place who this creature is supposed to represent from my reality. Because she hasn’t been a part of my life for more than ten years, and I should be well over this by now.
I step back and wrench my hand from his/her grasp. “You forgive me?” I shout in his/her dumbfounded face. “What the fuck have I possibly done that would deserve any forgiveness? I haven’t done shit to you, and you know it!” I start pacing to vent some of the energy that is coursing through my veins.
“I was a better friend to you than you deserved. You lied to me over and over, and when I committed the transgression of having the audacity to doubt your ‘truth’ then I was the enemy. I was something to be dropped like a dead shoe.”
I whirl on my feet and my hand slaps Chimera on the arm by accident. “I’m sorry, my friend,” I tell her, “I’m letting my righteous anger get the best of me.”
“You, however, will get no such pretty words from me.” I stamp my foot and the ground shakes beneath us. “Your only priority has been your own selfish needs. The flavor of the month that matches your lie of the week. The fact that those lies caught up to you are not my fault, and you seem to have found a better life in fucking loserville, so what’s it to me?”
I seethe and rage, and I’m not directing nearly enough of it at her. Because it is a her. The torso may be a man’s, but that’s only because if she were to have breasts, she would insist that I was secretly attracted to and in love with her. Thank heavens for small favors from your previous selves.
I’m angry at myself. This was over ten years ago, and I am a totally different person now. Why does this still hold a place in my world? Why am I clinging to this baggage?
I look at my spider monster, and she has shrunk three sizes. Her head is to my navel, and she is looking up at me with tears in her eyes.
“Why would you say such things to me? I’m the best friend you’ve ever had. Who else would have encouraged you to be the best you you could?”
“My best me? Seriously? I was a fucking loser clinging to the coattails of a pack of losers with no prospects or hope. You wanted to be artists, but all you really were was a pile of bullshit. It would have been fun in high school.”
“So you’re a grown-up now? Is that it?”
“Yes.” I say clear and strong to make sure that I hear my voice in my ears. “I’ve outgrown this drama bullshit, and I’ve outgrown your shadow.”
I pull my leg back and swing forward, kicking her as hard as I can. She lifts into the air and is airborne for a short eternity. As she plummets downward towards the chasm and the rushing water beneath it, I hear her call those words that always drew me into being her enabler, “I forgive you.”
“No,” I whisper as I take Chimera’s hand and walk away from the cliff, “I forget you.”