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Gabrielle of the Jungle

I hear the dense rustle of the jungle canopy above me and I realize I had been dreaming of the Marquise de Lioncourt.

It has been a long time since I last dreamt of her; I cannot even recall the last time her image crossed my mind. The marquise was sitting in the stone castle, by the empty fireplace with her back to the heavily draped windows. The room, she knew, would have a high ceiling and grey, chilly stone walls, the floor barely masked by the occasional pelt rug. She did not look up because it was dark, the corners of the room blurry in her vision as if a thin gauze veil hung between her and the distant confines of her cell.

Her hand was raised to her lips, her eyes unseeing in the damp darkness. It was cold. She breathed on her fingers, so thin and fragile. No blood flowed into them, maybe it was the cold or maybe the illness in her body had already eaten her insides, leaving only the hollow pain under the skin.

What was the heavy weight on her lap? The marquise looked down, brushing away the yellow wisps of hair that tumbled down, covering her face, the cobweb obscuring her vision. A leather-bound book, thick, lay there closed on her lap. A familiar cover, she thought as she ran her numb fingers over the gilded edges. Whose could it be? But she knew the answer to that and she felt a sudden churning in her stomach. Don't open it, a voice warned her, but the dream would not allow her to stop. Her fragile hand turned the cover, and trembling ever so slightly, she peered into the page that opened before her.

Marquise de Lioncourt.

Decorative letters, elegantly etched onto the paper. She could see the slight bleeding of the ink at the edges. Beautiful, really. The Marquise realized she had stopped breathing. She forced out what little air she had in her lungs, but the constriction in her chest only tightened. She saw those same thin fingers fumbling with the corner of the page. Its so cold, damn it, she thought. She got the impression that the page made its crinkley noise as it finally turned, but the dream was without sound.

Marquise de Lioncourt.

She closed her eyes and let out a gasp, but when she opened them again, the same letters leapt out at her. Don't panic. But a wave of uncontrollable terror was building up in the inner pocket of her brain. No. She turned another page. And another one.

Marquise de Lioncourt.

No, no, no, no...! Page after page, the entire book repeated only those few words. A name. Whose name? She did not know, but the wave in her brain crested and broke.

She screamed. A soundless scream which was a blinding whiteness that blocked everything from view. Her hands were on her ears, she had stood up, the book had slid to the floor.

She spun around and in a moment, the drapes had been flung aside. The sudden light from the windows stunned her for a moment. Then, she brought her arms in tight against her curled body and went crashing through the windows.

Snow had fallen the night before and all that could be seen were the white fields and the white mountains. The space was filled with the dull sunlight that had diffused through the grey sky and had reflected on the snow-capped landscape.

I half expected to feel her fall, but all I felt was that soaring moment as she leapt through the tower window into the white space.

Then, I awoke. I felt the soft, familiar moisture of the dirt enclosing me, giving way as I pushed my way up to the surface. The images of the dream were already fading. It was in fact rather unusual for me to remember as much as I did of a dream; dreams were superfluous, unnecessary to my survival and wholly unrelated to reality as I saw it.

I brushed off some loose dirt from myself and raised my hands to my face, to push away a few stray strands of golden hair. Suddenly, I felt a chill. Impulsively, I crouched down and wrote with my finger in the soft dirt.

Gabrielle.

I am Gabrielle, I whispered to myself. I stood up, looking down at my name inscribed on the jungle floor. I laughed, not even knowing why I had done such a thing. I was no longer even aware that I had had a dream; the images had completely vanished from my mind.

Without another glance, I turned to walk deeper into the tropical forest.

The rain will wash the writing away.

.

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Updated May 18, 1999