Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Where The Creatures Fly

I have recently been to Itawallasassa, also known as The Place Where The Creatures Fly. A spot that is a depression in the earth’s surface, placing it closer to Hell, it has the presence of being more remote rather than rural. There is a brutal nature to its nature. One must slice through the heat and humidity, the sandy ground like molten iron, the sun like welding arc. Water evaporates as sweat soon after it is swallowed. It seems, after only a few minutes, that most bodies would not have the strength to carry enough water to travel boundary to boundary, whether north to south, or east to west. This is not fact, but the compression from the dense air makes a person think that, so, you only walk a distance that, in your mind, you know will allow for safe return.  A nervousness and fear keep you glancing back, as though you are tethered to the entry point.

Entry is through a dense thicket of palmetto, vine and briar. Because of the climate extreme, there are few mammals living in the place, however, they do come for a drink of the stale, black water from the long pond. The pond is narrow, maybe fifty feet, but nearly a quarter mile long. There are reptiles in the brush and along the ground; they are forever alert and wait for the mammals to arrive. The chalky bones of the unfortunate are liberally scattered. Those are the issues of small life at Itawallasassa, Smaller yet are the creatures that fly, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, bees and numerous other varieties of insects. The plants and air are flush with such life. It is for that reason I go there.  

There is little tolerance for visitors and there is evidence of this at the entry, which always has a display of warnings or omens. On each of my visits I have had to contend with distinct, mostly frightening and intimidating, effects. I do not know the meaning or significance, whether cultural or religious, of any of the items, but I am aware of the purpose. I do not know who places the ominous symbols and devices near the entry. I have never met anyone within the boundaries, whether visitor or inhabitant.

On this visit I made my way through the thick, scratching brush and bramble, only to happen upon a shark carcass hanging from a tree. There were also various parts of the shark’s body impaled on sticks. The odor of decay was forceful, invasive, and I had no choice byt to lift the neck opening of my shirt over my mouth and nose. It was of little help to do so. To the left of the shark was a small pepper tree and on it hung three necklaces fashioned of thin root, adorned by a small crab claw. I have found necklaces there before and surmised that they were to be worn while in the place. I was not certain of that, the first time there, but my senses told me I would have safe passage, if I was wearing one. So, I did and I do.

I take my first drinks after about a hundred yards, my clothing already drenched with sweat, to the point I could wring out the moisture. There is no sound. No breeze, no lapping water, no dead leaves or brush to crackle beneath a foot or paw or claw. There is only labored breathing and heartbeat from within myself and the buzz, hum and thrum of flying creatures. Some seem curious, others have the edginess that has kept them alive. I constantly whirl and turn, shuffle through the growth to shoot my photos, stopping often to wipe the stinging sweat from my eyes. Without awareness I travel to where the trail narrows to footpath width and the entry has disappeared. It is easy to return, to follow my marks in the sand, but it is the unknown of what is ahead that forces a decision. I have the necklace, I have my water, I have my camera, I have my curiosity, the only question is whether I have my courage. The sun is centered, the shadows short, the flying creatures beckon from the narrowing path ahead.

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