Winona watched the distant edge of sky and sea grow faintly brighter. This was her own time ‒ the magic stillness of dawn, the quiet grandeur of solar display. In a while she would go back to making breakfast, packing lunches, and screaming at Seth to turn the radio down. For now, she could sink her toes into the cold sand, the waves gently lapping her ankles, and shut out the noise of the day.
A hushed hint of yellow now muted the horizon. She reflected, as she often did lately, on her life. She wasn’t unhappy with it. She had a kind, caring husband (when he tried), a nice home (that was almost paid for), and a part-time job that accommodated her schedule. It wasn’t that she was bored with her life ‒ it could hardly be dull with an incorrigible teenager in the house ‒ but she couldn’t help but feel that something was lacking… a quality that she could not quite put her finger on. She tried to grow a flower garden in the back yard, but her ennui pervaded even there, and the blooms smelled only like clean laundry ‒ a pleasant smell, but not strong enough, not vivid enough, to be real. It was almost too, too‒
“Tame,” she burst out, finally finding a name for her dissatisfaction.
She lived on a street of manicured lawns, breathed filtered air at work and in the stores, and moved to the pace of digital clocks instead of the rhythm of nature. She was domesticated. She had become a housecat, when she could have been a tigress or a lioness. As the first glimmer of fiery light licked the seam of sea and sky, she felt a tremendous force growing in her chest, building until she could not contain it, and (hardly knowing what she was doing) she greeted the sunrise with a colossal, primal roar.
It sounded awfully loud and she had surprised herself in doing it, but already she felt much better. She actually giggled, thinking, “I must be going crazy for my mid-life crisis.” As she squinted at the bright ball emerging from the sea, however, she was startled by a sudden flow of music behind her and instantly became annoyed by the thought that one of the beach performers had been privy to her outburst. She turned to go home, intending to only cast an angry glance at the cause of her annoyance, but‒
She gasped. There, before her, stood a bare-chested man with a goat’s legs, with two curly horns growing out of his dark, tangled hair. He was blowing into a small set of pipes, playing a furiously intricate tune and leering at her.
She knew who he was. Even in the air-conditioned local library, there were still books haunted by his image, for he was Pan ‒ half god, half devil, mythical creature and the stuff of legends. And his notes were burning into her mind, her body ‒ an inferno of sound and raw rhythm, hammering into her very being to dance, dance, dance until she had spent her life-blood paying homage to the master of all wild creatures.
How could she refuse? How could she resist, when she had looked into his eyes? She danced, whirling crazily like a marionette in a storm. As she grew accustomed to his power coursing through her, her dance became more expansive, more dynamic, expressing the ebb and flow of life, the timing of the seasons ‒ mirroring, finally, even the dance of the heavens. She marveled that her body could still move like that, then marveled that she had been able to suppress it for so long that it had almost forgotten that it could. She lost all concept of time, for she was in communion with the Keeper of Time himself.
Just as suddenly as it had started, the music stopped. She panted for breath, but even that was in tempo with the beat that had abruptly stopped… or had it? She could still feel it pulsing through her veins, throbbing in her mind. She looked at Pan.
He was holding out his hand to her, as though to lead her somewhere. She thought of her family. Of the people who needed her. The people who loved her. Her heart yearned for that music again, and she felt she would wither away if she lost it. But she finally shook her head, and looked him in the eye.
His face grew contorted. He was affronted and offended. And, the mother in her said, hurt. But he drew himself up to a terrible height (and he may have somehow grown in size) and thundered in a tongue she did not know. With a mighty crack in the sky, he was gone. She was left on the beach, which was as quiet as it had been before, as though it had not witnessed the spectacular presence of a god.
The sun had risen, just like it always did. But as Winona went home, she skipped to the pulse of the wild.