by Lia DeLand
Old Woman is hunting God. She’s slow because her hip hurts and she’s blind in one eye, but she goes on searching, limping through the long days and cold nights, on and on. Sometimes she finds a glimpse, a glimmer, but she wants More. She wants Light. She asks Owl how to find God.
Owl says, “You must follow the Rules.” She steps back because his eyes are fierce and his talons are sharp.
Goose says, “Don’t listen to him, he’s wrong,” and he gives her different Rules. Owl slashes at Goose, and Goose knocks him over.
Old Woman ducks behind a tree so she won’t get hurt. “What will happen if I don’t follow the Rules?”
“You will never find God,” says Goose.
Old Woman shivers and limps on.
Bear says, “Old Woman, you are blessed! God has given females a Special Place in the order of things.”
“What is it?” she asks. “How do I find it?”
“You can begin by cleaning out my den,” he grunts. “And then you can bring me fish. Lots of fish.”
She gapes at him in surprise.
“If you don’t, God will be angry,” growls Bear.
Old Woman backs away and hobbles on.
Squirrel is frantically gathering nuts for the winter. “Who cares about God?” he chatters. “God isn’t important.”
“What is important?” asks Old Woman.
“Nuts are important,” says Squirrel, running up the tree with bulging cheeks.
Buzzard says, “Forget the nuts. What you need is a sacrifice of blood.” He licks his beak. Old Woman feels queasy and hurries on.
“God says so!” screeches Buzzard, flapping his raggedy black wings at her.
Magpie croaks, “Be careful, Old Woman. Be afraid. There are many Dangers.”
“Teachers. Books. Traditions. Those who claim to be Right. You can’t trust anyone but me. I’m right. They’re wrong.”
Old Woman shakes her head. “That doesn’t sound right to me.”
Magpie ruffles up. “Be careful, Old Woman! You can’t trust yourself most of all!”
Fear grabs at Old Woman’s throat. “Why not?”
“Because you’re bad.”
“Why? What have I done?”
“Nothing. You’re just bad. God says so.”
Guilt and shame creep up Old Woman’s legs and settle in her stomach. “What can I do?”
“What will happen if I don’t?”
“Pain and Torment. Forever.”
Old Woman is shocked. “So God hates me?”
Magpie says, “Oh no. You don’t understand. God loves you.”
Old Woman feels sick. She trudges on. Everywhere she goes she hunts for God. She hunts on mountaintops, in caves, in sacred groves. She asks everyone she meets how to find God.
Ostrich says, “You’re wasting your time. There is no God.”
Dog is all scabbed and bloody. “You need to tear at your own fur. If you suffer God will love you.”
Wildcat is wailing. The river has flooded her den and drowned her kittens. “Why do you want to find God? God did this!”
Beaver says, “You have to Work Hard. Very very hard.”
“For how long?” says Old Woman.
“I don’t know,” says Beaver. He looks exhausted.
“But will I find God?”
“Maybe,” says Beaver. “If you work hard enough.”
Old Woman stumbles on.
Stork is lying by the river, dying of hunger and thirst. His feathers are scraggly and muddy. “The body isn’t important,” he says. “Food isn’t important. Only God is important.”
Old Woman sadly shuffles on. She looks everywhere and asks everyone, but she doesn’t find God.
One day she finds a feather lying in the dirt, a plain brown feather. Something about it catches her one good eye. She picks it up.
Suddenly she is flying higher and higher, through the clouds, past the moon, and out into space. As she zooms by each planet, she looks for God. She flies through the solar system and then the next and the next, past stars and comets, on through galaxies and beyond. Finally, she reaches the edge of the universe, a thick, translucent, greenish membrane. She dives through it, certain that she will find God at last. She emerges into a void. All is silent.
Looking back the way she came she sees the universe floating in the void like a giant soap bubble, the greenish membrane gently breathing. Then she sees another giant soap bubble, and another. As far as she can see there are more and more bubbles.
She looks all around, searching. God is not here. She’s filled with disappointment. She turns and flies back into the bubble, down into the universe, back the way she came. But something has changed. Everything is made of Light. Asteroids, planets, stars, moons…everything single thing is made of Light.
She hears faint music. The stars and planets and suns are all singing. There are countless voices, male and female, each one singing its own song in its own language, but somehow, all of them blending together in perfect harmony.
She flies down into her own galaxy, through her own solar system, to her own planet. The Earth, too, is made of Light. Redwood trees, ferns, rocks, water, dragonflies, worms…everything is made of Light. She flies down toward her own body, and as soon as she slips back into her lumpy, creaky, old body something explodes in her chest.
“Oh!” she gasps. “Oh!”
© Lia DeLand 2020 All Rights Reserved