The Old Gumbo Limbo Tree
The balmy evening air swirled around the stems of the old trees where I, Mauve and Plum were sitting together, having had good companionship in the time we sat there, half floating on the long reaching branch of one of the old Gumbo Limbo trees.
The sandy ground under the tree started to shift, almost imperceptibly, but slowly it bulged and rippled, revealing a lacy creature, beautifully patterned, as if all of nature had been filigreed onto this body. Shining eyes spoke of age and deep knowledge, but also of cruelty. I had a small chill run through me, a fleeting thought of running away. The long snaky body stretched higher and higher, the face standing in mid air now before us, the body of the master still rooted deep in the sand.
“Now the time is right to come into our home and have your transformation initiated, children.” A double voice, flute and soprano, both shrilly trilling from his small mouth, his tongue coming out between his shiny teeth like a licking flame.
But The Smile Turned Into A Hiss
I do not know why I knew that it was a male, just the way he moved, the way he demanded, not with the words, but with the tones of what he said. A pushing voice, a whip hidden in the ending of the sentences. He turned towards the other trees to address all waiting masks. His body stretching longer and longer, still bound to the ground. The skin on his elongated body started to separate, turning into a huge lacy cape. On the ground a wisp of a fog appeared, growing, twining itself around his snaky body. The fog—I saw it now—was the fog mother of the masks, that included me!
— Mask master with fog mother —
She enveloped his body, caressing him, her eyes in trance. He turned his head down and smiled, but the smile turned into a hiss. She seemed to ignore this, growing fuller and softer, draping the lace cape around both of them.
“My wife, you deceived me, you turned some of our children into stingrays, let them play and enjoy their lives. That was wrong for you to do, you will have to pay a price for your betrayal, but for now we need to go on with our rites. The children have waited long enough, they must be initiated into their new shapes, it is early summer now, time is running out!.”
She turned into pale water and vanished into the sand, leaving only a slight and dark indentation.