The History of Salt

The history of salt is the story of an oracle.

She smelled like the sea and like celery and she lived at the top of a mountain and spent her days trying to find tomorrow in a bowl of bones.

She was a seer of idiosyncratic and unreliable capacities who consistently missed the crucial details. She would see the smile but not the knife, the flush on one cheek but not the tears on the other, hear the sadness and the sigh but not the undertow of laughter pulling them into the sunshine. But her vision was trustworthy, in its way, and its brokenness promised hope, and that was enough for those who sought sight.

Her gift for tomorrow came from a talent for coupling with the surfaces of now. The bones were brought to her, and her eyes found an empathy with the cracks, the parched stained whiteness, the holes of the sponge of the core, and when she looked at them her whole soul looked, and when she snatched pieces of prophesy her whole soul snatched, and it bit off pieces that came to her gnawed at the edges and crystalled with salt.

But tomorrow does not want to be your food, and looking can be a kind of violence, and the bones bit back. Each day she felt pieces of her arms sink into skin and muscle, sharp pain in her shoulders where a tiny mouthfuls of scapula went missing. It became hard to hold the bowl as her wrists collapsed into an absence of ulna. In place of these she grew a skeleton of sodium, and it preserved her from the inside until it could not, and it held her steady until it could not, and it let her eyes cradle the brought bones until they could not, and then one night with a full yolky moon she looked lovingly up and came tumbling down.

As her body fell, the mountain consumed her. Its grass took her skin, and its puddles took her voice, and its gravel took her breath, and its beetles took the shining brown of her eyes, and its pinecones wound her hair around themselves, and its tree roots learned the movements of her fingers, and its cats took the soft down that grew on her arms, and its snakes grew scales in the shape of her teeth, and its moths feathered antennae out of her eyebrows, and its cold rain washed the remains of her.

It took the span of the moonrise to make her way to the foot of the mountain as a bare handful of salty bones. A young girl found them and picked one up and licked the salt off and then did the same with the rest. And as she tasted the bones of the oracle, she saw her own tomorrow, and she felt a bite in her big toe, and she took out a bowl, and dropped the bones inside, and began her long trek up the mountain.

 

[You can return to The Elizabeths this way.]