Fiction: “Symbiosis”, by Trayle Kulshan

How would I survive if I escaped into the true wilderness and had to live off the land?


Cedar trees grow short but thick here, where the forest meets the cliff. Their boughs are stringy, not brittle like the fir, and they bounce, supple, swaying if you hang. I braided three young trunks together here, and, after years, they have gown entwined to form a hollow. I lean softly under, inside, resting, keeping warm with their bark between my back and the prying, winter wind.

I am looking out today because it is cold and wet and dangerous out there. My cedars stand above the waterfalls, with its slick rocks and constant torrents freezing into sleet. I haven’t the courage to scale the cliff or to descend nearer to the shore today. I cannot fish. I am hungry, but I cannot reach the meat.

The wolves came and drank this morning as I watched, quieter than usual. Their faces were bloody, bellies full. The children pounced on their mothers’ swinging tails, but they were silent and did not interrupt the waterfalls with howls or yips. The elder looked up here, to where he had caught my eye in the sunshine last time they passed this way. And then they disappeared.

I smell it now because I’m still starved. I creep out farther than before, survey the cliffs, and hunch over to touch the ground. Cedar leaves are scaly, flat, and decay to make the soil soft and quiet. They absorb the moist of waterfalls, and the heat of sun, and, today, the sound of footsteps. I find the fleshy bone he left behind the braided trunks. I heard nothing. I exhale grace between my teeth and go back inside to feed.

Trayle Kulshan is American but hasn’t lived there since 2002. She is a teacher/student focusing on culture, care, underdogs, and un-novation in education. Her work received an honorable mention in the Pachas flash fiction contest at Foundling Review, was published in Proximity and Sukoon magazines, and she is a regular contributor at Dubai Poetics. She attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts for Creative Writing and has two and a half degrees that have nothing to do with writing.

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