Mido felt weightless, a stranger to his own voice that, far in the quiet distance, was asking the traveler, “Was it you who screamed?”
The traveler, slumped forward in his own opium reverie, said nothing, staring at the cherry blossoms beyond the meadow with dark, unfocused eyes.
“Earlier,” Mido tried to explain, “I heard a scream. That’s why . . . I mean, that’s why . . .” His voice trailed off. What was he trying to say? It had seemed somehow important, before. But now he wondered: How could anything feel important?
The traveler passed him the long pipe. Again, Mido inhaled its sticky smoke. And then, all he could do, all that seemed to matter, was to stare.
The horse whinnied. Golden butterflies pirouetted on air. Down the slope of the living, sighing mountain, cherry blossoms rolled like pink ocean waves.
Mido stared. The traveler stared. The horse gobbled.
The Poet in Green forgot utterly the scream that had summoned him to this high meadow amid the cherry blooms. But then, once again, it pierced the air.
The mare jerked up her head, her ears standing at attention. Mido’s heart danced in his chest. The traveler, a cross-legged statue on the ledge next to him, didn’t flinch.
The horse neighed. A fresh shriek in the blossoms, this one closer, sent her galloping away.
“Your horse left,” Mido commented.
Mido was struggling to formulate a coherent answer when a young woman raced into the clearing.
He could tell by the shape of her sea-blue kimono that she was a geisha in training; her long, billowing sleeves indicated her status as a novice—the sleeves of full-fledged geisha being short and trim. She flew to the center of the meadow, barefoot and wild-eyed, snakes of long, black hair tumbling loose from a confusion of lacquered combs and chopstick pins.
She paused amid the madly circling butterflies, where the horse had stood just seconds before, thirty feet from Mido and the traveler.
Mido at last found his voice. “What’s wrong?” he shouted.
The geisha looked up, eyes bright with terror.
Meanwhile, the traveler, oblivious, re-lit his pipe with a stick from the campfire.
The girl looked at him, looked at Mido, then ran off into the blossoms.
“No! Wait!” Mido yelled.
He dropped from the stone ledge onto soft, verdant grass. Only then did he realize how far, how very far, he had drifted from his “right mind” this afternoon, puffing on the traveler’s pipe. His legs sloshed like water. He felt numb from the neck down, as if his head had just now landed on some stranger’s body clad in green.
“Oh my!” he said half to himself, half to the traveler who remained on the ledge.
Despite the foreignness of his own physical reality below the chin, Mido was determined to chase the girl into the cherry grove. He willed his watery legs to move, and they obeyed. They were running now, even, though each stride lasted, it seemed, long minutes. Time had slowed down.
Mido wanted to bid his companion a proper farewell, but he feared losing sight of the fleeing geisha in her sea-blue kimono. Already she seemed many miles away, fluttering in and out of view among the trees.
“Sayônara!” A voice, Mido’s own, squeaked strangely. He hoped the traveler heard but dared not turn to verify this.
The edge of the blossom world loomed. On strange, numb legs, Mido floated into pink.