The Subconscious Freda-Effect

Artist: Michael C Hayes

I can still remember the summers we would spend camping out for months into the summer’s end. When we first met Freda, she hated that we seemed so addicted to the Redwoods. She was ready to get back. It was not because she hated the forest that she grew impatient; Freda’s “talents” were calling her attention. Like clockwork, she would wake up, open up her planner, and cross off a new day. So methodically she would tell us what precious time we were wasting away. She was not self-righteous nor was she a pest in any form; she just read her own mind like a book, every single waking morning of the summer. One summer, everything changed.

Freda had decided to share what was on her mind. We would listen to her read her own mind, out loud. We waited. We imagined and drew pictures depicting the various lessons and morals Freda would project onto the screens of our minds. It felt ok. We would watch our screens, almost turned off from ourselves. Actually, it felt good.

We prayed. Freda would lift us up, as we would stare at her. She lay in front of us comfortably within the moss of the forest, not that far from the ocean. We ate strange fruit and watched her auburn hair glisten gold in the sun. Her greenest eyes saturated our bodies. We felt relaxed and positively transparent.

After quite the spiritual undertaking, we broke the bread and said, “To hell with it!” and Freda went back to being every day Freda and we returned to our fishing, brewing, and hiking. The guys and I were brewing cider picked from the freshest of apples in season. Bob had made this fantastic press. I would insert an apple one by one as Bob yanked on the crank that would squash each apple into hard mush. We collected the liquid, barreled it, added live yeast and waited all summer.

We never knew this but I found out this summer that Freda would secretly drip her homemade homeopathic remedies into our cider. Last year we had quite a kumbaya moment when we sampled the cider. I just figured we were all tipsy on our day’s adventures and the culminating moment of the summer, sharing our cider. But, this was different. Just after a few sips in we all seemed to gravitate towards each other to the point of forming quite a close-knit knot in the center of the dock. After more than a handful of “I Love You Mans”, we ended up in the water wrestling and splashing each other. An outsider would have believed us all as gay, or worse, an orgy of gay men. At the perfect moment of ease, Freda drifted over to us with a yellow water polo ball and threw it in the water. She sat, dangled her feet and watched us play for a moment, laughed, giggled, smiled, and then left.

Freda was quite the anomaly. She was never there but always with us. She showed up at the strangest of times, times I would normally call a coincidence. It was as if she could sense each and every one of us. When John got his fishing hook stuck in his chest we all felt sorry and just looked at him. 100% pure shock was on his face. We just watched and looked at him for a while as he walked away from us, down the path and into the forest.

Hours later, after the sun had gone down, John had re-emerged dressed in a tan-deer hide jacket and holding a wooden cup of something. He seemed incredibly high and he emitted pure vibrance. It was like he was functioning on a different frequency where it appeared as if he was living in a different world. Nothing could bring him down. I asked to see his wound. He lifted his jacket off of his chest and we saw two slashes shaped like a cross, patted down with something pink and sticky. “They cut me with a blade but they had to to get it out. It was a quad-hook. It was fucking stuck but it’s cool. They told me to take a whiff of this plant that made me feel like I was in a different room. I half passed out and watched this one guy stuck me with this round blade straight into my chest. Weird thing is, I didn’t care dude. It felt like he was God. I must of fallen asleep because I woke up with some kind of fur on top of me. They gave me this jacket and took my shirt. They said it was born of evil spirits.”

It’s not that we didn’t believe his story;we just couldn’t believe that something like that could actually happen to one of us. And, he would always repeat, “I swear I could hear Freda’s giggle echoing through the forest.” He told us that when he was passing out, he called out Freda’s name and the guy smiled and nodded. We’re all convinced Freda had something to do with it. She always has something to do with everything. I still don’t understand why her parents send her out to camp with a group of guys. We still don’t know what she ever did in the Redwoods because she was always away, “explorin’!” she would say. She always looked at us, smiled, and said, “life is freedom”.

We loved summer but grew paralyzed at the end. August was an extremely cold month, not only at night but also in our hearts. We swore that we could never face that kind of pain again but we did so, every summer.

Precisely, on August 5th of every summer we watched Freda change. It hurt, something inside of us dug into our insides and stung. We sat paralyzed as we watched Freda. She would return from the forest bruised, covered in mud, shrubs, and leaves. Her hair was tattered and torn; it looked as if one tore her hair in so many places, patches gathered the light, as we would cringe. Her eyes, dull as the dullest dull of the word. Never looking at us, never making eye contact with us ever again, she stared at the dirt and threw herself onto the ground. She rolled and twisted and turned fighting with something inside of herself. She struggled for hours. There was nothing we could do. We couldn’t approach her. Physically, we couldn’t pass into her space. We didn’t want to believe it or even talk about it but we knew that there was something surreal in Freda’s moment. She struggled. We watched with pain in our hearts.

Finally, she threw herself on top of the ground, on all fours, like a wild vivacious animal and stood, silent. We were silent to, the entire time. We couldn’t talk. We could not utter a single word. Nothing came out. Hours passed and Freda crouched over the earth. It was almost as if she was pulling something from its very core.

Then, out of nowhere Freda let out one long breath and started raining tears. She cried puddles around her self. She cried until her eyes swelled shut. Then, she ran her hands through the puddly dirt and smothered it all over her face until she looked brown. She lay down, finally, and slept, and so did we.

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