A black, clawing fingernail slit the weblike fibres of the cocoon. It was followed by a withered finger and knotted knuckles. The hag hauled herself into the outside world. She slunk along bare, jagged branches; slithered down rough bark to lay amid seething, tangled roots.
Breathing short, shallow gasps she writhed, bent and crooked, in the bleak lakeside marshes. Howling rage tore up from her bowels to the edges of her muscles, skin and bones.
Reluctantly, like a cat, she curled and unfurled her spine feeling life and movement return to the stiff, serpentine joints.
Wiggling and wriggling herself loose of the tight coils of stagnation, a faint joy started spreading through her limbs. She had emerged from her chrysalis.
Arching her body high to the sky, stretching from her tip to her tail, she waggled, wolf-pup-like. Her face lost its warts and its wrinkles, its heavy jowl and scowl, until she saw her childhood eyes reflected like smooth round pebbles in the water.
Lightness settled into her skin, her muscles and her bones. From the rippling fluid of her belly, she reached in outward rhythms only half remembered by her mind – but her liquid body knew which ways to turn.
Deepening with every delicious lengthening and strengthening of sinew, she was once again on the familiar journey of returning to herself.
Sometimes, echoes of the howl returned – bringing illusions of the scowl and the jowl – but it was fleeting. Settling into the vast depths of her gloriously expanding lungs, sinking into the supportive cradle of the earth, the howl abated until there was only smiling silence and stillness.
Now, neither crone nor child, she felt the powerful rising sensation of Woman, pulsing in its snakelike spiral through her veins.
She splashed the glittering waters of the lake over her face and into her mouth, to drink the deep healing magic of her rebirth. Her hair growing long and silken was glistening like sunshine on the rolling ocean. Her pearlescent skin shone with the blue-white luminescence of the moon. She shook away the last memories of her sleeping.
Feeling that she – at last – was free, she wheeled and spun, dancing herself into the air. Raven-feathered wings, dark as midnight, spread like sails from her back and caught the current of the cloudless winter sky.
Christallina was awake.