Happy December to you! I hope you are all doing well. This just happens to be my birthday month, and I am hoping to give myself a sequel as a birthday present! So while I know that still is past my promised delivery date for 'Fractured Time,' I hope you will all find it in your heart to forgive me.
Although alas, I found myself with a niggling little story idea that would NOT go away. Even when I told it that Gwen and Rafe deserved my attention. It wouldn't listen! So I present to you 'The Tree.' A strange little story. One that came out a bit more abstract and strange than I intended. But hopefully you like it, and hopefully it will now leave me alone.
It was inspired by this haunting song (from the Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer) that I can't get enough of. You can either listen to it now, or after you read the story. Maybe it will give you some hints on how my odd little mind works.
Have a great week!
As if swimming to conscious from the depths of a dream, I pull myself back to the present. The cobblestones are ice under my feet, leaching away any remaining warmth from my bones. My blood feels so cold that the rain streaming down my back almost burns.
I can’t remember the last time I was warm. Really, truly, blissfully warm. But then, when I stop to think, perhaps it is because I can’t remember much at all. Just a tugging at my soul, telling me where I should be. A promise I made to you. To meet you …
The wind pulls angrily at my hair, slapping the wet strands against my face like a reprimand. Reminding me that I need to move, that I am wasting my time here. But wasting my time where, exactly? Mud covers my bare feet, pulling at my legs as I struggle to walk through the mire. The rushing river behind me, angry with white foam. It is foreign to me. Alien.
I lose myself, for an infinite moment, in the rushing, thrashing water. My body doesn’t seem to belong to me, and I watch as two shimmering coins fall from my hand and plop into the mud. Payment rendered.
It reminds me of something. Inky black fingers sneaking across the edges of my vision. Of something I would rather forget. With a shiver, I stumble forward, almost falling into the dank mud in my effort to get away. To flee. If I could just find you, then everything would be alright.
It takes forever until I reach the main road, but things finally start to make sense again. The feel of the cobblestones under my feet, although freezing, are familiar. It takes little thought to move down the road and towards the town. Towards what used to be home. The wind whips around me, tearing at my thin linen shift, pressing me forward. Angry. Forceful. Bitter and resentfully cold.
When was the last time I was warm? Maybe the night of the fire. The flickering flames a beautiful glow, making my skin look like it was illuminated from the inside. I always was so pale. What was it you used to call me? Your ice princess … So pale and cold, as if the smallest touch would shatter me into a million pieces. In the glow of the fire I felt beautiful. A creature of light and heat, as if I had always been meant to look that way.
My thoughts flicker and disintegrate. Turning to ash and floating to the ground. Perhaps it is the ash of my memories that stain the edges of my clothing black.
The walk to the city square is a lonely one. The houses around me crumbling to sad empty shells. Plants crawling through darkened windows, shadows peering at me from abandoned rooms, like forgotten ghosts begging to be remembered.
Our city is dying. What had once been a slow death is now moving quicker. Like flickering tongues of flame, greedily gobbling up everything in its path. Homes that had once been vibrant, almost living things were now empty. Business that had once thrived, fed the life and joy of the people I once called friends, closed.
A gale of wind rushes by me, pressing my flimsy clothes against my skin. There is trouble on the air. An evil chill of premonition. Something is coming ... Famine stalks through the streets like an angry child. Pulling down walls as easily as it pushes down lives. Preparing the way for its brother, who is soon to follow.
You saw the signs. Predicted it and tried to warn everyone. And for your efforts? Well, not everything good is rewarded with the same. But I always listen to your words, always heed your advice. And a promise is a promise.
Time stretches out before me, just like the seemingly endless road at my feet. It took ages to get here and my journey still seems so long. Exhaustion pulls at my limbs, urging me to sink down and close my eyes in sleep. I am not meant to be here. This is no longer my home.
A melody on the air catches my ear, something so familiar in the rhythmic pounding. I used to know what it meant. The import of it seems stuck somewhere under my breastbone, a painful sharp presence of used-to-have memory. The pain is distant, instead it is curiosity that keeps me moving forward. That beat is somehow connected to my promise. Somehow connected to you.
Out of the rain and fog, a dark shape arises. Twisted and jagged. Ancient. It hums with a tense energy that seems to blow me apart, snuff me out like a candle in a storm. It takes me a long time to come back to myself.
But when I do, I am closer and things are so much clearer. I feel sharp, my edges crackling, my purpose clear. There is a crowd of gray dreary faces surrounding me. Pale and still, so grim that they barely look alive. And yet, when I look closer, I see that some of the faces are burning with the same sizzling energy that thrums through me. It’s has the same color and heat as the fire from before.
Everything stills when I see you. When you should be defeated, you look strong. Defiant. Can you see us? Your hidden supporters in the crowd? It’s your voice that called us here. Like shadow moths to a flickering candle. The sharp sting of injustice pulling us all from the darkness and towards your light.
There is little we can do as people move around us, as this parody of judgment continues. Puppets being controlled by strings they cannot see. Do they sense their damnation on the scent of the air? Can they feel it?
When your body stills, and the energy of your soul stills, the anger pulses through me. Hot and heady. And I remember warmth. And I remember the sting of the fire as it ripped through our home, and even more painful, when it ripped through my skin. I remember your words that had echoed across the town the night before, begging people to see the horror of the years to come.
You had heard the echo of War clashing towards us. Smelt the stink of gunpowder and cruelty. And for your warning? They burned your wife as witch. Snatched away everything you had loved. Imprisoned you in thanks for your desire to save those around you.
Anger. Oh, yes. Anger was an emotion I could remember. It bleeds out of me, and into those around me. And it wakes us up. This is what brought us back. It grows and grows. Poverty, cruelty, greed, injustice. The horrors that had happened in this town. The horrors that would end it.
It builds and builds. And with a snap of light and sound, the tree in front of us ignites with a burst of sound and light from the sky. People scatter around us. The streets empty as they disappear back into their shadowed houses. But their fates are decided. They have already been marked by what is to come. What they had been warned about. And like that, I find I no longer care.
There is something coming towards me. Someone. Out of the ashes and flame of the burning tree. It is everything I pulled myself from my sleep to find.
It is home.
It is you.