Scrawling a Bit of Fiction III

19 08 2012

To start off in my quest to address the Picture it and Write! entries that I have not yet contributed to, I shall begin with the picture that is most current. As always, the ladies at Ermiliablog supply the picture and I provide the words.

Dig it.

A dozen men stood fanned out in the grass on the hill looking down into the sandy basin that harbored the tree. They were like statues. Grotesque granite forms anchored to the earth by deep roots of twisted faith. Like hellish gnomes in a garden far, far removed from Eden. Anticipation hung lazily over quivering smiles and wide, dry eyes barely noticeable in the low light of the dreary bog.

The tree itself, to the common eye, was insignificant; little more than an oddly placed tree in the sand. Closer inspection betrayed bits of cloth torn from a hundred flags, faded and lost in a century or more of harsh, acrid fog caressing proud pageantry into a soupy, uniform gray.

The thick boughs strained under the memory of weight, a thousand hangings, the nooses of which, still hang, brushing the ground in slight circles at the very threat of wind.

“To what end have you come here? What would you ask of the Golem Tree?” the voice bubbled up from the surrounding mire, ethereal and gaunt yet booming and gurgled as if erupting from underwater. The heavy stench of sulfur and ancient decay swept over the gravel ring, the tree shuddering in the breeze.

 ***

“There is nothing to be done Lyle.”

“Rubbish.” Was his response.

He was already a man by his own standards and by that of his elders. Lyle was sharp, and inquisitive. Features that would be greatly valued in his father’s line of work. At least they would have been, if he weren’t sick.

Nothing happened in River Crook by accident. It was far too bizarre a place for that and his father’s sickness had swept over him in wake of his refusal to service to the local lord, once again.

Lyle looked to his brother and raised a pointed finger. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Win.” He regarded Lyle’s accusing finger for a moment before batting at it and pushing past him and out the door.

The air was a lot different out there.

The spring air was sweet, and the scent of smoking meat that hung low over the village compounded into a pleasant blend of aromas that stole their attentions even from their father and the putrid haze that had developed within their cabin.  

“What is that Lyle? This is like, the second day someone has been pit cooking something. Why don’t we go see what we can find?”

“We can’t.” Lyle whispered through gritted teeth. “We can’t leave dad.”

“Oh come on,” his brother teased “He sleeps all day. He won’t notice while go check it out. Real quick.”

“Real quick?” Lyle relaxed.

“Yeah.”

Lyle looked back at the shack. Even the outside had become oppressive. Their childhood home had taken on an angry, squat look. It was no more built upon the ground but rather sunk into it. The disease was corrupting not only their father but the very earth he rest upon, oozing into the dirt like a nasty boil let loose.

“Alright.” He said. “But just for a minute.”

 ***

 

“Understanding.” Lyle had given up looking around for the voice. It was a hopeless errand. No matter where he focused it never changed. It was omnipresent. It was everywhere. It seeped into the cracks of his mind and nestled there somewhere in the dark corners. The shadowy recesses where only the most animal desires hide.

The silence considered the question.

“A vague question yields a vague answer.” It boomed. “The answer to understanding yields two fold in new questions.”

The ring of men had grown smaller, tighter to the perimeter of the sand, each as grim and stony before. Truthfully, Lyle hadn’t even seen them move, like specters hovering just beyond the periphery.

“Then I should be more specific. I want to know about the fires.”

If it were true, if it were possible, the tree began to smile.

***

The smoke was impressive to say the least. Until the pair had walked out of the comfortable limits of the town there was nothing to suggest that the fires and accompanying smoke was anything more than fire pits; great depressions dug and spitted to facilitate the cooking of whole animals. But these were not that. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

A half mile toward the western bank of the river, nestled neatly into a clearing in the woods, was the first pyre. They would never see the rest.

The open space was decidedly unnatural. The clearing was punctuated by stumps every several yards. Several had crude, ugly axes lodged unceremoniously into the tops and sides and everywhere an uncomfortable carpet of splinters saturated the ground.

The air above them, as they broke through the tree line, was immediately changed. It was darker. Darker then smoke alone could have made it. It was hot and thick and sour. Breathing made their throats burn and threatened to induce vomiting with every step.

They stumbled and gagged their way close enough to get a clearer view of the great pyre. It was huge. It stretched higher then they had imagined, higher than any of the buildings in town. Higher then the walls of any castle. It was a burning tower of flesh and bone.

Of friends and family.

***

“The man told me there was a way to save them. He said there was a trade?”

The ring had slipped within the circle of sand now. The grim faces lined the tree like gargoyles. As the boy spoke they began to speak, to whisper. “A trade. Yes. Make it, make it. The trade”

“That you would give me my brother back.”

“The trade. Make the trade.”

The tree rustled and the whispering grew quiet. “Perhaps. You know what it is I want. You know what I require.” It burbled from everywhere around him. The stony faces grew closer, robes whipping around in a sudden, fierce wind.

“I don’t care about those people anymore. I’ve lost enough.” Lyle stepped closer to the tree. As he did the thing shuddered and started to draw itself up, to grow in size.  “The trade. Make the trade.”

The sound of tortured wood filled the bog as it splintered around the base, wrestling itself free of the sand around it. The base tipped back exposing a gnarled collection of roots, dirt and old bones and metal.

An arm burst forth from the dirt and roots peppering him with chunks of earth and mud. It brushed the side of his face like a loving mother might to a child. The skin was soft and cold.

Lyle stared at it, head back. His head throbbed, that sweet, sweet smell came rushing back. He swallowed hard, the press of a stone face at his back. He took a deep breath, anger swelling in his chest. His lip curled, tears began to well up in his eyes. He answered the tree.

“Do it.”

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3 responses

19 08 2012
Anne Schilde

“…acrid fog caressing proud pageantry into a soupy, uniform gray” was a great phrase for me.

19 08 2012
Kyllan Brindle

Pleased something stood out. Oddly enough that bit was something I ended up rewriting six or seven times. Finally figured it out in a way that not only made sense but really moved as well.

Glad you stopped by!

29 06 2014
facebook

I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous
blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

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