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Shaking the Tree


Alone on a knoll surrounded by endless plains of tall yellow prairie grass a tall oak tree stood.  Its wide trunk stretched nearly the circumference of the hill’s crest and its thick surface roots sprawled from its base like legs on a spider.  The branches rose strongly upward to form the crown.  Nature’s transition from summer to fall had stripped the tree of its leaves and left it bear.  Near the tree’s top a man, dressed in mere rags, clung to a branch.  Chiseled and rough with stubble, his face was weathered beyond his age.  His swollen eyes spoke of sorrow and desperation and the gray of his skin matched the hue of the surrounding skies and the tatters that draped his body.  The sun did not privilege the man with its warming rays on that day, for they could not pierce the steel curtain of clouds.  Instead, ice cold winds blew, carrying with them the smell of rotting wood and decaying leaves.

The tree began to shake violently, but by a force neither created by wind nor by earth’s tremors.  Instinctively reacting, the man strengthened his grip.  Peering down beneath him he saw a hulking figure clutching the tree’s trunk as if it were a small twig to fiddle.  Rage and determination shaped its shadowed face, but even in the gloom of day, its eyes glistened.  The giant drew upon its massive power in an attempt to unearth the tree that yearned to stay grounded.  Fear swelled within the man.  Doom appeared near.  His time had arrived.

Yet, hidden beneath the horrors of this beast lived beauty – beauty in the hairless bronze skin that spread taut over every muscle; beauty in the long brown hair that danced gracefully in the wind; beauty in the tears that flowed compassionately down the creature’s cheeks; beauty in the reluctance to act, but the conviction to follow through.  Beauty was the woman that stood below, shaking the tree.

The man swayed violently back and forth with the dancing branches.  His hands burned as the friction reddened his skin and began to eat it away.  His muscles ached and the pain became nearly unbearable, but his grip did not falter.  The tree was a metronome and his mind played along in time with its constant beat, slowly deepening into a hypnotic state of subconscious.  Then, he released.  He released not his physical self, but a shadowy energy that resided within his being.  It seeped from every corner of his body with every violent shift.  Specs of muted light materialized in swirls before him and morphed into his deformed reflection.  The shadow’s eyes were listless and its face was heavy.  The beauty of symmetry failed to touch the dark energy.  Its features were missing or askew – severed arm, missing foot, crooked mouth, uneven shoulders, gaping holes.  Still, without question, the floating shadow before him was him.  It chased him months ago to this hill and up the tree, alone to wither and die.  He ran from the shadow, but never saw its face.  He sought refuge in the tree with its branch arms hugging him and leaf blanket shielding his eyes from the horror that lurked below.  He cowered while the moon waxed and waned and seasons changed.  Then the blanket disappeared and the arms became frail.  He could no longer hide.  When the tree shook, he knew the dark shadow had finally discovered him.  He knew its mouth salivated at the thought of dismembering him and eating away at his flesh. But, instead of it he saw her.

With the shadows appearance, the tree shook at a rapid pace as the woman heaved relentlessly.  The branches whipped and thrashed through it, tearing it away into disintegrating cosmic swirls.  Wisps of the energy tried to return to its host, but the man resisted with his sudden newfound strength.  The shadow was him, but no remorse set in as it slowly disappeared.  He had finally shed away that which he did not want.  The pain, fear, and indifference that fueled the shadow’s existence finally left.

The shaking stopped.  The tree drew calm.  The mutated reflection was gone.  He regained his whereabouts and peeled his hands away from the branch leaving blood dripping like sap along its base.  He watched it flow downward as gravity pulled it lower while his eyes welled with tears.  His body shook.  He sobbed uncontrollably as he searched behind watery eyes for the beauty below, but it was a distorted lens.  Nothing was discernible.  He wiped the tears away as best he could, smearing blood and grime across his face.  Coldness crept through his body, from surface to core, as he saw nothing.  The woman-giant was gone.  He stretched out his neck and peered over the fields of grass in every direction.  No trace.  No indication.  A peace had filled his mind, but it was now restless.  His heart swelled with ache.  His joints creaked and cracked as he slowly climbed down the tree. The pain he had endured succumbed quickly to the pleasure of soft grass beneath his feet.  He took a long deep breath and stared out before him.  The clouds had turned dark and lightning electrified the sky in the distance.  His journey had begun.


From → Fantasy

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