The forest saw it all

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The forest saw it all. Less than a moon turn she lasted.

Wrapped in a shroud, he planted her in the leafy earth under the shade of birch and pine. Worms and beetles took her to the forest, bit by bit.

She called to him from the snake tree, and he rushed to her while the moon shone across the water. They lay on sheets of green. Her embrace was stronger than death. Beetles and worms took him bit by bit. The rustle of leaves and the sighing of wind.

The forest saw it all and the forest was pleased.

First published in A Story in 100 Words

 

The Snake Tree

By David Rae

Every one said that Maeve was pretty. She had inherited all her parent’s land after they died from the fever last year. She hand nursed them and done what she could, but the still died and then they were buried in the grave yard by the young priest. Now she was a young girl, barely more than a child, all alone with all that land; there was no way she could look after it. But still, everyone was surprised when Reed came calling on her. She just seemed a too frail and slow for him they thought. She had always been slow. Her parents had taken care of her. Now they were gone and there was no one to do that. She had always been odd. She had always been an outsider, wandering for hours in the forest, talking weirdly about the old forest gods.

But Reed sill came round; his eyes looking round the farm when they should be looking at her. Couldn’t she see that he never loved her? Maybe she could, but when he asked, she said yes. She wasn’t likely to get many other offers, not with reputation for being odd. People shook their heads; poor thing, but it really was nothing to do with them.

Before the priest at the altar, he promised to be true to her, and his promise issued loud as a cracked bell. He looked at her pale eyes and skin and thought of sickness and of disease and of frail things soon broken, and of the farm; good land right at the forests edge. She promised too, but no one listened to her with her quiet little voice.

She tried her hardest to make him happy and to please him. But nothing was right between them. She was too eager or not eager enough. She was too loud, or too quiet. He was rough with her, and she thought of how her mother had always promised her that love was the greatest thing that would ever come to her. If this was love then why did it make her want to scream inside. And the beatings; always her fault. Sometimes he was nice to her; somehow that made it worse. And she knew he cheated on her, when he came home late smelling of beer and whores. She wished he would just leave her alone. No one listened when she cried all alone, no one except the forest. The forest saw it all, and the forest heard.

Less than a moon turn she lasted in the blazing heat of his inattention. She withered and died like a neglected rose. Her pale skin turned purple with bruises. Her eyes lidded with fear and tears. She disappeared, and he hunted for her all day, shouting angrily for her to come home. He found her dancing in the wind hanging from the Snake tree deep in the forest by the lake. He cut her down and ran to bring the villagers. No one was brave enough to say it was his fault. No one cried for her, except the forest.

Or course she couldn’t be buried in consecrated ground, so she was wrapped in a shroud and planted in the leafy earth to moulder away under the shade of birch and pine. The woodland gods sent worms and beetles to bring her to them bit by bit, and they whispered to her one word; revenge.

Reed soon forgot her, and another victim was selected, and then another. Briefly lovers then spurned after he had taken all that he wanted.

But somehow he kept hearing Maeve’s voice. in the rustle of leaves and the sighing of wind. She visited his dreams but when he woke she was gone. He no longer spent his days working the farm or drinking in the tavern or whoring in the dark nights. Every day, he could hear her calling him, and he went followed the sound through the mazy woodland. Deeper and deeper he went. Where did it come from; the sound of it drove him mad.

“Come to me, why do you not come to me. I’m waiting for you.”

He followed the voice reckless of the danger deeper and deeper. He knew where it would lead him.

“Come to me, why do you not come to me. I’m waiting for you.”

The snake tree stood at the edge of the lake; no, not at the edge, in it. Twisted roots clung to the shore like a drowning man. She stood below it waiting for him wrapped in a shroud of dried leaves and cobwebs. He met her there at last and knew he had to be with her again. She smiled showed all her white teeth, and he stared into her startling green eyes. He was filled too much with desire to notice the blood beneath her fingernails or the earth on her feet, or the scent of fresh turned soil.

“Meet me here tonight,” she hissed, her forked tongue flicking and caressing his ear. The fool; all day long he sat thinking about her embrace, and then when night came, he rushed through the forest while the moon shone across the water.

At the snake tree, a staircase twisted up into the branches; a ladder of silk webbing that hung in the moonlight. He could hear her calling in the trees above.

“Come to me, why do you not come to me. I’m waiting for you.”

Up to her tree top bower he climbed where they lay together on sheets of green and gold. The air filled with the fragrance of lilies, and the scent of leaf mould. As they kissed, moths of different sizes and colours flitted around them, their wings shining in the dusk. He had never loved her so when she had been alive, and now he gave himself to her completely. Her touch burned and her kisses tasted of fire. Her embrace was tighter and stronger than any woman he had ever known. It was as if she drew all the life out of him.

Later, when she was done, and the moths dined on the residue of their passion. They supped from moist lips and blood misted flesh. Flies, mosquitoes and beetles came. Mandibles, proboscis, labium, palps; tore, bit pierced and drew blood and flesh. Sated, they few of into the moonlight, an iridescent cloud, taking what remained of him with them. Now it was his turn to dance in the wind, what was left of him. Was it the flutter of their wings that sighed that one word; Revenge.

The woodland gods heard and saw it all and were pleased.

The end

 

 

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