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The Sea Of Trees

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The Year Is 1538:
His back ached with the burden of his mother, and though he silently cursed himself for his lack of stamina and overall fitness, he managed to find solace in the fact that he would only have to carry her for a few more hours. The sun dwindled behind the trees and the light was filtered into broken shards of yellow. Sweat fell from his glistening forehead, and the droplets landed next to falling twigs. Though she was old in age, her hands were nimble, quick to grasp the brown branches of the passing trees and snap them off before dropping them on to the ground. To someone who hadn't lived their whole life exploring this forest, twigs lying next to other twigs on the floor would be totally inconspicuous, but not for him, he could see that the sticks his mother broke off the branches weren't supposed to be there and they were an effective route out the forest. Though he knew the forest so well, there was not a man in existence that could delve this deep and still have his bearings about him. Time crawled onwards, and putting one foot in front of the other became harder and harder, the sun had now passed beneath the horizon and only the moonlight guided him. He did not know how long he had been walking, but his legs were beginning to buckle, this would have to be the spot. He set his mother down and gave her a knowing look, she nodded in response and sat down amongst the dirt. For the past couple of days she had told her son to be strong despite these extreme circumstances, but now even she began to weep and whimper. Her son rushed over and wrapped her in a warm embrace, adding his own tears to hers which merged with his sweat upon his cheeks. He let her go and turned around looking for the trail of broken sticks she had made for him, leading him all the way out and back down to the village he had been born and raised in. After he made out where the last twigs had been dropped, he noticed smoke rising above the trees, they had lit a fire in the center of the town to mark her final journey. With the smoke to guide him, there was no need for the twigs after all. In his mind, one could not of picked a finer way to leave this existence, his mother had left her village walking alongside her son, every villager had turned out for the event, and each and every one of them bowed as she passed, some with tears in their eyes, and some uttered a few words of gratitude. As they began to become swamped by trees, and she could walk no further, she clambered up her son's back and had continued onwards in that fashion until now. She sat on the patch of Earth that she would die on, and felt an overwhelming calm. Her son appeared to be more scared than she, so she spoke her final words to him. "Though you weep for me, it is I that should be weeping for you. Don't think that I will no longer guide you through the hardships you will face my son, my voice will forever be in you ear when you need it. Fear will not come to me, a disconcerting lack of an emotion that I would expect to be experiencing at this moment, surely this is a testament to the fact that my time is up and I have fulfilled my purpose as a human being. I have produced you, you are my contribution to this life, and so with that done, death is not something to be feared, but to be welcomed. Do not feel sorry for me, son, but be glad. For now I will know eternal peace, and my old bones, my withered skin, and slowing mind crave it. One long rest to fully rejuvenate my entire being, and I will be one with the World. Don't come to fetch my body, I wish to fade away unto the Earth from which I came, now go back to the village where they will likely try to console you. Do not deny their help, take it and grieve as you may, but I want this to be at the forefront of your mind,  you should not grieve for long, you must move on swiftly. That is my final wish, goodbye my son." She turned away from him before he could respond and lay down, burying the side of her face amongst the dirt. 
"Goodbye mother." He said with a quavering voice, and began to follow the wisps of smoke that stood out against the dark sky. 
As she lay waiting to die, sleep came over her, a sleep that, whilst it was coming on, she hoped would be her last. She slept deeply, deeper than she had ever slept before, perhaps her mind was tricking her in to believing that she really was dead. She didn't wake until she felt hands grasp her body and lift her up. This did not cause a shock, instead she supposed that this was a natural progression, she was in God's hands now. The hands appeared to barely make contact with her clothes and yet she rose up none the less. Her eyes would not open, and her limbs would not move, and yet her heart remained beating at a steady rate and her breathing did not quicken. "It is the hands of angels, taking me up to heaven" she thought, though once this had crossed her mind she abruptly stopped rising and began to move forward. After a while of slow hovering, she heard a loud creak of an opening door, and felt her body being laid down onto a cold, hard surface.
Her son walked for hours until he realized something was wrong. He was sure that the journey to his mother's final resting place hadn't taken this long to reach. But the smoke was definitely getting closer and so he put it down to his clouded mind. The cloud in question was dark and ready to unleash an almighty torrent of rain, an image that had danced upon the minds of almost every inhabitant of his village in recent times. The drought was worse than any that had come before it, and it loomed over the village like a curse, at first nobody dared speak of it. The people appeared to have a naive sense that if they did not mention it, rain would come and the situation would just dissipate like it never existed in the first place. The more astute among them knew that this wasn't going to happen, and a meeting was called in the town hall, nigh on everyone attended. After lots of deliberation, the people came to the conclusion that the drought was a punishment sent from God, a punishment that could only be duly paid for by a human sacrifice. As those words, spoken by the priest, reverberated around the walls of the town hall, his mother had stood up and said: "I will sacrifice myself in order to appease our lord, I will do this for my son, every one of you seated before me, and for this village that I love so dearly."
Within a couple of days, villagers lined the beaten track that lead into the forest, and he and his mother set off among the trees. The smoke was upon him and his heart sank in his chest. All the fear that his mother failed to experience was made up for in abundance now as he looked at a barn which stood in the center of a small clearing. Black smoke rose from a  stone chimney that sprung out from a slate roof. The walls of the barn were also made from stone, and the building looked extremely sturdy. Two heavy wooden doors guarded the barn from intruders, though the son could not hear any animals inside. His mind raced, trying to come up with a way to make it back to the village, but the trail of twigs was miles away, and he would never find them now with this light. As the cogs in his brain whirred, he heard a loud creaking sound. His first thought was that it was the noise of a nearby bird, but in the corner of his eye he could see the doors of the barn slowly opening. 
A voice whispered unintelligibly in her ear, and her eyes sprung open. The ceiling was wooden, and the scent of hay was thick in the air, she appeared to be in some sort of barn. In her peripheral vision she could make out pale figures moving around her, though their faces were obscured by some sort of haze. One figure stopped moving and the mother moved her head to look at it. The creature was uncannily tall with skin pulled taught across bone. It's rib cage was so visible, the mother could count each and every rib. Though it appeared physically human, she knew it to be something else, it had a strange other worldly aura that manifested itself into a haze, like one you might see just above the floor on a hot summers day. The creature's face was pale, lit by an assortment of candles that surrounded the mother's body, it hunkered down so its mouth was almost touching her left ear. "We thank you dearly for your sacrifice." It said with a very warm and gentle tone. Hands touched her back as she was heaved into an upright position. For the first time that evening her heart did quicken, and the deadly claws of fear dug in and drew blood, blood that had turned cold as ice as she looked upon her son hanging from a wooden beam drenched in his own blood. His eyes were carved out of his skull, and his entrails protruded from his stomach and dangled down next to his legs. The figures laughed, and a hand came towards the mother's face before everything went black.
She woke up with her face pressed against the dirt of the track, and with the warmth of the Sun bearing down on the back of her neck. She slowly stood up to see her village in front of her. It was morning and people were going about their morning rituals. A small boy noticed her and tugged on the cloth skirt of his mother and pointed. The boy's mother went pale and ran to her, "I don't know what you did, but it worked," she said, "it rained all night."
Tagged under: Dark, Horror,

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