300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #26 -- VICTORY TO ROBERT MACKAY!

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  1. Perpetual Man

    Perpetual Man Tim James

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    5,968
    The Tale of Klaus Tree Fowbya


    The trees loomed around me. The gnarly height to which the aspired was daunting, branches entwined so that light was blotted from my reality.

    As my sanity frayed they seemed to move in closer. The path I had been wandering was long gone and the clearing in which I had hoped to claim sanctuary seemed to be smaller. The trees did not move, there was no subtle perambulation of root and foot.

    There was, though, the rustle of leaves from on high, the crack-cracking of twigs and branches moving against one another, and the wind it whistled a funeral tune as it moved through the cover above, like the last breath through a ribcage.

    It became darker. Whatever sunlight crept through that matted canopy was dirty, constrained and consumed. And the rough trunks moved closer.

    Where once the clearing was of some distance, now I could touch those rough trunks with either hand. The smell of sap filled my nostrils. God, it was hard to breathe!

    Oh! The bark is rough against my skin, they are touching my face now, sticky resin weeps though the groves and cracks, clinging to me like liquified spiders web.

    Inexorably, infinitesimally the oaks, elm, willow, rowan and maple crush me in a wooden hug. Bones crack, fracture, splinter and break.

    Like rotten fruit I pulp under pressure. I so want to scream, but it is muffled by the press of trunk and branch. There is nothing.

    No air.

    No light.

    No Life.


    After going missing over 6 months ago, the remains of pensioner Klaus Fowbya were found today. Despite the relatively short amount of time he has been missing, the 75-year-old was infused with a tree, something which experts have said would normally take hundreds of years. The investigation continues.
     
  2. TitaniumTi

    TitaniumTi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2013
    Messages:
    740
    Location:
    NSW, Australia
    The Adventures of a Dog and his Boy – Episode 1

    “It’s almost time, Lucky!” Midshipman Parry said, rumpling my ears roughly enough to make the fleas giddy.

    I closed my eyes in bliss, then jumped and re-opened them when the sergeant barked. She gave me the evil eye and lifted her lip, showing one gleaming tooth. The message was clear: people – human and canine – were about to set foot on Earth for the first time in ten centuries, and I mustn’t forget my duty. I was on the team as Parry’s bodyguard, not his pet.

    The shuttle’s hatch opened, and I sniffed. Whiskers and tails, what fascinating smells! Something deliciously gamey made my mouth water, and the odour of some unknown creature stirred my hackles. Parry was sadly smell impaired, but he obviously shared my excitement as he ran down the ramp and across the plain. My claws digging dust, I raced to keep up.

    “Look, trees!” the lad shouted, picking up the pace. I sprinted to head him off, fixing him with a glare that mixed the sergeant’s evil eye and the expression Corporal Spot adopted when herding the ships’ cats. I had even less success than the corporal. Parry blew right past me with a pat on the head and a “come on boy.”

    “Halt.” Captain Henry didn’t growl. He didn’t even bark, but the boy stopped. (Talk about command presence.) “Let the technicians run their tests first,” the captain continued. “Trees were green, not red.”

    I stalked over to check the objects out. The techs’ equipment couldn’t match my nose. Sure enough, it only took one sniff. Green? Red? Trees? Not-trees? It didn’t matter; their purpose was clear. They were message-posts. I aligned myself carefully and lifted my leg, adding my message. One handsome devil, ready to party.
     
  3. Rafellin

    Rafellin Independent Author & Publisher

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2013
    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    West Sussex, UK
    Teddy

    The mystery returns every time I step into the forest that lies across the river from our village. A place deliberately sited to put water between us and what lurked within this shadowed woodland.

    ‘If you go out in the woods today
    You're sure of a big surprise.’

    The rhyme remains even though the monsters it warned of are long gone. Nothing but sunlit glades and the faint noises of timid wildlife fleeing my approach.

    ‘If you go out in the woods today
    You'd better go in disguise.’

    How did you disguise yourself, I wonder? Wolves are terrible foes in winter. They hunt better than our dogs, yet didn’t get a nursery rhyme to warn us about them.

    ‘If you go out in the woods today,
    You'd better not go alone.’

    That I understand. Travelling in groups for protection has been a truth since before my great-grandfather’s time.

    ‘It's lovely out in the woods today,
    But safer to stay at home.’

    Something deadly that used the cover and shadows to conceal its approach? Or was it an ambush predator, lying in wait for the unwary?

    ‘Beneath the trees, where nobody sees
    They'll hide and seek as long as they please’

    I’ve heard tell of monsters that can change their colour to match the ground they lie upon. Maybe it had an ability like that? I don’t like the way this hints that the monsters played. Implies a malignant intelligence that makes me nervous.
    So many years since mama sang the rhyme to me-the-child, yet still I carry the totem she made, a leather mannequin stuffed with offcuts, it’s beady eyes reassuring both child and adult that the monsters are gone.
     
  4. Cat's Cradle

    Cat's Cradle Time, now, to read...

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2014
    Messages:
    2,032
    One Wish

    The rope arcs through the air. I jump again and again. I jump so lightly – swing the rope so swiftly, that it hums as I
    swish
    tip
    swish
    tap the ground.​

    I song-sing, I sing-song,
    This is the spot where I jumped as a child.
    This is the rope that I jumped as a child.
    Here is the house where I lived as a child.
    Here is the fear that I lived as a child.”

    Trees crowd the backyard. They’re larger nowadays, and closer… intertwined, mutually supporting.

    I shiver. Forty feet away and underneath a sunny sky, still I feel, by their presence, claustrophobic… tightly girdled. I laugh – given the circumstances of my recent… stay, straitjacketed seems truer.

    Didn’t I use to hide there, on the worst of those nights? On the worst of Dad’s nights? On those nights that were worse than when straitjacketed?

    I stop jumping.
    ##

    Underneath the trees; earthy smell, a surprising coolness. They’re so close it’s as being twisted and conjoined amongst them – or a contortionist’s embrace. It's almost comforting.

    What did I see when I lay here…
    … what did I see…
    … I see…

    … light coming on in my mother’s room… light coming on in my brother’s room. And him – no, Him (for isn’t a father a God, till we learn otherwise?).

    And me, here... cowering. A distant scream – rising, running, a thought and a door shattering, lights strobing, ozone enshrouding me. Mother on the floor, brother bleeding, and Him – no, him. I am greater. Anger building, exploding

    Then it is finished, and so’s he.
    ##

    Everyone has one wish they could make.

    “Please, I would be a tree…”

    The trees answer: YES.

    I’ll never open my eyes again; I believe them that I am now of them. But also – trees don’t have eyes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
  5. Lumens

    Lumens Lesser Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    Messages:
    241
    Location:
    Bristol UK
    The light of unknowing


    After days of searching, we finally stumbled upon the entry into the unconscious. The thickening undergrowth made it impossible to see where we were headed, let alone slowly progress. There were heated discussions about our next move so I had to assert myself to calm things down. We pressed forward. It was my decision.

    Ages later the bush still showed no sign of letting up. We had to take turns with the machete, dealing with the heat and damp as well as pushing deeply into the darkening unknown. At every moment I wanted to give in to the mounting pressure of despair we all felt so intimately. Insects were eating us alive, thorny branches tearing at us. By then we had started making too many mistakes which we couldn’t afford to make.

    But we had no choice. This was the mission; to penetrate the irrational mind and conquer the untouched territory which lay beyond our understanding. No matter the cost. We had to break the mystery. We had to.

    Then out of nowhere, we were ambushed. I was caught totally unaware. It was anonymous and precise, over in a split blink of an eye. Fallen, hardly able to move, I had lost sight of the others.

    Had they been mercilessly cut down, like me?

    As I lay there, bleeding out, I caught glimpse of something that looked like me, moving silently through the trees like a luminous ghost. Was it our attacker, the defender of this land? Or the mind playing tricks again?

    Had I watched myself die, roaming the deadland, decapitated from time?

    Gently I lost myself to it, slipped into unconsciousness and melded with the forest, at last catching the light of the unknowable. Letting go of all pain and fighting. Just being.

    And it is wonderful.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
  6. LittleStar

    LittleStar Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2011
    Messages:
    687
    Of Rings

    Lucas kicked the sapling oak, ripping bark from its stem, then whistled, looking high up at the real prize. “How old you reckon?”

    “Gotta be getting on for a thousand.”

    Lucas patted the trunk, and picked at the heart, flaking bark from the initials scarred in the middle. “Get more than a couple of benches this time.”

    “And then some.”

    “Hand me the chainsaw.”


    The teeth bit into the top layer, right between the initials, peeling back the years.


    *


    A chestnut-haired woman knelt in the leaves, dappled in autumn sun. She patted the soil around a baby oak, and watered it with her tears.



    The Chainsaw bit deeper.
    A chestnut-haired girl looked into a man’s eyes, said her words before the gathered grove, and etched their initials into the old heart scarred on the tree.



    And deeper. A quarter through. Lucas held firm.
    A barley-haired girl draped her arms over a boy from behind. He kissed her and carved their joined heart into the bark.



    Deeper.
    A barley-gold boy and girl giggled, running their fingers over the trunk as they chased each other over it’s roots.



    Deeper.
    An old woman cradled a still man, resting against the youthful oak. Alone on the hill. Winced with each cold raindrop that fell on paper skin.


    And deeper still. He clenched his jaw. Down to the oaken heart of it all.
    A girl and boy. Barely children. Red-eyed and weary. Hand in hand on the open hilltop. The ground beneath; fresh dug dirt, loose and cold. The girl crouched. Her free hand pressed the acorn to the soil. Wiped her cheek.


    *


    The chainsaw caught, and Lucas knuckled the tears from his eyes; the scarred, barken heart had been cut through, but still able to heal.
     
  7. Peter V

    Peter V Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2016
    Messages:
    155
    Location:
    London
    Not From Little Acorns


    It is a little after noon and instead of working his shift at the plant, George finds himself with the unenviable task of visiting Riverside Copse. He has been given the job of talking to the trees.

    It isn't the journey that bothers him, nor the irritating swarms of midges by the river. It is the trees themselves; they scare him, even after all this time.

    He makes his way through half-acre wood and nervously enters the copse. Alak immediately notices, placing a sinewy branch against George's chest to stop him. Another thin branch goes to his gnarled mouth in a human like shushing gesture.

    “Alakdrea branches. Observe…”

    A smaller tree, almost lost in Alak’s shadow, appears to be splitting in two. From it the faintest sounds of cracking wood emanate, heard only because the copse is unnaturally quiet. It is almost as if the trees are holding their breath; not even the wind sings within their branches.

    “Ah, it is red.” There is regret in Alak’s tone.

    “I… I thought… Do you not grow from seeds?”

    Shrunken and trembling, Alakdrea turns to regard him. “Do you think us trees, Human?” George hears contempt.

    Ignoring the hostility, George nervously regards the infant tree that is apparently not a tree. “I came to talk to you about the red, er…” He nods towards the offspring. “They are damaging property.”

    “We struggle to control them.” Alak appears remorseful. “Their advent is a reaction to your presence here.”

    Before he can respond, a sharp pain in his calf makes George shout in alarm. Looking down he sees a crimson branch twisting around his leg, sharp twigs puncturing skin. Unable to speak, he sinks to his knees.

    “My child drinks.” Alakdrea’s bends to look George in the eye. "Would a tree feed thus?"
     
  8. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
    Messages:
    6,932
    Location:
    West Sussex
    The green strangler


    God, in his wisdom, utilises
    A single mould for social organisation
    With Man, from savage heathen's enterprises
    Or crowning summit of civilisation
    The beasts, too, have establish'd hierarchy
    As do the plants, as here I clearly see.
    This spinney illustrates the mode
    In which authority is bestowed

    The forest lords' thick canopy prevents
    All sunlight falling to the leaf-strewn floor
    Submissive, servile undergrowth repents
    Bows low, vows to attempt the heights no more
    An early bluebell fades 'ere lords take leaf
    As ivy uses others' growth, life-force thief.
    And towers high, in minimal delay
    Stealing the light, no blossoms to display.

    An exile, banished, from the human court
    Should I convert myself to lowly weed
    Becoming thorny hermit, solitary thought
    Of humble mien, of camouflaging deed
    Concealing by my mediocracy
    Suspicion of all aristocracy?
    No waiting for a sapling's growth to tree
    My challengers had long disposed of me

    Should I take pollarding, then, hydra headed
    Return a hundredfold to face my rivals?
    Changing society in which I was embedded
    While optimising personal survival
    Take mate, pursue the pathway Aphroditic
    Aiming for an existence parasitic?
    To nobly suffer upward to the light
    Or backstab sneakily, like toadstool, rot or blight.

    Like ivy, riding on another's vigor
    Not soaring like a prideful royal eagle
    Into ignoble concours, with a snigger
    Courtly, I'll surrepticiously inviegle
    Between the slimy rogues I'll generate
    An atmosphere of jealousy and hate


    Though ivy never doth compete in beauty
    In noblesse, usefulness or strength
    Still, if long-term survival is the booty
    It's showing every sign of holding length
    The race goes oft-time to the swiftest, true
    But can to he who steals opponent's shoe.
     
  9. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2004
    Messages:
    13,074
    Location:
    California
    Not the Story in Quite the Way That You Remember It

    There was a shadow in the forest, hanging between the trees like a thick black curtain. Some said that it lead to Fairyland, others declared it led to Hell. Who could tell? Those who entered it — the desperate, the despairing — never reappeared on the other side. Perhaps it was simply Death.

    Ruby was one who approached it running, flinging herself recklessly into darkness, fleeing a life of endless drudgery and hard blows.

    The shadow was cool to the touch, like passing through rain.

    On the other side was a forest much like the wood she had left behind, only brighter, the colors of the foliage richer. As she looked around her in surprise, a young man stepped out from behind the trees. He was tall, comely, well-made. He reminded her of a woodcutter she had known as a child.

    “I have been waiting for you,” he said. “You were a long time answering my call and it is time and past I claimed a bride.”


    She drew back a little, and something in his face changed. “Do I displease you?”

    Ruby studied him. “You are very handsome. But somehow I was expecting a beast — a wolf, perhaps.”

    The air seemed to break apart and in his place stood a sleek black wolf with amber eyes. Then the air moved again and the young man reappeared. “Like that?”

    She nodded, too shocked to speak.

    “Later,” he said, “you might try doing the same.”

    “I?” She drew her scarlet cloak close around her. “Become a wolf?”

    He shrugged. “A wolf, a lynx, a fox, an owl. You are like the rest of us here now.”

    Ruby gazed at him in wonder. “Like you? And what is that?”

    “A dream,” he said. “A nightmare. A hope. A terror. A . . . possibility.”
     
  10. AlexH

    AlexH Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2017
    Messages:
    253
    Location:
    Staffordshire, UK
    Into the Forest

    No one in the town is allowed in the forest. Not within two hundred metres of it. The penalty? Death.

    I love being outside, but the slightest sun exposure burns my skin. So I'm going in.

    From the kitchens, where I work, I watch the sunset catch that nearest row of pine trees, the thick trunks glowing an almost--red. Light never reaches past that first row; behind are dim suggestions of trunks against something blacker. So dark. So inviting.

    Once, I tried to point the telescope that way. Now I'm banned from the observatory.

    So I started poisoning every gardener's porridge. I'm keeping them ill for a few full moons. I'm not a murderer. Not yet. They trim grass nearest the town, but don't go close to the trees.

    Now, between the forest and I, lies a two hundred metre strip of grass, thigh--high. Tall enough for me crawl and hide.

    #​

    I jump the small wrought--iron fence before first-light, run, and dive. Why didn't I poison the wardens? I wait, and it's quiet. The only sound, the whispering trees saying "Kia -- come near, come here." I try to crawl, but my elbows and knees have sunk into boggy soil. I push weight onto my forearms. They sink.

    I look through the grass to the trees, that first row burning red from the sunrise.

    I pant and panic. My heart thumps fast.

    I pull myself through wet peat. Strain. Vision flickers. I'm close enough to see -- to see that second row of trees, and why the forest -- so quickly so black -- disappears.

    It's just a painted wall.

    I'm disappearing too, sinking quicker as I get closer. I should scream for help, but I don't.

    The penalty for being here is death, so I don't.
     
  11. David Evil Overlord

    David Evil Overlord Censored Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2012
    Messages:
    2,564
    Location:
    Prime Evil Soup
    Jurassic Ark

    I had given up hope. A century was quite a span of time even to one of my long-lived race. I had thought our time was over, our race lost, our world overrun by mammals.
    I thought I was the last of my kind.
    Then I saw the light that made the forest look like time itself had run away, and sunrise come too soon. The firelight that warned others to keep away, and dared my kind to approach. Were there any of my kind left.
    I stalked through the trees, hope kindled like a flame. I could smell humans, but the smell was days old. There was the stench of their necromancy here; the metal boxes that smoked and thundered as they burned the blood of ancient days.
    But no smell of humans to command them.
    And then, past the human’s waste, the scent I never thought to know again. The mating scent, but she was ... nervous?
    Yes. I remembered that sour edge to the sweet musk. So it must be her first time.
    The last of the branches parted before my snout, and there she was. Beautiful, from her scaled snout to the fan of feathers at the end of her tail.
    Her head whipped around as she saw me step into the clearing where she lay. But she did not trill acceptance of me as a mate. Neither did she growl rejection.
    Instead, she shrieked predator alarm.
    And she wore metal.
    I did not understand until the dead metal servants of the humans threw a net of lightning over me, stealing my control of my body.

    The carving before our cage means something, from the way the humans stare at it, and then at us.
    But what does “Captive Dragon Breeding Program” mean?
     
  12. HazelRah

    HazelRah Professionally indecisive

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2015
    Messages:
    138
    Mistaken


    “I heard it's promotion up two ranks if you can catch him.”
    “Charles, it's not even a real mission.” Peterson rolled his eyes. “Look, fake blood on the trees, there's no way this is real.”
    “Looks pretty real to me,” Charles muttered.

    “Listen up. This is the brief. The target appears human, but has the ability to replicate himself as a defence mechanism. The navy suspect him of being an extra terrestrial.”
    Peterson scoffed.
    “There a problem, solider?”
    “No, sir.”
    “The navy identified him near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and tracked him to land. The last few months he has been heading south and was last spotted in these woods. We don't know much, except he is considered intelligent and dangerous. The mission is to shoot on sight, and not blindly.”

    The unit held their rifles close as they entered the heart of the forest, crouched and on guard. An hour in and no one had seen a thing. Peterson straightened up.
    “Pete, get down,” Charles hissed.
    He snorted. “This is bullsh-”
    A smattering of gunfire launched through the trees directly at them.
    “Bastard has a firearm.”
    They took cover, guns ready for a visual. Peterson lay face down in his pooling blood.
    They shuffled on through the trees, trigger fingers poised.
    Charles spotted a dark figure and fired. As it went down, twelve others appeared.
    Shells rained onto the dirt as the unit took them all out.

    Charles watched the targets fall, relieved at their success.

    “You failed the mission.” A computerised voice spoke, and the forest disappeared. “You encountered a time loop and altered the past. Only one casualty is acceptable. But you managed to kill all your comrades and your virtual self. Please return to base where you will be taken under arrest for your war crimes.”
     
  13. Jo Zebedee

    Jo Zebedee writes books about people.

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2011
    Messages:
    15,265
    Location:
    blah.
    Y Ddraig Goch



    The tree’s warmth spread through my palm. Excited, I scrambled to the chalk rock opposite. It was as cold as the tree had been hot.

    I took the path, for speed. Below, the king’s pennants snapped in the wind. I hesitated, imagining my small hut, the fire that could be rekindled, the soup left in the pot. Nothing fancy, but a home safe and hidden. Temptation bit, to stay quiet and private, to not step back into the world.

    And yet, and yet, and yet.

    I slid down the hill, loose rocks carrying me, and my thoughts didn’t wander again.

    At the final turn of the path, three men-at-arms grabbed me, hard hands on my bony arms. Their rough pushes sent me where I had planned to go.

    “Old man!” the king said and I wondered if he knew me, or if age had disguised me. “Tell me what I must know.”

    Must know? Or hoped to hear?

    “You must dig deeper to build your citadel higher,” I said. He took my words without questioning. Any man, even a king, can be a fool.

    On the tenth day he broke through. Two dragons emerged, battling, white flashing on red. The white dragon roared as it wa beaten from the sky. It fell, Albion-lost, twisting uselessly.

    The red roared its triumph. Above, a chalk-rock burst open and was no more. The king’s reign would surely follow: it was cast in that battle in the sky.

    I backed away, fading from the crowd. He would not forget this day, nor forgive.

    A hand took mine, small and trusting. “Emrys. Is it done?”

    I smiled. “Yes, Artu, it is done.” And I bent the knee to my once, future, and only king.
     
  14. mosaix

    mosaix Shropshire, U.K.

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2006
    Messages:
    6,249
    Location:
    Shropshire, U.K.
    Sometimes, It Takes A Woman's Touch.

    August 1st 1617, 11:02 am. On the edge of a coppice a six year old girl, underfed, dirty and dressed in rags, sits alone beneath the branches of a sapling. She's crying.

    A few feet away her father haggles over the price of his daughter with two strangers.

    Coins are passed and the three turn to the girl. She's disappeared.

    “Bitch!” shouts the father.


    August 1st 1717, 11:02 am. A priest and parishioner, in discussion, walk the edge of a wood. They see a dirty, ragged child in the shade of a tree. She's crying. Commonplace enough. But, after a moment, she simply vanishes.

    “A miracle!” cries the priest.


    August 1st 1817, 11:02 am. A lame veteran of the Napoleonic wars and his brother, the town notary, sit on a log and share a pipe, enjoying the dappled, morning sunshine.

    The unexpected sound of crying interrupts their reverie. They wait, puzzled. Finally the veteran tries, with difficulty, to rise. Before he can, silence returns.

    “Strange,” says the veteran. The notary says nothing and walks back into town to consult local records.


    August 1st 1917, 11:02 am. Walter Horlock, prominent member of the Paranormal Society, consults his watch and adjusts the tripod of a camera that he's focussed onto a nearby tree. Just as he hoped, a young girl suddenly appears beneath its canopy. She's crying. He moves quickly to the camera, too quickly, and tips the tripod. The camera falls. He looks up. She's gone.

    “Damn!” cries Horlock.


    August 1st 2017, 11:02 am. Alice Horlock waits in anticipation. The child appears. She's crying. Alice has no doubts. Without hesitation she moves swiftly, gathers up the child and holding her close, carries her into the warm sunshine of a nearby clearing.

    “Hello,” says Alice. The girl smiles.
     
  15. Shyrka

    Shyrka Friend of Ulysses

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2016
    Messages:
    579
    ...But Memory Remains

    The locket’s jewel, divested of its mountings, fitted perfectly. The dais flowed, rolling in on itself, swallowing the gemstone like water might a pebble.

    Tobias’ breath caught in his throat. After all this time, all the hardships, could this be the key to the Autonomites’ secrets…?

    A shudder ran through the boughs of the Red Forest, their scrapyard screeching filling the air. It had taken weeks to get used to their metallic dirge, a thousand rusted gates moaning as one with every breath of wind. He scarcely noticed it now.

    And yet, this time, something seemed... different.

    ---

    “Take it,” she said, pressing it into his hands.

    “Maerenne-” began Tobias. The locket was far too precious to take into the field – it had been in his wife’s family for generations. “-I can’t. The Archdeacons are wrong – the Wars of Autonomy are long over – but the Red Forest is still a dangerous place, even with the Baron’s men. If you hadn’t-”

    “All the more reason,” she whispered, closing his fingers around it. Her scent – cloves and sweet almonds – was as divine as ever. “It will bring you luck.”

    Tobias nodded dumbly. All these years he had never been able to refuse her.

    ---

    It was different. The boughs above screeched as they always had, shifting and swaying. All around, the serried trunks of the Red Forest stood upright, like a great army at atten-

    No wind.

    If there was no wind. How could they be moving?

    A deep rumbling suffused the ground, sending tremors through Tobias’ frame. Flakes of rust drifted down like snow, one catching in the locket’s open case.

    Tobias blinked. There was a scrap of something tucked into the casing. Paper? Frowning, he teased it out, unfolding it to reveal Maerenne’s elegant hand.

    My darling Tobias...

    The Red Forest stirred.
     
  16. Travis Woodward

    Travis Woodward Maker of plans

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2015
    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    London
    Aegrescit medendo

    Doctor Miranda Worthington made notes by the red light glowing softly from the tree trunks in the twilight around her. She had a lamp for working out in the giant greenhouse after dark but she preferred the tree light - a happy side-effect of her modifications to the parasite which helped her see which of her treatments were working.

    She finished making notes and rubbed at her eyes. She’d not been sleeping, although whether that was due to her solo assault on the research station’s coffee supply or from worrying about her daughter she didn’t know. She wished her handlers would tell her whether her daughter was alright. They couldn’t though. If they said her daughter was fine then they knew she’d try and get to her, regardless of the consequences. And if they said she wasn’t fine… well, she’d have no incentive to keep working.

    ***

    Miranda looked at the latest treatment under the microscope as it attacked the parasite. It wasn’t strictly a parasite of course - it didn’t kill the plant, it just put it into a kind of stasis. But that meant no fruit, no new roots, leaves, or grass. Which meant no food. Without the treatment, the country, maybe the whole world, would starve.

    Miranda blinked. The treatment was working.

    ***

    The General smiled. “Your country thanks you, Doctor.” He said.

    “General,” said Miranda, nervously. “My daughter…”

    “Is fine.” Replied the General dismissively. “We’ve kept her safe. But you must understand Doctor. Finally, we can defend ourselves against our enemies.”

    Miranda let out a breath she felt she’d been holding for months. “What? Yes, well, we weren't in much danger. Anyone using the parasite would likely harm the themselves as much as their enemy.”

    “Yes.” Replied the General, his smile broadening. “But now we have the cure.”
     
  17. The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2008
    Messages:
    8,859
    Location:
    nearly the New Forest
    A Fable Aesop Didn’t Write



    Long ago the trees met to decide who should be King.

    “I,” said Oak, “for I am strongest.”

    “I,” said Sequoia, “for I am tallest.”

    “I cover the greatest area,” said Banyan. “And I’m the most holy.”

    “But I’m the most beautiful,” said Rowan.


    So it went on, each tree lauding itself. Soon arguments arose; tempers grew short.

    “As the most long-lived, I should be King,” said Yew.

    “But you deal out death,” said Ash. “Your berries are poisonous, your wood gives Man longbows.”

    “And your wood makes spears,” said Olive, “whereas I give Man life, my fruits providing oil for cooking and light.”

    “My fruit is more nutritious,” said Banana.

    “You’re not even a tree,” said Gingko. “You’re merely a herb with a thick stem. I, however, have been a tree since dinosaurs ruled the world.”


    “This is useless,” said Hickory. “If we can’t decide, let the animals choose our King.”

    Pig chose Beech, for he gobbled up its mast in autumn. Squirrel chose Chestnut, for he hoarded its nuts. Woodpecker chose Pine, as it was easiest to drill.


    “They’re too selfish,” said Magnolia. “Let us ask humans.”

    Carpenter chose Teak for its strong timber. Poet chose Cherry for its fairy-tale blossom. Sportsman chose Willow, since it produced his cricket bat. Schoolmaster chose Birch, which he used to chastise his pupils.

    Then came Student. “The concept of monarchy is outdated,” he insisted, and lectured the trees for an hour.

    “Does that mean we’re all Kings?” asked Cypress once the student had gone.

    “YES!” said everyone.

    So, from that day to this, All Trees Are Kings.


    The Moral?

    For the charitable: everyone has kingly qualities.

    For the cynical: never underestimate the power of self-interest.

    For optimists: agreement is always possible.

    For pessimists: all trees are equal under the woodsman’s axe.​
     
  18. holland

    holland caught in a trap, can't walk out

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2014
    Messages:
    182
    Visible Light

    When you think about it, nobody really knows what it’s like to be colour-blind. You either see it or you don’t, and you have no idea what it is like for the others. And since colours are just electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, I guess it was kinda the same when Blindies came.

    We didn’t know what hit us. Within the first day they destroyed almost all of our communication towers, radars and radio telescopes from the orbit.

    Then, we launched our nuclear weapons at them. They didn't know what hit them. We destroyed half of their fleet, so they moved back to the orbit of Uranus, taking the long way around, avoiding both Mars and Jupiter.

    And then our scientists figured it out. We stopped emitting all types of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than infrared. We started emitting X-rays gamma and rays into space, along with certain shades of red that they find particularly disturbing.

    It keeps them at bay for now, but they don’t seem to be willing to leave our system just yet.
     
  19. ratsy

    ratsy www.scifiexplorations.com

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Messages:
    4,619
    The Tree of Life

    “Why do we always have to come out here, Mom?” Carl kicked a pinecone, his hands jutting far into his pockets in defiance.

    “You know why. You can play with your friends when we’re done,” I said, wishing he was old enough to remember.

    The air was fresh; cool but still early enough in fall that we didn’t need jackets. Yellow and auburn leaves littered the ground in a majestic scene of death, and a reset for nature. Carl crunched over the leaves, and for a second I saw a smile as a squirrel ran by, dropping an acorn, just missing my head. It chittered away at us from a low branch in a heavy oak tree, and I rustled Carl’s hair, realizing that was just how his father used to do it. He didn’t seem to notice and beamed up at me, his friends forgotten for the time being.

    The copse opened up, and the sun peered from behind the clouds and through the thick canopy of branches overhead. There he stood, solid as ever, facing us. His gnarled arms were now home to birds’ nests, his face still visible in the outline of the bark. I wanted to touch him, to tell him I loved him, but I had to be strong for Carl.

    We approached, and I swear sap fell from where his eye would have been, trickling down his face slowly.

    Carl reached out, and set his small hand on the thick bark of his father. “Mom, why did they do this?”

    I shuddered remembering that night. The witches cashed in their bargain far too early.

    “So that you could live, honey. Remember always. And that is why we come out here.”

    Carl smiled and whispered, “I love you, dad.”

    My heart broke.
     
  20. Mad Alice

    Mad Alice From Earth; Mad House of the Universe

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2015
    Messages:
    657
    Lost Ritual of the Sleeping Demigods of the Vortex


    Omar the Tiger growled.
    I wanted to be a demon lord. They gave me a tower of shining steel that took me to space. Now I was master of those spinning stars around me.
    "Omar, grab the hand hold! We need to stop this spin and dock with the space station hub."
    He grabbed the branch, climbing with the monkey into the tree's heart.
    The monkey chattered at the tiger, while the tiger thought of stars and their tree he ruled, the demon at its heart.
    The trees had always been there. Waking and sleeping he watched their spice scents breathed out. The trees twisted into tiger stripes, eating away the sky. Somehow the steel of ship had grown around their woods. Carried them off among stars. A thief from Arabian nights stealing cities. Starlight's green essence. A weight dark between stars had entwined around the old woods deep in wonder. Now moons caught in branches left dust on the trunks, their dew the breath of living stars poured out into darkness.
    Omar watched the city in space. Now Tigers prey. Soon awash with blood.
    "I can't raise central control."
    Omar snarled in joy. His biological weapon, his sleeping tigers were unleashed. Because of him, the planet was sleeping. All were trees. And he was the tiger hiding. Omar the Tiger. An old thing awakened under stars and steel. The demon survived the biological wars hiding in an asylum. Technically "admitted". Learning their secrets.
    Omar knew Stars were bought with blood. They didn't listen until too late. Chattering apes. Trapped him. Now they would pay. Their blood would feed the stars.
    "Omar, we've docked!"
    Smiling, the Tiger ignited the oxygen tanks, and as fire flung him into the dark, he breathed in the blood of stars.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
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