Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Flash Fiction of the Month: April

I had been working on a different story for the month of April but struggled to get it down. It was giving me fits and I was worrying that I would not be able to finish it by the end of the month (you'd think a story under 1000 words wouldn't be so much trouble). Then along came the idea for this story which almost wrote itself. I may have to start over on the other one and hopefully have it figured out in time for May.

This story is a bit different than from what I usually write, in both style and voice, and overall theme. It's still within the realm of fantasy, but instead of having a darker theme, this one has a bit of whimsy to it and a bit of a middle grade voice. At 940 words, here's my FF story for April (and a song called Two Trees by Einaudi you can listen to while you read):

 Two Trees
a story of the ent
By K.E. Skedgell

   There lived in the forest two trees. That's what they would have you believe, anyway, for they were ents, and for all purposes behaved like trees until they did not. One had known 400 years and lived as an ancient white oak. Unable to bend his branches like he used to in his younger days, the ent put down his roots to live the rest of his life as a true tree. The other lived as a frisky sassafras sapling and had seen only a few winters. The sassafras was not bound to the ground like the oak and could move at will as he may, but preferred the oak's sheltering branches. The oak protected the little sassafras from terrible storms, the hot summer sun, or a late spring frost; in return the sassafras kept the old tree entertained with his antics with the woodland animals.
   One spring day a man wandered near the two trees. Here and there he sprayed orange marks on other large trees around them. When he approached the oak, the man said, “Oh boy, this one's nice,” and he sprayed an “X” on the bark of the old ent's face. “This'll fetch me a good chunk of change.”
   After the man was long gone, the sassafras said, “What do those marks mean, Oak?”
   The oak sighed. “It means these trees are meant to be cut down.”
   “He can't do that. They will die. You will die.”
   “There is nothing I can do. I am old and unable to remove my roots from the earth.”
   “I'm young and bendy. I'll stop this man from cutting you and our tree friends down.”
   “What can you do? You are but an entling.”
   “I don't know yet. But I'll do something. You'll see.”
   Spring and Summer came and went, and the autumn air turned crisp. The oak's dried, brown leaves clung to his branches and the little sassafras was stark naked. They had not seen the man since that day, and the two trees worried he would return while they took their winter sleep. Perhaps he had forgotten about them.
   Brr. Brr. Brrrr. Brrrrrrrr . . .
   In the distance a strange buzz-like sound echoed through the woods. “What is that, Oak?” said the sassafras. “Is that the man to come cut down the trees?”
   “Yes, it is he. What you hear is a chain saw. In the old days, man would come to the forest with silent saws. They took longer to cut and the trees would writhe in pain much longer. The chain saws are more merciful, but their sound sends terror throughout the forest.”
   “Why would man do this? Doesn't he know he causes the trees pain?”
   “He does not know because the trees cannot speak. He uses their wood to burn to heat his home, which, too, is made of wood.”
   “That's terrible.” The entling yawned. “This cold air makes me tired. I hope he doesn't come while we sleep.”
   “Me too, Sassafras. Don't you worry. When you wake in the spring, I'll be here beside you.”
   Winter turned to Spring, and the forest floor woke with trilliums and scurrying chipmunks. Sassafras stretched his budding branches. Oak remained beside him as promised, but all that was left of the marked trees were stumps.
   “Oak, Oak, wake up! Our friends are gone.”
   “That they are. Such a shame. At least they were taken in their sleep so they would know no pain.”
   Footsteps disturbed the quiet forest floor. Man.
   “But I see that my time has come.”
   The man set his chain saw on the ground and gazed at the oak's sprawling branches. “This will take me some time.”
   While the man tended to his saw, Sassafras scurried up behind him and leaned over his shoulder to watch. Man jolted and turned, and Sassafras straightened up and pretended to sway with the non-existent breeze. “Jeez, where did that tree come from?” He shuddered and turned back to his saw.
   The entling knocked the man's hat from his head. He scrambled to catch it and twirled at once, but Sassafras scurried around behind him. “Who's out here?” man said. “Where'd that tree go?” He turned back to his saw and his face paled. “Weren't you? No, trees can't move. I must be imagining things.”
   The man pushed on the entling and the entling shook and laughed. That tickled.
   “Dear God,” the man jumped back, “the thing can move!” He grabbed his saw and pulled on the cord. “I'll make short order out of you.”
   The saw buzzed alive and the man tromped after Sassafras. Sassafras tried to run, but his roots sunk into a groundhog hole and he fell. The man stood over top of the entling, the saw buzzing loudly through the woods.
   With all of his will and might, Oak twisted his trunk, creaking and cracking, and swept his branches  at the man, knocking him down and hurling the saw across the woods. The man flipped to his back. The old ent, leaning over him, revealed his scowling marked face and said in a deep, hollow voice, “Leave.”
   The man's pants turned brown. “Good God, I'm sorry I ever cut down these trees!” He leaped to his feet and ran. Sassafras ran after and gave him a swift kick goodbye.
   “I didn't think you could move, Oak?” Sassafras wrapped his branches around the old ent.
   “Neither did I. I thought I was too stiff to bend. But bend I did. I have broken some branches and cracked my trunk, but when someone I love is in danger, I will to do anything to protect them.”