The Music Be The Food flash fiction event continues with round two. This time, the song is from a delightful band called Broods. The song is “Freak Of Nature”. Give a listen to the tune and then read the first flash fiction piece, by none other than Jay Wilburn.
Curse of Light and Smoke
He drew the pack upward through the night. The light off the three-quarters Moon bristled the fur along his back, making the cold feel more bitter. Snow would fall soon. He could smell it and feel it in his bones still stiff from the slumber of the day and the aching transformation at dusk. He knew he could think better during the day – slower, but more deeply. At night, he could move, but everything was passion, hunger, anger, fear, and every limit of emotion with none of the softer colors in between.
Some nights he wished he could remember his name. At times, it almost came to him during the slow days when thoughts and wisdom flowed like sap. During the night, he remembered nothing except how he felt and the danger of those who hunted them even after all these centuries of cursed existence. He did not remember his name nor his crimes against nature worthy of this curse.
He always wished he remembered her name. She ran beside him and drew blood with him for food and fight until her lighter fur was splashed with gore. Her snout stained with her teeth bared. He did not feel fear when he saw her like that, but only the passion. He remembered loving her in passion and in the subtle colors in between before the curse took them both. He would give anything just to remember her name. Maybe it was a blessing to live longer with her through this tortured existence.
Her muscles pumped up the mountain and her energy spurred him on with the pack following. Snow was coming and ordinary mortals would cut them down during the day if they stayed in the lowlands into the Winter. Even the ones not hunting them for who they were would unwittingly take them for what they thought they were.
Dawn broke quickly on the mountain height. The change came on them all with gut-wrenching suddenness. Some still fell to the ground and curled with it. He had learned to stretch to have it completed sooner. He always stayed close to her so they might stay rooted together through the slow days.
The fur retreated to raw flesh which stretched long and slender as bone broke apart within him and then dissolved completely. His flesh bruised with hard, grooved bark and branches sprouted from his bodies like deformity and tumors. He became the tree with the rest of his grove and with her firmly rooted next to him.
As thought returned to him deeper and slower, he realized the other trees at this point on the mountain slope where white and speckled black. His grove was darker. If any hiker or trapper wandered by, they would stand out and be quite a curiosity. Nothing to be done about it now. They would need to travel higher the following night before they were far enough. Maybe nowhere was far enough, but they were cursed with fur and bark and not blessed with wings or feathers, so the top of the mountains was the best they could do.
Images of the past slipped through whatever consciousness he had during the days without eyes or brain. Castles. No context, but he remembered their shapes and lines in stone. He felt the weak sunlight feed into his leaves. It was small nourishment and he would be famished when darkness returned fur and hunger to him. Fields of grain. Endless. Extending forever over flowing hills. It was food and it was work. He had been small and the stalks were higher than his head when he was in them. Fire took them. It took the grain and … lives. He felt the wind move his top as his trunk held firm. He felt her stiff branches brushing his as they moved together and apart.
He pondered on that word for a long time. His name was nowhere to be found, but her name had finally come to him. He felt as much joy as he could at the grand discovery of her name while scarred from root to twigs in bark.
The day grew dark and he felt a change. No fur though. It was slow. Confusing. Eyes and face formed partially on his trunk. The day was dark and this happened sometimes. He could not speak or move, but he could sense while still having the better mind of his daytime form. He smiled and looked up into the dark daytime sky.
Something was wrong. The black cloud cover moved too swiftly and it was laced with sparks. It stank of carbon.
He turned his eyes in the slow way he was able. The fire line climbed the mountain in an orange blade of death. His slow senses saw the line jump in time quickly as it moved faster than he could process.
The others were afraid. He could not turn to see them all, but he could feel it off the grove. He turned his eyes around in their wooden sockets and looked into her partially formed features. Rachel was terrified.
He could not save her. He could not protect her. The full understanding of it drove him insane. He drew back into himself so he would not witness her end. He would not watch it all come apart. Not now. Not for Rachel.
He coughed as the smoky darkness of cursed day gave way to the true darkness of frigid night. He curled against Rachel in the ash on the slope as they shivered together. Their fur spiked with cold and fear. The trees around them, both light and dark, were charred black and blistered. The rest of the grove was gone and now they were a pack of two.
Rachel rose first and moved a few paces away. She looked back at him not in fear, but in determination. They needed to go. They had to find other trees to be between on another part of the mountain away from the wounds of fire. Away from those who still hunted them in night and in light. They were both still alive and still together as much as they could be under this long curse of light and smoke.
He stood because she stood and he could run because she ran. Eventually, she would let him know it was time to eat – probably after they were within unburned forest again. A place they would not have to remember the loss.
He felt better running. Running with her. He wished he could tell Rachel her name just so she too could hear how beautiful it sounded.
Read more about Jay Wilburn at jaywilburn.com.