Fiction Fragment Friday
I am VERY proud of this story. It started like many of my flash fictions do with a sentence popping into my head. In this case it was the first sentence of the story. Something simple and straightforward. I had been reading book blurbs and thinking about different writing styles. Then the sentence was in my head and screaming to be written.
Some stories I think out entirely before writing, but this was not one of them. With each sentence I wrote I was discovering the story. I had no map for it or idea where the destination was. It was a journey taken by my hands moving across the keyboard. Like driving around randomly to see what interesting locations you can find. Sometimes you end up lost with nothing to show for it. Other times you find a restaurant, park, or store that you never would have known was there but it becomes a favorite.
Deep in the heart of Serpent Tooth Forest lives a man named Zebadiah Humperdinck. He is a very unpleasant individual to anyone who has had the misfortune of meeting him in person. See Zebadiah likes his privacy and had laid claim to the entirely of the forest as his own. In his long 372 years this has put him at odds with several settlements that have grown up along the edge of the forest. They have cut down his trees, hunted his animals, and generally disturbed the peace that he prizes above all else. These settlements have paid dearly for gaining his attention.
Zebadiah Humperdinck is no ordinary man. He is one with his forest ecosystem. So long as it is healthy, he is healthy. If it is in pain, then he is in pain. He knows ever branch, rock, and worm like they are a part of his own body. Even the most dominant of predator within Serpent Tooth Forest is his subject to his will. This has been the case since he built his cabin from the ancient Oak tree that contained the heart of the forest.
When humans encroach on his domain Zebadiah calls forth the hunters of the forest. With tooth and claw they enact his vengeance. His command is limited though by the edges of his forest. If a beast leaves the forest, he can no longer sense it. As much as he desires driving the settlements from the ever-shrinking borders of his forest they sit just beyond his reach. This has caused his frustration to grow into a smoldering hatred.
Nothing happened in the forest that Zebadiah did not know about, so it was with great consternation that he moved to answer the knocking at his cabin door. He did not know who was on the other side of the door or how they had gotten to the cabin without his knowledge. Zebadiah believed himself to know everything about the forest and was rather cross to have that assumption challenged. He silently vowed to not let the intruder know that he was unnerved. “Stop that blasted banging. I’m comin already. I don’t move like I used to.”
Zebadiah swung his door open in frustration and found himself staring at a young boy. The child looked up at him am smiled. “Hey there mister. Can I come in?”
“Why would ya want to do a blamed thing like that?” Zebadiah tried to let his annoyance show in his face. He gave the most menacing glare he could manage in hopes of driving the child from his sanctuary.
“Because it’s boring out here on your porch and I’m kind of hungry.” Impatience showed on the child’s face. Before Zebadiah could answer the lad slipped under his right arm and into the cabin. By the time he could turn around the boy was in his kitchen and eating one of his apples.
“Hey, I was savin that for a nighttime snack.”
“You have plenty. Even if you didn’t you could just have more brought to you. Don’t be so greedy.”
The old man huffed in disbelief. “Greedy? Such rude little vermin I find infesting my home eating my food. Leave my cabin and get out of my forest.”
“No.” The child did not look disturbed by the outburst. In fact, he sat smiling at the old man.
“No? What do you mean no?”
“No. I’m not going to leave. I think I’m going to live here now.”
This statement drove the old man to rage. He yelled and swung his cane breaking various knickknacks displayed on the shelf by his door. “Get out, get out, get out. This is my home, and you are not welcome. Get out.”
The child laughed at the display. “You’re funny.”
“I’m not funny, I’m a terrifying force of nature. Tremble before me.” Zebadiah spoke with all his fury fueling his words. His mind had reached out and called forth the predators of the forest. Two large wolves came through his front door growling, snakes slithered in, and an owl perched on each of his shoulders. He had to admit it was a bit ostentatious, but he wanted to make sure that the child got the message.
The boy’s face lit up and he jumped from the chair he had perched on. “Doggies.” He rushed to the wolves and started petting them. To Zebadiah’s surprise instead of lashing out as he commended them the wolves licked the boy. One of them even rolled over for belly rubs. Not only would these predators not attack the child they seemed to chose him over Zebadiah. Nothing like this had ever happened before. The child just laughed in a joy that the cabin had not seen in over 300 years.
“Who are ya child?”
“I’m Timmy.” The boy stated it like it was the answer to all of life’s questions.
“What are ya?” This is what Zebadiah really wanted to know. He could see and hear the boy, but he could not feel him. He inner forest sense did not register the boy at all, but the beasts by instinct knew him where Zebadiah did not. This could be no normal boy.
The boy looked at him quizzically. He tilted his like he was trying to see the old man from a different angle. “I’m just Timmy.”
The old man decided to take a different tact. “Why have ya come here?”
“The forest asked me to. Can’t you hear it? It is in pain.”
“Of course, it is, those blamed settlements keep encroachin. Pushing in, hunting, and chopping down the trees. They’re vermin that need to be exterminated.”
The boy shook his head. “No, the forest doesn’t hurt from outside. It hurts inside.” He touched his hand over his heart. “It’s used to change, but it’s being poisoned. So, it asked for help.”
“What could be poisoning the forest if not the settlements?”
The boy looked sad for the first time since stepping into the cabin. “You. Your anger and hatred.”
The words were like a physical blow to Zebadiah. His connection to the forest was weaking by the moment and exhaustion began to overtake his body. He limped to the couch afraid that in moments his legs would no longer be able to support him. He tried to speak, but the words came out as gasps for air and raspy sounds.
Timmy stood over the couch looking down at Zebadiah. His face showed pity but also a child’s joy. “Don’t worry mister the pain will be over real soon. The forest is already feeling so much better. I’ll take good care of it. I might change the cabin a bunch now that it’s mine. It needs more windows and color.” Zebadiah could no longer see the boy or anything else. He could just hear two final words before his long life came to an end. “Bye mister.”