Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Sixth - "Root"

I cheat at these.  I was early one day, so didn't use the photo prompt, which puts me a day behind.

This makes it a bit easier for me; I have nearly a full day after I see the image to ponder what I can make of it.

It also means that I can peek at others as soon as I'm done (I don't like to peek first, because it makes it too hard for the prompt to speak to me without crosstalk from their inspiration. Today, Erin Vataris had a lovely piece (she's quite good at this - possibly better than I am) which dovetails interestingly with this one. Read hers here, then read mine. Or the other way around. 



Out here, where the world is still not quite tamed, we can still see a bit ahead. Oh, not clearly as our mothers' mothers did, but we can still see, as through a mist. The path is, after all, always there.

You'll be among the last of us, and the first. You'll not leave the untamed places so much as the untamed places will crumble away beneath your feet. Paths worn through the wilderness by footfalls gave way to blaze marks scratched into trees gave way to shinyhard reflective disks, fixed with iron nails.

Always it is iron. Always.

You'll hang on for a bit, here at the edges. The iron will, for a time, be weak. Little more than scraps, scattered through the shrinking wood. Perhaps you'll lure one of their pets away from the iron world, take the half-tamed creature as your companion, letting its wildhalf run free with you.

You'll not take a child, as we once did. The tame parts of the world are now too tame, too fenced in. You'll know that to steal even one child, even an undersized girlchild with no future in the land of iron - you'll know that even that would begin a great hunt, and end as such stories always do. It's never a good end for us and ours.

You'll live for a time on the edge, and watch the edges blur and creep. Watch even the untamed places grow less so, become as gardens. See the river - your river - spanned by ropes of copper, humming currents of power and thought crossing the ancient flow of water. You'll hear the voice of the wilderness, of the world growing fainter, you'll not know if the voices are being muffled or your hearing is failing as you age.

You'll age.

You'll hear tale of a city built on swampland, a city that still reveres the land. You'll bit me farewell as you begin the journey.

When you get there your heart will quicken as you see old roots of ancient trees breaking the surface of dirty water, gnarled shapes reminiscent of clawed hands, of old men, of life. The sight will speak to you so loudly and clearly that you'll not realize until you're upon them that you can't hear their voices, that they're silent.

Image by Mike Delgaudio, shared under a Creative Commons
You'll cry when you realize that the roots are a dead thing, a manikin of resin and shadows and trickery.

Far from the wild places of your home, which are wild no longer, you'll carve a home for yourself in the city, this dreadful iron city with its artificial heart of ersatz trees. There, after a time, you'll meet a man who carefully tends an artificial plastic houseplant, carrying it from windowsill to windowsill to follow the days' sun, whispering words of encouragement to it.

From him you'll learn how to love the empty shell of the city which you now call home. You'll visit the resin facsimile of roots and come to love it in your way, to finally, to hear the faint and mechanical voice of the iron, resin, and steel notwilderness.

Your love will only go so far; you'll never tend to it, never touch it, barely speak to it.

When you die, they'll burn your remains, and store them forever in an artificial urn, cunningly crafted to look like the roots of an ancient tree.

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