Ghosttree

Words, images and pages by Amos Keppler, drawn from the other world 1977 - 1999

This is a short story cut long.

Completed 1999-06-23

FIRE BURNING IN THE WIND

by Amos Keppler

Go to Chapter One

Chapter Two

   In the end it was hunger, survival instinct, that drove her on her feet, made her move, away from there, into the frenzy of the Hunt. She hunted for a while, but even if she did manage to kill a game, it was a clumsy and sad kill. Not soon afterwards, she found herself back on her spot at the edge of the forest, keeping virtually her complete attention on the dark skinned boy. She stayed careful, though. No sound came from her. Light did not reflect from her surface. A person glimpsing her shape would be wondering, if she existed at all. She smiled longingly and drew to her the young maleís every move and gesture. She sat still without moving, and time just went away.
   Then... something abruptly changed. Bewildered she felt moisture when touching herself and couldnít stop a moan from being released from her suddenly paper dry throat, between lips she could no more keep pressed together. She looked down between her wet thighs, looked at him - and understood. The girl remembered, without that being necessary to understand. He needed her, too. Male and female needed each other.

  END OF CHAPTER TWO

  Chapter Three

   By the third Dark in a row, the fifth she recalled since her arrival, pit dark clouds covered the night sky. Twilight had not brought humidity, as it usually did. The ground stayed dry and the very air seemed to quiver. The girl moaned. She knew beyond doubt that she should leave this place. Go far away. Every time she drew breath she felt the smell the very air gave away. Her consciousness, the real one, half hidden, half hiding, cried RUN, but it also spoke of staying, in many fever pitch voices. Such was the entire her. Filled with contradictory emotions. She stayed.
The animals in the forest, they ran. They had no reason to balance their instinct, no instinct to balance their reason. She could feel them, feeling the Storm. She felt the Storm.
   The animals ęwho do not run awayĽ, those tied to posts and imprisoned by their human masters, they were worried. They stretched their rope, paced endlessly in their cages. But in a strangely calm way. As if something had been bred out of them long ago.
   Something indescribable precious. The girl shivered some more.
   The villagers had pulled back into their cage like homes, to the safety within dead trees. Within the unnatural wall nothing of importance was happening. It should. The people inside would by far have left the place then. Or at least been in their way out. No one, at this time, could avoid seeing the violent approaching storm. Searing lightning grew from the mountain tops, to the heavy clouds. Roaring thunder superseded the lightning. Lightning superseded the roaring thunder. An endless row of sound and fury. And everything seemed to be happening simultaneously. Death came rolling on its ploughing wheel and all the ants hid their head in their hill.
   What were they doing in there, the idiots? Were they singing? Were they preying to their deaf gods about mercy... instead of listening to their own, inner voice? The nausea, coming on to her since her arrival, turned overwhelming. Partly digested food decorated the ground in a circular pattern. Pale and shaking she stayed put and kept observing the unfolding drama.
   She had never seen anything remotely like it, she knew that. It dawned on her that she had heard stories, but they had seemed very much akin to the ones about Old Nick and such, stories designed to scare children into being nice and quiet. Also later, though, during her awakening, her own rediscovery, she had learned about wild and brutal Nature. Nothing compared to this brutal reality.
   Somebody had thrown her off a wagon. The memory came to her in a flash of revelation.
   The flashes of lightning... it seemed to be an army of them... looked like they were moving down the mountain sides, towards the valley. There wasnít any rain. Not a sign of it anywhere. The first lightning, the first in an endless line, hit the clouds from the cornfield and a veritable firestorm came in its stead. The lonesome female sat tight with tight closed eyes, but she still saw.
   She sensed it all, as she couldnít close her senses. Through narrow chinks, like shadows, she saw one of the watchtowers be blown to pieces and the pieces being spread throughout the field. The dead wood caught fire. First the remains of the destroyed watchtower, then the rest of the palisade, when the next lightning struck the sky from the center of the village. Merely seconds later, the entire field became an inferno of fire and ashes and smoke. There was no safe place anywhere, but small pockets in the open field, where the lightning had already made deep holes, long, broad wounds in the ground, became a haven of sorts. The deeper the hole, the better the safety. People ran in panic from their homes, finally using their instincts. Many was burned to cinder because they attempted to bring their things. The inferno of flames and sparks inside the village digested them in an instant.
   Suddenly... it was silent, violently silent, a tiny hope of redemption. The suction from the inferno like fires melding into one, drowned in the roar of silence. The girl in the forest glen, looked up. She saw small, insignificant shadows run from the river with buckets filled to the rim with water, the steaming river, the steaming water, so totally inadequate against the raging fire. Every drop of water was swallowed by the fire, like countless pies in the ocean.
   And it all turned even more insignificant when she lifted her head a bit further, further up the valley, where another wave of lightning seemingly competed in a hundred meters run. A long, long line. Even longer, even more powerful than the former. The girl felt both repulsed and attracted by the incredible spectacle. Had she experienced anything remotely like this when living with her parents, as a little girl? Her thoughts was distracted a moment, she was distracted. A moment too long. She forgot where she was. The army of lightning swooped the trees just a small stretch from her. The entire forest seemed to catch fire simultaneously and she was forced to join the other refugees, out there on the naked field. She was not distracted for long, unable as she was to keep her thoughts from the fabulous, horrifying experience the last few minutes. She kept moving, realizing with a start, what she already knew, that this was her only change to survive.
   A new, horrible thunder filled the air, deafening, all consuming. And then, finally, the rain came. Without warning nor transition the rain supplanted the air. Suddenly it poured and it became difficult to breathe. The lightning continued to flash in a seemingly endless row. The fires stopped in seconds. The violent lightning continued to fry the ground. A huge part of the nearest forest was reduced to ashes. The villagers had stopped doing anything. They ran in brainless panic in all directions. It was no use. Wherever they ran, the anvil of Earth was hit by the sky hammer. Sparks that could easily devour a human being. The girl threw herself into a pit with several others. Nobody cared about it the least. At this time she was, both to herself and them, just another ant, hiding in the ground. They stayed there for a while, until they once more had to flee. And again and again. She got away from them, they disappeared for her. The Storm didnít stop, didnít quit, no matter how desperate or numb one became. Nature didnít consider some poor ants crawling in the wreckage of their lives, without direction, without purpose. Time became meaningless. Measuring anything an impossibility. There was no Hunger. Not even the understanding, the realization of it. Everything was wrecked, flattened in the eternal Storm. She laid still in the end, quiet and without voice. Nightmare images haunted her. In flashes she saw others, unmoving, non breathing. Quiet.
   Quiet, stillness. A club against the head, persistently claiming it existence. Reluctantly, eagerly she dragged herself on her feet. Half dead, half dreaming. The quiet whistled and flowed afterwards. She didnít hear the falling rain. Just whistling in her ears and - she imagined - water flowing over burnt soil. A male running by, screamed insane. She didnít hear any of it. Slowly she got steady on her feet and pulled towards the fortress. A heap of black burnt trees. She found the main gate simply enough. It was crushed, but still there. If it was on the same spot it had been, she couldnít say. As the war machine was nowhere to be seen, it could mean that the gate had been moved, but she didnít care. She stopped where she supposed the opening had been, and decided, with a far look in her eyes, to remain there for a while.
   Slowly, the heat and the blood, returned to her bruised and battered body. She stood to her ankles in mud. Water flowed around her legs. She had injured her hand. Her clothes (and her) was soaked by water and shit. Huge parts of the red hair was burnt away. It seemed dirty brown now. She stood still and breathed, while ear whistling increased. Adrenaline gushed into the blood through the veins. She had survived, she lived. Many bodies was stiff and cold on the ground. But not she. She felt fresh and alive.
   The Night darkened around her as the last embers of woodwork and field faded. The Night brightened around her as her eyes once again adapted to the darkness. She stood still, quiet. There was movement in the terrain and the ruin. She paid it no heed. The people she glimpsed, and she hardly even glimpsed them, look like ghosts to her. And she didnít exist to them. At least they didnít speak to her, didnít look at her, didnít recognize her presence in any way. Perhaps they would, after reaching out of the mud they had placed themselves in, when they need somebody to point at, somebody to blame.
   It had happened to her Before. She remembered. Strangely enough, encouraged the painful, crystal clear memory her, to once again, keep herself going a bit longer.
   He materialized in front of her, a long time after she had stopped hoping he would, a long time after she should have moved on. To safety, to solitude. She stared at him with an intense, burning look. Compared to the ghosts, he vibrated of rainbow and embers. She gave away a cry of joy. The flash, the Life, in his eyes mirrored her own.
   They talked for a long time, while hesitatingly touching each other. Physical touch, looks, small glimpses of Hunger, in the edges of their view, nuances of longing. Very few spoken words. The choice of the crossroads was there in front of her. A major division, a change. She had a choice. So did he.
   They left the place together, side by side. He turned and looked back one single time. A few of the survivors had started to clean up the mess. He noticed that they did so slowly, reluctantly.
   - There will ever be someone who want to repeat the mistakes of the past, she said softly. She heard her own voice again, for the first time in days and nights. And it sounded markedly different, as if it belonged to another person.- Fire is Natureís way of cleansing itself. After its ravaging everything may sprout anew. They whoíre entombing themselves will ever be vulnerable in the Storm.
   By daybreak, the sky was once more clear and blue. When the sun rose beyond the mountains, and warmed and dried them, they were already far above the field. They took a bath and relaxed the first water they reached. A few hundred step later they felt as dry as ever, but significantly more vigorous. The grass grew more green, the air more fresh, the higher they came into the mountains. They kept walking. They didnít need words to know they both wanted to go a considerable time higher up, before even consider stopping.
   He pulled in air, breathed deeply, because he felt a bit out of breath, but most of all because he enjoyed himself. The forest seemed endless up here. Everything felt, was felt, more powerful. He enjoyed himself, watching her rear and felt no shame. And marveled at how easy she moved through even the thickest forest. Every tree, every obstacle, felt like a fortress to him. Everything seemed to just... move aside for her. Instead of the other way around. He forced himself to sit on high ground while she went looking for game, went hunting. It even came to be a source of joy for him, that he felt no considerable envy because of her skill. Instead he enjoyed her... hunt. He saw glimpses and flashes of the man beast now and then, a mix of deer and panther, while the female ducked in and out of brushes and bushes. The firehair was blowing in the wind.
   And slowly, unnoticeable at first, even on the first day, he suspected more than noticed the changes in himself. Tiny reflections, really, on the edge of consciousness. It felt like that at first, the first nights with trial and errors, journeys and dreams. The extreme awareness came later, rose slowly, inevitable. Already the coming night, he had never before experienced one without walls, walls within, without, he more than suspected he would never be able to return, to the walls, to the person he had been. He wouldn't have survived. The body might have been able to breath and walk, but he doubted if the heart would have beaten and the blood flowed through the veins.
   He learned through her, through himself, to not stumble in the numerous roots, from trees, from bushes, sticking up everywhere on the forest floor. Stumbling walk and run, became as transformed. He transformed, rediscovered himself. And he knew he would never be able to describe this, express it in words. Even if an integral part of this consti... constituted of walking days and nights with the pain of hunger in stomach and body and mind. He realized that it would ever be thus, that lack of safety from now on would be a part of daily, mundane life, never again mundane. He laughed. Funny how his ability to express himself, had increased rather than decreased, since the departure from the village. He had heard so many horror stories, about the ęsavagesĽ roaming the wilderness, all of it lies and hearsay.
   She laughed, too, sharing his laughter, not knowing what caused his laughter specifically, sharing his joy. She was also laughing every time he beat his knotted fists in wild anger against the ground, recognizing his marring frustration and desperation when he failed to catch his hunted game. He knew she laughed with him, not of him. Well, there was a partly certain viscous tendency there somewhere, a mocking, a challenge, in her voice, in the stance of her body. It didnít face him, not as it had done when the villagers had mocked and demoralized him.    Just before, during the few, hectic hours, before he killed his first game, the shock rattled him. As a tiny pond in the road squashed by the foot, a flood not even feet as countless as trees in the forest, could stop. He heard... the howl of the owl. Only as an echo of what eh had heard the night before, but infinite more powerful. His breath, so light, so much in tandem with the rhythm he more than sensed in his immediate and distant surroundings. He realized with a jolt that his rhythm, his very breath, only marginally differentiated from that of the forest, the wilderness. Where did this originate, where had it hidden itself? Such a question, so useless and wasted, was easily and eagerly put to rest. He knew the answer, knew it from the first time he opened his eyes.
   He missed the rabbit at his first attempt. The knife sank into hard and wiry forest floor just as the animal did jump away. The weapon was stuck. A stray thought in the mind of the hunter, discarded as yesterdayís faeces. His forward movement never stopped, no tin the slightest, smallest way. He got hold of the animalís left hind foot, squeezed, and just by an afterthought did compassion caused by the scream of the little turk, threaten to halt his goal of anything. The hunter squeezed even harder. Bones broke under the relentless pull of the hand. He held it till he got hold of the neck and snapped it like a twig. He kept squeezing, holding the game inside whitened knuckles, while he gasped and breathed in silence, noisier than the night.
   Thirsty, so thirsty. He tried to remember where he was compared to the nearest pond. Thirst overwhelmed him as everything did right now. Suddenly she was there before him. He looked at her. She sat on her heels. In a cup made of huge, green leafs, water glimmered and sparkled. In the cup, in her deep eyes. She offered the life giving fluid to his open, hungry mouth and he drank it all in big slurps and even then it seemed to him it would never be empty. It wasnít. Perhaps Natureís hospitality did have a limit, as it had been for the humans living before the Disaster, but if it did, they were far away from discovering it.
   With a look he couldnít quite comprehend, she relieved the dead animal from his weak grip. She started smearing its blood all over his body, drawing and painting his body, already leaner and stronger than just a few nights ago. Her eyes sparkled even more. He wanted her. As usual discovery, knowledge, certainty came as it always did out here, suddenly, violently. She kissed his hand. Bit his flesh hard. While her enticing look never left him. They had been bathing together several times, fully conscious of the nudity, but to go any further hadnít felt right, then. It did now. It would never be more right than in this exact moment.
   They held hands while walking back to the camp. Touching each other with their many free hands. They held the rabbit between them. The lifeless animal hanging from its bloodstained ears. It was important. Food was important. But not now.
   Skin, indeed all senses, felt extremely sensitive. Soft forest floor pinched hyper sensitive sole skin. It didnít feel strange, but part of it all. They didnít ask questions, didnít bother to answer any. Later they could seek all the questions and find all the answers the world had to offer. Not now. All senses, all impressions, were enormously enhanced. They really were, they didnít just experienced it that way. The body did, simply put, everything different, when everything within awoke, came alive, outside.
   Iím alive!
   They knelt chest against chest, touching, kissing, gasping, both wild and relaxed. Some time or another he would certainly tell her his name and she would tell him hers. Not important now. She knew what she was, what they were. Human Beings! As they were born to live. Their fierceness, their ęhumanityĽ... there were no contradiction to it. There were no contradictions. The even bolder touching progressed naturally from the more enticing one. It started now. Now! Everything. Rough, merciless, savage. Breathing mouth to mouth, sharing breath. Pressing against each other, pulling and tearing, feeling the first signs of Awakening, gathering pain and boundless joy. Death and Life. Ice and Fire.
   They knew who they were.

   END

  

On the FIREWIND main page you'll find other stories.

  

Firewind Burning Hot
Yes, there is a Human Beings inside that inferno...

  

Begun 07-04-1998 - 107. night 12053
Third year in the time of the Crimson Tide.

Completed 1999-06-23 - 183. Night 12054
Fourth year in the time of The Crimson Tide.