The Sword
     Untitled
The Cabiri Chronicles
     Life of a History
     Under the Hood
     Hunger

     Balancing Act

     I was just acting!
     Lucifer as a Player
     Player Types Defined
     Railroading
     LARP Boredom
     LARP Survival

     Economics in D&D 3.5

     Sept 11, 2002
     Columbia Disaster

     A Letter of Vocation
     Evidence of Evil
     In Defense of a Reflection

     A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
     Hello
 

          Author's Comments: This was written for a wonderful writer's workshop at the Milaye Project.


The Life of a History
October 31st, 2005

          Autumn.
          Brian Carrick breathed deeply of the crisp morning air as he slowly walked across the dew-kissed field. He smiled at a woman dressed in dark red sweats as she jogged past him, the music blaring into her ears just barely audible as she passed. She either hadn’t noticed him or refused to acknowledge him. Likely more the latter, Brian decided. She was in her own world...the world of towering skyscrapers, angry motorists blaring their horns, concrete pathways and the pervasive stench of the modern age. It was a world Carrick spent as little time in as possible.
          To his ancestors, autumn was a time of aging, as the Mother becomes the Crone. They called the time Mea’n Fo’mhair, where they would pay homage to the Green Man by pouring libations at the foot of his tree. In his mind’s eye he could see them dancing, calling out to unseen, but closely felt gods, reveling in the mysteries of existence. Brian felt he could feel those self-same gods nearby… as if even in this place, tucked away amidst highways and homes, cars and crime, the Green Man still roamed, preparing for his long winter’s sleep… his own death… and his subsequent rebirth.
          Rounding a corner in the path, Brian was struck silent when he first saw it… one tree, rising majestically in the center of the park. He knew something had called him here… something that wanted to tell him a story. He did not know if the Green Man himself was beckoning urgently or if the Crone was calling him gently to her side or… or if the scents of autumn just struck him the right way as he laid eyes on it.
          It was regal with age, a fiery head of leaves proudly displayed, like a wild animal trying to attract its last mate. Beneath it lay a bed of its own hair, like sparks that had fallen from a roaring conflagration. Proudly it rocked gently in the breeze, its voice whispering to Brian… urging him to come to it, to sit a spell, to listen. Brian obeyed… here this proud tree reigned supreme and demanded respect from men and beasts alike.
          He approached slowly, almost penitently, his hand outstretched. His fingers lightly touched the rough bark as the leaves above began to rustle their story…

          Two young lovers sat in the green shade of the great tree, the woman’s pale hand gently brushing his dark, rugged jaw. Her multicolored dress was splayed about their entwined bodies, its design mottled further by the sunlight that had snuck through the leaves above. She smiled gently at him as he rested calmly against the massive trunk, one hand draped carelessly across the guitar at his side. Sensing her gaze, his eyes flittered open and looked down at her, matching her smile with his own. He leaned down and gently kissed her forehead, some flecks of blue paint from the peace symbol she had painted there the night before coming off on his lips.
          “Good morning, lover,” she whispered softly to him.
          “Good morning,” he replied tenderly, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her tight.
          “Play something?” she asked of to him, lifting up from his lap and leaning against the tree herself. He slowly lifted his guitar to his lap, strumming it as he thought. “And not another protest song…”
          He nodded and began to play, singing of love, of the times, of the age. He sang with the happiness in his heart, with the moment’s peace he had shared with her the night before… he sang with his very soul.
          And as he sang, a squirrel shivered a branch of that great tree far above them. An acorn fell unnoticed to the girl’s tresses as she closed her eyes and relished the voice of her lover’s soul.

          “Pow! Pow!” one boy shouted, his finger pointed and thumb upraised in the universal symbol of a gun. “You’re dead!” He was leaning against the rough bark of the tree, using it as cover against his brother.
          “Nuh uh!” the other boy proclaimed. “I’m Wild Bill Hitchcock! You can’t kill me!”
          “Yeah, but I’m the Lone Ranger! Daaad!” the first young gunslinger called out. “Tell Tommy he’s dead!”
          “Boys,” a man bellowed from behind a newspaper. “Knock it off or I’m taking you home!” He too was leaning against the tree, his suit jacket draped across his lap under his fedora, the newspaper held high in his hands to catch the sunlight that filtered through the leaves of the tree. On a checked blanket nearby, a woman sat, her long hair swirled high about her head and plastered into place with an overabundance of hairspray. She glanced up through thick, horn-rimmed glasses at the children and the man as she deftly wove yarn into cloth.
          “Jack, Tommy,” she called out, her voice soft. “Play nice.”
          The two boys sulked for a moment before looking askance at one another and rushing out into the field beyond the tree, their finger-guns blazing.
          The man grunted to himself, his brow furrowing at the newspaper.
          “What is it Henry?” she asked delicately, her gaze returning to the thick needles in her hands.
          “Damn Commies,” he mumbled. “They take the one man in the government who’s trying to do something about them and run him through the ringer.”
          “Henry,” she said tentatively, “I saw him on the tee vee yesterday. He… well, he just looked like a bully to me. I’m not so sure…”
          “Senator McCarthy’s the best thing to happen to this country, Martha,” he said over the newspaper, leveling his eyes at her. “And I won’t hear none different.”
          Martha turned her face back down to her sewing as the echoes of her children’s laughter flitted through the branches of the tree.

          An old woman walked gingerly beneath the tree, a folded piece of paper gripped in her hand. She placed a gnarled hand against the trunk as she slowly lowered herself to the ground, her knees popping loudly in protest. Once settled against the tree… his tree, she liked to think of it, she leaned back to let the knots in her stomach untie themselves. She looked about her for a moment, memories of decades past reflected in her eyes. The joy, the pain, the life she had lived here rushed across her mind. And through most of it… at least for the last thirty years, she could see him there with her, looking up at her as only a boy looks at his mother.
          She sighed, apparently remembering the paper in her hand. She carefully opened it, twisting her broken hand to one side to lay it flat in her lap. Her eyes squinted as she began to read.
          “Western… Union…” she read aloud, obviously not particularly good with her letters. She narrowed her eyes again as she struggled to read the print.
          “Misses Dorothy Stephens, nineteen and forty-four, gun… jun…” She winced again as she struggled with the word. “Oh, my, that’s June. June the eighth. Why that was almost a month ago now…”
          She hummed to herself in satisfaction and pulled the paper closer to her face.
          “I deeply reject… no… regret to inform you that your son Private Mark Stephens…” she paused a moment, tears blurring her vision. “…died… died in the Err… the Ooro… the European Theater at Normandy beach…” She paused, her tears now flowing freely. The letter fell from her hand, resting softly against the roots of the tree.
          “Oh, Mark…” she whispered beneath her tears as she leaned heavily on the tree.

          A man stumbled in the snow, driving his shoulder into the trunk of the tree. He clutched his blue coat, a dark stain growing beneath his hand as bright red blood seeped from between his fingers, leaving a spattered pool in the snow over the roots. His knees buckled and he slid slowly down the tree, his small cap tipping off his head and rolling into the snow next to him. He gazed upward, through the naked branches to the pale white sky above.
          Two figures dressed in gray rags strolled across the field, their muskets at the ready. They noticed the man beneath the tree almost immediately and trained their weapons on him as they approached.
          “Looks like we gots us a live one, Jim,” the older of the two figures chuckled to the boy at his side. The boy nodded, gripping his gun as if by holding it he was safer.
          “Well, now,” the older one chuckled, resting his musket in the crook of his arm as he approached the man beneath the tree. “Guess you’d wish’d you’d stayed north of the line, eh boy?” he called out. The man did not answer, but turned his head away to gaze at the horizon.
          “Boy? You hear me?” the elder figure commanded. “We knows you ain’t dead yet.” He stepped forward and lowered his musket, pointing the tip of his bayonet at the man’s stomach. “Maybe I’s should poke him good, see if he squeals, the damn…”
          “Jeb!” the boy squealed just as the elder man heard the sound of a horse’s call behind him. He whipped around, gun at the ready. A gray bearded man wearing a crisp gray uniform was astride the horse, a stern look on his face as he regarded the man beneath the tree.
          “Gen’ral!” the older man shouted as he straightened his back and lifted his musket to his side. His salute was sloppy, but sincere.
          “Son,” the general’s voice rumbled. “You with the first Virginia?”
          “Yessir!” the older man replied, properly cowed.
          “Then see to it that man there gets to a doctor,” the general commanded, pointing a gloved hand at the man beneath the tree.
          “But sir…” the older man replied, his eyes wide with astonishment. “He… he’s a yankee, sir.”
          “That’s no matter now,” the general replied sternly. “He’s dying. And how a man treats his enemies is even more important than how he treats his friends. Remember that.” Both Jeb and Jim nodded eagerly as they turned to the man beneath the tree.
          But he did not see them. His eyes were still fixed on the horizon, his red-stained hand limp at his side. He had breathed his last against that barren tree.

          “Now, John, Isaiah,” a large man called out as he stepped up to the young tree, his arms gleaming with sweat under the hot summer sun, “You take that lumber right up to the house now. We’ll shave it down there. I want to have this wood ready to put up the south wall tomorrow.”
          “Yessir,” two young men replied as they tied a thick rope around the trunk of a fallen tree. At the other end of the rope, a horse neighed anxiously.
          The man looked past the two boys, across the stumps of trees that they had cut down the last few weeks. A woman was approaching, her plain gray dress catching on the brush. She ignored the brush catching on her dress, intent not to spill the contents of a wooden mug in her hand.
          “Millicent,” the man called out. “Is that cider there?” She nodded, smiling at him. He leaned the handle of his long wooden axe against the trunk of the tree and smiled broadly at her. “You are as blessed as the angels themselves, Milly,” he said impassively. Though his face remained stoic, his eyes glistened with tenderness. He drank deeply of the cut.
          “Will you be coming back to the wagon soon, Jacob?” she asked pleasantly. “Reynolds came up from over the hill, brought some rabbit with him. I had a mind to stew it up for us.”
          The man nodded, wiping his mouth across the sleeve of his dark coat. “That’d be fine, Milly. I’ll be back about sundown, there’s work left to be done.” He turned and picked up his axe, hefting it in his hand and eyeing the young tree with a trained eye.
          “Jacob?” she said behind him, her eyes gazing up at the branches above them. He nodded to himself, having decided where to cut and turned to look at her over his shoulder.
          “Not this one Jacob,” she said, her eyes leveling firmly at him. “Let this one live.”
          He knew better than to cross her when she had an idea in her head. He looked back up at the tree and frowned. It was young, but would’ve still made for good lumber.
          “Alright, Milly,” he finally replied with a sigh. “Not this one.”

          Two young lovers sat in the green shade of the forest, the woman’s pale hand gently brushing his dark, rugged jaw. Her multicolored dress was splayed about their entwined bodies, its design mottled further by the sunlight that had snuck through the leaves above. She smiled gently at him as he rested calmly against the massive trunk, one hand draped carelessly across the deerskin drum at his side. Sensing her gaze, his eyes flittered open and looked down at her, matching her smile with his own. He leaned down and gently kissed her forehead, some flecks of blueberry juice she had smeared on there the night before coming off on his lips.
          “Maka, tala shinae,” she whispered softly to him.
          “Tala shino,” he replied tenderly, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her tight.
          “Ante moran?” she asked of to him, lifting up from his lap and leaning against the tree herself. He slowly lifted his drum to his lap, tapping it as he thought. “Ante moran dun schora.”
          He nodded and began to play, singing of love, of the times, of the age. He sang with the happiness in his heart, with the moment’s peace he had shared with her the night before… he sang with his very soul.
          And as he sang, the acorn bound to her hair came loose, falling to the ground as she closed her eyes and relished the voice of her lover’s soul.

          Brian lifted his hand from the trunk of the tree. The cool autumn air still whisked about him as he opened his eyes. Only moments had passed… but he had seen so much. Birth… life… age… death… the tree had seen all these things in its time. It had given him the knowledge it held within its twisted roots, its scarred trunk and its gnarled branches. Brian glanced upward at the riotous flaming leaves that still clung to its branches. Soon it would be winter. Soon, the tree would again be dead, as it had so many hundred times before.
          Brian reached inside his jacket and pulled out a small metal flask. He opened the lid as his eyes traced the contours of the tree. He took a quick sip of the brown liquid inside, his face grimacing against the power within it. As his eyes finally settled on the base of the tree, he emptied the contents of the flask over the roots.
          “For you, old man,” he whispered to the tree. “Thank you.”