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Bound Existence

by Catherine Guillotte 11 months ago in Fantasy
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The Boundaries of Life

Bound Existence
Photo by Wim van 't Einde on Unsplash

Summer was in the air, thick and humid, drawing forth an army of bloodthirsty insects as Martin wandered beneath the shady trees. He felt like a vampire, struggling to stay beneath the overhanging branches in a desperate attempt to avoid the searing sun. It was just too damn hot down here in the south.

His long red, bright curly red hair was plastered to his fair skin from sweat, which only drew the attention of even more insects. It felt like the air was comprised of buzzing bodies.

Rather than being out hiking in the mountains with his friends, he was left to wander the overgrown chaos on his parents’ new home.

This was madness. He was out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do or see. He was going to have no life at all!

Lost in thought, he wandered the woods for some time in no apparent direction. Martin just needed some space, and space he found as he exited the trees, coming out into a wide open pasture.

“Wow.” The pasture was wide and beautiful with high grass that swayed in the open breeze. The only thing to mar the wide open expanse of land was a single tree.

A towering willow thicker than oak with twisted branches rising from the trunk before draping down lazily toward the earth. The willow loomed over a small pond with black depths, its limbs resting gently upon the glass-like surface.

“That’s a big tree,” Martin commented, staring up at the magnificent willow. The tree seemed almost otherworldly, out of place amongst the mundane grass. The bark alone was a deep blue-grey in color with pale green leaves on elegantly swaying branches.

Martin found himself swaying with the tree, enthralled by the delicate dance the willow put on. Ripples spread across the pond as the branches churned left then right with an ever increasing momentum.

The flowing breeze was a cool caress against his flushed skin, but nowhere near the power required to move the willow. Back and forth the branches dragged the ground, whipping the flowing grass into the earth.

As the tree gained momentum, the faintest song could be heard. A gentle voice in a foreign tongue that pulled him in.

Martin found himself walking towards the tree. As he approached, the branches seemed to lift, revealing a clear path towards the trunk.

As soon he crossed under the tree’s branches, Martin saw a small, dark paradise. The space beneath the willow was cool and damp as if shielded from outside weather.

This just didn’t seem right. He looked from the gleaming leaves then towards the trunk.

His gaze travelled further up the trunk, widening as he came upon a large hole like an organic cave. The opening served as a perch for the most beautiful being he’d ever seen.

The female was singing softly to herself, running her hand through hip length hair that shared the same color as the tree’s leaves. Her skin appeared white and smooth as pearl with the faintest shimmer. It was a beautiful song filled with longing and sadness.

As her voice finally faded, the song coming to a close, Martin found himself giving a faint clap.

“That was beautiful.”

Hearing his voice, the lovely woman froze, her hand stopping mid-run through her long hair.

Turning her head slowly, the female’s sharp red eyes fell upon him, her mouth open in a silent ‘o.’

Realizing maybe he should have stayed quiet, Martin offered a nervous smile, “Uhh… hi…. Sorry to uhh interrupt, but-

“How-” the mysterious woman began to speak, but only managed to fall forward, crashing to the earth in a bundle of white limbs and green hair. “Oof. Ow. That hurt- you!” the female scrambled up, her long hair covering her otherwise bare feminine form, “How did you get in here?!”

As she spoke, roots from the willow seemed to extend, wrapping themselves around her legs before travelling up. Within moments, the woman was shrouded in delicate willow branches.

“Uhh… good question. I was uhh… tree,” Martin pointed back out towards the branches, “I was looking at the tree and the branches kind of… opened.”

“Opened- oh gods,” the woman lifted a delicate hand and slapped it against her forehead. “Well that wasn’t supposed to happen- and you, you’re taking this rather well. You’re not panicking, screaming or attacking.”

Martin thought about that for a moment, “It feels better under here than out there.”

“Then why are you out there? Don’t humans have your structures to block out the elements?”

“We do,” Martin agreed, “But I don’t like the one we moved into. I liked our old one better.”

“Oh?” she tilted her head, her emerald hair shifting with the movement, “I’ve never known another home. I always wanted to travel.”

Martin’s eyebrow rose at the last comment, “Then… why don’t you?”

“I can’t.” she made a point of reaching down, plucking a leaf from the branches that wrapped around her body, “The tree and I are bound.”

“Oh… that’s uhh… weird.”

She shrugged then, “It is what it is. Such is life.”

“And if the tree gets cut down?”

“That is a bad idea.”

“Just a thought,” Martin held up his hands in surrender, “So you’re stuck with this tree? Is it magical? Can it move?”

The woman laughed then, shaking her head with amusement, “It is magical, but no, it cannot move. I haven’t heard of a moving tree before. I bet they would appreciate being able to move,” she tilted her head up then. “Hmm… you can move… tell me then, human, what is the outside world like it?”

Martin debated that. There wasn’t much to say. Technology was advancing, yet the human species seemed worse off because of it. The world itself was dying as war and pollution ravaged the land.

“Disappointing.”

“Hmm.” Her tone was skeptical, before she shrugged, “I could believe it… life is disappointing.”

“It is,” Martin agreed, before he looked around, “What is this place?”

“Home.” She answered simply, “The only one I’ll ever know.”

Martin got curious then, “Have you… gone outside the tree?”

“I can go only as far as the tree’s longest limb.” She replied as she looked up, “And you, should go.”

“Go?” Martin echoed, “Why?”

“My mother will be quite upset if she finds you here. We’re supposed to be secluded. This land…”

“Oh… well I guess we’re neighbors then,” Martin commented, “My parents bought the house over yonder.”

“Oh.” The female blinked, her red eyes glowing briefly from shock. “Oh my… you must leave. And forget you found this place.”

“How? I mean your tree’s on our property-

“Your property?” the woman looked at him a moment, then laughed, “It will not be yours for long if you do not leave.”

Martin huffed, but nodded, “Fine. I’m leaving- wait, how are you bound, but your mother can leave?”

“A question of methods.” The inhuman female spoke, before motioning to the branches. “Go, now.”

Sighing, Martin nodded, turning to leave. Fine. He had a thousand questions, but he would leave.

“Could I come back?” Martin asked as he got closer to the branches, only to shout as one of the branches wrapped around his arm, and yanked him forward. He was still shrieking as he stumbled forward and hit the ground outside the tree’s branches.

The willow shuddered, its branches lifting up then falling down straight, limp and expressionless as any other tree.

Well… damn.

Martin shook his head, forcing himself to stand up. That was a disappointment.

A flash of green light made him pause, turning to look towards the pond.

His eyes widened as a woman walked out of the pond, her black hair dripping wet onto a tattered black robe decorated in bones.

Martin froze in place as the woman’s black, shark-like gaze met his. Her skin was pale and waxy as death while her eyes appeared primal and soulless.

“Uhh… hi.” Martin blinked, the green light from before absorbing into the woman’s hands. Her black gaze met his briefly, before she snarled, the sound carrying a terrifying power to it as she threw her hands out to the side.

Green fire leapt from her hands, forming a glowing sphere of power.

Right, time to go!

Martin whipped around, instinct taking over as he ran, only to shout as he felt a burning heat impact against his back.

The young man fell forward, crashing into the earth and scrambling to get up.

Instantly, the ground shook as a root broke through the earth, offering him a shield from the crazy woman.

“Mother! Let him go! He’s innocent.” He heard a somewhat familiar voice, though the musical tone was gone, replaced by a dry, gasping breath.

Martin looked towards the tree as the same woman from before walked out from beneath its branches. She was vastly different, her shimmering skin replaced with a dull grey, patches of flesh falling off and bare bone exposed. Her red eyes were sunken in, blood oozing from the empty sockets as her emerald hair dried and cracked as she stepped from the tree.

The tree’s branches extended, trying desperately to shield its bond.

Martin stared at the rotting corpse of the once beautiful woman, before looking to her so called mother who was fuming.

Beside her, the glowing orb of fire was expanding, hollowing itself out into a swirling ring. Video game logic said that was a portal.

Portals were not good.

Time to run!

Scrambling up one last time, Martin sprinted for the trees.

Behind him, he heard the sound of a horse neighing, followed by the obvious thunder of hooves that only encouraged him to run faster.

Coming around a large oak, he let out a sigh of relief as he saw the new house through the trees. Almost home!

The recognizable neigh of a horse made him stop and look back. He scanned the trees, but saw nothing.

Turning to look back towards the house, he took a breath in preparation.

Exhaling, he made a mad dash for the house, only for green fire to erupt to his right.

He turned his head just in time to see an undead horse with a headless rider charging him. His green gaze took note of an outstretched hand holding a sword, before the world spun around him.

The sky and trees warped around him, the southern heat diminished to a bitter cold with a howling wind.

Martin hit the ground with a grunt, coughing and rubbing his eyes. Ugh, he looked down at the ashy grey sand covering his hands. What the hell just happened?

Groaning again, Martin lifted his head, only to freeze as he saw towering spires of bone and rock against a swirling sky of green and grey clouds.

“Oh look at that, that necromancer got us some fresh meat.”

“What?” Martin looked over to where he heard the voice, seeing unfamiliar faces… faces upon likewise rotting corpses. “Back off!” Martin scrambled back from the decaying specters, his mind struggling to make sense of what was happening.

“Relax, laddie.” A new voice spoke as a man who had clearly been run over by a horse judging by the broken bones and hoof prints permanently embedded on his flesh, “If you thought life was disappointing, death is worse.”

He jumped as a heavy object hit the ground with a wet splat. The hell was that?

Turning around, Martin gasped as he stared at a headless corpse. The corpse seemed to have fallen out of nowhere.

“Whoa!” Martin shrieked as another object fell from the sky, crashing into the corpse. His eyes widened as he stared at the bright curly, red hair upon the severed head, staring into terrified blue eyes he knew to be his own. “Oh hell.”

Looking out across the land, he realized it was a world built of corpses, including his own.

Well.

Damn.

Fantasy

About the author

Catherine Guillotte

Writing, gaming and creating art are my passions. Along with cats. All hail the mighty felilne overlords! Fantasy- traditional and urban- are my forte, but I dabble with romance, sci-fi and occasionally horror. Let me know what you think!

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