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An artist’s quest

By Jason FischerPublished 3 years ago 8 min read

He didn’t have any definitive evidence however he knew the tree moved. It was not possible for a tree that stood over two stories high and having a base more than four feet in diameter to move however this one did. Since moving into the farmhouse a week ago every afternoon he sat on the back porch and sketched the entrance to the forest in his Moleskine sketch pad. Stephen now reviewing his sketch would say with some confidence that the tree moved precisely four feet to it’s right. Prone to fantastical thought he hesitated to tell his wife and once he saw her reaction, he immediately wished he hadn’t. Without words he could hear the word relapse come from her. She was always supportive and understanding of his fluctuating mental health, it’s why they moved away from the city with the hope that the new scenery would help alleviate some of the stress and allow him to focus on finally getting his anxiety and delusions under control.

Seeing things that were not really there never seemed like a problem for Stephen. Seeing the world through a slightly different lens was a double edge sword of reward and punishment. The current reward was receiving twenty thousand for a sketchbook of pencil drawings. It was the first time he had ever sold simple pencil sketches; the money was a nice surprise helping secure the down payment on the farmhouse. Through his special lens he both lived and suffered for his art. Toiling at first at his sketch book and then his canvas every day, drawing every object to the most minute exacting detail. Once he began, he could not stop, regardless of weather or circumstance he would sit hours on end every day until he completed the drawing perfectly, not a close to perfect rendition of his subject matter a perfect rendition. This is why he knew the tree moved. No matter how deep he went down the insanity rabbit hole he could always count on his drawing and he was now going to find some scrap of evidence that the tree did indeed move.

Stephen, shovel in hand, now examined the earth, it was a mixture of grass, moss and dry dirt. With no visual clues, the ground looked exactly the same throughout the forest, to guide him there was only one more thing to do, start digging and see what was beneath the surface. The spade struck dead center to the trees rightful location and the ground gave quick resistance to the dull edge. After the first few shovelfuls were complete his confidence was not exactly soaring but at this point with Patricia watching from the upstairs window what other choice did he have but to continue?

Ten yards away from Stephen the gelatinous mass drew into itself carefully rising to gain a better vantage point. It was covered in an oatmeal-colored membrane that served as its skin. No more than a foot of the ground stretching to a length of nearly four feet long, it looked like an overgrown bastardised grubworm. At its highest point from the ground where you would expect to see antennae was a single opalescent globe fourteen inches in diameter that served the creature as both an eye and a mouth. It felt Stephen’s presence through another sense, a sense honed over centuries of subterranean dwelling. The creature only came to the surface for sustenance. Its sustenance being a human host. Its last host lasted more than a century; the time filled slowly in a symbiotic embrace. The host giving the creature life and the creature selfishly keeping the host alive in an unnatural shared consciousness, enveloped in darkness as the creature slowly fed. To gain access to this world, it had no choice but to move the tree. Instinctively it new the only way the forest would allow its brief emergence was through the area occupied by another living being. In the dead of night, gathering strength from its host until there was no more life left, it temporarily merged itself with the tree roots joining with it. The union gave the roots purposeful movement, the grand tree gracefully removed its roots from the earth and replanted itself in its new temporary home content to wait until the creature was ready to go back to its niche in the earth with its new guest and then it would go back to its original position in the forest. The creature could sense Stephens confusion and anger as it watched him uproot the earth. It new this man was the one to merge with, the one to share life with back beneath the earth. It slowly began its journey across the forest its flesh wiggling as it slithered over rocks and twigs, its form stretching, conforming to the shape of the objects beneath, the oatmeal mass becoming more translucent as it slinked along.

Stephen had long since taken off his flannel jacket and was in his T shirt oblivious to the cold that the beginning of night was bringing. The slight wind was quite invigorating although the diminishing light was making it harder to see especially as the hole got deeper. It was already chest deep and the shovel was just starting to strike more gravel than dirt slowing his progress. As he could not shake the sense that no good would come from this however, he had no intention of stopping until he found what he was looking for. As he flung another shovel of gravel over his shoulder the remains of the wake of the turned blade nearly hit the creature which was less than ten feet away as it was slinking its way to its new host growing more eager to complete its pilgrimage as he watched the raw earth that was its home fly in clumps in the air.

Unaware of what was stalking directly behind him, Stephen planted the shovel into the ground this time it did not yield as it struck on solid rock causing a shockwave through Stephens arms, making his entire torso feel like a human tuning fork. Using the blade to scrape around the edges he uncovered a sizeable rock. After some coaxing he was able to remove it from the compacted dirt. It took considerable strength to straighten up and get it to his waistline and then to his shoulder finally placing it on the ground at the edge of the hole. The last physical excursion winded him slightly and he placed his arms on the earth and rested his head on top of his makeshift pillow.

Inhaling in short gasping breathes he could almost taste the earth, his mind filling with the taste of mustiness and decomposition. He could hear the wind over the fallen leaves and the faint sound of something approaching. The creature was close now less than two feet away from its host. Being this close awakened his senses and brought a feeling of electricity that coursed across its gelatinous flesh. As it began to expand its flesh to envelope Stephen the creature immediately sensed the presence of another. Instinctively it pulled back into itself scurrying away to the safety of the nearest tree. It moved with the practiced agility of a bug scurrying away from a light that is suddenly turned on.

Patricia seeing her husband covered in mud and soaked with sweat took a deep breath very careful to fight back the frustration from her voice. Through long and hard experience, she knew that the tone she used was vital to how her husband was going to react. “So, what have you been up to?”

Startled by the unexpected sound Stephen jerked his head around, his eyes quickly adjusting to his wife towering above him. Although his natural instinct was to feel angry and pick a fight, he could not help but feel overwhelmed by a sense of relief. Her presence somehow brought him back to reality feeling like he no longer had to finish swallowing the bite that was too large to chew. With a childlike nod of the head Stephen responded “Remember last night when you said it would be great if we had an outdoor Jacuzzi? Well, here you go!”

With this simple joke her faked expression of understanding became a smile that lit up her face. In the diminishing sunlit woods, she looked ten years younger and full of hope. It was the happiest he had seen her in some time now.

“Well, we can discuss that tomorrow, how about we head inside and get into the wine and possible something to eat?”

Looking down at the hole he felt a quick tinge of embarrassment. Not wanting to spoil the moment he hastily replied, “Why don’t you head in and I will catch up in a few minutes?”

“Sounds like a plan.” With this Patricia turned and headed up the wide expanse of lawn back to the house.

Stephen watched her always grateful to watch her hips sway. Grabbing his shovel, he for the first time realized that it would be a chore to climb out of the hole. A flash of claustrophobia ran its course through his nervous system, and he felt suddenly very vulnerable. He could imagine someone standing right behind him and pushing a knife in his back. It was a recurring delusion he had had since childhood, but it never felt more real than it did at this moment. Moving with a swiftness he did not know he possessed Stephen grabbed the shovel shoving it midway into the wall perpendicular to the ground and used the long handle as step. In one motion he stepped up and rolled his way out of the hole and onto the ground towards the house. Still feeling the adrenaline coursing through his veins, he half jogged back towards his house not daring to look back.

Less than an hour later they laid in bed both spent and covered in sweat. They never made it to the kitchen for dinner or to the shower for that matter. They immediately went upstairs and made love. They both laid there in a half sleep but with their eyes open staring at the opposite wall with the balconied window looking out across the backyard and the forest beyond. There was contentment to the feeling of sexual fulfillment that was better than any drug or alcohol. Just as Stephen was ready to finally succumb to sleep, he let out a sharp moan.

Patricia startled at this slightly. “I hope that wasn’t an indication of how it was for you.”

With a slight chuckle, “No not at all.”

“Then what it is?”

“I just remembered I left my jacket outside.”

“That ratty old thing just leave it and get some sleep.”

“Yeah, but my sketch book is in the pocket.”

With immediate understanding she replied, “Oh, well I will tell you what. I would be happy to go out and grab it for you. I wanted to grab a small snack anyway.” She knew he would protest so she quickly got out of bed and headed toward the door giving him a glimpse of her natural self through the moonlight.

Knowing it was senseless to argue he leaned back and let out a sigh. As he lay there with his eyes half open, he could see the top of the tree. It no longer mocked him; it was now just a part of the landscape. Slowly he drifted into slumber.

After about a half hour of dozing something triggered him back to consciousness. He sat up, realizing his wife was not in bed. He felt he had slept for a few hours, but this might be one of those instances when it might have been only minutes. He sat up straining to hear Patricia possibly in the kitchen. As he stared through window, there was one thing he was sure of the tree was back in its original position.


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    JFWritten by Jason Fischer

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