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The Woodsman

He has been staring at me for the past three moons. In the corner, He just sits; glaring with no eyes; standing on wooden legs. My tools lay dormant; no desire remains within me to use them. I know not how this happened, or why my heart is so burdened at the sight of my creation, but I undoubtedly know that he watches.

The before:

Not but three weeks ago, a strange urge possessed me; a curiosity driven by frostbite and unknown forces. I ventured into the wooded canopy of the forest, axe in toe, searching for only God knows what. Arrogance sat comfortably on the palm of my left hand and ignorance nestled into the fleshy pillow of my right. I heeded no warnings. I audaciously traveled too far and my pride got me caught. An ancient creature that I saw a thousand times before attacked me. I never expected this kind of confrontation. The creature was a male Ent.

He made his strike; hard and unannounced. I let the full force of the blow travel to the furthest reaches of my body. The overwhelming sensation rang through my head; dizzying me and impairing my vision. Hot blood trickled from my nose to my lips; leaving a metallic flavor in my mouth that I had not experienced since youth. I should have given up and ran away right there; broken in the red-speckled snow. A man must know his limits; but not I. There was an uncontrollable spark inside of me struggling to ignite; a guttural ember taking over; determined to start a wildfire.

This was no attempt to make a political statement nor was it an act of vengeance on me or my attacker’s behalf. Senseless violence deserved senseless rage. I fought back using all my might. I drove my axe into the creature’s limbs. Hack after hack, he creaked and cracked as I held on tightly to the handle of my sturdy tool. I affirm that there’s nothing like a good piece of hickory. I won the battle, but started a war. I dragged the shell of the creature behind me, triumphantly.

“It will more than satisfy my needs.” I thought to myself.

The air possessed a bitter bite that encompassed my body, piercing my breath and making my lungs hurt. With the incentive of warmth, I hurried home. But, alas! Flaws plagued my rushed judgment. In my eager, stubborn ways, I ignorantly left home without a lantern and no sense of direction, which left me utterly lost. The sun progressively assumed a sleepy, creamy orange color indicating that dusk would soon approach. . My kill had been a heavy load, leaving me winded. This was my cue to find shelter for the evening.

After little debate, I settled upon this rock lean-to I found next to a small frozen over stream. It was not anything special or habitable but I chose it for one reason: I did not have any other options. I tried to sleep that night. I really did, but I kept waking to the sounds of moaning. Every time I went to seek out the source of the sound, it stopped. The frost was toying with my sanity. Mother nature was punishing me for some forgotten sin of my youth. I was sure of it. It was destined to be a miserable night.

I “woke” to a blinding sunrise. My lips were chapped, my throat was callow, and uncontrollable chills had taken over my entire body. I knew if I wanted to ever get home, I had to get started now. I looked to the sky and thought of my daughter and of my wife. I had to pull through for them; For their memory. I gathered my meager supply of tools and threw the remains of the corpse over my shoulders. The trek was grueling. I had myself, at times, falsely convinced that I was headed in the right direction. Eventually muscle memory worked to my advantage. I wandered mindlessly until I found the way back to my cabin.

Upon my front step, there were a handful of letters addressed “Clinton Northwood.” They would make a nice fire later. I scooped up the postage and headed inside. I gave my pack a rest and used a small part of the Ent and my unread condolences for tinder. The warmth of the blaring flames were intoxicating. The crying and crackling sound was music to my red ears. I nestled up right next to the fireplace, still in my dirty, wet clothing. For a brief moment, I almost felt happy. I fell asleep immediately.

My eyes were pried open by familiar screams; Sounds I had never forgotten. I woke in a panic, frantically scattering about my one room house trying to stop it. The squeals were the most awful sounds in the world. I ran through my cooking area and tripped on the body I had forgotten about. The brute force of my weight being pulled towards the ground snapped off one of the limbs, and left a deep gash in my right arm. If I wasn’t in so much pain, I would have noticed that the howling had ceased.

I grabbed a bottle of emergency booze off of my homemade cupboard, poured it all over the wound, and whelped in misery; such a waste of alcohol. I then tore off my ragged shirt and fastened a tight tourniquet around my arm that cut off the blood supply. All this action left me wired. It was time to get to work.

Work was a welcome distraction from life. Creation was my game. It gave me the chance to feel like someone much more important than the rugged, miserable man I was. I examined the remainders of the Ent, which were still pretty fresh. I saw potential. I don’t remember the allure behind this particular project, but I do remember I was hooked.

I imagined all the of what I could make: Happiness, comfort, reliability, home. These possibilities were all right before me. All I had to do was fetch my tools so that my visions could become a reality. I discarded the undesirable parts of the trunk into the fireplace. I left only the best parts of the snag for creativity, or so I thought. I worked, and crafted until my hands were bloody. Repeated hammering motions left cracks in my knuckles. Wood shavings peppered my eyelashes.

I had outdone myself this time, I boasted. It was the most beautiful piece I had ever laid eyes on. Sitting on four legs, yet standing up straight; It was the most regal of creatures. I placed it in my spot next to my cot. With a newfound sense of pride, I headed in out of the cold and celebrated with my leftover whiskey.

The after:

“Who are you telling to shut up?” I snapped at the top of my lungs, “I’M NOT GOING TO SHUT UP, IT’S MY TURN!” I breathed heavy with rage.

I could not contain myself any longer. He was just sitting there, dormant, taunting me in his cruel fashion. I had become victim to my own conception. I took another drink. It was staring again. Why did he insist on watching me? He sighed. I heard it. He really sighed.
“I heard you!” I said condescendingly.
He remained still. Oh, he knew how to play with me.
“You think you’re so clever. You think that you can fool me. But I see right through you.” I reaffirmed. I took another drink.

My head was dizzy just the way I liked it. I’m glad my wife wasn’t around to see me. She would not have been proud of the man I had become. He had an effect over me, like a mate who is a bad influence, but more stubborn. We had conversations without words, boundaries without lines, understandings without promises. The silence said it all. The silence was din. The silence was not silent. I took another drink.

He began insulting me; Talking of my failures, judging my habits.
“Stop.” I whined softly.
He remained still but kept nagging.
“Stop it.” I said, indignant.

I cupped my hands over my ears tightly and squeezed my eyes shut. I could still hear Him. The ringing would not cease.
“STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT!” I whelped.

These quiet taunts had been enough. I reached my breaking point. I grabbed the rope used for excursions and I and dragged it to a place where we would both soon be resting for good. I fastened the best noose possible. I used it as stepping stone to tie the rope to the loose board in the ceiling. It moaned in pain. I guzzled my last drink. I stumbled and climbed on top of it. I put the noose around my neck, kicked the chair out from under me, and heard the snapping of a leg. It cried wildly.

The present:

Here I am, breathing the last breath before death. Suspended in an infinite moment, waiting for the end of misery. I can feel the rope of liberation around my neck. I see my life before me. I see the promise of being reunited with my wife Rose and my daughter Emily, both of whom died because of my failure to protect them. I hope for forgiveness. I hope for peace.

There is a sudden blur of motion, I can feel the end coming. I have one final thought: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? I now believe that it does.
I smile at the thought. Just as I feel the pressure of the rope tightening, promising sweet relief, the board above me snaps. I fall to the ground, Alive. It laughs. I am trapped.





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