Based on the fairy tale “St.Joseph and the forest”. Please enjoy.
I feel it burn in the bottom from the bottom of my failing lungs. A cough erupts into my tunic’s red stained sleeve. A trickle of blood runs down my lip. I wipe it away without thought, staying focused upon the task at hand. I shovel fresh straw onto the dirt floor. The sheets apon my ragged bed lay rumpled and battered against the log wall. I take no noticed. Too much exertion is dangerous in my vulnerable condition. I limp through the unoccupied doorway, into the main room. My fireplace crackles harmlessly with life, straining to escape it’s prison. I throw another stick from against the table aimlessly at the pit. The effort caused a fit of coughing, bursting forth droplets of red onto the earth, escaping like a virus released from the womb. I lowered myself onto the dust, placing my hands over the array of droplets. Exhaustion spread throughout my muscles. I rose from the dirt, and stagger towards the small chest near the hearthfire, my white beard dripping with my decease. I pull from it two small roots I’ve been using as treatment from the splintered bottom. The tubers give me motivation to rise.
“Keep going Joseph” I mutter to myself, rambling to the pine table nestled cozily in the cottage. I take a seat in one of the two chairs, and make space with the bible, sliding it across the platform, laying the roots next to a small knife. I pick it up from the stained handle, and try feebly to peel back the stone hard skins of the two herbs. My attempts are in vain. Standing and knocking back the chair in a fit of anger, I am hit with another burning sensation from my lungs. The pain sends me back to my room, to upon the cot. I change into my other tunic, leaving the other next to the container of brown water to be washed. The room spells of metal, and rust. My body sees it necessary to knock me unconscious for an unknown amount of time.
I am awakened by a loud thud. The daylight is gone. I turn, and lift myself onto the mossy ground. Pacing myself, I move towards the light shining through the empty doorway. The hearth casts it’s bitter warmth into the living space. I move towards the hearth, when I once again hear a handful of thuds. It comes from the brittle pinewood door. After I unlatch the rusted deadbolt, I open the door with the small stone I use as a handle, And push open the second door. It swings open on it's creaking hinges. I find nothing but darkness. Below me I hear a cough. Lowering my gaze, I see a young girl staring at me with curious eyes.
“Come, dear child.” I ask, with no questioning. A stranger showing up on my remote doorstep is more of a blessing these days. The child steps through the narrow doorway. “Sit yourself on my little chair by the fire, and warm yourself.” The child slips wordlessly onto one of the stools, I relocate from the wobbling table. Knowledgeable of the hardships inside the woods, and remembering my unfortunate situation with the roots, I motion for the girls attention.
“I will fetch you clear water if you are thirsty. But here in the forest, I have nothing for you to eat but a couple of little roots, which you must first scrape and boil.” The girl readily took the roots, and I gesture towards the dusty table, with the rusty knife sitting upon it. She readily moved towards the furniture, and began the task of cleaning and scraping the tubers. After finishing, she removes a pancake, and piece of bread from her pocket. I licked my lips hungrily in response. She cooked it inside of the large, dilapidated pan over the fire. After some time, I began to converse with the child.
“My name is St.Joseph. I live inside these woods as a hermit, and as a benefactor of sorts, to aid travelers,wanderers, and outcasts alike. Unfortunately, I have recently been under an ailment I have nick named “Titanis” as it seems to not want to leave my system. Do not weary, I think it not contagious.”
Just then, a series of rapid bubbles begins to rupture in lightning secession from the pan, as the stew began to boil. The release of gasses fill the room with the scent of a slightly sweet aroma, thick bread, and a hint of rust. The smell hits me with an intense spike of hunger.
“I am so hungry, give me some of your food.” I beg the child, meekly. The child happily pours me a heaping portion of the stew into a wooden bowl. I wolf down the meal, feeling the healing of the roots and the strength of the bread coursing through my stomach throughout the feast. I release a cough, shooting a speck of rust onto my lip. I wipe it away with my sleeve, leaving a small stain on my arm. We rest next to the fire until I feel the day's events unleashing the beginnings of it's wrath apon me.
“Now we will go to bed. I have, however, only one bed, lay yourself in it. I will lie on the ground on the straw.” I propose. The girl quickly disagrees.
“No, answered she, stay in your own bed, the straw is soft enough for me.” I chuckle to myself. Moving towards her, I lift her into my arms, and carry her into my room. She snuggles into the sheets of my bed, and begins to say her prayers. I dim the light, and leave the room, beginning my preparations for the morning. I move outside my hut, and look for the stump I use as a marker. I slide back a large slate of granite, and reveal a hole, equipped with a sturdy wooden ladder, carved from a pine log. I crawl through the manhole, and slide down the polished rods, to turn, and witness, my wealth glittering in the moonlight, flooding in from the small opening. I remove a large sack from by the ladder, and start retrieving a horde of treasure, enough for a man to live exceptionally well for a lifetime. After finishing, I walk away from the piles of coins, and climb back up the ladder. Part way through, I am interrupted by a spasm of coughing. Before I can recover, My arm locks up at the joint, Causing me to stay in place until I can maneuver it into a position, releasing my arm from it's inner cage. I continue my ascent, and make it to the top of the ladder, before collapsing onto the slate. I end up being able to crawl inside the house, and leave the sack of gold on the floor, behind the door. Apon my table, next t the bible, is some ink and paper, and I use the rusted knife edge to write a note telling the girl all the money was hers. Remembering once again the kindness of the little girl I leave the house to retrieve more wealth. Nearing the ladder I start to tire. Eventually, I exhaust myself to the point, once reaching the bottom of the cave, to not have the energy to continue. Drag my body onto a pile of leaves, and close my eyes.
I open my eyes to a ray of bright sunlight, streaming through the small manhole. This gives me motivation to rise from my dusty bed. My feet carry me to the wooden ladder, and my arms lift me onto its ruts, leaving me to climb myself to the top. I reach the forest floor, panting, and begin my pilgrimage to my dwelling. I find the inside of my home deserted. Obviously, the little girl had left some time before, taking my gift from behind the wooden doors. Nevertheless, I am forced to begin my daily chores in solitude. My clothes must be washed, my bed made, and my roots scavenged from the garden around back. This tends to be all my feeble body can withstand nowadays. I begin with the laundry…
The roots on the table mock me from their perch, laughing at me with their skins of rust colored steel. My fire provides me no comfort, using it's heat to barely coax my muscles, simply magnifying the feeling of the chair, rubbing against my stiffened back. I continue counting my misfortunes, until eventually, my pessimism is interrupted by a nervous knock at my door.
“Company again?” I mutter to myself. I open up the two doors and find the same girl from last night. Wait, no. She’s much bigger. And the hair is different. Obviously, this person is a relative of my previous visitor.
I continue on the same script as yesterday, telling her of the roots and water, and she likewise retrieves a large pancake and some bread from a sack. I once again hunger for a filling meal, and let her prepare a stew, just as her sister had before. Once the stew sizzled with energy on the rusted pan, I once again asked,
“I am so hungry, give me some of your food.” The girl nodded, and replied
“You may have you're share.” I happily took my half of the stew, and gulped it down vigorously, swalling a large piece of rust partway through, having fallen from the downtrodden pan. The exertion of the meal brings me to once again long for bed. I tell the girl the same as her sister, that she may sleep on the bed, but she also refuses, and tells me the bed is big enough for both of us. The notion brings a smile to my face, and my hand finds hers as I lead her to the bed, laying myself on the straw next to it. My lights become dimmed, and we fall asleep.
Once the moon is in the center of the sky, I awaken. Moving into the living space, I find the pen and paper, once again writing a note to the girl. I drop the knife, and relocate the knife into the nook behind my doorway. I ruffle around in a chest looking for some containers, and find a series of small bags. I take one, thinking it enough, and move back into my hiding space. I fill the bag to the brim, but I find it not enough for the girl. So after my attempt at the ladder, I retrieve another bag from my home. It seems enough, and gives me motivation to make another trip into the dark. Once I reach the opening, I begin to climb down the stained ladder, ignoring a strong burning sensation in my leg. Halfway down, My body begins to tighten at the joints. I fall of the ladder hitting the floor with a thud. I lie helplessly at the bottom of my hole, until I relax enough to rest. Sleep then takes me.
The sunlight awakens me once more. I find my joints relaxed and once again moving properly. The ladder looks appealing, and the thought of my bed even more so. My body allows me to climb, and I relish the feeling of once again being able to move freely. Inside the house, I ignore the calling of my chores, and fall asleep upon my cot
My slumber is ripped from me as a series of loud knocks bang against my door.
“Not again” I mutter annoyed to myself, opening the doors to come face to face with a girl, not much shorter than me. She also looks similar to the previous visitors. I invite her in and she steps carelessly into my living space. We went through the same ritual as her siblings, and created a stew. The girl began using the dingy knife to cut the roots, accidentally cutting her finger when the blade slipped. I suppressed a chuckle. She got the roots into the fire, and removed a large loaf of bread from a pack. She also also had some cheese, which she kept securely on her lap. Once the food was finished, I turned and asked for a share, expecting her to pour me a bowl from the almost overflowing swamp of soup. She only scowled at me, and answered.
“wait until I am satisfied. then if there is anything left you shall have it.”
I waited hungrily until she finished almost the whole pan, and the cheese along with it. I settled for the leftover bits and pieces, layered along with the rust and grease caked to the metal casket. Once the pig finished, I asked her the same question as I did her sisters, asking her if she wanted the bed or the hay. Unsurprisingly, she chose the bed. I let her lead herself to the bed, staying next to the hearth. Mostly because I felt my joints once against tightening my joints. The fire helped the discomfort, and eventually the fit passed. I thought of what the young girl deserved, and decided on one coin. I laughed to myself, imagining the girls face once she awakened. I once again started to find my hideaway. Lowering myself onto the ladder, I started my descent. PArtway through the climb, I felt my bones creaking. My joints were locking once more, this time more violently than ever before. I hit the floor with a crack, feeling something break in my spine. My bones start to grow stiffened, and eventually popped. I cried out in agony. The girl was much to far away to hear screams. Slowly, I feel my jaw locking, and I cannot move my neck. I find I can’t feel much. The pain still wafts throughout my nervous system, but I cannot feel the ground. I can’t feel my limbs either. Finally my vision clouds, and the pain stops. I slip into a void of sleep. One of which, I do not awaken.
Once the girl awakens, she crawls out of the warm cot, onto the dirt ground. Looking at the haystack, she doesn’t see the saint. This confuses her. She moves into the living area, where again she finds nothing. Looking behind the door, she see a small dot. Leaning over, she finds the dot is a nose. It attaches to her face. She screams and tries to remove it. The nose is stuck firmly. She ran from the hut, rambling through the forest until she I appeared to her, willing to show her the way She asked for the removal of the nose, and I agreed out of pity. The girl thanked me, and left. That is the last of the girl I have seen. I heard once she also gained my decease, and passed it to her mother. Apparently the disease cause some visions of serpents to cope with the pain. I do not know if this is true, nor do I care. I did my part in that world, now I must do my part in this one.