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THE TWISTED TREE



THE TWISTED TREE
by Chandler Groover

On a hill,
on a plain
(more a vast stretch of waste),
grew a singular tree
that had fallen from grace;
although space is from where its seed actually fell,
from a star, from a sun, to this landscape in hell,
where it took root amongst bones and cinders and ash,
growing taller and taller remarkably fast,
sprouting thorns and black briars,
red petals like flesh,
long dark tendrils with demonsbane pistils that thrash,
and that bite, scratch, attack
any unwary hands,
any curious fingers with bud-picking plans
that would dare to intrude on its ivied precincts
only to be chomped, thereby becoming plant-food;
for this tree, in its bowers of poisonous leaves,
nestled amidst carnivorous flowers that breathe
toxic fumes and exhale toxins triply diseased,
boasted one precious blossom—
dew-speckled, sublime—
whose nutrients, consumed,
could eradicate time,
could dissolve hours, minutes, reshape existence,
and whose powers, as such,
drew from far and away cultivators to visit the bone-glutted plain,
cultivators whose bones were now all that remained
like a rock garden scattered about the tree’s base
as it fed from their bodies,
growing back towards space.

* * *

There was a King who ruled a court and knew that he would die. He knew that everyone would die, but he did not care about them; he only possessed the capacity to care about himself. His mortality preoccupied his every waking hour. He would sit on his throne and he would think about death; he would wander through his palace halls and death would follow him; he would eat death and he would drink death when he ate food, when he drank wine; and at night, death would visit him in dreams, too, and he would start awake in cold sweats and stare through his window and see death reflected in the full moon’s face. He employed an alchemist, and his alchemist, after prescribing many ineffectual concoctions and decoctions, finally prescribed him a potion. But what was it made from? inquired the King. From a flower, a rare flower, said the alchemist. From the rarest flower in the world, a flower that grows beyond the land, beyond the sea, beyond any kingdom’s boundary; beyond minutes, beyond hours, even beyond time itself. The King was doubtful, but he drank the potion. His fears, his worries all dissolved. It was a miracle, but for one day, the first day in his life, he was happy. It was to be the day that he would die.

* * *

DEATH: Are you ready?

KING: There must be some mistake. You must have the wrong monarch.

DEATH: There are no mistakes. It’s a pity people can’t grasp that.

KING: But there must be a mistake, you see, because I can’t die. I’ve taken a potion.

DEATH: Oh, is that a fact?

KING: Yes, I drank it just this afternoon. It was guaranteed to work.

DEATH: Who guaranteed it?

KING: My alchemist.

DEATH: And what did your alchemist say that it was made from?

KING: From a flower, the rarest flower in the world, that grows beyond the land and beyond the sea, and beyond any kingdom, and beyond even time itself. That’s how I know it’s guaranteed.

DEATH: Well, that explains things. The only place that such a flower grows is in a poem. And it’s a rather bad poem, at that. Hasn’t got a metrical structure or a consistent rhyme scheme or anything. I suppose that your alchemist must have read about it and then just lied to you.

KING: But that’s impossible!

DEATH: Nothing is impossible. Some things are just more probable than others. Now get your coat. It’s chilly where you’re headed.

* * *

The eons passed, and the landscape changed. Snows fell and snows melted. Frosts encroached and frosts receded. Flowers bloomed and flowers died. More trees grew across the plain, beginning as mere saplings and maturing into monolithic specimens. And then two beavers with impressive work ethic came along and gnawed down all the trees to dam a nearby river.

The beavers weren’t picky. They didn’t care that one particular tree might be cursed, or sentient, or whatever. It was timber and that was enough.

The tree didn’t care, either, because although it might have been cursed, or sentient, or whatever, it was still just a tree. Besides, it wasn’t averse to a change after all those centuries.

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver were decent plainspoken folk, and their lives were uneventful but not unpleasant. Once their dam was built, they had a family, and once the children had gone to school and moved away and joined the workforce, they retired. Their days were spent drinking tea and reading newspapers and reminiscing about the past, especially about their youthful courtship, when Mrs. Beaver had been so charming and Mr. Beaver so gallant. Not that she was less charming and he less gallant now.

When surveyors were mapping the area for a hydroelectric plant, decades later, it was determined that no better spot could be found than that old beaver dam. Those beavers had certainly known how to scout a location. But the dam would have to go, of course. Luckily there was an interested logging company.

* * *

One Final Miscellaneous Item:

Mikio, a very punctual student at the university, was watching cherry blossoms on a park bench before work, and eating his bento with wooden chopsticks, when the time managed to slip away from him somehow.

Moriko, another very punctual student at the university, was walking to class wearing her new geta (like the chopsticks, also wooden), when the time managed to slip away from her somehow, and she decided to take the scenic route.

So Moriko met Mikio at a place she shouldn’t have been, at a time she shouldn’t have been there; and Mikio met Moriko at a place he shouldn’t have been, at a time he shouldn’t have been there.

          A bench in the park.
          Two strangers blossom-watching.
          Ah, how fleeting – time!

Needless to say, they were married.

* * *

Chandler Groover was born in Atlanta, received a BA in English from the University of Georgia, and now lives in NYC.  He works as a freelance copyeditor.  His first novel, What Happened at Heath-Cliff Hall, was published in 2011.

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

Ideas can come from anywhere.  What makes an idea worth converting into a story for me, though, is how much potential that idea has to be stretched and reformed through a fictional treatment.  Some subjects are more malleable than others.  When you find one that can really withstand a lot of twisting, that's when you've got a story.  You've imagined it re-twisted into something else, and you have to write it down.

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