Sunday, June 17, 2012

So I took on a challenge. A Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge.
Write a story concerning this picture of a crooked tree.

The dense early morning fog was making it difficult to see in the forest but it did not slow mama. She did not stumble, trip or fall. Her every step perfection. She knew the terrain perfectly. Knowing where every twig, stick, and log lay in their path as if she had walked this trail a hundred times.

       “Come, River.”
His mama called him River because as she said, “You are always running like the river, constantly in motion.” But now River’s small legs were burning from almost constant running.
      “Mama, I’m tired.”
      “I know you are, sweetheart, but we must keep moving.”
      “Is papa coming?”
      “Yes, I am sure he is searching for us by now.”
The thought alone produced a streak fear to course through his chest. In the short five years of River’s life; one thing River knew, his father was a mean man. He was mean to everyone, especially mama and him. So when mama woke him in the middle of the night and said to be very quiet not to wake papa. He was quieter than a mouse and hopeful for a life without him in it.
They broke though the edge of the trees and entered a large clearing.  As they ran through the clearing a large strange shape was emerging through the thick fog.  The looming shape frightening River. He began to slow not wanting to discover the identity of the mass. His mother tugged his arm trying to hasten his step.
      “Mama, mama, what is it?”
      “What, baby?”
       River pointed to the large shadow.
      “It is a tree.”
      “No no, trees do not grow that way. Trees grow up. I think it is a monster.”
      “No, it is a tree. Come, as we get close you shall see.” His mother pulled him a long and as they approached the mass, his mother was correct. It was a tree but it was crooked. “We will stop here for a few minutes to rest.” His mother announced, giving River time to study the tree.
      “It is a very ugly tree.” River exclaimed.
      “I think it is beautiful.”
      “Why?” River asked not seeing how she could find the tree beautiful.
      His mother walked over and ran her hand along the section of almost horizontal trunk. “It is a true testament of surviving a harsh beginning. You see how in the beginning,” she pointed to the twisted base of the tree.  “The tree had a very rough start but it kept growing.” She pointed along the trunk, “See how it grew crooked and then it eventually made itself grow towards the sky, reaching for the warmth and beauty of the sun. It must have been quite the struggle for survival. Oh River, what an amazing and beautiful tree it is. Look over here,” She pointed to an ugly black scar on the trunk. “The tree has even been struck by lightning at one point and still it survives. This tree is a symbol of strength and perseverance to me.”  
As she spoke the last sentence a dreaded noise echoed through the forest. River turned his head to the sickening sound of his father’s dogs approaching. For someone so little you would not seem it possible to feel such a feeling of despair.  He listened closely and knew his father was not alone. River looked up at his mother’s face.
      She grabbed his hand. “Run, River, run. Come on.” They sprinted away from the sound of the approaching dogs. River was not moving as fast as his mama needed so she gathered him up in his arms and ran as fast as she could. But it was not fast enough. The sounds of their trackers were getting louder and louder. Mama stopped, knowing they would be found soon. She placed him on the ground and knelt in front of him. She cupped his face in her hands. Her eyes were filling with tears and a sad smile show on her lips.
      “My sweet, sweet boy, I am so sorry.”
      “Don’t be sorry, mama. It’s okay.”
      “No River it’s not okay. I have failed to keep you safe.”
      “Mama, please don’t cry.” River said fighting back his own tears. Papa would be here soon and River knew tears were cause for punishment. 
She looked towards the approaching sounds in the fog. Mama took a deep breath wiped her tears away. She smiled at him in a way he felt all the love she had for him engulf him like a warm and comforting hug.                "Always remember I love you more than anything in this world. You are a good boy and you have a good and strong heart. Never give up who you truly are. Be good to people, be kind. Do not let his hate and anger corrupt you. Promise me.”
      “I promise, Mama.” River whispered. He could hear the heavy footsteps of his father coming up behind him. Mama looked up at papa. As River turned to look he saw the gun barrel pointed at his mother’s head. The gun went off burning River’s face, Mama’s blood splattering across his burns. Moments later his father’s hand grabbed the scruff of his neck,
      “Let’s go, Caleb.” His father yelled pushing him forward leaving his mother’s lifeless body behind.

      River was surprised his memories were so vivid after so long. Ten years had passed since his mother’s murder.  As he and his father stepped into the clearing they flooded his head once again. Like all the other time he visited the crooked but beautiful tree.
      “Caleb, why are we here?” His father growled.
River turned to his father and small smile lifted the corner of his mouth. He reached behind and pulled out a gun which was tucked in the small of his back, pointed it at his head and said, “My name is River.” He pulled the trigger. He was dead before he hit the ground.
River continued the journey his mother and he started many years ago. 

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