Old Mother cooled
at moonrise.

I licked her paws
and her snout, but
her bark didn’t rumble,
she didn’t bare teeth.

I howled in her ear
and whined like a kit,
but she never warmed.

Vixen arrived
with the ice.

I let her sniff and lie—
the home was big.
But when Vixen neared
Old Mother, I barked
from a low crouch and
got ready to pounce.

“Weird,” she said,
backing away from us,
“every skulk has its Weird.”

Old Mother’s kin crept in
with the warm rains.

“Weird,” Vixen barked,
“there’s man by the water.
With loud firestick
and help of fur traitor.
We’ve to run!”

“Home,” I said to Vixen,
glancing at the dead leaves
covering Old Mother’s bones.
“Home, I defend. We fight?”

“For cold bones and dirt?”
Vixen shook her head
and ran off.

After barks and growls
pounded into the home,
I pressed one eye
to a big gap in the door.
A black and white dog
lay unmoving
in Old Mother’s
oaks and weeds;
from muzzled to belly—
whined and trembled
under man’s firestick.

I didn’t think,
just rushed through the gap
and leapt for man’s throat.

While in midair,
fire exploded in
one of my hind paws,
right before I sank teeth
into man’s flesh.

Now, bleeding from a leg stump,
all mangled flesh and broken bone,
I chewed on killer-weeds
and invited Gaia’s last dark.

Light and warmth
awakened my eyes,
shock and mirth
made my body rise,
for a leg of Old Mother’s oak
had been added to my might—

Old Gaia blessed her

linked to the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, Tuesday Platform

Inspired by “Weirdest”, the winner of Expanding Wee Bits of Dark Fiction and Poetry, 5; the original poem was inspired by a drawing in Jeremy A. Bastian’s Discordia (yes, my Luvs, inspiration seems to be running wild around this parts *cough, cough, cough*).

Fox Drawing (detail), by Jeremy A. Bastian
– detail from a fox drawing in Jeremy A. Bastian’s Discordia (see full image HERE)

Not Victoria

My knife was deep in his belly. His eyes were wide across from mine. I pressed my chest into his, twisted the blade, and his dying breath warmed my face.

I pulled the blade. It was slick with his blood; my hand was covered, too.

His body, eyes empty of thought and memory, leaned against The Crossroads Tree. The others had been swallowed by the trunk as soon as a blade had cut their life-cord.

You must give him to me, Victoria, the ancient tree whispered into my mind. If you don’t, you won’t know how to return to your family.

I stared at the blade in my hand. Blood can be so black. While everyone else was also killing strangers and neighbors, in hope of being the one whose life-cord would be lengthened by every life ended against the tree, I was sure I wanted to be the winner. “My name is not Victoria,” I said to The Crossroads Tree.

You fed me last—his life, his memories… and yours. The name is recompense. Every other life you take under your new name, Victoria, will feed my strength and keep you young. End him. Begin anew. Wish him bled. Wish him gone. Wish him mine, Victoria, and I’ll give you back your memories plus life everlasting.

“No,” I said, sheathing my knife in my boot and reaching for the man’s body. I dragged him away from the blood drenched tree, and placed him gently on the ground. “What we were fighting for, what I did to you… it was wrong.”

I put two leaves between his eyes and me; then piled more leaves, sticks and stones over his entire body. My knife lay flat on the makeshift tomb. “I won’t kill to live.”

The sun was warm. Cool breeze played on my skin. I was standing in from of a earth mound that was covered in green grass and tiny wildflowers. A tree, its thick trunk resembling people hugging each other, grew crooked by the side of a bright trail.

I didn’t know where I was, or who I was, but I wasn’t scared.

There were a large blackened knife and a polished staff atop the mound. I grabbed the latter and walked passed the twisted tree towards a new path.

for Magpie Tales
Crooked Tree