Cut Quill

The Old Man’s Tale

The old dissolving house surrounded itself with the remnants of a once-fulsome orchard. The trees had, over the many ages, encroached on the weed-caressed and full-grown lawn. No, new being had not sprung up from the old, but in their carefree space of never being cut at and plucked, they had reached their greatest and most unkempt state of overhang. While the sun was overhead, they shaded well the best portion of the green about the living house.

A shadowed beauty pervaded the place. While the wood seemed to beckon me, I looked to the house. It bade me enter the wood of fragrant fruits and leaves and branches. And so I called to myself, and entered in.

Once I stepped within its bounds, I knew that the trees knew me, and would not let me hence. But I knew these trees, and I knew them as seed and sapling and now as forest. I did not want to leave.

And so I dug deeper and happier into the gloomy land. The old orchard, I knew, went not far from the house, but the way it now twisted and backed up on itself, and then made way for me, it seemed I dwelt there, walking for an age or more.

Then, in the midst of many mighty trees I knew not, and which were not of the old house, there was one stump, broken and burnt, and worn by the elements to a smooth knap. The cool brown and painful charcoal told me a story.

And once, the day was not placid, as now. The old man fought for his life. And I looked around me, for others to bear out his tale, showing scars and routs of their own. But they had none. The tale of the old one was powerful and moving, and he had much to show for it. His tale of raging fire and woodsmen and rot and fungus I could well believe to look at him. But where were the marks on the others?

He told me, in his wood and in his bark, how he had been beset and overtaken, and his life confounded. The others were silent. His gnarled, broken roots babbled on about any terror imaginable, and I looked at him. His tale was striking, but I looked around at the dumb ones before him. I looked, and I did not believe him. And there on the stump I sat, and rested, and found myself very near the old house, and among familiar trees after all.