Leoht got up early that morning. I love the mornings he thought to himself. He tiptoed out the open doorway. He went for a run through the green forest land, crunching upon the golden leaves. out of breathe he kept running he needed the run to get away. What am I running from or for or to he thought to himself. He burst into the sunlight and fell onto the grass. lying in the dew and musing at the day he drifted back to sleep again.
Dark and cold. Colder than he had ever felt, this was not a usual coldness this was feeling the emptiness of terror, he felt it in his heart, as it seeped beneath his skin. He saw a shadow swipe past him. Squinting he found himself in a dark drawing room. slouched on the couch was an unusually well dressed man.
“Who’s there?” the man asked.
The terror remained as his heart beat louder. He was sweating despite the cold.
The man growled “Who’s there I said,” in a very demanding voice.
The man outraged by silence kicked the small table. He began a fit and rage now moving to the couch and overturning it with a yell. His yelling and fury grew as he began slashing the couch with a knife he had hidden.
Trapped in a corner leoht stood in paralyzed fear. His breathing increasing and eyes shifting, there’s a door, and he slowly made his way toward it.
The slashing and yelling stopped abruptly.
The man stood up straight, his back to leoht. in a second he spun around, facing leoht yards away.
The man bolted at leoht.
afraid to turn his back and too afraid to move leoht closed his eyes in fear
A hand grabbed around his neck.
he opened his eyes in surprise
“You!” the man said as he raised his knife.
Leoht woke up from mud hitting his face.
still in shock he shuffled around the grass, until he opened his eyes.
Standing above his was Claynt.
“Are you alright?” Claynt asked. “You looked terrified... your parents are looking for you.”
“I know Claynt, I just needed fresh air.” said Leoht.
“Come on.” Claynt said with a wave. “I’ll race you”
Leoht took the challenge
And they raced back into town.
“Leoht,” said his mother, “where have you been?”
“I went for a run,” leoht said as he grabbed an orange from the counter.
Leoht is then taken to the village center not everyone is there just his closest friends and family.
Leoht has to choose a sect of nature to associate himself with it’s quite a process and, usually people don’t associate themselves with more than one actually it’s very improper.
Some people don’t associate themselves with one at all for various reasons.
“Morning son.” Dad said as he was washing the morning dishes.
“So, what have you been up to today?”
“You think too much Leoht.”
“At least I think...”
“What was that?”
“Dad you’ve never associated yourself with...”
“Morning Mom,” they both said.
“Oh, Leoht I need you to run to town and pick up some fruit, and Daddy I need you to wake up Phytl and Pine they need to practice their …”
Leoht wrapped the rest of his meal in some clothe and ran for town.
“A little to the left,” he said. White misty breath rolled out of his nostrils and mouth as he spoke. “No, no my left. Oh, let me show you.” The man walked across the grass and stood on his left of the tree in front of him. “Right here,” he said as he looked up at the tree. The glow of morning light was yawning and stretching over the horizon. The tree had, carefully wrapped in its branches, a boulder, a nice oblong, grey boulder. The boulder was fresh from the earth with fresh soil clumped about it, as fresh as the morning light and dew. He looked down at his feet. “Sorry,” he said to the tree. “No, I understand that left and right are hard for a tree with so many ‘hands.’ Alright, I’m sorry. Okay, so let’s just start by putting the boulder down here,” he said and then walked away from the spot.
The tree slammed the boulder down right where the man had been standing. The earth shook enough to wobble the knees of the man.
“Good, now see if you can set it upright. Yes, yes, now we need to drag it in a straight line and—”
“Leoht, you’re up early.”
“Just trying to talk to something, anything. What are you up to?”
“Well, the city asked me to work on the irrigation on this side of town. I asked this maple to help me, but I’m having some trouble communicating with him. Any luck this morning for you?” Vin asked as he kept an eye on the tree. It was slowly drawing a straight line in the earth with the boulder, which left a large ditch in the process.
“No, but I think I’m getting closer.”
“Good. It will come with time,” he said as he looked back at the tree, which had started scribbling the boulder clumsily around. “No, no,” he said to the tree. “Sorry, Leoht, I’ve got to get back to work.”
“Alright, well, see ya’,” Leoht said as he continued back into town. He stuck his hands in his pockets and stared at the ground as he walked. The coarse forest grass rippled in waves each time his bare foot patted downward. Sometimes the grass would do this for travelers. He never actually stepped on the grass or even the soil underneath. The grass was too particular about the dark earth it was growing in. With each step he took the grass would surface a flat stone for him to step on. The stone was cool like water from a deep well, a coolness that matched the crisp morning air. I wonder how deep they draw the stones from, Leoht wondered as he stepped from stone to stone.
As Leoht entered into town the stones stopped appearing and were just a permanent part of the patchwork on the ground. The stones freckling the lawn were spaced closer together until a whole cobblestone road was under his feet, these were the common thoroughfares of the town. The trees grew steadily larger, and straighter. Everything grew more refined. The hedges were squared off, the colors were brighter, and there were less pinecones, acorns, and leaves littering the ground. His bare feet made a patter like two dripping drops of rain as he walked into town in the quiet and cold morning. He stopped in front of the tallest trees in town, the Academy of Arts, and blew a couple of breaths into the air and watched the steam swirl around in the yellow morning dawn. Someday, he thought to himself, someday.
He slowly turned away from the Academy and then ran the rest of the way home. His house was a small group of trees on the other side, and outskirts of town. His neighbor had managed to gather of few of the trees in the the forest and group them together for him so he had a place to stay. It was a group of around fifty small scrub oaks. The oaks were trunk against trunk and formed a little square with a patch of soft grass on the inside. The branches and leaves curled up, in and out, and knitted together well enough to form a roof. And that’s where Leoht lived.
Leoht waited for the front door to open. “Thanks,” he said to the trees that were holding the flat, smooth, brown stone that his neighbor Vin had found. Since Leoht lived alone Vin had to introduce Leoht to the trees and asked them to open the door whenever he came home. They agreed to, and did, unless Leoht grew facial hair, which he had found out months ago.
Leoht walked straight to the corner of his little house where he kept his kitchen things and started to crack some eggs into a bowl and cut a few pieces of bread for breakfast. He filled up a cup of water, took a sip and placed it on the table. There were some vegetables that he pulled out of the cold stone cupboard in the ground to cut and add to his omelet. He stopped and stared out the little kitchen window, and then leaned forward a little to catch some sunlight on his face.
“Morning light is pure isn’t it?” said someone from inside the house.
“Um...” Leoht said as he looked around the room. His eyes were still adjusting from the sunlight.
“This is a nice chair, where’d you get it?” a man in the corner asked.
“My father gave it to me when I left for ... Sorry, how’d you get in here? Who are you?”
“It took a while, but I eventually explained to your house how important it was that I meet you. The third one on the left has quite the sense of humor you know,” he said with a wink.
“Actually I don’t. I can’t really talk to—”
“I know. I know who you are, and I know that you tried to talk to nearly everything, and it’s good to finally see your face,” he said. The man looked at the kitchen knife in Leoht’s hands; looked back at Leoht and smiled.
Leoht tensed his hand around the knife. He looked at the old man carefully. He had grey hair, and the polished wood glasses on his face looked like they had taken years to grow. He was smiling and his countenance looked like it had the same glow that was shining through the kitchen window. He looks familiar, Leoht thought to himself.
“Well, I must be going now,” the man said as he stood up and walked toward the front door. “Oh, wait. Where did you say you got that chair again?”
“My father gave it to me when I left home.”
“Wonderful.” And with that he walked out the door.
Leoht, half stunned, set the knife down and scrambled for a towel to wipe his hands off. He ran to the front door. “But what were you doing in my house!?” Leoht called after the man, who was already a couple yards away.
“See you at the Academy Leoht,” the man yelled without even turning around.
“The Academy!?” he yelled. “The Academy...” he said to himself. He pulled his head back inside and the door shut. He slapped a hand onto his forehead, which made his blonde bangs stick out at a funny angle. “He’s from the Academy?” He paced around the room. “I can’t ...” he said, having completely forgotten about breakfast. Now he had both his hands on his forehead. “What was he...” he said as he laid himself on the soft grass that carpeted his house. He stared at the ceiling and then spread his arms straight out beside him. “Man, who was that guy?”
Leoht laid on the ground and just thought. He thought about how he had left home to go to the academy, and how he was denied. He remembered being ashamed to go home, and how he had lived under a bush for weeks until Vin found him. He remembered the first dinner he had with Vin and how good it tasted, and how Vin had made him a little home on the edge of town. He had been through a lot. Recently, he had been waking up early every morning, running past the Academy before anyone had even stirred in their soft grass beds. He would go out into the forest and try to talk to the tiniest rock or blade of grass. They said he had a clumsy tongue. He tried to learn their language, he tried to talk to something anything in the forest, but nothing listened to him. And then this man appeared from the Academy. His mind continued to whirl around in his past and mix with his future.
The yellow, white morning light had glided onto Leoht’s arm. White specs of dust swirled around in the beam of light. It all looked like a miniature galaxy heaving about in the light, and Leoht, comforted by the warm light shining on his arm and even on his future, was lulled into a dozy sleep.
Leoht began to dream. He was standing in a dark cave, and the only light was the pale moonlight that barely had energy enough to crawl to the back of the cave. He heard a sick spluttering cough and saw on the other side of the cave the dark outline and shape of a man crouched on the ground. As Leoht looked at him for some reason his muscles became tense, and he started to shiver. The intensity tingled with pain. His body was as clenched as his jaw, which only a scream could pry open. The man coughed again and Leoht had the feeling that an infectious disease was buzzing around, hundreds of them, buzzing and tickling his lips and nostrils. His presence and darkness began to weigh heavily on Leoht’s shoulders like a heavy, oozing, cold weight as if a corpse had crawled onto and died on his shoulders. Leoht began to feel madness lick at his mind. He felt noises fill his ears, the sounds of thunderstorms and children crying, mothers weeping and father’s abusively yelling. The claustrophobic noise, the weight of darkness and disease, made it hard to breathe. Nausea drove Leoht to his knees as he tried to hold in his stomach and sanity.
And then the shadow rasped his voice out like steaming, rotting anger boiling in malice. “He’s closer—cough— he got closer today,” he said. “Death is only a matter of time. Ha — cough.”
Leoht wanted to run, but his gurgling stomach weakened his resolve. He fell over onto his side holding his stomach. The nausea made it’s way to his heart and his hands flew to his chest. Every thought of suicide and murder, every insane thought of destruction boiled over in his heart. Every limb in his body was shaking in spasms.
“Hahaha, he’s here now— cough cough.” The dark man stood up, turned around and somehow glided forward in a crawling stance with great intensity, like a hard pressed scribble, or hairy spider slopping an black, mucous residue behind and around him. He stood above Leoht looking down on him, dripping blackness. His figure made it seem like there was nothing there but the deepest, darkest hole conceivable, as if he was an ink—spill suspended in the air.
As he drew nearer the nausea and insanity intensified and Leoht felt all warmth and breath leave his body in frailty. Life was pale. The man bent down and menaced Leoht’s view. Disease was dripping off his rotting teeth and then he said, “It’s good to finally see your face.”
Leoht woke up with sunlight and water splashing on his face.
“You alright Leoht? You looked terrified.”
Leoht wiped the water off his face and sat upright. He was breathing heavy and looked around with tired eyes. He finally looked at his savior, “Vin... hey, uh, yeah I was ... I was dreaming. Sorry,” he said as he stood up.
“My wife made some extra biscuits for you, and when I came in you looked terrified, so I just tossed this cup of water on your face,” he said as he tossed the empty cup at Leoht.
“Thanks,” he said as he caught the cup.
“You doing okay?”
“Yeah, it was just a dream,” Leoht said as he played with the cup in his hands. “Thanks for bringing the biscuits. I was just about to make some breakfast.” Leoht stood up and took the biscuits that were in Vin’s hands and put them on the table. “You wouldn’t happen to know a guy with grey hair that wears nice polished glasses would you?”
“Just about every old man here wears glasses, and half of them have grey hair.”
“But this guys had really nice glasses, and he was from the Academy. He seemed like a nice guy, but...” Leoht thought of his dream.
“Well, if he’s at the Academy then you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding him,” Vin said as he sat down and started to eat one of the biscuits. “Leoht, you ever considered going back home?”
“Vin, I’m not going home.”
“Just a thought. I mean you can’t keep trying at the Academy forever, it’s been two years. Look at you, you’re wasting away. You would wonder why my wife is always baking extra food for me to bring over here.” He took another bite of the biscuit.
“Vin, I’m not going home.”
“Leoht, we all don’t make it into the Academy. I’ve managed to teach myself how to talk to the maples and a few others, and I’ve been able to do work for the city digging ditches and such,” he said as he finished off the biscuit.
“All I’m saying is life isn’t over. There’s other things that you can do, you don’t have to be a Scholar to be happy. Look at me.” Vin gave Leoht a goofy smile. It was true Vin was one of the happiest men Leoht had ever known. He had several kids at home. Leoht loved watching Vin come home from work. Everyday when Vin would come home for dinner all of his children would run out and squeal and laugh. Every time he came home it was like a celebration and they would wrestle and play on the lawn and talk and chat until dinner.
And Vin’s wife was as sweet as honey. Sometimes she would invite Leoht to come on outings with her and all her little children. They went on trips to the city to see some of the art and museums, or sometimes they would go to the river and build little boats out of pinecones. Leoht remembered when they went into the forest and made the biggest pile of leaves you could imagine. The children, and even the mother would take turns jumping into the pile from a tree limb. Afterward, exhausted from the pleasure, they laid down on the lawn in the evening light and ate the berries they had picked earlier that day.
“Think about it Leoht,” Vin said as he stood up and went for the door. “I’ve got to get back to work. Oh, and Malynn says you can come over for dinner later this evening if you like.”
“Thanks Vin. See you later,” Leoht said. He walked back inside, grabbed a biscuit off the table, and stuck the whole thing in his mouth. He chewed it with big cheeks until he had enough saliva to swallow part of it. He put the cup down on the table and grabbed his bag that was next to his dad’s old chair. Opening his bag he quickly dumped the plate of biscuits in, and then tossed a water satchel, which he had made by stitching some thick, pliable leaves together, into his bag. He swung the bag onto his shoulder and ran out the door into the bright afternoon light.
maybe another chapter
Read in a dark moonless forest in autumn.
Leoht ran deeper and deeper into darkness, deserving darkness. In a blind fury he ran among and between the forest woods and bramble, hitting each branch and leaf, with hatred and disgust. The darkness weighed upon him like man had pounced onto his back and shoulders. His legs kicked through thorn bushes and tall grasses, bleeding and burning. Despite the darkness his eyes were closed, never using the light anyway. The skeletal autumn branches were clawing at his face. Hot angry tears salted the dark warm blood on his cheeks, becoming useless, worthless, lifeless. His head ran into a large branch, which he tried to grabbed and rip from the offending tree, to ruin it with revenge. His small frame could hardly move the branch, could hardly do anything anyway.
His hands were raw and red and he sunk to the ground sobbing into the leaves, grass and soil, weeping in weakness. His shoulders heaped and valleyed like cold river water over sharp rocks. The darkness pressed upon him like a stone upon a seed, never to see the light of day again, pressing body and soul into the deep dark soil. His teeth were gritted as hard as his hands were gritted around clumps of grass and leaves, squirming like a worm.
“Please,” he cried.
Darkness is all around you, inside you.
“No...” His body wrenched onto his side in a ball, like a suffering babe. “It’s... ah!” His arms, legs and hands spread out as if someone was dripping fire on his spine. As he looked at the dark silhouetted branches above him, which looked like prison walls, he felt his face drooping having run out of drippings. He whispered a small “...please...”
Never see the light of day.
He closed his eyes in defeat, completely defeated.
“Completely defeated! Ha!” a voice said in the dark.
Leoht opened his eyes. Suddenly there was a flash of light and he saw a pale face with black eyes and long, dark, greasy hair. In the flash of light the man, who was inches away from Leoht’s face, looked toward the light and was thrown upward and backward against a tree. The light disappeared, and Leoht heard a decrescendo of crashing leaves leaving him in the dark silence alone.
Read near some freshly fallen leaves.
The morning was misty. The sunlight had asked the dew to skip into the air. Leoht added a small breathy cloud to the moisture as he lay sleeping through the light and colors. The light was diffused from the all the water in the air, but the colors were all the more orange, yellow and brown because of it. There was a patchwork quilt of leaves that covered Leoht’s slowly heaving chest. And there he is waking up, fluttering his eyelids in the sunlight.
Leoht got up and puled out some flat bread from his bag. They were wrapped in large orange leaves that were grown for that very purpose.
Munching on the bread, he chewed it slowly in his mouth. His cheeks were sore. My whole body is sore. He wasn’t really sure what had happened last night.
He finished his bread and stood up to find his way out. He say that low and heavy branch that he tried to brawl with last night. He walked up to it and slapped a heavy hand on it like he was patting a good friend on the back and he did give it a few pats and said “thanks... I think I can find my way now... and uh, sorry about last night. I uh... yeah.” That last part he said more to himself because he had already walked a few paces past the branch and was back on the track he had beaten last night.
What a blessing breathing is. The morning was invigorating. There’s something reverent and pure about the morning. It’s interesting that there is dew on the ground most mornings. It’s almost as if someone had stayed up all night washing every blade of grass and leaf.
The wood didn’t clear suddenly, they rarely do in this land. Rather they become more upright and sag and slouch less. They become trees with higher and better posture, maybe with more self esteem because they are cared for so well by the people. They start to look refined because the people (show don’t tell) actually use them to build their houses. Leoht passed a ring of closely knit trees, they were so close between the trunks that not even light could pass through them. At some points the trunks bend in such a way that makes good sized windows to light the house in the evening. They consider the morning and evening sun. They don’t put windows on the north of south because no light comes from those directions. After seeing a house he knew he was in town and found the large stepping stone road that led to his sleeping place. Because people don’t stay in their houses all day, not even the women and children. They sleep and get ready for the day, and then get ready for sleep, but that’s all they use the houses for is sleep and getting ready. They hardly spend any time indoors if you can even call their houses indoors.
It was well into the morning and everyone was out and about. The men were fixing and building houses. There was a man digging a trench, but he wasn’t using his hands or even putting his back into it. No, he was speaking to a boulder which was half submersed in the earth and was plowing forward leaving a wide ditch behind it. Another women was asking some leaves to weave themselves into a a pair of green, yellow and orange drapes. The leaves were doing the best they could but they kept fluttering into each other were trying to decide who would go where. they needed a lot of direction from the woman.
You see ages ago the people had learned how to speak to nature. It started with a man who learned how to talk to light. The light taught him how to talk to the rest of nature and he taught the rest of the people. As society developed people left behind technology as we know it. Of course there were people who learned the languages and used them poorly. And some languages are hard for some to speak. Leoht couldn’t speak any of the languages. He has a clumsy tongue.
“I don’t know what to say,” Gonze said.
“Most people say ‘what happened?’”
“I know what happened Leoht.”
“But I don’t think it was -”
“Look I promise I’ll talk about it later, but I’ve got to go practice,” he said now a couple of paces away, “besides you would use some time to patch yourself up.” He sort of yelled the last part and waved goodbye.
“Alright, see you... later.” Leoht said. He took a step inside and blah blah blah.
Weasels and Gophers
Vacht saw the mostly bald head with some grey whispy hairs sitting on the scalp behind a newspaper that he had been searching for in the library foyer. “Good morning Watson, anything good in the paper this morning?” Vacht asked as he walked up to Watson who was lounging in a stump that had been grown into the shape of a chair. Watson had his ankle up upon his knee. It was midmorning and Watson always sat with his legs in this manner at mid-morning when he read the paper in the foyer, but especially so on warm and sunny days like this.
“Well I’ve just been staring at this one word for the past seven minutes... either my vision, sanity or literacy is turning the old corner.” Watson didn’t even look up at Vacht but just shook the paper and wiggled his grey mustache and nose.
“Shame, you have such a good reputation,” he said looking at the little stone table in front of him. He looked eside the table and saw a small briefcase that was made out of some of the largest and thickest leaves in the forest. Probably special made. On the table was a brown ceramic cup that looked more like a small bowl with a handle on the side.
“Oh? Well, I don’t see how my being able to teach a few gophers to grumble in unison would be of any value to you,” he said. His voice was clear and old and a little muffled behind the paper.
“I actually have a few,” he emphasized the next word, “‘gophers’ that I need you to teach.” Vacht said as sat in the opposing chair and turned the chit-chat into a game of wit-chat. He sat leaning forward with his rear barely on the chair and his elbows resting heavily on his knees with his head cocked up.
“Are you sure they’re not weasels Vacht?” Watson said. He brought the paper to his lap and sat more upright. “I don’t like weasels.” Watson leaned forward and handed the newspaper to Vacht “Here, on the third page there. Half way down,” he said pointing after he had grabbed his cup covered in condensation and was reclining back in his chair. “Do you see that?” he asked.
Vacht took the paper and sat upright to find it. He looked at the picture which showed a man being carried away by the police. The man was being held by the arms and shoulders and had his head drooped and feet dragging behind him. He was wearing black, and although his eyes were hidden behind his bangs there was clearly a dark mark on his cheek; a black skull, different from the sign of the law that the police wore, which was a symbol of three circles that linked and intersected equal distance from each other representing law, order, and creation. The caption read “Police carry away Hem Grifel allegedly guilty of attempted murder and darkness communication, revival.” Vacht looked up at Watson and asked, “Well, what about it?”
“How many gophers do you see in that picture?” Watson said as he set his cup down next to the ring of condensation that the cup left before on the table. His eyes never left Vacht’s.
Vacht stared back, but nervously flicked his eyes down and up for half of a second. Watson was sitting back with his fingers poised together and a smile on his face. “I try to avoid making such judgements.” he said trying to change the subject.
“Then which gophers were you wanting me to teach, or are they really, as I had supposed, weasels? What do you want me to teach them anyway?”
Vacht leaned forward with the newspapre and said. “Here, on the third page there. Half way down, do you see that?” he asked in a mocking tone.
“Well, what about it?” Watson mocked back as he took the paper again in his hands and opened it up.
“How many weasels do you see in that picture?”
“I see a big black one with a little snout, and you?” he said as he placed the paper in his bag and then picked up his cup for another few drinks.
“I don’t see any weasels, or gophers, and that’s what I need you to teach.”
“I don’t teach people to become moles or bats,” Watson said as placed the cup down next to the condensation on the table and picked up a napkin which slowly and carefully started to tear out a circular piece from.
“If you don’t you’ll be tearing more than that napkin apart.”
Vacht licked his dry lips, looked from side to side and lowered his voice as he leaned forward “Watson,” he said in almost a whisper, “I’ve got a team of twenty students and staff working on one of the biggest discoveries of the century. You’ve taught writing for over fifty years.”
“Oh?” Watson repsonded with his eyes still on the napkin making little tears. He was nearly half way done with the circle.
“And I find it ironic that you’ve managed to show me the one picture that I came to talk to you about. This discovery, that we’re coming close to wrapping up, needs to be recieved with welcome to work. I need you to write about how favorable these winds of change will be.”
Watson had finished the circle, which he placed underneath his thigh. “Oh?” he said before he picked up his cup, drained the rest of the contents down his throat, and began wiping the cup out with the tattered napkin.
“Can I count on your ballot?”
Watson calmly leaned forward and put his cup in his briefcase as he smiled and tottered his head side to side humming something to himself. He picked the breifcase up in one hand and stood with the napkin circle in the other. “Here,” he said as he leaned forward and down level with Vacht sitting in the chair before him, “here is my ballot.” He placed the napkin circle on the table and turned about and walked away.
Vacht watched him as he began walking away.
“See you at the Academy Vacht,” the man yelled without even turning around.
Vacht looked down at the “ballot,” which soaking in the condensation that the cup had left on the table. Vacht laughed. “Clever, real clever old man,” he said and then puntuated it with a little cough as he stood up and looked one more time at the napkin on the table. He walked away to go back to his work on the other side of the academy.
On the table the napkin circle was still soaking and had a deeper color where the rings of condensation had touched the napkin. There were three deeper colored rings on the napkin; three rings that linked and intersected equal distance from each other representing law, order, and creation.