[Harvest2018] HotSpringsHalloween2018ContestEntry

We of the Howling Raiders outfit investigated an urban myth about a buzzing boulder of a tombstone. We break it open and out flies a giant dragonfly. Nobody knew how big it was since it was night but we all swear on our mothers' graves that this thing's wingspan was twice the length of Grandpa's Ford F150. It flew pretty slow before settling on a nearby tree and died in the branches. After we disposed of the rotting carapace, we went to the bar and drank to the memory of that horrible and magnificent insect.

The morning after, I wake up with water in the brain and fire in the gut. I didn't drink that much did I? "Come on Little Missy, we gotta go," growled Grandpa Tenenbaum's gruff voice as his boots pounded and creaked down the tavern's old wooden floors. "Get up, ya lazy bum get up." I didn't want to get up. Not when the best part of my life would be over. I took my time brushing my hair, applying makeup and singing to myself while grandpa huffed and puffed.

"I’m going to find you
I'm going to free you
I'm going to kill you
Hmm, hmm, hmm."
I sang as the orange dawn brightened into yellow day.

We arrived at the cemetery during the moment of silence. All the other Warders could hear Grandpa clonk-clonk-clonking his metal leg on the cobblestones but I didn't care, Big Lasso Bill was twice as loud when he was alive. Always chattering, never silent. He cared more for the bizarre and the strange like that giant dragonfly we saw the other day then any mundane funeral. Apparently our pastor thought the same thing: "Now let's talk about something that's still on everybody's minds, something Bill would have killed to see. That prehistoric dragonfly. In all my years as a Warder I have only ever once, seen something that old and it was dead. This thing was alive. How amazing is God's grace that allowed this fascinating creature to be preserved in a Coffinlime boulder for millions of years. Truly a miracle, amen." "Amen," we mumbled solemnly. "AMEN!" shouted Grandpa Tenembaum. "Who knows what other amazing beasts and terrifying aberrant are caught in Coffinlime." Our pastor drones on and on, but I can't hear him. Something he said made be remember the time when I was a child and mom and dad's house was engulfed in flames. I run from the procession, crouch behind an old gnarled oak and cry.

How could I forget? This wasn't the first time I've seen Coffinlime. I saw it once before, it opens up it's glowing depths, I give it the body of my dying hero and it sinks back into the earth. Grandpa's handkerchief wipes away my tears and I snap back into reality. "I have to go." I tell him. "There was another cave of Coffinlime, I buried someone there. I have to dig it up." "I’m sorry I can't help Sonia, I'm too old. All of us are too old. Billy's funeral is the funeral for the Howling Riders as an outfit, our disbandment" "That's okay, I know. You have, all of you have done a lot for me." He embraces me in a rugged grizzly bear hug. "Go on, git. I'll tell the others." I break away from his bear arms with the keys to his Ford. "Hey wait a minute Little Missy." but I'm already cruising down the backroads towards home.

I hear a hissing. If I know, it must know too. I pull off to the side of the road, roll down the window and vomit a squirming mass of black ink. The dark worm grows and grows until it towers over the mountains. The once worm now dragon opens it's gaping maw and speaks with upturned fangs of it's desire to kill the caged hero. Then it’s mouth closes and becomes a single white eye and the black dragon darts into the starry sky. How could something so big, so evil, be living inside me for so long. I want to wake from this nightmare but I can't because this is real. Twenty years ago the worm invaded my house and killed my parents, then the hero came and with his cleansing fire saved me. The worm was burned in the flames is what I thought, but it was inside me all along. Sucking my brainstem, waiting for me to remember where I had buried the hero, still alive inside the Coffinlime, so it could drink the sacred fire for itself. I knew this worm's speed, it's stealth, the way it streaked across the stars meant it would get home before me unless … unless …

Journal, chisel, flashlight, shovel shotgun. I take what I need from the truck, ditch it by the side of the backroad and head towards the woods. Humming my song as I go along:
"Now I know
I'll be the one to deal
The final blow
I'm not sure how I'll feel
I'll kill my hero
Woe, woe
I'll kill my hero
Saddened I am filled with woe"
"Woe woe," I hum, "woe woe, wwwooooeeeee oof."

I fall in mud and twigs, looking up I see the low branch, that I bumped my head on, attached to a thick moss-covered oak. Perfect. I open the journal to the first page and chisel grandpa's sigil through the moss. I get it right on my third try when the tree unfurls itself into a grotto with a hooded, cloaked wooden statue in its centre. "Please tell me Bahane that there is a way for me to get home before that worm." The statue reaches a spindly arm into its cloak and pulls out a moldy, mossy map. Then it unfurls back into itself, the tree almost closes on by fingers and everything returns to normal. I stand there, confused and alone holding a moldy map covered with moss. After a moment of dumbfoundedness, I leaf through grandpa's journal. "Moss, moss, aha here it says moss maps often indicated forest portals that Boreans forgot to close and this one is pretty close."

The moss leads me to a river, then a calm midnight lake. I trudge through mud till I find the mushroom circle, half submerged yet still growing from a pool of stale water. Stepping cautiously, I enter the shallow pool and into a crystal world underground. I watch the fishes dash and dart with crabs as an entire aquarium opens above me. I can scarcely enjoy myself until I stumble out of a mushroom circle into cattails and lily pads on the other side and find myself staring face to face with a Borean. "Hue Man not supposed to use circles, “chirps the deformed abomination in a sing-song voice. I echo him back, "Boe Rean supposed to close circles after using them." It glares at me, then moves aside allowing me to pass. "Don't complain if Borean uses human things from time to time," it shouts back as I trudge through the last of the lily pads and exit the swamplands.

The Bahane's mossy map was right and not even an hour of leaving the swamps I find myself hiking the old pebble-roads of my hometown. The Black Dragon is nowhere in sight. I climb rusty gates, pass my still-burnt up house and the still-burned up barn and head towards the old cornfields. The Black Dragon is zigzagging through the sky, but it's too late. I shovel through the corn while it descends. Too late. The Dragon's single eye opens into a single mouth and dives to devour me as I bash open the coffinlime and a pillar of fire booms out into the sky. Too late for you. My hero emerges shining like the sun. My phoenix gobbles down the dragon like a rooster plucks a worm from the earth. The old bird gives one last guffaw then collapses to the ground. It was dying before I put it under the life support of Coffinlime, and it's dying now but the phoenix cannot die. Not without human help. I level my shotgun, blast off it's head and kill my hero.

"I'm going to find it
I'm going to free it
I'm going to kill it
So that it may renew itself through death and be reborn"

The sun rises over a burning hero's corpse, like it did for two days in a row, today's the third. "Smells like Chicken, “booms Grandpa Tenembaum. "Shut up ya old coot." "Bawk bawk ba-bawk." I tackle the silverback and we wrestle in the mud. A while passes and we stop. "Today's the third day, it should be ready," says grandpa. "It has to be," I reply. Grandpa goes back inside while I sit out, watching the burning fire, waiting … waiting … At sunset I see it, a coal unlike the rest, glimmering in the fire, smooth and round and shining. I wait till the fire dies down completely then grab the egg with tongues and put it in a box of straw. I carry my box and my egg to the old half-burnt house and sing to myself a tune of the firestorm this baby will ignite when it's born.

Unless stated otherwise Content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 License 2019