Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
Long Fiction and Serials
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by Jayne Waggoner

Night's dew wetted the slender branches of the young sapling. His typical limited consciousness became aware of a strange sensation sparked by an innovative contemplation process. He detected an abnormal essence incoming through his root system. He distinguished eyes forming from two knots on his bark while a thin line split to infuse a mouth. Branches twisted together to shape arms as leaves hardened into hands with fingers.

The plantlet perceived, without fully understanding, something bonded with him, the plant system of his organism upgraded to an advanced intelligence. New logic surmised that he'd need to utilize his two largest roots to push from the ground. Once accomplished, he awkwardly faced a grave in the corner of the cemetery. There lay the originator of his conversion.

Knowledge fresh within, a depth of emotions raced through his extended being. Old data from the intruder's memory taught him the witch had slipped his mental power forty years into the soil to imprison a disciple. The old yew, nearest to the grave, proved too strong in maturity when the burial took place. Facts from his capturer noted entrapment proved impossible. Now, the malevolence inside bragged, the two-year-old seedling would be the vessel.

The young sapling lumbered from the cemetery. His nature's cry for release from the irregular act was disregarded by the magical being. Protesting the invasion, the uprooted youngster longed to return to his mother, the earth.

Too long, the invader retorted, have I waited. I will wait no longer. My last chance for vengeance has arrived. Do not fight my bidding.

The slow walk through the forest came to an end with the arrival of daylight. Saplings' roots dug into the vitamin enriched soil to replenish his nourishment lost in his uncharacteristic travel. Too soon the tender tree was aroused by the trespasser to resume the trek.

Nights passed into a week before the wooded voyager climbed an incline that looked down into a valley. A small village lay nestled between two larger hills. The rage he felt coming from the witch burned. There was the reason for the possession.

The trip through the forest had been flatland on the whole. When they did come to a hill, Sapling was instructed to skirt around it. Now he descended. His steps were calculated, yet he tripped several times. His bark broke in various spots on his trunk. Sap leaked from cuts on his roots. The hitchhiker ignored his obvious discomfort but urged him toward the structures.

Three houses down, he came to a back door. His leaf fingers turned the knob. The door creaked open. An old man lay on a bed on the far side of the cottage. Though his cataract eyes rounded in fear, his expression showed he somehow supposed what ushered the young tree in abnormality.

"You," he croaked. "I knew some day you'd return. Wickedness such as yours can't be destroyed by mere fire. "

"Arhhhh," came the sound from the lined mouth when the witch tried to speak. No words formed.

"Do you think to use a poor seedling to kill me? Get out!"

The witch's fury swung Sapling around the room. When he stopped, he faced the fireplace. A blaze crackled. Fear escalated.

Fire is enemy, Sapling's plain wit knew. The creature seized total command of his movements. One step, two. His foliage trembled in his attempt to reject the actions. He stared in horror as his trembling hand neared the blaze. It seemed to him the fire leaped onto his fingers.

"Stop," the old man cried.

The witch turned Sapling to advance toward the bed. The flame consumed his fingers to climb further on his arm. He screamed mutely for release. Again it was ignored.

"Arhhhh," the witch tried say something more.

"You used children for your sacrificial rituals. " The angry human crawled from the bed to fall to the floor. "Burn my house if you will, but Hell will receive you. "

I'll smolder a second time, the abductor thought, but you, old man, will feel the flames too!

Sapling mustered all the strength of his young existence to overcome his predicament. The witch's hold was strong, but his intent on revenge opened a weak door. The burning youngster resolved to escape.

For fifteen minutes they fought each other for dominance. Temporary rule bounced between them. Years of lying in a grave had damaged the witch's magic. He made a slip. This gave the young sprout a chance to grasp enough willpower to stagger outside. The rain still poured. The young tree fell down on the wet ground to snuff out the flame. He sensed his capturer's release of authority then departure from him. Left without the supernatural, the tree began to return to his true form.

Sapling's sap slowed its flow. He suspected the rising of the sun would be his demise. The youngster accepted his fate. He'd fought and won his liberty. At least he would die in honor. A distant pain tinged his scorched bark. His next consciousness was his roots being covered by the wet soil. Had the old man come to his aid? He slept.

Slowly, the root system began to feed. Water, nourishment, and something else penetrated the ailing adolescent. Consciousness of the evil's return deteriorated the sick youth's spirits. However, the excitement the entity radiated through him turned to shock. The mystic authority of the earth transcended the witch's damaged power. Instead of supremacy, the residue paranormal fed the withered young tree its magical clout. Overnight, the two-year-old seedling became a full grown Yew. The old man was buried under the branches several days later. Sapling, the death tree, stood proud.


© 2009 Jayne Waggoner

Bio: Jayne Waggoner is the author of two fantasy novels, Celic, available through PublishAmerica, and its sequel, Vadas, available through Wild Child Publishing.

E-mail: Jayne Waggoner

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