The drugs were wearing off. I stumbled along a faint path through the forest. There was no time to lose; I knew I had to find some spot to rest until I could get more of the medicine that I needed. So stiff. I could hardly move now. The pain was rising, a crescendo of cracked violins and rusted iron bells. Under a vast, dripping, vine encumbered tree, I sank to the wet earth and began to weep. ”Here I will sit; here is where I will remain,” I muttered, darkly. I began to try to grow roots, first sending tender little tendrils snaking through the mossy carpet, into the soft soil. Strong roots were what I needed, to nourish and bring back my strength, and to keep me from falling over. I could manage no more than tendrils. The burning pain nagged at me. ”If only I could turn to wood, the pain would fade,” I thought, despairing. Just then, screaming birds announced a sad caravan of Missionary Slavers, passing along the path, absorbing most of the light thrown in their direction. They had six zombies chained in a line, and it was clear that the good Friar Knights, four in number, were out to capture, convert, and enslave some more. I kept still, hiding all but one eye behind a clump of flowering goosewire. But one of the bastards smelled me, and then spotted my eye-light, blazing from the goosewire. ”What do I spy with my froggy eye?” he gurgled in delight. ”There’s a fine bonus, to be sure!”“What’s yer got, Fawther, my toad? Can we eat it?” The ugliest one said this, his fellows moaning and choking in unison. ”No! Not edible, this prize!” insisted the first slaver, ”But it’ll fetch a price from Old Nick, at the settlement, if we can drag it to the river.” The four sighed, thinking of how to get me, or my corpse, to where they expected to sell me off. Their captives stood meekly silent, manacled and chained to the cross they were carrying. Their lips were stitched shut, and they wore the usual dark glasses. “I won’t walk there, you know” , I piped up, ”and I wouldn’t make much of a zombie anyway.” All I intended to do was stay where I was, root, turn to wood, and when the pain faded, burst into bloom. These Missionary Slavers needed discouraging; but what could I do? I felt weak, stiff, and sick from the pain. They laughed; the sound of bricks falling from a great height. ”You not for zombie, old man-tree. Old Nick’ll make a drug from your blood, worth a hundred zombies!” They laughed again, making my ears ring. I thought: It will be a suicide drug, then; a drop of my blood will drive a man mad. Ten drops will turn him to stone, and he will die screaming. Is this Old Nick evil, or just stupid?” ”We could tap him here,” mused the leader. ”That way, we only have to carry the sap downriver.” I should have grown thorns, rather than tendrils, I thought. Too late. Suddenly an arrow slithered through the undergrowth and pierced the scaly throat of the first slaver. The other three tried to flee, but were cut down by arrows. The four Missionary Slavers lay writhing on the leaves, slowly croaking, mouthing silent words like a fish does as it dies. Out of the forest shadows came a troop of beautiful brown pygmies, naked except for the fierce tattoos on their faces, and flowers in their long black hair. Crowding around me, they scooped away the leaves and moss with their hands, then digging with a stone blade, they made a hollow, shaped perfectly to nestle my tired, aching form into the soft earth. They watered the ground around me with their gourd canteens, and pushed the soil back against me. I knew that I would soon root here, and bloom here, and rest here, visited often by my little friends, who, taking small amounts of my blood away in nutshells, would turn it into a poisonous paste for their arrow tips. I was content. Eventually, the chains rusted away from the cross the six zombie captives were carrying. They stood wondering about that for quite some time, but they finally began to move away slowly, back in the direction they had come from, stopping every few steps to look over their shoulder at the cross, lying on the ground. In time they were gone. The cross they left in the forest did not rot, but came to root and bloom itself, with flowers that smelled of dead rats, and an oily sap more poisonous than my own.
June 22, 2011
In which I am captured by slavers, rescued by pygmies, and in the end, metamorphose into a poisonous tree.