Blood, slick and swift, dribbled like drops of rain from the needle tips of a tall, old pine. Red gathered around the base of the trunk, staining scrub, dirt, and stones alike. Lessening along the height of the pine, but climbing ever upward, spreading down limb and bough. A bloodred pool glistened at the tree’s roots, the stink of copper choking the air. I tasted pennies on the back of my tongue.
My boots squelched as I approached the bloody pine, liquid red filling the indents of my tracks. As I drew near, my skin stretched across my bones, losing moisture at once. Beads of sweat dripping from my brow took on a pink hue, mingling with the red at my feet as they fell.
Joints aching, I knelt among the tree’s roots. Clusters of low twigs reached toward me, grasping, ready to hold me here forever.
I withdrew a pocket knife. The blade gleamed, reflecting bloody silver. “You cannot have me,” I whispered through cracking lips.
Upon each exposed root, I carved a different sigil, all for loosening, for shaking, for falling. Blood welled up from each cut, flowing over my fingertips. Sticky. The pine above groaned and shivered with every slice biting into bark.
At last, I stood back, breathing hard, vision blurry. “May the earth rise against,” I gasped.
A rumble started beneath my feet, sending ripples dancing over the bloody pool. Rocks clattered. I stumbled and fell. A crack split the air, followed by a crash as the pine toppled over, its longest branches just brushing my sleeve. Like the fingertips of a betrayed lover.
When I looked, a network of roots lay exposed to the air, dripping blood slowing. Dirt and rocks clogged the pool of blood, clotted like a scab over an old wound.
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