By Lee Hamblin
Through feral forest I drag, along what was once a path of innocent risk and venture, now a track screened and choked with thicketed scrub.
My guides are three: a moon taunting me with her candle bright then dim, a shunned memory of a promise given long ago, and a pearl of hope – though I fear the last of these may now be lost among the shadows.
Doused with blood, my shoeless feet spurn thorns that rip my flesh. Flayed by unmerciful branches like the teeth of wolves, my body endures.
I seek the heart, where once I came to make a pact with a creature not of this earth. I was then but a child, adrift, exposed, without a mother’s love.
And it: the guardian of my hurt.
I sense I am closer now. And then, ringed by flightless clouds, the torchlight moon reveals the glade. The creature stood before me is fleshless, and as tall as two men. One of his tawny, osseous arms he holds even higher. He is made of neither beast nor man, but something of them both, and of something far, far darker. A spiny finger signalling prohibition extends from his hand.
I drop to my knees, and only now do I truly understand how pain is. For there, beyond the appalling creature, cradled in the hollowed out sac of an age-old tree, I see him. I see the son stolen from my wife’s swollen refuge – a life yet to become, yet to be free, yet to breathe.
My cries fall upon hollow caves shaped by wind and sand, and my tears become swallowed by bark and leaf and ether.
Lee Hamblin is from the UK. He lives in Greece and teaches yoga. He’s had stories published in FlashBack Fiction, formercactus, Anti-Heroin Chic, Reflex, Blue Fifth Review, Ellipsis, Fictive Dream, and other places. He tweets @kali_thea and has links to his stories here: https://hamblin1.wordpress.com